Ventura county is burning. My hometown is climate change’s latest victim

 Why are California’s wildfires so out of control? – video explainer

An unbearable amount of Ventura county in southern California, where I was born and raised, is simply gone. And as I hear about site after site from my childhood simply disappearing into scorched earth, I am realizing that climate change is not only erasing the present, it is also destroying the physical touchstones to my own past.

Victim to hot temperatures and high winds, some 90,000 acres have burned, hundreds of structures have been destroyed, and tens of thousands of people have been evacuated or lost power in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

But it is coastal Ventura, where I was born, that has driven home so personally what climate change looks like.

I was, of course, relieved that my relatives were all accounted for, and that my brother, sister-in-law and nephew evacuated safely on Monday night. (Their house survived, though the fire came just a couple of blocks from it.) My sister, north of Santa Barbara, has been taking in friends and family who have evacuated.

But it is heartbreaking to see the photos of the aftermath and to take stock of all that has been lost – both the things that can be be replaced, and the things that can’t.

Hundreds of schools in Oxnard, Ventura, and Los Angeles have been closed all week. This massive loss of education time – not to mention the economic precariousness for families deprived of childcare – is yet another impact of climate change.

When I was trying (in vain) to fall asleep on Wednesday night, I read journalist John Sepulvado’s tweets from Ojai, in which he said he was “able to separate my emotions from the story until I hear a coyote wail in pain or see cats scurry. Meanwhile, sirens ring and ash falls.”

I found myself thinking about the fire jumping rural Highway 33, where I learned to drive, and thought about the bird-filled cages of an old sanctuary I visited just off that road in my youth. And about those howling coyotes. And of all the horses stabled out that way.

🐝John Sepulvado🐝(@JohnLGC)

I’m able to separate my emotions from the story until I hear a coyote wail in pain or see cats scurry. Meanwhile, sirens ring and ash falls

December 7, 2017

I wondered if these animals were escaping, or if they were being cooked alive.

They, too, are the victims of climate change.

I am hearing from friends and family that the air is simply too bad to do much of anything physical outdoors. And yet, I saw that photo of farmworkers out in the fields, still doing the work while breathing air which will make them sick. Strawberry fields are toxic worksites filled with deadly chemicals even when they are not on fire.

I am terribly worried about the economic suffering these fires are causing. An entire apartment complex destroyed in Ventura contained some of the only affordable housing in the city: will what replaces it also be made affordable and available to the displaced, or will disaster capitalism replace it with multimillion-dollar condos?

Thomas fire burns in Ventura County, California
Pinterest
 ‘Some of the apartments and homes lost were rental units occupied by poor people who likely didn’t have insurance and will have lost everything.’ Photograph: Mike Nelson/EPA

I think people look at Ventura County – and, noting it sits on the Pacific Ocean between Malibu to the south and Santa Barbara County to the north – think it is a rich place. It is not. There are a lot of poor people in Ventura County, many of whom work at one of its two military bases, in agriculture, or in service jobs.

But while the wages for many of these jobs are low, housing is very expensive. Some of the apartments and homes lost were rental units occupied by poor people who likely didn’t have insurance and will have lost everything, and will have no other affordable housing options in the county.

They, too, are victims of climate change. And while Ventura County residents are coming together to help each other, the increasingly cruel federal government is neither providing an adequate response to climate change nor an adequate social safety net even in the best of times.

In 2012, I got to see what climate change looked like wet, when the city of my adult life, New York, was deluged by Hurricane Sandy. But at least I got to help a bit with recovery efforts.

Five years later, I am watching powerlessly from afar a very different manifestation of climate change – one that is made worse by a terrible lack of water in my hometown.

They’re two side of our climate crisis, and neither is pretty.

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Dahr Jamail | “Apocalyptic” Melting Transpires in Antarctica as Earth Wraps Up a Scorching Year

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/42777-pollution-and-diseases-wreak-havoc-in-a-scorching-year-with-apocalyptic-melting-in-antarctica

Monday, December 04, 2017By Dahr JamailTruthout | Report

(Photo: Ghost Presenter; Edited: LW / TO)(Photo: Ghost Presenter; Edited: LW / TO)

The signs of runaway anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) continue to mount with each passing month.

2016 saw a record surge in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, according to the World Meteorological Organization. This means that last year’s increase was a stunning 50 percent higher than the average over the last decade. Scientists said this makes obtaining global temperature targets — such as the often-mentioned 1.5°C and 2°C limits — largely unattainable. The combination of the increase of CO2 and El Niño have driven atmospheric CO2 to levels not seen for 800,000 years.

How is this playing out around the planet?

The Arctic Ocean is now starting to look more and more like the Atlantic Ocean, a shift that is threatening to turn the entire Arctic food web on its head. This is due to the fact that the summer Arctic sea ice is melting rapidly and the waters are warming, leading to encroachment by animals from warmer climates and a reorganization of Arctic biodiversity.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

Meanwhile, a recent report highlights the fact that planetary warming of just 3°C (a level we are currently on a trajectory to easily exceed before 2100) will be enough warming to lock in irreversible sea-level rise that will impact hundreds of millions of people.

This year is already on track to be in the top three hottest years ever recorded, bearing in mind that the last three years have been the warmest three years ever recorded for the planet.

2017 has already seen some of the warmest temperatures ever recorded at many places around the world, in addition to unusually low Antarctic and Arctic sea ice levels, along with several instances of extreme droughts and wildfires.

Earth

Signs of abrupt climate disruption’s impact have been glaringly obvious of late.

Climate Disruption DispatchesThe total area of global tree cover lost last year was equivalent to the area of the country of New Zealand (approximately 73.4 million acres). This was a staggering 51 percent increase over the previous year’s loss. The University of Maryland study that provided this data cited ACD-driven forest fires and deforestation as the two leading causes, and noted that the wildfires were responsible for the massive spike in coverage loss compared to the previous year.

Wildlife continues to provide us signals of the global imbalance. In the Arctic, the black guillemot seabird, which is dependent upon sea-ice for its survival, is likely on its way out, as has been the known case for species such as Arctic Fox, walrus, hooded seal and Narwhal for quite some time now.

And as usual, climate impacts on the human front are glaring. A recent study published in the Lancet showed how ACD is already damaging the health of millions of people around the world every year. Pollution, diseases and heat waves, all linked to ACD, are the primary drivers of the health impacts.

On the topic of ACD’s human impacts, some rare good news comes from New Zealand, where the government is considering creating a visa category to assist in relocating people from low-lying Pacific islands being submerged by rising seas. If this occurs, New Zealand will be the first country to create a visa for ACD refugees.

Demonstrating how ACD-fueled extreme weather events are hammering the economy, 2017 is on track to be one of the most expensive years ever recorded for the insurance industry in the US. In fact, the strain is evident for the entire global economy: There is currently a global protection gap (difference in how much insurance money is actually available and what is needed) of $1.7 trillion, the majority of which is being covered by civil society and governments.

Water

Speaking of ACD-driven natural disaster costs piling up, in November, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker declared a disaster in order to release funding to help pay for repairs of several roads that were damaged or obliterated from a massive fall storm. The storm had generated eight-foot waves that breached a dirt berm protecting the coastal town of Utqiagvik from increasingly intense waves and erosion. Melting permafrost, coupled with shrinking sea ice that is allowing winds to generate larger waves that lash the shores, is causing increasing problems for dozens of northern coastal villages that will, ultimately, have to be relocated entirely.

Meanwhile, an MIT professor of meteorology has warned that the type of “biblical” rainfall we saw during Hurricane Harvey will occur more frequently in the future. He explained in a recently published study that the chances of a hurricane flooding parts of Texas have increased sixfold in only 25 years, and will most likely triple again by 2100 as water and atmospheric temperatures continue to warm.

On that note, a study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that within the next 30 years, floods that used to hit New York City only once per 500 years could happen every five years.

Further complicating things, the real estate company Zillow recently released an analysis showing that nearly two million homes in the US could be flooded by 2100 if ocean levels increase six feet from ACD. The properties lost would total nearly $1 trillion, and would represent nearly two percent of the country’s homes.

The impacts of sea level rise are especially evident in Antarctica. A recent paper from the University of Melbourne showed that unless coal power is completely eliminated by 2050, that factor alone could cause melting in the Antarctic that would contribute 1.3 meters of sea level rise by 2100. In fact, a British research station there had to move its location earlier this year due to changes in the ice underneath. Now, it has had to close down for a second winter in a row, as cracks in the ice underneath continue growing. There is concern that the ice shelf upon which it is located could soon break off.

Also in Antarctica, the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, considered critical in regards to sea level rise, are accelerating toward the sea. They alone are holding back ice that will increase global sea levels by nearly four feet in the coming centuries, an amount that is enough to submerge several coastal cities.

Meanwhile, another recently published study shows the Totten Ice Shelf in Eastern Antarctica is melting at an accelerated rate into the Southern Ocean. This glacier alone has enough ice to raise global sea levels 11-13 feet, enough to submerge every coastal city on the planet.

On the other side of the water coin, we continue to see ACD-fueled droughts worsening around the world. A recent example of this is in Sri Lanka, where droughts are forcing farmers to move into cities to find work as there is no longer enough money to be made in agriculture. Meanwhile in Somalia, drought has killed 75 percent of the livestock and a pre-famine alert has been issued.

Fire

2017 was an incredible year of wildfires for California: Nearly 9,000 fires scorched more than one million acres, killed at least 40 people and destroyed thousands of structures.

University of California researchers are predicting that in the coming decades, due to increasing temperatures and intensifying droughts, the climate in Northern California, along with that region’s wildlife and vegetation, will come to more closely resemble that of Southern California.

That state’s firefighting agency recently announced that 2017 was California’s worst-ever year on record, in terms of fires.

Across Europe, an area nearly the size of Rhode Island burned this year. In one weekend in June, 60 people died across Portugal as wildfires raged out of control.
Wildfires also raged across Siberian Russia, as well as vast areas of Brazil, South Africa and New Zealand.

Air

A new report from the Associated Press confirms what has been long known: Winter is arriving later and leaving earlier as the seasons continue their ACD-driven shifts.

The University of Hawaii released results of research showing there are at least 27 physiological pathways by which a heat wave can kill a human being. The study also shows that if current CO2 emission rates continue, by 2100, 74 percent of people on the planet will be exposed to deadly heat waves. Even with dramatic reductions, the number of people exposed to them will hit 48 percent, according to the research.

Meanwhile, the globe continues to bake under swaths of record-setting late fall temperatures. Northeastern Siberia has seen temperatures soar to 30°C above average, and overall Arctic temperatures have been predicted to average 4.4°C above the norm for this time of year. Even Eastern Antarctica saw temperatures reach a stunning 20°C above average recently.

Denial and Reality

The Trump administration-backed ACD-denial efforts continue apace as of late.

Oil and gas lobbyist-turned-EPA-head Scott Pruitt recently prevented EPA scientists from speaking out about climate disruption at an event in Rhode Island. Pruitt, a former fracking lawyer, is also in the process of weakening EPA technical committees that have traditionally been beyond the political fray.

Meanwhile, the Interior Department, headed by Rick Perry, has scrubbed ACD from its strategic plan, and now is saying it is committed to attaining “American energy dominance.” And the Interior Department is not the only place this is happening. The Trump administration has removed the words “climate change” from the websites of the Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture, the EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Furthermore, a US Forest Service scientist who was scheduled to discuss the role ACD is playing in wildfires at a conference was recently denied approval to attend the event.

Trump’s climate-denying machinations have also included nominating a GOP congressman to head NASA who blames ACD on the sun.

However, fortunately, there are still those in government who are sounding the alarm bells of reality.

The most comprehensive report on climate science from the US government to date was released on November 3. It stated it is “extremely likely” that human activities were the “dominant cause” of ACD.

In late October, the Government Accountability Office released a report showing how ACD impacts are already costing US taxpayers billions of dollars.

Meanwhile, senior US military and security experts have warned that climate refugees could number in the tens of millions in the next decade alone, creating the “world’s biggest refugee crisis.”

Lastly for this month’s dispatch, in the middle of November, 15,000 scientists provided a catastrophic “warning to humanity” about ACD impacts and overpopulation, and how humankind is facing an existential threat. They warned that the globe faces untold amounts of human misery and catastrophic losses of biodiversity without rapid and immediate actions.

The group pointed out how in just the last quarter century, the human population has increased 35 percent while the total number of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish have fallen 29 percent. Global CO2 emissions and average temperatures have consistently increased, nearly 300 million acres of forest have been lost, and oceanic “dead zones” have increased 75 percent.

It is made more clear with each passing month that humans have pushed the planet off a precipice, and nothing short of immediate, global actions on a dramatic scale will be able to even slightly mitigate runaway ACD.

Over half of Greenland’s ice sheet is in danger of melting

http://grist.org/briefly/syria-is-joining-the-paris-agreement-leaving-the-u-s-alone-in-rejecting-it/

New researchin the journal Geophysical Research Letters confirms that 139 glaciers are exposed to the melting influence of ocean water, many of those reaching deep below sea level where the water is warmer.

Using a combination of satellite radar, aerial imagery, and sonar data, researchers carefully mapped the topography — the intricate landscape of canyons and crevices on the ocean floor — below the ice itself. The results illustrate two major issues behind the accelerated melting of Greenland’s glaciers: warmer-than-normal ocean water and the shape of the bedrock itself.

Geophysical Research Letters

The contours of the rock that the glaciers sits on top of determine how that ice melts, by changing the amount of ice exposed to melt-inducing seawater. For example, a glacier embedded on a downward slope melts faster as the grounding line retreats and more and more ice is exposed to warm water.

Plus, the new research indicates that the Greenland ice sheet is almost three inches thicker than previous research suggested, which means the ice sheet could raise global sea levels by about 24.3 feet if it melted entirely. Yikes!



ROGUE NATION

Syria is joining the Paris Agreement, leaving the U.S. alone in rejecting it.

During the COP23 climate conference in Bonn, Germany, delegates from Syria’s government announced it will sign the Paris climate accord. That leaves the United States as the only nation on earth to refuse climate action. President Trump announced in June that the U.S. would leave the agreement as soon as it is legally allowed to do so.

That fact is so shocking it’s worth repeating: The United States is now the only nation on Earth not on board with working together to solve climate change. Even rogue regimes like Syria and North Korea have taken time out from plotting mass murder to acknowledge the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The United States, which originally helped craft the Paris Agreementunder President Obama, has historically contributed the most to the problem of climate change. A recent independent analysis of current and pending climate policy placed it as one of the few countries “critically insufficient” to keep warming to safe levels — putting the world further off course and risking lives worldwide.

There are still signs of hope, however: A delegation representing hundreds of American mayors, university presidents, and business leaders have traveled to Bonn to reassure world leaders that at the local level, climate action in the United States is still full speed ahead.

How the Trump Administration Has Impacted the Environment Since the 2016 Election

Since his inauguration, on January 20, President Donald Trump and his administration have made many decisions that impact the environment, climate change, and energy. Some measures have repealed Obama-era policies, some opened reviews of existing rulings, and some approved controversial pending construction. According to an analysis by The New York Times, the Trump administration has “sought to reverse more than 50 environmental rules.” Of these, 25 rules have been overturned, 19 rollbacks are in progress, and eight rollbacks are in limbo.

Notable changes include Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, approving the Dakota and KeyStone XL pipelines, signing an executive order that called for the review of protected land (leaving 10 major sites vulnerable), reviewing national marine sanctuaries protected by the federal government, and efforts to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. Heading the Environmental Protection Agency is Trump appointee Scott Pruitt, who recently barred some scientists from advising the group.

Here are some highlights of other significant changes — some lesser known — taken thus far in the Trump presidency.

His administration ended the “stream protection rule.”

  Before leaving office, one of the last environmental regulations passed by the Obama administration is the Department of the Interior’s “stream protection rule.” In February, the Trump administration passed a joint resolution in Congress to end the regulation, which was meant to restrict coal companies from dumping mining waste into streams and waterways and, in turn, protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests over two decades.

In other waterway news, a 2015 rule limiting toxic discharge from coal-fired power plants into public waterways, slated to be implemented in 2018, was postponed by the government until 2020.

Rules about reporting methane emissions were called into question.

A relatively new rule mandated oil and gas companies to report how much methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, their sites emit. Back in March, Republican officials from 11 states wrote to Scott Pruitt asking for the ruling to be revoked. They called the rule “burdensome” and said the cost of the information request would be “enormous.”

Pruitt allowed for the continued use of chlorpyrifos.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was looking into a potentially toxic chemical called chlorpyrifos. The controversial pesticide has been linked to lower birth weight, reduced IQ, attention disorders, and a higher incidence of autism in children. It is an endocrine disrupter, which can cause “adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects,” and high exposures in humans can result in respiratory paralysis and death. It was banned from residential use in consumer products in 2000, but a decade-old petition calling for the EPA to ban the pesticide was rejected by Pruitt on the grounds of requiring more research into the chemical’s effects.

Offshore oil and gas drilling has been made easier.

Parts of the Atlantic coast and much of the water around Alaska were protected from offshore oil and gas drilling under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Trump repealed the policy in an executive order, known as the America-First Offshore Energy Strategy, making millions of acres of federal waters eligible for oil and gas leasing.

After the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, safety regulations were implemented to prevent similar disasters. A review of the safety rules, ordered by Trump, is ongoing. To make matters worse, the Trump administration is taking steps to allow five oil and gas companies to use seismic air guns — which can injure and kill marine life, including whales, dolphins, and turtles – to survey the U.S. Atlantic coast.

Rules about fishing limits were cancelled.

The mile-long nets cast along the U.S. West Coast to capture swordfish manage to catch more than just the fish: Some endangered sea animals get caught in nets. A 2015 proposal offering a limit on the number of animals that can be killed or injured by swordfish gill-net fishery off the coast of California and Oregon offered a solution. But it was canceled under the Trump administration.

Fuel efficiency standards are up for review.

In the 1970s, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules were put into place after an oil crisis. Under the Obama administration, the CAFE standards called for cars and light-duty trucks to have the average fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 — a standard previously agreed upon by automakers. The Trump administration has opened a review of greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks for model years between 2022 and 2025.

Related: How to Fight Climate Change, as Explained by Al Gore

GOP-Controlled Senate Paves Way for Oil Drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

http://truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/gop-controlled-senate-paves-way-for-oil-drilling-in-alaska-s-arctic-national-wildlife-refuge

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

The work done by BuzzFlash and Truthout is possible only through support from readers like you. Join the independent media movement: Click here to donate today!

The Senate Republicans’ narrow passage of the 2018 budget plan on Thursday opened the door for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR).

But Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups criticized the GOP for sneaking the “backdoor drilling provision” through the budget process. Past proposals to drill in the refuge have consistently failed.

The budget was passed through a legislative tool known as reconciliation which only requires a simple majority, rather than 60 votes. The budget was approved 51-49, with Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul joining Democrats in opposition, paving the way for President Trump‘s tax overhaul proposal.

Drilling ANWR would raise revenue for Trump’s tax plan that cuts taxes for the rich.

ANWR, the largest protected wilderness in the U.S., consists of more than 19 million acres of pristine landscapes and is home to 37 species of land mammals, eight marine mammals, 42 fish species and more than 200 migratory bird species.

“The budget passed by the Senate today sets in motion a sellout of some of our most iconic public lands and waters to the highest bidder, in order to fund tax breaks for billionaires,” said Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen.

“Drilling in the Arctic Refuge is not a budget issue, and should not be part of the budget reconciliation process,” Van Noppen added. “This is a blatant attempt to use the budget reconciliation process to pass a divisive and controversial proposal that would lead us in the wrong direction on climate.”

Senate Democrats, led by Maria Cantwell of Washington, offered an amendment to the Senate’s budget resolution that would block drilling in the Alaskan refuge but the measure failed 48-52 mostly along party lines.

Republicans led a “sneak attack” that turned “public lands over to polluters,” Cantwell said.

Democrat Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon also said that there is “something cynical and sad” about opening ANWR since it would increase oil output from a state being impacted by climate change the fastest.

Conservatives have sought for decades to open up parts of the refuge to create jobs and boost the energy sector. As Reuters reported, Republicans have targeted the so-called 1002 area on the Prudhoe Bay in Northern Alaska, which has an estimated 12 billion barrels of recoverable crude.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who has long championed opening up the Arctic Refuge to drilling, called the 1002 a “non wilderness area” since the government set it aside for petroleum exploration decades ago.

But Earthjustice noted that the targeted area hosts migratory bird species and endangered wildlife and is considered to be sacred to the indigenous Gwich’in people, who sustain themselves from the caribou that migrate there.

“Americans should be outraged at the shameless hijacking of the federal budget process. This fight is far from over,” said Wilderness Society president Jamie Williams. “Now is the time for Americans across the country to speak out. Congress cannot sneak this through the back door when they think nobody is looking. The Arctic Refuge is simply too fragile and special to drill, and we have a moral obligation to protect it for future generations of Americans.”

The Wilderness Society pointed out that the battle is not over yet.

“The Senate’s drilling provision is just the first step towards drilling in the Arctic Refuge,” the organization stated. “It requires the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to draft instructions to reduce the federal deficit through revenues created by oil and gas leasing in the refuge. The House has already passed a similar budget provision, but both houses of Congress must now work to reconcile their budget versions before final passage and delivery to the president.”

Climate change at work? Weather Service calls for third straight mild winter

 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2017/10/19/climate-change-at-work-weather-service-calls-for-third-straight-mild-winter/?utm_term=.d2fd1ce7d517
October 19 at 1:17 PM

National Weather Service’s 2017-2018 winter temperature outlook. Orange and blue areas illustrate where warmer- and cooler- than normal conditions are favored. The numbers indicate the percent likelihood of being cooler or warmer than normal. Because there are three categories, cooler-than-normal, equal chances, and warmer-than-normal, and each has a 33 percent chance of occurring as a baseline, when percentages are above that, it indicates a lean in the cooler or warmer direction.

If you’re itching for outbreaks of the polar vortex and waist-deep snow, the upcoming winter may not be your cup of tea. And, thanks to climate change, the odds of brutally cold winters are decaying.

For the third time in as many years, the nation — on balance — should expect warmer-than-normal temperatures, according to the National Weather Service, which released its winter outlook on Thursday.

The Weather Service favors warmer-than-normal conditions for the southern two-thirds of the Lower 48, including the Mid-Atlantic. Only a sliver of the Northern Plains and Pacific Northwest is expected to experience colder-than-normal temperatures.

The mild forecast follows back-to-back lackluster winters across the nation.

Last winter was practically the winter without a winter. Spring arrived weeks ahead of time, and Chicago basked in record 70-degree warmth in February. It ranked as the sixth-warmest winter on record.


Temperature difference from normal forecast Feb 22, 2017, from NAM model.

The winter before, with the exception of the blockbuster January snowstorm along the East Coast, was quite tame, as well, ranking as the warmest on record. Temperatures surged through the 70s to the Canadian border on the East Coast’s warmest Christmas Eve on record.


Temperature difference from normal analyzed by the GFS model Christmas Eve morning in 2015. (WeatherBell.com)

Climate warming from rising concentrations of carbon dioxide is exerting an effect on winter temperatures, said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center. “It does, undoubtedly, play a role,” he said in a call with reporters. “The increase in CO2 factors into our model forecast.”

While predicting generally warmer-than-normal conditions, Halpert stopped short of forecasting a third straight exceptionally warm winter like the last two. “The odds of seeing three top 10 [warmest winters in a row] is reduced, not eliminated,” he said. “We’re not anticipating the kind of record warmth we’ve seen the last two winters.”

He further said that while winters are warming, on average, natural variability continues to play the dominant role in the ultimate outcome of the season’s temperatures.

Still, Halpert said “there was nothing to indicate” that the nation will have punishing outbreaks of the polar vortex as experienced in the winter of 2013-2014 and, to a lesser degree, the winter that followed. But he wouldn’t totally rule out some penetrating outbreaks of extreme cold, explaining that they usually can’t be predicted until about a week or so in advance.

Halpert said the “driving force” behind the winter outlook is the forecast development of a weak La Niña event, characterized by a cycling cooling of water over the tropical Pacific Ocean.

“If La Niña conditions develop, we predict it will be weak and potentially short-lived, but it could still shape the character of the upcoming winter,” Halpert said. “Typical La Niña patterns during winter include above-average precipitation and colder-than-average temperatures along the northern tier of the U.S. and below-normal precipitation and drier conditions across the South.”

During La Niñas, the prevailing storm track is usually west of the East Coast through the Ohio Valley, which cuts back the chances of crippling snow events along the Interstate 95 corridor from the Mid-Atlantic to New England. “Usually the Mid-Atlantic sees less snow than normal,” Halpert said.


National Weather Service 2017-2018 winter precipitation outlook. Orange and blue areas illustrate where drier- and wetter- than normal conditions are favored. The numbers indicate the percent likelihood of being drier or wetter than normal. In suggesting slightly-above-normal temperatures and below-normal snowfall for the Mid-Atlantic, the Weather Service’s outlook is broadly consistent with several of those issued by private-sector entities.

The areas most likely to contend with major winter storms span from the Northern Rockies into the Great Lakes.

While the Weather Service is relying on La Niña to provide most of the clues about how the weather will unfold, Halpert agreed that other weather patterns like the Arctic Oscillation could easily alter conditions. He stressed that the Weather Service outlook is probabilistic, meaning it only conveys odds about certain temperature and precipitation outcomes. In other words, there are no guarantees.

For example, the chance that La Niña materializes, the basis for the outlook, is only 55 to 65 percent.

Halpert said the track record of winter outlooks is better than that of outlooks for other seasons, or about 30 percent better than the flip of a coin — good enough for people to be able to utilize the outlooks, but not solid enough to take them to the bank.

Dahr Jamail | Climate Disruption Could Pose “Existential Threat” by 2050

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/42127-climate-disruption-could-pose-existential-threat-by-2050

Monday, October 02, 2017By Dahr JamailTruthout | Report 
(Photo: Billy Wilson; Edited: LW / TO)(Photo: Billy Wilson; Edited: LW / TO)

It is often painful to write these monthly dispatches, chronicling what has happened to the Earth over the previous several weeks. Every month I’m taken aback by how rapidly the changes are unfolding. Take my word for this: These pieces are as emotionally challenging for me to write as they are for you to read.

Over the several years I’ve been producing these climate disruption dispatches, I’ve mostly received messages of gratitude from readers, because as hard as these are to read, most people are keen to have the information.

Sometimes there is the reader, however, who asks why I only focus on the negative. “Why don’t you write about something positive, like renewable energy or lawsuits being filed against members of the Trump administration who are actively attacking the environment?” one person asked. This past June someone (clearly not a journalist) asked me why I didn’t write about solutions, because, “What you write about is just so depressing!”

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

I spend time in the mountains near where I live nearly every week. It centers me, reminds me of what is important, and keeps me sane during these increasingly dystopian days. When I go, I bring a compass and the most updated, accurate map available.

While in the mountains, I am grappling with this reality: The Earth is unraveling due to human-forced warming. We’ve changed the composition of the atmosphere, and are acidifying the oceans. The cryosphere is melting before our very eyes, and the seas are rising. Global wildlife populations have decreased nearly 60 percent since just the 1970s, and the current extinction rate of species is 1,000 times the normal background rate. Functional coral reefs could be completely gone by 2050, and oceans could be completely free of fish by 2048 due to anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), overfishing, pollution and habitat loss.

And there is nothing to indicate that governments around the globe are doing anything remotely serious enough to mitigate ACD impacts, in order to prevent the worst-case scenarios from unfolding.

That there will be a massive die-off of humans seems inevitable, and the extinction of our species is very much a possibility.

This is terrifying, heartbreaking, enraging information to take in.

Thus, dear reader, I ask: Do you want an accurate map in order to make the best decisions possible about what to do with your time, and how to use your life? Is it worth the emotional turmoil — worth working through the five stages of grief — in order to live an awakened life, to live in the real, to situate yourself to decide how to serve the planet and other living beings while the storms rage?

***

ACD is progressing dramatically and abruptly.

Hurricane Harvey led to the single largest rain event in US history, which was then followed in short order by Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever recorded by satellites.

In Canada, rapidly thawing permafrost is already releasing massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, which fuels a positive feedback loop of ACD: The warming atmosphere causes the permafrost to thaw and release CO2, which warms the atmosphere further, and the cycle feeds on itself. Another aspect of this that is particularly noteworthy is the fact that there is twice as much carbon locked up in the permafrost as there is in the atmosphere.

Another recent report showed that volcanic eruptions triggered one of the most rapid warming events in the Earth’s history, 56 million years ago. That means CO2 was the factor that caused the warming at that time, and this fact is underscored by the reality that current CO2 emission levels are even higher than they were then.

A paper from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, published in mid-September, warned of a small but distinct possibility that abrupt ACD could pose an “existential threat” to the survival of humans by 2050.

Scripps went on to propose two new classifications for ACD: catastrophic (meaning that the majority of humanity would struggle to adapt to the change) and existential (meaning that humanity would not be able to adapt to the change.)

Earth

recent study showed that deforestation has twice the negative impact on ACD as previously believed. Deforestation has two main negative impacts. First, the trees are burned and they immediately release their stored carbon into the atmosphere. Then, farms are created in their place, which go on to release other greenhouse gasses like methane and nitrous oxide. Furthermore, without trees to act as a carbon sink, less carbon dioxide is being removed from the atmosphere.

Climate Disruption Dispatches

Meanwhile, trees continue to have a bad time of it, thanks to ACD impacts. Tree-killing beetles are spreading much more quickly into northern US forests, according to another recent study, due to increasingly warm temperatures driven by ACD. For example, southern pine beetles — one of the most aggressive tree-killing insects, which cause ecosystem harm and increase risk of forest fires — are moving northward as their ranges are expanding dramatically due to hotter temperatures.

Stunningly, data from Nevada’s Geodetic Lab showed that flooding from Hurricane Harvey in Houston pushed down the Earth’s crust two centimeters. This is because the amount of water released from the storm weighed 275 trillion pounds.

Another recent report showed that ACD could, indirectly, make earthquakes worse. For example, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes could be triggered by ACD impacts in this way: Melting glaciers remove water supplies for a city, which responds by building a large water reservoir. Reservoirs are often built along fault lines, so they lubricate the fault. This lubrication, coupled with draining and filling the reservoirs over the seasons, changes the water pressure at the bottom and creates instability and cracks, which can lead to more earthquakes.

Water

In the watery realms, there have been significant developments.

For the first time in history, in late August a tanker crossed the northern sea route without an icebreaker. A 300-meter long Russian commercial liquefied natural gas ship carried the gas from Norway to South Korea in just six and a half days, setting the record.

The ongoing and increasing loss of the Arctic summer sea ice is impacting the Atlantic Ocean water circulation system, according to a recent report from Yale news. Scientists said the ongoing loss of Arctic sea ice is playing a very active role in altering the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a current that plays a major role in both regional and global climate systems.

“Sea ice loss is clearly important among the mechanisms that could potentially contribute to AMOC collapse,” Wei Liu, a Yale postdoctoral associate, told Yale News. Also speaking to Yale News, climate scientist Alexey Fedorov said, “In our experiments we saw a potential loss of 30% to 50% of AMOC’s strength due to Arctic sea ice loss. That is a significant amount, and it would accelerate the collapse of AMOC if it were to occur.”

It’s worth noting that AMOC affects the climate of all of the countries on the Atlantic rim, especially those in Europe, but also has climate impacts far, far beyond those, including weather patterns around the entire globe.

A warmed atmosphere can hold more moisture, so epic flooding events should no longer come as a surprise to anyone paying attention to how the planet is responding to human-forced warming.

In August, flooding in India, Bangladesh and Nepal killed at least 1,200 people and displaced millions. Monsoon rains in India were so intense, a building in Mumbai collapsed from them, killing at least 21 people and trapping more than a dozen. Thirty-two million people were impacted by the flooding in India, while another 8.6 million in Bangladesh and 1.7 million in Nepal also suffered.

A recent book about sea-level rise, The Water Will Come, showed that 145 million people live less than three feet above sea level, which according to the author, Jeff Goodell, will create multiple generations of climate refugees. The book estimates there will be 200 million climate refugees by 2050 from sea level rise alone, and even discusses the possibility of seas rising 55 feet.

The flip side of this is drought.

recent report showed that the number of droughts plaguing Jordan could double by the year 2100 as a result of ACD. This is worrisome, given that the conflict in Syria has its roots in a multi-year drought that hit that country. Additionally, the warning for Jordan is ominous because that situation will be exacerbated by the fact that whenever the conflict in Syria does end, assuming that happens, farmers will return and resume their work, which will be an additional strain on already meager water supplies.

Fire

Recent Truthout articles have addressed the massive wildfires across the US West over the summer.

And the fires continued.

By early September, a wildfire in Oregon scorched the picturesque Columbia River Gorge and rained ash and burning embers across communities several miles away. At least 10,000 acres burned, sending hundreds of residents in the area to flee their homes.

Another recent report reminded us, again, how extreme heat and drought are fueling the wildfires. Heat and fire records were broken throughout the summer across the US and Canadian Wests, and the report predicted, of course, that these trends will continue and likely worsen over time.

Air

In the wake of the two major hurricanes that struck the US this season, while Harvey was still besieging Houston with record rains, climate scientist Michael Mann told ThinkProgress, “The kind of stalled weather pattern that is drenching Houston is precisely the sort of pattern we expect because of climate change.”

Mann had, earlier in 2017, co-authored a study that showed how ACD is changing atmospheric circulation, including the jet stream, in a way that causes an “increase in persistent weather extremes” during summers.

The two major hurricanes caused scientists to express concern publicly that this may become the new normal for the planet.

“But historically unusual weather is no longer freakish,” wrote Jonathan Watts in The Guardian. “The floods that hit Houston last week were described as a once-in-500-years event because records suggested there was only a 0.2% chance of such heavy rainfall. However, precedent is an increasingly unreliable guide in a changing climate. In the past three years, Texas has been hit by three 100- to 500-year events, according to local media.”

Another report from August revealed that global temperatures are rising much faster over land than over oceans, according to NASA data. In other words, overall warming is speeding up everywhere, but particularly over land, where we humans happen to live. The recently released data show that temperatures over land are warming approximately twice as fast as those over water, and the disparity in the warming over land compared to the oceans is increasing rapidly.

Denial and Reality

As usual, there is plenty of fodder on the ACD-denial front.

Not surprisingly, given the pathetic “coverage” corporate media has given (or, more accurately, not given at all) to ACD, mainstream media coverage of the recent major hurricanes to strike the US failed to even mention ACD, despite its critical impact on how rapidly each storm developed.

The Trump so-called administration continues to work feverishly and consistently to scrub any mention of ACD from government departments and websites.

The National Institutes of Health, over the summer, deleted several ACD references from its website. One report showed that there were at least five instances of “climate change” being changed to “climate” on the website.

A scientist with Northeastern University was asked to remove references to ACD from a grant proposal to ACD-denialist Rick Perry’s Department of Energy (DOE). “I have been asked to contact you to update the wording in your proposal abstract to remove words such as ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change,’ read a message the scientist received from an official at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, according to the Washington Post. “This is being asked as we have to meet the President’s budget language restrictions and we don’t want to make any changes without your knowledge or consent.”

Meanwhile, Trump recently named ACD-denier Republican Congressman Jim Bridenstine from Oklahoma to run NASA. Bridenstine has zero scientific credentials, and had even demanded that then President Obama apologize for funding climate science research.

Also, a recent report underscored the reality that many of us have known for a long time: The 3 percent of scientific papers which deny that ACD is real are all flawed. Researchers attempted to replicate the results of the 3 percent of papers and found biased, faulty results.

“Every single one of those analyses had an error — in their assumptions, methodology, or analysis — that, when corrected, brought their results into line with the scientific consensus,” Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University, wrote in a Facebook post. Hayhoe worked with a team of researchers investigating 38 papers that denied ACD published in peer-reviewed journals in the last decade,.

On the reality front, France recently announced plans to end all oil and gas production in less than 25 years. France’s President Emmanuel Macron is aiming to make France carbon neutral by 2050.

Meanwhile, many are now questioning whether the UN’s Climate Assessment process has become obsolete. Why? Because the schedule of issuing large Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports on ACD every seven years, which is the current model, is clearly too slow, given how rapidly ACD is progressing, and considering all the scientific research being done to keep pace.
Hayhoe, who has become a leading and very outspoken climate scientist, told Inside Climate News, the IPCC’s long process that produces its assessment reports is “obsolete, outdated, and a waste of experts’ valuable time.”

Lastly for this month — and quite disturbingly — a scientific paper published recently in the journal Science Advances, titled “Thresholds of Catastrophe in the Earth System,” shows that if humans continue adding carbon to the oceans as we are on course to do, a global mass extinction event could be triggered by 2100.

Huge discovery about Global Warming shocks scientists

Huge discovery about Global Warming shocks scientists

An astonishing new study claims that there may be a ticking time bomb right under our toes, as the soil could be responsible for significant carbon emissions.

A remarkable new study published in the journal Science indicates that carbon emissions from warming soils could be a lot higher than we previously thought, and it could result in a chain of events that would greatly intensify global warming. Researchers found that there was a major uptick in carbon production in microbes found within soil at the Harvard Forest in Massachusetts.

Scientists used underground cables to heat some of the soil plots in the forest, raising the temperature by about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, while unheated plots were set aside as control for the experiment. After about 10 years, scientists measured again and found that carbon emissions from heated soil had greatly increased. After a seven year period where emissions declined again, the carbon emissions went on an upward trajectory once again for six more years.

In the final three years of the study, the carbon emissions from the soil went down again. Both times there was a decline in emissions, scientists think that the microbes were simply adjusting to the new temperatures, and as a result they think that it is just the calm before the storm, as it were. The 26-year study is the biggest of its kind and could result in breakthroughs in how we study and understand global warming and climate change.

The full statement from the Marine Biological Laboratory follows below.

After 26 years, the world’s longest-running experiment to discover how warming temperatures affect forest soils has revealed a surprising, cyclical response: Soil warming stimulates periods of abundant carbon release from the soil to the atmosphere alternating with periods of no detectable loss in soil carbon stores. Overall, the results indicate that in a warming world, a self-reinforcing and perhaps uncontrollable carbon feedback will occur between forest soils and the climate system, adding to the build-up of atmospheric carbon dioxide caused by burning fossil fuels and accelerating global warming. The study, led by Jerry Melillo, Distinguished Scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), appears in the October 6 issue of Science.

Melillo and colleagues began this pioneering experiment in 1991 in a deciduous forest stand at the Harvard Forest in Massachusetts. They buried electrical cables in a set of plots and heated the soil 5° C above the ambient temperature of control plots. Over the course of the 26-year experiment (which still continues), the warmed plots lost 17 percent of the carbon that had been stored in organic matter in the top 60 centimeters of soil.

“To put this in context,” Melillo says, “each year, mostly from fossil fuel burning, we are releasing about 10 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere. That’s what’s causing the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration and global warming. The world’s soils contain about 3,500 billion metric tons of carbon. If a significant amount of that soil carbon is added to the atmosphere, due to microbial activity in warmer soils, that will accelerate the global warming process. And once this self-reinforcing feedback begins, there is no easy way to turn it off. There is no switch to flip.”

Over the course of the experiment, Melillo’s team observed fluctuations in the rate of soil carbon emission from the heated plots, indicating cycles in the capacity of soil microbes to degrade organic matter and release carbon. Phase I (1991 to 2000) was a period of substantial soil carbon loss that was rapid at first, then slowed to near zero. In Phase II (2001-2007), there was no difference in carbon emissions between the warmed and the control plots. During that time, the soil microbial community in the warmed plots was undergoing reorganization that led to changes in the community’s structure and function. In Phase III (2008-2013), carbon release from heated plots again exceeded that from control plots. This coincided with a continued shift in the soil microbial community. Microbes that can degrade more recalcitrant soil organic matter, such as lignin, became more dominant, as shown by genomic and extracellular enzyme analyses. In Phase IV (2014 to current), carbon emissions from the heated plots have again dropped, suggesting that another reorganization of the soil microbial community could be underway. If the cyclical pattern continues, Phase IV will eventually transition to another phase of higher carbon loss from the heated plots.

“This work emphasizes the value of long-term ecological studies that are the hallmark of research at the MBL’s Ecosystems Center,” says David Mark Welch, MBL’s Director of Research. “These large field studies, combined with modeling and an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the role of microbial communities in ecosystem dynamics, provide new insight to the challenges posed by climate change.”

“The future is a warmer future. How much warmer is the issue,” Melillo says. “In terms of carbon emissions from fossil fuels, we could control that. We could shut down coal-fired power plants, for example. But if the microbes in all landscapes respond to warming in the same way as we’ve observed in mid-latitude forest soils, this self-reinforcing feedback phenomenon will go on for a while and we are not going to be able to turn those microbes off. Of special concern is the big pool of easily decomposed carbon that is frozen in Artic soils. As those soils thaw out, this feedback phenomenon would be an important component of the climate system, with climate change feeding itself in a warming world.”

Collaborators in this study include S.D. Frey, M.A. Knorr, and A.S. Grandy of the University of New Hampshire’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment; K.M. DeAngelis of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst’s Department of Microbiology; W.J. Werner and M.J. Bernard of the Marine Biological Laboratory; F.P. Bowles of Research Designs in Lyme, N.H.; and G. Pold of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology.

Melillo, J.M. et al (2017) Long-Term Pattern and Magnitude of Soil Carbon Feedback to the Climate System in a Warming World. Science DOI:

The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery – exploring fundamental biology, understanding marine biodiversity and the environment, and informing the human condition through research and education. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago.

Goodbye – and good riddance – to livestock farming

Cows in field
 ‘Grazing is not just slightly inefficient; it is stupendously wasteful.’ Photograph: Peter Cade/Getty Images

What will future generations, looking back on our age, see as its monstrosities? We think of slavery, the subjugation of women, judicial torture, the murder of heretics, imperial conquest and genocide, the first world war and the rise of fascism, and ask ourselves how people could have failed to see the horror of what they did. What madness of our times will revolt our descendants?

There are plenty to choose from. But one of them, I believe, will be the mass incarceration of animals, to enable us to eat their flesh or eggs or drink their milk. While we call ourselves animal lovers, and lavish kindness on our dogs and cats, we inflict brutal deprivations on billions of animals that are just as capable of suffering. The hypocrisy is so rank that future generations will marvel at how we could have failed to see it.

The shift will occur with the advent of cheap artificial meat. Technological change has often helped to catalyse ethical change. The $300m deal China signed last month to buy lab-grown meat marks the beginning of the end of livestock farming. But it won’t happen quickly: the great suffering is likely to continue for many years.

The answer, we are told by celebrity chefs and food writers, is to keep livestock outdoors: eat free-range beef or lamb, not battery pork. But all this does is to swap one disaster – mass cruelty – for another: mass destruction. Almost all forms of animal farming cause environmental damage, but none more so than keeping them outdoors. The reason is inefficiency. Grazing is not just slightly inefficient, it is stupendously wasteful. Roughly twice as much of the world’s surface is used for grazing as for growing crops, yet animals fed entirely on pasture produce just one gram out of the 81g of protein consumed per person per day.

A paper in Science of the Total Environment reports that “livestock production is the single largest driver of habitat loss”. Grazing livestock are a fully automated system for ecological destruction: you need only release them on to the land and they do the rest, browsing out tree seedlings, simplifying complex ecosystems. Their keepers augment this assault by slaughtering large predators.

Flock of sheep
Pinterest
 ‘Sheep supply around 1% of our diet in terms of calories. Yet they occupy around 4m hectares of the uplands.’ Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian

In the UK, for example, sheep supply around 1% of our diet in terms of calories. Yet they occupy around 4m hectares of the uplands. This is more or less equivalent to all the land under crops in this country, and more than twice the area of the built environment (1.7m hectares). The rich mosaic of rainforest and other habitats that once covered our hills has been erased, the wildlife reduced to a handful of hardy species. The damage caused is out of all proportion to the meat produced.

Replacing the meat in our diets with soya spectacularly reduces the land area required per kilo of protein: by 70% in the case of chicken, 89% in the case of pork and 97% in the case of beef. One study suggests that if we were all to switch to a plant-based diet, 15m hectares of land in Britain currently used for farming could be returned to nature. Alternatively, this country could feed 200 million people. An end to animal farming would be the salvation of the world’s wildlife, our natural wonders and magnificent habitats.

Understandably, those who keep animals have pushed back against such facts, using an ingenious argument. Livestock grazing, they claim, can suck carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the soil, reducing or even reversing global warming. In a TED talk watched by 4 million people, the rancher Allan Savory claims that his “holistic” grazing could absorb enough carbon to return the world’s atmosphere to pre-industrial levels. His inability, when I interviewed him, to substantiate his claims has done nothing to dent their popularity.

Similar statements have been made by Graham Harvey, the agricultural story editor of the BBC Radio 4 serial The Archers – he claims that the prairies in the US could absorb all the carbon “that’s gone into the atmosphere for the whole planet since we industrialised” – and amplified by the Campaign to Protect Rural EnglandFarmers’ organisations all over the world now noisily promote this view.

report this week by the Food Climate Research Network, called Grazed and Confused, seeks to resolve the question: can keeping livestock outdoors cause a net reduction in greenhouse gases? The authors spent two years investigating the issue. They cite 300 sources. Their answer is unequivocal. No.

It is true, they find, that some grazing systems are better than others. Under some circumstances, plants growing on pastures will accumulate carbon under the ground, through the expansion of their root systems and the laying down of leaf litter. But the claims of people such as Savory and Harvey are “dangerously misleading”. The evidence supporting additional carbon storage through the special systems these livestock crusaders propose (variously described as “holistic”, “regenerative”, “mob”, or “adaptive” grazing) is weak and contradictory, and suggests that if there’s an effect at all, it is small.

The best that can be done is to remove between 20% and 60% of the greenhouse gas emissions grazing livestock produce. Even this might be an overestimate: a paper published this week in the journal Carbon Balance and Management suggests that the amount of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) farm animals produce has been understated. In either case, carbon storage in pastures cannot compensate for the animals’ own climate impacts, let alone those of industrial civilisation. I would like to see the TED team post a warning on Savory’s video, before even more people are misled.

As the final argument crumbles, we are left facing an uncomfortable fact: animal farming looks as incompatible with a sustained future for humans and other species as mining coal.

That vast expanse of pastureland, from which we obtain so little at such great environmental cost, would be better used for rewilding: the mass restoration of nature. Not only would this help to reverse the catastrophic decline in habitats and the diversity and abundance of wildlife, but the returning forests, wetlands and savannahs are likely to absorb far more carbon than even the most sophisticated forms of grazing.

The end of animal farming might be hard to swallow. But we are a resilient and adaptable species. We have undergone a series of astonishing changes: the adoption of sedentarism, of agriculture, of cities, of industry.

Now it is time for a new revolution, almost as profound as those other great shifts: the switch to a plant-based diet. The technology is – depending on how close an approximation to meat you demand (Quorn seems almost indistinguishable from chicken or mince to me) – either here or just around the corner. The ethical switch is happening already: even today, there are half a million vegans in the land of roast beef. It’s time to abandon the excuses, the fake facts and false comforts. It is time to see our moral choices as our descendants will.

 George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

Food Climate Research Network debunks notion that grass-fed is better for climate

Farm animals, and the consumption of meat and dairy, are a major contributor to the problem of climate change. It is well-established that the livestock sector contributes some 14.5% [at least!] of global greenhouse gas emissions, but there is less agreement on the specific climate impact of different types of animals and production systems. Most controversy surrounds the debate on ‘grass-fed’ beef and how its climate impact compares with other types of meat or meat produced in more intensive systems.

Some have argued that grazing animals can actually stimulate grass to be more productive and put down deeper roots, drawing carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it in soils. Others go even further, arguing that this carbon sequestration can, in fact, offset all other emissions from ruminants, and in doing so solve our climate problems.

It is safe to say that this debate has left people either polarised or confused. Is grass-fed better or is it worse for the climate? What’s actually true?

Report findings

This report finds that better management of grass-fed livestock, while worthwhile in and of itself, does not offer a significant solution to climate change as only under very specific conditions can they help sequester carbon. This sequestering of carbon is even then small, time-limited, reversible and substantially outweighed by the greenhouse gas emissions these grazing animals generate. The report concludes that although there can be other benefits to grazing livestock – solving climate change isn’t one of them.

Many thanks,

Samuel Lee-Gammage, Food Climate Research Network, University of Oxford

Samuel Lee-Gammage

Research and Communications Officer

Food Climate Research Network – FCRN

Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford