Climate crisis: 11,000 scientists warn of ‘untold suffering’

A man uses a garden hose to try to save his home from wildfire in Granada Hills, California, on 11 October 2019.
 A man uses a garden hose to try to save his home from wildfire in Granada Hills, California, on 11 October 2019. Photograph: Michael Owen Baker/AP

The world’s people face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless there are major transformations to global society, according to a stark warning from more than 11,000 scientists.

“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” it states. “To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. [This] entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems.”

There is no time to lose, the scientists say: “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”

The statement is published in the journal BioScience on the 40th anniversary of the first world climate conference, which was held in Geneva in 1979. The statement was a collaboration of dozens of scientists and endorsed by further 11,000 from 153 nations. The scientists say the urgent changes needed include ending population growth, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, halting forest destruction and slashing meat eating.

Prof William Ripple, of Oregon State University and the lead author of the statement, said he was driven to initiate it by the increase in extreme weather he was seeing. A key aim of the warning is to set out a full range of “vital sign” indicators of the causes and effects of climate breakdown, rather than only carbon emissions and surface temperature rise.

“A broader set of indicators should be monitored, including human population growth, meat consumption, tree-cover loss, energy consumption, fossil-fuel subsidies and annual economic losses to extreme weather events,” said co-author Thomas Newsome, of the University of Sydney.

Other “profoundly troubling signs from human activities” selected by the scientists include booming air passenger numbers and world GDP growth. “The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle,” they said.

As a result of these human activities, there are “especially disturbing” trends of increasing land and ocean temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather events, the scientists said: “Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have have largely failed to address this predicament. Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points. These climate chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable.”

“We urge widespread use of the vital signs [to] allow policymakers and the public to understand the magnitude of the crisis, realign priorities and track progress,” the scientists said.

“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to look at the graphs and know things are going wrong,” said Newsome. “But it is not too late.” The scientists identify some encouraging signs, including decreasing global birth rates, increasing solar and wind power and fossil fuel divestment. Rates of forest destruction in the Amazon had also been falling until a recent increase under new president Jair Bolsonaro.

They set out a series of urgently needed actions:

  • Use energy far more efficiently and apply strong carbon taxes to cut fossil fuel use
  • Stabilise global population – currently growing by 200,000 people a day – using ethical approaches such as longer education for girls
  • End the destruction of nature and restore forests and mangroves to absorb CO2
  • Eat mostly plants and less meat, and reduce food waste
  • Shift economic goals away from GDP growth

“The good news is that such transformative change, with social and economic justice for all, promises far greater human well-being than does business as usual,” the scientists said. The recent surge of concern was encouraging, they added, from the global school strikes to lawsuits against polluters and some nations and businesses starting to respond.

warning of the dangers of pollution and a looming mass extinction of wildlife on Earth, also led by Ripple, was published in 2017. It was supported by more than 15,000 scientists and read out in parliaments from Canada to Israel. It came 25 years after the original “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” in 1992, which said: “A great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.”

Ripple said scientists have a moral obligation to issue warnings of catastrophic threats: “It is more important than ever that we speak out, based on evidence. It is time to go beyond just research and publishing, and to go directly to the citizens and policymakers.”

Who is holding up the war on global warming? You may be surprised

Who is holding up the war on global warming? You may be surprised
© Getty Images

The good news is that the American public finally appears to accept that global warming is a problem. The bad news is that a substantial percentage of the public is unwilling to pay much to do anything about it. At first glance these may seem to be contradictory messages. But the public may be reacting to the initial symptoms of a warming planet rather than the dire consequences envisioned by the scientific community if global warming remains unchecked.

This explanation is supported by recent findings that a majority of Americans believe that the weather-related disasters we have been experiencing are becoming more severe and that the main culprit is a warmer global climate. But what the public foresees for the future is unclear. The outlook may be unambiguous to climatologists. But does the public buy into what the science shows about the implications of failure to reduce greenhouse emissions?

If the answer to this question is “no,” then it may help explain why a substantial share of the public gives such low priority to efforts to address longer-term climate change risk. Many people simply do not yet believe that continued procrastination will likely have catastrophic consequences for society and the environment. Perhaps a well-paid opposition has been more successful in sowing doubt than we had feared.

But in any event, if the adage “to see is to believe” plays a dominant role in shaping public attitudes, we are in trouble. Due to lags in the climate system, it will take decades for many of the effects of today’s emissions to play themselves out. By then, we will likely have committed the planet to much of the damage we fear the most.

Most troublesome is that, if the public is fixated on what they can see on a given day, season or year, they will be vulnerable to the machinations of those who see cold snaps as confirming that global warming is a ruse. They argue that short-term deviations are explained by the natural variability in local weather.

For example, a U.S. senator once brought a snowball on to the Senate floor as proof that climate change is a hoax. That year (2015) turned out to be the hottest in recorded history until that time.

So, what has the public seen to date? The government provides an exhaustive accounting of deaths, direct economic losses and other impacts for natural disasters whose frequency and intensity are associated with climate warming. Those disasters include heat waves, severe storms, hurricanes, droughts, floods, wildfires, famines and sea level rise. Accounts of such events are also increasingly reaching the public eye, either when people look out their kitchen windows or when they turn on the evening news. What is stunning is how fast damages have risen over the past four decades.

So what can we do? Much has been written about the need for better communication and better education. Those are no-brainers. But there is other work to be done, including addressing this fundamental question: What is driving current public attitudes about climate change? That’s where we need to focus more of our resources. Good natural science is critical, but so is research into the behavioral science behind the public’s attitudes.

Public opinion isn’t the only barrier to action. Lawmakers need to play a far greater role in combatting this existential challenge. They naturally carefully judge the mood of the public, with eyes on polls that reflect their electability. When a sufficient fraction of their constituents tilt towards action, they will be happy to jump to the front of the parade. Hopefully, when that finally happens it will not be too late.

‘The climate doesn’t need awards’: Greta Thunberg declines environmental prize

The teen activist implored politicians and people in power to ‘listen to the best available science’ in an Instagram post

Greta Thunberg, teen climate activist, was honoured by the Nordic Council with an environmental award which she declined.
 Greta Thunberg, teen climate activist, was honoured by the Nordic Council with an environmental award which she declined. Photograph: Canadian Press/Rex/Shutterstock

The Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has refused to accept an environmental award, saying the climate movement needed people in power to start to “listen” to “science” and not awards.

The young climate activist, who has rallied millions to her “Fridays for Future” movement, was honoured at a Stockholm ceremony held by the Nordic Council, a regional body for inter-parliamentary cooperation.

She had been nominated for her efforts by both Sweden and Norway and won the organisation’s annual environment prize.

But after it was announced, a representative for Thunberg told the audience that she would not accept the award or the prize sum of 350,000 Danish kroner (about $52,000 or €46,800), the TT news agency reported.

She addressed the decision in a post on Instagram from the United States.

“The climate movement does not need any more awards,” she wrote.

“What we need is for our politicians and the people in power start to listen to the current, best available science.”

While thanking the Nordic Council for the “huge honour”, she also criticised Nordic countries for not living up to their “great reputation” on climate issues.

“There is no lack of bragging about this. There is no lack of beautiful words. But when it comes to our actual emissions and our ecological footprints per capita … then it’s a whole other story,” Thunberg said.

Still only 16 years old, Thunberg rose to prominence after she started spending her Fridays outside Sweden’s parliament in August 2018, holding a sign reading “School strike for climate”.

pledge 2019 Environment ‘It’s a crisis, not a change’: the six Guardian language changes on climate matters

A short glossary of the changes we’ve made to the Guardian’s style guide, for use by our journalists and editors when writing about the environment

November, 2018: a helicopter passes by the sun as it makes a water drop in the Feather River Canyon, east of Paradise, California.
 November, 2018: a helicopter passes by the sun as it makes a water drop in the Feather River Canyon, east of Paradise, California. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

In addition to providing updated guidelines on which images our editors should use to illustrate the climate emergency, we have updated our style guide to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crises facing the world. Our editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, said: “We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue”. These are the guidelines provided to our journalists and editors to be used in the production of all environment coverage across the Guardian’s website and paper:

1.) “climate emergency” or “climate crisis” to be used instead of “climate change”

Climate change is no longer considered to accurately reflect the seriousness of the overall situation; use climate emergency or climate crisis instead to describe the broader impact of climate change. However, use climate breakdown or climate change or global heating when describing it specifically in a scientific or geophysical sense eg “Scientists say climate breakdown has led to an increase in the intensity of hurricanes”.

2.) “climate science denier” or “climate denier” to be used instead of “climate sceptic”

The OED defines a sceptic as “a seeker of the truth; an inquirer who has not yet arrived at definite conclusions”. Most “climate sceptics”, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, deny climate change is happening, or is caused by human activity, so ‘denier’ is more accurate.ot “global warming”
‘Global heating’ is more scientifically accurate. Greenhouse gases form an atmospheric blanket that stops the sun’s heat escaping back to space.

4.) “greenhouse gas emissions” is preferred to “carbon emissions” or “carbon dioxide emissions”. Although carbon emissions is not inaccurate, if we’re talking about all gases that warm the atmosphere, this term recognises all of the climate-damaging gases, including methane, nitrogen oxides, CFCs etc.

5.) Use “wildlife”, not “biodiversity”
We felt that ‘wildlife’ is a much more accessible word and is fair to use in many stories, and is a bit less clinical when talking about all the creatures with whom we share the planet.

6.) Use “fish populations” instead of “fish stocks”

This change emphasises that fish do not exist solely to be harvested by humans – they play a vital role in the natural health of the oceans.

Since we announced these changes, they have been reported widelyshared across social media channels, and even prompted some other media outlets to reconsider the terms they use in their own coverage.

The update to the Guardian’s style guide, originally announced earlier this year, followed the addition of the global carbon dioxide level to the Guardian’s daily weather pages – the simplest measure of how the mass burning of fossil fuels is disrupting the stable climate. To put it simply, while weather changes daily, climate changes over years and decades. So alongside the daily carbon count, we publish the level in previous years for comparison, as well as the pre-industrial-era baseline of 280ppm, and the level seen as manageable in the long term of 350ppm.

In order to keep below 1.5C of warming, the aspiration of the world’s nations, we need to halve emissions by 2030 and reach zero by mid century. It is also likely we will need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, perhaps by the large-scale restoration of nature. It is a huge task, but we hope that tracking the daily rise of CO2 will help to maintain focus on it.

Viner said: “People need reminding that the climate crisis is no longer a future problem – we need to tackle it now, and every day matters.”

Revealed: Google made large contributions to climate change deniers

Google logo
 Google helps bankroll more than a dozen organisations that have pushed against moves to stop climate change. Illustration: Guardian Design

Google has made “substantial” contributions to some of the most notorious climate deniers in Washington despite its insistence that it supports political action on the climate crisis.

Among hundreds of groups the company has listed on its website as beneficiaries of its political giving are more than a dozen organisations that have campaigned against climate legislation, questioned the need for action, or actively sought to roll back Obama-era environmental protections.

The list includes the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative policy group that was instrumental in convincing the Trump administration to abandon the Paris agreement and has criticised the White House for not dismantling more environmental rules.


What is the polluters project?

Google said it was disappointed by the US decision to abandon the global climate deal, but has continued to support CEI.

Google is also listed as a sponsor for an upcoming annual meeting of the State Policy Network (SPN), an umbrella organisation that supports conservative groups including the Heartland Institute, a radical anti-science group that has chided the teenage activist Greta Thunberg for “climate delusion hysterics”.

SPN members recently created a “climate pledge” website that falsely states “our natural environment is getting better” and “there is no climate crisis”.

Google has defended its contributions, saying that its “collaboration” with organisations such as CEI “does not mean we endorse the organisations’ entire agenda”.

It donates to such groups, people close to the company say, to try to influence conservative lawmakers, and – most importantly – to help finance the deregulatory agenda the groups espouse.

A spokesperson for Google said it sponsored organisations from across the political spectrum that advocate for “strong technology policies”.

“We’re hardly alone among companies that contribute to organisations while strongly disagreeing with them on climate policy,” the spokesperson said. Amazon has, like Google, also sponsored a CEI gala, according to a programme for the event reported in the New York Times.

CEI has opposed regulation of the internet and enforcement of antitrust rules, and has defended Google against some Republicans’ claims that the search engine has an anti-conservative bias.

But environmental activists and other critics say that, for a company that purports to support global action on climate change, such tradeoffs are not acceptable.

“You don’t get a pass on it. It ought to be disqualifying to support what is primarily a phoney climate denying front group. It ought to be unacceptable given how wicked they have been,” said Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic senator from Rhode Island who is one of the most vocal proponents of climate action in Congress.

“What all of corporate America should be doing is saying if you are a trade organisation or lobby group and you are interfering on climate, we are out. Period,” he added.

On its website, Google says it is committed to ensuring its political engagement is “open, transparent and clear to our users, shareholders, and the public”.

But the company declined to answer the Guardian’s questions on how much it has given to the organisations.

On a webpage devoted to “transparency”, it describes the groups – among hundreds of others, including some progressive advocates such as the Center for American Progress – as having received “substantial” contributions.

Apart from CEI, they include the American Conservative Union, whose chairman, Matt Schlapp, worked for a decade for Koch Industries and shaped the company’s radical anti-environment policies in Washington; the American Enterprise Institute, which has railed against climate “alarmists”; and Americans for Tax Reform, which has criticised companies who support climate action for seeking out “corporate welfare”.

It has also donated undisclosed sums to the Cato Institute, which has voiced opposition to climate legislation and questioned the severity of the crisis. Google has also made donations to the Mercatus Center, a Koch-funded thinktank, and the Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action, a pressure group that said the Paris agreement was supported by “cosmopolitan elites” and part of Barack Obama’s “destructive legacy”.

Bill McKibben, a prominent environmentalist who has been on the frontline of the climate crisis for decades, said Google and other companies were engaged in a “functional greenwashing” given the contradiction in their public pronouncements and private donations. He said Google and other technology companies had also not used their own lobbyists to advocate for change on climate.

“Sometimes I’ll talk to companies and they will be going on and on about their renewable server farm or natural gas delivery, and I say thank you, but what we really need is for your lobbying shop in Washington to put serious muscle behind it. And they never do,” McKibben said. “They want some tax break or some regulations switch and they never devote the slightest muscle behind the most important issue of our time or any time.”

A spokesperson for Google said: “We’ve been extremely clear that Google’s sponsorship doesn’t mean that we endorse that organisation’s entire agenda – we may disagree strongly on some issues.

“Our position on climate change is similarly clear. Since 2007, we have operated as a carbon neutral company and for the second year in a row, we reached 100% renewable energy for our global operations.”

The company said it called for “strong action” at the climate conference in Paris in 2015 and helped to sponsor the Global Climate Action summit in San Francisco last year.

But that position is at odds with the support it gives to CEI.

The group’s director of energy and environment policy, Myron Ebell, helped found the Cooler Heads Coalition 20 years ago, a group of libertarian and rightwing organisations that have sowed the seeds of climate denial with funding from the fossil fuel industry.

When Donald Trump was elected to the White House in 2016, Ebell joined the transition team and advised the new president on environmental issues, successfully lobbying Trump to adhere to a campaign promise and abandon the Paris agreement.

Kert Davies, the founder of the Climate Investigations Center, a research group that examines corporate campaigning, said Ebell had led the anti-climate-action crusade for decades.

“They’re extremists,” he said, referring to the Cooler Heads Coalition. “They are never finished,” he said. “Myron has taken a lot of credit for Trump’s actions and is quite proud of his access.”

Recently, however, Ebell – who declined a request for an interview – has criticised the White House for not rolling back environmental protections aggressively enough, even though the Trump administration has gutted every major environmental act established under Obama.

His wishlist now includes reversing a 2009 finding by the Environmental Protection Agency that CO2 and other greenhouse gases endanger the health and welfare of Americans.

CEI said it “respects the privacy of its donors” and declined to answer questions about Google. A CEI spokesperson told the Guardian: “On energy policy, CEI advances the humanitarian view that abundant and affordable energy makes people safer and economies more resilient. Making energy accessible, especially for the most vulnerable, is a core value.”

One source who is familiar with Google’s decision-making defended the company’s funding of CEI.

“When it comes to regulation of technology, Google has to find friends wherever they can and I think it is wise that the company does not apply litmus tests to who they support,” the source said.

How fast can climate change? Too slowly for humans to *notice*, according to most scientists of the 20th century

Physics Today 56, 8, 30 (2003);
The Discovery of Rapid Climate Change
Only within the past decade have researchers warmed to the possibility of abrupt shifts in Earth’s climate. Sometimes, it takes a while to see what one is not prepared to look for.
Spencer Weart directs the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics.
Opening paragraphs
How fast can our planet’s climate change? Too slowly for humans to notice, according to the firm belief of most scientists through much of the 20th century. Any shift of weather patterns, even the Dust Bowl droughts that devastated the Great Plains in the 1930s, was seen as a temporary local excursion. To be sure, the entire world climate could change radically: The ice ages proved that. But common sense held that such transformations could only creep in over tens of thousands of years.
In the 1950s, a few scientists found evidence that some of the great climate shifts in the past had taken only a few thousand years. During the 1960s and 1970s, other lines of research made it plausible that the global climate could shift radically within a few hundred years. 
In the 1980s and 1990s, further studies reduced the scale to the span of a single century. Today, there is evidence that severe change can take less than a decade. A committee of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has called this reorientation in the thinking of scientists a veritable “paradigm shift.” The new paradigm of abrupt global climate change, the committee reported in 2002, “has been well established by research over the last decade, but this new thinking is little known and scarcely appreciated in the wider community of natural and social scientists and policymakers.” 1
Much earlier in the 20th century, some specialists had evidence of abrupt climate change in front of their eyes. The evidence was meaningless to them. To appreciate change occurring within 10 years as significant, scientists first had to accept the possibility of change within 100 years. That, in turn, had to wait until they accepted the 1000-year time scale. The history of this evolution gives a good example of the stepwise fashion in which science commonly proceeds, contrary to the familiar heroic myths of discoveries springing forth in an instant. The history also suggests why, as the NAS committee worried, most people still fail to realize just how badly the world’s climate might misbehave.
“Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changein all aspects of society.” First sentence of IPPC Special Report on 1.5C Summary for Policy Makers.
Greta Thunberg
“So if we are to stay below the 1.5 degrees of warming limits …, we need to change almost everything.”
Greta Thunberg boils the basics down to just 5 words: “… and it will get worse”
Scientists had been stressing that same point:
Camilo Mora: “ ….  our choices for deadly heat are now between more of it or a lot more of it.”
Michael Mann: A new normal makes it sound like we have arrived in a new position, and that’s where we’re going to be. But if we continue to burn fossil fuels … we are going to … get worse and worse droughts, and heat waves, and super storms, and floods, and wildfires.”
Kate Marvel: “The whole idea that everything’s going to work out isn’t really helpful because it isn’t going to work out ” said Kate Marvel a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Climate change is going to worsen to a point where millions of lives, homes, and species are put at risk she said.

Football coach sacked for calling activist Greta Thunberg, 16, a ‘w***e’ in vile Facebook rant

A FOOTBALL coach in Italy has been sacked for a vile rant calling 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg a “w***e” who is old enough to “take a pounding”.

Tommaso Casalini was given the axe from his role at Serie D side US Grosseto 1912 for his sick attack after Thunberg delivered a passionate speech at the UN.

 Tommaso Casalini was sacked as coach of the Italian Serie D side

Tommaso Casalini was sacked as coach of the Italian Serie D side

The young Swedish activist grabbed the world’s attention last month when she addressed the UN climate action summit and hit out at world leaders for their “empty words.”

But Casalini was far from impressed and used a Facebook post to slam her intervention.

He wrote: “This w***e! A 16-year-old can take a pounding, she’s at the right age.”

US Grosseto 1912 play in the country’s fourth tier and local media report the club sacked the manager shortly after the post was made.

The club wrote: “Unione Sportiva Grosseto 1912 communicates the dismissal of the assistant trainer, the very young Tommaso Casalini for behaviour that does not keep in line with the one laid out by the company that values morals over management skills.”

After his dismissal from the club, Casalini made a second post apologising and assuring he regretted the entire incident.

Casalini wrote: “I would like to publicly apologize to everyone, starting with Greta Thunberg, for the post I wrote on Facebook last week, containing the phrase: ‘This w***e! A 16-year-old can take a pounding, she’s at the right age.’

“It was a post written in a moment of anger against the young Swedish activist, with absolutely the wrong language and with content that I regret. I have never thought or could never really think about those things, especially with regards to a minor.

“However, when one makes a mistake, it is right that one takes responsibility for that mistake, so I willingly accept the decision of U.S. Grosseto to remove me from my role as assistant coach of the Giovanissimi A, and I apologise to the club for the obvious embarrassment provoked by my gesture.”

 Tommaso Casalini responded to Greta Thunberg's speech at the UN climate summit

Tommaso Casalini responded to Greta Thunberg’s speech at the UN climate summitCredit: Reuters

Al Gore claims his climate-change predictions about 2016 have now come true

Former Vice President Al Gore said his predictions from 2006 about climate change over the next ten years have come true and claimed part of the damage has been irreversible.

“You said back in 2006 that the world would reach the point of no return if drastic measures weren’t taken to reduce greenhouse gases by 2016. Is it already too late?” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl asked during “This Week with George Stephanopolous” on Sunday.

“Well, some changes, unfortunately, have already been locked in place,” Gore replied. “Sea level increases are going to continue no matter what we do now. But, we can prevent much larger sea level increases — much more rapid increases in temperatures. The heat wave was in Europe. Now, it’s in the Arctic, and we’re seeing huge melting of the ice there.”


Gore, who wrote and starred in the 2006 climate documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” expressed optimism about minimizing the damage, however, and praised the field of Democrats aiming to unseat President Trump in 2020 for making the environment a central issue in many of their campaigns.

More from Media

“So, the warnings of the scientists 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, unfortunately, were accurate,” he said. “Here’s the good news… In the Democratic contest for the presidential nomination this year, virtually all of the candidates are agreed that this is either the top issue or one of the top two issues.”


“There’s both bad news and good news. The problem’s getting worse faster than we are mobilizing to solve it,” Gore added.

“However, there’s also good news. We now have an upsurge in climate activism at the grassroots in all 50 states here in this country, and in every country in the world.”

Why we must cut out meat and dairy

Jonathan Safran Foer: why we must cut out meat and dairy before… 19/sep/28/meat-of-the-mat. c#ftian Jonathan Safran Fo€r: why we must cut out meat and dairy before dinner to save theplanet Animal products create more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector, but we don’t want to confront this inconvenient truth: our eating habits are a problem

The Guardian

Jonathan Safran Foer

Sat 28 Sep 2019 03.00 EDT

Our planet is facing a crisis. But even when we know that a war for our survival is raging, we don’t feel that it is our war. Although many of climate change’s accompanying calamities – extreme weather events, floods and wildflres, displacement and resource scarcity chief among them – are vivid,

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personal and suggestive of a worsening situation, they don’t feel that way in aggregate. The distance between awareness and feeling can make it very difficult for even thoughtful and politically engaged people – people who want to act – to act.

So-called climate change deniers reject the conclusion that97% of climate scientists have reached: the planet is warming because of human activities. But what about those of us who say we accept the reality of human-caused climate change? We may not think the scientists are lying, but are we able truly to believe what they tell us? Such a belief would surely awaken us to the urgent ethical imperative attached to it, shake our collective conscience and render us willing to make small sacrifices in the present to avoid cataclysmic ones in the future.

In zot8, despite knowing more than we have ever known about human-caused climate change, humans produced more greenhouse gases than we’ve ever produced, at a rate three times that of population growth. There are tidy explanations – the growing use of coal in China and India, a sttong global economy, unusually severe seasons that required spikes in energy for heating and cooling. But the truth is as crude as it is obvious: we don’t care. So now what?

Of course there are some moments when the planetary crisis is acutely felt. Watching Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth was an intellectual and emotional revelation for me. When the screen went dark after the final image, our situation seemed perfectly clear, as did my responsibility to participate in the struggle. And when that film’s credits rolled, at the moment of greatest enthusiasm to do whatever was asked to work against the imminent apocalypse that Gore had just delineated for us, suggested actions appeared on the screen. ‘Are you ready to change the way you live? The climate crisis can be solved. Here’s how to start.”

Among the suggestions were: tell your parents not to ruin the world that you will live in; if you are a parent, join with your children to save the world they will live in; switch to renewable sources of energy; plant trees, iots of trees; raise fuel economy standards; require lower emissions from automobiles.

A[ Gore in An inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. Photograph: Participant Media/Paramount Pictures

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There is a glaring absence in Gore’s list, and its invisibility recurs in 2017’s An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, with one minuscule exception. It is impossible to explain this omission as accidental without also accusing Gore of a kind of radical ignorance. In terms of the scale of the error, it would be equivalent to a doctor prescribing physical exercise to a patient recovering from a heart attack without also telling him he needs to quit smoking, reduce his stress and stop eating burgers and fries twice a day.

So why would Gore deliberately choose to leave this particular issue out? Almost certainly for fear that it would be distractingly controversial and dampen the enthusiasm he had just worked so hard to ignite. It has also been largely absent from the websites of leading environmental advocacy organisations – although this now seems to be changing. It is unmentioned in the celebrated book Dire Predictions, written by the climate scientists Michael E Mann and Lee R Kump. After forecasting existential climate disasters, the authors recommend that we substitute clotheslines for electric dryers and commute by bicycle. Among their suggestions, there is no reference to the everyday process that is, according to the research director of Project Drawdown – a collection of nearly zoo environmental scientists and thought leaders dedicated to identifying solutions to address climate change – “the most important contribution every individual can make to reversing global warming”.

What I am thinking of is the fact that we cannot save the planet unless we significantly reduce our consumption of animal products. This is not my opinion, or anyone’s opinion. It is the inconvenient science. Animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector (all planes, cars and trains), and is the primary source of methane and nitrous oxide emissions (which are 86 and 3ro times more powerful than CO2, respectively). Our meat habit is the leading cause of deforestation, which releases carbon when trees are burned (forests contain more carbon than do all exploitable fossil-fuel reserves), and also diminishes the planet’s ability to absorb carbon. According to a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, even if we were to do everything else that is necessary to save the planet, it will be impossible to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accord if we do not dramatically reduce our consumption of animal products.

Why is this subject avoided? Conversations about meat, dairy and eggs make people defensive. They make people annoyed. It’s far easier to vilify the fossil fuel industry and its lobbyists – which are without a doubt deserving of our vilification – than to examine our own eating habits. No one who isn’t a vegan is eager to go there, and the eagerness of vegans can be a further turnoff. But we have no hope of tackling climate change if we can’t speak honestly about what is causing it, as well as our potential to change in response.

It is hard to talk about our need to eat fewer animal products both because the topic is so fraught and because of the sacrifice involved. Most people like the taste of meat, dairy and eggs. Most people have eaten animal products at almost every meal since

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they were children, and it’s hard to change lifelong habits, even when they aren’t freighted with pleasure and identity. Those are meaningful challenges, not only worth acknowledging but necessary to acknowledge. Changing the way we eat is simple compared with converting the world’s power grid, or overcoming the influence of powerful lobbyists to pass carbon-tax legislation, or ratifying a significant international treaty on greenhouse gas emissions – but it isn’t simple.

I certainly haven’t found it to be effortless. In my early 3os, I spent three years researching factory farming and wrote a book-length rejection of it called Eating Animals.I then spent nearly two years giving hundreds of readings, Iectures and interviews on the subject, making the case that factory-farmed meat should not be eaten. So it would be far easier for me not to mention that in difficult periods over the past couple of years – while going through some painful personal experiences, while travelling the country to promote a novel when I was least suited for self-promotion – I ate meat a number of times. Usually burgers. Often at airports. Which is to say, meat from precisely the kinds of farms I argued most strongly against. And my reason for doing so makes my hypocrisy even more pathetic: they brought me comfort. I can imagine this confession eliciting some ironic comments and eye-rolling, and some grddy accusations of fraudulence. I wrote at length, and passionately, about how factory farming tortures animals and destroys the environment. How could I argue for radical change, how could I raise my children as vegetarians, while eating meat for comfort?

I wish I had found comfort elsewhere but I am who I am. Even as my commitment to vegetarianism, driven by the issue of animal welfare, has been deepened by a full awareness of meat’s environmental toll, rarely a day has passed when I haven’t craved it. At times I’ve wondered if my strengthening intellectual rejection of it has fuelled a strengthening desire to consume it.

Confronting my hypocrisy has reminded me how difficult it is to even try to live my values. Knowing that it will be tough helps make the efforts possible. Efforts, not effort. I cannot imagine a future in which I decide to become a meat-eater again, but I cannot imagine a future in which I don’t want to eat meat. Eating consciously will be one of the

‘Rarely a day has passed when I haven’t craved meat’ Jonathan Safran Foer. Photograph: Christopher Lane

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struggles that span and define my life.

We do not simply feed our bellies, and we do not simply modify our appetites in response to principles. We eat to satisfy primitive cravings, to forge and express ourselves, to realise community. We eat with our mouths and stomachs, but also with our minds and hearts. All my different identities – father, son, American, New Yorker, progressive, Jew, writer, environmentalist, traveller, hedonist – are present when I eat, and so is my history. When I first chose to become vegetarian, as a nine-year-old, my motivation was simple: do not hurt animals. Over the years, my motivations changed because the available information changed, but more importantly, because my life changed. As I imagine is the case for most people, ageing has proliferated my identities Time softens ethical binaries and fosters a greater appreciation of what might be called the messiness of life.

There is a place at which one’s personal business and the business of being one of seven billion earthlings intersect. And for perhaps the first moment in history, the expression “one’s time” makes little sense. Climate change is not a jigsaw puzzle on the coffee table, which can be returned to when the schedule allows and the feeling inspires. It is a house on fire. The longer we fail to take care of it, the harder it becomes to take care of, and because of positive feedback loops – white ice melting to dark water that absorbs more heat; thawing permafrost releasing huge amounts of methane – we will very soon reach a tipping point of “runaway climate change”, when we will be unable to save ourselves, no matter how much effort we make.

We do not have the luxury of living in our time. We cannot go about our lives as if they were only ours. In a way that was not true for our ancestors, the lives we live will create a future that cannot be undone. The word “crisis” derives from the Greek krusls, meaning “decision”.

Future generations will almost certainly look back and wonder why on earth – why on Earth – did we choose our suicide? Perhaps we could plead that the decision wasn’t ours to make: as much as we cared, there was nothing we could do. We didn’t know enough at the time. Being mere individuals, we didn’t have the means to enact consequential change. We didn’t run the oil companies. We weren’t making government policy. The ability to save ourselves, and save them, was not in our hands. But that would be a lie.

Our attention has been fixed on fossil fuels, which has given us an incomplete picture of the planetary crisis and led us to feel that we are hurling rocks at a Goliath far out of reach. Even if they are not persuasive enough on their own to change our behaviour, facts can change our minds, and that’s where we need to begin. We know we have to do something, but “we have to do something” is usually an expression of incapacitation, or at least uncertainty. Without identifying the thing that we have to do, we cannot decide to do it.

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Forest fires in A[tamira, Para state, Brazil[ … ‘Our meat habit is the leading cause of deforestation, which releases carbon when trees are burned’ Photograph: JoSo Laet/AFP/Getty images

Climate change is a crisis that will always be simultaneously addressed together and faced alone. The four highest impact things an individual can do to tackle the planetary crisis are: have fewer children; live car-free; avoid air travel; and eat a plant-based diet. Most people are not in the process of deciding whether to have a baby. Few drivers can simply decide to stop using their cars. A sizable portion of air travel is unavoidable. But everyone will eat a meal relatively soon and can immediately participate in the reversal of climate change. Furthermore, of those four high-impact actions, only plant-based eating immediately addresses methane and nitrous oxide, the most urgently important greenhouse gases.

Some argue that plant-based eating is elitist. They are either misinformed, or knowingly taking the favorite emergency exit of privileged, performatively thoughtful people who don’t want to change what they eat. It is true that a healthy traditional diet is more expensive than an unhealthy one – about $SSo (f44o) more expensive over the course of a year. And everyone should, as a right, have access to affordable healthy food. But a healthy vegetarian diet is, on average, about $ZSo (f6oo) Iess expensive per year than a healthy meat-based diet. In other words, it is about $2oo (f16o) cheaper per year to eat a healthy vegetarian diet than an unhealthy traditional diet. Not to mention the money saved by preventing diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer – all associated with the consumption of animal products. Nine per cent of Americans making less than $3o,ooo per year identify as vegetarian, whereas only 4% of those making more than $75,ooo are. People of colour are disproportionately vegetarian. It is not elitist to suggest that a cheaper, healthier, more environmentally sustainable diet is better. But what does strike me as elitist? When someone uses the existence of people without access to healthy food as an excuse not to change, rather than as a motivation to help those people.

Different studies suggest different dietary changes in response to climate change, but the ballpark is pretty clear. The most comprehensive assessment of the livestock industry’s environmental impact was published in Nature in October 2018. After analysing food-production systems from every country around the world, the authors

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concluded that while undernourished people living in poverty across the globe could actually eat a little more meat and dairy, the average world citizen needs to shift to a plant-based diet in order to prevent catastrophic, irreversible environmental damage. The average US and UK citizen must consume 90% less beef and 6o% less dairy.

No animal products for breakfast or lunch would come close to-achieving that. It might not amount to precisely the reductions that are asked for, but

Report: Climate Change Is Hurting Oceans — And Us — More Than Expected

The effects of climate change are bad, and they’re getting worse — especially when it comes to the world’s oceans.

But if unprecedented action is taken soon to reduce planet-warming emissions, it will greatly ease some of the worst impacts and make adaptation less painful.

That’s the underlying message in a landmark report by more than 100 scientists from 36 countries. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Tuesday approved the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, which was three years in the works.

Ehukai Beach clouds during winter 2018 ocean sea level rise.

Ehukai Beach clouds during winter 2018 ocean sea level rise.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“The open sea, the Arctic, the Antarctic and the high mountains may seem far away to many people,” said Hoesung Lee, IPCC chair, in a statement Wednesday. “But we depend on them and are influenced by them directly and indirectly in many ways — for weather and climate, for food and water, for energy, trade, transport, recreation and tourism, for health and wellbeing, for culture and identity.”

If people prevent the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by 2100 — as world leaders agreed to in Paris in 2015 — the effects of climate change will still threaten livelihoods, alter ecosystems and disrupt weather patterns. But it won’t be nearly as bad as a warmer world.

The latest report says marine heatwaves, for instance, will be 20 times more frequent at 2 C. But it could be 50 times more frequent if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase.

Marine heatwaves don’t just affect the oceans, though the warmer waters are also putting corals in peril and reducing the abundance of certain fish. They are also making it hotter on land.

Meteorologists blame heatwaves for the record heat Hawaii has experienced this summer, and they may exacerbate wildfires.

In July, firefighters on Maui were responding to their first big wildfire of the season — about 9,000 acres — when they realized the equipment they set out with to tackle the blaze wasn’t going to do the job as it had for similar fires in years past, according to University of Hawaii wildland fire researcher Clay Trauernicht.

That’s because it was so hot out that it had driven the humidity down to a point where the grasses were so crispy that the fire behaved differently, burning up the fuels faster and shifting directions less predictably, he said.

Marine heatwave

Trauernicht said his biggest takeaway from the IPCC report was the “ginormous” difference between cutting greenhouse gas emissions or continuing to burn fossil fuels when it comes to the severity of the impacts of climate change.

“Whatever extent we can reduce this, we’ve got to do it,” he said.

The report cites marine heatwaves as just one of the impacts of climate change. Scientists project stronger hurricanes, faster eroding coastlines, hotter summers, more flooding, increased sea level rise, more extreme weather and less productive fisheries.

The rate of sea level rise is increasing primarily because glaciers and ice sheets in polar and mountain areas are melting faster than expected. It’s also rising faster because the ocean is expanding as it gets warmer, the report says.

Sea levels rose globally about a half foot last century. Now they’re rising more than twice as fast and getting faster. Sea level could rise 1 to 2 feet by 2100 even if global warming is limited to well below 2 C, but it could rise 2 to 3.6 feet if greenhouse gas emissions continue to escalate.

That’s a big deal for Hawaii, where most of the state’s 1.4 million residents live close to the coast and it’s also where major infrastructure is located. The tourism industry that the overall economy depends on also depends on the coastal environment.

We are in a critical set of years for the entire history of humanity,” University of Hawaii climate researcher Chip Fletcher said. “But we can never give up. We can never stop. It’s always going to be a crisis until we decarbonize.”

Sea level rise will also increase the frequency of extreme events during high tides and intense storms, the report cautions. With any degree of additional warming, the report says events that happened once per century will happen every year by 2050, heightening the risk for low-lying coastal cities like Honolulu and small islands like those in the northwestern reaches of the Hawaiian Archipelago.

East Island, about 600 miles northwest of Oahu, almost entirely disappeared after an unprecedented hurricane passed over it last year. It was the primary nesting ground for the bulk of the threatened Hawaiian green sea turtle population and a sizable chunk of critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals.

Sea level rise, increasing faster due to climate change, has accelerated erosion in Hawaii, such as Sunset Beach on the north shore of Oahu.

Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

The IPCC has a reputation for being conservative because it requires 100% agreement, Fletcher said. That tends to water down its reports, compared to peer-reviewed literature that offers the latest science.

But knowing this is the voice of the scientific community speaking is important, he said.

It’s a sentiment shared by Josh Stanbro, who heads Honolulu’s climate change office. He said the IPCC offers an important “rear view mirror approach” whereas the Honolulu  climate commission’s appointed members, which include Fletcher, are looking out the front window.

“If there’s anything heartening in this it’s that we have really smart sharp local climate change commissioners giving us good information, making projections and looking at cutting-edge research,” he said.

Still, Stanbro found some aspects of the report to be unnerving. He is concerned about how it leaves as an “x factor” the impact of methane gas that may be released when permafrost thaws. And he was taken aback by how the report underscores how small island nations are exposed to the impacts of climate change.

“We know that as island people,” he said. “But it’s a little unnerving to see that in plain sight where world leaders are saying we’re the canaries in the coal mine.”

Members of the working groups who developed the report said it arms communities and governments with the information they need to act.

It highlights the urgency of “timely, ambitious, coordinated and enduring action,” Ko Barrett, vice chair of the IPCC, told reporters.

Hawaii agencies are among those looking to it for guidance.

Scott Glenn, who heads the state Office of Environmental Quality Control, said he is interested in how it affects baseline assumptions that agencies are making, such as maps showing sea level rise exposure areas.

“With climate change, it’s affecting so many parameters at the same time that it becomes very hard,” he said. “How do you translate that into something like design or engineering if you know there’s this science coming out with these big uncertainty brackets around it?”

IPCC working group members said that reducing carbon emissions enough to matter will require a global effort across all sectors.

“We will only be able to keep global warming to well below 2 C above pre-industrial levels if we effect unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society, including energy, land and ecosystems, urban and infrastructure as well as industry,” Debra Roberts, an IPCC working group co-chair, said in a statement.

The report, which was unanimously approved, provides crucial information going into the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in December in Chile, known as COP25.

Read the full report below.