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IPCC Special Report: “The Next Few Years Are Probably The Most Important In Our History.”


Special To Topanga Journal

In 2015, the Paris Agreement set a target of no more than 2°C global warming above pre-industrial temperature levels. A secondary target of no more than 1.5°C global warming was also set as an aspirational goal. Human-induced warming reached approximately 1°C above pre-industrial levels in 2017, increasing at 0.2°C per decade, according to The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report released October 8, 2018. This means we’re half way to the catastrophic number of 2°C warming we as a human race have been warned about. The most significant part of the report is we’ve already as a global community reached a dangerous point with just the 1°C warming. We’re already seeing the effects on our global climate from a single degree of global warming pre-industrial levels. 

Kriss Perras headshot by Alan Weissman

By Kriss Perras

“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I, in the IPCC statement on the Special Report.

“You have an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, and you pout behind your privileged existence by using a $39 jacket to voice your displeasure. What a coward…” Lance Simmens

The authors of the landmark report said, warming greater than the global average has already been experienced in many regions and seasons, with average warming over land higher than over the ocean. Most land regions are experiencing greater warming than the global average, while most ocean regions are warming at a slower rate, say the writers of the IPCC Special Report. Depending on the temperature dataset considered by the Report’s authors, 20-40 percent of the global human population live in regions that, by the decade 2006-2015, had already experienced warming of more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial in at least one season. 

“Temperature rise to date has already resulted in profound alterations to human and natural systems, bringing increases in some types of extreme weather, droughts, floods, sea level rise and biodiversity loss, and causing unprecedented risks to vulnerable persons and populations,” warns the writers of the IPCC report. “The most affected people live in low and middle income countries, some of which have already experienced a decline in food security, linked in turn to rising migration and poverty. Small islands, megacities, coastal regions and high mountain ranges are likewise among the most affected. Worldwide, numerous ecosystems are at risk of severe impacts, particularly warm-water tropical reefs and Arctic ecosystems.”

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Global Climate Change Vital Signs of the Planet, encapsulated in tree rings, ice cores and coral reefs are the global average temperatures over long periods of time. Those tree rings, ice cores and reefs show our temperatures have been very stable over our planet’s life, reports NASA. 

“They also show even the smallest change in temperature showed enormous changes in the environment,” reports NASA. “One such change was at the end of the last Ice Age when the Northeast United States was covered in more than 3,000 feet of ice, average temperatures were only five to nine degrees cooler than today.”

The second dire warning in the report is we have just 12 years left to keep 1.5°C warming from happening and avoiding environmental breakdown. Like dominoes, some things fall in an environmentally interdependent relationship, as in the jellyfish example. When the jellyfish’s predator disappeared due to warming oceans caused by climate change, jellyfish blooms started in those certain areas of the world. Science in the Special Report shows global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing the CO2 from the air, the Special Report warns. 

“Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics, but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, in the widely released statement from the IPCC on the Special Report.

The kind of changes the report speaks to are sci-fi in nature right now. Some the human community is already working on. Others are blueprint concepts that if these new technologies were brought out of the prototype stage and into working reality they’d be able to put unemployed people to work. Most Star Trek fans remember when the communicators looked like flip phones. They were just a prop and thought to be far-fetched futuristic ideas. Today we have flat touch screen phones far beyond the idea of a flip phone, technology arriving just a few years after the flip phone. It’s not such a huge step to bring some of these CO2 reducing concepts out of the blueprint stage and put them into practice. 

“The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Co-Chair of Working Group I, in the widely released statement from the IPCC on the Special Report.

Scrubbing carbon out of the atmosphere is one solution among many possible solutions. It works on the principal of a sink, as in carbon sinks and pumps. It absorbs CO2 from the  atmosphere in a process called carbon capture, which is a method capable of removing more than 90 percent of CO2 from the atmosphere around power plants and industrial facilities like cement factories, according to the Center For Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). 

“The report makes clear we need to use all the tools at hand,” said Bob Perciasepe President of C2ES. “Even as we continue pushing as hard as we can on renewables and efficiency, we’ll need to rely heavily on other available and developing technologies, including nuclear and carbon capture, to achieve carbon neutrality. It’s not a competition – we need them all. Only through rapid innovation and deployment can we replicate in transportation and industry the encouraging progress achieved in the power sector.”

According to C2ES, there are almost two dozens commercial scale carbon capture projects operating in the world with 22 more in development. 

Pathways to keep warming below 1.5°C require net annual CO2 emissions to peak and decline to near zero or below, several sections of the IPCC Special Report state. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero would mean keeping cumulative CO2 emissions stable or making concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere fall. Merely stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations would result in continued warming beyond the stated limit. A dire warning in the report states, if starting emission reductions is delayed until temperatures are close to the proposed lower 1.5°C warming limit, pathways to keep warming below 1.5°C necessarily involve much faster rates of net CO2 emission reductions combined with rapid reductions in non-CO2 forcing, which also means the planet reaches the 1.5°C limit much sooner. 

According to the IPCC Special Report authors, “There is no definitive way to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This Special Report identifies two main conceptual pathways to illustrate different interpretations. One stabilizes global temperature at, or just below, 1.5°C. Another sees global temperature temporarily exceed 1.5°C before coming back down. Countries’ pledges to reduce their emissions are currently not in line with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.” 

The Special Report pointed out past emissions stating they alone are unlikely to raise global-mean temperature to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, but past emissions do commit to other changes, such as further sea level rise.

The Special Report’s authors warn, “If all anthropogenic emissions, including aerosol-related, were reduced to zero immediately, any further warming beyond the 1°C already experienced would likely be less than 0.5°C over the next two to three decades, and likely less than 0.5°C on a century timescale, due to the opposing effects of different climate processes and drivers. A warming greater than 1.5°C is therefore not geophysically unavoidable: whether it will occur depends on future rates of emission reductions.” 

The authors of the report tell the world “climate adaptation” refers to the actions taken to manage impacts of climate change by reducing vulnerability and exposure to its harmful effects and exploiting any potential benefits. 

A survey released in September by the United States Conference of Mayors and C2ES in San Francisco points to mayors as a key force behind U.S. action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions responsible for the growing effects of climate change, said Alec Gerlach, C2ES Media contact, in a statement. The survey found 57 percent of cities responding are planning for new climate actions in the coming year. 

“The effects on their cities, public health concerns, and cost savings are making low-carbon transitions an increasingly attractive option for cities – a bright spot for climate leadership despite the U.S. announcement of its intended withdrawal from the Paris Agreement,” said Gerlach.

The Special Report defines adaptation as taking place at international, national and local levels. 

“Subnational jurisdictions and entities, including urban and rural municipalities, are key to developing and reinforcing measures for reducing weather- and climate-related risks. Adaptation implementation faces several barriers including unavailability of up-to-date and locally-relevant information, lack of finance and technology, social values and attitudes, and institutional constraints. Adaptation is more likely to contribute to sustainable development when polices align with mitigation and poverty eradication goals,” according to the Report’s authors.

“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II, in the IPCC’s statement on the Special Report.

ON THE WEB:

UN SR15 Report Take Action Page


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IPCC Report: “We’re Almost Out of Time” by RL Miller


Special To Topanga Journal

“We’re almost out of time.” A few weeks ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report warning people about climate change. Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) would require “rapid, dramatic changes in how governments, industries and societies function.” 

By RL Miller

Doesn’t global warming mostly affect the polar bears? Well, no. Global warming affects people. Sea level rise is the most clear cut consequence of climate change, but many more impacts — some of which are better understood than others — will begin to make themselves felt. To bring this home, scientists have “high confidence” that 1.5°C of warming would result in a greater number of severe heat waves on land. In addition, climate change is making California’s droughts worse. Southern California’s wildfire season used to be limited to the Santa Ana wind season of October until the first rains of November; now wildfire season seems to start October 1 and end September 30. Climate activists talk about people on the frontlines of impact — those who are affected most. While you might think that “frontline communities” refers only to the people in coastal communities such as Florida and the Arctic — and, yes, Malibu — the term also refers to everyone in California living in or near a wildfire corridor. That’s Topanga, among many other places.

“The costs of doing nothing are incalculable. The tiny city of Imperial Beach in San Diego County, populated mostly by Latino renters, is weighing the estimated cost of $150 million to retreat from the ocean against its $19 million annual budget. Beach cities, such as Malibu, will need to determine what, if any, City services should be provided to protect private property — or leave the property to be abandoned to the rising seas.” RL Miller

And whether or not the hills burn this year or the next year, the actuaries who write insurance policies are calculating the increased risk of wildfires. Premiums will go up, policies will be non-renewed or dropped, and homeowners will have to resort to the FAIR plan. It’s already happening in Northern California neighborhoods damaged by the October 2017 fires.

The costs of doing nothing are incalculable. The tiny city of Imperial Beach in San Diego County, populated mostly by Latino renters, is weighing the estimated cost of $150 million to retreat from the ocean against its $19 million annual budget. Beach cities, such as Malibu, will need to determine what, if any, City services should be provided to protect private property — or leave the property to be abandoned to the rising seas.

In short: yes, global warming does affect people. Every week or two it seems there’s a new report on a different aspect of life climate change will mess up. Barley shortages mean less beer and higher beer prices. Fewer insects limit agriculture. Shorter winters mean tick-infested deer and trees killed by bark beetles.

What can one person do? Global warming is such a, well, global problem. Al Gore’s 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth suggested personal choices to reduce one’s carbon footprint. Plant a tree. Go vegan, or at least eat less meat. Fly less. Change a lightbulb, change the world. Yet carbon emissions continue to rise.

Science-oriented people look at the climate problem and imagine scientific solutions that generally fall into two categories: storing carbon and altering the planet’s chemistry. The technology for the first, commonly known as CCS (carbon capture and storage) is in its infancy; it’s expensive. The second involves the stuff of science fiction: giant mirrors in space reflecting the sun’s rays away from the atmosphere, equally giant hoses sucking the carbon and vacuuming it into space, vast deposits of iron filings into the ocean to changing the chemical composition of seawater.

Although climate change begins as a scientific problem, it becomes obvious to most people the solution is mired in politics. Solar and wind energy poll like Mom and Apple Pie, but their progress is being blocked for political reasons. Specifically, the Republican Party in the United States generally denies the scientific reality, while politicians of all stripes are not sufficiently visionary to make the drastic changes demanded by the science. One solution to climate change is to get political: vote deniers out. I’ve founded Climate Hawks Vote, an organization building grassroots political power for the climate movement, that aims to do just that.

This global problem requires more than voting every two years, and it requires a sudden drastic change. So it needs everyone to speak out with the talent they have. Artists: make art about climate change. Musicians: write and sing songs that will move the feet and the heart. Architects and contractors: design and build more dense housing closer to public transit. Actuaries: calculate the risks of an ever warming world. Run for office. Tell people who are running for office to do more — and ask them to sign the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, declining campaign contribution money from the fossil fuel industry. To change everything, we need everyone.

Most of all, the climate problem requires hope to solve it. Although it’s easy to ridicule the mindset of Denial on the Right, those on the Left are just as prone to despair. There’s plenty of reason to find despair in the IPCC report, but also reasons to hope.

Here are the top three things to do to fight global warming locally:

  1. Drive an electric vehicle or otherwise reduce the carbon footprint of your commute to zero. 
  2. Get politically involved with an organization such as Climate Hawks Vote; vote on November 6, but stay involved after the election.
  3. Every morning, find a reason to hope.

ON THE WEB:

http://climatehawksvote.com


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Sisyphus in the City: A Review of The Advocates


Special To Topanga Journal

Years ago, we went to L.A.’s Skid Row to attend a rooftop screening of an old film that’d recently been discovered. It was being shown by some local historical society, the big point being that a few seconds showed the same area of L.A. we were sitting in, but nearly 100 years ago. We rode our bikes to get there, and, running late, we focused entirely on pedaling as quick as we could on the way in. By doing so, we avoided noticing the expanse of tents and refuse, the people lingering wherever they could. 

Rick Paulas

By Rick Paulas

But a friend took the bus to meet us, and by the time the film was over, that line had stopped running. This was before Lyft or Uber. And so, in the middle of some late Saturday night, we walked through Skid Row.

Nothing overtly memorable happened, but it’s a kind of journey you never forget. It was only a few blocks from the rest of downtown L.A.—the whole trip couldn’t have taken more than 15 minutes—but it felt like we had been transported to an entirely different country, time, or maybe universe. There were unique smells, garbage fire flickers, and chaotic arguments wafting into night. Residents were holding court inside or outside their tents, passing drugs or booze or food, or whatever else.

the whole trip couldn’t have taken more than 15 minutes—but it felt like we had been transported to an entirely different country, time, or maybe universe.” Rick Paulas

Despite the expensive high heels and tailored suits in the swanky bottle service nightclubs nearby, here was an entire community that had been abandoned. This was the last place these people had to go, and when they got there, they were forgotten. I never looked at the city the same way. 

Homelessness is one of the most pervasive signs of a system that’s fraying at the edges, and since our late-night walk through Skid Row years ago, it’s only gotten worse in America. As one commenter in Rémi Kessler’s new film The Advocates points out, while encampments used to be relegated to the various city Skid Rows throughout the country, they’ve now sprawled well beyond that. Tents are pitched along highways, nestled under overpasses. They populate city parks, while others place cardboard boxes in storefront alcoves. You’d be astounded at the number of folks who spend their nights in their cars. 

While development quickens and high-rises continue to be built, what’s missing in our current urban mindset is building housing for people who need it. There’s already plenty for people who don’t, but have the money to invest; this is how you end up with so many empty, as one commenter put it, “safety deposit boxes in the sky.” But what’s also missing to get there—and this is at the core of Kessler’s film—is the idea that secondary solutions to homelessness (drug rehabilitation, treatment for mental health issues, a good paying job) are not as important as literally making houses.

During my work as a journalist in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, I’ve interviewed countless of homeless folks for a variety of reasons, and whenever I ask them what they need to get off the streets, the one thing they mention is: An indoor place to go. While there are people on the streets with mental health issues, for many, problems like drug abuse or violent mood swings are not the reasons for why they’re on the street, but problems that occurred after they got there. 

Consider: What would it be like to sleep on a city street, with traffic blaring by, unprotected from the elements, unsafe from passersby? Would you feel a little bit groggy every day? Maybe not in peak shape to attend a job interview? Or—and here is the dark secret of homelessness in America—maybe not rested enough to keep the job you have? And then, if someone has a drug that’s take the edge off for a few moments, would you refuse it? 

Kessler’s film begins with the tale of Yolanda and Ruben, a brother-and-sister pair who once had indoor lives. They live in a few cars that double as places to store their possessions, but the cars don’t run, and due to parking restrictions, every week they have to push them across the street to avoid a ticket. Imagine the toll that takes on a life, and how those parking tickets could add up if, one day, you’re not well enough to heft the heavy automobile across the street. Try being in a kind mood, or mentally focused enough to lift yourself up by your own bootstraps, with that lifestyle.

As an expert says toward the end of the film, the solution to homelessness is very straightforward: Give people homes. After seeing The Advocates, you’ll see why.

ON THE WEB:

http://cinemalibrestudio.com/the-advocates/#video


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