Jeff Bridges: Rediscovering Fire with The Dude

In their thoughtful climate change documentary, Jeff Bridges and director Susan Kucera ask a question that concerns us all: If our evolutionary traits are killing us, how do we change?

In the opening scene of Living in the Future’s PastJeff Bridges stands on a grassy California ridgetop. As the ocean breeze blows his big mane of salt-and-pepper hair, he seems to be contemplating the best of the natural world—but then he asks, “Have we reached the limits of our human nature? Is this the end of the line for us?”

He is right to wonder. His home in the coastal town of Montecito sits somewhere below that same ridge, a beautiful house in a beautiful place—but climate change is coming for everyone. It’s not in the documentary, but just a few weeks after this footage was shot, the Thomas Fire burned over that spot in what was then the largest wildfire in California history. And when the rains came shortly thereafter in January of 2018, Bridges and his wife Susan Geston were in their home when mudflows swept boulders the size of refrigerators right through the house. In a desperate rescue, they had to be plucked from the front yard by ropes suspended from a helicopter. The house was destroyed.

All over the world, climate disasters are forcing us to talk about sustainability. But this movie proposes a more essential question: What, exactly, are we trying to sustain? Is there something in our evolutionary selves that needs to change?

We’re all a little bit like The Dude, Bridges’ iconic character from the Coen brothers’ 1998 film The Big Lebowski: we abide. As a strategy for living, we accept the rapid pace of change because we recognize we can’t affect it much. When the bad guy is putting The Dude’s head in the toilet and screaming “Where’s the money?!,” Bridges’ character gasps, “It’s down there somewhere, let me take another look.” The Dude is radicalized by this basically Buddhist approach to living; his sense of slobby stasis is a heroic pose. He’s resilient. He thinks of himself in the gallant third person: “The Dude abides.”

So when we imagine a “sustainable” future, in our Dudeness, it’s likely that even the activists among us are dooming the world to staying mostly like it is right now. And that makes perfect sense: faced with climate catastrophe that promises extreme heat, sea rise, farm-killing drought, vicious storms, species loss, and mass migrations of hundreds of millions of people and the wars and reactionary policies that mess could inspire, today looks like paradise. But you only have to glance at today’s news to know that right now, we are already in crisis.

“I didn’t want to make another film pointing fingers at the bad guys and scaring people with the dire straits—I thought there was enough of that out there already.”

The reason that Bridges and director Susan Kucera made Living in the Future’s Past is that today is already broken, and we’re not looking at the real reasons why. Their movie argues that climate change is happening not just because some of us live wrongly, or because of greedy oil companies, but because of who we are as Homo sapiens: hungry, technological, energy-devouring, and largely indistinguishable from one another in our needs. Changing that means changing the entire species. We’re all getting roughed up while we try not to spill our White Russians, protesting, “Careful, man, there’s a beverage here!” We want to keep our lives pretty much the same. I don’t think the human species has really dealt with climate adaptation at all.

The first person I’ve ever FaceTimed in my life is Jeff Bridges. He finds that amusing, and gives me a tip to tilt my glasses down so he can see my eyes. He laughs easily and is as affable as you’d imagine. “You ever see 2001: A Space Odyssey?” Bridges says about FaceTime. “It reminds me of when he’s talking to his daughter from outer space, except the resolution is better.”

Future’s Past is not another well-meaning film telling us we’re screwed. We know that already. Powerful documentaries from An Inconvenient Truth to Gasland to Chasing Ice have been telling us for decades that global warming is real and that humans are accelerating it enormously, and some of these films have suggested fixes: stop burning fossil fuels, eat vegetarian, plant trees. But this film doesn’t do that. Instead, it has a more ambitious intention: it’s looking for an answer inside of our DNA.

“I didn’t want to make another film pointing fingers at the bad guys and scaring people with the dire straits—I thought there was enough of that out there already,” says Bridges. “I got together with Susan, and both of us asked: Why are we behaving this way? When all of our scientists and all the experts are telling us certain information and we’re ignoring them, why are we doing that? We wanted to kind of pop open the hood and look in there and see what makes us tick, what our subconscious motivations are.

“Then we ask the question: What kind of future do you want to see, and what are you willing to do to bring that about?” he adds.

The idea of “popping open the hood” was strategic. Right now, Americans cannot have a public dialogue about climate change because one side says it’s science, and the other has decided science is merely a series of opinions. But if everyone’s behavior actually comes from a common motivation, then we’re all pretty much the same—and equally to blame. By talking about the “anthropogenic” part of climate change, the film hopes to break down tribal divisions so we can get on with solving the problem.

Instead of talking about Big Oil or farting cows or whether or not you bring a reusable bag to carry groceries, the antagonist and the protagonist of Future’s Past is an entity called the superorganism, which is comprised of all of humanity. Borrowing a concept attributed in the credits to British journalist Gaia Vince and her BBC piece “Homni: The New Superorganism Taking Over Earth,” the film dissolves our tribal identities by making an argument that we are all acting like one gargantuan global organism. Like an ant colony. And whether we like it or not, there’s no life anymore without the colony, no matter how you vote, or what your heritage, or how much you think you’re different or off the grid. If you own one single piece of technology—for instance, a phone or a bicycle—it probably required hundreds of thousands of people to source, design, build, market, and ship. You are inexorably connected to everyone else. Which means that whatever happens is 100 percent your responsibility.

“We didn’t want to do any finger pointing, because we also didn’t think that was very helpful,” says Susan Kucera on the phone from Washington state. “It’s just a rallying cry for certain groups of people. We’re all very tribal in the way our brains work.” Instead, she wanted to make “the kind of film that you can really share with people who might not be thinking quite along the same lines as you.” The film doesn’t suggest that the government has to do something. Instead, it suggests that you have to do something. There’s a big difference.

It has been embraced by schools, in particular, because the movie is full of incredibly engaging folks like the late scientist Dr. Piers Sellers, developmental psychologist Bruce Hood, Onondaga tribal leader Oren Lyons, and evangelical former congressman Bob Inglis. Even retired general Wesley Clark urges us to shuck our battle-hardened identities and recognize that evolution has shaped us all to have pretty much the same desires.

“From my point of view, I’m sure Neanderthals would have totally loved Coca-Cola Zero,” says philosopher Timothy Morton in the film. “If it’s true that Neanderthals would have become totally addicted to Angry Birds, then contemporary society is saying something true about ancient people.”

We didn’t just recently learn to crave sugar and fat, or to be fascinated by bright, shiny distractions. Those impulses were what caused us to survive and reproduce. We all chase comfort. We all want status so we can breed. The surplus food and energy produced by chemical agriculture and the modern petrochemical industry is allowing the superorganism to create experiences that are sweeter, shinier, even more distracting. Even if it eventually kills us by creating an unlivable climate and habitat, culture is only doing what we tell it to.

In order to change the trajectory of the superorganism, we need to consciously change what we want, as a species. “The head of sustainability for all the Costco stores said it was the first film where you really felt this interconnectedness,” says Kucera. “I don’t mean like in a woo-woo way; the idea of the superorganism works regardless of political party, regardless of country.”

“Imagine somebody saying it’s all your fault or somebody’s trying to shame you: you don’t feel good, you have your defenses up. This film is more like an invitation than a hammer.” —Susan Kucera

I’ll admit that this construction set off warning bells for me. I thought it was a conservative argument to do nothing. When I first watched the film, I was yelling at the screen, “But what do you want us to do?!” As an example, the film focuses a lot on the idea that we are all dependent on energy flows from the sun (Dr. Ugo Bardi, an Italian professor of physical chemistry, calls fossil fuels “fossil sunlight”); the film presents a case that, instead of dividing ourselves into two warring camps—one wanting to leave all the fossil fuels in the ground and one wanting to burn them up—we should use them wisely to power a transition to a new energy source that we can actually use to survive. I heard myself arguing that we have to leave it in the ground or this transition will never happen. Those old tribal divisions are hard to shake off.

But Kucera and Bridges are adamant that “doing” is the point of the movie. If everyone bobs along like The Dude and simply waits it out, we will all be victims of the “emergent behavior”—or culture—that is produced by the superorganism. That culture is emergent because no one can predict what it will be, nor can they steer it. One invention, like a wheel or a religion or an Endangered Species Act, changes the entire course of planetary history. Kucera and Bridges aren’t telling people their actions are futile; rather, they are saying that our individual actions are essential. Individual actions are what steer the superorganism.

Susan Kucera BTS

“Are you familiar with Bucky Fuller?” Bridges asks me. “Buckminster Fuller made an observation about ocean-going tankers and the large rudder that was needed to turn these big ships. Turning the rudder took too much energy, so the engineers came up with a brilliant idea of putting a little tiny rudder on the big rudder.” That’s called a trim tab.

“So, the little rudder turns the big rudder and the big rudder turns the ship, and Bucky said that’s a wonderful metaphor for how the individual is connected with society and culture. We are all trim tabs, we all matter and we make a difference. The only thing on Bucky’s gravestone is ‘Call me trim tab.’ So that’s how I like to think of myself, as a trim tab. We can all work in different ways. I’m in the movies, I have a certain amount of celebrity, so I do things like I’m doing with you right now.”

Environmental action is in Jeff Bridges’ blood. In the late 1950s, he and his brother Beau both appeared on the TV show Sea Hunt, which starred their father, the late Lloyd Bridges. Lloyd had served in the Coast Guard and was a scuba diver who did his own stunts on the show, and he and his wife campaigned to bring awareness to the problem of marine pollution worldwide, even lobbying for a world government that could better mandate a clean-up. Lloyd was later involved with Heal the Bay and Ted Danson’s American Oceans Campaign. Jeff and Beau followed in his footsteps by serving in the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve, and continuing on with the family campaign for ocean health. “I often think of myself as an extension of my folks, just carrying on their work,” Jeff Bridges tells me.

Bridges is a longtime student of Buddhism—which explains a few things about The Dude—and says that this practice informed the making of Living in the Future’s Past. All of the voices in the film are not meant to inflame one tribe against another, but rather to lead us to collective action. He trusts that this action will be the right one because he has a deep faith in the basic goodness of humanity.

“One of my dear friends and teachers recently passed away, a fellow by the name of Bernie Glassman, who was the head of an organization called Zen Peacemakers,” Bridges says. Glassman would take students on Bearing Witness Retreats, where they would live homeless on the streets, or visit Auschwitz, or go to South Dakota to be with Native Americans protesting oil pipelines. Glassman’s Zen practice had three tenets:

“The first one is: Not Knowing,” says Bridges. “We all have opinions, but just to realize that they’re opinions, man, to say, ‘I don’t know. This is what I’m feeling, but I don’t know.’

“And then to bear witness, to engage, just to put yourself in the spot. Usually it’s an uncomfortable spot, but that’s where the work needs to be done. Just feeling it, informing yourself, and getting all different points of view.

“Out of those two things, out of not knowing and bearing witness, out of that will come an action,” he adds, describing the third tenet. “I guess you can call it love; a loving action will come out of that, because we are an inherently compassionate species.”

“Personally, being Buddhistly bent, I don’t know about sustainability. I mean, everything changes, man. I don’t think you can really sustain any one thing.”

Kucera feels the loving changes coming, but she recognizes that everyone and every place is compromised. She lives in Hawaii, a state that has moved heavily into solar power. She edited the entire film there using solar electricity. Still, 80 percent of the islands’ food has to be shipped in, almost all of it using dirty fossil fuels. Hawaiians think of themselves as progressive people, and she wants to invite everyone to reconsider their role in solving climate change, rather than cast blame.

“Imagine somebody saying it’s all your fault or somebody’s trying to shame you: you don’t feel good, you have your defenses up,” she says. “This film is more like an invitation than a hammer.”

Maybe the idea of sustainability itself is something we have to give up, because it assumes things will stay the same.

“Personally, being Buddhistly bent, I don’t know about sustainability,” says Bridges. “I mean, everything changes, man. I don’t think you can really sustain any one thing.”

He feels the right goal would probably be resilience. “How do we become resilient, and how do we learn to serve what’s cooking?”

Developing resiliency doesn’t mean getting back to “normal” as fast as possible. It probably means accepting that there is no normal. Bridges acknowledges that this is not easy to do. Even after acting out loads of different lives, making eighty-some films and a bushel of TV shows, he craves comfort and returning to habit. He says he would have rebuilt the house that was taken out by the mudslide. His wife, however, wouldn’t go back. She also quit smoking after something like fifty years. He recognizes that we are capable of change.

“This change that we’re resisting can actually be a wonderful thing,” he notes.

Hard times are ahead of us as we dig in, collectively, and change our culture. Superorganism or not, there will be winners and losers. But something extraordinary is also possible in the future that we’re creating. It’s not too late for us to rescue our fellow species from the brink of extinction, to create a livable world, to establish equality and real contact with the living earth, and to change the values that have driven us. In the last scene of the film, Bridges quotes the Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, indicating that the best may still be ahead:

“After mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time, man will have discovered fire.”

Australia Will Lose to Climate Change

Even as the country fights bushfires, it can’t stop dumping planet-warming pollution into the atmosphere.

Bushfires approach homes near Sydney, Australia.

Bushfires approach homes near Sydney, Australia.DAVID GRAY / GETTY 
Australia is caught in a climate spiral. For the past few decades, the arid and affluent country of 25 million has padded out its economy—otherwise dominated by sandy beaches and a bustling service sector—by selling coal to the world. As the East Asian economies have grown, Australia has been all too happy to keep their lights on. Exporting food, fiber, and minerals to Asia has helped Australia achieve three decades of nearly relentless growth: Oz has not had a technical recession, defined as two successive quarters of economic contraction, since July 1991.But now Australia is buckling under the conditions that its fossil fuels have helped bring about. Perhaps the two biggest kinds of climate calamity happening today have begun to afflict the continent.The first kind of disaster is, of course, the wildfire crisis. In the past three months, bushfires in Australia’s southeast have burned millions of acres, poisoned the air in Sydney and Melbourne, and forced 4,000 tourists and residents in a small beach town, Mallacoota, to congregate on the beach and get evacuated by the navy. A salvo of fires seems to have caught the world’s attention in recent years. But the current Australian season has outdone them all: Over the past six months, Australian fires have burned more than twice the area than was consumed, combined, by California’s 2018 fires and the Amazon’s 2019 fires.

The second is the irreversible scouring of the Earth’s most distinctive ecosystems. In Australia, this phenomenon has come for the country’s natural wonder, the Great Barrier Reef. From 2016 to 2018, half of all coral in the reef died, killed by oceanic heat waves that bleached and then essentially starved the symbiotic animals. Because tropical coral reefs take about a decade to recover from such a die-off, and because the relentless pace of climate change means that more heat waves are virtually guaranteed in the 2020s, the reef’s only hope of long-term survival is for humans to virtually halt global warming in the next several decades and then begin to reverse it.Meeting such a goal will require a revolution in the global energy system—and, above all, a rapid abandonment of coal burning. But there’s the rub. Australia is the world’s second-largest exporter of coal power, and it has avoided recession for the past 27 years in part by selling coal.

Though polls report that most Australians are concerned about climate change, the country’s government has so far been unable to pass pretty much any climate policy. In fact, one of its recent political crises—the ousting of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the summer of 2018—was prompted by Turnbull’s attempt to pass an energy bill that included climate policy. Its current prime minister, Scott Morrison, actually brought a lump of coal to the floor of Parliament several years ago while defending the industry. He won an election last year by depicting climate change as the exclusive concern of educated city-dwellers, and climate policy as a threat to Australians’ cars and trucks. He has so far attempted to portray the wildfires as a crisis, sure, but one in line with previous natural disasters.In fact, it is unprecedented. This season’s fires have incinerated more than 1,500 homes and have killed at least 23 people, Prime Minister Morrison said on Saturday.* There were at least twice as many fires in New South Wales in 2019 as there were in any other year this century, according to an analysis by The New York TimesClimate change likely intensified the ongoing epidemic: Hotter and drier weather makes wildfires more common, and climate change is increasing the likelihood of both in Australia. Last year was both the hottest and driest year on record in the country.Perhaps more than any other wealthy nation on Earth, Australia is at risk from the dangers of climate change. It has spent most of the 21st century in a historic drought. Its tropical oceans are more endangered than any other biome by climate change. Its people are clustered along the temperate and tropical coasts, where rising seas threaten major cities. Those same bands of livable land are the places either now burning or at heightened risk of bushfire in the future. Faced with such geographical challenges, Australia’s people might rally to reverse these dangers. Instead, they have elected leaders with other priorities.

Australia will continue to burn, and its coral will continue to die. Perhaps this episode will prompt the more pro-carbon members of Australia’s Parliament to accede to some climate policy. Or perhaps Prime Minister Morrison will distract from any link between the disaster and climate change, as President Donald Trump did when he inexplicably blamed California’s 2018 blazes on the state’s failure to rake forest floors. Perhaps blazes will push Australia’s politics in an even more besieged and retrograde direction, empowering politicians like Morrison to fight any change at all. And so maybe Australia will find itself stuck in the climate spiral, clinging ever more tightly to coal as its towns and cities choke on the ash of a burning world. SOURCE

 

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Cheifs Issue Eviction Notice to CGL!

 

Image result for Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs

“The ongoing criminalization of our laws by Canada’s courts and industrial police is an attempt at genocide, an attempt to extinguish Wet’suwet’en identity itself.”

Smithers, BC

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs representing all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have issued an eviction notice to the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline company. The eviction of CGL is effective immediately, and applies to “Camp 9A” on Dark House territory, as well as the neighbouring Gidimt’en, Tsayu, and Laksamshu clan territories. Hereditary chiefs have gathered on Gidimt’en and Gilseyhu territories to monitor the eviction.

Coastal Gaslink has violated the Wet’suwet’en law of trespass, and has bulldozed through our territories, destroyed our archaeological sites, and occupied our land with industrial man-camps. Private security firms and RCMP have continually interfered with the constitutionally protected rights of Wet’suwet’en people to access our lands for hunting, trapping, and ceremony.

Canada’s courts have acknowledged in Delgamuukw-Gisdaywa v. The Queen that the Wet’suwet’en people, represented by our hereditary chiefs, have never ceded nor surrendered title to the 22,000km2 of Wet’suwet’en territory. The granting of the interlocutory injunction by BC’s Supreme Court has proven to us that Canadian courts will ignore their own rulings and deny our jurisdiction when convenient, and will not protect our territories or our rights as Indigenous peoples.

Anuc ‘nu’at’en (Wet’suwet’en law) is not a “belief” or a “point of view”. It is a way of sustainably managing our territories and relations with one another and the world around us, and it has worked for millennia to keep our territories intact. Our law is central to our identity. The ongoing criminalization of our laws by Canada’s courts and industrial police is an attempt at genocide, an attempt to extinguish Wet’suwet’en identity itself.

We reaffirm that Anuc ‘nu’at’en remains the highest law on Wet’suwet’en land and must be respected. We have always held the responsibility and authority to protect our unceded territories. Protection of our yintah (traditional territories) is at the heart of Anuc ‘nu’at’en, and we will practice our laws for the future generations.

The Wet’suwet’en have always controlled access to our territories. At Unist’ot’en Village, a Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) protocol has been practiced over the past ten years whenever access to the territory is requested by someone outside of Dark House membership. Dark House has not been able to implement this protocol since the enforcement of the interim injunction in January 2019. This protocol aligns Wet’suwet’en law with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which guarantees Indigenous peoples the right to obtain free, prior, and informed consent for development on our territories.

We expect Coastal GasLink to peacefully comply with our eviction notice, and ask that British Columbia uphold its commitment to implement UNDRIP and instruct RCMP to respect our rights and refrain from interference in Wet’suwet’en law.

TAKE ACTION! THE TIME IS NOW!

Use the Supporter Toolkit to organize where ever you are!

Donate now to support ongoing efforts

Register to come to camp if you are able.

-Unist’ot’en Solidarity Brigade


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Wet’suwet’en evict Coastal GasLink from work site near Houston

These Are the Biggest Climate Questions for the New Decade

The 2010s brought major climate science advances, but researchers still want to pin down estimates of Arctic melt and sea level rise

These Are the Biggest Climate Questions for the New Decade

In this aerial view ice lies in a lake formed by meltwater from the Rhone glacier on August 19, 2019 near Obergoms, Switzerland. Credit: Sean Gallup Getty Images

The 2010s were almost certainly the hottest decade on record — and it showed. The world burned, melted and flooded. Heat waves smashed temperature records around the globe. Glaciers lost ice at accelerating rates. Sea levels continued to swell.

At the same time, scientists have diligently worked to untangle the chaos of a rapidly warming planet.

In the past decade, scientists substantially improved their ability to draw connections between climate change and extreme weather events. They made breakthroughs in their understanding of ice sheets. They raised critical questions about the implications of Arctic warming. They honed their predictions about future climate change.

As another decade begins, scientists say there are more questions to be answered. We asked climate researchers across a variety of disciplines about the biggest priorities and hottest topics for the 2020s. Here’s what they said.

ARCTIC MYSTERIES

The Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth, with temperatures rising at least twice as fast as the global average. Many scientists believe that understanding the consequences of Arctic warming is essential for making accurate predictions about climate change around the world.

Some of these links are straightforward. Melting Arctic ice pouring into the ocean can raise global sea levels. Thawing permafrost can release large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, potentially accelerating the rate of global warming.

Others are more contentious.

In the last decade, a growing scientific debate has arisen about the influence of Arctic warming on global climate and weather patterns, particularly in the midlatitudes.

Some observational studies have pointed to a statistical connection between Arctic warming and weather events in places like the United States, Europe and parts of Asia — for instance, a link between shrinking sea ice and cold winters in Siberia, or Arctic heat waves and extreme winter weather in the United States.

The trouble is models have a hard time capturing the causes driving these connections.

“No one argues that the Arctic meltdown will affect weather patterns, the question is exactly how,” said Arctic climate expert Jennifer Francis, a researcher at Woods Hole Research Center. “So figuring out what’s not right in the models will be a major focus. Without realistic models, it’s hard to use them to separate Arctic influences from other possible factors.”

Resolving the debate will require “a combination of data and modeling,” according to NASA climatologist Claire Parkinson. Many scientists are already hard at work on this issue.

One ongoing project known as the Polar Amplification Model Intercomparison Project is conducting a series of coordinated model experiments, all using the same standard methods, to investigate the Arctic climate and its connections to the rest of the globe. Experts say these kinds of projects may help explain why modeling studies conducted by different groups with different methods don’t always get the same results.

At the same time, improving the way that physical processes are represented in Arctic climate models is also essential, according to Xiangdong Zhang, an Arctic and atmospheric scientist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Outside that debate, there are still big questions about the Arctic climate to resolve. Scientists know the Arctic is heating up at breakneck speed — but they’re still investigating all the reasons why.

Researchers believe a combination of feedback processes are probably at play. Sea ice and snow help reflect sunlight away from the Earth. As they melt away, they allow more heat to reach the surface, warming the local climate and causing even more melting to occur.

One key question for the coming decade, Zhang said in an email, is “what relative role each of the physical processes plays and how these processes work together” to drive the accelerating warming.

Unraveling these feedbacks will help scientists better predict how fast the Arctic will warm in the future, according to Francis — and how quickly they should expect its consequences to occur. They include vanishing sea ice, thawing permafrost and melting on the Greenland ice sheet.

OCEANS AND ICE

Sea-level rise is one of the most serious consequences of climate change, with the potential to displace millions of people in coastal areas around the world.

At the moment, the world’s oceans are rising at an average rate of about 3 millimeters each year. It appears to be speeding up over time. That may not sound like much, but scientists are already documenting an increase in coastal flooding in many places around the world.

Accurately predicting the pace of future sea-level rise is one of the biggest priorities in climate science. And one of the biggest uncertainties about future sea-level rise is the behavior of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, both of which are pouring billions of tons of ice into the ocean each year.

Recent satellite studies have found that ice loss in both places is speeding up. Antarctica is losing about three times as much ice as it was in the 1990s, while losses in Greenland may be as much as seven times higher than they were in previous decades.

Investigating the processes driving the accelerations — and then using that knowledge to fine-tune predictions of future sea-level rise — is a key priority for 2020 and beyond, according to Marco Tedesco, an ice sheet expert at Columbia University.

“How do we connect the physical processes that we do understand are creating this acceleration from Greenland and Antarctica, very likely over the next decade, to sea-level rise impacts?” he asked E&E News. “And how do we account for the potential shocks of the things that we cannot anticipate still?”

Some scientists worry that as ice loss continues to speed up in both Greenland and Antarctica, parts of the ice sheets could eventually destabilize and collapse entirely — leading to catastrophic sea-level rise.

In recent years, scientists have discovered that warm ocean currents are helping to melt some glaciers from the bottom up, both in Greenland and particularly in parts of West Antarctica. Better understanding the relationship between oceans and ice is a key priority for glacier experts, Tedesco said.

At the same time, monitoring the way water melts and moves along the top of the ice is also a major priority. In Greenland, climate-driven changes in the behavior of large air currents like the jet stream may be helping to drive more surface melting.

“The important thing is to understand how Greenland mass loss can be connected to the recent changes in the atmospheric circulation that we are witnessing,” Tedesco said.

EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS

The past decade saw leaps and bounds in a field of climate research known as “attribution science” — the connection between climate change and extreme weather events.

It was once thought to be impossible, but scientists are now able to estimate the influence of global warming on individual events, like heat waves or hurricanes. In the past few years alone, scientists have found that some events are now occurring that would have been impossible in a world with no human-caused climate change.

As attribution science has advanced, researchers have been able to tackle increasingly complex events, like hurricanes and wildfires, which were previously too complicated to evaluate with any confidence. They’ve gotten faster, too — researchers are now able to assess some extreme events nearly in real time.

Some organizations are working to develop sophisticated attribution services, similar to weather services, which would release analyses of extreme events as soon as they occur. The German national weather service; the United Kingdom’s Met Office; and the Copernicus program, part of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, have all begun exploring these kinds of projects.

At the same time, scientists are working to improve their predictions of future extreme events in a warming world.

So far, climate models predict that many extreme weather events will happen more frequently, or will become more severe, as the climate continues to change. Heat waves will be hotter, hurricanes will intensify, heavy rainfall events may happen more frequently in some places, and droughts may be longer in others.

Continuing to improve these kinds of predictions — and then communicating them in useful ways to communities that will be affected by them — is a major priority, according to Piers Forster, director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds.

There’s often great uncertainty when it comes to predicting extreme weather events, he noted — different climate models sometimes deliver vastly different results. But it can often be both expensive and time-consuming to run the models enough times, and at high enough resolutions, to investigate and narrow these uncertainties.

Tackling this issue is one of the key challenges for climate modeling in the coming years, Forster said, noting that “we need to get clever about how we use models to make projections and how we test them.”

PROJECTING THE FUTURE

Predicting how much the Earth will warm, given a certain level of greenhouse gas emissions, may seem like the simplest goal of climate modeling. But it’s harder than it sounds.

Climate models don’t always agree on the Earth’s exact sensitivity to greenhouse gas emissions — although they do tend to fall within a certain range. If global carbon dioxide concentrations were to double, for instance, models from the past decade have tended to predict that the Earth would warm from between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees Celsius.

Scientists around the world are working on a new suite of updated climate models, which will be used to inform future reports produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But there’s one issue that’s already raising eyebrows, according to Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at the University of California, Berkeley — so far, the newer models seem to be predicting a much higher climate sensitivity than the older models.

“The high end is much higher,” he told E&E News. “There’s a number of models above 4.8 degrees sensitivity and even up to 5.6.”

Only about 20 new models have submitted results; far more will come pouring in before the project is complete. And as Hausfather pointed out, other recent studies have suggested that the Earth’s climate sensitivity might actually be narrower than the old models suggested.

But it’s something to keep in mind at a time when accurate predictions about future warming are more pressing than ever.

“The fact that some of these models are high is interesting but doesn’t necessarily mean we should believe them over other lines of evidence,” Hausfather said. “It just reflects the fact that climate sensitivity is this huge remaining source of uncertainty in our climate projections.”

At the same time, climate modelers are also working to hone their projections in other ways. Models are able to capture increasingly complex processes the more they advance. But there are still a few key areas scientists are focused on improving.

Clouds, for instance, are believed to have a significant influence on the climate system. But they’re notoriously difficult to reproduce in climate models. Certain aspects of the carbon cycle are also underrepresented in models, Hausfather noted — for instance, the way that forests and oceans absorb or release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

And scientists are also working to develop more realistic climate scenarios for their modeling projects. In the past, many studies have focused on a “business as usual” climate scenario, which suggests high rates of future greenhouse gas emissions, the continued expansion of coal, and other assumptions about industry and socioeconomics that may no longer be realistic, according to Hausfather.

While global climate action is still significantly lagging when it comes to meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement, the future may not be as dire as previous business-as-usual climate studies would suggest. Focusing new studies on more realistic scenarios may be more useful to policymakers and communities trying to plan for the future.

“In many ways the range of possible futures is narrowing,” Hausfather said. “As we get closer to 2100 and as the world takes more climate action, the worst-case 4 degrees-plus warming scenarios are a lot less likely.”

 

Some Stunning Perspective On The Australian Fires

Image result for australian bushfires

A kangaroo rushes past a burning house in Conjola on New Year’s Eve. MATTHEW ABBOTT / NEW YORK TIMES / REDUX / EYE

Dr. Lucky Tran, a scientist and refugee who is an activist fighting for climate justice and immigrant justice, has put the Australian wildfires into a terrifying perspective. Fires are terrifying as it is, but the one in Australia would be considered a Category 5 if it was a hurricane. Here in America, we are so far away geographically from the problem, so that’s the best comparison I could come up with that would sum up in one sentence how bad this fire is for those who just glance at the news and go on with their day-to-day routines.

Dr. Lucky Tran

Some perspective on the devastating scale of the :

-100s of fires are blanketing a country the size of the US or Europe

-5 million hectares of land have burned. That’s 5x the size of the Amazon fires & 50x the California fires

“5 million hectares of land have burned. That’s 5 times the size of the Amazon fires and 50 times the California fires,” he continues. He uploaded a photo of the map of the fires. In this photo, the outline of Australia is pretty much defined by the fires. They are literally burning this country. It’s as if someone took a red and orange marker and dotted the borders on a map. These dots are fires. These dots represent devastation, death, and terror.

Dr. Tran continues his thread by posting a graph comparing several fires:

Dr. Lucky Tran

Some perspective on the devastating scale of the :

-100s of fires are blanketing a country the size of the US or Europe

-5 million hectares of land have burned. That’s 5x the size of the Amazon fires & 50x the California fires

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Dr. Lucky Tran

Here’s another visualization of the massive impact & extent of the . This is a crisis that the world needs to pay attention to.

📷 u/Fierylizard03 https://www.reddit.com/r/australia/comments/ei02l9/the_scale_of_australias_fires/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=ios_app&utm_name=iossmf 

View image on Twitter

The graph, titled Black Summer Fires, compares the Mendocino Complex Fire, Amazon Fires, Siberian Fires, and current Australian fires. The comparison shows the sizes of the fires by the acres burned.

  • Mendocino Complex Fires — 459,123 acres
  • Amazon Fires — 2,240,000 acres
  • Siberian Fires — 6,424,739 acres
  • Current Australian fires (still active) — 11,300,000 acres

Other facts from this graph include:

  • 11.3 million acres destroyed, an area larger than the Netherlands.
  • 2,500 buildings destroyed.
  • 13 people killed (at least).
  • 30% of New South Wales koalas killed.
  • Over $50 million a day lost.
  • $250 million in insurance claims (so far).
  • 480 million animals killed (so far).
  • Air pollution in Sydney makes breathing equivalent to smoking 37 cigarettes.
  • Thousands have been displaced.

NPR‘s Ailisa Chang spoke with Cormac Farrel, an environmental scientist working on bushfire management, regarding the Australia fires. Chang says to Farrel, “And I understand that you and your family are wearing gas masks right now.” He replies, “Yeah … we managed to get one of the last air purifies, so we’re able to take the masks off indoors. But pretty much everyone outdoors is wearing a gas mask to be outside safely today.”

How You Can Help

I did a basic search on GoFundMe and came across several campaigns that are benefiting different firefighting initiatives: The Australian Red Cross Society, The Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service, and Victims Saving Koalas. Plenty more campaigns have been set up as well. For those in the Tesla community who would like to help, perhaps consider the GoFundMe campaign #FrunksUp4Fires — NSW Bushfire Fundraiser set up by Tesla Owners Australia. The fund will go to the Trustee for NSW Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund and their goal is to raise $10,000. A bit more than half of that has been raised.

“It was brought up on Twitter that we could use our Tesla’s unique design of having a car boot/trunk in the front of the car (a frunk due to Tesla’s having no engine, as they are electric vehicles) as a unique way to assist in raising funds and donated items to give to charity for the victims of the 2019/2020 Bush fires,” Toby Patton says.

If you would rather donate items for the victims who have lost everything, GIVIT, a nonprofit that connects people who have with those who need in a private and safe way, has a list of things that are needed. Some of these things include fans, water tanks, food vouchers, generators, and fuel — fuel most likely for gasoline/diesel vehicles for traveling to safer areas.  SOURCE

‘Ecocide’: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sound the alarm over bushfires

London: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have warned the bushfires sweeping vast swathes of Australia are contributing to a global ‘ecocide’, in a stark message that forms part of a coordinated response by three wings of the royal family to the unfolding disaster.

Amid mounting international criticism of Australia’s climate change policies, the Queen and Prince Philip, Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, issued separate statements on Saturday expressing shock at the death and destruction.

The Queen’s message stuck to the traditional formula of offering “thoughts and prayers to all Australians at this difficult time”.

“My thanks go out to the emergency services, and those who put their own lives in danger to help communities in need,” she said.

However, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex chose a more blunt form of phrasing to warn of the ecological impact of bushfires and climate change.

“From areas we are personally connected to such as the communities and people we visited in New South Wales in 2018, to the fires in California and parts of Africa, we are struck by the increasingly overlapping presence of these environmental disasters, including of course the destruction of the Amazon which continues,” they said.

“This global environmental crisis has now been described as ecocide. It’s easy to feel helpless, but there’s always a way to help.”

The pair urged their social media followers to donate to the NSW Rural Fire Service or the Australian Red Cross.

The Duke and Duchess were criticised last year for taking a number of flights on private jets despite their climate advocacy.

Prince Harry later said “nobody is perfect” in terms of their ecological footprint and said the majority of his travel is on commercial planes.

Their ‘Ecocide’ comments are the latest in a series of interventions on the impact of global warming by senior members of the royal family.

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, have urged their followers to donate to the NSW Rural Fire Service and Red Cross. CREDIT:AP 

Prince William chose the first day of the new year to launch a major prize designed to help bring down carbon emissions, warning the Earth was at a “tipping point”.

The Earthshot Prize will aim to uncover solutions to climate change across all parts of industry and society.
Drawing comparisons to the Nobel peace prize, multimillion-pound prizes will be awarded to five winners a year over 10 years. Recipients could include scientists, activists, economists, political leaders, governments, banks, businesses, cities and even countries.

In their statement on the Australian bushfires, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge said they were “shocked and saddened” about the loss of “homes, livelihoods and wildlife across much of Australia”.

“We send our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who have tragically lost their lives, and the brave firefighters who continue to risk their own lives to save the lives of others.”

The Queen, who is close to renowned environmentalist Sir David Attenborough, used her traditional Christmas Day broadcast to say she had been struck by the “sense of purpose” younger generations had shown in tackling issues like climate change.

“The challenges many people face today may be different to those once faced by my generation, but I have been struck by how new generations have brought a similar sense of purpose to issues such as protecting our environment and our climate,” she said. SOURCE

A 6-point plan for building a new carbon economy

We must build a new carbon economy that sequesters more carbon than it emits. And we must do it fast.

 

[Source Images: Mary Pena/iStock, Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash]

As global corporate, political, and civic leaders gather in California this week for the Global Climate Action Summit, another significant threshold has just been breached.

The Mercator Research Institute in Berlin hosts a countdown clock showing how long we have left until we’ve poured more CO2 into the atmosphere than is consistent with maintaining average global temperatures at or below 1.5°C above preindustrial levels.

Based on a medium estimate of the climate’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases, we officially ran out of time on September 8. In other words, there is now no way to deliver on the stated ambition of the Paris Agreement through mitigation (climate-speak for reducing emissions) alone. We must build a new carbon economy that sequesters more carbon than it emits. And we must do it fast.

So where to begin? In a paper published this week–“Our Carbon Future: reversing global warming while delivering shared prosperity”–we spotlight six priorities to focus on.

[Source Images: Mary Pena/iStock, Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash]

1. MAKE THE STORY OF A NEW CARBON ECONOMY ACCESSIBLE AND INSPIRING

To flourish, the new carbon economy needs broad-based support that translates into different choices about what and how we consume, who we vote for, and the behaviors we model.

A common language would be a good start. The fact that today we can’t even agree on whether a product that removes carbon from the atmosphere is “carbon negative” or “carbon positive” is symptomatic of the tangled, jargon-laden mess that is contemporary climate-speak.

Simplicity and possibility should be our watchwords. The new carbon economy needs to make sense to those who don’t know their CCUS from their DAC. And we must shift the focus from the problem to potential solutions. Naive optimism doesn’t help shift behaviors, but neither does apocalyptic dread.

[Source Images: Mary Pena/iStock, Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash]

2. ENABLE INVESTORS TO SEE CLIMATE OPPORTUNITY AS WELL AS CLIMATE RISK

Rather than asking of plans to reverse global warming–“what will it cost?”–we must learn to ask “what will the return on investment be?” Project Drawdown’s analysis of 80 solutions that would together reduce atmospheric CO2 by more than 1,000 gigatons estimates that the lifetime savings of those solutions (spread over the course of 30 years) would outweigh costs by almost $45 trillion.

For sure, Project Drawdown’s analysis of costs and savings is imperfect and incomplete. But, as an indication of the overall investment opportunity at stake, it’s a good place to start. The challenge now is to design business models and investment vehicles that allow individual companies and investors to capture the value associated with implementing these solutions.

[Source Images: Mary Pena/iStock, Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash]

3. CLOSE THE GAP BETWEEN ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY

Many governments pay lip service to “clean growth,” but too often economic and environmental policies exist in separate silos. On the economic front, GDP growth is, for better or worse, the primary yardstick by which governments measure success. Meanwhile, somewhere else in government, a different group of people is focused on reducing emissions.

In 2008, the McKinsey Global Institute published a report on “the carbon productivity challenge,” which argued that, in order to meet commonly discussed climate goals while sustaining economic growth rates, GDP per ton of CO2 would need to increase tenfold by 2050, equivalent to roughly 6% a year.

To get a sense of how ambitious that is, consider that, globally, carbon productivity improved by just 1.4% a year between 2000 and 2016. There is no historical precedent for a decoupling of emissions from growth on the scale we now need to achieve.

For governments to play their part in a successful transition to a new carbon economy, they need to fully integrate climate goals into economic policy. That means adopting carbon productivity as a key performance indicator for the economy, much as labor productivity is used today.

[Source Images: Mary Pena/iStock, Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash]

4. EQUIP COMPANIES TO MONITOR AND MANAGE PROGRESS TOWARD “CLIMATE POSITIVITY”

The reason companies are good at getting stuff done is because progress is incessantly monitored, managed, and incentivized. So how do you monitor and manage progress toward becoming “climate positive” (i.e., being responsible for a net reduction in atmospheric CO2)?

Setting a climate positive goal–as Ikea and Interface have done–is a step in the right direction, but it’s only the beginning. Becoming climate positive requires companies to focus not only on reducing emissions across their operations but also on:

  • Creating products and services that, across their life cycle, avoid more CO2 emissions than are generated in production/delivery.
  • Removing carbon from the atmosphere and sequestering it in natural or man-made carbon sinks (or closed-loop cycles).

A whole suite of new management tools and metrics will undoubtedly be needed to help companies track their full carbon impacts. As a starting point, the Carbon Productivity consortium (of which Volans is a member) has developed two prototype tools for industry.

One is a set of metrics to track the financial and environmental “return on carbon employed” (FROCE and EROCE) of different products. FROCE measures revenues per unit of nonrenewable carbon input. EROCE looks at the emissions avoided (or forced) by a company’s products in use and after use compared with the emissions generated in making the product.

The other is a Carbon Productivity Improvement Framework, which identifies nine intervention points across a product’s life cycle for optimizing return on carbon employed. (There are actually 10 intervention points, but the use of input materials or production processes that sequester carbon is not properly addressed in the prototype version of the tool.)

These tools–along with other emergent methodologies such as carbon handprinting–are only a starting point. Lots more experimentation, iteration, and refinement are needed to properly equip companies to manage the process.

[Source Images: Mary Pena/iStock, Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash]

5. EVOLVE DISCLOSURE STANDARDS AND PRACTICES

Over the past couple of decades, extraordinary progress has been made in developing a robust infrastructure for disclosure of emissions data. More than 6,300 companies and 500 cities disclose emissions data to CDP. Investors with assets worth more than $87 trillion make use of that data–as do corporate procurement teams with collective purchasing power of more than $3 trillion.

Now we need to build the same level of transparency, backed by rigorous standards, around carbon removal and emissions avoidance. The key methodological issues to be resolved are to do with the permanence of some removal techniques (for example, soil sequestration) and the identification of credible “business as usual” scenarios against which to benchmark when assessing avoided emissions.

[Source Images: Mary Pena/iStock, Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash]

6. FORGE CLOSER LINKS BETWEEN COMPANIES AND THE ACADEMIC R&D COMMUNITY

Academic interest in carbon removal solutions is growing fast. In May, Gothenburg played host to the first ever international “negative emissions” conference, attended by 250 researchers from around the world. In the U.S., the New Carbon Economy Consortium, run by the Center for Carbon Removal, is working to organize the field around a shared set of research priorities.

The next step is to start bridging the gulf between what’s happening in research laboratories around the world and the companies that will ultimately be critical to commercializing and scaling new solutions for carbon removal and emissions avoidance.

The hard work begins now. Over the next two years, Volans is convening a select group of pioneering companies to work with us and other partners to deliver tangible progress on the six priorities.  We’re certainly not going to get all the way there in two years, but if we don’t start building the next generation of corporate climate leadership today, the next generation of humans won’t forgive us. SOURCE

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