By Alexandria Villaseñor
This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
My journey to becoming an activist began in late 2018. During a trip to California to visit family, the Camp Fire broke out. At the time, it was the most devastating and destructive wildfire in California history. Thousands of acres and structures burned, and many lives were lost. Since then, California's wildfires have accelerated: This past year, we saw the first-ever "gigafire," and by the end of 2020, more than four million acres had burned.
After experiencing California's wildfires, I researched the connection between wildfires and climate change. Even though I was only 13 at the time, I realized I needed to do everything in my power to advocate for our planet and ensure that we have a safe and habitable Earth for not only my generation's future, but for future generations. Every day, our planet is increasing its calls for our help. Our ice caps are melting; sea levels are rising; heatwaves and droughts are increasing. We're seeing more frequent wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other extreme weather events. Climate change is happening right now, and people all over the world are losing their livelihoods — and even their lives — as a result of the growing number of climate-fueled disasters.
My activism started with the youth climate strike movement, which began when Greta Thunberg started striking in front of the Swedish Parliament in 2018. However, I want to acknowledge that young people, especially youth of color, have been protesting and demanding action for the planet for decades. I'm honored to follow in the footsteps of all the youth activists who paved the way for my activism and for the phenomenal growth of the youth climate movement that we have seen since 2018.
My experiences in the youth climate movement have allowed me to see that one of the greatest barriers we have to urgent climate action is education. Because of the lack of climate education around the world, I founded Earth Uprising International to help young people educate one another on the climate crisis, which ultimately has the effect of empowering young people to take direct action for their futures.
The primary mission of Earth Uprising International is increased climate and civics education for youth. Climate literacy and environmental education are the first steps to mobilizing our generations. By adding climate literacy to curricula worldwide, governments can ensure young people leave school with the skills and environmental knowledge needed to be engaged citizens in their communities. A climate-educated and environmentally literate global public is more likely to take part in the green jobs revolution, make more sustainable consumer choices, and hold world leaders accountable for their climate action commitments. Youth who have been educated about the climate crisis will lead the way in adaptation, mitigation, and solution making. Youth will be the ones who will protect democracy and freedom, advocate for climate and environmental migrants, and create the political will necessary to address climate change at the scale of the crisis.
So this year, for Earth Week, I am thrilled to be organizing a global youth climate summit called "Youth Speaks: Our Message to World Leaders," on April 20. Together, in collaboration with EARTHDAY.ORG and hundreds of youth climate activists around the world, the summit will address our main issues of concern, including climate literacy, biodiversity protection, sustainable agriculture, the creation of green jobs, civic skill training, environmental justice, environmental migration and borders, the protection of democracy and free speech, governmental policy making, and political will.
From this summit, youth climate activists from all over the world will be creating a concise list of demands that we want addressed at President Biden's World Leaders Summit, occurring on Earth Day, April 22. We believe that youth must inform and inspire these critical conversations about climate change that will impact all of us!
For more information about our global youth climate summit, "Youth Speaks: Our Message to World Leaders," go to www.EarthUprising.org/YouthSpeaks2021. There, you will find information about how to participate in our summit as well as be kept up to date on the latest agenda, participants, and follow along as we develop our demands and platform.
The youth will continue to make noise and necessary trouble. There is so much left to be done.
This story originally appeared in Teen Vogue and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
By Jessica Corbett
As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders.
"Today is a watershed moment in the history of the U.S. Department of the Interior," declared Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians. "With Secretary Haaland's actions today, it's clear the Interior Department is now working for communities, science, and justice. We are grateful for her leadership and bold action to put people over polluters."
"Today's orders make certain that the Interior Department is no longer going to serve as a rubber-stamp for the coal and oil and gas industries," said Nichols. "Secretary Haaland's actions set the stage for deep reforms within the Interior Department to ensure the federal government gets out of the business of fossil fuels and into the business of confronting the climate crisis."
BREAKING: Interior Secretary Deb Haalaned just repealed Trump-era policies that prioritized Big Oil execs above com… https://t.co/m1d2uolRWV— Friends of the Earth (Action) (@Friends of the Earth (Action))1618595500.0
Secretarial Order 3398 rescinds a dozen orders issued under the Trump administration which an Interior statement collectively described as "inconsistent with the department's commitment to protect public health; conserve land, water, and wildlife; and elevate science."
Specifically, she revoked: S.O. 3348; S.O. 3349; SO 3350; S.O. 3351; SO 3352; S.O. 3354; S.O. 3355; S.O. 3358; S.O. 3360; S.O. 3380; SO 3385; and SO 3389. Implemented throughout former President Donald Trump's term, they related to "American energy independence," the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska, and leasing and permitting for energy projects, among other topics. With the order, Haaland reinstated the federal moratorium on coal leasing.
Haaland's other measure, Secretarial Order 3399, establishes a departmental Climate Task Force that will identify policies needed to tackle the climate emergency, support the use of the best available science on greenhouse gas emissions, implement the review and reconsideration of federal gas and oil leasing and permitting practices, identify actions needed to "address current and historic environmental injustice" as well as "foster economic revitalization of, and investment in, energy communities," and work with state, tribe, and local governments.
The department also noted that "the solicitor's office issued a withdrawal of M-37062, an opinion that concluded that the Interior secretary must promulgate a National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program consisting of a five-year lease schedule with at least two lease sales during the five-year plan," which allows DOI "to evaluate its obligations under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act."
Today, @SecHaaland revoked a dozen pro-Big Oil and anti-environment orders from the Trump administration. Little by… https://t.co/p0tHEciEct— Western Values Project (@Western Values Project)1618606421.0
Haaland — a former congresswoman and first-ever Native American Cabinet secretary whose confirmation was celebrated by climate campaigners, Indigenous leaders, and various progressive advocacy groups — said Friday that "from day one, President Biden was clear that we must take a whole-of-government approach to tackle the climate crisis, strengthen the economy, and address environmental justice."
"At the Department of the Interior, I believe we have a unique opportunity to make our communities more resilient to climate change and to help lead the transition to a clean energy economy, Haaland continued. "These steps will align the Interior Department with the president's priorities and better position the team to be a part of the climate solution."
"I know that signing secretarial orders alone won't address the urgency of the climate crisis. But I'm hopeful that these steps will help make clear that we, as a department, have a mandate to act," she added. "With the vast experience, talent, and ingenuity of our public servants at the Department of the Interior, I'm optimistic about what we can accomplish together to care for our natural resources for the benefit of current and future generations."
Haaland's orders were welcomed by environmental and climate groups as well as other critics of fossil fuel development on public lands and in federal waters.
Kristen Miller, conservation director at Alaska Wilderness League, said the orders "are another important step toward restoring scientific integrity, meaningful public process, and the longstanding stewardship responsibilities for America's public lands and waters at the Department of Interior. This is the type of bold and visionary leadership we need if we're to effectively fight climate change, tackle the extinction crisis, and prioritize environmental justice and tribal consultation."
"We applaud the secretary's actions to ensure meaningful consultation and elevate strong science, especially around climate change, into decision-making across the department," Miller added. "And we thank the secretary for reversing the Trump administration's energy dominance agenda in the Arctic Ocean and the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska, and look forward to working with her on a different management direction for the western Arctic that focuses on addressing the climate crisis and protecting its extraordinary wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and cultural values."
Environment America public lands campaign director Ellen Montgomery said that "Haaland is building on President Biden's strong start by restoring conservation as a priority for the Department of the Interior. Our public lands and waters should be protected for the sake of the wildlife and people who depend on them. They should not be mined and drilled to extract fossil fuels — an antiquated 20th-century pursuit that pollutes our air and makes climate change worse."
"The Interior Department is in a powerful position to drive bold action for the climate in the United States," said Nichols of WildEarth Guardians. "Haaland's actions today confirm that President Biden and his administration are seizing the opportunity to rein in fossil fuels and make climate action and climate justice a reality."
"We can't have fossil fuels and a safe climate and today's orders take a major step forward in acknowledging and acting upon this reality," he said. "If we truly have any chance of protecting peoples' health, advancing economic prosperity, and achieving environmental justice, we have to start keeping our fossil fuels in the ground."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Jeff Goodell
The Earth's climate has always been a work in progress. In the 4.5 billion years the planet has been spinning around the sun, ice ages have come and gone, interrupted by epochs of intense heat. The highest mountain range in Texas was once an underwater reef. Camels wandered in evergreen forests in the Arctic. Then a few million years later, 400 feet of ice formed over what is now New York City. But amid this geologic mayhem, humans have gotten lucky. For the past 10,000 years, virtually the entire stretch of human civilization, people have lived in what scientists call "a Goldilocks climate" — not too hot, not too cold, just right.
Now, our luck is running out. The industrialized nations of the world are dumping 34 billion tons or so of carbon into the atmosphere every year, which is roughly 10 times faster than Mother Nature ever did on her own, even during past mass extinction events. As a result, global temperatures have risen 1.2 C since we began burning coal, and the past seven years have been the warmest seven years on record. The Earth's temperature is rising faster today than at any time since the end of the last ice age, 11,300 years ago. We are pushing ourselves out of a Goldilocks climate and into something entirely different — quite literally, a different world than humans have ever lived in before.
How hot will the summers get in India and Pakistan, and how will tens of thousands of deaths from extreme heat impact the stability of the region (both nations have nuclear weapons)? How close is the West Antarctic ice sheet to collapse, and what does the risk of five or six feet of sea-level rise mean for people living in mobile homes on the Gulf Coast? The truth is, no one knows for sure. We are in uncharted terrain. "We're now in a world where the past is no longer a good guide to the future," said Jesse Jenkins, an assistant professor of engineering at Princeton University. "We have to get much better at preparing for the unexpected."
By all indications, President Biden and his team understand all this. And it's hard not to feel that after 30 years of dithering and denial and hypocrisy, the fight to save the climate has finally begun in earnest. In the 2020 election, nearly 70 percent of Biden's voters said climate change was a top issue for them. Biden has staffed his administration with the climate A-team, from Gina McCarthy as domestic climate czar to John Kerry as international climate envoy. He has made racial and environmental justice a top priority. And perhaps most important of all, he sees the climate crisis as an opportunity to reinvent the U.S. economy and create millions of new jobs.
"I think in Obama's mind, it was always about tackling the climate challenge, not making the climate challenge the central element of your economic policy," says John Podesta, a Democratic power broker and special adviser to President Obama who played a key role in negotiating the Paris Agreement. "Biden's team is different. It is really the core of their economic strategy to make transformation of the energy systems the driver of innovation, growth, and job creation, justice and equity."
Of course, there have been hopeful moments before: the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, when the nations of the world first came together to limit CO2 emissions; the success of Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth in 2006; the election of Obama in 2008 ("This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal," Obama said in his speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination that year); the Paris Agreement in 2015, when China finally engaged in climate talks. But all of these moments, in the end, led to nothing. If you look at the only metric that really matters — a graph of the percentage of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere — it has been on a long, steady upward climb. More CO2 equals more heat. To put it bluntly, all our scientific knowledge, all the political speeches, all the activism and protest marches have done zero to stop the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.
But hope rises again. The economic winds are lifting Biden's sails: The cost of wind and solar power has plummeted by 90 percent or so over the past decade, and in many parts of the world it's the cheapest way to generate electricity. Meanwhile, fossil-fuel dinosaurs are tottering: Big Coal is collapsing in real time and may disappear from American life in the next decade or so. ExxonMobil lost $22 billion last year and in August was delisted from the S&P 500. GM, long the staunch fossil-fuel loyalist of the U.S. auto industry, has pledged to go all-electric by 2035.
Globally, the signs of change are equally inspiring. Eight of the 10 largest economies have pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. China, by far the world's largest carbon polluter in terms of raw tonnage (on a per capita basis, the U.S. and several other countries pollute far more), has promised to become carbon neutral by 2060. Some 400 companies, including Microsoft, Unilever, Facebook, Ford, Nestlé, and Pepsi, have committed to reduce carbon pollution consistent with the United Nations' 1.5 C target, which scientists have determined is the threshold of dangerous climate change. Many of these same companies are now calling on the Biden administration to cut overall U.S. carbon pollution by at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, a goal consistent with the 1.5 C target.
Big Money is also waking up to the risks and benefits of climate action. In his annual letter to investors, Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock, which manages $7.8 trillion in assets, challenged companies "to disclose a plan for how their business model will be compatible with a net-zero economy." In her confirmation hearing, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called climate change "an existential threat" and promised to create a team to examine the risks and integrate them into financial policy-making.
Still, these are only baby steps in a very long journey. And the clock is ticking. "When it comes to the climate crisis," says futurist Alex Steffen, "speed is everything." Every molecule of carbon we dump into the atmosphere is another molecule of carbon that will warm the climate for centuries to come, and in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, reshape the world we live in. The changes we are making are not reversible. If we magically stopped all carbon pollution tomorrow, the Earth's temperature would level off, but warm seas would continue melting the ice sheets and seas would keep rising for decades, if not centuries (last time carbon levels were as high as they are today, sea levels were 70 feet higher). Ocean acidification, caused by high CO2 levels, is already dissolving coral reefs and is having a major impact on the ocean food chain. Even after emissions stop, it will take the ocean thousands of years to recover.
Cutting carbon fast would slow these changes and reduce the risk of other climate catastrophes. But despite the world's newfound ambition, political leaders are not moving anywhere near fast enough. Even the goal of holding future warming to 2 C, which is a centerpiece of the Paris Agreement and considered the outer limits of a Goldilocks climate for much of the planet, is nearly out of reach. As a recent paper in Nature pointed out: "On current trends, the probability of staying below 2 C of warming is only five percent." If all countries meet the commitment they made in the 2015 Paris Agreement and continue to reduce emissions at the same rate after 2030, the paper argued, the probability of remaining below 2 C of warming rises to 26 percent ("As if a 26 percent chance was good," Swedish climate wunderkind Greta Thunberg pointed out in a tweet).
The great danger is not climate denial. The great danger is climate delay. Instead of pushing for changes tomorrow, world leaders and CEOs like to make virtuous-sounding statements about what they will do in 2050. And then in 2050, they will make virtuous-sounding statements about what they will do in 2070. Climate scientist Zeke Hausfather calls this the "empty radicalism" of long-term goals.
What's needed is action now. As climate envoy John Kerry put it at the World Sustainable Development Summit in February: "We have to now phase out coal five times faster than we have been. We have to increase tree cover five times faster than we have been. We have to ramp up renewable energy six times faster than we are. We have to transition to [electric vehicles] 22 times faster."
As an example of the seriousness of Biden's near-term ambition, he has proposed transitioning to 100 percent clean electricity by 2035, which means goodbye natural-gas plants, goodbye coal plants, and hello electric cars and battery storage. It's an astonishingly ambitious proposal, one that would require a remaking of the digital backbone of America at a breakneck speed. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, but if Biden is serious about getting it done, it will require retooling permitting laws and the environmental-review process that often stalls big infrastructure projects.
Demanding action now will also require shutting down the international financing schemes that support fossil fuels. China, Japan, and South Korea all claim to be doing their part in making carbon reductions at home, while at the same time they are financing 70,000 megawatts of coal power in places like Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Indonesia. In addition, state-run oil companies in places like China, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia are on course to spend more than $400 billion over the next decade to expand oil infrastructure and exploration.
The goal of net-zero emissions is also problematic. "Net zero" is not the same thing as zero. It means that carbon pollution is either eliminated or offset by other processes that remove carbon from the atmosphere, such as forests or machines that capture CO2. Some of these offsets and technologies are more legit than others, opening the door to scams that claim to eliminate more carbon than they do.
In a way, the economic chaos caused by the pandemic has created a historic opportunity for the Biden administration. As one White House adviser tells me, "If you are going to pump billions of dollars into the economy, why not use those dollars to help us transition away from fossil fuels?" This is one of the central ideas behind Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure bill, which is now being negotiated in Congress. The bill includes a wide variety of climate-related initiatives, shaped around the twin pillars of Biden-era policy: clean-energy jobs and climate justice.
Already the pushback is fierce, especially in states that have benefited from the fracking boom. "The climate fight going forward is really about natural gas," says Leah Stokes, author of Short Circuiting Policy, an analysis of how special interests have derailed clean-energy policy for 30 years. Shortly after Biden issued his first round of executive orders aimed at the climate crisis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference in the middle of the gas fields "to make clear that Texas is going to protect the oil-and-gas industry from any type of hostile attack launched from Washington, D.C." In Florida, two bills were introduced that would preempt local governments from implementing plans to lower carbon pollution. In California and New York, residents are fighting transmission lines for offshore wind farms. Republicans, along with stalwart fossil-fuel allies like the Heritage Foundation, recently convened a private retreat in Utah to plot ways to "reclaim the narrative" on climate, while Republican Senators like Tennessee's Marsha Blackburn continue to recycle tired old rants about how the Paris Agreement is destroying American jobs.
None of this is surprising. And the fight will only get bigger and more ruthless as the clean-energy transition accelerates. Fossil fuels are emblematic of a culture, a way of life, a political hierarchy, and an empire of wealth that will not go quietly into the night.
Even among climate activists and progressives, there is wide disagreement about the best path forward. In Pennsylvania, Rep. Conor Lamb, a Democrat who supports Biden's climate goals, sees natural gas as indispensable. "You can't turn off natural gas in our society, at least in the Northeast of the United States at this time," Lamb tells me. "You just can't do it." Lamb advocates investments in expensive and unproven technology like carbon capture that could extend the life of fossil fuels. Then there are the eternal battles over nuclear power as a source of clean energy, which Lamb also supports. Others, like UC Berkeley energy professor Daniel Kammen, remain skeptical: "If low-cost, reliable, entirely safe nuclear can prove itself out, this is wonderful. . . . But there's a lot of big ifs."
More important, the fight for a stable climate is increasingly inseparable from a fight for justice and equity. Catherine Coleman Flowers, who was on a task force that helped shape Biden's climate policy during his campaign, grew up and works in Lowndes County, Alabama. "I see a lot of poverty here," Flowers says. "And I see a lot of people who suffer from the impacts of climate change — whether it is heat, or disease, or poor sanitation and polluted drinking water. You can't separate one from the other. They put sewage lagoons next to the houses of poor people, not rich people. They put oil pipelines through poor neighborhoods, not rich ones."
Internationally, rich nations of the world pledged to "mobilize" $100 billion by 2020 through the U.N.'s Green Climate Fund to help developing nations adapt to climate change. But only about $10 billion materialized. The U.S. was among the worst actors: Of the $3 billion President Obama promised, he funded only $1 billion before Trump canceled further payments (Biden has promised to make good on the commitment, and then some).
Whatever happens with Biden's climate and energy initiatives, we're living in a new world now. The faster we cut carbon, the more manageable the changes will be. But change is coming. The biggest fights of the future are less likely to be about natural gas and nuclear power than about sea walls and migration policies. "Adaptation is not sexy," says Alice Hill, who was an adviser to the Obama administration. "But it is inevitable." As climate impacts escalate, dangerous techno-fixes, such as solar geoengineering, which involves spraying particles into the stratosphere to reflect away sunlight and cool the planet, will likely become more tempting and more divisive, perhaps further diluting the will to quickly cut carbon pollution.
For more than 30 years now, scientists and politicians have been aware that our hellbent consumption of fossil fuels could push us out of the Goldilocks zone and force humans to live in a world we have never inhabited before. As Biden's push for climate action gets real, we will learn a lot about how serious human beings are about living on this planet, and how far the powerful and privileged are willing to go to reduce the suffering of the poor and vulnerable. If political leaders don't take the climate crisis seriously now, with all they know, with all they have been through already, will they ever? "Climate advocates keep saying, 'This is it, this is it, this is it,'" warns Podesta. "But this really is it. If we don't amp up and accelerate the energy transformation in this decade, we're goners — really goners."
This story originally appeared in Rolling Stone and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
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A new report promoting urgent climate action in Australia has stirred debate for claiming that global temperatures will rise past 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next decade.
Australia's Climate Council released the report on Thursday. The council is an independent organization of climate scientists and experts on health, renewable energy and policy who work to inform the Australian public on the climate crisis. But their latest claim is causing controversy.
"Multiple lines of evidence show that limiting global warming to 1.5°C above the preindustrial level, without significant overshoot and subsequent drawdown, is now out of reach due to past inaction," Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Prof. Christopher Field of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment wrote in the foreword. "The science is telling us that global average temperature rise will likely exceed 1.5°C during the 2030s, and that long-term stabilization at warming at or below 1.5°C will be extremely challenging."
The report is titled "Aim high, go fast: Why emissions need to plummet this decade," and as the name suggests, it is ultimately concerned with urging more robust climate action on the part of the Australian government. The report calls for the country to reduce emissions by 75 percent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2035 in order to achieve the long-term goals of the Paris agreement, which means limiting warming to well below two degrees Celsius.
"The world achieving net zero by 2050 is at least a decade too late and carries a strong risk of irreversible global climate disruption at levels inconsistent with maintaining well-functioning human societies," the authors wrote.
The report further argues that global temperatures are likely to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius in the 2030s based on existing temperature increases; locked-in warming from emissions that have already occurred; evidence from past climate changes and the percentage of the carbon budget that has already been used.
The report isn't a call to give up on the Paris agreement. It is possible that global temperatures could swell past 1.5 degrees Celsius but still be reduced by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Even if temperatures do exceed 1.5 degrees, every degree of warming that can be prevented makes a difference.
"Basically we can still hold temperature rise to well below 2C and do that without overshoot and drawdown," Will Steffen, lead report author from the Australian National University's Climate Change Institute, told Australia's ABC News. "Every tenth of a degree actually does matter — 1.8C is better than 1.9C, and is much better than 2C."
However, some outside scientists question both the accuracy and effectiveness of the report's claim. Both Adjunct Professor Bill Hare from Murdoch University and Dr. Carl-Freidrich Schleussner from Humboldt University told ABC News they have been trying to contact the Climate Council about its 1.5 overshoot claim for months. They said that it went against other major reports, including the UN Environment Program Gap Report and the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on 1.5˚C.
"The big challenge their report reinforces is the need for urgent action to get on that 1.5C pathway, [so] it's very paradoxical to me that they've chosen to attack that target," Dr. Hare told ABC News.
However, Scientist Andy Pitman from the Center of Excellence for Climate Extremes at the University of New South Wales told The Guardian that the report's assessment was correct.
"It's simply not possible to limit warming to 1.5C now," he said. "There's too much inertia in the system and even if you stopped greenhouse gas emissions today, you would still reach 1.5C [of heating]."
However, one aspect everyone agreed on involved the importance of lowering emissions as soon as possible.
"[There is] absolute fundamental agreement on the task at hand, which is to get emissions to plummet," Simon Bradshaw, report author and Climate Council head of research, told The Guardian.
By Suzanne Cords
One day Lizzie, the first-person narrator of the novel, receives an old book as a gift, with a dedication wishing the reader to be among the survivors. Like the preppers who build bunkers and stockpile supplies in remote areas to be ready for the end of the world, Lizzie is convinced that the end of the world is definitely near in times of a threatening climate disaster.
Lizzie, who lives in New York with her husband and son, is a university campus librarian. She worries about almost everything: her brother, an ex-junkie, or her dental insurance and the future in the face of the apocalypse. She is obsessed with reading reference books and articles about climate change.
She also devours words of wisdom, including about Buddhist spirituality: "A visitor once asked the old monks on Mount Athos what they did all day, and was told: We have died and we are in love with everything." But nothing can lift her spirits.
'Lizzie Is Just Like Us'
Lizzie observes rich New Yorkers plan their move to regions that are less threatened by climate change, something she simply cannot afford. Sometimes she watches disaster movies, which lead her to worry even more.
Above all, she is a gifted observer of her fellow human beings. "Young person worry: What if nothing I do matters? Old person worry: What if everything I do, does?"
Lizzie, the U.S. author told DW, is a bit like the rest of us — well aware of the climate crisis, but because she cares and worries about so many other things, that awareness falls by the wayside. That's how she felt herself, Jenny Offill said, but the more she looked into the issue, the more she saw a need for action on her part, too.
"I also was trying to see if there was a way to make it funny, because, you know, so much of the world of prepping and imagining disaster is actually sort of strangely funny."
The novel was shortlisted for the 2020 UK's Women's Prize for Fiction and has now been released in German translation.
Climate Activist With a Vision
But then, there is also this serious, scientifically based concern about what climate change means. In the past, says Offill, artists were the ones who would predict disasters; today it's the experts, as well as the students she teaches. In the end, their fears and their justified anger motivated her to take a closer look at the issue. Today, she is a climate activist herself, and is involved in initiatives along with many other artists.
Lizzie, the heroine of Weather, hasn't gotten that far. But she voices her fears, and that's a start. "Of course, the world continues to end," says Sylvia, a mentor of Lizzie's, at one point — and commences to water her garden. There is hope after all.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Saturday after a leak at a wastewater pond posed a major flooding threat and prompted more than 300 homes to be evacuated.
Officials said that water pouring out too quickly posed the greatest risk. The latest projection shows that 340 million gallons of wastewater could rush out within minutes, potentially creating a wall of water 20 feet high.
"What we are looking at now is trying to prevent and respond to, if need be, a real catastrophic flood situation," DeSantis said at a press conference, The AP reported on Sunday.
Officials first detected the leak on Friday in a Piney Point reservoir pond located in the Tampa Bay area. The pond is 33 hectares and 25 feet deep and contains millions of gallons of water contaminated with phosphorus and nitrogen from an old phosphate plant, The AP reported on Saturday. This led the Manatee County Public Safety Department to send out two evacuation notices Friday evening warning of an "imminent uncontrolled release of wastewater," WFLA 8 reported.
A total of 316 homes were impacted by the evacuation orders, The AP reported. To prevent flooding, officials are now pumping water out of the reservoir at a rate of 22,000 gallons per minute and transferring it to Port Manatee. Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes said that they were hoping to increase that rate with more workers, and that the risk of collapse should decrease by Tuesday.
The water contained in the wastewater pond is not radioactive and "meets water quality standards for marine waters with the exception of pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen and total ammonia nitrogen," The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said, according to NPR. "It is slightly acidic, but not at a level that is expected to be a concern."
However, officials are worried that a collapse of the leaking pond could destabilize other nearby ponds that are more polluted.
"The pond is basically salt water. We saw ducks yesterday, there are snooks swimming in there. It's sustaining wildlife. That's not the case for the other two pools," Hopes told The AP on Saturday.
The ponds are located amidst a stack of phosphogypsum, the radioactive waste from processing phosphate ore into phosphoric acid for fertilizer, and the incident calls attention to the problems of storing this waste.
"This environmental disaster is made worse by the fact it was entirely foreseeable and preventable," Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release. "With 24 more phosphogypsum stacks storing more than one billion tons of this dangerous, radioactive waste in Florida, the EPA needs to step in right now. Federal officials need to clean up this mess the fertilizer industry has dumped on Florida communities and immediately halt further phosphogypsum production."
Phosphogypsum contains radium-226, which has a half life of 1,600 years. The waste product can also contain toxins such as arsenic, lead and mercury. Its storage is an ongoing problem for Florida and other states. In 2004, a breach at a stack in Riverview, Florida, sent millions of gallons of polluted water into Tampa Bay. In 2016, a sinkhole opened beneath a different phosphogypsum site and contaminated an aquifer with 215 million gallons of waste. Meanwhile, in Louisiana, a stack began to shift in 2019, prompting emergency action. There are also phosphogypsum stacks in Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
"Phosphogypsum stacks are getting bigger and more dangerous by the minute, and Piney Point's fate could befall them all," Environmental Attorney Rachael Curran said in the press release. "We need real solutions that start with halting the addition of any phosphogypsum and process water to active stacks so that we can deal with the problem we already have. Underground injection control wells or building radioactive roads out of phosphogypsum are dangerous, unacceptable distractions."
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By Andrea Germanos
A recent series of summer droughts in Europe, which brought devastating ecological, agricultural, and economic impacts, were more severe than any over the past 2,100 years, new research out Monday finds.
"Our results show that what we have experienced over the past five summers is extraordinary for central Europe, in terms of how dry it has been consecutively," dendrochronology specialist and lead author Professor Ulf Büntgen of Cambridge's Department of Geography said in a statement.
Büntgen and the team of international researchers linked the recent droughts to the climate crisis, including its impacts on the jet stream.
The chemical fingerprints in European oak trees show that in 2015, #drought conditions in Europe suddenly intensifi… https://t.co/hdOGC6CZD2— Cambridge University (@Cambridge University)1615828862.0
The findings were published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Analyzing more than 27,000 measurements of carbon and oxygen isotopic ratios from European oak trees — 21 living and 126 dead — the scientists got a picture of past climates, including summer droughts, spanning the years 75 BC to 2018.
Co-author Paolo Cherubini of the Federal Research Institute WSL in Birmensdorf, Switzerland, explained that "carbon values depend on the photosynthetic activity" and "oxygen values are affected by the source water."
And the "insights before medieval times," said Büntgen, "are particularly vital, because they enable us to get a more complete picture of past drought variations, which were essential for the functioning and productivity of ecosystems and societies."
The reconstruction showed an overall drying trend. But the samples showed that the droughts from 2015-2018 were "unprecedented" over the massive time span.
But the runaway climate crisis portends more worrisome parched periods to come.
"Climate change does not mean that it will get drier everywhere: some places may get wetter or colder, but extreme conditions will become more frequent, which could be devastating for agriculture, ecosystems, and societies as a whole," said Büntgen.
The U.K. Green Party shared The Guardian's reporting on the new study with a tweet declaring, "Climate change is here."
"If we don't cut carbon emissions, it will get worse," they said. "Let's fight this while it's still fixable."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
By Brett Wilkins
One hundred seconds to midnight. That's how close humanity is to the apocalypse, and it's as close as the world has ever been, according to Wednesday's annual announcement from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a group that has been running its "Doomsday Clock" since the early years of the nuclear age in 1947.
Although the scientists cite the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed 1.7 million people around the world and has "revealed just how unprepared and unwilling countries and the international system are to handle global emergencies properly," they acknowledge that the coronavirus does not pose an existential threat to Homo sapiens.
However, nuclear weapons and, increasingly, catastrophic global heating caused and exacerbated by human activity — the climate crisis — do.
Nuclear risk is rising as arms control treaties wither and die. Here’s the world of nuclear arms, in one graphic. V… https://t.co/5OE4L5LRps— Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (@Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)1611761880.0
"Accelerating nuclear programs in multiple countries moved the world into less stable and manageable territory last year," the scientists say. "Development of hypersonic glide vehicles, ballistic missile defenses, and weapons-delivery systems that can flexibly use conventional or nuclear warheads may raise the probability of miscalculation in times of tension."
"Events like the deadly assault earlier this month on the U.S. Capitol renewed legitimate concerns about national leaders who have sole control of the use of nuclear weapons," they say. "Nuclear nations, however, have ignored or undermined practical and available diplomatic and security tools for managing nuclear risks."
"By our estimation, the potential for the world to stumble into nuclear war — an ever-present danger over the last 75 years — increased in 2020," they conclude.
🚨The @BulletinAtomic just updated the Doomsday Clock, and we are PERILOUSLY close to midnight. May this be a wake… https://t.co/txNJPZPBWE— CODEPINK (@CODEPINK)1611763809.0
Thirty years ago, by contrast, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the Doomsday Clock to 17 minutes to midnight as the Soviet Union collapsed and the threat of thermonuclear annihilation ebbed to its lowest level since before the United States invented the atomic bomb and waged the only nuclear war in history against Japan in 1945. That was the year that Albert Einstein — who helped develop the first nuclear weapons—and other researchers formed the Bulletin.
Once again this year, the scientists stress that governments have also "failed to sufficiently address climate change," and although "a pandemic-related economic slowdown temporarily reduced the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming," much more needs to be done to rein in planetary warming.
"Over the coming decade fossil fuel use needs to decline precipitously if the worst effects of climate change are to be avoided," they state. "Instead, fossil fuel development and production are projected to increase. Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations hit a record high in 2020, one of the two warmest years on record."
"The massive wildfires and catastrophic cyclones of 2020 are illustrations of the major devastation that will only increase if governments do not significantly and quickly amplify their efforts to bring greenhouse gas emissions essentially to zero," they warn.
Governments around the world failed to take sufficient action to address the carbon dioxide emissions that cause cl… https://t.co/Xv6AkEYf7D— Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (@Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)1611762810.0
Another warning came in the form of the scientists' condemnation of what they call the "threat multiplier" of "false and misleading information," both online and in more traditional media.
"This wanton disregard for science and the large-scale embrace of conspiratorial nonsense — often driven by political figures and partisan media — undermined the ability of responsible national and global leaders to protect the security of their citizens," the scientists posit. "False conspiracy theories about a 'stolen' presidential election led to rioting that resulted in the death of five people and the first hostile occupation of the U.S. Capitol since 1814."
"In 2020, online lying literally killed," they write.
The COVID-19 pandemic has spawned what the @WHO has called an “infodemic” of mis- & disinformation. Here, the desig… https://t.co/RAFb6SDTTF— Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (@Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)1611763775.0
However, this year's report is not all gloom and doom.
"The election of a U.S. president who acknowledges climate change as a profound threat and supports international cooperation and science-based policy puts the world on a better footing to address global problems," the scientists assert. "For example, the United States has already announced it is rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Biden administration has offered to extend the New START arms control agreement with Russia for five years."
"In the context of a post-pandemic return to relative stability, more such demonstrations of renewed interest in and respect for science and multilateral cooperation could create the basis for a safer and saner world," they write.
"We continue to believe that human beings can manage the dangers posed by modern technology, even in times of crisis," the researchers conclude. "But if humanity is to avoid an existential catastrophe — one that would dwarf anything it has yet seen — national leaders must do a far better job of countering disinformation, heeding science, and cooperating to diminish global risks."
Ultimately, the scientists say, it's up to "citizens around the world" to "organize and demand — through public protests, at ballot boxes, and in other creative ways — that their governments reorder their priorities and cooperate domestically and internationally to reduce the risk of nuclear war, climate change, and other global disasters, including pandemic disease."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
By Greta Thunberg
- Greta Thunberg calls for urgent action to address the climate and ecological crisis.
- She reminds the world of the promises made to children and grandchildren — a promise they expect to be kept.
- The proposals being discussed and presented at the moment are 'very far from being enough.'
My name is Greta Thunberg and I'm not here to make deals. You see, I don't belong to any financial interest or political party. So I can't bargain or negotiate. I am only here to once again remind you of the emergency we're in. The crisis that you and your predecessors have created and inflicted upon us. The crisis that you continue to ignore.
I am here to remind you of the promises that you have made to your children and grandchildren. And to tell you that we are not willing to compromise on the very minimum safety levels that still remain.
The climate and ecological crisis can unfortunately no longer be solved within today's systems. According to the current best available science that is no longer an opinion; that's a fact.
We need to keep this in mind as countries, businesses and investors now rush forward to present their new so-called "ambitious" climate targets and commitments. The longer we avoid this uncomfortable truth, and the longer we pretend we can solve the climate - and ecological emergency — without treating it like a crisis — the more precious time we will lose. And this is time we do not have.
Today, we hear leaders and nations all over the world speak of an "existential climate emergency". But instead of taking the immediate action you would in any emergency, they set up vague, insufficient, hypothetical targets way into the future, like "net-zero 2050." Targets based on loopholes and incomplete numbers. Targets that equal surrender. It's like waking up in the middle of the night, seeing your house on fire, then deciding to wait 10, 20 or 30 years before you call the fire department while labeling those trying to wake people up alarmists.
We understand that the world is very complex and that change doesn't happen overnight. But you've now had more than three decades of bla bla bla. How many more do you need? Because when it comes to facing the climate and ecological emergency, the world is still in a state of complete denial. The justice for the most affected people in the most affected areas is being systematically denied.
Even though we welcome every single climate initiative, the proposals being presented and discussed today are very far from being enough. And the time for "small steps in the right direction" is long gone. If we are to have at least a small chance of avoiding the worst consequences of the climate and ecological crisis, this needs to change.
Because you still say one thing, and then do the complete opposite. You speak of saving nature, while locking in policies of further destruction for decades to come.
You promise to not let future generations down, while creating new loopholes, failing to connect the dots, building your so called "pledges" on the cheating tactics that got us into this mess in the first place. If the commitments of lowering all our emissions by 70, 68 or even 55 percent by 2030 actually meant they aim to reduce them by those figures then that would be a great start. But that is unfortunately not the case.
And since the level of public awareness continues to be so low our leaders can still get away with almost anything. No one is held accountable. It's like a game. Whoever is best at packaging and selling their message wins.
As it is now, we can have as many summits and meetings as we want, but unless we treat the climate and ecological crisis like a crisis, no sufficient changes will be achieved. What we need — to begin with — is to implement annual binding carbon budgets based on the current best available science.
Right now more than ever we are desperate for hope. But what is hope? For me hope is not more empty assurances that everything will be alright, that things are being taken care of and we do not need to worry.
For me, hope is the feeling that keeps you going, even though all odds may be against you. For me hope comes from action not just words. For me, hope is telling it like it is. No matter how difficult or uncomfortable that may be.
And again, I'm not here to tell you what to do. After all, safeguarding the future living conditions and preserving life on earth as we know it is voluntary. The choice is yours to make.
But I can assure you this. You can't negotiate with physics. And your children and grandchildren will hold you accountable for the choices that you make. How's that for a deal?
Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.
By Tara Lohan
2020 was so bad that even disasters outdid themselves. Last year the United States alone experienced at least 16 weather and climate disasters with losses topping $1 billion each. That's more than twice the long-term average.
What's worse: Expensive disasters are on the rise. 2020 was the sixth year in a row that the United States saw 10 or more billion-dollar weather and climate disasters. And as climate change supercharges storms, wildfires and droughts, this trend will continue to climb.
To stave off the worst outcomes, scientists say we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which will require steadfast effort from elected officials, policymakers and businesses.
But since there are no quick fixes for the climate changes already underway, there's one group of experts we'll also need to call on: emergency managers. Unfortunately, although they're tasked with making sure communities are prepared to respond to disasters, they're often left out of conversations about climate change.
Samantha Montano, an assistant professor of emergency management at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and a "disasterlogist," has been working to change that. She's also been calling for emergency management professionals, including government agencies like FEMA, to put the climate crisis and environmental justice at the forefront of their work.
We spoke to Montano about why we need emergency managers involved in climate conversations, whether disasters are on the rise, and how we prepare for a future with climate-supercharged storms.
We often think of emergency management as responding to "natural disasters," but as you wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post, that term is a bit fraught.
Disaster experts don't really use the term "natural disaster" because it's a bit of a misnomer. When we're talking about disasters, we're talking about the actual human toll that they take. Is it the fact that a river, which naturally overflows its banks, has caused the disaster? Or is it that we have built homes right next to the river; that we have not maintained the levees that are meant to protect those homes from flooding; that the people who live in that neighborhood and don't have a lot of money aren't able to evacuate; that there aren't government programs there to help people recover quickly?
All of those things are not natural, right? Those are the human decisions that have ended up making a situation into a disaster. So while a river overflowing its banks may be natural, the fact that it has led to a disaster isn't. So that term "natural disaster" helps to obscure the role of human responsibility in disasters. If everything that happens are just these natural events that we have no control over, then some people may think we can't do anything about it.
This thinking isn't new in disaster research, but it has gotten a bit more attention in recent years as folks try to understand how climate change fits into all of this. The new term that we hear people using is "climate disaster," which runs into a similar problem.
Climate change may be a factor that is contributing to a disaster that happened, but it's certainly, again, not the only factor. But if we understand the root causes better, then we can make different decisions and prevent disasters from happening.
There's ample evidence that climate change is supercharging a lot of weather events. Are emergency managers included in conversations about how to fight climate change?
Within the broader climate change conversation, most of the focus is on carbon emissions and that's very important. And more recently we've seen an uptick in conversations about climate adaptation, which is also important as we begin to experience the consequences of climate change.
But we hear much less about the pretty significant overlap between climate adaptation and what we in emergency management call "hazard mitigation." It feels sometimes from an emergency management perspective like we're reinventing the wheel a little bit.
Flooding and wildfires aren't new. We in the emergency management community have been dealing with these hazards for a very long time and we have a lot of knowledge about them. We want to make sure that, especially because of the urgency of the climate crisis, we are pulling from this base of knowledge and experience that we have.
How much emergency management is integrated into conversations about climate change varies greatly across the country. Maine, for example, just released their plan for a statewide climate council and emergency managers were all on that committee and helped to produce the plan.
This is a great example of trying to bridge emergency management and adaptation work. But there are other places in the country where you have a part-time emergency manager working in a rural community and they don't have the resources or they're not a part of those climate conversations. There's definitely more work that needs to be done to help bring emergency management and climate adaptation work together.
Climate change can help fuel short-term hazards, like a hurricane, or lead to slow-moving threats such as sea-level rise. How do you differentiate between these from a management perspective?
We think about hurricanes, wildfires — these more acute events — as ones that emergency management is very obviously on the front line of managing. But issues like sea-level rise, and even longer-term chronic issues like droughts, are areas emergency management is still involved in because it still has an impact on our overall risk.
Something like an earthquake, which seems pretty far removed from climate change itself, is actually impacted by climate change. Because when we think about the vulnerabilities in our communities that climate change exacerbates, that has an effect on how people are, or aren't, able to respond to an earthquake or the resources that can go toward preparing for an earthquake or mitigating damages.
So even these events that seem more chronic, or don't seem like they have this direct link to climate change, are actually pretty significantly affected from an emergency management perspective.
It seems there's a new disaster almost every day. Are there really more now? And is climate change to blame?
It's pretty difficult to find any part of the country that has been untouched by disaster in the past few years. I also think that the way we consume media now also makes them feel more present.
We watch these disasters unfold live on television in front of us. We get alerts sent to our pockets when a disaster happens. So it's everywhere.
Climate change, though, I think is a huge part of that. I heard people joke around about not being able to wait until 2020 ends. And I get that. It was a really bad year. But these disasters aren't just going to go away. We're not making the changes we need to be to lessen those disasters or prevent those disasters from happening. We're in this for the long haul until we start making some different choices.
The coronavirus pandemic is a different kind of disaster than a weather-related event. What were the biggest lessons you'll take away from our response to it?
The way that we normally approach emergency management in these acute disasters is with help converging from neighboring communities, the state and the federal government. This March, however, was the first time that every single emergency agency in the country at all levels of government was activated simultaneously. So we didn't have the mutual aid, expertise and funding that we can usually send to places in a crisis because everyone was in the middle of their own crisis.
That has never happened before in the United States. It was a unique situation to see the strain on our systems and to start doing research and analyzing the effect that it has had on the response.
I draw the parallel there to climate change. Not that there is going to be a flood happening in every single state at one time, but as we see our risk increase, we'll see these disasters increase. In 2017 we saw hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria all happening nearly at once.
When that happens, what is our ability to meet all of those needs? How does the capacity of the emergency management system handle that? I think COVID has given us a little bit of a window into the future.
As a researcher I'm really hopeful that by studying how emergency management agencies specifically have responded to COVID we'll be able to take that data and take those findings and use it to inform policy changes for emergency management as we go into the climate crisis.
You have a book coming out this summer about climate change and emergency management. Who do you hope it reaches?
The book I'm writing is a combination of my experience going to different disasters and pulls from the disaster research to help the public understand what emergency management is and all that is involved in disasters. But it's also a pretty stark warning about the problem that we are barreling headfirst into in terms of how the emergency management system is unprepared to address the consequences of the climate crisis.
It's a book that will hopefully inspire people to some kind of action, whether locally or nationally, to make sure that disaster survivors across the country, who are the ones on the front lines of the climate crisis, are getting the help that they need. And that we're doing everything we can to prevent those disasters from happening. I'm hoping that it's really an empowering book that gives people the language and the education that they need to play a more active role in their community.
Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
By Daisy Simmons
Whether your charge is a lap dog, bird, outdoor cat, or farm animal, planning ahead for a potential evacuation can help you protect your animals and also first responders, who may risk their safety to save your pets.
Take the following measures now to help keep family pets safe should an evacuation become necessary:
1. Stay Informed
A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit Ready.gov to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning NOAA Weather Radio to your local emergency station or using the FEMA app to get National Weather Service alerts.
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable
Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. Microchipping your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.
Additionally, use 'animals inside' door/window stickers to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan
"No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in a video produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.
Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.
For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers tips on what to expect there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.
Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.
If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.
For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that here.)
For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit
Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:
- Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;
- Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;
- Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);
- Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;
- A pet first aid kit;
- A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;
- A favorite toy and/or blanket;
- If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding stress-relieving items like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.
In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:
- Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;
- A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;
- Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;
- Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;
- A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time
It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.
As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, pet disaster preparedness will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals
The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.
Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.
For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has more information.
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets
As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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"You need to know how to communicate it to people. You need to know how to organize if we're going to get anything done," said Jessica Gutknecht in the Department of Soil, Water and Climate.
Each spring, she co-teaches a class called "The Global Climate Challenge: Creating an Empowered Movement for Change."
Gutknecht walks students through the science. Teddie Potter from the School of Nursing encourages them to look at climate change from a health perspective. And Julia Nerbonne of the nonprofit Interfaith Power and Light teaches them how to lead grassroots change.
"We also have them do these community action projects where they are out pounding the pavement trying to get things done," Gutknecht said.
In the past, that's included starting community gardens, convincing businesses to do energy audits, and engaging sororities and fraternities in climate action.
"Every student needs to know that they have voice and that they can be actors in this wicked problem of climate change," Gutknecht said. "And so every step of the way, whatever we're teaching them, we are empowering them. And we're teaching them that they have something valuable to bring to the table, whatever their passions are."
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.