I should change the heading to Occasional salon, but hope springs eternal, plus I really don’t have time!
I’ll just try to select a few of the many insights and events which a making our future.
1. A different world order is already here
Geoff Raby in Why a different world order is already here tells us that Jo Biden scuttling back to Washington to deal with the debt ceiling crisis while Chinese President Xi Jinping presided over the third China-Central Asian Summit in the Chinese city of Xian.
Recently Xi tried to broker a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine, has made clear that it has interests in many parts of the world. New groupings emerge without the US of A, trade is de-dollarising as countries deal in each other’s curency.
- Effectively, it comprises two bounded orders. One with the US at its head, the other with China. These are not “blocs” in the sense that the Cold War had blocks. They are not ideologically based so much as representing different ordering of values and associated forms of social and political organisation. At times states may move between the two, as the Philippines has recently shown.
Nor do they preclude co-operation between bounded orders on the global commons, such as environment. As the Australian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister have so succinctly summarised, our relations with China, the bounded orders will “co-operate where they can and disagree where they must”. The challenge for Australian foreign policy, then, is to come to grips with the end of US primacy long before the US comes to understand that it has ended.
Chandran Nair, founder and CEO of Global Institute for Tomorrow and a member of the Executive Committee of the Club of Rome says I’m sorry, but the toxic G-7 ‘rich club’ is past its sell-by date:
- It is worth reminding the world that six of these seven are from the West which only represents less than 15% of the global population and their histories are riddled with colonisation, plunder, and the destruction of indigenous communities.
Their current foreign policies seem focused on one goal: maintaining the status quo and the privileges borne out of conquest and domination.
2. The hidden extinction
Graham Lawton in the New Scientist tells of the shocking decline of Earth’s microbiome:
Bacteria, fungi and other microbes, which are vital to life on Earth, were long thought impervious to threats endangering larger lifeforms. Now biologists are warning of a microbial extinction event
- …A gram of soil contains around a billion single-celled organisms, including tens of thousands of different species, and if you could tease out the fungal strands, they would stretch for hundreds of kilometres. These are indispensable to life on Earth, including you and me. If they all died, we would soon follow.
They are dying.
Apart from plants, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals:
- there are perhaps 7.7 million species of animal, around 80 per cent of which are insects and other arthropods, including arachnids and crustaceans. But there are at least 6 million species of terrestrial fungus and up to a trillion species of bacterium and archaeon, collectively known as prokaryotes. On top of that, there are about 200,000 species of complex unicellular microorganisms called protists, such as slime moulds. These latter two groups make up the majority of Earth’s biodiversity.
There are obvious problems in gathering data, but fungus hunters in Europe tell of about a 45% decline of species in a century. Other indicators tend to confirm the pattern.
Ironically in Sweden the decline was worse where foresters had been at work.
Conversely 27 restoration experiments that added wild microbiomes found that plant growth increased by an average of 64 per cent versus plots that weren’t seeded or that used commercial mycorrhizal solutions.
The solutions are simple. Stop global heating, dial the knobs down by removing CO2 back to Holocene levels, reduce the population of humans by at least half, give over half of the land currently used for food reproduction to rewilding.
There are plenty to tell us how. For example Julian Cribb has A plan for human survival.
Or try Mark Diesendorf in Saving humanity: here’s a radical approach to building a sustainable and just society.
3. We ignore James Hansen at our peril
If you are 99.9999% sure James Hansen is wrong, then feel free to ignore him. If there is one in a million chance that he is right, then prudence you should pay attention.
My introduction to Hansen and indeed to the gravity of the global heating issue was via the print edition of the Scientific American, which headline Hansen’s article Can we defuse the global warming time bomb?
He has always asked the big questions and tried to answer them.
On that site there is a link on the RHS to the new draft paper where on p41 we have this:
Equilibrium global warming for today’s GHG level is 10°C for our central estimate ECS = 1.2°C ± 0.2°C per W/m2, including the amplifications from disappearing ice sheets and non-CO2 GHGs (Sec. 4.4). Aerosols reduce equilibrium warming to about 8°C. Equilibrium sea level change is + 60 m (about 200 feet).
Elsewhere we are told to expect 1.5°C by 2030 and 2°C by 2050. I’ve only skimmed the paper, but I think they expect several metres of SLR in the next 100 years and an AMOC shutdown.
They don’t nominate a point of no return, but say we need to remove 7.6Gt of CO2 pa, plus presumably zero emissions. The cost is trillions of $s pa, which you have to be a bit pessimistic about.
4. Direct removal of carbon vs planting trees
Here beginneth the big debate about whether the direct removal of carbon or planting trees are the way to go, with this mob asserting the latter:
Pascal Lamy has set up a Climate Overshoot Commission which seriously contemplate geo-engineering, or sunlight reflection methods (SRM), also known as “solar radiation modification”. He’s the man who took over the World Trade organisation in 2003 when it ran into a cliff in 2003. If you check him out I think you’ll find he is a serious player.