Countdown to Global Catastrophe (Janu...

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Global Warming and Other Environmental Threats: Countdown to Global Catastrophe (January 2005)
Author: admin
Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - 2:10 pm
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From the Independent (UK) at http://news.independent.co.uk/world/environment/story.jsp?story=603975

Countdown to Global Catastrophe

Climate change: report warns point of no return may be reached in 10 years, leading to droughts, agricultural failure and water shortages

By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
24 January 2005


The global warming danger threshold for the world is clearly marked for the first time in an international report to be published tomorrow - and the bad news is, the world has nearly reached it already.

The countdown to climate-change catastrophe is spelt out by a task force of senior politicians, business leaders and academics from around the world - and it is remarkably brief. In as little as 10 years, or even less, their report indicates, the point of no return with global warming may have been reached.

The report, Meeting The Climate Challenge, is aimed at policymakers in every country, from national leaders down. It has been timed to coincide with Tony Blair's promised efforts to advance climate change policy in 2005 as chairman of both the G8 group of rich countries and the European Union.

And it breaks new ground by putting a figure - for the first time in such a high-level document - on the danger point of global warming, that is, the temperature rise beyond which the world would be irretrievably committed to disastrous changes. These could include widespread agricultural failure, water shortages and major droughts, increased disease, sea-level rise and the death of forests - with the added possibility of abrupt catastrophic events such as "runaway" global warming, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, or the switching-off of the Gulf Stream.

The report says this point will be two degrees centigrade above the average world temperature prevailing in 1750 before the industrial revolution, when human activities - mainly the production of waste gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), which retain the sun's heat in the atmosphere - first started to affect the climate. But it points out that global average temperature has already risen by 0.8 degrees since then, with more rises already in the pipeline - so the world has little more than a single degree of temperature latitude before the crucial point is reached.

More ominously still, it assesses the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere after which the two-degree rise will become inevitable, and says it will be 400 parts per million by volume (ppm) of CO2.

The current level is 379ppm, and rising by more than 2ppm annually - so it is likely that the vital 400ppm threshold will be crossed in just 10 years' time, or even less (although the two-degree temperature rise might take longer to come into effect).

"There is an ecological timebomb ticking away," said Stephen Byers, the former transport secretary, who co-chaired the task force that produced the report with the US Republican senator Olympia Snowe. It was assembled by the Institute for Public Policy Research in the UK, the Centre for American Progress in the US, and The Australia Institute.The group's chief scientific adviser is Dr Rakendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The report urges all the G8 countries to agree to generate a quarter of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and to double their research spending on low-carbon energy technologies by 2010. It also calls on the G8 to form a climate group with leading developing nations such as India and China, which have big and growing CO2 emissions.

"What this underscores is that it's what we invest in now and in the next 20 years that will deliver a stable climate, not what we do in the middle of the century or later," said Tom Burke, a former government adviser on green issues who now advises business.

The report starkly spells out the likely consequences of exceeding the threshold. "Beyond the 2 degrees C level, the risks to human societies and ecosystems grow significantly," it says.

"It is likely, for example, that average-temperature increases larger than this will entail substantial agricultural losses, greatly increased numbers of people at risk of water shortages, and widespread adverse health impacts. [They] could also imperil a very high proportion of the world's coral reefs and cause irreversible damage to important terrestrial ecosystems, including the Amazon rainforest."

It goes on: "Above the 2 degrees level, the risks of abrupt, accelerated, or runaway climate change also increase. The possibilities include reaching climatic tipping points leading, for example, to the loss of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets (which, between them, could raise sea level more than 10 metres over the space of a few centuries), the shutdown of the thermohaline ocean circulation (and, with it, the Gulf Stream), and the transformation of the planet's forests and soils from a net sink of carbon to a net source of carbon."

Author: Joe Jenkins
Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - 6:24 pm
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Global Warming Approaching Point Of No Return,
Warns Leading Climate Expert


by Geoffrey Lean, January 23, 2005


Global warning has already hit the danger point that international attempts to curb it are designed to avoid, according to the world's top climate watchdog.


Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the official Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC http://www.ipcc.ch), told an international conference attended by 114 governments in Mauritius this month that he personally believes that the world has "already reached the level of dangerous concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere" and called for immediate and "very deep" cuts in the pollution if humanity is to "survive".


His comments rocked the Bush administration - which immediately tried to slap him down - not least because it put him in his post after Exxon, the major oil company most opposed to international action on global warming, complained that his predecessor was too "aggressive" on the issue.


A memorandum from Exxon to the White House in early 2001 specifically asked it to get the previous chairman, Dr. Robert Watson, the chief scientist of the World Bank, "replaced at the request of the US". The Bush administration then lobbied other countries in favour of Dr. Pachauri - whom the former vice-president Al Gore called the "let's drag our feet" candidate, and got him elected to replace Dr. Watson, a British-born naturalised American, who had repeatedly called for urgent action.


But this month, at a conference of Small Island Developing States on the Indian Ocean island, the new chairman, a former head of India's Tata Energy Research Institute, himself issued what top United Nations officials described as a "very courageous" challenge.


He told delegates: "Climate change is for real. We have just a small window of opportunity and it is closing rather rapidly. There is not a moment to lose."


Afterwards he told The Independent on Sunday that widespread dying of coral reefs, and rapid melting of ice in the Arctic, had driven him to the conclusion that the danger point the IPCC had been set up to avoid had already been reached.


Reefs throughout the world are perishing as the seas warm up: as water temperatures rise, they lose their colours and turn a ghostly white. Partly as a result, up to a quarter of the world's corals have been destroyed.


And in November, a multi-year study by 300 scientists concluded that the Arctic was warming twice as fast as the rest of the world and that its ice-cap had shrunk by up to 20 per cent in the past three decades.


The ice is also 40 per cent thinner than it was in the 1970s and is expected to disappear altogether by 2070. And while Dr. Pachauri was speaking, parts of the Arctic were having a January "heatwave", with temperatures eight to nine degrees centigrade higher than normal.


He also cited alarming measurements, first reported in The Independent on Sunday, showing that levels of carbon dioxide (the main cause of global warming) have leapt abruptly over the past two years, suggesting that climate change may be accelerating out of control.


He added that, because of inertia built into the Earth's natural systems, the world was now only experiencing the result of pollution emitted in the 1960s, and much greater effects would occur as the increased pollution of later decades worked its way through. He concluded: "We are risking the ability of the human race to survive."


Source: http://news.independent.co.uk/
world/environment/story.jsp?story=603752

Author: Larry
Thursday, January 27, 2005 - 4:18 pm
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The carbon genie is out of the bottle, and global warming issues should be a top priority for individuals and government. Thanks for posting the IPCC report. It seems to be causing some media ripples. Weather extremes have been observed in most of the US this winter. Here in the Pacific Northwest unusually warm temperatures have greatly reduced the mountain snowpack, potentially causing water shortages for agriculture, industry and power generation this summer. Meanwhile, New England is still digging out from a severe blizzard.
Carbon sequestering may become the new Holy Grail. I was in the garden a few hours this morning doing my part by moving several cubic yards of finished compost to our small orchard. Soil building is a fun and productive way to sequester carbon. No combustion engines needed, just a fork and wheelbarrow. Composting humanure is a tangible method to do my little part in reducing co2.

Author: Larry
Tuesday, July 19, 2005 - 10:54 am
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As the coming age of oil depletion fast approaches, it is instructive to imagine how we will grow our food without petro-based fertilizers and pesticides. Carla Emery has made a career out of gathering useful information that she publishes in The Encyclopedia of Country Living. In her current e-newsletter she offers the following remarks that may be of interest to humanure composters:
What would life be like if we didn't use oil or natural gas? Eventually, we, or our descendants will have to make that adjustment. A model for the changes we will need to make is available. What did they do in 1860?
Actually, folks back in 1860 were more dependent on nonrenewable carbon fuels than you might think. The big cities used gas lamps; the gas was extracted from coal. Coal was burned for house warmth and cooking, to power steam boats and train engines. But 1860's agriculture had no carbon fuel dependence. In Ten Acres Enough, a first person account of the move from New York City to a berry farm in rural New Jersey, I got a close-up of what sustainable agriculture really means. And I was surprised! I thought the use of humanure in agriculture was just something that happened in the Far East. I'd certainly never read about it in U.S. history books. But author Edmund Morris speaks of door-to-door collection and purchase of humanure from the city dwellers. The humanure was handed out in "tubs." It was conveyed in "manure boats" up the river where rural truck farmers used it to grow food which was then sent back downriver to feed the urbanites.
Back then four out of five families had a dairy animal, usually a cow. There were cows in the cities, too. That's how they had fresh local dairy products. Remember how the great Chicago fire started? A cow kicked over a lamp. Back then pigs and chickens were also widely distributed because they were terrific recyclers. Every restaurant, every large household, owned its own pigs or poultry to salvage the energy in leftovers from food growing, preserving, preparation, or plate scrapings. Typically, hogs were fed from spring (weaning) to November or December (when their food sources were disappearing). Then they were butchered and pork supplanted the meagre winter rations of the humans.

Now, in most places, it is illegal to feed restaurant scraps to animals. I have heard of a couple government programs that involve recycling like that. They make it sound like they invented something brilliant. So, hoping things had changed for the better, I asked my favorite local restaurant if I could buy her kitchen scraps to feed my livestock. She told me that was illegal, that she had to throw the stuff away.
How far we've come from that necessarily sustainable society of the 1860s. A few weeks ago, I talked to a truck farmer who was permitted to use city sewage to fertilize his crops. His farming practices also made use of lots of chemicals. Modern city "sewage," of course, also contains chemicals--cleaning agents and God-knows-what-else that people or businesses flush down their toilets or pour down their sinks. The farmer said that the sewage mass also contained the dumpings from porta-potties, "including the blue stuff. Some plants get a blue tinge from it. I wonder what it is." Although only in his forties, this farmer said that he and both his employees had already had cancers removed. Back in 1860, urban humanure was wholesome stuff. What that modern farmer was pouring on his fields was contaminated with carcinogenic modern chemicals.

In years to come, every able-bodied person will need to help grow food, especially a garden. That garden will be fertilized with the family humanure, together with local livestock manure, green manures, and other composted plant materials. The science is sound. It's the social attitudes that will be hard to change. Over 145 years, U.S. society gradually evolved from sustainability to our present state of hubristic ignorance and dependence on petro-agriculture.

We won't have 145 years to make the transition back. The switch back is liable to happen on short notice and under difficult life conditions. Anything we can do to prepare for and practice truly sustainable (1860's) agriculture is a good thing for the individual, the family, and the larger society. This transition is best started with individual families learning and practicing sustainable family food production. In difficult times, it works best when people look after themselves. Governor Bradford in the Pilgrim colony started his people out growing corn communally. There wasn't a big enough crop. He changed the rules, asking each family to grow their own corn. The next harvest, there was a large enough crop.
So a government program to recycle city sewage (including the "blue stuff") is not the answer. Allowing families to recycle their own humanure is the answer. Allowing families to collect and sell their wholesome, chemical-free humanure to local growers will provide income in the coming hard times to urban families and provide the essential fertilizer to grow another season of food for them. A few token government programs that use restaurant garbage to grow food for a fortunate hand-picked farmer are not the answer. The answer is to, nationwide, lift the laws that prevent restaurants from selling their food scraps to livestock keepers or food growers. As the years go by and the fossil fuels deplete, these changes WILL come. Will the transitions happen gently, orderly, and in time? Will the burden of regulation that now stifles family food production and local food production be lifted by enlightened officials before hunger compels the changes?

Author: admin
Tuesday, July 19, 2005 - 7:24 pm
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Good points, Larry. Thanks.

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