Warming stripes and climate grief

Warming stripes: Annual global temperatures from 1850-2017. Each stripe represents the temperature of a single year, ordered from the earliest available data to now.

We have entered September in the year 2018, and as these warming stripes illustrate, the climate which has been a steady backdrop to life on our planet for thousands of years, is beginning to change. If you are among those who “didn’t see this coming”, you should probably start to pay attention now.

Annual temperatures for Australia 1910-2017. The colour scale goes from 20.7°C (dark blue) to 23.0°C (dark red).

[Climatic clippings post no 7 in 2018]

Welcome to another a collection of recent ‘climatic clippings’ – our seventh this year – where you can catch up on that sort of climate-related news you may have missed – and get an idea of or a new perspective on where we are at now.

Some of it is pretty scary, and at the bottom of this page, we have posted an excerpt of a Facebook discussion about climate anxiety and climate grief.

Each one of us need to start paying attention, reduce our carbon footprint and figure out how we can become part of the solution, rather than being part of the problem.

United Nations: “Act with urgency to avoid catastrophic effects”

» Reuters – 2 September 2018:
Governments ‘not on track’ to cap temperatures at below 2 degrees: U.N.
“Patricia Espinosa, head of the Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which steers the climate talks, said both the public and private sector need to act with urgency to avoid ‘catastrophic effects’.”

Systemic disruption

How is it we still today hear politicians talking the climate crisis down to something which is just about “a tiny temperature rise of a couple of degrees”? Instead of educating the population on what the climate science is telling us, governments and media completely fail to address the real issue here, which is not about temperature degrees but about economic turbulence, food shortages, drinking water shortage, political upheavals, wars, millions of refugees – already happening and increasing in the next few decades – all of which could have been avoided, if the issue had been properly addressed when it was raised in the international community back in the 1980s.

15-year-old Greta in Sweden who is on ‘school strike for the climate’ has got a good point: For a start, politicians need to change the way they talk about this issue.

Strike for safety. Climate safety

In Australia, poll after poll has documented that – unlike the politicians – the general population has no problem with understanding that the climate crisis is an existential threat.

We are already seeing widespread systemic disruption in our societies. We are seeing the predictions from our climate scientists are now turning into reality. The Great Barrier Reef is dying. Parts of the country is in drought. Bushfire-season starts earlier and earlier. Tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones kill and destroy.

We know what the problem is and we know how to fix it. So why do we let our elected leaders off the hook? Why do we accept that leaders – in businesses, in churches and communities as well as in city halls and parliaments – continue to pretend the problem doesn’t really exist?

Australia’s responsibility for the mess is bigger than its size in terms of population or annual tonnes of climate pollution. Measured per capita, Australia has the highest carbon footprint in the world, but that’s not something anyone talks about.

Paris Agreement’s 2°C goal deemed unrealistic, climate crisis irreversible
With our governments’ policies of protecting status quo, and even subsidising the polluting industries, the Paris Climate Agreement’s objectives are not met. On top of that, the very basis for the Paris Agreement’s transformation scenarios has fundamentally changed because the negative emission technologies underlying the United Nations’ indicative transition scenarios are now being judged as ‘unrealistic’ by the scientific research community.

In other words, we must be aware of the risk that even the Paris Agreement’s 2°C average global temperature rise will destabilise the entire planet and lead to an even more drastic and irreversible climate crisis.

This IS a task for governments
There is an increasing tendency towards individualising the responsibility to act on climate. “We can’t wait for governments,” people say. But the kind of change which is required in our economy to deal with climate change is at a level which no individual can create. We need laws and legislation to get the transition up to speed. We need proper regulation of the air pollution.

Global co-operation on responsible climate policy is only realistic if rich nations such as Australia show leadership and move quickly forward, given our historical responsibilities and the global inequality in economics and technology. Considering the latest “rearrangement of chairs” in the Australian federal government was in reality a complete take-over by the fossil fuel industry, it is important to get involved in the political process and help define who people will be voting for at the next election.

Demand carbon neutrality
The ‘Rise For Climate’ marches on 7 and 8 September 2018 are an opportunity to demand from our politicians that they create, for instance:

• A fast and fair conversion to 100 per cent renewable energy no later than 2030.

• The legislative objective of a carbon neutral Australia by 2040, with concrete annual plans for emission reductions starting from 2019.

• A ban on all new fossil fuel extraction.

• A fee on climate pollution.

“With the new prime minister even more sinister on climate change it is absolutely vital that we make a stand on September the 8th. Drop pen and paper, drop the kids and lets face ScoMo the drop kick. Be there dressed up, in work clothes, naked, whatever you fancy. Climate change is not just about renewables, its about a smaller footprint. Cut down on plastic use, protect forest, marine parks, rivers, water and land resources. We must change for the climate to remain unchanged.”
~ Philippe Dupuy

“In New York we clean up after our dogs but we don’t clean up after ourselves in the same way, resulting in massive waste flows, in industrial pollution, in toxic emissions and in air pollution, which is poisoning the atmosphere.”
~ Jeffrey Sachs, American economist

Climatic clippings – August-September 2018

» Business Insider Nordic – 7 August 2018:
One of the world’s largest banks issued an alarming warning that Earth is running out of the resources to sustain life
“HSBC said companies and governments are not “adequately prepared” for climate impacts.”

» CBC – 29 August 2018:
2018 now worst fire season on record as B.C. extends state of emergency
“Close to 13,000 sq km of province has burned, breaking record set in 2017”

“Even as someone who has spent more than 40 years thinking about vegetation change looking into the past … it is really hard for me to wrap my mind around the magnitude of change we’re talking about.”
~ Stephen Jackson, ecologist and director of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center, lead author of a new study published in the journal Science

» The Washington Post – 30 August 2018:
Climate change could render many of Earth’s ecosystems unrecognizable
“A sweeping survey of global fossil and temperature records from the past 20,000 years suggests that Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems are at risk of another, even faster transformation unless aggressive action is taken against climate change.”

» Reuters – 30 August 2018:
Australia’s east coast drought to intensify as dry weather to linger for months
“Australia’s east coast will experience dry weather for at least the next three months, the country’s meteorological bureau said on Thursday, intensifying a drought that has wilted crops and left farmers struggling to stay in business.”

» Greenpeace – 24 August 2018:
From fires to floods, this is what extreme weather looks like
“Climate change does not know any borders, continents or hemisphere.”



“The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer. This phenomenon – which has never been recorded before – has occurred twice this year due to warm winds and a climate-change driven heatwave in the northern hemisphere. One meteorologist described the loss of ice as “scary”. Others said it could force scientists to revise their theories about which part of the Arctic will withstand warming the longest.”

» The Guardian – 21 August 2018:
Arctic’s strongest sea ice breaks up for first time on record
“Usually frozen waters open up twice this year in phenomenon scientists described as scary.”

» CBC – 29 August 2018:
Warm water under Arctic ice a ‘ticking time bomb,’ researcher says
“Warm water pocket 50 metres below Canada Basin could cause significant ice melt if released.”

» DW – 30 August 2018:
The frozen tears of New Zealand’s melting glaciers
“As the planet heats up, scientists warn the dramatic seams of ice that have inspired ancient legends, Victorian explorers and modern tourists alike could all but vanish.”

» New York Times – 3 July 2010:
As Oil Industry Fights a Tax, It Reaps Subsidies

» The New Yorker – 10 September 2018:
A Summer of Megafires and Trump’s Non-Rules on Climate Change
“Against an infernal backdrop of widespread wildfires, the Administration announced its plan to roll back rules limiting greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants.”

Climate grief

in a catastrophically warming world

John Knox wrote on Facebook:

People who know me, know that I’ve been concerned about climate change for quite some time now. So much so that, in 2008 at the age of 52, I went back to school to study Renewable Energy so that I could be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

I am a father of two wonderful kids – a daughter and a son. My daughter works on Sydney Harbour on the tall ships and my son has just recently become a part-time ski instructor at Mt. Hotham (THAT might be a short career!) – I love them both madly and, in 2010 at the age of 54, I got on my pushbike and cycled 8500 kms around Australia (solo, towing a trailer) talking to communities about energy efficiency, which is the quickest way we can reduce our GHG emissions. I put my life on the line in that journey knowing that, if we don’t step up and act on climate change, it would be my kids’ future that would on the line in a catastrophically warming world.

Upon my return from my cycle tour of this wonderful country, I volunteered with 350.org working on council and personal divestment. Whilst somewhat successful, action still didn’t happen quickly enough for me and, indeed, the election of Tony Abbott’s government set us back when the necessary price on carbon was removed. I then became involved in NVDA (non-violent direct action – the only kind of direct action that may have had a chance) activities which resulted in an arrest in AGL’s offices in Melbourne in 2013 protesting their objection to the RET (the first time I had ever been in trouble with the law) and another arrest in Newcastle where 57 of us blockaded the coal line leading to the world’s biggest coal port. One of those arrested was a 93 year old survivor of the Kokoda Trail! You might ask what motivates people to knowingly risk arrest for something that will possibly not affect them – Bill, at 93, is unlikely to feel the full effects of climate change after all and I am now in my 60s.

In 2016, for my 60th birthday, I got myself my first ever tattoo. I have “313<" tattooed on my right wrist. This is the number of parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere in the year of my birth. That figure is now over 410! We are running an uncontrolled experiment on the atmosphere that will have repercussions for many generations to come. I am now convinced that we are beyond being able to mitigate the effects of climate change and are now in the age of consequences. Recently I had the very difficult task of apologising to my daughter for not having done enough to protect her future on this planet. Lord knows (even though I would not consider myself a religious person) I have done as much as I have been able! I am now struggling with what I call climate grief. I am informed about the science and I am getting increasingly despondent about our chances for not just mitigating the effects of climate change but actually survival. We are getting to the point where complete societal breakdown is a distinct possibility yet, last week, here in Australia, it could be argued that climate change has again brought down a prime minister. When will we take proper, considered action to address the climate emergency that now, after over 30 years of knowledge and inaction, is right on our doorstep? Am I alone in this increasing feeling of despondency? If informed people like me can feel this way, what hope is there for others? ~ John Knox – feeling hopeless
30 August 2018 at 06:32

. . .

Janine OKeeffe shared John Knox’s post and commented:

With tears I share this,
Thank you for your work and for writing this. Sharing grief is helpful for me and probably all of us. I have a similar but different story. The grief is like the death of a close friend, which might just make it through the cancer.

I am now convinced that our only way forward is through significant non violent action and the build up of democratic tools for sharing. Here is our current action, please join in any way, share and like.

. . .

Andrea Bunting commented:

Thanks for your thoughts on this John Knox. I am a climate activist with a new reason to be despondent. (Recently diagnosed with a form of cancer that has an overall 26% survival rate.) I try to spend very little time wishing the situation were otherwise. I have to accept the situation and do whatever I can, while assuming that a huge medical team are also doing their best. Now my goal is clear, and small. I think with climate change, our goal is often too big. We need to accept the current situation and do what we can while depending on others to be also pulling in the same direction. It’s about that saying: changing the things you can change, accepting the things you can’t change and the wisdom to know the difference.

. . .

Mik Aidt commented:

John Knox, did you read Roy Scranton’s piece in New York Times some years ago?
Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene

What I took away from that well-written piece is: There is no reason to despair. Like Scranton and the Samurai, we have to look the climate emergency in the eye. Take it by its horns.

Know that you are not alone. You have lots and lots of allies who think just that same way. And thanks to the internet, we are able to link up, connect, learn and evolve.

As frustrating as politics are at the moment, this is all going to change, and I think it will happen much faster than any of us dare to imagine at this stage.

As Andrea Bunting wisely reminds us, each of us can’t change much on the bigger scheme of things, but we must do what we can – each of us – and once humanity as a whole begins to understand what to do and how, I think we will be surprised how much we are able to achieve in a very short span of years.

In its principle it is not all that different from how issues such as slavery and apartheid and laws of social injustice have been changed over the centuries.

. . .

Gordon Harvey commented:

If being an inspiration and doing more than just about anyone for such a cause is comforting, you should sleep well. But you are clearly a person who cares more about the situation in the real world than about patting himself on the back. It feels like there’s nothing I can say to help you. My own version of self-comfort is to look at what will be the good that comes out of this. Apart from clean, cheap energy, there will also be a deeper appreciation of the natural world, a greater sense of global community, and a better understanding of human nature and our tendency for self-delusion. Yes, these realisations will come in some ways too late. My hopes include that the groundswell of public awareness will come sooner than we expect, or that breakthroughs in CO2 removal will happen before the clock can’t be turned back in too many ways.

Anyway, I fully expect your kids to look back at you as a person of great integrity and vision. Good luck to you, and the rest of us too.

“Climate despair is more widespread than people admit. It may soon require strategies to help people cope to ensure a widespread hopelessness doesn’t set in, causing people to give up and fend for themselves when climate change requires collective action on an unprecedented global scale.”
~ Paris Marx, curator of the Radical Urbanist newsletter

» Medium – 16 August 2018:
Extreme weather is triggering climate despair
“More people will become hopeless unless there’s radical change.”

“Hot weather is associated with a sharp rise in mental instability — as measured by the use of keywords linked to suicide on social media. It also went hand in hand with higher suicide rates.”

» Medium | Financial Times – 30 August 2018:
Why Rising Temperatures Are Bad for Our Mental Health
“Evidence shows that road rage, domestic assault and murder rates are higher in the US during heatwaves.”


“In this document we put forward eight simple but important “best practice” insights from
psychological science to help people come to terms and cope with the profound implications of
climate change, so that they can stay engaged with the problem, see where their own
behaviour plays a part, and participate in speedy societal change to restore a safe climate.

These eight insights make the acronym A.C.T.I.V.A.T.E. and we hope they will ACTIVATE the
public into more effectively engaging with the challenge of climate change!

Acknowledge feelings about climate change to yourself and others and learn ways of managing feelings so you can face and not avoid the reality of climate change.

Create social norms about protecting the environment so that people see that ‘everyone is doing it’ and ‘it’s normal to be green’.

Talk about climate change and break the collective silence so that more and more people see it as a risk that requires action

Inspire positive visions of a low-energy, sustainable, zero carbon world so that people know what we are working towards and can identify steps to get there.

Value it – show people how their core values are often linked to other values that are about restoring a safe climate, and that caring about these issues actually reinforces their core values.

Act personally and collectively to contribute to climate change solutions and feel engaged and less despairing.

Time is now. Show people that climate change is here, now and for sure so they see it is timely and relevant to them and impacts the things that they care deeply about.

Engage with nature to restore your spirits and connect with the very places that you are trying to protect.

» Source: The Australian Psychological Society: ‘The Climate Change Empowerment Handbook’

“Fundamentally different from an asteroid impact”

“Climate change is an overwhelmingly horrific thing. It will lead — it already is leading — to massive economic damage, desperate refugees, and the loss of things we love. But it’s fundamentally different from an asteroid impact or zombie plague, and I think it’s important to understand why.”

“Look, I hate to break it to you: we are doomed. That has nothing to do with climate change, and everything to do with the simple fact of being alive. But we have a choice about what to do to this wonderful place we inhabit for a short, miraculous time.”
~ Kate Marvel, climate scientist at Columbia University and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

» Scientific American – 30 July 2018:
Climate Change: We’re Not Literally Doomed, but…
…there’s space for action between “everything is fine” and “the apocalypse is upon us”

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
Maria Skłodowska-Curie (1867–1934), Polish-born scientist and first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize

Lawyer gave his life to protest over climate pollution

Climate action advice: Start with food, water and energy

“A lot of people ask me how they can live more sustainably, and help tackle environmental issues like climate change in their own lives. Here’s my advice.

I encourage people to think about their use of food, water, and energy. The vast majority of Earth’s species extinctions, ecological degradation, resource depletion, freshwater decline, climate change, and unraveling planetary systems are caused by how we use and produce food, water, and energy. Other stuff matters too, but food, water, and energy are the big ones. If we don’t get these right, solving the other issues won’t matter all that much. (…)

Most importantly, individual actions are a catalyst for change, and can help us ultimately get better policy and better practice from governments, businesses, and other institutional players.”
~ Dr Jonathan Foley (@GlobalEcoGuy), a global environmental scientist, sustainability advisor, author, and public speaker

Climate and economy: Carbon dividends

Ted Halstead is mobilising conservative leaders and CEOs around a breakthrough carbon dividends solution.