Brian Kahn writes: This year is likely to remembered as a turning point for climate change, with world leaders agreeing to move toward a clean energy future. It’s clear 2016 was a year where planetary peril and human hope stood out in stark contrast. Here are the 10 most important climate milestones of the year.
The Washington Post reports: In a massive new study published in the influential journal Nature, more than 50 authors from around the world document a so-called climate system “feedback” that, they say, could make global warming considerably worse over the coming decades. That feedback involves the planet’s soils, which are a massive repository of carbon.
Andreas Malm writes: Mainstream climate discourse is positively drenched in references to humanity as such, human nature, the human enterprise, humankind as one big villain driving the train. Enter Naomi Klein, who in ‘This Changes Everything’ lays bare the myriad ways in which capital accumulation pour fuel on the fire now consuming the earth system.
Brian Kahn writes: Climate change has entered a new phase, according to the UN World Meteorological Organization. Concentrations of carbon dioxide “surged again to new records in 2016,” and the WMO predicts that the annual average for CO2 would remain above 400 parts per million, 44 percent higher than before the Industrial Revolution, for generations.
Rajni Bakshi writes: Votaries of degrowth are the first to acknowledge that they are deploying a ‘bomb-word’. Yet it highlights an inconvenient truth–that infinite economic growth is not possible on a finite planet. Even ‘green’ growth, supported by technological wizardry cannot, by itself, address the deepening global crisis of under-employment, social dislocation, and environmental degradation.
Climate Central reports: In the centuries to come, history books will likely look back on September 2016 as a major milestone for the world’s climate. 2016 will be the year that carbon dioxide officially passed the symbolic 400 parts per million mark, never to return below it in our lifetimes, according to scientists at NASA.
Eric Holthaus writes: The latest comic from xkcd, the internet’s most famous science-focused webcomic, zips through 22,000 years of Earth’s climate history, juxtaposed with key moments in the history of civilization. Seeing it, you’ll probably come to an inescapable conclusion: Nothing like this has ever happened, and it’s about to get a whole lot worse.
Jason Hickel writes: The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals recognise the inherent tension between economic development and the planet’s ecology. It signals awareness that something about our economic system has gone terribly awry–that we cannot continue chewing through the living planet without gravely endangering our security and prosperity, and indeed the future viability of our species.
The Guardian reports: Planet Earth has entered a new geological epoch dubbed the Anthropocene because of the extent of humanity’s impact on the planet, according to a group of scientists. An international working group set up to consider the question voted by 30 to three, with two abstentions, that the Anthropocene was real in a geological sense.
Chelsea Harvey reports: The human footprint on the environment may have affected drinking water in a major way throughout the last century, new research shows. The researchers estimated that declines in water quality —because of human activity— caused water treatment costs to rise by 50 percent in nearly a third of all large cities worldwide.
George Monbiot writes: If humanity fails to prevent climate breakdown, the industry that bears the greatest responsibility is not transport, farming, gas, oil or even coal. All of them can behave as they do, shunting us towards systemic collapse. The problem begins with the industry that, wittingly or otherwise, grants them this licence: the media.
Common Dreams reports: Environmental records of all kinds are being shattered as climate change takes effect in real time, a new climate research report says. 2015 was the hottest year on record since at least the mid-to-late 19th century, confirming the “toppling of several symbolic milestones” in global temperature, sea level rise, and extreme weather.
Chris Mooney reports: A recent report showed Greenland lost 1 trillion tons of ice mass between 2011 and 2014. A new NASA study shows that key areas where glaciers have been melting have actually experienced a reduction in gravitational pull, which has in turn reduced sea levels, confirming an age old prediction of climate science.
Fred Pearce writes: How hard would it be to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees? At various times in the past six months, global average temperatures have sometimes gone above 1.5 degrees. The truth is that scientists are only now getting out of the blocks to address what a 1.5-degree world would really look like.
The Guardian reports: India recorded its hottest day ever on 19 May, with the temperature in Rajasthan’s Phalodi rising to 51C. But it’s only one among many climate records broken this year. From soaring temperatures in Alaska and India to Arctic sea ice melting and CO2 concentrations rising, 2016 is smashing records around the world.
Chris Mooney reports: In an ambitious study representing the latest merger between big data approaches and the quest to conserve the planet, scientists have found that across a majority of the Earth’s land surface, the abundance or overall number of animals and plants of different species has fallen below a “safe” level identified by biologists.
Dana Nuccitelli reports in The Guardian: 2014 and 2015 each set the record for hottest calendar year since we began measuring surface temperatures over 150 years ago, and 2016 is almost certain to break the record once again. It will be without precedent: the first time that we have seen three consecutive record-breaking hot years.
Bharat Dogra writes: The full dimensions of the environmental crisis in the 21st century need to be understood in wider terms of several critical parameters, together disrupting the life-creating conditions on earth to such an extent as to pose nothing less than a survival crisis for many forms of life and ultimately for human beings.
The Planetary Boundaries framework was first introduced in 2009, when a group of 28 internationally renowned scientists identified and quantified the first set of nine planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come. A Jan 2015 update by the researchers say a fourth of these boundaries – forests – have