The concept of planetary boundaries was introduced by Johan Rockström and colleagues in 2009 in the wake of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen where countries endeavored ‒ but ultimately failed ‒ to agree upon a new framework for climate-change mitigation. In contrast to earlier debates on environmental limits, “planetary boundaries” focus less on the exhaustion of natural resources than on the biophysical impacts of resource use and material consumption.
Even if global temperatures start to decrease, after peaking this century due to climate change, biodiversity risks are likely to persist for decades, a new study by London’s Global University (UCL) and University of Cape Town researchers finds. The potential impacts on biodiversity were modeled against pre-industrial levels if temperatures increased by more than 2°C (35.6°F), before beginning to fall again. Climate change and all of its anthropomorphic influences are already facing a biodiversity crisis, with mass dieoffs — such as hundreds of migratory birds falling out of the sky in the Southwest in 2020.
If you had ventured down a dirt road running through remote marshland along the Gulf Coast in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana, at just the right time back in late February, you might have come across a pit of gray muck. Down in that pit, you’d find a contractor welding a steel cap about the size of a dinner plate onto a stub of pipe jutting up from the mud below. That pipe was the last visible sign of an old oil and gas wastewater well that once dropped over a half-mile deep into the earth, now plugged up and sealed by contractors hired by the state. For decades, oil and gas companies disposed of millions of barrels of waste down that hole, ringed with cement and steel, dubbing the wastewater well Freshwater City SWD 01, according to state records. Experts told DeSmog the well was defective and that using it put underground supplies of drinking water in the area at risk.
Many citizens of the 26 RIMPAC countries do not agree with their country’s participation in the RIMPAC war games, calling them provocative and dangerous for the region. The Pacific Peace Network, with members from countries/islands across the Pacific including Guåhan, Jeju Island, South Korea, Okinawa, Japan, Philippines, Northern Mariana Islands, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Australia, Hawai’i and the United States, demand that RIMPAC be cancelled, calling the naval armada “dangerous, provocative and destructive.” The Network’s petition for cancellation of RIMPAC states that “RIMPAC dramatically contributes to the destruction of the ecology system and aggravation of the climate crisis in the Pacific region.
Amid the unprecedented global ecological crisis, Africa still supports one quarter of the world’s biodiversity and the largest assemblages of megafauna. Indigenous Africans of the rangelands, desert, and forests have always protected their fauna and flora. Land where they exercise traditional rights has proven to be central for global biodiversity conservation. But today they are facing the threat of a colossal land grab by Western conservation agencies, and their corporate and state allies, who advocate to double the coverage of protected areas around the world by setting aside 30 percent of terrestrial cover for conservation by 2030. Protected areas are the national parks, forests, game reserves, and other places from which states evict original inhabitants for biodiversity conservation.
In a new paper, Sir Nicholas Stern, Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz and Charlotte Taylor conclude that climate-energy-economy Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs), which are the key tool in producing emission-reduction scenarios, “have very limited value in answering the two critical questions” of the speed and nature of emissions reductions and “fail to provide much in the way of useful guidance, either for the intensity of action, or for the policies that deliver the desired outcomes”. The research paper is The economics of immense risk, urgent action and radical change: towards new approaches to the economics of climate change. Now this is a big thing, because IAMs are at the center of the IPCC Working Group III report on mitigation, and “have played a major role in IPCC reports on policy, which, in turn, have played a prominent role in public discussion.
The federal election saw voters’ growing concern about Australia’s laggardly response to climate change finally addressed, with teal independents garnering seats in Liberal heartland and record votes for Greens candidates. But what caused this seismic shift in Australia’s political landscape? And why now? We believe the rapid growth and diversification of Australia’s environmental movement since 2015 played an important role. For example, almost a million Australians volunteered for an environmental charity in 2019, whether by planting trees, organizing candidate forums or joining a climate strike. The environmental movement is also increasingly crossing into traditionally conservative areas, with the emergence of groups such as the Coalition for Conservation and Farmers for Climate Action, which has united 7,000 farmers and 1,200 agriculture industry supporters.
No one in the Pacific Northwest is exempt from the impacts of climate change. Rising global temperatures are intensifying floods, droughts and warming waters. Last summer’s heat dome led to temperatures in western Washington as high as 110 degrees. We didn’t just break records — we obliterated all-time records over an incredibly hot four-day period. The ocean, the rivers and the streams ran hotter than ever. Thousands of salmon died, and the people and animals that depend on them suffered. As salmon disappear, so do dozens of other species dependent on the nutrition they provide. It is as my mentor Billy Frank Jr. once said, “As the salmon disappear, so do our tribal cultures and treaty rights. We are at a crossroads, and we are running out of time.”
When scientists say climate change will bring flooding, most people think of big coastal cities: New Orleans, New York, Newport News. They picture TV coverage of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, crashing waves and blown-away beaches. But across the U.S., flooding is arguably the most universal climate menace, threatening more than low-lying coastal cities and sandy beaches. The danger comes from saturated Great Plains, overwhelmed Appalachian creeks, and washed-out wildfire-ravaged hillsides, and it defies all forms of struggling infrastructure. Nearly 15 million properties across the country are at substantial risk of flooding in the next 30 years. Flooding is also — in part due to the fact that it can happen anywhere — the most expensive natural disaster, racking up $100 billion in damages in 2021 alone.
On Monday, May 30, communities from South Africa’s Wild Coast gathered in front of a court in the city of Gqeberha. The day marked the beginning of a landmark 3-day legal challenge brought by these communities against gas and oil multinational Shell, Impact Africa, and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE). The case is the culmination of a long struggle to protect the Wild Coast against oil and gas exploration. In 2014, the DMRE granted Impact Africa an exploration right off the East Coast. Impact Africa then sought to develop an Environment Management Programme (EMPr) required under the Mineral and Petroleum Services Development Act (MPRDA). This was done just months before South Africa implemented the One Environment System, which streamlined mining regulations and environmental authorizations under the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA).
Drilling in the refuge has long been a controversial issue, as the 19.5-million-acre wilderness area is home to 45 species of mammals including polar bears, bowhead whales and caribou and considered sacred by the Indigenous Gwich’in people, according to the Gwich’in Steering Committee. “These exits clearly demonstrate that international companies recognize what we have known all along: drilling in the Arctic Refuge is not worth the economic risk and liability that results from development on sacred lands without the consent of Indigenous Peoples,” the Gwich’in Steering Committee said in a statement. The Anchorage Daily News first reported Thursday that the oil company Regenerate Alaska, a subsidiary of 88 Energy, had canceled its lease on the refuge’s coastal plain, as confirmed by the Bureau of Land Management.
“As a result of being on or near wastelands, prisons constantly expose those inside to serious environmental hazards, from tainted water to harmful air pollutants,” Leah Wang recently wrote for the Prison Policy Initiative. “These conditions manifest in health conditions and deaths that are unmistakably linked to those hazards.” In this edition of Rattling the Bars, Mansa Musa speaks with Paul Wright about the scope and scale of the drastic environmental hazards the prison-industrial complex poses to incarcerated people, prison staff, and surrounding communities. Paul Wright is the founder and executive director of the Human Rights Defense Center. He is also editor of Prison Legal News (PLN), the longest-running independent prisoner rights publication in US history.
A fossil fuel executive recently told Fortune, “Appalachia is the elephant in the room,” referring to the claim that demand for natural gas is rising, while supply in Appalachia and the United States is falling. Such corporate executives would like to see expansion of production in order to bail out their dying industry. And Fortune’s interviewee is right. Appalachia is the elephant in the room. We need to talk more about the role of Appalachia in the country’s energy system. But what he gets wrong is that the future does not entail further dependence on fossil fuels. The future that Appalachia can and will lead is in renewable energy. For over a century, this region has powered the country’s growth with our natural resources, including coal, gas, and oil.
In an effort to pressure President Joe Biden’s administration to enact stronger oil and gas regulations, national environmental advocacy groups have released a new map that shows where people’s health is threatened by extraction. Earthworks and FracTrack Alliance coordinated to create the map using publicly-available data and peer-reviewed science. The map is available online and people can type in their address to see how many production facilities are located within half a mile of their house. According to the map, more than 144,000 New Mexicans live within half a mile of an oil or gas production site. More than 28,000 students attend school or day care within half a mile of a site.
When the United Nations published its 2022 ‘Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction’ (GAR2022) in May, the world’s attention was on its grim verdict that the world was experiencing an accelerating trend of natural disasters and economic crises. But not a single media outlet picked up the biggest issue: the increasing probability of civilizational collapse. Buried in the report, which was endorsed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, is the finding that escalating synergies between disasters, economic vulnerabilities and ecosystem failures are escalating the risk of a “global collapse” scenario. This stark conclusion appears to be the first time that the UN has issued a flagship global report finding that existing global policies are accelerating toward the collapse of human civilization. Yet somehow this urgent warning has remained unreported until now.