It's extremely likely that humans have been the dominant cause of global warming since the 1950s, according to a landmark report from the world's top panel of climate scientists. And we're failing in our efforts to keep atmospheric warming below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 Fahrenheit, which many scientists say is needed to avoid massive disruption.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conducted an epic review of climate research over the last three years. It is summarizing the most important findings in its fifth assessment report, which offers the clearest picture science has ever painted of how humans are reshaping the climate and the planet.
Here, in a nutshell, are the main findings of a summary [PDF] of part one of the assessment report, which focuses on the science of climate change:
Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. ...
Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.
Films and short videos are a powerful way of increasing awareness of and interest in the food system. With equal parts technology and artistry, filmmakers can bring an audience to a vegetable garden in Uganda, a fast food workers’ rights protest in New York City, or an urban farm in Singapore. And animation can help paint a picture of what a sustainable, just, and fair food system might look like. Film is an incredible tool for effecting change through transforming behaviors and ways of thinking.
There are many incredible films educating audiences about changes being made -- or that need to be made -- in the food system.
Anna Lappé and Food Mythbusters, for example, just released a new animated short film on how “Big Food” marketing targets children and teenagers, filling their diets with unhealthy processed food products -- and what parents, teachers, and communities can do to combat it.
In addition to Lappé’s timely and compelling call to action, Food Tank has selected 26 films -- both long and short -- to share with you. From the importance of land rights for smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to the insidious dominance of fast food in an urban community in California, each of these films can inform and inspire eaters all over the world. We ask that you, in turn, share this list with your networks in order that they may reach an even wider audience.
On Friday, Sept. 27, the low-lying island nation of the Maldives will be given the date of its extinction; notice of a death by drowning. It will come in the form of a prediction for future sea-level rise in a landmark report on global warming by the world's climate scientists. On current trends, anything more than three generations will feel like a reprieve.
On the packed streets of Male', the mini-Manhattan that serves as the Maldives' island capital, there is a political clamor. But, perhaps surprisingly, the cause is not worry about the existential threat posed by the rising seas but over accusations of corruption and vote-buying in the presidential election.
Mohamed Nasheed, the nation's first freely elected leader and darling of the west for his warnings about climate change, was expected to be restored to the presidency in this month's elections. However, the vote that was supposed to restore Nasheed to the presidency is currently suspended following a complaint from the candidate who came third in the first round of polling.
The issue of climate change -- even given the credentials of Nasheed, the first round poll leader -- was as invisible during the country's election campaign as the carbon dioxide that drives it.
Leading into Friday's upcoming release of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report, climate skeptics have gone into overdrive. They're doing anything they can to undermine public acceptance of the dangers posed by global warming, which, at least according to a leaked draft of the report, is "extremely likely" (or, 95 percent certain) to be caused by human activities.
Unfortunately, much of this glut of misinformation is likely to make its way to people in your life -- whether it's your congressmember, your favorite talk radio host, or even your family. Heck, this stuff might even pop up in a heated conversation over your dinner table with your Uncle Larry (who always seems to be dying to argue about climate change).
To prepare you, here's the truth about four myths you're likely to hear about climate science and the IPCC report:
Some of California's best-known chefs and restaurateurs are whipping up a fight against fracking in the Golden State.
High hopes that California would impose a moratorium on fracking, a process in which chemicals are injected into the ground to extract oil and gas, were dashed on Friday when Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that regulates the process but does not stop it. Opponents say fracking pollutes water and threatens farms. California is the source of 15 percent of the nation's crops.
On Wednesday, foodies led by slow-food movement champion Alice Waters launched an anti-fracking "cook's petition" to pressure the governor and legislature on the issue. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Chez Panisse chefs Alice Waters and Jerome Waag today launched a chefs’ petition urging their colleagues to take a stand against fracking in California. Working in collaboration with Food & Water Watch, founding member of Californians Against Fracking, the chefs are concerned about the threat fracking poses to the world-renowned food and wine that is grown, served and sold in California. The petition includes a letter calling on Governor Brown to place a moratorium on fracking.
You’re going to be hearing a lot about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change during the next couple of weeks. And then again in spurts during the coming year. The IPCC is the world’s foremost authority on -- you guessed it -- climate change. It’s the top cat, the big cheese, the heavyweight champion of the world community of climate experts.
So, WTF is it?
It's a scientific group set up in 1988 by two divisions of the United Nations. The goal was to form a body that would provide policymakers with trusted, cutting-edge information about climate change.
Thousands of climate scientists from around the world volunteer their time to analyze and summarize the latest and best science. The result: Big, fat reports.
And now the IPCC is dropping its first big report in six years -- a scientific inventory of the combined knowledge of all the brightest minds in climate science. Needless to say, climate skeptics are not too pleased at such a robust body of science coalescing before the world’s eyes.
Who's running the show?
Rajendra Pachauri, a septuagenarian economist and engineer from India who has chaired the IPCC since 2002. He oversees a small staff of about 10 people. Those staff help coordinate working groups, each of which can involve up to 800 scientists. Sound tedious? It probably is.
But we’re not convinced that Pachauri spends all of his time during IPCC meetings thinking about climate science. He is the author of Return to Almora, a sultry 2010 novel loaded with group-sex scenes and other such non-scientific escapades. Here are a couple of tantalizing quotes from said novel:
The latest official estimate of the extraordinary role that livestock-rearing plays in global warming comes with a glimmer of hope: Switching over to established best practices could slash the sector's emissions by a third.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations caused an international stir when it estimated in 2006 that livestock contributed 18 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Some critics derided the claim, saying T-bones and Big Macs couldn't possibly be so bad. The FAO has since updated its numbers, checked its facts and performed new calculations based on newer standards. The latest conclusion is little different from the earlier one: Livestock contributes 14.5 percent of worldwide emissions.
Flatulent, manure-dropping cows are by far the largest contributors to the problem. Beef production is responsible for 41 percent of the sector's emissions, and dairy farming can be blamed for 19 percent. Pig meat, poultry meat, and eggs are responsible for a little less than 10 percent apiece.
Why are cows so harsh on the climate? The same reason Auntie Flora doesn't get invited to parties: Because they belch and fart so damned much. Only the FAO doesn't say it like that. Rather, it blames the "enteric fermentation" of cattle and the methane that bovine rumination produces for 39 percent of the livestock industry's emissions.
Harn Soper has a real-world laboratory to test the benefits of farming with genetically modified (GM) seed. Soper’s family owns seven farms near Emmetsburg, Iowa, with organic crops on 410 acres and GM crops on some 300 acres. The farms are all in the same microclimate: If a torrential cloudburst hits one farm, it hits them all. So Soper can compare the economics of one farming style against the other. And it’s clear, when the numbers are tallied, that he’s making a lot more money farming organically than farming with GM seed.
Last week, I looked at GM farming from a 10,000-foot perspective and found that big farmers in the U.S. seem to have benefited from biotech crops. Now I’m looking at a couple of these farms from the six-foot perspective (that’s eye-level for me), and trying to understand what leads an individual farmer to choose GM seed. I emailed or chatted with farmers until I started to hear the same explanations over and again.
For the sake of concision I’ll just focus on a couple people here: Soper and Brian Scott. These guys aren't intended to be perfectly representative of the big picture (the 10,000-foot view is better at capturing that) -- I’m just going to present their decision making in more fine-grained detail.
And looking closely reveals something surprising: I’d thought that there would be an obvious financial advantage in biotech, making it impossible for conventional crops to compete. But that’s not the case. In the race toward profitability, GM traits don’t give seeds a jet-pack -- it’s more like they provide an umbrella.
But his draconian climate policies don't appear to be as popular with big business as he'd hoped, and a climate advisory body he tried to kill may come back even stronger, thanks to some of his more enlightened countrymen and women.
Amid this carnage, horrified Aussies have begun donating to fund the Climate Commission to keep it operating as a nonprofit. From a story posted Wednesday on the online news site Crikey:
The commission has been reborn as the Climate Council and is now funded by public donations. It had raised $420,000 from 8500 donors as of 9am today (the website only opened to donations 33 hours previously). This should fund the Climate Council for at least six months, probably longer.