Tag Archives: climate change

“Climate change war” is not a metaphor

by Eric Holthaus at Grist

Enduring Freedom

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has just completed a series of landmark reports that chronicle an update to the current state of consensus science on climate change. In a sentence, here’s what they found: On our current path, climate change could pose an irreversible, existential risk to civilization as we know it – but we can still fix it if we decide to work together.

But in addition to the call for cooperation, the reports also shared an alarming new trend: Climate change is already destabilizing nations and leading to wars.

That finding was highlighted in this week’s premiere of Showtime’s new star-studded climate change docu-drama Years of Living Dangerously. In the series’ first episode, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman traveled to Syria to investigate how a long-running drought has contributed to that conflict. Climate change has also been discussed as a “threat multiplier” for recent conflicts in Darfur, Tunisia, Egypt, and future conflicts, too.

Climate change worsens the divide between haves and have-nots, hitting the poor the hardest. It can also drive up food prices and spawn megadisasters, creating refugees and taxing the resiliency of governments.

When a threat like that comes along, it’s impossible to ignore. Especially if your job is national security.

In a recent interview with the blog Responding to Climate Changeretired Army Brig. Gen. Chris King laid out the military’s thinking on climate change:

“This is like getting embroiled in a war that lasts 100 years. That’s the scariest thing for us,” he told RTCC. “There is no exit strategy that is available for many of the problems. You can see in military history, when they don’t have fixed durations, that’s when you’re most likely to not win.”

In a similar vein, last month, retired Navy Rear Adm. David Titley co-wrote an op-ed for Fox News:

The parallels between the political decisions regarding climate change we have made and the decisions that led Europe to World War One are striking – and sobering. The decisions made in 1914 reflected political policies pursued for short-term gains and benefits, coupled with institutional hubris, and a failure to imagine and understand the risks or to learn from recent history.

In short, climate change could be the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the 21st century.

Earlier this year, while at the American Meteorological Society annual meeting in Atlanta, I had a chance to sit down with Titley, who is also a meteorologist and now serves on the faculty at Penn State University. He’s also probably one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever spoken with. Check out his TEDxPentagon talk, in which he discusses how he went from “a pretty hard-core skeptic about climate change” to labeling it “one of the pre-eminent challenges of our century.” (This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.)

Q. You’ve been a leader when it comes to talking about climate change as a national security issue. What’s your take on the connection between war and climate?

David Titley.
U.S. Navy
David Titley.

A. Climate change did not cause the Arab Spring, but could it have been a contributing factor? I think that seems pretty reasonable. This was a food-importing region, with poor governance. And then the chain of events conspires to have really a bad outcome. You get a spike in food prices, and all of a sudden, nobody’s in control of events.

I see climate change as one of the driving forces in the 21st century. With modern technology and globalization, we are much more connected than ever before. The world’s warehouses are now container ships. Remember the Icelandic volcano with the unpronounceable name? Now, that’s not a climate change issue, but some of the people hit worst were flower growers in Kenya. In 24 hours, their entire business model disappeared. You can’t eat flowers.

Q. What’s the worst-case scenario, in your view?

A. There will be a discrete event or series of events that will change the calculus. I don’t know who, I don’t know how violent. To quote Niels Bohr: Predictions are tough, especially about the future. When it comes, that will be a black swan. The question is then, do we change?

Let me give you a few examples of how that might play out. You could imagine a scenario in which both Russia and China have prolonged droughts. China decides to exert rights on foreign contracts and gets assertive in Africa. If you start getting instability in large powers with nuclear weapons, that’s not a good day.

Here’s another one: We basically do nothing on emissions. Sea level keeps rising, three to six feet by the end of the century. Then, you get a series of super-typhoons into Shanghai and millions of people die. Does the population there lose faith in Chinese government? Does China start to fissure? I’d prefer to deal with a rising, dominant China any day.

Q. That sounds incredibly daunting. How could we head off a threat like that?

A. I like to think of climate action as a three-legged stool. There’s business saying, “This is a risk factor.” Coca-Cola needs to preserve its water rights, Boeing has their supply change management, Exxon has all but priced carbon in. They have influence in the Republican Party. There’s a growing divestment movement. The big question is, does it get into the California retirement fund, the New York retirement fund, those $100 billion funds that will move markets? Politicians also have responsibility to act if the public opinion changes. Flooding, storms, droughts are all getting people talking about climate change. I wonder if someday Atlanta will run out of water?

Think back to the Apollo program. President Kennedy motivated us to land a man on the moon. How that will play out exactly this time around, I don’t know. When we talk about climate, we need to do everything we can to set the stage before the actors come on. And they may only have one chance at success. We should keep thinking: How do we maximize that chance of success?

Climate change isn’t just an environmental issue; it’s a technology, water, food, energy, population issue. None of this happens in a vacuum.

Q. Despite all the data and debates, the public still isn’t taking that great of an interest in climate change. According to Gallup, the fraction of Americans worrying about climate “a great deal” is still roughly one-third, about the same level as in 1989. Do you think that could ever change?

A. A lot of people who doubt climate change got co-opted by a libertarian agenda that tried to convince the public the science was uncertain – you know, the Merchants of Doubt. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of people in high places who understand the science but don’t like where the policy leads them: too much government control.

Where are the free-market, conservative ideas? The science is settled. Instead, we should have a legitimate policy debate between the center-right and the center-left on what to do about climate change. If you’re a conservative – half of America – why would you take yourself out of the debate? C’mon, don’t be stupid. Conservative people want to conserve things. Preserving the climate should be high on that list.

Q. What could really change in the debate on climate?

A. We need to start prioritizing people, not polar bears. We’re probably less adaptable than them, anyway. The farther you are from the Beltway, the more you can have a conversation about climate no matter how people vote. I never try to politicize the issue.

Most people out there are just trying to keep their job and provide for their family. If climate change is now a once-in-a-mortgage problem, and if food prices start to spike, people will pay attention. Factoring in sea-level rise, storms like Hurricane Katrina and Sandy could become not once-in-100-year events, but once-in-a-mortgage events. I lost my house in Waveland, Miss., during Katrina. I’ve experienced what that’s like.

Q. How quickly could the debate shift? How can we get past the stalemate on climate change and start focusing on what to do about it?

A. People working on climate change should prepare for catastrophic success. I mean, look at how quickly the gay rights conversation changed in this country. Ten years ago, it was at best a fringe thing. Nowadays, it’s much, much more accepted. Is that possible with climate change? I don’t know, but 10 years ago, if you brought up the possibility we’d have gay marriages in dozens of states in 2014, a friend might have said “Are you on drugs?” When we get focused, we can do amazing things. Unfortunately, it’s usually at the last minute, usually under duress.

This article is part of Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State University, the New America Foundation, and Slate.

This story was produced by Slate as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Eric Holthaus is a meteorologist who writes about weather and climate for Slate’s Future Tense. Follow him on Twitter.




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The Statistical Probability That Climate Change Is Not Manmade Is 0.01 Percent

That climate science relies too heavily on models is one of the last arguments that climate change deniers cling to—many of them argue that proving climate change is manmade is impossible. But one researcher says he’s basically just done the opposite: he used statistics, actual observed data, and, most importantly, no computer models at all to prove that climate change has not been a natural phenomenon…. read the rest here


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Climate change is already changing the Australian landscape

from David Donaldson at the Guardian

Climate zones along the coast of southeastern Australia have already moved south by around 350km. Those fluctuations are also altering the way rural communities live.

tree guardian

I was in high school when crested pigeons started showing up at the farm where I grew up. Situated in a flat, pastoral corner of southwest Victoria, the pointy-haired birds first seemed out of place – a budding wildlife enthusiast, I’d previously only seen photos of them in the desert.

But thanks to the millennium drought – which became progressively worse from around the time I started primary school until my final year of high school – the crested pigeons had obviously decided southwest Victoria was now sufficiently dehydrated for them to take up residence. Though the drought ended several years ago, the pigeons are now a permanent fixture on the farm; I hear their distinctive whirring sound every time I go back to visit.

The same thing happened with galahs when my father was young. The pink and grey cockatoos flew in from the north during the 1965-68 drought and have never left. Other birds, such as the charismatic grey fantail, have changed their migratory behaviour in recent years as winters become milder and shorter, as have countless species right around the world.

It’s not just the wildlife that’s changing. The hotter, drier climate gradually imposing itself on southeastern Australia is forcing changes to agriculture. In southwest Victoria, this means it’s becoming harder to produce the beef and wool my father grew when I was a child. Cereal cropping, which uses less water and creates fewer jobs, is becoming more popular.

A Crested Pigeon.
A Crested Pigeon. Photograph: Ed Dunens/Flickr

Old European trees in gardens and town centres are dying in the long, waterless summers. Aquifers are becoming harder to access as runoff remains low, while decreasing autumn precipitation is leading to a shorter growing season. Frosts are becoming less common, though clear skies, which allow heat to escape at night-time, mean minimum temperatures are not increasing at the same rate as maximums.

The changes are also altering the way rural communities live. The drought in particular had a huge and traumatic effect. Livestock previously had to be shot when feed and water ran out. Many workers ended up leaving farming because it was just too hard. Tragically, the suicide rate among farmers spiked during the final years as entire livelihoods were reduced to dust. Though drought is a recurrent theme of the Australian landscape, this one was especially long and harsh – and the research suggests such phenomena will only become more common.

As the IPCC’s fifth assessment report has reiterated, climate change is not merely a beast of the future – it’s been happening for a while. Victoria’s average annual mean temperature has increased by almost 0.9°C over the past century, around the same as the rest of Australia. Although rainfall is more variable, droughts are becoming longer and drier. Record high temperatures are regularly broken, while record lows are becoming harder to find.

Climate zones along the coast of southeastern Australia have already moved south by around 350km. Those on the northeast coast have shifted around 200km. Fish species are travelling further south than before. Long-spined sea urchins, previously found only as far south as southern NSW, have been caught in eastern Tasmania. Other organisms have specific, geographically-bound ranges that do not allow them to move, and will find it difficult to adapt to warmer seas.

Terrestrial animals will increasingly face the same problem. Our national parks are poorly connected in large areas of Australia, meaning many creatures will be unable to migrate as temperatures increase. Some animals escaping monsoonal northern Australia will find it difficult to survive in drier inland areas. Alpine animals, such as the Leadbeater’s Possum, will be especially challenged as thin snowfall and bigger bushfires cause their habitat to disappear.

But while the outlook is concerning for agricultural production and downright terrible for our natural habitat, there are a few glimmers of hope. It’s reassuring that, despite the acrimony surrounding climate politics at a national level, there are plenty of community groups and governmental bodies conducting important research into how we deal with a hotter, drier Australia. While politicians and vested interests have muddied the waters of public opinion for strong action to stop climate change, pragmatism based on evidence is leading progress in adaptation and mitigation.

Though it may be politically conservative, southwest Victoria is no exception. In 2013 for example, Moyne shire released an extensive coastal hazard assessment report for popular holiday town Port Fairy, finding that several hundred buildings would be at risk of inundation by seawater as ocean levels rise.

Individual farmers, landcare groups and catchment management authorities are working on a range of projects to increase biodiversity and improve agricultural processes. Nationally, the CSIRO is breeding new types of drought-tolerant wheat that will hopefully prevent a decline in productivity as the landscape becomes drier.

We’re already seeing the effects climate change is having on the natural world. Even if governments start making a serious effort to combat climate change today, we won’t be starting from zero – the clock started long ago, but we’re still crouched at the starting block.

Sooner or later, we’ll all be touched by climate change in some way, as indeed many already have. Hopefully we’ll be prepared for it.

Original story here




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another clean up

Just sorting through a few things and for the sake of posterity am posting these pictures here.  They are the latest in my take on what’s going on in Australian politics. As usual, feel free to use these if you like.

First, Joe Hockey announced that everyone is going to have to engage in some heavy lifting to fix the budget….which if it’s in any trouble it’s due completely to Sloppy Joe Hockey borrowing the most money in the history of Australia.

heavy lifting

The next few are self-explanatory…

tony denialracist trashDowntonabbott

Abbott, in his usual thoughtless way announced another brainfart without considering the ramifications, as he showed just how out of touch he is by stating that social media is “digital graffiti”. Interesting….like this?


Then we have Mr Sinodinos, the soon to be former Assistant Treasurer, who has fronted an inquiry into all sorts of shady dealings.


Then there is this…


and this…

reza barati

Finally, I received, along with a lot of other people on Facebook, one of these simple maths tests where you either like or make a comment depending on your answer. I was disgusted with the amount of likes compared to comments but even worse were some of the comments having an answer that was even more wrong, prompting me to offer a third alternative….

improved FB maths test

I mean, seriously? This is pretty basic maths. If people can’t even get this very simple arithmetic correct, what hope of understanding the complexity of anthropogenic climate change?

Anyway, that’s part of my week. Another big part was going to be a discussion on the similarities between the far loony right and the far loony left after witnessing and engaging in a discussion on another blog about veganism, but that’s for another day….maybe.


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IPCC WG2 Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

Instead of relying on leaked drafts of this report, you can now download the final version. Before you do though, please have a read of Graham Readfearn’s take, but before you do even that, please consider this story from the New York Times about the awful mudslide in Oso, Washington. To me, it is almost an analogy for the entire human race and our human caused climate change.

A Mudslide, Foretold

Timothy Egan

DON’T tell me, please, that nobody saw one of the deadliest landslides in American history coming. Say a prayer or send a donation for a community buried under a mountain of mud along a great river in Washington State, the Stillaguamish. Praise the emergency workers still trying to find a pulse of life in a disaster that left 25 people dead and 90 missing.

But enough with the denial, the willful ignorance of cause and effect, the shock that one of the prettiest valleys on the planet could turn in a flash from quiet respite in the foothills of the North Cascades to a gravelly graveyard.

“This was a completely unforeseen slide,” said John Pennington, the emergency manager of Snohomish County. “It was considered very safe.” He said this on Monday, two days after the equivalent of three million dump truck loads of wet earth heaved down on the river near the tiny town of Oso. Unforeseen — except for 60 years’ worth of warnings, most notably a report in 1999 that outlined “the potential for a large catastrophic failure” on the very hillside that just suffered a large catastrophic failure.

It is human nature, if not the American way, to look potential disaster in the face and prefer to see a bright and shining lie. The “taming” of this continent, in five centuries and change, required a mighty mustering of cognitive dissonance. As a result, most of us live with the danger of wildfire, earthquake, tornado, flooding, drought, hurricane or yet-to-be-defined and climate-change-influenced superstorm. A legacy of settlement is the delusion that large-scale manipulation of the natural world can be done without consequence.

What happened when the earth moved on a quiet Saturday morning in the Stillaguamish Valley was foretold, in some ways, by the relationship that people have with that sylvan slice of the Pacific Northwest.

Almost 25 years ago, I went into one of the headwater streams of the Stillaguamish with Pat Stevenson, a biologist with the American Indian tribe that bears the same name as the river and claims an ancient link to that land. The rain was Noah-level that day — just as it’s been for most of this March.

We drove upriver, winding along the drainage of Deer Creek, one of the main tributaries of the Stillaguamish. We couldn’t see Whitehorse Mountain, the dreamy peak that towers over the valley, that day. We could barely see beyond our windshield wipers. At last, we arrived at an open wound near road’s end. I’d never witnessed anything like it: an active slide, sloughing mud and clay down into the formerly pristine creek. We watched huge sections of land peel and puddle — an ugly and terrifying new landscape under creation before our eyes.

Stevenson pointed uphill, to bare, saturated earth that was melting, like candle wax, into the main mudslide. Not long ago, this had been a thick forest of old growth timber. But after it was excessively logged, every standing tree removed, there was nothing to hold the land in place during heavy rains. A federal survey determined that nearly 50 percent of the entire basin above Deer Creek had been logged over a 30-year period. It didn’t take a degree in forestry to see how one event led to the other.

The Stilly, as locals call the river, is well known to those who chase fish with a fly rod, and to native people who have been living off its bounty for centuries. Zane Grey, the Western novelist, called it the finest fishing river in the world for steelhead, the big seagoing trout that can grow to 40 pounds. What Stevenson showed me that day in a November storm was how one human activity, logging, was destroying the source of joy and sustenance for others. When the crack and groan of an entire hillside in collapse happened a week ago Saturday, I thought instantly of Stevenson and that gloomy day at Deer Creek.

And, sure enough, logging above the area of the current landslide appears to have gone beyond the legal limits, into the area that slid, according to a report in The Seattle Times.

Yes, but who wants to listen to warnings by pesky scientists, to pay heed to predictions by environmental nags, or allow an intrusive government to limit private property rights? That’s how these issues get cast. And that’s why reports like the ones done on the Stillaguamish get shelved. The people living near Oso say nobody ever informed them of the past predictions.

Just upriver from the buried community along the Stillaguamish is Darrington, a town with a proud logging tradition. The folks who live there are self-described Tarheels, transplanted from Southern Appalachia several generations ago after their own timber mills went bust. They hold a terrific bluegrass festival every year, and they show up in force at public hearings where government and environmentalists are denounced with venom. It’s not their fault that the earth moved, certainly. But they should insist that their public officials tell them the plain truth when the science is bad news.

An Act of God is a legal term to describe an event outside of human control. No one can be held responsible. Exactly 50 years ago Thursday, in Alaska, the second largest earthquake in recorded history, magnitude 9.2, remade the Last Frontier State. What had been gravel beaches rose to become 30-foot cliffs. What had been forests at sea level were submerged, leaving only the ghostly silver tips that you can still see. In Anchorage, 42,000 people were left homeless.

That quake was an Act of God. Even so, cities along the West Coast have adopted strict seismic standards to lessen the human misery, should another earthquake of that size strike.

The Dust Bowl, arguably the greatest environmental disaster in American history, was not an Act of God. A drought, even a prolonged one, was no stranger to the High Plains — same as heavy rain is to the west side of the Cascade Mountains. But those regions have been considerably altered by human hands. In both cases, you love the land, but you should never forget that it can turn on you.

Now, I’m an atheist, so the whole “Act of God” thing doesn’t even register in my thoughts as everything has a cause and most things arise from chance. Anthropogenic climate change, like the American Dust Bowl, is not occurring due to chance. It is most definitely of our making. The predictions and warnings have been coming from the scientific community for much longer than the 25 years or so of IPCC reports and yet, still our emissions continue to grow and at some point, like the millions of tons of mud in Oso, Washington, climate change will come crashing down on us.

Graham Readfearn’s take is here

The IPCC report is here.

The original NYT article is here.


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The hellish monotony of 25 years of IPCC climate change warnings

This is the title of the latest article from Graham Readfearn at the Guardian. For me, I think an equally acceptable one would be…

25 years with our heads in the sand. Not even ostriches are stupid enough to do that.

Anyway, Graham writes…

The latest blockbuster United Nations report on the impacts of climate change makes dire reading, just as the first one did almost a quarter of a century ago.

Entire island nations “rendered uninhabitable”, millions of people to be displaced by floods and rising seas, uncertainties over global food supplies and severe impacts on human health across the world.

The news from the United Nations on the likely impacts of climate change is dire, especially for the poorest people on the planet.

There will likely be more floods, more droughts and more intense heatwaves, says the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

As human emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise, natural ecosystems come under extreme stress with “significant” knock-on effects for societies….

Read the full article here.





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Tony Abbott’s “Direct (in)Action” plan flawed.

Everyone knows it, even the coalition themselves. The vast majority of them are climate change deniers and their plan will actually put money in the pockets of polluters and allow them to increase emissions. Now, a Senate committee has examined the plan and given it a huge tick of disapproval.

from the Guradian

‘Flawed’ Direct Action climate plan should go, says Senate committee

Increased cuts in emissions and floating carbon price recommended to replace Coalition scheme

cooling towers

The federal government’s climate change plan is “fundamentally flawed” and should be ditched in favour of a floating price on carbon, a Senate committee report has found.

The committee report recommended the government “immediately adopt” the emissions reduction targets put forward by the independent Climate Change Authority, which the Coalition has vowed to disband.

This would deepen the cut in emissions by 2020 – from the present target of 5% – to 15% below levels in 2000. The cut would become 19% if Australia’s Kyoto Protocol commitments were factored in.

The committee also recommended the clean energy package introduced by the previous Labor government should not be repealed, including the retention of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which the government again moved to abolish on Thursday.

 A floating carbon price should be introduced in place of the proposed Emissions Reduction Fund, which is the centrepiece of the Coalition’s Direct Action climate plan, the committee recommended.

The fund, which will pay out $2.55bn over the next four years, is designed to help lower emissions by paying businesses and farmers to undertake projects which cut CO2 output or store carbon in soil and plants.

But the committee said the fund was “fundamentally flawed” in a number of ways.

The report states the plan does not have enough money to fund the abatement required for Australia to meet its 5% emissions cut, that there is no legislated limit on Australia’s emissions, no access to international emissions credits and no proper system around how to work out a business’ baseline emissions.

However, the committee was split along party lines, with Coalition senators John Williams and Anne Ruston dissenting from almost all the report’s findings.

 The two senators said Direct Action had to replace the carbon tax due to the high cost of the current policy in return for a questionable emissions cut.

“The government believes there is a better way to tackle climate change than by imposing a $7.6bn, economy-wide tax that hinders business and does nothing for the environment,” Williams and Ruston said in a statement.

“The Direct Action plan with the Emissions Reduction Fund as its centrepiece will provide incentives rather than penalties to reduce emissions: incentives for businesses to innovate and invest in new technologies, incentives to improve the efficiency and productivity of businesses’ operations and incentives to encourage farmers and landholders to store carbon on the land.”

The federal environment minister, Greg Hunt, has dismissed the findings of the report, noting that four of the six committee members are Labor or Greens senators.

“This was written by Labor and Greens senators – of course they’re going to be running a whitewash of their own policy,” he told ABC Radio.

Several independent studies of the Direct Action plan have raised doubts over whether it can meet the 5% reduction target without more funding, something the government has ruled out.

The Climate Institute has run an analysis that is critical of the Direct Action plan, but said that both Labor and the Coalition needed to increase their ambition over emissions cuts.

“Neither party can claim any climate credibility for their policies if they remain fixated on the minimum reduction effort required and not what is Australia’s fair share in avoiding the internationally agreed climate goal of avoiding two-degrees warming,” said John Connor, the chief executive of the Climate Institute.

“As one of the countries most exposed to climate risks it is in our national interest to establish credible targets.”

 Mark Butler, Labor’s environment spokesman, said expert advice heard by the committee showed that the Direct Action plan was deficient.

“After four years, three Senate inquiry hearings and two Senate estimates hearings, no one, not least the government or the Environment Department, can describe how Direct Action is going to achieve its goals,” he said.

“Direct Action is nothing more than a dressed-up slush fund with a pretty name.”

The Greens leader, Christine Milne, said: “The inquiry has made it crystal clear that Direct Action is not a viable replacement for carbon pricing and is vastly inferior to the existing law.”

“Direct Action is just a slogan. There was not a single economist in written submissions or testimony who supported Direct Action over the existing emissions trading scheme. Not Ross Garnaut, not Bernie Fraser, no one.”

Original article here


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UN climate change report card: Scientists predict Australia will continue to get hotter | ABC Radio Australia

and yet our dopey politicians are prepared to let Australia burn along with the rest of the world because taking action on climate will burn holes in the very very very large pockets of the business people who pay for their electioneering.

UN climate change report card: Scientists predict Australia will continue to get hotter | ABC Radio Australia.

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Not a pretty picture – well done world!

I’m not usually one to pay much attention to “leaked draft reports” from the IPCC because they are just drafts, but I doubt there will be many changes given the Working Group 2  ‘Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’ report is due out by the end of this month. It’s not difficult to imagine that the writers for the movie “Elysium” had a sneak peak.

The Working Group II summary of thousands of peer-reviewed papers, predicts crop yields will fall by 2 per cent per decade until 2100 leading to a 20% rise in malnutrition arounfd the world.

Hundreds of millions of people are expected to be displaced, increasing the risk of violent conflict. Trillions of dollars are expected to be wiped from the global economy. Sea level rise will force mass migration across low lying areas of southern and eastern Asia raising the chances of conflict.

As usual, it will be the poor and underpriveleged who will bear the brunt of these future conditions. The wealthy, those responsible for most of the climate change, will just but their way out of trouble, like in Elysium. They should however, take heed of how that movie ends.


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Could a 500-house community go off-grid?

Could a 500-house community go off-grid?.

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