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Ed Webb

Donald Trump Is the First Demagogue of the Anthropocene - The Atlantic - 0 views

  • Jürgen Scheffran, a professor of geography at the University of Hamburg, has been investigating whether climate change makes armed conflict more likely for more than a decade. In 2012, he worked on a team that analyzed all 27 empirical studies investigating the link between war and climate change.

    “Sixteen found a significant link between climate and conflict, six did not find a link, and five found an ambiguous relationship,” he told me. He described these numbers as inconclusive. Trying to prove that climate change is linked to war, he said, would be like trying to prove that smoking causes cancer with only one available case study.

  • there is only one world, and not a million worlds, in which the temperature is rising, and you cannot associate a single event—like a single hurricane or a single conflict—to climate change. It’s a statistical problem, and we don’t have enough data yet
  • the U.S. Department of Defense already considers global warming a “threat multiplier” for national security. It expects hotter temperatures and acidified oceans to destabilize governments and worsen infectious pandemics
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  • Martin O’Malley was mocked for suggesting that a climate-change-intensified drought in the Levant—the worst drought in 900 years—helped incite the Syrian Civil War, thus kickstarting the Islamic State. The evidence tentatively supports him. Since the outbreak of the conflict, some scholars have recognized that this drought pushed once-prosperous farmers into Syria’s cities. Many became unemployed and destitute, aggravating internal divisions in the run-up to the war
  • Scheffran underlined these climate connections but declined to emphasize them. “The Syrian War has so many complex interrelated issues—and most of them are political and economic—that the drought is just one contributing factor to the instability in the region,”
  • it’s all about the exogenous shock. We were all interested in, to what extent does a big event like a flooding or a drought undermine society, or trigger a conflict outbreak?
  • Heatwaves, droughts, and other climate-related exogenous shocks do correlate to conflict outbreak—but only in countries primed for conflict by ethnic division. In the 30-year period, nearly a quarter of all ethnic-fueled armed conflict coincided with a climate-related calamity. By contrast, in the set of all countries, war only correlated to climatic disaster about 9 percent of the time
  • climate disaster will not cause a war, but it can influence whether one begins
  • Models predict that northern Africa and the Levant, both already drought-prone, will dry out significantly over the course of the century. On the phone, Schleussner also cited southern Africa and south-central Asia as regions to watch. (It’s no coincidence that some of the largest, longest wars this century have occurred in those places.)
  • a drought-and-flood-fueled armed conflict near the Mediterranean Basin could send people toward Western Europe in the hundreds of millions
  • “I wouldn’t say that there would be a mass migration to Europe, but I would expect to see a large number of people being displaced within Africa,”
  • There is literally, in legal parlance, no such thing as an environmental refugee,” says Edward Carr. “To meet the international standard for refugee, a changing environment is not a forcing. It doesn’t count.”
  • When would you attribute the decision to move to changes in the climate? Does a place have to be dry for five years? For 10 years? Does someone have to have three children die, and then they decide to move?
  • Climate change could push Western politics toward demagoguery and authoritarianism in two ways, then. First, it could devastate agricultural yields and raise food prices; destroy coastal real estate and wash away family wealth; transform old commodities into luxury goods. Second, it could create a wave of migration—likely from conflict, but possibly from environmental ruination—that stresses international reception systems and risks fomenting regional resource disputes.
  • it could erode people’s sense of security, pushing them toward authoritarianism
  • Like the CEO in the 1950s who predicted that America would see flying cars and three-day workweeks by the year 1999, I’ve assumed that every ongoing trend line can be extrapolated out indefinitely. They can’t. The actual future will be far stranger.
  • climate change must be mitigated with all deliberate speed. But he also suggests certain cultural mechanisms. Some Americans may favor more restrictive immigration policies, but—in order to withstand against future waves of mass migration (and humanely deal with the victims of climate change)—racist fears must be unhooked from immigration restrictionism. In other words, as a matter of survival against future authoritarians, white supremacy must be rejected and defeated.
  • Improving the United States’s immune response to authoritarian leadership—a response that could be repeatedly tested in the century to come—can follow from weaving its civic fabric ever tighter. I don’t know what this will look like, exactly, for every person. But here are some places to start: Volunteer. Run for local or state office. Give to charity (whether due to religion or effective altruism). Organize at work. Join a church or a community choir or the local library staff. Make your hometown a better place for refugees to settle. Raise a child well.
  • climate realists have always split their work between mitigation—that is, trying to keep the climate from getting worse—and adaptation—trying to protect what we already have
Ed Webb

Climate Efforts Falling Short, U.N. Panel Says - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • decades of foot-dragging by political leaders had propelled humanity into a critical situation, with greenhouse emissions rising faster than ever. Though it remains technically possible to keep planetary warming to a tolerable level, only an intensive push over the next 15 years to bring those emissions under control can achieve the goal
  • “If we lose another decade, it becomes extremely costly to achieve climate stabilization.”
  • It is increasingly clear that measures like tougher building codes and efficiency standards for cars and trucks can save energy and reduce emissions without harming people’s quality of life, the panel found. And the costs of renewable energy like wind and solar power are falling so fast that its deployment on a large scale is becoming practical
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  • since the intergovernmental panel issued its last major report in 2007, far more countries, states and cities have adopted climate plans, a measure of the growing political interest in tackling the problem. They include China and the United States, which are doing more domestically than they have been willing to commit to in international treaty negotiations
  • the emissions problem is still outrunning the determination to tackle it, with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rising almost twice as fast in the first decade of this century as they did in the last decades of the 20th century. That reflects a huge rush to use coal-fired power plants in developing countries that are climbing up the income scale, especially China, while rich countries are making only slow progress in cutting their high emissions
  • the divisions between wealthy countries and poorer countries that have long bedeviled international climate talks were on display yet again in Berlin.

    Some developing countries insisted on stripping charts from the report’s executive summary that could have been read as requiring greater effort from them, while rich countries — including the United States — struck out language that might have been seen as implying that they needed to write big checks to the developing countries. Both points survived in the full version of the report, but were deleted from a synopsis meant to inform the world’s top political leaders

  • if greater efforts to cut emissions are not implemented soon, future generations seeking to limit or reverse climate damage will have to depend on technologies that permanently remove greenhouse gases from the air; in effect, they will be trying to undo the damage caused by the people of today
  • these technologies do not exist on any appreciable scale, the report said, and there is no guarantee that they will be available in the future, much less that they will be affordable
  • The new report, dealing with ways to limit the growth of the emissions that are causing climate change, is the third in recent months. A report released in Stockholm in September found a certainty of 95 percent or greater that humans were the main cause of global warming, and a report released in Yokohama, Japan, two weeks ago said profound effects were already being felt around the world, and were likely to get much worse.
  • the committee described money spent fighting climate change as a form of insurance against the most severe potential consequences
Ed Webb

Petro-aggression: How Russia's oil makes war more likely - 0 views

  • A Russian natural gas embargo is a trick that can probably only be pulled once (not unlike the 1973 oil embargo).  So in a sense, European dependence on Russian energy does not imply short-term vulnerability – except that European policymakers’ perceptions of vulnerability can become its own reality.
  • Russia’s resource curse.  Russia’s energy revenues (from both oil and gas) have ensconced Vladimir Putin as an autocrat and given him a free hand in foreign policy.  Russia is so heavily dependent on its energy revenues that it is a classic petrostate, making it more susceptible to corruption, autocracy and violent conflict.
  • Russia’s incursion into Crimea can be seen as a close cousin of petro-aggression.  A state is more likely to instigate international conflict when it has a combination of (a) oil income and (b) a leader with aggressive preferences.  A lot more likely: 250 percent more military conflict than a typical non-petrostate, on average.  Oil income means more military spending, increasing the state’s scope for potential conflicts.  Even more importantly, it distorts the domestic politics of the state, reducing the leader’s domestic political risk from military adventurism and aggressive foreign policy.
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  • Here lies the real risk of Europe’s energy situation: So long as it continues to buy Russian oil and gas, it is sending massive amounts of cash to a neighboring dictator.  By keeping the taps on, Putin consolidates his power as Russian dictator.
  • Diversifying away from fossil fuels would bring security benefits (in addition to some obvious environmental ones), in part by reducing the money sent to petrostates like Russia.
Ed Webb

Environment Magazine - September/October 2013 - 0 views

  • Environmental security is still viewed in Western countries that see climate change as a “threat multiplier” in already conflict-sensitive regions differently than in developing countries that consider security implications with regional neighbors when responding to extreme events.
  • operational risk analyses that focus on environmental systems supporting overall stability
  • The most crucial of these resources and critical nodes is water.
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  • In 2007, Congress placed language in the National Defense Authorization Act that requires the military to consider effects of climate change on facilities, capabilities, and missions
  • The challenge with integrating climate change hazards with military planning has been that “climate change” is at the same time too general a term of reference yet is also too limiting
  • Many systems rely on predictable delivery of water, and too much or too little at the wrong time can spell catastrophe for agriculture, power, transport, or other critical systems linked around the globe
  • empirical cases of conflict between states directly over water supplies are historically rare
  • the Chinese drive for water security may spark a series of actions that others may interpret as threats even while inside China they may be technical responses to very real risks
  • The regional security difficulty lies not only in Tibetan politics, but in the fact that the Yarlung-Tsangpo becomes the Brahmaputra once it crosses into India in Arunachal Pradesh, a territory disputed by India and China and heavily militarized. Diversions affecting the Brahmaputra would imperil India's own water security, including hydropower and irrigation projects, and would have further impacts downstream in Bangladesh. Although China may see its water projects as increasing its own security, India and Bangladesh view the Chinese actions as a direct threat to their national security. Specifically, China's actions have the potential to increase the risk of water-related population stresses, cross-border tension, and migration and agricultural failures for perhaps a billion people in India and Bangladesh, and its actions may be interpreted as a security threat by India
  • through 2040, the best solutions to water problems are expected to be found in improved management strategies such as pricing, allocation decisions, and addressing international trade in “virtual water”—“water consumed in the manufacturing or growing of an export product”
  • The connections between extreme heat/drought in Russia in the summer of 2010 and the subsequent Arab Spring revolts in late 2010 are an example of where changes in one system (in this case, water/moisture for food production) may contribute to existing instability in a far different geographical region.
  • The topic of environmental security also raises questions about what or who is driving policy priorities and how science is (mis)communicated to policymakers.
  • Complex risk assessments must take into account the multidimensional and interdisciplinary nature of the strategic environment. Providing adequate resources for these complex assessments requires knowledge not only of climate and weather systems, but of particular geographical, cultural, and socioeconomic factors that make environmental hazards unique to each region and community
Ed Webb

Simon Dalby, 400ppm: Anthropocene Geopolitics | Society and Space - Environment and Pla... - 0 views

  • Humanity is remaking the biosphere; producing the new natures in which the human future will play out. Hence the now widespread use of the term Anthropocene for the period of planetary history in which the dominant ecological force is humanity, or more precisely, fossil fueled industrial capitalist humanity.
  • Natural environments are no longer in any meaningful sense the given context for human existence; they are being remade by land use changes, urbanization and by both technologies and species moved and recombined in numerous artificial assemblages. Atlases with their designations of planetary biomes frequently need replacement with a dynamic cartography charting the changing “anthromes” that are the new terrestrial ecological patterns that matter.
  • Globalization now has to be understood as a process of material transformation quite as much as a matter of trade, culture and politics crossing frontiers. The processes whereby business decisions are made to produce particular products by using certain technologies is key to understanding the future of the planet; economic geography has become essential to geomorphology.
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  • The Westphalian political imaginary of separate competing territorial states is a spatial arrangement singularly unsuited to the collective tasks ahead, but it is the institutional context within which we have to act.
Ed Webb

Cost of Environmental Damage in China Growing Rapidly Amid Industrialization - www.nyti... - 1 views

  • The cost of environmental degradation in China1 was about $230 billion in 2010, or 3.5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product — three times that in 2004, in local currency terms, an official Chinese news report said this week.
  • “Digging a hole and filling it back in again gives you G.D.P. growth. It doesn’t give you economic value. A lot of the activity in China over the last few years has been digging holes to fill them back in again — anything from bailing out failing solar companies to ignoring the ‘externalities’ of economic growth.”
  • The ministry has issued statistics only intermittently, though its original goal was to do the calculation — what it called “green G.D.P.” — annually.
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  • China Central Television reported that farmers in a village in Henan Province were using wastewater from a paper mill to grow wheat. But one farmer said they would not dare to eat the wheat themselves. It is sold outside the village, perhaps ending up in cities, while the farmers grow their own wheat with well water
  • There is consensus now that China’s decades of double-digit economic growth exacted an enormous environmental cost. But growth remains the priority; the Communist Party’s legitimacy is based largely on rapidly expanding the economy, and China officially estimates that its G.D.P., which was $8.3 trillion in 2012, will grow at a rate of 7.5 percent this year and at an average of 7 percent in the five-year plan that runs to 2015. A Deutsche Bank report released last month said the current growth policies would lead to a continuing steep decline of the environment for the next decade, especially given the expected coal consumption and boom in automobile sales.
Ed Webb

Does Climate Drive Warfare? A New Study Suggests There's No Question - 0 views

  • numerous books and studies have sought to explore the complex connections between the environment and social friction. But the need to do so has gained increased currency -- and urgency -- not least because many climate scientists believe that the cyclical climate patterns driving weather in many of the world's less developed regions will become more frequent and more intense as average global temperatures rise.

    That notion helped inspire a new study conducted by a team of researchers at Columbia University's Earth Institute. Indeed, what Parenti hypothesized anecdotally through Loruman's story and profiles of myriad other conflicts brewing across the globe, the researchers attempt to quantify statistically -- perhaps for the first time.

    The analysis, to be published Wednesday in the journal Nature, reveals a striking connection between global climate and civil conflict -- though the underlying mechanism driving that connection remains something of a mystery.

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  • not everyone is convinced. Halvard Buhaug, a senior researcher at the Center for the Study of Civil War in Norway said he was intrigued by the study's findings, but he said far more research was needed.

    "All of us agree that climate is not going to be the sole driver of conflicts, and at best, it may contribute to some or even many," Buhaug said in an interview. "But I remain skeptical about the causal effect of climate on many conflicts."

    He pointed in particular to the near instantaneous impact of El Niño on conflicts suggested in the new research. Disruptions in trade or agricultural under-performance -- and associated changes in state income -- Buhaug said, would likely take far longer to manifest than the findings suggest. He also said he was puzzled by the fact that the authors appeared to carefully, and correctly, eliminate the possibility that local changes in temperature and rainfall could fully account for any upticks in violence.

    "What could it be that could have such an immediate effect but does not work through local changes in climate?" Buhaug wondered.

Ed Webb

Food Supply Under Strain on a Warming Planet - NYTimes.com - 0 views

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    Crucial. Great to see this in the main news portion of a prominent Sunday paper.
Ed Webb

An effective response to climate change "underpins our security and prosperity" - 0 views

  • A world which is failing to respond to climate change is one in which the values embodied in the UN will not be met. It is a world in which competition and conflict will win over collaboration.
  • I will first argue that an effective response to climate change underpins our security and prosperity. Second, our response should be to strive for a binding global deal, whatever the setbacks. And third, I will set out why effective deployment of foreign policy assets is crucial to mobilising the political will needed if we are to shape an effective response.
Ed Webb

It's not just BP's oil in the Gulf that threatens world's oceans | McClatchy - 0 views

  • "We are becoming increasingly certain that the world's marine ecosystems are reaching tipping points," Bruno said, adding, "We really have no power or model to foresee" the impact.
  • "It's a lot worse than the public thinks,"
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