Category Archives: General

Timber homes are a good investment for the future

Timber homes could do more than just save energy, and stall climate change. They could be a sound investment.

LONDON, 31 May, 2021 − Finnish engineers have an encouraging message for householders: wood is good, something worth thinking about for the future. They don’t just mean that a wooden structure preserves carbon that would otherwise become a greenhouse gas again. They mean that timber homes are a worthwhile investment.

That is because they studied real estate sales in two suburbs of Helsinki, between 1999 and 2018. They found that multi-storied timber-built homes changed hands at 8.85% more in value than apartments and houses made of bricks and mortar, or concrete and steel.

The sample is small − timber homes added up to only 2.23% of all sales − and the housing market is not simple. But the results are clear: home-buyers think wood is good.

“At first glance, multi-storey housing blocks made out of wood appear to be cheaper on average but when we look more closely at the data and control for location, we see that it’s economically advantageous to use wood,” said Seppo Junilla, of Aalto University.

“Building with wood is essentially the only way for cities to store carbon”

“The results show that wood-based housing is almost 10% more expensive per square metre than concrete-based housing in the same areas.”

He and colleagues report in the journal Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability that the global building and construction sector now accounts for almost 40% of global greenhouse emissions. Meanwhile more than half the planet now lives in cities, and governments have begun to commit to drastic reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

A standing forest represents stored atmospheric carbon. A felled tree is potentially carbon on the way back to carbon dioxide again − unless that timber can be used and preserved.

Finland’s Ministry of Environment aims by 2025 to have 45% of new multi-storied buildings made from wood. The technology already has its fans: researchers have more than once proposed that wood would be a sound basis for high-density housing while at the same time making an active  contribution to helping to slow climate change driven by global heating fired by carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and cement manufacture.

Eco-friendly preference

The first step is to encourage builders and purchasers to see this not just as good for the environment, but − in nations with rich forests − good business as well. It depends on location, and market. In Finland, by law, a felled tree must be replaced by a new planting, so timber construction would not reduce forest area overall.

“Our previous research shows that if you buy a flat you’re more concerned about its environmental footprint than if you rent. An owner typically invests more in ways to improve performance, like energy-saving options.

“This principle seems to hold true here: buyers are willing to pay more for an eco-friendly choice, even if they can’t afford to live in the most expensive neighbourhoods of the city,” Professor Junnila said.

“Building with wood is essentially the only way for cities to store carbon − by definition they don’t have the vast amounts of nature needed to sink carbon. The good news is that some international investment companies have already realised the potential of timber construction, and we can only expect this interest to grow.” − Climate News Network

Timber homes could do more than just save energy, and stall climate change. They could be a sound investment.

LONDON, 31 May, 2021 − Finnish engineers have an encouraging message for householders: wood is good, something worth thinking about for the future. They don’t just mean that a wooden structure preserves carbon that would otherwise become a greenhouse gas again. They mean that timber homes are a worthwhile investment.

That is because they studied real estate sales in two suburbs of Helsinki, between 1999 and 2018. They found that multi-storied timber-built homes changed hands at 8.85% more in value than apartments and houses made of bricks and mortar, or concrete and steel.

The sample is small − timber homes added up to only 2.23% of all sales − and the housing market is not simple. But the results are clear: home-buyers think wood is good.

“At first glance, multi-storey housing blocks made out of wood appear to be cheaper on average but when we look more closely at the data and control for location, we see that it’s economically advantageous to use wood,” said Seppo Junilla, of Aalto University.

“Building with wood is essentially the only way for cities to store carbon”

“The results show that wood-based housing is almost 10% more expensive per square metre than concrete-based housing in the same areas.”

He and colleagues report in the journal Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability that the global building and construction sector now accounts for almost 40% of global greenhouse emissions. Meanwhile more than half the planet now lives in cities, and governments have begun to commit to drastic reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

A standing forest represents stored atmospheric carbon. A felled tree is potentially carbon on the way back to carbon dioxide again − unless that timber can be used and preserved.

Finland’s Ministry of Environment aims by 2025 to have 45% of new multi-storied buildings made from wood. The technology already has its fans: researchers have more than once proposed that wood would be a sound basis for high-density housing while at the same time making an active  contribution to helping to slow climate change driven by global heating fired by carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and cement manufacture.

Eco-friendly preference

The first step is to encourage builders and purchasers to see this not just as good for the environment, but − in nations with rich forests − good business as well. It depends on location, and market. In Finland, by law, a felled tree must be replaced by a new planting, so timber construction would not reduce forest area overall.

“Our previous research shows that if you buy a flat you’re more concerned about its environmental footprint than if you rent. An owner typically invests more in ways to improve performance, like energy-saving options.

“This principle seems to hold true here: buyers are willing to pay more for an eco-friendly choice, even if they can’t afford to live in the most expensive neighbourhoods of the city,” Professor Junnila said.

“Building with wood is essentially the only way for cities to store carbon − by definition they don’t have the vast amounts of nature needed to sink carbon. The good news is that some international investment companies have already realised the potential of timber construction, and we can only expect this interest to grow.” − Climate News Network

Building back better needs radical change − by us

We’ve got the money, we’ve got the knowhow, but averting the worst of the climate crisis needs radical change by us.

LONDON, 20 April, 2021 − With the Covid-19 pandemic still raging across the globe, plenty of thinkers are devoting their time to what comes next. The hopeful argue for an effort to Build Back Better. The less hopeful doubt that that will be easy, or perhaps even possible, and not necessarily because of the pandemic itself. The pragmatists say the future can be different, if humans can achieve radical change in themselves and their lives.

They start from where we are and try to plot a way through to where we want to be. One of these is a UK think tank, the  Cambridge Sustainability Commission on behaviour change and the climate crisis, whose report is published by the Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA).

The RTA argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C” (the more stringent limit set by the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Commission’s report notes that some of us need to change our behaviour more than others. “Globally, the wealthiest 10% of the world’s population is responsible for roughly half of all greenhouse gas emissions, while the poorest half is responsible for less than 10%,” it says.

“The lifestyle emissions of the richest in society are actually increasing … Relying on conscientious individuals to ‘do their bit’ will never be enough to put society on a sustainable pathway without substantial shifts in the behaviour of the polluter elite.”

“I’d put a billion into law enforcement and the rest into reducing poverty and increasing opportunity”

The report looks beyond the problem of taming the polluter elite, identifying several other “behaviour hotspots”. One, described as high-impact behaviours and ways of life, not very surprisingly lists these as “car and plane mobility, the consumption of meat and dairy, and the heating of residential homes”.

Some readers, though, may gulp to see a fourth candidate suggested for the list − the need for a 25% reduction in average personal living space in order to stay below the stricter emissions limit adopted by the Paris Agreement, 1.5°C.

How should we measure lifestyle sustainability? The Cambridge report says that as “global meat production (which roughly mirrors consumption) has fallen for the past two years (FAO, 2020), strategies to reduce meat consumption could accelerate the move away from meat-heavy diets and food production, acting as a social tipping point.”

Earlier it defines these as small quantitative changes which “lead to a qualitatively different state of the social system”, and are therefore to be welcomed.

Eager for change

There are certainly grounds in the report for thinking that more Britons are ready to change the way they behave than to stay the way they are.

The authors report a substantial appetite in the United Kingdom for post-pandemic behavioural change, according to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) RESET enquiry, led by Caroline Lucas MP. This found that, from a sample of more than 57,000 people:

  • 66% of UK adults want the government to prioritise the health and wellbeing of citizens over GDP growth
  • 66% of the public think the Government should intervene to make society fairer
  • 60% support a shorter working week
  • 63% support a jobs guarantee
  • 57% support some form of universal basic income
  • 65% support rent caps

But these changes may be a long way from all that’s needed. Chapter 5 of the Cambridge report, Future intervention points, starts with a warning: “As things stand under a business-as-usual scenario, we are headed towards 3-4°C of warming by the end of the century, with catastrophic consequences for humanity and the ecosystems upon which we depend.”

Simple step

The end of the century may feel comfortably far distant for much of humanity, but not everybody is confident that we have even that much time to change. In March the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) published a report, Global Trends 2040. The website Axios offered a summary: “This is not your typical grim climate report projecting disaster in the year 2100, i.e. the distant future.

“Instead, the climate change we will see through midcentury is already baked into the climate system, thanks to how the oceans absorb and redistribute heat. Studies show that even if emissions are sharply reduced now we are still in for additional amounts of warming through mid-century, which will lead to more extreme weather events, sea level rise, and other effects … Buckle your seatbelt, we’re in for a bumpy ride.”

Perhaps the NIC is right. But just possibly we’re overcomplicating one of our main problems in the UK − and even globally. How do you cut crime? It’s simple, says one of Britain’s most senior police officers, Andy Cooke, the retiring chief constable of Merseyside in north-west England, in an interview with the Guardian: you give people something to hope for by reducing poverty.

Asked what he would do if he had £5 billion (US$7bn) to cut crime, Cooke said reducing inequality and deprivation would be his priority: “I’d put a billion into law enforcement and the rest into reducing poverty and increasing opportunity.”

That would go a long way to stamping out the drugs war in Liverpool and the rest of Andy Cooke’s patch. Scaled up across the globe, it could stem the wretched flow of migrants struggling to survive. It would, in fact, give hope to people who have lost it. Is that really a radical change? − Climate News Network

*********

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

We’ve got the money, we’ve got the knowhow, but averting the worst of the climate crisis needs radical change by us.

LONDON, 20 April, 2021 − With the Covid-19 pandemic still raging across the globe, plenty of thinkers are devoting their time to what comes next. The hopeful argue for an effort to Build Back Better. The less hopeful doubt that that will be easy, or perhaps even possible, and not necessarily because of the pandemic itself. The pragmatists say the future can be different, if humans can achieve radical change in themselves and their lives.

They start from where we are and try to plot a way through to where we want to be. One of these is a UK think tank, the  Cambridge Sustainability Commission on behaviour change and the climate crisis, whose report is published by the Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA).

The RTA argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C” (the more stringent limit set by the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Commission’s report notes that some of us need to change our behaviour more than others. “Globally, the wealthiest 10% of the world’s population is responsible for roughly half of all greenhouse gas emissions, while the poorest half is responsible for less than 10%,” it says.

“The lifestyle emissions of the richest in society are actually increasing … Relying on conscientious individuals to ‘do their bit’ will never be enough to put society on a sustainable pathway without substantial shifts in the behaviour of the polluter elite.”

“I’d put a billion into law enforcement and the rest into reducing poverty and increasing opportunity”

The report looks beyond the problem of taming the polluter elite, identifying several other “behaviour hotspots”. One, described as high-impact behaviours and ways of life, not very surprisingly lists these as “car and plane mobility, the consumption of meat and dairy, and the heating of residential homes”.

Some readers, though, may gulp to see a fourth candidate suggested for the list − the need for a 25% reduction in average personal living space in order to stay below the stricter emissions limit adopted by the Paris Agreement, 1.5°C.

How should we measure lifestyle sustainability? The Cambridge report says that as “global meat production (which roughly mirrors consumption) has fallen for the past two years (FAO, 2020), strategies to reduce meat consumption could accelerate the move away from meat-heavy diets and food production, acting as a social tipping point.”

Earlier it defines these as small quantitative changes which “lead to a qualitatively different state of the social system”, and are therefore to be welcomed.

Eager for change

There are certainly grounds in the report for thinking that more Britons are ready to change the way they behave than to stay the way they are.

The authors report a substantial appetite in the United Kingdom for post-pandemic behavioural change, according to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) RESET enquiry, led by Caroline Lucas MP. This found that, from a sample of more than 57,000 people:

  • 66% of UK adults want the government to prioritise the health and wellbeing of citizens over GDP growth
  • 66% of the public think the Government should intervene to make society fairer
  • 60% support a shorter working week
  • 63% support a jobs guarantee
  • 57% support some form of universal basic income
  • 65% support rent caps

But these changes may be a long way from all that’s needed. Chapter 5 of the Cambridge report, Future intervention points, starts with a warning: “As things stand under a business-as-usual scenario, we are headed towards 3-4°C of warming by the end of the century, with catastrophic consequences for humanity and the ecosystems upon which we depend.”

Simple step

The end of the century may feel comfortably far distant for much of humanity, but not everybody is confident that we have even that much time to change. In March the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) published a report, Global Trends 2040. The website Axios offered a summary: “This is not your typical grim climate report projecting disaster in the year 2100, i.e. the distant future.

“Instead, the climate change we will see through midcentury is already baked into the climate system, thanks to how the oceans absorb and redistribute heat. Studies show that even if emissions are sharply reduced now we are still in for additional amounts of warming through mid-century, which will lead to more extreme weather events, sea level rise, and other effects … Buckle your seatbelt, we’re in for a bumpy ride.”

Perhaps the NIC is right. But just possibly we’re overcomplicating one of our main problems in the UK − and even globally. How do you cut crime? It’s simple, says one of Britain’s most senior police officers, Andy Cooke, the retiring chief constable of Merseyside in north-west England, in an interview with the Guardian: you give people something to hope for by reducing poverty.

Asked what he would do if he had £5 billion (US$7bn) to cut crime, Cooke said reducing inequality and deprivation would be his priority: “I’d put a billion into law enforcement and the rest into reducing poverty and increasing opportunity.”

That would go a long way to stamping out the drugs war in Liverpool and the rest of Andy Cooke’s patch. Scaled up across the globe, it could stem the wretched flow of migrants struggling to survive. It would, in fact, give hope to people who have lost it. Is that really a radical change? − Climate News Network

*********

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

Big carbon users top global sports sponsors’ league

Big Tobacco used to be one of the principal sports sponsors. Now some major climate polluters have replaced it: Big Carbon.

LONDON, 22 March, 2021 − Who backs the world of sport with hard cash? The prosperous tobacco industry was till 2005 among the main sports sponsors, but that year the European Union banned the backing by tobacco of sporting events, although in other parts of the world the cash continues to pour from hand to hand unchecked.

Now though there’s an even more formidable funder than smoking which is opening its wallet to the world’s athletes: Big Carbon.

Three UK-based groups say their research has found that over 250 sports advertising deals with the biggest contributors to climate change have been revealed by a new analysis. Andrew Simms, co-director of the New Weather Institute and one of the research team, said: “Sport is in the front line of the climate emergency but floats on a sea of sponsorship deals with the major polluters.

“It makes the crisis worse by normalising high-carbon, polluting lifestyles, and reducing the pressure for climate action. Major polluters have replaced once common tobacco companies as big sports sponsors. They should be stopped for the same reason tobacco sponsorship ended − for the health of people, sports and the planet.”

A report published by the three groups as part of the Badvertising campaign says football was found to be the biggest beneficiary of the traffic, receiving 57 sponsorships from high-carbon industries, from oil and gas to airlines and cars.

“It’s wrong for these companies, who are fully aware of the deadly impact of their products, to use the power and beauty of sport to normalise and hide their behaviour”

The report, Sweat not oil: why sports should drop advertising and sponsorship from high-carbon polluters, is the work of the think tank New Weather Institute; a climate charity, Possible; and the Rapid Transition Alliance.

It identifies advertising and sponsorship deals with major polluters across 13 different sports, from football, cricket and tennis to major events such as the Olympics.

The deals have been concluded despite moves in the last year by the sports industry to cut its carbon emissions and to play a bigger role in tackling the climate crisis. The report comes days ahead of the Football World Cup Qualifiers on 24 March − sponsored by Qatar Airways.

Football is the most targeted sport. The automotive industry is the most active high-carbon industry courting sports sponsorship, with 199 deals across different sports. Airlines come second with 63, followed by oil and gas companies such as the Russian energy company Gazprom and the British chemicals multinational Ineos, whose deals have already been criticised by climate campaigns.

Health risks

The report reveals the Japanese carmaker Toyota as the largest sponsor by number after 31 sports deals were identified, closely followed by the airline Emirates with 29 partnerships. These findings follow warnings from experts about the risk that climate change poses to sporting events, from the flooding of football grounds to the melting of winter sports venues.

The researchers argue that the direct association with high-carbon products contradicts recent pledges made by clubs and sports bodies to take action on the climate crisis. With climate heating increasingly seen as a health crisis, and concerns over linked issues like air pollution on the rise, the report warns that sports bodies and also individuals risk their credibility as promoters of public health.

The authors say there are parallels between these deals with high-carbon companies and the now disgraced deals which sports bodies used to have with the tobacco industry.

The team behind the report is calling for sports bodies around the world to drop all advertising and sponsorship deals with companies which promote high-carbon lifestyles, products and services.

Power to inspire

The report includes more recommendations to sports bodies, for instance cutting their reliance on air travel and signing up to the UN Sports for Climate Action movement.

The British canoeist Etienne Stott, a gold medallist at the London 2012 Olympics, said: “It’s wrong for these companies, who are fully aware of the deadly impact of their products, to use the power and beauty of sport to normalise and hide their behaviour.

“Sport has a unique power to connect and inspire people. I would like to see it use its voice to promote the idea of care and stewardship of our planetary resources, not insane exploitation and destruction.”

Melissa Wilson, a leading British rower and a qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics, says: “As athletes, we focus a lot on keeping sport ‘clean’ through prioritising anti-doping.

“Yet continuing to pollute in the face of the climate emergency is the Earth-equivalent of doping, or scoring own goals. By keeping polluting sponsors on board, sports detract from their opportunity to play a productive part in the race to zero carbon.” − Climate News Network

Big Tobacco used to be one of the principal sports sponsors. Now some major climate polluters have replaced it: Big Carbon.

LONDON, 22 March, 2021 − Who backs the world of sport with hard cash? The prosperous tobacco industry was till 2005 among the main sports sponsors, but that year the European Union banned the backing by tobacco of sporting events, although in other parts of the world the cash continues to pour from hand to hand unchecked.

Now though there’s an even more formidable funder than smoking which is opening its wallet to the world’s athletes: Big Carbon.

Three UK-based groups say their research has found that over 250 sports advertising deals with the biggest contributors to climate change have been revealed by a new analysis. Andrew Simms, co-director of the New Weather Institute and one of the research team, said: “Sport is in the front line of the climate emergency but floats on a sea of sponsorship deals with the major polluters.

“It makes the crisis worse by normalising high-carbon, polluting lifestyles, and reducing the pressure for climate action. Major polluters have replaced once common tobacco companies as big sports sponsors. They should be stopped for the same reason tobacco sponsorship ended − for the health of people, sports and the planet.”

A report published by the three groups as part of the Badvertising campaign says football was found to be the biggest beneficiary of the traffic, receiving 57 sponsorships from high-carbon industries, from oil and gas to airlines and cars.

“It’s wrong for these companies, who are fully aware of the deadly impact of their products, to use the power and beauty of sport to normalise and hide their behaviour”

The report, Sweat not oil: why sports should drop advertising and sponsorship from high-carbon polluters, is the work of the think tank New Weather Institute; a climate charity, Possible; and the Rapid Transition Alliance.

It identifies advertising and sponsorship deals with major polluters across 13 different sports, from football, cricket and tennis to major events such as the Olympics.

The deals have been concluded despite moves in the last year by the sports industry to cut its carbon emissions and to play a bigger role in tackling the climate crisis. The report comes days ahead of the Football World Cup Qualifiers on 24 March − sponsored by Qatar Airways.

Football is the most targeted sport. The automotive industry is the most active high-carbon industry courting sports sponsorship, with 199 deals across different sports. Airlines come second with 63, followed by oil and gas companies such as the Russian energy company Gazprom and the British chemicals multinational Ineos, whose deals have already been criticised by climate campaigns.

Health risks

The report reveals the Japanese carmaker Toyota as the largest sponsor by number after 31 sports deals were identified, closely followed by the airline Emirates with 29 partnerships. These findings follow warnings from experts about the risk that climate change poses to sporting events, from the flooding of football grounds to the melting of winter sports venues.

The researchers argue that the direct association with high-carbon products contradicts recent pledges made by clubs and sports bodies to take action on the climate crisis. With climate heating increasingly seen as a health crisis, and concerns over linked issues like air pollution on the rise, the report warns that sports bodies and also individuals risk their credibility as promoters of public health.

The authors say there are parallels between these deals with high-carbon companies and the now disgraced deals which sports bodies used to have with the tobacco industry.

The team behind the report is calling for sports bodies around the world to drop all advertising and sponsorship deals with companies which promote high-carbon lifestyles, products and services.

Power to inspire

The report includes more recommendations to sports bodies, for instance cutting their reliance on air travel and signing up to the UN Sports for Climate Action movement.

The British canoeist Etienne Stott, a gold medallist at the London 2012 Olympics, said: “It’s wrong for these companies, who are fully aware of the deadly impact of their products, to use the power and beauty of sport to normalise and hide their behaviour.

“Sport has a unique power to connect and inspire people. I would like to see it use its voice to promote the idea of care and stewardship of our planetary resources, not insane exploitation and destruction.”

Melissa Wilson, a leading British rower and a qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics, says: “As athletes, we focus a lot on keeping sport ‘clean’ through prioritising anti-doping.

“Yet continuing to pollute in the face of the climate emergency is the Earth-equivalent of doping, or scoring own goals. By keeping polluting sponsors on board, sports detract from their opportunity to play a productive part in the race to zero carbon.” − Climate News Network

Lunar Noah’s Ark might help threatened species

Desperate times demand desperate measures. So just possibly a lunar Noah’s Ark might help to avert the threat of extinction.

CO. MAYO, IRELAND, 16 March, 2021 – What if a collision with an asteroid, a giant volcanic eruption – or runaway climate change – caused human civilisation to collapse and threatened the survival of life as we know it on Earth? What could be done to preserve the world’s wonderful biodiversity? A lunar Noah’s Ark?

Scientists and students at the University of Arizona have come up with a solution which might seem slightly fanciful to some, but feasible to the more space-minded.

Their proposal is for a modern version of Noah’s Ark, not bobbing about on the Earth’s oceans but hidden below the surface of the moon.

Jekan Thanga of the university’s College of Engineering described his project and what he refers to as a “modern global insurance policy” at a meeting of international aerospace experts.

The idea is to store frozen seed, spores, sperm and egg samples transported from 6.7 million species on Earth in caverns below the moon’s surface.

“It’s not crazy big. We were a little bit surprised about that”

If climate change accelerates and sea levels continue to rise, many of the Earth’s dry places will be under water, says Thanga.

This would include the global seed vault on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard which holds hundreds of thousands of seed samples in order to protect the world against loss of biodiversity.

Professor Thanga and his team say that if seed and other samples were stored on a celestial body separate from our own planet, then there would be less likelihood of biodiversity being completely lost if and when an event happened causing total annihilation on Earth.

“Earth is naturally a volatile environment”, he says. “As humans, we had a close call about 75,000 years ago with the Toba supervolcanic eruption, which caused a thousand-year cooling period and, according to some, aligns with an estimated drop in human diversity.

Lava tubes

“Because human civilisation has such a large footprint, if it were to collapse, that could have a negative, cascading effect on the rest of the planet.”

The lunar storage facility would make use of about 200 giant lava tubes located beneath the moon’s surface. Formed between three and four billion years ago, these underground caverns would provide shelter from solar radiation, micrometeorites and surface temperature changes, says Profesor Thanga.

He and his colleagues admit that constructing the lunar ark would not be easy, but might not be as overwhelming as it could seem.

Transporting about 50 samples from each of the 6.7 million species on Earth would require 250 rocket launches. It took 40 rocket launches to build the international space station.

“It’s not crazy big”, says Thanga. “We were a little bit surprised about that.”

‘Please try later’

The model of the ark sketched out by the Arizona team includes a set of solar panels on the moon’s surface to provide electricity.

Two or more lift shafts would lead down into the facility where seeds, cooled down to temperatures of minus 180°C, would be preserved in a series of petri dishes.

Professor Thanga and his team admit that a lot more research needs to be carried out on the building and operation of the proposed lunar ark. There’s the question of how the preserved seeds might be affected by the lack of gravity on the moon.

And then there’s the issue of establishing communications with a base on Earth – if, of course, there is anyone left to receive calls. – Climate News Network

Desperate times demand desperate measures. So just possibly a lunar Noah’s Ark might help to avert the threat of extinction.

CO. MAYO, IRELAND, 16 March, 2021 – What if a collision with an asteroid, a giant volcanic eruption – or runaway climate change – caused human civilisation to collapse and threatened the survival of life as we know it on Earth? What could be done to preserve the world’s wonderful biodiversity? A lunar Noah’s Ark?

Scientists and students at the University of Arizona have come up with a solution which might seem slightly fanciful to some, but feasible to the more space-minded.

Their proposal is for a modern version of Noah’s Ark, not bobbing about on the Earth’s oceans but hidden below the surface of the moon.

Jekan Thanga of the university’s College of Engineering described his project and what he refers to as a “modern global insurance policy” at a meeting of international aerospace experts.

The idea is to store frozen seed, spores, sperm and egg samples transported from 6.7 million species on Earth in caverns below the moon’s surface.

“It’s not crazy big. We were a little bit surprised about that”

If climate change accelerates and sea levels continue to rise, many of the Earth’s dry places will be under water, says Thanga.

This would include the global seed vault on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard which holds hundreds of thousands of seed samples in order to protect the world against loss of biodiversity.

Professor Thanga and his team say that if seed and other samples were stored on a celestial body separate from our own planet, then there would be less likelihood of biodiversity being completely lost if and when an event happened causing total annihilation on Earth.

“Earth is naturally a volatile environment”, he says. “As humans, we had a close call about 75,000 years ago with the Toba supervolcanic eruption, which caused a thousand-year cooling period and, according to some, aligns with an estimated drop in human diversity.

Lava tubes

“Because human civilisation has such a large footprint, if it were to collapse, that could have a negative, cascading effect on the rest of the planet.”

The lunar storage facility would make use of about 200 giant lava tubes located beneath the moon’s surface. Formed between three and four billion years ago, these underground caverns would provide shelter from solar radiation, micrometeorites and surface temperature changes, says Profesor Thanga.

He and his colleagues admit that constructing the lunar ark would not be easy, but might not be as overwhelming as it could seem.

Transporting about 50 samples from each of the 6.7 million species on Earth would require 250 rocket launches. It took 40 rocket launches to build the international space station.

“It’s not crazy big”, says Thanga. “We were a little bit surprised about that.”

‘Please try later’

The model of the ark sketched out by the Arizona team includes a set of solar panels on the moon’s surface to provide electricity.

Two or more lift shafts would lead down into the facility where seeds, cooled down to temperatures of minus 180°C, would be preserved in a series of petri dishes.

Professor Thanga and his team admit that a lot more research needs to be carried out on the building and operation of the proposed lunar ark. There’s the question of how the preserved seeds might be affected by the lack of gravity on the moon.

And then there’s the issue of establishing communications with a base on Earth – if, of course, there is anyone left to receive calls. – Climate News Network

Ancient tree shows result of magnetic pole switch

A preserved ancient tree trunk records the story of a climate catastrophe more than 40 millennia ago. It could happen again.

LONDON, 5 March, 2021 − Here is the news of the world from 42,000 years ago. Imagine a dramatic shift in global climate during the last Ice Age; a co-incident extinction of one human species and a range of giant Australian mammals; a devastated ozone layer and astonishing displays of auroras over the tropics, all triggered by a simple but unimaginable shift.

It happened when the north and south magnetic poles weakened, then swapped places, and then swapped back again, all in the space of about 800 years. The episode, carefully decoded from the story told by the growth rings of a vast and long-lived ancient tree preserved for 42,000 years in a New Zealand swamp, has been given its own name.

It is an Adams Transitional Geomagnetic Event, and is so called − say the authors in a literary jest rare in a respected science journal − “after the science writer Douglas Adams because of the timing … and the associated range of extinctions”. Famously if enigmatically, Douglas Adams’s book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy proposed that the answer to life, the universe and everything was the number 42.

And the 33 authors from Australia, New Zealand, Europe, China and Argentina claim in their study in the journal Science that their Adams Event “appears to represent a major climatic, environmental and archaeological boundary that has previously gone largely unrecognised.”

The phrase “appears to” is important: what the authors describe is what they think would have been probable, or possible. What they have established is something else: the precise sequence of an event so far not observed in human history, a magnetic reversal.

“For the first time ever we have been able to date the timing and precise environmental impacts of the last magnetic pole switch,” said Chris Turney  of the University of New South Wales.

“A magnetic pole reversal or extreme change in Sun activity would be unprecedented climate change accelerants. We urgently need to get carbon emissions down before such a random event happens again”

“The findings were made possible with ancient New Zealand kauri trees, which have been preserved in sediments for over 40,000 years. Using the ancient trees we could measure, and date, the spike in atmospheric carbon caused by the collapse of the Earth’s magnetic field.”

Just as the planet’s orbit periodically changes, with sometimes dramatic consequences, so too does the planet’s magnetic field. Such collapses and reversals are repeatedly recorded in its bedrock.

Scientists also knew there had been a temporary reversal approximately 41,000 to 42,000 years ago: what they did not have was any precise, year-on-year evidence of the progress of such a switch. Not, that is, until the first close examination of the growth rings of a kauri tree, Agathis australis, that had flourished for 1700 years, through the entire episode, before it fell, only to be preserved with its bark intact, in a bog in New Zealand’s warm, rainy Northland.

The researchers could cross-check the story told by this and other preserved trunks with radio-carbon and climate records revealed in cave deposits, marine sediments and ice cores.

The twin poles began to migrate across the planet, and in the run-up to the magnetic flip the Earth’s magnetic field fell to between zero and 6% of its present strength.

Twin  quandaries

“We had no magnetic field at all − our cosmic radiation shield was totally gone,” said Professor Turney. “Unfiltered radiation from space ripped apart air particles in Earth’s atmosphere, separating electrons and emitting light − a process called ionisation. The ionised air ‘fried’ the ozone layer, triggering a ripple of climate change across the globe.”

Australia, at that time, became more arid, and a number of large Australian vertebrates went extinct at around the same time. At around that time, too, human cave art began to flourish in Europe and Asia, and one species of European human, the Neanderthal, disappeared. How connected these events might be with any geomagnetic reversal is not proven. It remains, the authors concede, a possibility.

But in the past 170 years the Earth’s magnetic field has weakened by 9%, and the north magnetic pole has been on the move. What happened 42,000 years ago could happen again. The research confirms two things.

One is that the number 42 is an answer to something. “The more we looked at the data, the more everything pointed to 42. It was uncanny,” said Professor Turney. “Douglas Adams was clearly onto something after all.”

The other confirmation is that magnetic reversal could be accompanied by climate change. And, the scientists say, the human-triggered climate emergency is bad enough today.

“Our atmosphere is already filled with carbon at levels never seen by humanity before. A magnetic pole reversal or extreme change in Sun activity would be unprecedented climate change accelerants,” said Professor Turney. “We urgently need to get carbon emissions down before such a random event happens again.” − Climate News Network

A preserved ancient tree trunk records the story of a climate catastrophe more than 40 millennia ago. It could happen again.

LONDON, 5 March, 2021 − Here is the news of the world from 42,000 years ago. Imagine a dramatic shift in global climate during the last Ice Age; a co-incident extinction of one human species and a range of giant Australian mammals; a devastated ozone layer and astonishing displays of auroras over the tropics, all triggered by a simple but unimaginable shift.

It happened when the north and south magnetic poles weakened, then swapped places, and then swapped back again, all in the space of about 800 years. The episode, carefully decoded from the story told by the growth rings of a vast and long-lived ancient tree preserved for 42,000 years in a New Zealand swamp, has been given its own name.

It is an Adams Transitional Geomagnetic Event, and is so called − say the authors in a literary jest rare in a respected science journal − “after the science writer Douglas Adams because of the timing … and the associated range of extinctions”. Famously if enigmatically, Douglas Adams’s book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy proposed that the answer to life, the universe and everything was the number 42.

And the 33 authors from Australia, New Zealand, Europe, China and Argentina claim in their study in the journal Science that their Adams Event “appears to represent a major climatic, environmental and archaeological boundary that has previously gone largely unrecognised.”

The phrase “appears to” is important: what the authors describe is what they think would have been probable, or possible. What they have established is something else: the precise sequence of an event so far not observed in human history, a magnetic reversal.

“For the first time ever we have been able to date the timing and precise environmental impacts of the last magnetic pole switch,” said Chris Turney  of the University of New South Wales.

“A magnetic pole reversal or extreme change in Sun activity would be unprecedented climate change accelerants. We urgently need to get carbon emissions down before such a random event happens again”

“The findings were made possible with ancient New Zealand kauri trees, which have been preserved in sediments for over 40,000 years. Using the ancient trees we could measure, and date, the spike in atmospheric carbon caused by the collapse of the Earth’s magnetic field.”

Just as the planet’s orbit periodically changes, with sometimes dramatic consequences, so too does the planet’s magnetic field. Such collapses and reversals are repeatedly recorded in its bedrock.

Scientists also knew there had been a temporary reversal approximately 41,000 to 42,000 years ago: what they did not have was any precise, year-on-year evidence of the progress of such a switch. Not, that is, until the first close examination of the growth rings of a kauri tree, Agathis australis, that had flourished for 1700 years, through the entire episode, before it fell, only to be preserved with its bark intact, in a bog in New Zealand’s warm, rainy Northland.

The researchers could cross-check the story told by this and other preserved trunks with radio-carbon and climate records revealed in cave deposits, marine sediments and ice cores.

The twin poles began to migrate across the planet, and in the run-up to the magnetic flip the Earth’s magnetic field fell to between zero and 6% of its present strength.

Twin  quandaries

“We had no magnetic field at all − our cosmic radiation shield was totally gone,” said Professor Turney. “Unfiltered radiation from space ripped apart air particles in Earth’s atmosphere, separating electrons and emitting light − a process called ionisation. The ionised air ‘fried’ the ozone layer, triggering a ripple of climate change across the globe.”

Australia, at that time, became more arid, and a number of large Australian vertebrates went extinct at around the same time. At around that time, too, human cave art began to flourish in Europe and Asia, and one species of European human, the Neanderthal, disappeared. How connected these events might be with any geomagnetic reversal is not proven. It remains, the authors concede, a possibility.

But in the past 170 years the Earth’s magnetic field has weakened by 9%, and the north magnetic pole has been on the move. What happened 42,000 years ago could happen again. The research confirms two things.

One is that the number 42 is an answer to something. “The more we looked at the data, the more everything pointed to 42. It was uncanny,” said Professor Turney. “Douglas Adams was clearly onto something after all.”

The other confirmation is that magnetic reversal could be accompanied by climate change. And, the scientists say, the human-triggered climate emergency is bad enough today.

“Our atmosphere is already filled with carbon at levels never seen by humanity before. A magnetic pole reversal or extreme change in Sun activity would be unprecedented climate change accelerants,” said Professor Turney. “We urgently need to get carbon emissions down before such a random event happens again.” − Climate News Network

How hemp can help to moderate the climate crisis

Hemp, a plant grown centuries ago in England as a national duty, could help to restrict climate heating.

LONDON, 22 January, 2021 − There are high hopes that new technology and novel materials may save the world from the worst of the climate crisis. Fine. But don’t forget some of the old remedies − like hemp.

In the UK, hemp used to be a common crop which it was a patriotic duty to grow. In 1535 the English king, Henry the Eighth, required all farmers to sow a quarter of an acre (1,000 square metres) of hemp for every 60 acres they owned.

That was because hemp, one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, was recognised then for its value as a building material. Its reputation is now often tarnished by its relationship to cannabis, and it is usually called industrial hemp to distinguish it from its recreational and medicinal cousin.

Industrial hemp remains useful for many purposes, including construction, and not least as a substitute for concrete, the enormously carbon-intensive substance which is often the builders’ first choice.

“Hemp can be a lifesaver: it is naturally resistant to fire, providing greater protection against blazes overwhelming residential high-rise blocks”

The cement industry is one of the largest contributors to global warming, accounting for 5% of all carbon dioxide emissions. The reason it is so energy- and carbon-hungry is because of the extreme heat required to produce it. Turning out a tonne of cement requires about 400 pounds of coal and generates nearly a tonne of carbon. Global production is growing, and is expected to rise to 3.7-4.4 billion tonnes annually by mid-century.

The UK-based Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA) argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C” (the more stringent limit set by the Paris Agreement on climate change). It believes the world’s profligate use of cement means it needs to rediscover the virtues of hemp.

The plant, it argues, could help to build low-carbon homes which would benefit the construction industry, employment, peoples’ health − and the environment. Hemp is also suitable not just for new buildings but for renovating and improving existing ones, something which will become increasingly important as countries seek to upgrade their housing stock enough to cut the need for heating and the carbon emissions it causes.

Hemp has already proved its worth to a large British industry. In 2006 Adnams’ brewery in eastern England built a huge carbon-neutral distribution centre. One visually striking feature is its arched roof covered in greenery, home to over half a million bees, with its own beekeeper.

Ideal for beer

The building relies on a construction material that could help future house-builders trying to provide for growing populations while also reducing carbon emissions. Its walls are built entirely from more than 90,000 lime and hemp blocks made of “hempcrete”, a lightweight mixture of lime and hemp stalks, making it the biggest building in the UK to use the material.

Hemp is light, good at regulating moisture and heat, and a good insulator. It’s also cheap, easy and fast to grow, and non-toxic to handle. The hemp construction lets Adnams save 50% on electricity and gas through its strong insulation qualities; it has a natural ability to maintain a constant cool temperature which is ideal for storing beer and other drinks.

Air locks and active airflow management are all that’s needed to keep the beer at the right temperature, without any artificial cooling or heating.

“By no means the least of the virtues of hemp is the fact that it can be a lifesaver: it is naturally resistant to mould and fire, reducing reliance on chemical fire retardants that have been linked to health problems and also providing greater protection against blazes overwhelming residential high-rise blocks.” When a fire broke out in Grenfell Tower, a 23-storey tower block in London in 2017, it killed 72 people. − Climate News Network

*********

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

Hemp, a plant grown centuries ago in England as a national duty, could help to restrict climate heating.

LONDON, 22 January, 2021 − There are high hopes that new technology and novel materials may save the world from the worst of the climate crisis. Fine. But don’t forget some of the old remedies − like hemp.

In the UK, hemp used to be a common crop which it was a patriotic duty to grow. In 1535 the English king, Henry the Eighth, required all farmers to sow a quarter of an acre (1,000 square metres) of hemp for every 60 acres they owned.

That was because hemp, one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, was recognised then for its value as a building material. Its reputation is now often tarnished by its relationship to cannabis, and it is usually called industrial hemp to distinguish it from its recreational and medicinal cousin.

Industrial hemp remains useful for many purposes, including construction, and not least as a substitute for concrete, the enormously carbon-intensive substance which is often the builders’ first choice.

“Hemp can be a lifesaver: it is naturally resistant to fire, providing greater protection against blazes overwhelming residential high-rise blocks”

The cement industry is one of the largest contributors to global warming, accounting for 5% of all carbon dioxide emissions. The reason it is so energy- and carbon-hungry is because of the extreme heat required to produce it. Turning out a tonne of cement requires about 400 pounds of coal and generates nearly a tonne of carbon. Global production is growing, and is expected to rise to 3.7-4.4 billion tonnes annually by mid-century.

The UK-based Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA) argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C” (the more stringent limit set by the Paris Agreement on climate change). It believes the world’s profligate use of cement means it needs to rediscover the virtues of hemp.

The plant, it argues, could help to build low-carbon homes which would benefit the construction industry, employment, peoples’ health − and the environment. Hemp is also suitable not just for new buildings but for renovating and improving existing ones, something which will become increasingly important as countries seek to upgrade their housing stock enough to cut the need for heating and the carbon emissions it causes.

Hemp has already proved its worth to a large British industry. In 2006 Adnams’ brewery in eastern England built a huge carbon-neutral distribution centre. One visually striking feature is its arched roof covered in greenery, home to over half a million bees, with its own beekeeper.

Ideal for beer

The building relies on a construction material that could help future house-builders trying to provide for growing populations while also reducing carbon emissions. Its walls are built entirely from more than 90,000 lime and hemp blocks made of “hempcrete”, a lightweight mixture of lime and hemp stalks, making it the biggest building in the UK to use the material.

Hemp is light, good at regulating moisture and heat, and a good insulator. It’s also cheap, easy and fast to grow, and non-toxic to handle. The hemp construction lets Adnams save 50% on electricity and gas through its strong insulation qualities; it has a natural ability to maintain a constant cool temperature which is ideal for storing beer and other drinks.

Air locks and active airflow management are all that’s needed to keep the beer at the right temperature, without any artificial cooling or heating.

“By no means the least of the virtues of hemp is the fact that it can be a lifesaver: it is naturally resistant to mould and fire, reducing reliance on chemical fire retardants that have been linked to health problems and also providing greater protection against blazes overwhelming residential high-rise blocks.” When a fire broke out in Grenfell Tower, a 23-storey tower block in London in 2017, it killed 72 people. − Climate News Network

*********

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

India has an (official) climate change of heart

India’s new approach seems to show a climate change of heart by one of the world’s most populous countries.


CHENNAI, 23 December, 2020 − The question taxing the brains of India’s climate campaigners is challenging. What’s going on in Delhi? Has the government really had a climate change of heart?

After all, it’s only a decade ago that United Nations climate conferences were routinely hearing from Indian delegates that their priority was development. Global warming was a problem for the industrialised countries, the Indians would insist, because they had caused the problem in the first place.

Now, after dozens of scientific reports showing how millions of Indians will suffer, many of India’s leading companies and civil society organisations  − and even the government itself − are making strenuous efforts to reach the targets of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which binds every signatory to reach an agreed level for cutting its greenhouse gas emissions.

The Indian government has set up a high-level group, the Apex Committee for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement (AIPA), to ensure that the country does in fact meet its Paris targets.

AIPA will monitor both government and private sector contributions towards climate change and see to it that India is on track to meet its obligations under the Agreement, including what are known in the jargon of climate negotiations as its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

“If government fails to work with people and include their suggestions in implementation, that will be reflected in its progress to combat climate change’’

A year ago a highly critical report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said that governments which had signed the Paris accord were not reaching their declared NDC targets, which − even if implemented in full − would still allow the world to warm by 2.6°C, 70% more than the 1.5°C regarded as desirable in the Agreement.

India’s creation of AIPA follows China’s unexpected decision to pursue a net zero emissions target in 2060. These moves, and the pledges of the developed world at the recent Climate Ambition Summit, are not enough to satisfy all the critics, but they are a big leap forward for the developing world.

The Apex Group will also regulate India’s carbon markets, formulating guidelines on carbon pricing, market mechanisms and other relevant measures, and “will engage with the private sector as well as multi- and bilateral agencies in the field of climate change and provide guidance for aligning their actions with national priorities”, the Hindustan Times reports.

At the recent G20 summit India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, said the country was not only meeting its Paris targets but was exceeding them. It has made eight commitments under the NDC requirement, with three goals set to be achieved by 2030.

It has promised to work on reductions in the emissions intensity of its gross domestic product by 33-35% over 2005 levels. It plans to be producing about 40% of its electricity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources. And it intends to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover.

Decision by elite

Despite these sweeping promises there are still doubts among India’s environmental activists that, without involving ordinary citizens, the goals will be reached. One, a prominent campaigner, Arul Selvam, said that only when the government included grassroots leaders would it achieve its goals both on paper and in reality.

“Decisions are taken by experts, senior officers and ministers”, he said. “It would be useful to include members from associations of organic farmers, small-scale traders, village-level workers, fishermen and conservationists.”

This would improve the implementation of any programme on the ground, with many people across India already living sustainable daily lives.

India had seen protests against environmental degradation caused by industry and government, so at least the government should now start working with people to ensure that its plans succeeded on the ground and yielded results.

“If government fails to work with people and include their suggestions in implementation, that will be reflected in its progress to combat climate change,’’ Arul Selvam said. − Climate News Network

India’s new approach seems to show a climate change of heart by one of the world’s most populous countries.


CHENNAI, 23 December, 2020 − The question taxing the brains of India’s climate campaigners is challenging. What’s going on in Delhi? Has the government really had a climate change of heart?

After all, it’s only a decade ago that United Nations climate conferences were routinely hearing from Indian delegates that their priority was development. Global warming was a problem for the industrialised countries, the Indians would insist, because they had caused the problem in the first place.

Now, after dozens of scientific reports showing how millions of Indians will suffer, many of India’s leading companies and civil society organisations  − and even the government itself − are making strenuous efforts to reach the targets of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which binds every signatory to reach an agreed level for cutting its greenhouse gas emissions.

The Indian government has set up a high-level group, the Apex Committee for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement (AIPA), to ensure that the country does in fact meet its Paris targets.

AIPA will monitor both government and private sector contributions towards climate change and see to it that India is on track to meet its obligations under the Agreement, including what are known in the jargon of climate negotiations as its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

“If government fails to work with people and include their suggestions in implementation, that will be reflected in its progress to combat climate change’’

A year ago a highly critical report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said that governments which had signed the Paris accord were not reaching their declared NDC targets, which − even if implemented in full − would still allow the world to warm by 2.6°C, 70% more than the 1.5°C regarded as desirable in the Agreement.

India’s creation of AIPA follows China’s unexpected decision to pursue a net zero emissions target in 2060. These moves, and the pledges of the developed world at the recent Climate Ambition Summit, are not enough to satisfy all the critics, but they are a big leap forward for the developing world.

The Apex Group will also regulate India’s carbon markets, formulating guidelines on carbon pricing, market mechanisms and other relevant measures, and “will engage with the private sector as well as multi- and bilateral agencies in the field of climate change and provide guidance for aligning their actions with national priorities”, the Hindustan Times reports.

At the recent G20 summit India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, said the country was not only meeting its Paris targets but was exceeding them. It has made eight commitments under the NDC requirement, with three goals set to be achieved by 2030.

It has promised to work on reductions in the emissions intensity of its gross domestic product by 33-35% over 2005 levels. It plans to be producing about 40% of its electricity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources. And it intends to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover.

Decision by elite

Despite these sweeping promises there are still doubts among India’s environmental activists that, without involving ordinary citizens, the goals will be reached. One, a prominent campaigner, Arul Selvam, said that only when the government included grassroots leaders would it achieve its goals both on paper and in reality.

“Decisions are taken by experts, senior officers and ministers”, he said. “It would be useful to include members from associations of organic farmers, small-scale traders, village-level workers, fishermen and conservationists.”

This would improve the implementation of any programme on the ground, with many people across India already living sustainable daily lives.

India had seen protests against environmental degradation caused by industry and government, so at least the government should now start working with people to ensure that its plans succeeded on the ground and yielded results.

“If government fails to work with people and include their suggestions in implementation, that will be reflected in its progress to combat climate change,’’ Arul Selvam said. − Climate News Network

Tree planting slows climate heating − and is costly

Tree planting to restore natural foliage can help to ease the climate crisis. So someone has to pay its massive price.

LONDON, 16 December, 2020 − The world can grow out of its climate emergency − but at a price. Enough tree planting around the world could achieve a 10% reduction in carbon emissions − but only if landowners are paid to plant and protect them.

And by 2055, the bill for planting trees to keep global heating from going any higher than the internationally-agreed target of 1.5°C above the average for most of human history could be US$393bn (£297bn) a year.

Grassland restoration, on the other hand, can pay dividends. And since grasslands are home to 40% of the planet’s natural vegetation, the rewards could be substantial, a second study suggests.

The challenge is simple: to keep the world from climate catastrophe, nations must think of a way to absorb from the atmosphere, and sequester, six billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. This is roughly the same as the emissions from 1.3 billion passenger vehicles in one year. Forests can do this, if planted, nurtured and protected.

The costs however will be considerable, according to a new study in the journal Nature Communications. “The global forestry sector can provide a really substantial chunk of the mitigation needed,” said Justin Baker of North Carolina State University, one of the researchers.

“The physical potential is there, but when we look at the economic costs, they are non-linear. That means the more we reduce emissions − the more carbon we’re sequestering − we’re paying higher and higher costs for it.”

Scientists involved in this kind of research must solve a range of “what-if” puzzles. Repeatedly, they have examined the appalling price to be paid by nations, regions, cities and citizens if nothing is done and global temperatures rise uncontrollably.

They have calculated the implicit rewards of prompt action to limit fossil fuel use and contain climate change: these too, in terms of economies and political stability, are enormous.

They have calculated that there is enough exploitable land on which to plant new forests or extend existing ones, while still feeding the extra 2bn or more population rise expected before the century’s end.

But for the most part, they have not examined in detail the financial costs implicit in planting the world out of a climate crisis. And, it seems, the higher the ambition, the greater the cost. This cost seems to rise exponentially as it gets nearer the limits of the possible.

The researchers looked at the challenge of avoiding deforestation; of forest management; of stepping up harvest rotation; and of reforestation or afforestation, in 16 regions of the planet.

It could cost $2bn a year to sequester 600,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in the foliage, trunks and roots of trees. But to absorb 10 times that could cost almost 200 times as much: a ten-fold increase could add up to an annual bill of $393bn.

The scientists also established that tropical rainforest nations would − if they restored or protected the forests of the Amazon, Indonesia and the Congo basin − contribute the largest share, in the race for global mitigation: from 72% to 82%. The southern US, too, could make a significant contribution.

But so too could, in a different way, the restoration of some of the African savannah, and other semi-arid landscapes. These important ecosystems already support perhaps a billion humans and their livestock; they regulate water cycles and support a wide variety of animals and plants. Importantly for climate scientists, they cover and enrich a substantial proportion of the planet’s soil organic carbon.

Researchers write in the journal Scientific Reports that they looked at data from a degraded sample of grassland in Kenya − invaded by a Mexican tree species, Prosopis juliflora, a kind of mesquite − to find that 40% of the life-enhancing soil organic carbon had disappeared. Thirty years of a restoration programme replenished soil organic carbon to a depth of a metre at the rate of 1.4% a year.

“The importance of managing grasslands to optimise carbon sequestration for climate change mitigation is widely recognised. Soils are the largest terrestrial carbon reservoir, containing more carbon than the vegetation and the atmosphere combined,” said Purity Rima Mbaabu, of the Kenya Forestry Research Institute, who led the study.

“Yet soil organic carbon, which makes up about two thirds of global soil carbon, is sensitive to land degradation, with significant negative consequences for soil quality and productivity, and an exacerbation of greenhouse gas emissions.” − Climate News Network

Tree planting to restore natural foliage can help to ease the climate crisis. So someone has to pay its massive price.

LONDON, 16 December, 2020 − The world can grow out of its climate emergency − but at a price. Enough tree planting around the world could achieve a 10% reduction in carbon emissions − but only if landowners are paid to plant and protect them.

And by 2055, the bill for planting trees to keep global heating from going any higher than the internationally-agreed target of 1.5°C above the average for most of human history could be US$393bn (£297bn) a year.

Grassland restoration, on the other hand, can pay dividends. And since grasslands are home to 40% of the planet’s natural vegetation, the rewards could be substantial, a second study suggests.

The challenge is simple: to keep the world from climate catastrophe, nations must think of a way to absorb from the atmosphere, and sequester, six billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. This is roughly the same as the emissions from 1.3 billion passenger vehicles in one year. Forests can do this, if planted, nurtured and protected.

The costs however will be considerable, according to a new study in the journal Nature Communications. “The global forestry sector can provide a really substantial chunk of the mitigation needed,” said Justin Baker of North Carolina State University, one of the researchers.

“The physical potential is there, but when we look at the economic costs, they are non-linear. That means the more we reduce emissions − the more carbon we’re sequestering − we’re paying higher and higher costs for it.”

Scientists involved in this kind of research must solve a range of “what-if” puzzles. Repeatedly, they have examined the appalling price to be paid by nations, regions, cities and citizens if nothing is done and global temperatures rise uncontrollably.

They have calculated the implicit rewards of prompt action to limit fossil fuel use and contain climate change: these too, in terms of economies and political stability, are enormous.

They have calculated that there is enough exploitable land on which to plant new forests or extend existing ones, while still feeding the extra 2bn or more population rise expected before the century’s end.

But for the most part, they have not examined in detail the financial costs implicit in planting the world out of a climate crisis. And, it seems, the higher the ambition, the greater the cost. This cost seems to rise exponentially as it gets nearer the limits of the possible.

The researchers looked at the challenge of avoiding deforestation; of forest management; of stepping up harvest rotation; and of reforestation or afforestation, in 16 regions of the planet.

It could cost $2bn a year to sequester 600,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in the foliage, trunks and roots of trees. But to absorb 10 times that could cost almost 200 times as much: a ten-fold increase could add up to an annual bill of $393bn.

The scientists also established that tropical rainforest nations would − if they restored or protected the forests of the Amazon, Indonesia and the Congo basin − contribute the largest share, in the race for global mitigation: from 72% to 82%. The southern US, too, could make a significant contribution.

But so too could, in a different way, the restoration of some of the African savannah, and other semi-arid landscapes. These important ecosystems already support perhaps a billion humans and their livestock; they regulate water cycles and support a wide variety of animals and plants. Importantly for climate scientists, they cover and enrich a substantial proportion of the planet’s soil organic carbon.

Researchers write in the journal Scientific Reports that they looked at data from a degraded sample of grassland in Kenya − invaded by a Mexican tree species, Prosopis juliflora, a kind of mesquite − to find that 40% of the life-enhancing soil organic carbon had disappeared. Thirty years of a restoration programme replenished soil organic carbon to a depth of a metre at the rate of 1.4% a year.

“The importance of managing grasslands to optimise carbon sequestration for climate change mitigation is widely recognised. Soils are the largest terrestrial carbon reservoir, containing more carbon than the vegetation and the atmosphere combined,” said Purity Rima Mbaabu, of the Kenya Forestry Research Institute, who led the study.

“Yet soil organic carbon, which makes up about two thirds of global soil carbon, is sensitive to land degradation, with significant negative consequences for soil quality and productivity, and an exacerbation of greenhouse gas emissions.” − Climate News Network

Advertisements harm the planet, researchers say

Like them or loathe them, advertisements are everywhere. And they’re worsening the climate crisis, say social scientists.

LONDON, 27 November, 2020 − Part and parcel of modern society, advertisements are so familiar in the background of most of our lives that we probably scarcely notice them. That’s a pity, because − if a new report is right − their influence may be indirectly causing climate and ecological damage.

The report, Advertising’s role in climate and ecological degradation, was commissioned by the Badvertising campaign, which is run by the New Weather Institute, a group backing a rapid transition to a fairer economy, and the climate campaign Possible. It is published today to coincide with Black Friday, regarded as the start of the US Christmas shopping season.

The report’s message is simple: advertising makes us want more material goods and services, which damage the environment and the climate in both their provision and their use. So less and better advertising would be good for the planet.

Its author is Dr Tim Kasser. Answering an argument often made in support of advertising, he told the Climate News Network: “Advertising does help people choose between products, but it also inculcates a general desire to want more of what is offered in the marketplace.

“When hundreds of millions of people have desires for more and more stuff and for more and more services and experiences, that really adds up and puts a strain on the Earth.”

Dependent media

Cautiously, perhaps, the advertising industry “indirectly” contributes to climate and ecological degradation, the report argues. For this it holds responsible the industry’s “encouragement of materialistic values and goals, the consumption-driving work & spend cycle”, and the consumption of two products in particular − beef and tobacco.

Definitions may help here. Materialism, the researchers say, is people’s desire to be rich as a result of “exposure to messages in their environment which suggest that happiness and a good life depend upon wealth and consumption.”

And here’s a spoiler alert for journalists: the survival of the media “typically depends on revenue obtained from presenting users with advertisements that encourage consumption.” The more TV you watch, the more adverts you’ll see, and the more materialistic you’ll become, it seems.

On the work & spend cycle, the study says: “Individuals who live under consumer capitalism are subjected to numerous pressures to work long hours … [one] is the desire to consume.” So “advertising leads people to place higher value on consumption of what they see advertised and lower value on having more time available for non-work activities.”

“Advertising serves capitalist economies in much the same way that state-sponsored art served Stalin’s Soviet Union, presenting a fake, idealised world that papers over an often brutal reality”

Advertisements can in fact mean “many people come to want to work, shop, and consume relatively more than to rest, recreate, and relate with others.” And there’s more: “Long work hours are associated with higher ecological footprints, greenhouse gas emissions, and overall energy consumption.”

When people work long hours, they have less time to engage in ecologically-sustainable and relatively time-intensive activities: bike-riding rather than car-driving, or growing food instead of buying it pre-packaged from a shop.

One of the researchers’ selected products, beef, can cause environmental damage as it is produced: unsustainable water use, destruction of forests, high levels of both greenhouse gases and pollutants that cause excessive algal growth. It can also damage human health (for example, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, linked in cattle to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease). Excessive consumption has been linked with heart disease and cancer.

The lethal risks of smoking tobacco are all too familiar. Producing and using cigarettes, the report finds, has much the same environmental effects as the beef industry and, a familiar refrain, “scientific evidence is consistent with the conclusion that advertising indirectly causes climate and ecological degradation through its encouragement of the consumption of tobacco.”

It may sound as though this demolition of advertisements is essentially an attack on the bedrock of capitalism. Andrew Simms, a co-author, told the Network it’s not that simple: “Advertising is so clever at being attractive or entertaining that it’s easy to forget it is manipulating us to get what it wants.

Broader reach

“And what it wants is for us to consume more, regardless of the environmental consequences or, indeed, the impact on our mental health or personal debt.

“I find it helps to remember that advertising serves capitalist economies in much the same way that state-sponsored art served Stalin’s Soviet Union, presenting a fake, idealised world that papers over an often brutal reality. But advertising in one sense is even more dangerous, because it is so pervasive, sophisticated in its techniques and harder to see through.”

The authors also take a sideswipe at two other products: flying for leisure, and sports utility vehicles. For possible solutions they refer readers to the Badvertising campaign’s toolkit.

They sum up their report with a suggestion that there’s more to come: “Substantial scientific evidence exists to support the claim that advertising has indirect but real effects on climate and ecological degradation. It seems likely that similar dynamics occur for other products, services, and experiences.”

Realists (or cynics) may conclude that the report simply proves that advertising really does work. Idealists may counter that that shows the researchers have not been wasting their time. − Climate News Network

Like them or loathe them, advertisements are everywhere. And they’re worsening the climate crisis, say social scientists.

LONDON, 27 November, 2020 − Part and parcel of modern society, advertisements are so familiar in the background of most of our lives that we probably scarcely notice them. That’s a pity, because − if a new report is right − their influence may be indirectly causing climate and ecological damage.

The report, Advertising’s role in climate and ecological degradation, was commissioned by the Badvertising campaign, which is run by the New Weather Institute, a group backing a rapid transition to a fairer economy, and the climate campaign Possible. It is published today to coincide with Black Friday, regarded as the start of the US Christmas shopping season.

The report’s message is simple: advertising makes us want more material goods and services, which damage the environment and the climate in both their provision and their use. So less and better advertising would be good for the planet.

Its author is Dr Tim Kasser. Answering an argument often made in support of advertising, he told the Climate News Network: “Advertising does help people choose between products, but it also inculcates a general desire to want more of what is offered in the marketplace.

“When hundreds of millions of people have desires for more and more stuff and for more and more services and experiences, that really adds up and puts a strain on the Earth.”

Dependent media

Cautiously, perhaps, the advertising industry “indirectly” contributes to climate and ecological degradation, the report argues. For this it holds responsible the industry’s “encouragement of materialistic values and goals, the consumption-driving work & spend cycle”, and the consumption of two products in particular − beef and tobacco.

Definitions may help here. Materialism, the researchers say, is people’s desire to be rich as a result of “exposure to messages in their environment which suggest that happiness and a good life depend upon wealth and consumption.”

And here’s a spoiler alert for journalists: the survival of the media “typically depends on revenue obtained from presenting users with advertisements that encourage consumption.” The more TV you watch, the more adverts you’ll see, and the more materialistic you’ll become, it seems.

On the work & spend cycle, the study says: “Individuals who live under consumer capitalism are subjected to numerous pressures to work long hours … [one] is the desire to consume.” So “advertising leads people to place higher value on consumption of what they see advertised and lower value on having more time available for non-work activities.”

“Advertising serves capitalist economies in much the same way that state-sponsored art served Stalin’s Soviet Union, presenting a fake, idealised world that papers over an often brutal reality”

Advertisements can in fact mean “many people come to want to work, shop, and consume relatively more than to rest, recreate, and relate with others.” And there’s more: “Long work hours are associated with higher ecological footprints, greenhouse gas emissions, and overall energy consumption.”

When people work long hours, they have less time to engage in ecologically-sustainable and relatively time-intensive activities: bike-riding rather than car-driving, or growing food instead of buying it pre-packaged from a shop.

One of the researchers’ selected products, beef, can cause environmental damage as it is produced: unsustainable water use, destruction of forests, high levels of both greenhouse gases and pollutants that cause excessive algal growth. It can also damage human health (for example, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, linked in cattle to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease). Excessive consumption has been linked with heart disease and cancer.

The lethal risks of smoking tobacco are all too familiar. Producing and using cigarettes, the report finds, has much the same environmental effects as the beef industry and, a familiar refrain, “scientific evidence is consistent with the conclusion that advertising indirectly causes climate and ecological degradation through its encouragement of the consumption of tobacco.”

It may sound as though this demolition of advertisements is essentially an attack on the bedrock of capitalism. Andrew Simms, a co-author, told the Network it’s not that simple: “Advertising is so clever at being attractive or entertaining that it’s easy to forget it is manipulating us to get what it wants.

Broader reach

“And what it wants is for us to consume more, regardless of the environmental consequences or, indeed, the impact on our mental health or personal debt.

“I find it helps to remember that advertising serves capitalist economies in much the same way that state-sponsored art served Stalin’s Soviet Union, presenting a fake, idealised world that papers over an often brutal reality. But advertising in one sense is even more dangerous, because it is so pervasive, sophisticated in its techniques and harder to see through.”

The authors also take a sideswipe at two other products: flying for leisure, and sports utility vehicles. For possible solutions they refer readers to the Badvertising campaign’s toolkit.

They sum up their report with a suggestion that there’s more to come: “Substantial scientific evidence exists to support the claim that advertising has indirect but real effects on climate and ecological degradation. It seems likely that similar dynamics occur for other products, services, and experiences.”

Realists (or cynics) may conclude that the report simply proves that advertising really does work. Idealists may counter that that shows the researchers have not been wasting their time. − Climate News Network

Scientists’ oath pledges full climate crisis facts

Do you ever feel you can’t share the reality of what you know about the climate crisis? A new scientists’ oath could help.

LONDON, 9 November, 2020 − If you devote your working life to extending what we know about the climate crisis and how we may face it, you can now take a scientists’ oath, a pledge committing you to tell the unvarnished facts: uncompromising public statements explaining how grave the reality is.

Two UK-based groups are urging climate scientists and researchers to promise full disclosure: what their evidence shows, what it requires from them and from the rest of us in our personal lives, coupled with a demand for a matching response from their employers.

The pull-no-punches initiative is the brainchild of Scientists for Global Responsibility and the Rapid Transition Alliance (which helps to fund the Climate News Network). It has a parallel in long-established practice in the medical world: Hippocrates, a physician born in Greece around 2,500 years ago, was known as the Father of Medicine, and many newly-qualified doctors today adopt what is still called the Hippocratic oath, an ethical code designed to guide their professional conduct.

This modern successor, A science oath for the climate: a pledge of scrutiny, integrity and engagement, has already attracted the support of a number of internationally-renowned climate experts. Its language is spare, but its purpose is beyond doubt: those who know what climate change is doing must warn the world:

“Science has no higher purpose than to understand and help maintain the conditions for life to thrive on Earth. We may look beyond our planet with wonder and learn, but this is our only viable home.

Our dwelling though is critically threatened by the loss of the stable climate which has allowed humanity to flourish. We pledge to act in whatever ways we are able, in our lives and work, to prevent catastrophic climate disruption. 

To translate this pledge into a force for real change, we will:

  • explain honestly, clearly and without compromise, what scientific evidence tells us about the seriousness of the climate emergency
  • not second-guess what might seem politically or economically pragmatic when describing the scale and timeframe of action needed to deliver the 1.5°C and 2°C commitments, specified in the Paris Climate Agreement.  And, speak out about what is not compatible with the commitments, or is likely to undermine them
  • to the best of our abilities, and mindful of the urgent need for systemic change, seek to align our own behaviour with the climate targets, and reduce our own personal carbon emissions to demonstrate the possibilities for change. 

With courtesy and firmness, we will hold our professional associations, institutions and employers to these same standards, and invite our colleagues across the scientific community to sign, act on and share this pledge.”

One signatory, Chris Rapley, is well-known for his work in Antarctica and in the communication of climate science. Professor Rapley told the Climate News Network: “The climate crisis is unfolding before us. Our ability to retain some control of our climate destiny is slipping away.

“The climate science community has a duty to speak what it knows in the hope of evoking the necessary scale and pace of societal response. The oath commits us to doing so.”

To see who has already signed the science oath and to add your name click here.

Hippocrates was honoured as the first doctor to distinguish medicine from superstition − no bad example for those working today to convince a hesitant world that there is a vital difference between climate fact and fiction. − Climate News Network

Do you ever feel you can’t share the reality of what you know about the climate crisis? A new scientists’ oath could help.

LONDON, 9 November, 2020 − If you devote your working life to extending what we know about the climate crisis and how we may face it, you can now take a scientists’ oath, a pledge committing you to tell the unvarnished facts: uncompromising public statements explaining how grave the reality is.

Two UK-based groups are urging climate scientists and researchers to promise full disclosure: what their evidence shows, what it requires from them and from the rest of us in our personal lives, coupled with a demand for a matching response from their employers.

The pull-no-punches initiative is the brainchild of Scientists for Global Responsibility and the Rapid Transition Alliance (which helps to fund the Climate News Network). It has a parallel in long-established practice in the medical world: Hippocrates, a physician born in Greece around 2,500 years ago, was known as the Father of Medicine, and many newly-qualified doctors today adopt what is still called the Hippocratic oath, an ethical code designed to guide their professional conduct.

This modern successor, A science oath for the climate: a pledge of scrutiny, integrity and engagement, has already attracted the support of a number of internationally-renowned climate experts. Its language is spare, but its purpose is beyond doubt: those who know what climate change is doing must warn the world:

“Science has no higher purpose than to understand and help maintain the conditions for life to thrive on Earth. We may look beyond our planet with wonder and learn, but this is our only viable home.

Our dwelling though is critically threatened by the loss of the stable climate which has allowed humanity to flourish. We pledge to act in whatever ways we are able, in our lives and work, to prevent catastrophic climate disruption. 

To translate this pledge into a force for real change, we will:

  • explain honestly, clearly and without compromise, what scientific evidence tells us about the seriousness of the climate emergency
  • not second-guess what might seem politically or economically pragmatic when describing the scale and timeframe of action needed to deliver the 1.5°C and 2°C commitments, specified in the Paris Climate Agreement.  And, speak out about what is not compatible with the commitments, or is likely to undermine them
  • to the best of our abilities, and mindful of the urgent need for systemic change, seek to align our own behaviour with the climate targets, and reduce our own personal carbon emissions to demonstrate the possibilities for change. 

With courtesy and firmness, we will hold our professional associations, institutions and employers to these same standards, and invite our colleagues across the scientific community to sign, act on and share this pledge.”

One signatory, Chris Rapley, is well-known for his work in Antarctica and in the communication of climate science. Professor Rapley told the Climate News Network: “The climate crisis is unfolding before us. Our ability to retain some control of our climate destiny is slipping away.

“The climate science community has a duty to speak what it knows in the hope of evoking the necessary scale and pace of societal response. The oath commits us to doing so.”

To see who has already signed the science oath and to add your name click here.

Hippocrates was honoured as the first doctor to distinguish medicine from superstition − no bad example for those working today to convince a hesitant world that there is a vital difference between climate fact and fiction. − Climate News Network