4C Newsletter June 2014 -- A Tale of Two Tipping Points

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30 june 2014

4C Newsletter June 2014 -- A Tale of Two Tipping Points

Dear friend,

Will it be planetary shipwreck or last minute rescue? Since our previous newsletter, the rush to a climate disaster seems both to have accelerated and gone into reverse. New reports have come out indicating how dangerous – and probably irreversible – the climate future has become, at the same time that the forces trying to prevent catastrophe have been encouraged by new allies and unexpected successes.

First the bad news: the tipping point toward a climate catastrophe. (You’ll find our news items for each topic by going to our Breaking News rubric and checking out the dates given below.)

• The melting of South polar ice has been declared by scientists to be irreversible in both West and East Antarctica, guaranteeing a sea level rise that will make many coastal cities uninhabitable [5, 12, 17, 25 and 29 May, 14 June].

• The Greenland ice cap is melting faster than earlier assumed [13 April].

• The hoped-for warming limit of 1.5°C has been declared no longer feasible by the IPCC, which signals the disappearance of a number of small-island states [17 April].

• A UK nuclear waste dump near the Cumbrian coast will also be threatened by rising seas [20 April].

• Drought scorches California and much of the U.S., with no end in sight [15 May].

• May 2014 was globally the hottest on record and meteorologists are predicting a return of El Niño–related extreme weather conditions this year [24 June]. A U.S. national climate assessment also predicts an increase in stormy weather [12May].

But in the same period, there have been several indications of a favorable tipping point in public opinion and policy: a global awakening to the seriousness of the problem and a will, unexpected from some quarters, to halt the march toward disaster:

• The White House has become active in the public debunking and mocking of climate skepticism, as in Obama’s Commencement Day speech at the University of California at Irvine [6 May, 14 June].

• The U.S. and China, after much quiet negotiating, came out with statements recognizing the menace of climate change and offering programs for diminishing greenhouse gas emissions (the Chinese a day after the U.S. but clearly in coordinated action) [16 and 28 May, 1, 2 and 3 June]. A start, though one criticized for its insufficiency by environmentalists in both countries. [2. 3, 9 and 10 June].

• The divestment campaign spearheaded in the U.S. by 350.org and the Sierra Club has not only gained support at major educational institutions, such as Harvard University [1 May: blockade of President’s office ], Stanford University [8 May: official divestment] and Union Theological Seminary [10 June: official divestment] but has been given a powerful boost from unabashedly conservative sources. Former treasury secretaries flanked by billionaires have emitted much-publicized warnings that climate change is real and that investors in carbon-based energy companies could lose their shirts as oil, coal and gas companies may, in coming decades, be compelled by government action to close down wells and mines [17, 22, 23, 24, 29 June]. In Europe more militant activism continues, as the recent Greenpeace action in Brussels against inadequate EU energy policies shows [27 June].

• Legal action: Environmentalists are using the legal system at all levels and persuading local authorities both to support climate action and to block carbon companies and shipments [15 and 25 May]. The U.S. Supreme Court has dismissed most of the challenges to Obama’s plan to use the EPA to control power plant carbon emissions [23 June] and children are suing the U.S. government for neglecting to protect their future [5 May]. Native Americans in British Columbia (Canada), by obtaining court approval for contested tribal land titles, are threatening TransCanada’s east-west pipeline plans [26 June]. In the absence of a federal emissions trading scheme, many U.S. states are joining to establish their own network [6 June]. Urgenda, a Dutch environmental NGO, is suing the government of the Netherlands for inadequate reaction to the proven threat of climate change. (An English translation of their claim is in the works.)

• Renewables are rapidly increasing in the proportion of total energy use, the number of installations and their cost-efficiency. This is occurring in most developed countries [4, 9, 11 May, 27 June] and in some developing ones (S. Africa 10 June; China: 17 and 21 April, 1May]. In Texas, wind power is winning over natural gas [23 May]. In Germany, the surge of renewables threatens the profitability of coal power as a power glut drives prices down [27 June].

Again, the online news list for all these is at http://www.stopwarming.eu/?news. You can find articles about other aspects of the climate problem on this news site – pieces dealing with the IPCC report, for example, which Nicholas Stern has criticized for using mathematical models that underestimate the economic cost of warming [16 June], and news about the reluctance of the EU Commission to stipulate energy efficiency rules and renewables quotas [14 April]. But the field of maximum hope and concern has now shifted, for many environmentalists, away from the EU and the UN’s reports and summits, to militant action on the ground (divestment campaigns) and above all, the appearance of serious action by three world powers: China, the U.S., and the world of investment capital now being prodded by the “Risky Business” coalition. These three groups of political and economic policy makers have become more attentive to the warnings of scientists and the crescendo of militancy, probably because it is finally sinking in to them that the coming climate catastrophe is no fantasy of “alarmists” but a deadly reality. Many of those in power now know that, before the end of this century, climate change may destroy practically everything in its course unless public lethargy is replaced by quick action.

What can concerned citizens do to keep the powers active in forestalling disaster? Joining (or forming) a local carbon divestment campaign, aimed at your university, bank or pension fund is one possibility. Another is supporting organizations like the Netherlands’ Urgenda, in their suits against governments for inadequate response to climate change. A third is to join the giant New York City climate march being organized on September 21 by 350.org – or, if you’re too far away, start or join a sympathy demo on that date in your own area. And if you do that, be sure to inform the press.

Cordially, from Amsterdam,

Arthur Mitzman, coordinator, Concerned Citizens against Climate Change

P.S. Forward this to friends and colleagues who are concerned about their and their children’s futures. If they want to receive 4C newsletters, they can co-sign our “Appeal” at http://www.stopwarming.eu/?petition.

P.P.S. For a while, our server was not sending mail addressed to us at info@stopwarming.eu. That problem has been identified and our messages have been given a new return address, which works.

Date: 2014-06-30 12:36:21


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