Most important movie of 2014? ‘Cowspiracy’ explores the darkest driver of environmental destruction on the planet.
- Published on Saturday, 13 December 2014 09:16
By Nick Breeze
As someone who spends a great deal of time interviewing climate scientists and writing articles on what climate change really means for us in our lifetimes, I have often overlooked the minutia elements in my own daily routines that are unnecessarily contributing to the destruction of the Earth’s life support system.
For parents striving to do the very best for their children in every aspect from education to exercise and social mobility, there is now the greater understanding by scientists that the challenges they will face in the next few decades alone will be driven by the impacts of climate change, only currently visible in the form of weird weather or remote extreme climate events.
However, the IPCC conservatively estimate a 2 degrees centigrade rise in temperature by mid century if we continue polluting as we are today. At 2 degrees centigrade we will have already triggered other warming processes within the Earth system that will accelerate the heating further. The predicted impacts on regional climates and other factors such as agriculture, mean that we will see an exponential rise in conflicts, food price spikes and shortages, mass immigration on a scale never before witnessed (and certainly not on UKIP’s radar!!), and much more.
Words like “sustainability” or “global warming” are now so tired, we tend raise our eyebrows in mock fatigue when ever they’re mentioned as if their relevance was a matter of yesterday, as opposed to today. However, our problems have never been more severe and one of the biggest drivers of climate change and environmental degradation, is virtually omitted from the national and even international discourse.
What is this hidden driver? I’ll give you a clue: Cowspiracy!
I am not a vegetarian and neither have I considered any radical shift in my dietary make-up. Over the last few years I took a lead from the McCartney’s ‘Meat-Free Monday’ campaign and started eating much less meat, trying to buy better quality meat and seeing its consumption as more of a treat. Earlier this year I was made aware that eating meat accounts for between 30-50% of a persons carbon emissions.
The makers of Cowspiracy have been very brave in uncovering an industry that is so unsustainable and environmentally destructive that we have to take notice. If we really see ourselves as animal loving, community loving, good and honest people, then this is one issue that will not pass the viewer by without some serious consideration.
In the film’s journey we see exposed how organisations such as Greenpeace in the US are refusing to discuss agriculture despite the fact it is the biggest driver of rainforest destruction in the Amazon (1 acre every second cleared mostly for livestock grazing), also water depletion (staggering amounts of water that go into producing 1 kg of beef), and associated disastrous impacts from producing the feed required for all these animals. The facts keep pouring out of the movie at an alarming rate.
Aside from all this there is also the wellbeing of the animals. One of the lasting images is of the cows being marched around the industrial meat complex, resembling the images we have seen from broken individuals in concentration camps or such like environments. This is surely not the mechanism for how an intelligent and empathetic species sees itself in harmony with the natural world?
I urge you to watch this movie and form your own opinion on the content. The more these issues are engaged with then the more we can encourage a change that will create a better world for the next generation.
VISIT http://www.cowspiracy.com/ to WATCH THE MOVIE!
Follow on Twitter: @NGBreeze
- Published on Saturday, 22 November 2014 09:51
2014 will be remembered for the range of weather extremes persistent storms that battered the country at the beginning of the year, to record high temperatures at the end of October. Scientists now have evidence that these persistent extreme weather patterns are increasing in their frequency, due to the rapid heating up of the Arctic that is changing the behaviour of the jet stream.
Dr. Jennifer Francis who is one of the leading scientists in the U.S. studying the relationship between Arctic warming and changes in the jet stream, says:
“The Arctic is generally very cold and the areas farther south are warm and that difference in area between those two areas is really what fuels that vast river of weather moving high over our head that we call the jet stream.
The jet stream in turn creates the weather that we feel all around the northern hemisphere and the middle latitudes, so anything that affects this jet stream is going to affect weather patterns. So as the Arctic warms up much faster than the areas farther south, we’re seeing this temperature difference between these two regions get smaller. This means the force that drives those winds in the jet stream are getting smaller and that means the winds themselves in the jet stream are getting weaker.
The colour band shows the jet stream moving around the northern hemisphere from west to east. Source: NASA
When that happens, the jet stream tends to take a wavier path as it travels around the northern hemisphere and those waves are actually what create the stormy patterns [and] the nice weather patterns. As those waves get larger because of this weakening of those winds of the jet streams, they tend to move more slowly from west to east. That means it feels like the weather patterns are sticking around longer, because those patterns are moving much more slowly and this then makes it more likely to have the kind of extreme events that are related to persistent weather patterns.”
Are critical findings influencing policy?
These changes in climate have huge implications as Dr. Francis points out, there are “people who worry about whether there is enough fresh water to supply cities, whether there is enough snowpack on mountains to supply reservoirs, and for agriculture… Drought and agriculture is a big problem. Storminess in certain areas is another big problem. Yes, it has a huge impact for a whole range of issues that affect the way we live.”
It is no wonder then that Dr. Francis and her colleagues have attracted the attention of President Obama’s chief science advisor, Dr. John Holdren. Dr. Holdren has been reporting directly to the President on the real time effects of climate change and is keen to understand what this new research tells us about the future impact of changes to the jet stream. Francis muses and says:
“Yes, we’ve had a lot of interest from policymakers… I think we’re starting to make a lot of progress now in getting policymakers to understand that this is a big problem they have to face… I think decision makers and the policymakers at the local level get it much better because they’re already seeing effects on their local areas. Sea level rise is an obvious one. They’re already seeing changes in drought and agricultural problems and dealing with fresh water issues. It is really at the local level that we’re having more success.”
New research supports the case that Arctic sea ice loss is driving climate changes
So in understanding the changes in the jet stream it is important to research how the vast atmospheric river of weather above our heads is connected to other climate mechanisms. To explain this, Francis cites new research by colleagues that has emerged in the last couple of months:
“It appears that over the north Atlantic, and towards Asia, there’s a mechanism that appears to be quite robust, and several groups have found this mechanism using completely different analysis techniques. So what we’re finding is that there’s an area, North of Scandinavia in the Arctic, where the ice has been disappearing particularly rapidly. When that ice disappears… there is regular ocean underneath, and that ocean absorbs a lot more energy from the sun through the summertime. So it becomes very warm there.
Then as the fall comes around, all that heat that’s been absorbed all summer long, where the ice has retreated, is put back in the atmosphere and that creates a big bubble of hot air… over that region where the ice was lost. This tends to create a northward bulge in the jet stream there… that creates a surface high pressure area that circulates in the clockwise direction. That sucks cold air down from the Arctic over northern Eurasia, and that creates a southward dip in the jet stream. So what we’re getting is this big northward bulge up over Scandinavia and a southward dip over Asia… creating, first the tendency for a larger wave in the jet stream, which tends to move more slowly, but also we’re seeing this mechanism that creates these colder winters that have been observed over Eurasia.
Once the jet stream gets into this wavier pattern, it sends wave energy up into the highest levels of the atmosphere, which is called the stratosphere, where we have the polar vortex, [which] is kind of similar to the jet stream but it’s much higher up in the atmosphere and it travels much faster. So as that wave energy gets sent up from this larger wave below, up into the stratosphere, it breaks down that polar vortex so that it becomes wavier as well. That wavier polar vortex sends energy back down to the lower atmosphere and it creates an even wavier jet stream in February. So we’re seeing this connection of mechanisms that starts with [Arctic] sea ice loss and it makes a wavier jet stream for different reasons all the way through winter.”
Will the jet stream continue to cause changes in climate?
By identifying these mechanisms and linking them back directly to loss of the Arctic sea ice, Dr Francis and her colleagues are demonstrating how manmade global warming is creating feedback that is changing the climate conditions in the northern hemisphere. So what next?
[We are] using these climate models, or computer simulations… to try and project what we’re expecting to see happen in the future, as greenhouse gases’s continue to increase. The early indications are that these large wavy patterns in the jet stream are going to increase in the future, as far as we can tell. It is preliminary research that I haven’t published yet but it does look as if they are going to increase.”
Nick Breeze - Climate change film maker and writer
The International Center For Earth Simulation (ICES) And The Ecosequestration Trust (TEST) Join Forces To Boost Global Resilience
- Published on Saturday, 08 November 2014 17:23
All around the world impacts of changing climate are being felt in a multitude of ways from droughts to tidal surges. The failure of policymakers to take action in the preceding decades and the current policy gridlock means that humanity has little choice but to move to the next stage of action: Resilience!
We are now restricted to what we can do to mitigate against severe climate change impacts. The mega-trends are indicating that we have a range of conditions that will threaten lives around the world in ways that we are not used to. These include water shortages, threats to agriculture, rising tides that inundate coastal cities, and so on. The impacts have begun and we are now moving into what Dr James Hansen called “The Storms of Our Grandchildren”, only the grandparents are still very much with us. How bad things get and how much we can stand against the extremes in climate, will be largely due to what action we take to make our human systems as resilient as possible.
This is why the collaboration between ICES and TEST is so important. We have to accelerate the gathering, the processing, and the dissemination of knowledge that is needed in all regions of the world where livelihoods, lives and habitats are threatened. What is becoming clear is that we are all in this together. The challenges ahead are of a proportion that make us all stakeholders in determining the future quality of human life on this planet.
This film has been produced to promote the collaboration between two organisations: one that is focused on ground-level activity and responses to the environment, the other on the technical gathering, unifying and processing of data from as many sources that are available. The results of this work will be made available in the development of the www.resilience.io platform.
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