The end is nigh for Planet Earth?

Pat Baskett considers what it feels like for young people to face turning their lives around to save the planet from environmental collapse

If I were 14 instead of 74 I would be pretty depressed after last week. Another 220sq km of good food-producing land in Taranaki is to be potentially wrecked so that we can continue to drive, fly and live the way we always have.

My 14-year-old’s eyes would have been caught by the title of the conference, the Just Transition Summit, at which these new permits for oil and gas exploration were announced. She understands that we need to go through a transition period but her impatience for this to start is obvious. New permits – on land as opposed to the ban on new ocean permits – seem like a step backwards.

She also understands the positioning of the word “just” because she understands that climate change is linked to the rise of inequality and economic injustice.

Ten years, the most likely time we have to turn our lives around, seems a mere blink to me. For teens, it stretches ahead like an open road leading they know not quite where.

 

Diet debate – for personal and planet health

Much less meat, much less dairy – I’m hearing this a bit now. It is supposed to be better for personal health as well as being better for the planet, but it also has serious implications for a country reliant a lot on it’s meat and dairy production.

There has long been debate about diets for personal health, ranging from money-making fads to common sense. There is now growing debate about changing personal diets for the good of the planet.

Newstalk ZB:  New diet hailed as ‘life-saving’ but comes with a catch

That’s a stupid headline.  There have been so many diet variations promoted over the years ‘new diet’ needs to be taken with a grain of wheat. Or rice, as long as it is not processed.

‘Life-saving’ is a meaningless claim – any diet could enhance your chances iof continuing to live, or not. Supposedly life enhancing and life saving diets have been dished up and debunked for decades.

A new diet is being hailed as “life-saving” by experts, but there’s a catch…you can only eat red meat once a week.

There’s another catch – ‘experts’ have a wide variety of opinions on diets.

That’s as much red meat people should eat to do what’s best for their health and the planet, according to a report seeking to overhaul the world’s diet.

The report from a panel of nutrition, agriculture and environmental experts recommends a plant-based diet, based on previously published studies that have linked red meat to increased risk of health problems. It also comes amid recent studies of how eating habits affect the environment. Producing red meat takes up land and feed to raise cattle, which also emit the greenhouse gas methane.

Associate professor at Massey Universty, Carol Wham, told Tim Dower this will be a real reality check for people.

“What it is doing is saying globally this is what we might need to reach by the year 2050.”

“For us in New Zealand, it’s about moderating our meat, it’s about primarily reducing excessive consumption and what it says instead, is that we need to double our consumption of fruit, vegetables [and] things like legumes and nuts which we really eat insufficient amounts of.”

“Our dietary fibre intakes are woefully low so eating a more plant-based diet has huge benefits for us.”

She said it’s all about “moderation over time” and getting creative with how you cook.

Moderation is generally good advice with diets – whatever diet you follow. But you don’t need to be creative – often simple food is as good as anything.

Wham said while New Zealand isn’t the focus of the study, it’s still important we do our bit.

“This is just looking globally at what it has to look like if we are going to have a sustainable system in the future and health of people and the planet.”

“We can’t keep going the way we are, we have got such an epidemic of obesity. In the US for example, they produced twice the amount of food than they need to eat.”

But there are a lot of variabilities with diets with personal preferences, seasonal and in different parts of the world. And diet advice is an evolving thing.

John Ioannidis, chair of disease prevention at Stanford University, said he welcomed the growing attention to how diets affect the environment, but that the report’s recommendations do not reflect the level of scientific uncertainties around nutrition and health.

“The evidence is not as strong as it seems to be,” Ioannidis said.

There is a lot of variable and conflicting evidence. Diet is a very complex thing.

The report was organized by EAT, a Stockholm-based nonprofit seeking to improve the food system, and published Wednesday by the medical journal Lancet. The panel of experts who wrote it says a “Great Food Transformation” is urgently needed by 2050, and that the optimal diet they outline is flexible enough to accommodate food cultures around the world.

Overall, the diet encourages whole grains, beans, fruits and most vegetables, and says to limit added sugars, refined grains such as white rice and starches like potatoes and cassava. It says red meat consumption on average needs to be slashed by half globally, though the necessary changes vary by region and reductions would need to be more dramatic in richer countries like the United States.

And New Zealand.

Convincing people to limit meat, cheese and eggs won’t be easy, however, particularly in places where those foods are a notable part of culture.

Also because diet advice keeps changing. Who to believe?

My diet has changed considerably over the past couple of decades, bot what I eat and the quantity I eat. I already eat considerably less meat than I used to. Will I eat even less? I don’t see a pressing need.

Diets are for other people. Eating a variety of things in moderation just seems like common sense, without getting too swayed by the latest diets and campaigns.

 

The biggest danger facing our planet

Some people are very concerned about the future of our planet due to the predicted effects of climate change. Given the strength of scientific concern I think this is to an extent justified, although I think the degree of threat is still debatable, as is what should be done to minimise adverse effects. We need to balance against this probably positive effects, in some parts of the world at least.

I have concerns about climate change, but I’m not convinced it will be catastrophic unless we make huge and urgent changes to how we live as some seem to think.

I think there are greater threats to the planet, and also to human civilisation.

There appears to be a slight chance of a collision with an asteroid or some other piece of debris speeding around or into our solar system, However i think the odds of

A nuclear holocaust is one threat that hasn’t gone away. All it may take is one leader making a stupid decision that escalates. Or one mistake. Oddly most people don’t seem to care about this much any more, while countries like Russia and the US are looking at increasing their destructive power.

But I think there is a bigger threat to our planet. The odds are it won’t happen in our lifetimes, or this century. But it is certain to happen sometime, and with the current levels of human population it could easily be catastrophic.

It has happened before numerous times, including about 1500 years ago – they actually had a double whammy then.

CNN: The worst year to be a human has been revealed by researchers

A team of historians and scientists has identified A.D. 536 as the beginning of a terrible sequence of events for humankind.

A massive volcanic eruption spewed a huge cloud of ash that shrouded the Northern Hemisphere in darkness and caused a drop in temperatures that led to crop failure and starvation, said co-lead study author Professor Christopher Loveluck of the University of Nottingham in the UK.

Then the misery was compounded in A.D. 542 as cold and hungry populations in the eastern Roman Empire were struck by the bubonic plague.

Now, in collaboration with glaciologist Paul Mayewski at the Climate Change Institute of the University of Maine in Orono, Loveluck’s team has identified the source of the cloud.

By analyzing ice samples from the Colle Gnifetti Glacier in the Swiss Alps, the researchers were able to identify atmospheric pollutants deposited over the past 2,000 years, according to the study, published last week in the journal Antiquity.

Substances found in the ice provide evidence that the eruption took place in Iceland.

The eruption and the 542 plague outbreak caused economic stagnation in Europe, which lasted more than 30 years until 575, when there were early signs of recovery, Loveluck said.

There is certain to be another massive volcanic eruption at some time in the future. It could happen in Iceland again. or the Mediterranean. Or Alaska. Or the US or South America. Or Indonesia.

Or New Zealand.

Lake Taupo is in a caldera created by a supervolcanic eruption which occurred approximately 26,500 years ago. According to geological records, the volcano has erupted 28 times in the last 27,000 years.

…several later eruptions occurred over the millennia before the most recent major eruption, which is traditionally dated as about 180 CE from Greenland ice-core records. Tree ring data from two studies suggests a later date of 232 CE ± 5. Known as the Hatepe eruption, it is believed to have ejected 100 cubic kilometres of material, of which 30 cubic kilometres was ejected in a few minutes.

This was one of the most violent eruptions in the last 5000 years (alongside the Minoan eruption in the 2nd millennium BCE, the Tianchi eruption of Baekdu around 1000 CE and the 1815 eruption of Tambora), with a Volcanic Explosivity Index rating of 7; and there appears to be a correlation, to within a few years, of a year in which the sky was red over Rome and China.

The eruption devastated much of the North Island and further expanded the lake. The area was uninhabited by humans at the time of the eruption, since New Zealand was not settled by the Māori until about 1280. Possible climatic effects of the eruption would have been concentrated on the southern hemisphere due to the southerly position of Lake Taupo.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Taupo

An only southern hemisphere effect would have a major impact on the whole planet – but as “the sky was red over Rome and China” suggests it may not be limited to that.

There is nothing we can do to prevent a major eruption. Can we do anything to prepare, or to mitigate the effects? It could have an immediate and potentially catastrophic effect via sudden natural climate change.

Or should we just carry on arguing about what we are doing to affect climate change?

Scientists’ warning to humanity over health of planet

More than 16,000 scientists from 184 countries have published a second warning to humanity advising

In 1992, 1,700 independent scientists signed the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity.” The letter warned that “human beings and the natural world are on a collision course” and if environmental damage was not stopped, our future was at risk.

25 years on many scientists (and some politicians and others) believe that the world still faces major environmental challenges. So environmental scientist William Ripple and his colleagues created a new letter. Since it was published in the journal BioScience on Monday, hundreds more scientists have signed on.

The letter:


Twenty-five years ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists and more than 1700 independent scientists, including the majority of living Nobel laureates in the sciences, penned the 1992 “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity”. These concerned professionals called on humankind to curtail environmental destruction and cautioned that “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.”

In their manifesto, they showed that humans were on a collision course with the natural world. They expressed concern about current, impending, or potential damage on planet Earth involving ozone depletion, freshwater availability, marine life depletion, ocean dead zones, forest loss, biodiversity destruction, climate change, and continued human population growth.

They proclaimed that fundamental changes were urgently needed to avoid the consequences our present course would bring.

The authors of the 1992 declaration feared that humanity was pushing Earth’s ecosystems beyond their capacities to support the web of life. They described how we are fast approaching many of the limits of what the biosphere can tolerate without substantial and irreversible harm.

The scientists pleaded that we stabilize the human population, describing how our large numbers—swelled by another 2 billion people since 1992, a 35 percent increase—exert stresses on Earth that can overwhelm other efforts to realize a sustainable future.

They implored that we cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and phase out fossil fuels, reduce deforestation, and reverse the trend of collapsing biodiversity.

On the twenty-fifth anniversary of their call, we look back at their warning and evaluate the human response by exploring available time-series data. Since 1992, with the exception of stabilizing the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse.

Especially troubling is the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising GHGs from burning fossil fuels (Hansen et al. 2013), deforestation (Keenan et al. 2015), and agricultural production— particularly from farming ruminants for meat consumption (Ripple et al. 2014).

Moreover, we have unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century.

Humanity is now being given a second notice, as illustrated by these alarming trends.

Trends over time for environmental issues identified in the 1992 scientists’ warning to humanity. The years before and after the 1992 scientists’ warning are shown as gray and black lines, respectively.

Panel (a) shows emissions of halogen source gases, which deplete stratospheric ozone, assuming a constant natural emission rate of 0.11 Mt CFC-11-equivalent per year.

In panel (c), marine catch has been going down since the mid-1990s, but at the same time, fishing effort has been going up (supplemental file S1).

The vertebrate abundance index in panel (f) has been adjusted for taxonomic and geographic bias but incorporates relatively little data from developing countries, where there are the fewest studies; between 1970 and 2012, vertebrates declined by 58 percent, with freshwater, marine, and terrestrial populations declining by 81, 36, and 35 percent, respectively (file S1).

Five-year means are shown in panel (h).

In panel (i), ruminant livestock consist of domestic cattle, sheep, goats, and buffaloes.

Note that y-axes do not start at zero, and it is important to inspect the data range when interpreting each graph. Percentage change, since 1992, for the variables in each panel are as follows:
(a) –68.1%; (b) –26.1%; (c) –6.4%; (d) +75.3%; (e) –2.8%; (f) –28.9%; (g) +62.1%; (h) +167.6%; and (i) humans:
+35.5%, ruminant livestock: +20.5%.

We are jeopardizing our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats (Crist et al. 2017).

By failing to adequately limit population growth, reassess the role of an economy rooted in growth, reduce greenhouse gases, incentivize renewable energy, protect habitat, restore ecosystems, curb pollution, halt defaunation, and constrain invasive alien species, humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperilled biosphere.

As most political leaders respond to pressure, scientists, media influencers, and lay citizens must insist that their governments take immediate action as a moral imperative to current and future generations of human and other life. With a groundswell of organized grassroots efforts, dogged opposition can be overcome and political leaders compelled to do the right thing. It is also time to re-examine and change our individual behaviors, including limiting our own reproduction (ideally to replacement level at most) and drastically diminishing our per capita consumption of fossil fuels, meat, and
other resources.

The rapid global decline in ozone depleting substances shows that we can make positive change when we act decisively. We have also made advancements in reducing extreme poverty and hunger (www.worldbank.org). Other notable progress (which does not yet show up in the global data sets in figure 1) include the rapid decline in fertility rates in many regions attributable to investments in girls’ and women’s education (www.un.org/esa/population), the promising decline in the rate of deforestation in some regions, and the rapid growth in the renewable-energy sector.

We have learned much since 1992, but the advancement of urgently needed changes in environmental policy, human behavior, and global inequities is still far from sufficient. Sustainability transitions come about in diverse ways, and all require civil-society pressure and evidence based advocacy, political leadership, and a solid understanding of policy instruments, markets, and other drivers.

Examples of diverse and effective steps humanity can take to transition to sustainability include the following (not in order of importance or
urgency):

(a) prioritizing the enactment of connected well-funded and well-managed reserves for a significant proportion of the world’s terrestrial, marine, freshwater, and aerial habitats;

(b) maintaining nature’s ecosystemservices by halting the conversion of forests, grasslands, and other native habitats;

(c) restoring native plant communities at large scales, particularly forest landscapes;

(d) rewilding regions with native species, especially apex predators, to restore ecological processes and dynamics;

(e) developing and adopting adequate policy instruments to remedy defaunation, the poaching crisis, and the exploitation and trade of threatened species;

(f) reducing food waste through education and better infrastructure;

(g) promoting dietary shifts towards mostly plant-based foods;

(h) further reducing fertility rates by ensuring that women and men have access to education and voluntary family-planning services, especially where such resources are still lacking;

(i) increasing outdoor nature education for children, as well as the overall engagement of society in the appreciation
of nature;

(j) divesting of monetary investments and purchases to encourage positive environmental change;

(k) devising and promoting new green technologies and massively adopting renewable energy sources while phasing
out subsidies to energy production through fossil fuels;

(l) revising our economy to reduce wealth inequality and ensure that prices, taxation, and incentive systems take into account the real costs which consumption patterns impose on our environment; and

(m) estimating a scientifically defensible, sustainable human population size for the long term while rallying nations and leaders to support that vital goal.

To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual. This prescription was well articulated by the world’s leading scientists 25 years ago, but in most respects, we have not heeded their warning.

Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. We must recognize, in our dayto-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.

Full letter with supplemental files:

http://scientists.forestry.oregonstate.edu/sites/sw/files/Warning_article_with_supp_11-13-17.pdf

End of world this October

We don’t have time ot worry about climate change, Donald Trump or Muslim terrorists, according to a David Meade the world will end this October – the world being Earth, smashed by Planet Nibiru. Apparently as indicated in the Bible.

NZ Herald: Conspiracy theorist claims mysterious planet Nibiru will smash into Earth and the world will end in October 2017

David Meade, author of the book Planet X – The 2017 Arrival, believes a star, which he calls ‘”a binary twin of our sun”, is coming “at us towards the south pole”, Daily Mail reports.

He says the star will bring with it “seven orbiting bodies”, including Nibiru, a large, blue planet that he also refers to as Planet X hurtling towards our planet.

David Meade believes the planet is set to hit into our planet in October this year, after being driven here by the gravitational pull from a ‘binary star’ twinned with the sun – of which there is no evidence.

He says the star is difficult to spot because of the angle it is approaching Earth.

“This system is, of course, not aligned with our solar system’s ecliptic, but is coming to us from an oblique angle and toward our South Pole.

“This makes observations difficult, unless you’re flying at a high altitude over South America with an excellent camera.”

Tuis can fly at oblique angles too, but perhaps not high enough to spot planets and suns coming our way.

In his book, he claims to put forward scientific evidence, but readers commenting on the book say the argument quickly develops into a religious argument.

One reviewer says: “on his website he focus on facts and science, astronomical ‘evidence’ to lure some readers into his material, but after a dozen pages it starts to get all religious for almost 40 pages, more than a 1/3 of the book, mentioning visions and dreams.”

He continues, the “author mentions several times how certain things are ‘facts’ just because “God said so on the Bible”, and then goes on and on over the rapture.”

Another truth teller?

Nibiru was widely predicted to hit our planet in December 2015, and before that in September.

It was also predicted to smash into our planet to coincide with the Mayan apocalypse that did not occur in 2012.

Even before that it was predicted Nibiru would destroy the world in 2003.

Maybe it was even harder to spot in 2003, 2012 and 2015.

endofworld

“Nibiru and other stories about wayward planets are an internet hoax,” Nasa has said.

‘Obviously, it does not exist.”

Who can trust what NASA says, what with climate change and moon landings and stuff like that?

Earth-like planet, sort of

There is news today of the discovery of an earth-like planet orbiting the star closest to us, Proxima Centauri. It has been labelled ‘Proxima b’.

But there are a lot of unknowns and possibilities.

One News/Breakfast is reporting “and it may have water on it”. However there is no evidence of water. The planet is just in a zone where temperatures may allow water to be present.

The discovery is very interesting, but there are many differences between this star and planet compared to the Sun and Earth.

From BBC: Earth-sized world ‘around nearest star’

The nearest habitable world beyond our Solar System might be right on our doorstep – astronomically speaking.

Scientists say their investigations of the closest star, Proxima Centauri, show it to have an Earth-sized planet orbiting about it.

What is more, this rocky globe is moving in a zone that would make liquid water on its surface a possibility.

Proxima is 40 trillion km away and would take a spacecraft using current technology thousands of years to reach.

Just how “habitable” this particular planet really is, one has to say is pure speculation for the time being.

There are a lot of differences.

Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf star which is much smaller and cooler than our Sun – it is closer in size to Jupiter.

90889553_proxima_b_star

The discovered planet is similar in size to Earth but data suggests it is much closer to it’s sun with a much shorter orbit time:

  • mass is about 1.3 times that of the Earth
  • orbits at a distance of about 7.5 million km from it’s star – Earth orbits at about 149.6 km from our Sun.
  • one revolution takes about 11.2 days (a very short ‘year’).
  • Proxima Centauri is 1,000 times fainter than our Sun.
  • the energy reaching Proxima b is about 70% what the earth Receives

Obviously water and life could potentially exist in a wide range of astronomical situations. Other planets and suns don’t have to be just the same as our ones.

So this is a very interesting discovery, and leaves open many possibilities, but there is no proof of water or life.

I don’t know how much more we will find out about Proxima. It is about 40 trillion kilometres away and with our current technology it would take thousands of years to get a spacecraft there, if it could survive that long.

Proxima Centauri is about 4.243 light years away from us. We have a photo of it from Hubble…

New shot of Proxima Centauri, our nearest neighbour

…but even that is looking back at history.