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A ‘Red Deal’: Why Indigenous Communities Belong at the Center of Climate Action

“As we look forward to a cleaner economy, the Indigenous resistance throughout the world brings hope that any climate action will include Indigenous liberation.” (Photo: Light Brigading/Flickr/cc)

By Josue De Luna Navarro | Common Dreams

“We are all related; us, plants, animals, water, air, and soil. We are all related.”

Driven by an endless hunger for power and control, colonial empires used violence to appropriate Indigenous land for mining and labor—a process that continues up to this day.

Asheninka Mino, a medicine man from the Indigenous community of Asheninka in Peru, repeated these words as we walked through the mountains of Mora, New Mexico. “To achieve peace is to achieve harmony with Pachamama (Mother Earth)—to respect it and nourish our relationship with her,” he continued.

He was teaching undocumented youth the importance of being rooted as we organize for our immigrant communities.

Every year, I have the privilege to attend the New Mexico Dream Team‘s UndocuHealing Retreat—a weekend-long retreat focused on creating space for undocumented youth to process trauma and stress through Indigenous medicine and ceremonies.

Throughout these ceremonies, the concept of treating Mother Earth and others with respect is encapsulated in two philosophical terms: Mitakuye Oyasin and In Lack’ech. These phrases, respectively from the Lakota and Mayan traditions, encapsulate ancestral wisdom. They highlight the sacred relationship we hold with Mother Earth and others.

Nick Estes, in his book Our History Is The Futurenotes that “these Indigenous ways of relating to human and other-than-human life exist in opposition to capitalism.” Instead, capitalism sees humans and the sacred as “labor and commodities to be bought and sold.”

And it is exactly this ideology that has displaced Indigenous communities for over 500 years.

Driven by an endless hunger for power and control, colonial empires used violence to appropriate Indigenous land for mining and labor—a process that continues up to this day. “Extractive projects materially dispossess Indigenous peoples of their lands to secure the future of the settler colonial nation,” as Philip Son wrote recently for Society and Space.

In Brazil, for example, Indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara reports that aggression by predatory agricultural companies against indigenous people there “has been getting much worse under the anti-Indigenous government of Jair Bolsonaro, who normalizes, incites, and empowers violence against the environment and against us.”

It is this same extractive economics that’s causing climate change today, leaving the Global South most vulnerable to the climate crisis. Left unchecked, the phantom dream of never-ending development will mean genocide for natural ecosystems and Indigenous nations alike.

There was an old Lakota prophecy (pdf) that “a black snake will slither across the land, destroying sacred sites and poisoning the water before destroying the earth itself.” According to Dallas Goldtooth, director of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), the black snake could represent not only the pipelines constructed across Indigenous lands but also “the sickness of capitalism” itself, which casts a “shadow upon our heart and spirit of negativity, of dysfunction, of unhealthiness.”

Global climate action is, thankfully, reaching a fever pitch. But climate policies that aren’t rooted in Indigenous communities can end up causing many of the same oppressive outcomes as extraction.

Global climate action is, thankfully, reaching a fever pitch. But climate policies that aren’t rooted in Indigenous communities can end up causing many of the same oppressive outcomes as extraction.

A great example is the United Nations REDD+ project, aimed at providing incentives to slow deforestation and to restore and conserve forests. Unfortunately, the project’s reliance on privatization has undermined these goals.

According to an informative report (pdf) by IEN, projects that privatize forests in the name of mitigating climate change, like REDD+, “have resulted in militarization, evictions, fraud, disputes, conflicts, corruption, coercion, con men, crime, plantations and 30-100 year contracts, [and] deals with oil companies and other climate criminals.”

For Indigenous groups like the autonomous Zapatista resistance movement in Mexico, Adriana Gomez Bonilla explains, the fear of climate change is not just what happens to the climate itself. It’s that climate action will become another pretext for governments to displace them from their lands in the name of conservation.

For all its other virtues, this is a weak point of the Green New Deal framework. While the plan is “anti-capitalistic in spirit” and pays “lip service to decolonization, it must go further” to ensure indigenous liberation, Nick Estes writes in a piece for Jacobin.

Earlier last month, The Red Nation published “The Red Deal“—a political framework developed by young Indigenous activists, which pushes the Green New Deal to go further.

“The Red Deal is not a counter-program of the GND,” they write. “It’s a call for action beyond the scope of the U.S. colonial state. It’s a program for Indigenous liberation, life, and land.” It pushes current climate policy work to expand, to include the demilitarization of the U.S. border, the abolishment of ICE, and decolonization of stolen land.

It also brings hope and galvanizing energy to aim for Indigenous liberation.

As we look forward to a cleaner economy, the Indigenous resistance throughout the world brings hope that any climate action will include Indigenous liberation—an action that would re-establish our relationship with Mother Earth. It brings to light that Indigenous liberation is climate justice.

Josue De Luna Navarro

Josue De Luna Navarro is the New Mexico Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Find him on Twitter at @Josue_DeLuna.

Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share it widely.

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What’s the Difference Between Global Warming and Climate Change?

By Mark Mancini | EcoWatch

On Aug. 18, Iceland held a funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change. The deceased party was Okjökull, a historic body of ice that covered 14.6 square miles (38 square kilometers) in the Icelandic Highlands at the turn of the 20th century. But its glory days are long gone. In 2014, having dwindled to less than 1/15 its former size, Okjökull lost its status as an official glacier.

A plaque was later commissioned to honor the vanishing landmark. At the somber installation ceremony, around 100 people gathered to pay their respects, including hikers, scientists and Iceland’s Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir. Speaking to the press, Jakobsdóttir warned that if current trends continue, her country stands to lose even more of its iconic glaciers in the near future.

The evidence is overwhelming: Greenhouse gas emissions (and other human activities) are radically transforming the planet on which we live. As a result, California’s wildfire season is getting longer; thawing permafrost has destabilized Russian infrastructure; and yes, most of the world’s glaciers are swiftly retreating.

With public concern on the rise, two relevant terms have entered the lexicon: “Climate change” and “global warming.” These are often treated as synonyms, but they have different meanings.

Climate and Weather

Before proceeding further, there’s another bit of terminology that we probably should clear up. The difference between climate and weather. Weather is the short-term state of the atmosphere in a specific corner of the world. Humidity, temperature, wind speed, atmospheric pressure, and visibility are all factors that help dictate the weather at a particular moment in time.

In other words, the weather doesn’t last very long. It unfolds over the course of days, hours or even minutes. Therefore, it’s liable to change quickly — which is why so many of us yearn for constant updates. Whenever you ask if your hometown is “supposed to get any rain” on a given day, you’re inquiring about the weather.

Don’t confuse weather with climate. The latter is far broader in scope. Basically, climate reflects an area’s long-term weather averages and trends. Those are often established by decades (at least) of meticulous observation. Given the difference in scale, it makes sense that the climate is much slower to change than the weather.

And yet changes do occur. Averaged together, all the world’s regional climates form what scientists know as the “global climate.” This is liable to evolve and fluctuate over time — as are its regional components.

So far, 2018 is the fourth hottest year on record. Higher than normal temperatures are shown in red and lower than normal temperatures are shown in blue. Ralf Goebel / GEMA 

Times Change

Ok, so what exactly does the term “climate change” mean? By the broadest definition, climate change includes any and all long-term fluctuations in one or more climate-related variables — such as average rainfall — within the same location.

Note that this applies to both regional climates and the global climate itself. So let’s say northern Europe saw a dramatic spike in rainstorms and the trend continued for decades on end. That hypothetical scenario would count as an example of regional climate change, no matter what happened elsewhere in the world.

On the other hand, global warming is — well, global. More to the point, the term refers to an increase in a planet’s average surface temperature. And here on Earth, that’s definitely been climbing.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that between the years 1880 and 2016, our home planet’s average surface temperatures increased to the tune of 1.71 degrees Fahrenheit (0.95 degrees Celsius).

Mind you, this is nothing to sneeze at. A planet-wide temperature shift of only a few degrees can have enormous ramifications. Fifteen thousand years ago, in a geologically-recent ice age, our world was only about 9 degrees Fahrenheit cooler (5 degrees Celsius) than it is today. And yet, that temperature was enough to keep almost a third of the planet’s surface blanketed in ice.

Ah, but we’re getting off-track. The main takeaway here is that global warming is a form of climate change — but climate change doesn’t always manifest itself as global warming.

An Unprecedented Problem

Strange as it may sound, the recent warming caused by our greenhouse gas emissions may be provoking an increase in both flooding and droughts. While certain areas across the globe now receive enhanced precipitation, soils in some dryer parts of the world stand to lose a great deal of moisture.

To learn more, we reached out to Dr. Nathan Steiger. An atmospheric scientist at Columbia University, Steiger studies the effects that variations in climate have had — and still have — on human civilizations.

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Announces $10 Trillion Plan to Flight Climate Crisis

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. Gage Skidmore / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Olivia Rosane | EcoWatch

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is the latest 2020 Democratic primary contender to announce an ambitious plan to tackle the climate crisis.

Gillibrand’s plan, published on Medium Thursday, would mobilize $10 trillion in private and public funds to pay for a Green New Deal to achieve 100 percent renewable energy within 10 years and net zero emissions across the economy by 2050.

“Climate action should be this generation’s moonshot,” Gillibrand wrote. “To save our planet, the energy, talents, and commitment of every American will be required, from our farmers and workers to our scientists and entrepreneurs. The next president has to be willing to take bold leaps to lead this effort and stand up to the climate change deniers, polluters, and oil and gas special interests. I will, because we can’t afford not to.”

The plan has seven major components.

1. Achieve Net-Zero Carbon Emissions: In addition boosting renewable energy, Gillibrand’s plan would focus on transportation, with a goal of net zero vehicle emissions by the end of the decade. She would also increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations and improve infrastructure for public transit, bicycles and pedestrians.

2. Hold Polluters Accountable: Gillibrand would create a Climate Change Mitigation Trust Fund, paid for with a tax on fossil fuel production, that would generate $100 billion a year for adaptations to sea level rise and extreme weather events. She would also put a starting price on carbon of $52 per metric ton. The carbon tax would generate an estimated $200 billion a year for renewable energy development.

3. Phase Out Fossil Fuels: Gillibrand would end oil and gas drilling and fracking both offshore and on public lands and strengthen regulation for extraction on private land. She would also work with Congress to end fossil fuel subsidies.

4. Build a Green Jobs Economy: Gillibrand’s plan would create a “green jobs recovery fund” to help communities impacted by the loss of fossil fuel jobs to transition to clean energy jobs. She would also work to provide access to these new jobs to impoverished communities, depopulating rural areas and frontline communities.

5. Lead the World on Clean Energy: The plan also calls for the U.S. to challenge other countries to a clean energy “space race” in order to harness innovation towards global solutions to the climate crisis. She also said her administration would rejoin the Paris agreement and help countries that had done less to cause the climate crisis adapt to its consequences.

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Planting a Trillion Trees is Fastest, Cheapest Way to Reverse Climate Change: Study

Image Credit: The Mind Unleashed

By Elias Marat | The Mind Unleashed

Researchers have long warned of the dangers of climate change, which has seen ecological conditions degrade as weather patterns grow more unpredictable. And now, scientists are urging the world to plant billions of trees wherever possible as the cheapest and most effective way to handle the climate crisis.

According to the new study published in the journal Science, planting about a billion trees across the globe could remove two-thirds of all carbon dioxide emissions worldwide—approximately 25 percent of the CO2 in the atmosphere—creating a vast natural means to trap and store the emissions in an affordable and politically non-controversial manner.

The researchers say the Earth has room for over 1 trillion additional trees that can be planted in abandoned lots, woodlands and parks across the globe as part of a new worldwide planting initiative that would remove a large portion of heat-trapping emissions from the atmosphere.

Professor Thomas Crowther, a climate change ecologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich who led the research, told the Associated Press:

“This is by far—by thousands of times—the cheapest climate change solution.”

Crowther also stressed the urgency of taking action, given the devastating effects and rapid progress of climate change, noting that tree planting would have a near-immediate impact, since trees remove carbon at an early age.

The ecologist said:

“It’s certainly a monumental challenge, which is exactly the scale of the problem of climate change.”

Crowther’s laboratory used Google Earth mapping and data from the Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative to gain an accurate understanding of the current global tree count. The initiative relies on the efforts of ground-level volunteers, 1.2 million monitoring locations across the globe, satellite imagery, as well as tens of thousands of soil samples.

The information, paired with machine learning and artificial intelligence, allowed Crowther’s lab to identify a figure of three trillion trees on Earth—more than seven times the amount estimated by NASA.

It also gave Crowther’s team the ability to predict how many trees could feasibly be planted across the globe.

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Study Finds Holding Governments and Corporations Legally Accountable for Climate Crisis ‘Has Become a Global Phenomenon’

Youth climate activists attend the Minnesota March for Science held in St. Paul in April 2017. (Photo: Lorie Shaull/Flickr/cc)

By Jessica Corbett | Common Dreams

An analysis published Thursday details how lawsuits that aim to push governments to more ambitiously the address climate emergency and make polluting corporations pay for the damage caused by their sizable contributions to the global warming are growing in popularity around the world.

“The number of countries in which people are taking climate change court action is likely to continue to rise.”
—Joana Setzer, report co-author

The new report from the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics and Political Science—entitled Global Trends in Climate Change Litigation: 2019 Snapshot (pdf)—focuses on the 1,328 legal actions related to the climate crisis filed between 1990 and May of this year, with cases launched in more than two dozen countries.

The suits have been brought by citizens, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and local governments.

Summarizing the study’s findings, report co-author Joana Setzer said in a statement that “holding government and businesses to account for failing to combat climate change has become a global phenomenon.”

“People and environmental groups are forcing governments and companies into court for failing to act on climate change, and not just in the United States,” said Setzer. “Now the number of countries in which people are taking climate change court action is likely to continue to rise.”

Though the United States accounts for the large majority of the cases—1,023, according to the report—multiple lawsuits also have been filed in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Researchers also noted cases brought to the European Union, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, and the U.N. Human Rights Committee.

Among the key findings from the analysis:

  • Climate change litigation continues to expand across jurisdictions as a tool to strengthen climate action, though more evidence of its impact is needed;
  • Climate change cases have been brought in at least 28 countries around the world, and of the recorded cases more than three quarters have been filed in the United States;
  • Most defendants are governments but lawsuits are increasingly targeting the highest greenhouse-gas-emitting companies;
  • Climate change-related claims are also being pursued by investors, activist shareholders, cities, and states; and
  • Climate change litigation in low- and middle-income countries is growing in quantity and importance.

The report spotlights some high-profile lawsuits, such as Urgenda Foundation v. State of the Netherlands, “the first case to argue successfully for the adoption of stricter emissions reduction targets by a government.”

Another landmark case that has garnered global attention is Juliana v. the United States, which was heard in June before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Oregon. “Youth plaintiffs assert that the government’s actions that cause climate change violate their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property,” the report explains. “At the time of writing the judges were yet to decide if the case should continue to trial and if the federal government should halt new fossil fuel extraction projects while the court decides the case. The consequences could impact far beyond this suit.”

Analyzing the outcomes of litigation within the United States, researchers found a shift that aligns with when U.S. President Donald Trump took office—and promptly began attempting to roll back his predecessors’ climate and environmental policies, which campaigners and scientists sometimes considered inadequate in the long term but still steps in the right direction.

From 1990 to 2016, based on available data from 873 lawsuits, U.S. litigation more often hindered climate policy than favored it, according to the report. However, of the 154 climate lawsuits filed in the first two years of the Trump administration, there were more “favorable” climate cases than “hindering,” with a ratio of about 4:1. The report acknowledges that many of the cases from 2017 and 2018 are ongoing.

“Outside the United States, 43 percent of the 305 cases brought between 1994 and May 2019 have led to an outcome that is considered favorable to advancing climate change efforts,” the report says, “while 27 percent of cases analyzed have hindered climate change efforts.”

The report also highlights the emerging trend of lawsuits from front-line communities seeking money from polluters to cover the costs of adapting to the warming world.

In the past year, a spate of public nuisance suits against fossil fuel companies has sought damages potentially amounting to billions of dollars to cover the costs of adaptation (e.g. the cost of infrastructure to protect against sea level rise and other physical impacts of climate change). These lawsuits are also novel in that they were brought by U.S. state governments and municipalities such as the State of Rhode Island, and the cities of New YorkSan Francisco, and Oakland, rather than citizens or NGOs. The plaintiffs allege that fossil fuel companies continued to produce fossil fuels while knowingly concealing climate risks.

Though many of the court battles haven’t yet been settled, the report seems to serve as a warning to fossil fuel giants. As Setzer put it, “until recently businesses might not have considered a climate change lawsuit to be a risk, but this is something all corporations should now be taking into account.”

More broadly, Setzer said that “litigation is clearly an important part of the armory for those seeking to tackle climate change.”

“Court cases contribute to greater awareness of climate change issues and can force changes in behavior that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” she added. “It remains an expensive and potentially risky option, though, if compared to other routes like policy-making.”

Setzer hosted a panel discussion on courts and climate justice at a Thursday event held as part of London Climate Action Week. Watch:

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Climate Action: Can We Change the Climate From the Grassroots Up?

Ecuador Waorani indigenous people

/ Ecuador’s Waorani indigenous people celebrated a court ruling against oil extraction on their ancestral lands

 

By Irene Banos Ruiz | EcoWatch

Alarming headlines regarding the climate crisis often overshadow positive actions taken by citizens around the world, but that doesn’t mean they’re not happening.

They are, and sometimes with considerable success. DW looks at some civil society victories.

Blocking Fossil Fuels

Despite scientific warnings, governments and companies continue to green light fossil fuel projects around the world. But in many instances, these authorizations are accompanied by protests.

1. Hema Thermal Power Plant

Earlier this year, after more than a decade of vocal opposition to the planned Hema thermal power plant, villagers in the coastal Turkish region of Amasra welcomed a court ruling that rejected its construction. Locals had not only feared the destruction of their land, but also the impacts on their health and that of their children.

Amasra villagers have been protesting for years to prevent the construction of a power plant.

The win is a milestone for Turkish climate activists, whose struggle to stop the expansion of fossil fuel plants in the country still has a long way to go.

2. Rocky Hill Open-Cut Mine

Locals around the Australian town of Gloucester experienced similar satisfaction when a national court rejected a plan to build the Rocky Hill open-cut coal mine on the basis that it would increase greenhouse gas emissions at a time when they needed to be reduced. It took those involved in fighting the plans about a decade to achieve success.

It took protesters a decade to fight plans of an open-cut coal mine.

The judge said the negative impacts outweighed its economic and public benefits. Australia is the fourth largest coal producer in the world.

3. Hambach Forest

Germany has become the setting for one of the most iconic fights against coal mining in Europe.

Hundreds of people have spent five years living in tree houses in a bit to prevent a tiny fraction of the Hambach forest in North Rhine-Westphalia from being razed for the expansion of a nearby open-pit coal mine that has already devoured dozens of villages and 90% of the forest.

In 2018, the anti-coal movement brought together thousands of people in Germany’s biggest climate march. A few months later, authorities agreed on a moratorium on logging. Only until 2020, however, so theirs is a bittersweet victory.

4. Divesting Money

More and more people are demanding that investors, such as faith-based organizations and pension funds, withdraw their financial support from fossil fuel projects. The global divestment movement has convinced over 1,000 institutions to commit to divesting from oil, coal and gas companies. This translates to almost $8 trillion (€7 trillion) less in assets from fossil fuel investments.

“The momentum has been driven by a people-powered grassroots movement, ordinary people on every continent pushing their local institutions to take a stand against the fossil fuel industry and for a world powered by 100% renewable energy,” the NGO 350.org says.

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‘Huge Victory’ for Grassroots Climate Campaigners as New York Lawmakers Reach Deal on Sweeping Climate Legislation

Members of the NY Renews coalition celebrated on Monday after New York lawmakers reached a deal on the Climate and Communities Protection Act, and called on the state to pass the bill. (Photo: NYRenews/Twitter)

By Julia Conley | Common Dreams

Grassroots climate campaigners in New York applauded on Monday after state lawmakers reached a deal on sweeping climate legislation, paving the way for the passage of what could be some of the country’s most ambitious environmental reforms.

The legislature reached an agreement just before midnight Sunday on the Climate and Communities Protection Act (CCPA), one of several climate bills state lawmakers have pushed in recent months since progressives gained momentum in their push for a federal Green New Deal.

New York’s CCPA—like those passed in recent months in California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada, and Washington—offers a path forward for the implementation of Green New Deal-like laws at the state level, proponents say.

“This is going to be a huge victory for the environmental justice movement in New York,” author Naomi Klein tweeted, adding that some far-reaching parts of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal grew out of state legislation.

New York’s CCPA calls for zero fossil fuel emissions from utilities by 2040. By 2050, 85 percent of all energy in the state will be from renewable sources under the legislation, with the remaining 15 percent being off-set or captured.

“By and large, this is a very big victory,” Arielle Swernoff of New York Renews, a coalition that pushed to pass the bill, told the Huffington Post. The group counts more than 100 groups in its membership, including national groups like 350.org and Friends of the Earth as well as local organizations like Saratoga Unites and Syracuse United Neighbors.

The bill emphasizes the climate crisis’s impact on low-income and marginalized communities, mandating that 35 percent of energy funding be directed to such towns and cities.

“By passing the CCPA with all its equity provisions intact, New York State can both address the climate crisis and build a more equitable economy,” Assemblywoman Latrice Walker wrote at City Limits.

“Help is on the way,” tweeted state Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who sponsored the legislation. “While D.C. sleeps through a crisis, New York steps up.”

Members of New York Renews gathered on Monday in Albany, where lawmakers are expected to pass the legislation on Wednesday.

“We believe that we will win!” the group chanted.

Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York, gave credit to grassroots organizers for pressuring their state representatives to reach a deal on and pass the CCPA.

“Thank you to the frontlines for bringing this into Albany,” Iwanowicz told the group gathered in the state capital. “Insiders couldn’t do this by ourselves.”

Beyond the benefits the CCPA has in store for New Yorkers, one climate campaigner wrote on social media, the expected passage of the bill after pressure from the NY Renews coalition bodes well for a potential federal Green New Deal in the future.

“What a massive win for the climate justice movement and the frontline communities that have fought so hard for this!” wrote Daniel Aldana Cohen, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “If flipping a bunch of New York State Senate seats and building fighting coalitions could achieve all this in a couple of years—just imagine what millions of organized people in the streets and a federal Green New Deal could do.”

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New Study Shows Nearly 600 Plants Wiped Out Over the Past 250 Years

By Jessica Corbett | Common Dreams

At least 571 plant species, from the Chile sandalwood to the St. Helena olive, have gone extinct in the wild over the past 250 years, according to a new study that has biodiversity experts worried about what the findings suggest for the future of life on Earth.

“It is frightening not just because of the 571 number but because I think that is a gross underestimate.”
—Maria Vorontsova, study co-author

“Plants underpin all life on Earth, they provide the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat, as well as making up the backbone of the world’s ecosystems—so plant extinction is bad news for all species,” study co-author Eimear Nic Lughadha of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew said in a statement.

For the first-of-its-kind study, published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolutionresearchers at Key Stockholm University compiled all known plant extinction records. That effort, Nature reported, stems from a database that Kew’s Rafaël Govaerts started in 1988 “to track the status of every known plant species.”

The researchers’ new findings, according to co-author Aelys M. Humphreys of Stockholm University, “provide an unprecedented window into plant extinction in modern times.”

“Most people can name a mammal or bird that has become extinct in recent centuries, but few can name an extinct plant,” Humphreys said. “This study is the first time we have an overview of what plants have already become extinct, where they have disappeared from, and how quickly this is happening.”

The Guardian noted how the figure compares with other analyses of species loss:

The number of plants that have disappeared from the wild is more than twice the number of extinct birds, mammals, and amphibians combined. The new figure is also four times the number of extinct plants recorded in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list.

“It is way more than we knew and way more than should have gone extinct,” said Dr. Maria Vorontsova, also at Kew. “It is frightening not just because of the 571 number but because I think that is a gross underestimate.”

Citing the study, Nature reported that “the world’s seed-bearing plants have been disappearing at a rate of nearly three species a year since 1900—which is up to 500 times higher than would be expected as a result of natural forces alone.”

While the study sparked alarm, researchers expressed hope that their work will be used to improve conservation efforts—particularly “on islands and in the tropics, where plant loss is common, and in areas where less is known about plant extinction such as Africa and South America.”

To prevent the loss of more plant species, “we need to record all the plants across the world,” Vorontsova said. “To do this we need to support herbaria and the production of plant identification guides, we need to teach our children to see and recognize their local plants, and most importantly we need botanists for years to come.”

Another positive takeaway from the study was rediscovery: the researchers found that 430 species previously believed extinct are actually still around. However, they noted, 90 percent of those species face a high risk of future extinction.

The Chilean crocus, for example, had seemed to disappear by 1950s—but a small population was discovered south of Santiago, Chile in 2001. That population is currently being protected from livestock, and the species is being cultivated in the U.K., but it is still listed as “critically endangered” on the red list.

The new survey follows an “ominous” analysis published last month by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services which found, as Common Dreams reported at the time, “that human exploitation of the natural world has pushed a million plant and animal species to the brink of extinction—with potentially devastating implications for the future of civilization.”

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SEIU First National Union to Endorse Green New Deal

Members of New York’s 1199 SEIU at the 2017 DC Climate March on April 29, 2017. (Photo: Mark Dixon, Flickr)

By Eoin Higgins | Common Dreams

“Fantastic news!!! Who’s next?”

That was progressive writer Naomi Klein’s response to the news Thursday that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) endorsed the Green New Deal. The SEIU, one of the largest unions in the country with more than 1.1 million members, is the first national labor union to endorse the proposed legislation, which would radically revamp the U.S. economy in a bid to combat the climate crisis.

The union’s international executive board passed the resolution at a Thursday meeting in Minneapolis.

“We need to combat climate change while raising standards for all working people,” the union said in a tweet.

SEIU member Charissa Fitzgerald, a certified nursing assistant at Chico, California’s Enloe Medical Center and an SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West member, shared her story in the union’s statement.

“I lost my house and all my belongings in the Camp Fire, the worst wildfire in California’s history,” said Fitzgerald. “Losing everything I’ve ever known in a matter of one day due to climate change has motivated me to support the Green New Deal.”

In her tweet celebrating the news, Klein noted the history of the Green New Deal movement and its connection to the labor movement.

“We have been talking about ‘green jobs’ for two decades, and both job quality and the planet’s health have been shredded,” said Klein. “It’s time for more national unions to step up and lead the charge for the next economy now!”

In a statement announcing the move, Mary Kay Henry, international president of SEIU, singled out green advocates and said the union’s support of the environmental proposal was in part due to the role unions will play in the new economics of the policy.

“We’ve been inspired by the fearlessness and courage of the climate change activists whose direct action and bold demands for change have put this issue front and center in the national conversation,” Henry said. “The Green New Deal makes unions central to accomplishing the ambitious goal of an environmentally responsible and economically just society.”

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97% of Scientists Don’t Agree On The Cause of Climate Change, But They Do Agree On Some Things

By Richard Enos | Collective Evolution

In Brief

  • The Facts:The notion that the planet is warming at an alarming rate due to an increase in man-made CO2 emissions is not nearly as proven by real science as the politicians, lobbyists, and activists would have you believe.
  • Reflect On:Can we recognize the patterns used in consensus-building and perception-building of global issues to help us discern between truth and deception?

I believe that it is now a firmly established fact that Western Industrialization has been harmful to the planet. Ecosystems have been disrupted, species have become extinct, the soil has been degraded, and our water and air have become polluted in ways that we know for certain are harmful to human life and to life on the planet in general.

Human beings of conscience have long petitioned our leaders to make changes, and in the obvious absence of any meaningful actions on the part of our governments and industries to stem the tide of pollution and degradation, our planet has continued to suffer.

The impact of Western Industrialization on ‘climate change’ is a bit of a different animal. Since Al Gore’s presentation of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ back in 2006, the argument was made that Western Industrialization through the use of fossil fuels was creating a “greenhouse effect” in the atmosphere and, if nothing was done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions–and most importantly CO2 emissions–then the planet would experience cataclysmic disasters threatening all forms of life on the planet.

Naturally, many people of conscience applauded the revelations and vowed to support initiatives that sought to reduce carbon emissions in our society. The only problem–and it still remains today–is that there is no way of proving that increased CO2 levels cause global warming.

With all the proven and clearly demonstrable negative environmental effects of Western Industrialization, we should be looking with a Spockian eyebrow into why it is only CO2 emissions that continues to get the lion’s share of attention from politicians, activists, and lobby groups. It would also be helpful to examine why these groups try to convince us of the virtual certainty that CO2 is the culprit of our climate woes, and dismiss any alternative views as coming from ‘deniers.’

The 97% Line

The famed line that ‘97% of Climate scientists agree that Climate Change is real’ is often bandied about in mainstream discourse by those with an agenda to hit the fossil fuel industry (and as a consequence, the general public) with a carbon tax or a global emissions trading scheme.

Let’s put aside the question as to whether the 97% figure was arrived at by using biased statistical methods, and just focus on the statement itself. Its supreme vagueness makes it difficult to discount–by design. When it speaks of ‘Climate Change’ is it to be taken literally (i.e. that the climate changes over time)? If so, then one could probably not argue the obvious and expect that 100% of scientists would agree. Climate Change itself is observable and has been recorded throughout our history. There are warming trends and cooling trends over long periods of time.

The phrase that used to be used was ‘Global Warming,’ however, in recent years some small but clear signs of a cooling trend have made the term ‘Global Warming’ too easily negated, so the switch was made to ‘Climate Change.’

But what the ‘97% phrase’ literally means is not as important as what proponents of carbon reduction schemes want the public to think it means: They want you to think it means that 97% of scientists believe that the scientific evidence PROVES that CO2 emissions are the MAIN cause of Global Warming (a.k.a. ‘Climate Change’). The honest truth is–scientists DON’T KNOW.

What The Science Really Tells Us

We are led to believe that there are only two groups of scientists, two ‘camps’. One is the group of scientists who believe that CO2 emissions are the MAIN cause of Global Warming, while the other group doesn’t believe that CO2 emissions cause Global Warming. The latter group is labeled ‘Climate Deniers’ (again, a meaningless, pejorative term that literally means that some scientists don’t believe in climate).

In actual fact, the vast majority of climate experts, actual scientists who conduct the studies and analyses, fit somewhere in a very ‘inconvenient’ camp in the middle and see trends, signs, and a host of broad correlations across many variables, but recognize that they don’t have the ability to certify whether or not CO2 or even greenhouse gases as a whole have a significant impact on Global Warming. And we don’t have to cherry-pick our justification for saying this from so-called ‘climate deniers’ either. We can go straight to the documentation of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of scientists which the United Nations brought together to essentially find scientific backing for the idea that mankind and our current dependence on fossil fuels is causing the planet to warm at such an accelerated rate as to threaten human existence.

In the IPCC documents, we can see how tenuous the link between climate change and CO2 emissions are, in their findings entitled ‘Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis.’ Here was one of their recommendations:

Explore more fully the probabilistic character of future climate states by developing multiple ensembles of model calculations. The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future exact climate states is not possible. Rather the focus must be upon the prediction of the probability distribution of the system’s future possible states by the generation of ensembles of model solutions.

In other words, there is no way of doing ‘experiments’ within this system in which the effects of CO2 are isolated and measured. There is no way to create a simulation of our climate and study the impact of CO2 on climate under laboratory conditions. The suggestion here is that the best that can be done is to create a host of different models based on parameterizing the variables and then creating a probability distribution of projections of the weather going forward. In other words, a weak ‘maybe’ is the best that science can actually produce with the climate system in terms of the effects of rising man-made CO2 levels.

Nonetheless, the models used by the United Nations ALL have the built-in bias that rising CO2 levels have a significant impact on warming. And as a consequence, these models have predicted far greater warming of the planet that is actually occurring year after year.

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‘We Are the Ones Making a Difference’: Greta Thunberg Addresses Extinction Rebellion in London

“We are now facing an existential crisis, the climate crisis and ecological crisis which have never been treated as crises before, they have been ignored for decades,” activist Greta Thunberg told protesters in London on Sunday. (Photo: @cahulaan/Twitter)

By Julia Conley | Common Dreams

A day before countries around the world celebrate Earth Day, activist and leader of the School Strike for Climate Greta Thunberg addressed protesters in London who have been occupying a number of major landmarks for almost a week, rallying the demonstrators to continue their fight against the “existential crisis” brought about by climate change.

“Humanity is now standing at a crossroads,” Thunberg told the protesters gathered at the Marble Arch. “We must now decide which path we want to take. How do we want the future living conditions for all species to be? We have gathered here today and in many other places around London and across the world too, because we have chosen which path we want to take and now we are waiting for the others to follow our example.”

Watch:

The demonstrators had joined Extinction Rebellion’s public action, in which members of the movement have also occupied Oxford Circus and Parliament Square and superglued themselves to train cars to disrupt daily life and call attention to the climate crisis.

Police have made at least 963 arrests, according to the Guardian, while London mayor Sadiq Khan has called for the demonstrators to disperse. But leaders of the movement say their message is getting out to the public and that disruption is necessary to convey the dire situation in which world governments have placed communities by ignoring the climate crisis for decades.

“People are willing to be arrested,” spokesperson Ronan McNern said in a statement. “What this disruption is doing, we are the news now. It is making people talk in pubs and buses about Extinction Rebellion. It makes them think about their existence which is under threat.”

“We—people in Extinction Rebellion and the children in the School Strike for Climate—we are the ones making a difference,” said Thunberg, who is 16 and started a global movement last fall when she staged a one-person protest outside Swedish Parliament, refusing to attend school unless lawmakers took action to stop the burning of fossil fuels.

“It shouldn’t be like that but since no one else is doing anything we will have to do so,” she continued. “And we will never stop fighting, we will never stop fighting for this planet and for the futures of our children and grandchildren.”

Extinction Rebellion plans to continue its occupation of some London landmarks, with some leaders calling for a new phase of the protests, in which they will vacate some areas in exchange for the government beginning to carry out their demands.

The movement wants lawmakers to declare a climate and ecological emergency; act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025; and create a Citizens’ Assembly to lead decision-making regarding ecological and climate justice.

“Today marks a transition from week one, which focused on actions that were vision-holding but also caused mass ‘disruption’ across many dimensions (economic, cultural, emotional, social),” wrote environmental lawyer Farhana Yamin. “Week two marks a new phase of rebellion focused on ‘negotiations’ where the focus will shift to our actual political demands. We want to show that XR [Extinction Rebellion] is a cohesive long-term, global force, not some flash in the pan.”

Read more great articles at Common Dreams.




In An Emotional Plea, Greta Thunberg Begs EU to Take Urgent Climate Action

By Andrea Germanos | Common Dreams

“My name is Greta Thunberg, I am 16 years old, I come from Sweden, and I want you to panic. I want you to act as if the house was on fire.”

That’s how the young climate activist began her address to members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on Tuesday.

In a 13-minute speech that equated civilization to “a castle built on sand” and was punctuated by applause from the chamber, Thunberg admonished the MEPs for inaction on the climate crisis and begged them to “wake up” and “unite behind the science.”

Fighting back tears, Thunberg said that “we are in the midst of  the sixth mass extinction and the extinction rate is up to 10,000 times faster than what is considered normal with up to 200 species becoming extinct every day.”

She also outlined “symptoms of ecological breakdown.”

“Erosion of fertile topsoil, deforestation of our great forests, toxic air pollution, loss of insects and wildlife, the acidification of our oceans—these are all disastrous trends being accelerated by a way of life that we.. see as our right to carry on,” said Thunberg.

“Our house is falling apart, and our leaders need to start acting accordingly—because at the moment they are not,” she said.

If leaders realized the gravity of the crisis, said Thunberg,

You wouldn’t fly around the world in business class chatting about how the market will solve everything… You wouldn’t talk about buying and building your way out of a crisis that has been creating by buying and building things. You wouldn’t hold three emergency Brexit summits and no emergency summit regarding the breakdown of the climate and environment. You wouldn’t be arguing about phasing out coal in 15 or 11 years…You wouldn’t be celebrating that one nation like Ireland may soon divest from fossil fuels. You wouldn’t celebrate that Norway has decided to stop drilling for oil at the scenic resort of Lofoten Islands but will continue to drill for oil everywhere else for decades.

Thunberg also pointed to the upcoming EU elections as a possible turning point.

“In this election,” said Thunberg, “you vote for the future living conditions for humankind.”

Unlike lawmakers, young people around the world are acutely aware of the urgency, she said.

“Millions of children are taking to the streets school striking for the climate to call attention to the climate crisis,” said Thunberg. “You need to listen to us.”

Thunberg expressed hope that lawmakers would see the walls of the house falling down and do what is right.

“It’s still not too late to act. It will take a far-reaching vision. It will take courage. It will take… fierce determination to act now to lay the foundation,” she said.

“To do your best is no longer good enough. We must all do the seemingly impossible,” said Thunberg. “And it’s OK if you refuse to listen to me. I am, after all, just a 16-year-old schoolgirl girl from Sweden.”

“But you cannot ignore the scientists,” she said. “Or the science. Or the millions of school-striking children striking for the right to a future.”

“I beg you,” said Thunberg. “Please do not fail on this.”

Read more great articles at Common Dreams.




Researchers Warn Arctic Has Entered ‘Unprecedented State’ That Threatens Global Climate Stability

The Yukon River winds through western interior Alaska in early April. (Photo: UAF/Todd Paris)

By Jon Queally | Common Dreams

A new research paper by American and European climate scientists focused on Arctic warming published Monday reveals that the “smoking gun” when it comes to changes in the world’s northern polar region is rapidly warming air temperatures that are having—and will continue to have—massive and negative impacts across the globe.

The new paper—titled “Key Indicators of Arctic Climate Change: 1971–2017“—is the work of scientists at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland in Copenhagen (GUES).

“The Arctic system is trending away from its 20th century state and into an unprecedented state, with implications not only within but beyond the Arctic,” said Jason Box of the GUES, lead author of the study. “Because the Arctic atmosphere is warming faster than the rest of the world, weather patterns across Europe, North America, and Asia are becoming more persistent, leading to extreme weather conditions. Another example is the disruption of the ocean circulation that can further destabilize climate: for example, cooling across northwestern Europe and strengthening of storms.”

John Walsh, chief scientist at AUF’s research center, was the one who called arctic air tempertures the “smoking gun” discovered during the research—a finding the team did not necessarily anticipate.

“I didn’t expect the tie-in with temperature to be as strong as it was,” Walsh said. “All the variables are connected with temperature. All components of the Arctic system are involved in this change.”

The study, published Monday as the flagship piece in a special issue on Arctic climate change indicators published by the journal Environmental Research Letters, is the first of its kind to combine observations of physical climate indicators—such as snow cover, rainfall, and seasonal measurements of sea ice extent—with biological impacts, such as a mismatch in the timing of flowers blooming and pollinators working.  According to Walsh, “Never have so many Arctic indicators been brought together in a single paper.”

This three-and-a-half minute video put together by the research team, explains its methodology and findings in detail:

The new study comes as temperature records in the polar regions continue to break record after record. Last week, climatologists said Alaska experienced the highest March temperatures ever recorded.

Statewide temperatures averaged 27°F degrees last month, a full 4 degrees higher than the record set in 1965. Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist with the International Arctic Research Center at University of Alaska Fairbanks, told the Anchorage Daily News, “We’re not just eking past records. This is obliterating records.”

Also last month, as Common Dreams reported, the UN Environment Programme (ENUP) warned in a far-reaching report that winter temperatures in the Arctic are already “locked in” in such a way that significant sea level increases are now inevitable this century.

Rising temperatures, along with ocean acidification, pollution, and thawing permafrost threaten the Arctic and the more than four million people who inhabit it, including 10 percent who are Indigenous. But, as UNEP acting executive director Joyce Msuya noted at the time, “What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic.”

That warning was echoed by the researchers behind the new study out Monday. Their hope, they said, is that the findings about air temperatures and the delicate interconnections between the climate and other natural systems in the Artic will “provide a foundation for a more integrated understanding of the Arctic and its role in the dynamics of the Earth’s biogeophysical systems.”


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Citing ‘Permanent Oil Price Decline,’ Norwegian Fund’s Fossil Fuel Divestment Could Spark Global ‘Shockwave’

The Norwegian government announced Friday a bold recommendation for the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund to divest all its holdings, worth nearly $40 billion, from oil and gas industries. The proposal, if approved by the nation’s parliament, would see the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund worth $1 trillion, divest from all fossil fuels. (Photo: Pixabay.com)

By Jon Queally | Common Dreams

In a move that climate campaigners say should send a “shockwave” through the global oil and gas industry, the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund—the largest of its kind in the world—has recommended the Norway government divest the entirety of the fund’s $40 billion holdings from the fossil fuel industry.

In a statement on Friday, Minister of Finance Siv Jensen explained the decision is meant to “reduce the vulnerability” of the Norwegian fund “to permanent oil price decline.” With an estimated $1 trillion in total holdings, Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund is the largest publicly held investment in the world. According to a spokesperson for the finance ministry, the fund currently has roughly 66 billion Norwegian krone ($7.5 billion) invested in energy exploration and production stocks—approximately 1.2% of the fund’s stock portfolio.

The recommendation from the Norwegian fund will now be sent to the nation’s parliament for approval.

Climate groups that have pushed aggressively for divestment from the fossil fuel industry in recent years as a key way to decrease the threat of greenhouse gases and runaway global warming celebrated the announcement as a possible crucial turning point.

“We welcome and support this proposal,” said Yossi Cadan, senior divestment campaigner at 350.org, “if it passes through parliament it will produce a shockwave in the market, dealing the largest blow to date to the illusion that the fossil fuel industry still has decades of business as usual ahead of it. The decision should sound like a red alert for private banks and investors whose oil and gas assets are becoming increasingly risky and morally untenable.”

Bill McKibben, one of the group’s co-founders, called it a “huge, huge, huge win.”

In a statement, 350 added:

In order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change and keep global warming below 1.5°C we have to keep fossil fuels in the ground and shift finance towards sustainable energy solutions for all. Climate impacts are already hitting home and we have no time left to lose. Last year Nordic heatwaves, wildfires in the Arctic Circle and alarming news of the thickest Arctic sea ice starting to break up, showed how climate change is close to home for Norway. It seems unthinkable for Norwegian financiers to continue to invest in companies that are causing this chaos.

Catherine Howarth, chief executive of ShareAction, which provides analysis for investors focused on creating a more sustainable society, said the Norwegian fund’s announcement “is further evidence that investors are growing increasingly dissatisfied with oil exploration and production companies.”

Institutional investors that manage sovereign wealth funds and pensions funds, she added,  “are withdrawing their capital from oil and gas companies on the grounds that quicker-than-expected growth in clean energy and associated regulation is making oil and gas business models highly vulnerable. This announcement will put pressure on investors to ramp up their engagement with integrated oil majors ahead of [annual general meeting] season” when stock holders gather to assess and review company performance and strategies.

While the financial reality of the climate crisis comes into increasing view for global investors and markets, 350.org says that credit belongs to the campaigners from around the world who have bravely stood up to demand an end to the financial and energy hegemony of the fossil fuel industry.

At the heart of the global divestment campaign, the group said, “is a people-powered grassroots movement—it’s ordinary people pushing their local institutions to take a stand against the fossil fuel industry —the industry most responsible for the current climate crisis.”


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To ‘Secure a Livable Future,’ 30,000 Youth Urge Court to Let Landmark Climate Suit Go to Trial

Youth climate activists attend the Minnesota March for Science held in St. Paul in April 2017. (Photo: Lorie Shaull/Flickr/cc)

By Jake Johnson | Common Dreams

Calling for an end to years of delays and inaction as global warming continues to accelerate, over 30,000 young people signed on to an amicus brief urging the Ninth Circuit to allow a landmark youth climate lawsuit to proceed to trial.

“I am so hyped to see how many other young people feel empowered to support us in this amicus brief and push for change for our futures,” Miko Vergun, a 17-year-old plaintiff in Juliana v. United States, said in a statement on Thursday. “The amount of young people… who added their names to support this brief is a representation of all the youth who know that their futures and their planet are at stake.”

The Juliana case began in 2015, when a group of young people aged 11-22 sued the U.S. government for violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property by enacting policies that contributed to the climate crisis.

The Trump administration has repeatedly attempted to stop the lawsuit moving forward. In November, as Common Dreams reported, the Supreme Court rejected the Trump White House’s request for a stay in the case.

Zero Hour—a youth-led climate group representing the more than 30,000 young people—said it plans to file the amicus brief (pdf) on Friday.

“The Trump administration is doing everything it can to stop Juliana v. United Statesfrom going to trial. The youth cannot let that happen,” said Jamie Margolin, the 17-year-old founder of Zero Hour. “We are filing the Young People’s brief to show that thousands of youth across America not only feel the urgency of climate action, but also understand that the youth climate lawsuit must proceed to secure a livable future.”

The youth-led court battle with the Trump administration comes as young Americans throughout the U.S. are urgently mobilizing in support of the Green New Deal resolution, which supporters say is the only plan that would address climate change with the level of ambition required by the science.

“These rallies aren’t just about chanting and being on the news. They are about us defending our right to be heard and our right to a home, to clean air and water, and to a livable future,” wrote Sunrise Movement member Destine Grigsby, who participated in a sit-in at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Washington, D.C. office earlier this week. “[I]f we fight back, if we share our stories, we can build a bigger movement and win.”


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