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Nature_and_Environment.114

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It's later than you think

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{Nature_and_Environment.114.56}: Jay Hoffman {resist} Mon, 18 Jan 2021 02:08:49 CST (87 lines)

New paper shows the outlook for life on Earth is more dire than is
generally understood.  part 1

Anyone with even a passing interest in the global environment knows
all is not well. But just how bad is the situation? Our new paper
shows the outlook for life on Earth is more dire than is generally
understood.

The research published today reviews more than 150 studies to produce
a stark summary of the state of the natural world. We outline the
likely future trends in biodiversity decline, mass extinction, climate
disruption and planetary toxification. We clarify the gravity of the
human predicament and provide a timely snapshot of the crises that
must be addressed now.

The problems, all tied to human consumption and population growth,
will almost certainly worsen over coming decades. The damage will be
felt for centuries and threatens the survival of all species,
including our own.

Our paper was authored by 17 leading scientists, including those from
Flinders University, Stanford University and the University of
California, Los Angeles. Our message might not be popular, and indeed
is frightening. But scientists must be candid and accurate if humanity
is to understand the enormity of the challenges we face.

Getting to grips with the problem

First, we reviewed the extent to which experts grasp the scale of the
threats to the biosphere and its lifeforms, including humanity.
Alarmingly, the research shows future environmental conditions will be
far more dangerous than experts currently believe.

This is largely because academics tend to specialize in one
discipline, which means they're in many cases unfamiliar with the
complex system in which planetary-scale problems—and their potential
solutions—exist.

What's more, positive change can be impeded by governments rejecting
or ignoring scientific advice, and ignorance of human behavior by both
technical experts and policymakers.

More broadly, the human optimism bias – thinking bad things are more
likely to befall others than yourself—means many people underestimate
the environmental crisis.

Numbers don't lie

Our research also reviewed the current state of the global
environment. While the problems are too numerous to cover in full
here, they include:

    A halving of vegetation biomass since the agricultural revolution
around 11,000 years ago. Overall, humans have altered almost two-
thirds of Earth's land surface.

    About 1,300 documented species extinctions over the past 500
years, with many more unrecorded. More broadly, population sizes of
animal species have declined by more than two-thirds over the last 50
years, suggesting more extinctions are imminent.

    About 1 million plant and animal species globally threatened with
extinction. The combined mass of wild mammals today is less than one-
quarter the mass before humans started colonizing the planet. Insects
are also disappearing rapidly in many regions.

    85% of the global wetland area lost in 300 years, and more than
65% of the oceans compromised to some extent by humans.

    A halving of live coral cover on reefs in less than 200 years and
a decrease in seagrass extent by 10% per decade over the last century.
About 40% of kelp forests have declined in abundance, and the number
of large predatory fishes is fewer than 30% of that a century ago.

A bad situation only getting worse

The human population has reached 7.8 billion – double what it was in
1970—and is set to reach about 10 billion by 2050. More people equals
more food insecurity, soil degradation, plastic pollution and
biodiversity loss.

High population densities make pandemics more likely. They also drive
overcrowding, unemployment, housing shortages and deteriorating
infrastructure, and can spark conflicts leading to insurrections,
terrorism, and war.
"https://phys.org/news/2021-01-earth-future-outlook-worse-
scientists.html?"

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{Nature_and_Environment.114.57}: Jay Hoffman {resist} Mon, 18 Jan 2021 02:09:19 CST (70 lines)

The outlook is worse than even scientists can grasp  part 2

Essentially, humans have created an ecological Ponzi scheme.
Consumption, as a percentage of Earth's capacity to regenerate itself,
has grown from 73% in 1960 to more than 170% today.

High-consuming countries like Australia, Canada and the US use
multiple units of fossil-fuel energy to produce one energy unit of
food. Energy consumption will therefore increase in the near future,
especially as the global middle class grows.

Then there's climate change. Humanity has already exceeded global
warming of 1°C this century, and will almost assuredly exceed 1.5 °C
between 2030 and 2052. Even if all nations party to the Paris
Agreement ratify their commitments, warming would still reach between
2.6°C and 3.1°C by 2100.

The danger of political impotence

Our paper found global policymaking falls far short of addressing
these existential threats. Securing Earth's future requires prudent,
long-term decisions. However this is impeded by short-term interests,
and an economic system that concentrates wealth among a few
individuals.

Right-wing populist leaders with anti-environment agendas are on the
rise, and in many countries, environmental protest groups have been
labeled "terrorists." Environmentalism has become weaponised as a
political ideology, rather than properly viewed as a universal mode of
self-preservation.

Financed disinformation campaigns against climate action and forest
protection, for example, protect short-term profits and claim
meaningful environmental action is too costly—while ignoring the
broader cost of not acting. By and large, it appears unlikely business
investments will shift at sufficient scale to avoid environmental
catastrophe.

Changing course

Fundamental change is required to avoid this ghastly future.
Specifically, we and many others suggest:

    Abolishing the goal of perpetual economic growth
    Revealing the true cost of products and activities by forcing
those who damage the environment to pay for its restoration, such as
through carbon pricing
    Rapidly eliminating fossil fuels
    Regulating markets by curtailing monopolisation and limiting undue
corporate influence on policy
    Reining in corporate lobbying of political representatives
    Educating and empowering women around the globe, including giving
them control over family planning.

Don't look away

Many organizations and individuals are devoted to achieving these
aims. However their messages have not sufficiently penetrated the
policy, economic, political and academic realms to make much
difference.

Failing to acknowledge the magnitude and gravity of problems facing
humanity is not just naïve, it's dangerous. And science has a big role
to play here.

Scientists must not sugarcoat the overwhelming challenges ahead.
Instead, they should tell it like it is. Anything else is at best
misleading, and at worst potentially lethal for the human enterprise.
"https://phys.org/news/2021-01-earth-future-outlook-worse-
scientists.html?"

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{Nature_and_Environment.114.58}: Glen Marks {wotan} Wed, 20 Jan 2021 10:54:14 CST (4 lines)

"Climate change will be sudden and cataclysmic. We need to act fast":

"https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/01/climate-change-sudden-
cataclysmic-need-act-fast/"

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{Nature_and_Environment.114.59}: {wotan} Wed, 20 Jan 2021 17:53:13 CST (0 lines)
{erased by wotan Wed, 20 Jan 2021 17:54:26 CST}

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{Nature_and_Environment.114.60}: Jay Hoffman {resist} Fri, 22 Jan 2021 20:50:51 CST (94 lines)

Complex Life Threatened
by Robert Hunziker

Throughout the world, scientists are speaking out like never before.
They’re talking about an emergency situation of the health of the
planet threatening “complex life,” including, by default, human life.

A recent fundamental study discusses the all-important issue of
failing support of complex life: “Humanity is causing a rapid loss of
biodiversity and, with it, Earth’s ability to support complex life.”
(Source: Corey J.A. Bradshaw, et al, Underestimating the Challenges of
Avoiding a Ghastly Future, Frontiers in Conservation Science, January
13, 2021)

The ramifications are unnerving. Accordingly, Earth’s ability to
support complex life is officially at risk. An armchair description of
a ghastly future is a planet wheezing, coughing, and gasping for air,
searching for non-toxic water, as biodiversity dwindles to nothingness
alongside excessive levels of atmospheric CO2-e, bringing on too much
heat for complex life to survive. Sound familiar? In part, it is.

Along the way, the irretrievable loss of vertebrates, or complex life
forms like wild mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians have reduced
to 5% of the planet’s total biomass. The remaining 95%: (1) livestock
(59%) and (2) humans (36%). (Bradshaw, et al) How long does that cozy
relationship last? Meanwhile, the human version of complex life
resides in comfortable artificial lifestyles framed by cement, steel,
glass, wood, and plastic, and surrounded by harmful fertilizers, toxic
insecticides, and tons of untested chemicals. There are more than
80,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S., most of which have
not been studied for safety or toxicity to humans.

Already, it is mind-blowing that two-thirds of wild vertebrate species
have disappeared from the face of the planet within only 50 years, a
world-class speed record for extinction events. At that rate, the
infamous Anthropocene will usher in the bleakest century since
commencement of the Holocene Epoch of the past 10,000-plus years,
especially in consideration of the remorseful fact that, over the past
300 years, global wetlands have been reduced to 15% of their original
composition.

Once wetlands are gone, there’s no hope for complex life support
systems. And, how will aquifers be recharged? Aquifers are the world’s
most important water supply. Yet, NASA says 13 of the planet’s 37
largest aquifers are classified as overstressed because they have
almost no new water flowing in to offset usage.

Meanwhile, dying crumbling ecosystems all across the world are
dropping like flies with kelp forests down >40%, coral reefs down
>50%, and 40% of all plant life endangered, as well as massive insect
losses of 70% to 90% in some regions approaching wholesale
annihilation.

Alas, the loss of biodiversity brings a plethora of reductions in
associated benefits of a healthy planet: (1) reduced carbon
sequestration (CO2-e already at all-time highs), (2) reduced
pollination (insect wipe-out), (3) degraded soil (especially Africa),
(4) foul air, bad water (especially India), (5) intense flooding
(especially America’s Midwest), (6) colossal wildfires (Siberia,
California, Amazon, Australia), (7) compromised health (rampaging
viruses and 140 million Americans with at least one chronic disease,
likely caused, in part, by environmental degradation and too much
toxicity).

One of the most telling statistics within the Bradshaw report states:
“Simultaneous with population growth, humanity’s consumption as a
fraction of Earth’s regenerative capacity has grown from ~ 73% in 1960
to 170% in 2016.” Ipso facto, humans are consuming more than one
Earth. How long does that last?

Ecological overshoot is a centerpiece of the loss of biodiversity:
“This massive ecological overshoot is largely enabled by the
increasing use of fossil fuels. These convenient fuels have allowed us
to decouple human demand from biological regeneration: 85% of
commercial energy, 65% of fibers, and most plastics are now produced
from fossil fuels. Also, food production depends on fossil-fuel input,
with every unit of food energy produced requiring a multiple in
fossil-fuel energy (e.g., 3 × for high-consuming countries like
Canada, Australia, USA, and China.”

So, where, when, and how are solutions to be found? As stated above,
there’s no shortage of ideas, but nobody does the work because
solutions are overwhelming, too expensive, too complicated.

Meanwhile, the irrepressible global warming fiasco is subject of a
spaghetti-type formula of voluntary commitments by nations of the
world (Paris 2015) to contain the CO2-e villain, all of which has
proven to be nightmarishly inadequate. Human-induced greenhouse gases
continue hitting record levels year-over-year. That’s the antithesis
of success. According to the Bradshaw report: “Without such
commitments, the projected rise of Earth’s temperature will be
catastrophic for biodiversity.” Hmm- maybe declare one more emergency,
yes, no?
"https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/01/22/complex-life-threatened/"

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{Nature_and_Environment.114.61}: Glen Marks {wotan} Mon, 25 Jan 2021 10:34:00 CST (4 lines)

Global ice is disappearing:

"https://scitechdaily.com/ice-is-disappearing-across-the-planet-at-
record-rate/"

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