Professor Matt Ridley explains some basics about just why we should not be in fear of "man-made" climate change. Speech was at the Royal Society, UK on the 17th October, 2016.
Tagged with “environment” (32)
Jesse Ausubel: Nature is Rebounding: Land- and Ocean-sparing through Concentrating Human Activities - The Long Now
In the field of environmental progress the conflict between anecdote and statistics is so flagrant that most public understanding on the subject is upside down.
We worry about the wrong things, fail to worry about the right things, and fail to acknowledge and expand the things that are going well.
For decades at Rockefeller University Jesse Ausubel has assembled global data and trends showing that humanity may be entering an exceptionally Green century.
The most important trend is “land-sparing”—freeing up ever more land for nature thanks to agricultural efficiency and urbanization.
Ausubel notes that we are now probably at “peak farmland“ (so long as we don’t pursue the folly of biofuels).
Forests are coming back everywhere in the temperate zones and in many tropical areas, helped by replacing wild logging with tree plantations.
Human population is leveling rapidly and we are now probably at “peak children.”
Our energy sources continue to “decarbonize,” and a long-term “dematerialization” trend is reducing the physical load of civilization’s metabolism.
In the ocean, however, market hunting for fish remains highly destructive, even though aquaculture and mariculture are taking off some of the pressure.
In this area, as in the others, rigorous science and inventive technology are leading the way to the mutual flourishing of humanity and nature.
This week Guardian science editor Ian Sample meets particle physicist Professor Jonathan Butterworth from University College London to talk about his new book Smashing Physics. It’s an insider’s account of one of the most momentous scientific breakthroughs of our times: the discovery of the Higgs boson announced in July 2012.
Jon discusses what it’s like to work on the largest science experiment in history and why such ambitious – and costly – endeavours benefit us all.
Next up, British Association media fellow Nishad Karim reports from the UCL Symposium on the Origins of Life. Be it life on Earth or life elsewhere in the universe, this symposium covered it all with a range of experts from cosmology and biology to meteorology, discussing some very big questions. Where did we come from? Did life begin on Earth or elsewhere? Are we alone?
Nishad spoke to several of the presenters including Dr Zita Matins, an astrobiologist from Imperial College London, and Dr Dominic Papineau, a geochemist from UCL. Dr Martins is a specialist in finding organic material essential for life in meteorites, and Dr Papineau looks for old organic life a little closer to home, analysing Earth rocks.
Other speakers included Dr Francisco Diego, a UCL cosmologist, who discussed the life of the universe itself from beginning to now, 13.8bn years later.
And finally, Ian asks Guardian environment writer Karl Mathiesen whether 2014 will be the hottest year on record.
Legendary scientist David Deutsch puts theoretical physics on the back burner to discuss a more urgent matter: the survival of our species. The first step toward solving global warming, he says, is to admit that we have a problem.
Once long past, listening gave clues for survival. Now we listen unconsciously, blocking noise and tuning in to what we want to hear. Yet the unwanted sounds we filter out tell us a lot about our environment and our lives. Broadcaster Teresa Goff listens for the messages in our walls of sound.
As civilization has become more mechanized, more urbanized and more digitized, the amount of noise has increased in tandem. This noise, according to Garrett Keizer, author of The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book about Noise , "is a window for understanding some of the paradoxes and contradictions of being human." If you take the sum total of all sounds within any area, what you have is an intimate reflection of the social, technological, and natural conditions of that place.
Hildegard Westerkamp, a founding member of the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology, says that "Environmental sound is like a spoken word with each sound or soundscape having its own meanings and expressions." So when you listen to the noise, what does it have to tell you? "Noise is a pit of interpretation," says noise musician Brian Chippendale. Broadcaster Teresa Goff goes into the pit with her documentary, The Signal of Noise.
Astronomer Roger Angel completely revolutionized the large telescopes that scientists use to look at the stars. Now he wants to use his mirror technology to make solar energy cheaper and more efficient.
“About 74,000 years ago,” Lynas began, “a volcanic event nearly wiped out humanity. We were down to just a thousand or so embattled breeding pairs. We’ve made a bit of a comeback since then. We’re over seven billion strong. In half a million years we’ve gone from prodding anthills with sticks to building a worldwide digital communications network. Well done! But… there’s a small problem. In doing this we’ve had to capture between a quarter and a third of the entire photosynthetic production of the planet. We’ve raised the temperature of the Earth system, reduced the alkalinity of the oceans, altered the chemistry of the atmosphere, changed the reflectivity of the planet, hugely affected the distribution of freshwater, and killed off many of the species that share the planet with us. Welcome to the Anthropocene, our very uniquely human geological era.”
Some of those global alterations made by humans may be approaching tipping points—-thresholds—-that could destabilize the whole Earth system. Drawing on a landmark paper in Nature in 2009 (“A Safe Operating Space for Humanity,” by Johan Rockström et al.) Lynas outlined the nine boundaries we should stay within, starting with three we’ve already crossed. 1. Loss of biodiversity reduces every form of ecological resilience. The boundary is 10 species going extinct per million per year. Currently we lose over 100 species per million per year. 2. Global warming is the most overwhelming boundary. Long-term stability requires 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; we’re currently at 391 ppm and rising fast. “The entire human economy must become carbon neutral by 2050 and carbon negative thereafter.” 3. Nitrogen pollution. With the invention a century ago of the Haber-Bosch process for creating nitrogen fertilizer, we doubled the terrestrial nitrogen cycle. We need to reduce the amount of atmospheric nitrogen we fix per year to 35 million tons; we’re currently at 121 million tons.
Other quantifiable boundaries have yet to be exceeded, but we’re close. 4. Land use. Every bit of natural landscape lost threatens ecosystem services like clean water and air and atmospheric carbon balance. “Already 85% of the Earth’s ice-free land is fragmented or substantially affected by human activity.” The danger point is 15% of land being used for row crops; we’re currently at 12%. 5. Fresh water scarcity. Increasing droughts from global warming will make the problem ever worse. In the world’s rivers, “the blue arteries of the living planet,” there are 800,000 dams with two new large ones built every day. The numeric limit is thought to be 4,000 cubic kilometers of runoff water consumed per year; the current number is 2,600. 6. Ocean acidification from excess atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasingly lethal to ocean life such as coral reefs. The measure here is “aragonite saturation level.” Before the industrial revolution it was 3.44; the limit is 2.75; we’re already down to 2.90. 7. The ozone layer protects the Earth from ultraviolet radiation. One man (Thomas Midgley) invented the chlorofluorocarbon coolant that rapidly reduced stratospheric ozone, and one remarkable agreement (Montreal Protocol, 1987) cut back on CFCs and began restoring the ozone layer. (In Dobson units the limit is 276; before Midgley it was 290; we’re now back up to 283.)
Two boundaries are so far unquantifiable. 8. Chemical pollution. Rachel Carson was right. Human toxics are showing up everywhere and causing harm. Coal-fired power plants are one of the worst offenders in this category. (Lynas added that nuclear waste belongs in this category but “the supposedly unsolved problem of nuclear waste hasn’t so far harmed a single living thing.” 9. Atmospheric aerosols—-airborne dust and smoke. It kills hundreds of thousands of people annually, the soot causes ice to melt faster, and everyone wants to get rid of it. But one beneficial effect it has is cooling, so Lynas proposes “we could move this pollution from the troposphere where people have to breathe it up to the stratosphere where it can still cool the Earth and no one has to breathe it. That’s called geoengineering.”
Lynas proposed that the goal for the future should be to get the whole world out of poverty by 2050 while staying within the planetary boundaries. Among the solutions he proposed are: clean cookstoves for the poor (they cause 1.6 million deaths a year); better GM crops for nitrogen efficiency and concentrated land use; integral fast reactors which run on nuclear waste (a recent calculation shows the UK could get 500 years of clean energy from its present waste, and the resulting IFR waste is a problem for 300 years, not for thousands of years); international treaties, which are crucial for dealing with global problems; carbon capture (everything from clean coal to biochar); and ongoing “dematerialization,” doing ever more with ever less, including more intense farming on less land. “Peak consumption,” Lynas noted, has already arrived in much of the developed world.
Through scientific rigor and blazing advocacy, Brand offers a bold and creative set of policies and solutions for producing a more sustainable society. He is in discussion with Brian Eno, musician and composer, cultural critic and writer who has a long-standing interest and involvement in new thinking about politics and the future.
A series of new studies has revealed that jellyfish are far more than mindless blobs that can spoil your day at the beach. On today’s Please Explain, Steve Bailey, Curator of Fishes at the New England Aquarium, and Marine Biologist and Chief Aquarist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Michael Howard discuss why jellyfish are much more complex and interesting than scientists once thought.
Conspicuous conservation is the theme of our latest podcast, called “Hey Baby, Is That a Prius You’re Driving?” It centers around a paper by Alison and Steve Sexton, a pair of Ph.D. economics candidates (who happen to be twins, and who happen to have economist parents), called “Conspicuous Conservation: The Prius Effect and Willingness to Pay for Environmental Bona Fides.”
Includes an appearance by Tim Harford.
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