This year has again broken records around the globe in terms of increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.
Catastrophic hurricanes, severe flooding and raging wildfires fueled by drought have been prominent features of an eventful year for the environment.
The Rainforest Trust's first-annual Environmental Year-in-Review put the United States' withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on fighting global climate change at the top of the list of major events for 2017.
Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of the Rainforest Trust, pointed out the withdrawal took place despite a scientific consensus that the warming climate is the driving force behind the extreme weather. "What we're basically seeing is hurricanes that are much more intense, flooding that is going to be much more catastrophic,” Salaman said. "This year, we've already had estimates of upwards of half-a-trillion dollars worth of property damage."
Salaman says that acting locally by planting a bee-friendly garden or volunteering to help clean up a local park in the coming year are steps people can take to begin to make a difference. Global action is required, too.
"Our most important resolution will certainly be towards protecting habitat,” he said, “and importantly, preserving rainforests that are really the lungs of the planet and the biggest stabilizing factor for the global climate."
While the federal government may opt not to fight climate change, other levels of government are stepping up to the challenge. "The good thing is that many states and cities have come together across the U.S. to balance this and really double their efforts towards reducing carbon emissions and becoming much more sustainable.”
Review Highlights Need to Fight Climate Change in 2018
2017 saw ongoing and worsening political conflict and humanitarian crises. At the same time, we have witnessed a year of climate extremes. Devastating hurricanes, floods and tropical storms ravaged the Caribbean, North America and South Asia, whilst drought and desertification push thousands more towards extreme hunger in the Sahel and the Middle East. Arctic ice is at its thinnest level ever and a vast iceberg, twice the size of Luxembourg, broke off an ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula.
As climate extremes and conflicts are increasing, so too are geopolitical and socioeconomic extremes. The world is currently and simultaneously facing high levels of uncertainty around the fragile new world order, the highest levels of displaced people in decades, and a peak in global hunger - affecting 11 per cent of the world’s population. The global political and economic context has been a major stumbling block for political progress on tackling climate and security risks. Efforts to put economic recalibration onto an environmentally sustainable track have been hindered by a shift to nationalist populism across Europe and the US, Brexit, the Trump administration and the rise of right-wing parties such as Alternative für Deutschland in Germany have made it difficult for political leaders and officials to push this agenda.
Nevertheless, there has been political progress and opportunities. Positive developments in the climate and security space in the past year include steps taken towards new and deeper partnerships for resilience, for example, between the EU and China, across 14 US states following Trump’s threatened withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and between municipal authorities around the world through alliances such as the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.
Africa's Shrinking Lake Chad
There has also been greater acknowledgement of climate-fragility risks in national and global fora, policies and strategies, for example in the EU’s Global Resilience Strategy, UN Security Council Resolution 2349 on Lake Chad, and the Australian Senate Inquiry into climate and security.
Various global frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals, the New Urban Agenda - the global agreement for promoting sustainable urban development, and the Global Compact for Migration - the first ever global level agreement on migration and displacement are now being implemented, presenting opportunities for promoting long-term and sustainable solutions to the root causes of climate-security risks.
There have been steps to operationalise action to address climate-fragility risks, for example, the G7 and partner states are supporting a comprehensive risk assessment of Lake Chad. But these practical steps towards implementation - which are few and far between – need to be scaled up, driven deeper and multiplied to have lasting impact.
More people than ever before are at risk. Urgent and growing humanitarian needs underscore the critical importance of better preventative action, even as most resources continue to be channelled into dealing with crises ex post.
This past year represented one of the deadliest and most destructive North Atlantic hurricane seasons in more than a decade, as a total of 10 hurricanes thrashed North America, the Caribbean, Central America, and parts of Western Europe.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted an above-normal season, which sees 12 storms named, six hurricanes form, with two of those evolving into major hurricanes. But NOAA’s escalated forecast of five storms reaching the status of Category 3 or greater was smashed by Mother Nature, as she produced six major hurricanes, which contributed to making 2017 the costliest hurricane season on record.Destruction from all 17 storms contributed to a total cost of nearly US$500 billion. …
First, Hurricane Harvey camped over Houston with record rainfall over five days. Then Irma swept across the Caribbean and southeastern U.S., decimating some islands and inundating parts of Florida where sea level rise threatens to worsen floods in the future. After Irma dissipated, Maria devastated Puerto Rico; some investigations have put the death toll there over 1,000.
"The three storms—Harvey, Irma and Maria—were all enhanced," Trenberth said. "Bigger, stronger and longer lasting because of climate change as manifested through exceptionally high ocean temperatures."
The final Hurricane Ophelia also claimed a record, travelling the furthest east of any other major North Atlantic hurricane as it made landfall in Ireland. Ophelia caused the deaths of three people and went on record as the strongest storm to ever hit Ireland. The storm left a trail of downed power lines and trees, while a third of homes suffered some level of damage from Ophelia.
Fiery Signs of a Climate Changed
For years, scientists have been warning that global warming might set the American West on fire. The signals that 2017 might be an especially fiery year started flickering early when blazes ripped across Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado in March, a once-rare phenomenon that is becoming increasingly common in the Plains.
More than a thousand miles to the west, California confronted a series of climate-fueled weather events that successively made things worse. First, the winter's "Pineapple Express"—a band of wet air from Hawaii—ushered in record rains, bringing apparent relief for a multi-year drought, but also causing flooding and mudslides.
Its side effects fueled the state's worst wildfire seasons on record. The rain brought a surge of lush green across the state. But when the rain stopped, as it does in California's Mediterranean climate, and temperatures headed upward to record levels, all that green turned brown—and then the fires started.
California’s Largest Wild Fire in History – Christmas 2017
Lit Up the Sky with Mass Destruction
From April to December, fires burned more than 1 million acres across the state, killing at least 40 people, including the "wine country" fires in Sonoma and Napa Counties and late-season fires that tore through Southern California when the usual rains failed to arrive.
Research has attributed much of the recent drought to human-induced climate change. A study co-authored by Columbia University climate scientist Park Williams in 2016 found anthropogenic warming had doubled the amount of forest burned in the West since 1984.
Climate Change Is Happening Faster Than Expected, And It's More Extreme
We are witnessing a mass extinction event happening in the geologic blink of an eye.
"In one sense we know much less about Earth than we do about Mars. The vast majority of life forms on our planet are still undiscovered, and their significance for our own species remains unknown. This gap in our knowledge is a serious matter: we will never completely understand and preserve the living world around us at our present level of ignorance."
-Edward O. Wilson, The world's leading authority on Biodiversity, Emeritus Professor of Biology at Harvard and author of "The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth."
There is little doubt left in the minds of professional biologists that Earth is currently faced with a mounting loss of species that threatens to rival the five great mass extinctions of the geological past, the most devasting being the Third major Extinction (c. 245 mya), the Permian, where 54% of the planet's species families lost. As long ago as 1993, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson estimated that Earth is currently losing something on the order of 30,000 species per year -- which breaks down to the even more daunting statistic of some three species per hour. Some biologists have begun to feel that this biodiversity crisis -- this "Sixth Extinction" -- is even more severe, and more imminent, than Wilson had supposed.
With the human population expected to reach 9-10 billion by the end of the century and the planet in the middle of its sixth mass extinction — this time due to human activity — the next few years are critical in conserving Earth’s precious biodiversity. The cause of the Sixth Extinction, Homo sapiens, means we can continue on the path to our own extinction, or, preferably, we modify our behavior toward the global ecosystem of which we are still very much a part.
Research done by the American Museum of Natural History found that the vast majority of biologists believe that mass extinction poses a colossal threat to human existence, and is even more serious of an environmental problem than one of its contributors- global warming.
The average person woefully underestimates the dangers of mass extinction. Powerful industrial lobbies would like people to believe that we can survive while other species are quickly and quietly dying off. Irresponsible governments and businesses would have people believe that we don’t need a healthy planet to survive- even while human cancer rates are tripling every decade. Unfortunately the real death toll is so much higher than we hear on the news. Only a few endangered “celebrity favorites” get any notice at all.
Amphibians are a prime example at how tinkering with the environment can cause rapid animal death. For over 300 million years frogs, salamanders, newts and toads were hardy enough to precede and outlive the dinosaurs up until the present time. Now, within just two decades many amphibians are disappearing. Scientists are alarmed at how one seemingly robust species of amphibians will suddenly disappear within a few months.
The causes of biocide are a vast array of human environmental “poisons” which often work synergistically, including widespread pollutants, pesticides, a thinning ozone layer which increases ultra-violet radiation, human induced climate change, habitat loss from agriculture and urban sprawl, invasions of exotic species introduced by humans, illegal and legal wildlife trade, light pollution, and man-made borders among other many other causes.
Is there a way out? The answer is yes and no. We’ll never regain the lost biodiversity-at least not within a fathomable time period, but there are ways to prevent a worldwide bio collapse, but they all require immediate action. Wilson, and other scientists point out that the world needs international cooperation in order to sustain ecosystems, since nature is unaware of artificially drawn borders.
The Only Known Jaguar In America
The Only Known Jaguar in America was Finally Caught on Video
Humans love to fence off space they’ve claimed as their own. Sadly, a border fence often has terrible ecological consequences. One fence between India and Pakistan cuts off bears and leopards from their feeding habitats, which is causing them to starve to death. Starvation leads to attacks on villagers, and more slaughtering of the animals.
Some of North America's most threatened wildlife species live right in between the borderland area of the US and Mexico. Jaguars, bison, and wolves have to cross through international terrain in the course of their life's travels in order to survive. People who know nothing of the wildlife’s biological needs want to create a large fence to keep out Mexicans, regardless of the fact that a fence would devastate these already fragile animal populations.
Wilson says the time has come to start calling the "environmentalist view" the "real-world view". We can’t ignore reality simply because it doesn’t conform nicely within convenient boundaries and moneymaking strategies. What good will all of our money and conveniences do for us, if we collectively destroy the necessities of life?
There is hope, but it requires radical changes. Many organizations are lobbying for that change. One group trying to salvage ecosystems is called The Wildlands Project, a conservation group spearheading the drive to reconnect the remaining wildernesses. They will need cooperation from local landowners and government agencies that will take at least 100 years to complete. Projects like this, on a worldwide basis, are humanity’s best chance of saving what’s left of the planets eco-system, and the human race along with it.
For a moment, the most important news in the entire world flashed across the media like a shooting star in the night sky. Then it was gone. Last month, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries issued a dire warning to humanity:
Because of our overconsumption of the world's resources, they declared, we are facing "widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss." They warned that time is running out: "Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory."
CO2 emissions, temperature change, ocean dead zones, freshwater resources, vertebrate species or total forest cover, the grim charts virtually all point in the same dismal direction, indicating continued momentum toward doomsday. The chart for marine catch shows something even scarier: In 1996, the catch peaked at 130 million tonnes and in spite of massively increased industrial fishing, it's been declining ever since—a harbinger of the kind of overshoot that unsustainable exploitation threatens across the board.
Along with their warning, the scientists list a dozen or so examples of the kind of actions that could turn humanity's trajectory around. These include indisputably necessary strategies such as halting the conversion of native habitats into farmland; restoring and rewilding ecologies; phasing out fossil fuel subsidies; and promoting dietary shifts toward plant-based foods. With the future of humanity at stake, why aren't we already doing these things? What will it really take for our civilization to change course and save itself from destruction?
Ignoring Climate Breakdown
We can begin to answer that simply by looking at the media's reception to this warning. With 15,000 scientists—including Jane Goodall, E. O. Wilson and James Hansen—declaring a potential catastrophe at hand, you might think this would make headlines everywhere. Think again. While it led to a few short articles in select publications around the world, with the one commendable exception of CNN, it was virtually ignored by American mainstream media.
This should hardly come as a surprise. In fact, global climate breakdown—perhaps the greatest existential threat faced by our civilization—is barely considered newsworthy on American television. In 2016, the hottest year on record, when the Paris agreement was signed and presidential candidates held widely differing opinions on climate change, the entire year's climate coverage by all network news services in the U.S. amounted to less than an hour: a paltry 50 minutes, representing a 66 percent drop from the previous year.
How could that be? One reason is that, as a result of decades of massive industry consolidation, the U.S. media is controlled by a few large corporations. Like all shareholder-owned companies, their overriding concern is making profits, in this case from advertising dollars. The news services, once considered a hallowed responsibility administered for the public good, have been reduced to just another profit center—and it was decided that climate change news isn't good for advertising revenue, especially since a big chunk of that comes from the fossil fuel and agribusiness companies responsible for much of the problem.
Professor Kevin Anderson discusses the science, strategies, and probabilities
for our survival as a civilization until 2100.
"So you start to see why as a scientific community, as an academic community, an expert community, we are flavoring our work to fit within this view that 2 degrees C is achievable. We've all come round to this way of thinking. We don't step outside of it anymore.
No one really questions the almost fraudulent nature of the venture we're engaged in - not the climate change, not the science, but actually we are underplaying the severity of what that science implies for what we need to do as a society, because it is very uncomfortable."
Policy is still often dominated by long-term targets e.g., 80% reduction by 2050 - despite such targets having no scientific basis
"Yet the IPCC makes clear it's cumulative CO2 that matters i.e. the carbon budget (emissions between now & 2100) ... The budget is blown. ...& it provides carbon budgets (CO2 only) for different probabilities of 2 degrees C. ...
"You wouldn't take a chance on a plane with a 50:50 chance of falling out of the sky, or with a 50:50 chance of a nuclear power station blowing up, but with the planet, that's fine. ..."
Kevin Anderson is the Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research; holds a joint chair in Energy and Climate Change at the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester and School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia; and is an honorary lecturer in Environmental Management at the Manchester Business School. He is an adviser to the British Government (as of 2009) on climate change.
Trucking Industry Forecast On Polar Vortex & Spot Price / Mile
"Few people have lived through a colder New Year’s than the one
we’re about to experience.”
An unstable Polar Vortex first warmed the Great Lakes and then brought Siberian temperatures to the region, creating disruptive snowfalls and historically low end-of-year temperatures. These weather events only add to numerous factors keeping spot rates sky-high.
Strong economic growth, the expansion of American oil production, downward pressure on per-truck productivity from the ELD mandate, and a seemingly unrelenting series of severe weather events are creating overlapping effects to keep truck rates high.
In August the hurricane season exposed an underlying lack of capacity. Since then, weather events like wildfires and regulatory hurdles have further constrained the free movement of freight, raising rates across the country.
The effects have been manifold and somewhat unpredictable—when Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria simultaneously threatened the Caribbean, Asian shippers decided to reroute Panama Canal container traffic to Seattle. The Port of Los Angeles was already operating at full capacity.
Suddenly, the obscure, low-volume freight lane from Seattle to Salt Lake City was overwhelmed with Asian freight, and while the lane had maintained a normal rate of about $1.50 per mile, it shot up to $1.85 in September, $2.28 in October, and and $2.56 in November. The Seattle-Salt Lake City lane is just a small example of how weather events in a completely different part of the country can reroute supply chains and have massive effects on trucking rates.
Now the Polar Vortex, the persistent low pressure zone circulating over the North Pole, has shifted back toward North America. In early December, North America saw unusually warm temperatures because the PV was on the other side of the planet, freezing much of Siberia and northern Asia. Now the vortex has drifted back over the Arctic and down into Canada. The PV’s movement tracks perfectly with Riskpulse’s 2017-8 Winter Weather Outlook, which noted an unstable Polar Vortex that would create highly variable conditions in December and January.
Jon Davis, chief meteorologist for RiskPulse, spoke to FreightWaves Friday afternoon, and underlined the effects of the pronounced cold snap the US is experiencing. “To put a little bit of historical perspective on this,” Davis said, “if you look at anywhere in the US, from the Rockies to the East Coast, if you look at the end of December to beginning of January, that will be the coldest period since 1950. It’s historically significant. The central and eastern US has never been colder during the end of December and beginning of January since 1950—for the past 67 years. Few people have lived through a colder New Year’s than the one we’re about to experience.” ...
2017 Was Actually A Pretty Great Year For The Climate
By Eric Holthaus on Dec 28, 2017
Ahhh, 2017. If there’s one thing we can all agree on about this seeming disaster of a year, it’s this: It’s almost over. For many of us, it was a year lived moment to moment — with white knuckles and outrage dialed up to 11. It was the year America’s leaders turned their backs on the rest of the world and abandoned fellow citizens in a time of need.
I care deeply about humans taking action to thwart and reverse the effects of climate change — so I began and ended this year an emotional wreck. And in a moment of desperation earlier this month, I begged my Twitter followers to share something, anything positive with me that happened in 2017.
Of the hundreds of responses to my plea, one theme shone through: In the midst of adversity, we’ve found each other.
Whether it was a person being so moved by the Grand Canyon that she wants to ensure it remains pristine for all to marvel at, or the transcendent togetherness of watching the solar eclipse, this year inspired many to acknowledge their presence on a fragile planet — and the fact that we’re all in this together.
The climate successes of 2017 were intimate and utterly huge, innumerable and critically important. The biggest collective action, quite possibly, was the thousands of mayors, business leaders, and community champions that reasserted and strengthened their commitments to reducing emissions in the absence of federal climate leadership.
All across the world, individuals and groups committed themselves to new and creative efforts to protect the planet: An Irish writer wrote. An academic studied. Teachers, armed with new science standards, taught. A New York woman got a new job. A boy became a vegetarian. A NASA scientist gathered data about the rapidly changing Arctic. Conservationists protected vulnerable lands. A Canadian salt farmer helped save a single endangered turtle. A family planned a move to a smaller, more energy-efficient home closer to work. A geographer’s father abandoned his climate denial.
“People are more engaged than I can remember,” wrote one Twitter respondent. Another eloquently summarized 2017 this way: “We all woke up and found out we cared about this great American experiment.”
In hindsight, there have been signs that this year could be a special one for the climate. In March, a Gallup poll showed that Americans’ concern over global warming has reached a three-decade high. Prices for batteries and renewable energy keep plunging, leading to major milestones in decarbonization: Half of all U.S. coal plants are now at least in process of being retired, for example.
Britain and France pledged to ban the internal combustion engine (and there are signs China and California could soon follow). The solar industry is quickly growing — even in deep-red states like Mississippi. A majority of Americans are willing to pay to reduce their own carbon footprints, and three-quarters of all cities are planning to ramp up action to slow climate change.
An August survey showed that this pro-climate fervor isn’t unique to Americans. Climate change is now among the most important issues throughout the world. A global scourge of extreme weather in 2017, which scientists have increasingly (and more vocally) linked to climate change, appears to be ramping up urgency and attention — especially for those those on the front lines.
Scientists now know more than they ever have about how human activity affects the climate, and one thing’s for certain: At long last, people have begun the lengthy journey to turn their activity into a net positive.