Climate Change Is Causing Us ‘Eco-Anxiety’


Do the daily climate change headlines make you feel stressed, afraid or powerless? If so, you’re certainly not alone.

A growing number of people report feelings of loss, grief, worry and despair amid news that climate change is making natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires worse and more common, that polar ice is melting faster than we thought and that we only have 12 years to prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

The American Psychological Association has come up with a term for these “resounding chronic psychological consequences” related to how we process the climate crisis: eco-anxiety.

Eco-Anxiety, which the APA describes as a “chronic fear of environmental doom,” isn’t listed anywhere in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the handbook for diagnosing mental illnesses — but it has found its way into pop culture.

In an interview with The Sunday Times promoting his new solo album, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke said that uncertainty stemming from societal issues like climate change is contributing to a rise in people’s anxiety and depression around the world. And a recent episode of the popular HBO drama Big Little Lies showed that children can be just as vulnerable to eco-anxiety as adults, as the 9-year-old daughter of one of the main characters has a panic attack at school and faints in a closet following a lesson about climate change.

“Her class is evidently talking about climate change, and she’s gotten the message that we’re doomed,” a school psychiatrist tells the main character afterward. A teacher adds that it’s important for the children to “deconstruct” climate change “so they can process it.”

Pop culture’s absorption of eco-anxiety shouldn’t come as a surprise — it’s capturing the zeitgeist of a U.S. under an administration that actively denies climate science despite widespread public belief.

In December 2018, a Yale University survey found that nearly 70 percent of Americans are at least “somewhat worried” about climate change, 49 percent feel “afraid” and 51 percent said they feel “helpless.” And a recent Harvard Public Opinion Project report found that 45 percent of young Americans believe climate change is a “crisis and demands urgent action.” One 2018 poll found that three quarters of millennials report that consuming negative media about climate change has had an impact on their mental health.

Even climate scientists and writers are feeling the effects of confronting the existential threat of climate change every day.

Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, says that climate grief strikes unexpectedly, even on the job.

“In a millisecond, without warning, I’ll feel my throat clench, my eyes sting, and my stomach drop as though the Earth below me is falling away,” Kalmus wrote in Yes! Magazine. “During these moments, I feel with excruciating clarity everything that we’re losing — but also connection and love for those things.”

Meteorologist and climate journalist Eric Holthaus said he often finds himself “alternating between soul-crushing despair and headstrong hope” and that his “climate change blues” have affected his personal relationships and led him to seek therapy.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that fear is not always a good motivator and, especially in the case of an issue as large as climate change, it does not inspire genuine personal engagement on an individual level.

So what can you do to combat the symptoms of eco-anxiety?

In its 69-page report on the mental health effects of climate change, the APA recommends that its practitioners support individuals’ efforts to build resiliency, find personal meaning, and maintain connections to place and one’s culture, among other things. Climate-centric publication Grist recommends turning apathy into action by doing what you can on a personal level within your community.

University of Bath teaching fellow and member of the Climate Psychology Alliance Caroline Hickman says that our fear and anger are natural, appropriate reactions, but we can’t get stuck there.

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UN gives 12-year deadline to crush climate change


Climate change activists holding a banner that reads '1POINT5 = LIFE LINE' during previous UN Climate Conference. /

Climate change activists holding a banner that reads ‘1POINT5 = LIFE LINE’ during previous UN Climate Conference.

Speed read

  • Latest UN report sets 2030 deadline to implement global emission goals
  • 2015 Paris pledges will not be enough to avoid cataclysmic warning by 2100
  • But mitigation must be well-planned to avoid negative impacts on poor people, say experts
The world’s politicians have just over a decade left to implement drastic transformations in their energy, food and transport systems that could avoid dangerous climate change, a report has revealed.

The report, published today by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that crucial policies to reduce global warming must be in place by 2030 to avoid the worst. If emissions continue at the current rate, 1.5 degrees of warming could be reached between 2030 and 2052, and temperatures would continue to rise steeply, the IPCC authors said.

According to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Earth has already warmed by nearly a degree since 1900 due to carbon emissions from industry, farming, heating, and transport. Stabilising global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial level is possible, the authors of the report said. But, they added, meeting the goal will depend entirely on the political will of all countries.

“But it also comes with some wishful thinking that the messages are being taken up by the public, by policymakers and by governments,”

Hans-Otto Pörtner

The aim of the report was to follow up on the Paris Agreement, a set of targets to limit climate change signed at a UN summit in Paris, France, in 2015. Scientists have warned that, even if all pledges under the agreement are implemented, humans will still emit around 58 gigatonnes of CO2 in 2030, far beyond the 35gt needed to halt global warming at 1.5 degrees.

The report highlights a number of potential pathways to prevent further warming, including removing carbon from the atmosphere, phasing out coal and reducing food waste. “The preparation of this report […] was a benefit in itself,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, an ecologist at Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute, who chairs an IPCC working group. “But it also comes with some wishful thinking that the messages are being taken up by the public, by policymakers and by governments.”

The IPCC report pointed out that there would be significant differences between a 1.5 degree world and 2 degrees of global warming. Under a 2-degree scenario, the proportion of people exposed to heat waves at least once every five years would leap from 14 to 37 percent. This will increase ozone-related mortality and the spread of vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, the report warned.

Even under the 1.5-degree scenario, ocean fishing is expected to decline by 1.5 million tonnes a year. But this figure would double, were global mean temperatures to reach 2 degrees of additional warming, the report said.

However, the IPCC authors make it clear that some mitigation measures need to be carefully managed to avoid negative ‘trade-offs’. “Any poorly designed policy is going to have unexpected consequences,” says Joyashree Roy, an economics researcher at Jadavpur University in India, who coordinated the report’s summary for policymakers. “For example, if we adopted bioenergy at massive scale, this may lead to competition for land, which in turn may cause food prices to spike.”

Niklas Höhne, a co-founder of the NewClimate Institute think tank in the Netherlands, said that many transformations have already happened on a small scale. “One example is renewable energy, that has developed much faster than people thought only five years ago,” he told SciDev.Net. “Right now, renewables are so cheap that are outpricing coal even in countries like India, where people always thought this would never happen.”

Höhne concedes that the 1.5 degree target by itself is an aspirational goal, but that striving for it keeps global leaders aware of the problem. “Whether we reach it or not,” he said, “is not the most important question.”

Climate Change Is Having a Major Impact on Global Health


Warming temperatures are exposing more people to heat waves and increasing the risk of disease spread

Prolonged and deadly heat waves are becoming more common, leaving millions at risk. Credit: Matteo Colombo 

A devastating heat wave swept across Europe in 2003, killing tens of thousands of people, scientists estimate. Many were elderly, with limited mobility, and some already suffered from chronic diseases. But climate change is making such extreme weather more common—and the effects will not be limited to the old and sick. Warming temperatures do not only threaten lives directly. They also cause billions of hours of lost labor, enhance conditions for the spread of infectious diseases and reduce crop yields, according to a recent report.

The report, published last December in the Lancet, represents the latest findings of the Lancet Countdown—a coalition of international research organizations collaborating with the World Health Organization and the World Meteorological Organization. The group tracks the health impacts of—and government responses to—climate change.

“It affects everyone around the world—every single person, every single population. No country is immune,” says Nick Watts, executive director of the Lancet Countdown and one of many co-authors of the report. “We’ve been seeing these impacts for some time now.”

Credit: Amanada Montañez; Source: “The 2018 Report of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change: Shaping the Health of Nations for Centuries to Come,” by Nick Watts et al., in Lancet, Vol. 392; December 8, 2018

The report found that millions of people worldwide are vulnerable to heat-related disease and death and that populations in Europe and the eastern Mediterranean are especially susceptible—most likely because they have more elderly people living in urban areas. Adults older than 65 are particularly at risk, as are those with chronic illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes. Places where humans tend to live are exposed to an average temperature change that is more than twice the global average—0.8 versus 0.3 degree Celsius (graphic). There were 157 million more “heat wave exposure events” (one heat wave experienced by one person) in 2017 than in 2000. Compared with 1986 to 2005, each person was exposed to, on average, 1.4 more days of heat wave per year from 2000 to 2017. That may not seem like a lot, but as Watts notes, “someone who is 75 and suffers from kidney disease can probably survive three to four days of heat wave but not five or six.”

Sweltering temperatures also affect productivity. A staggering 153 billion hours of labor—80 percent of them in agriculture—were lost to excessive heat in 2017, the new report found, with the most vulnerable areas being in India, Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and South America. The first stage of heat’s impact is discomfort, says report co-author Tord Kjellstrom, director of the Health and Environment International Trust in New Zealand and a consultant on environmental and occupational health. But there comes a point at which it is simply too hot for the body to function. For example, sweating heavily without replenishing water can result in chronic kidney disease, Kjellstrom notes. News reports have documented farm workers in Central America dying from kidney problems after years of working in the hot fields. Richer countries such as the U.S. may avoid the worst effects because of better access to drinking water and, in the case of indoor work, air-conditioning. But these solutions can be expensive, Kjellstrom says.

Then there are indirect effects. For example, warmer temperatures have increased the geographical ranges of organisms that spread dengue fever, malaria and cholera. The “vectorial capacity”—a measure of how easily a disease carrier can transmit a pathogen—of dengue virus, which is spread by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, reached a record high in 2016. The percentage of coastline suitable for bacteria in the Vibrio genus (which includes the species that causes cholera) increased from the 1980s to the 2010s in the Baltic region and northeastern U.S. by 24 and 27 percent, respectively. In Africa’s highlands, environmental suitability for the malaria-causing Plasmodium falciparum parasite increased by nearly 21 percent from the 1950s to the 2010s.

Climate change also threatens food security. Our planet still produces more than enough food for the world, but 30 countries have seen crop yields decline as a result of extreme weather, the report found.

“Overall, the report does suggest very serious concerns about the way in which climate change is evolving and its potential implications for human health,” says Andy Haines, a professor of environmental change and public health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who was not involved in the 2018 report but has co-authored previous Lancet Countdown assessments. “One of the problems is that we don’t have enough data on the actual impacts, particularly in the low-income countries,” which will likely be most affected, he says.

The report did find some bright spots: in 2015, 30 of 40 countries surveyed by the WHO reported having climate change health adaptation plans, and 65 percent of cities have undertaken (or are undertaking) risk assessments that address threats to public health infrastructure. But worldwide spending on health adaptation is still under 5 percent of all climate adaptation spending. And funding has not matched that pledged in the Paris Agreement, the global climate accord that is set to take effect in 2020.

Among the biggest steps countries can take to mitigate these health effects are phasing out coal-fired power and shifting to greener forms of transportation, Watts says. Electric vehicles are making inroads in places, he notes—and “active” transport, such as walking or cycling, is also important. Tallying up the costs of climate change, Watts says, makes it clear that “our response or lack of response is going to determine our health over the next century.”

The theory of evolution has its origins in the Galápagos.


Now climate change is rapidly heating the ocean here.
Darwin’s creatures are threatened.

ALCEDO VOLCANO, Galápagos — When the clouds break, the equatorial sun bears down on the crater of this steaming volcano, revealing a watery landscape where the theory of evolution began to be conceived.

Across a shallow strip of sea lies the island of Santiago, where Charles Darwin once sighted marine iguanas, the only lizard that scours the ocean for food. Finches, the product of slow generational flux, dart by. Now, in the era of climate change, they might be no match for the whims of natural selection.

In the struggle against extinction on these islands, Darwin saw a blueprint for the origin of every species, including humans.

Yet not even Darwin could have imagined what awaited the Galápagos, where the stage is set for perhaps the greatest evolutionary test yet.

Marine iguanas on Fernandina Island.

As climate change warms the world’s oceans, these islands are a crucible. And scientists are worried. Not only do the Galápagos sit at the intersection of three ocean currents, they are in the cross hairs of one of the world’s most destructive weather patterns, El Niño, which causes rapid, extreme ocean heating across the Eastern Pacific tropics.

Research published in 2014 by more than a dozen climate scientists warned that rising ocean temperatures were making El Niño both more frequent and more intense. Unesco, the United Nations educational and cultural agency, now warns the Galápagos Islands are one of the places most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

“You can see them laying one or two eggs and being attacked by the ants,” said Christian Sevilla, a conservationist at the national park here. “They’re just throwing off the rest of the eggs as they walk off trying to escape, with the ants still biting at their legs.”

(Not without irony, Darwin was a predator of the tortoises well before the ants were. “The young tortoises make excellent soup,” he wrote in 1839.)

Mr. Sevilla and other workers at the park are now considering mitigation efforts to try to protect threatened species from the more frequent El Niño events that have come with climate change. The park already has a program to breed giant tortoises in captivity.

Right to end life on Earth: Can corporations that spread climate change denialism be held liable?


If a corporation’s propaganda destroys the world, doesn’t that conflict with our right to live?

 

To facetiously paraphrase a line that I often hear from global warming deniers: Don’t be offended, I’m just asking questions.

It’s conventional wisdom that the right to free speech does not permit you to shout “fire!” in a crowded theater – but does that mean you have the right to claim there is no fire when a theater is ablaze?

This is the question posed by the existential crisis of man-made global warming, and it is one that doesn’t lend itself to an easy answer. Certainly it can be acknowledged that man-made global warming has forced us to re-examine other verities that once underpinned the modern liberal political order. Laissez-faire economic theory, which holds that state regulation of the economy is an unequivocal social ill, doesn’t stand up when you consider that insufficient environmental regulations got us into this mess and stronger ones will be necessary to mitigate the damage. A similar observation could be made about the consumerist ethos that drives free market economic models: A status quo of constant expansion may be economically healthy within the paradigm of capitalist markets, but it is devastatingly unsustainable when it comes to the fitness of our planet.

These are more obvious conclusions, and more comfortable ones too, since anyone who doesn’t view free market economic theory as a dogma akin to a secular religion (that is, anyone who hasn’t drunk the right-wing Kool-aid) admits that we can increase state regulations over the economy without fundamentally eroding human freedom. Yet the same cannot be said thinking that civil or even criminal penalties should be imposed on the men and women who abuse free speech to insist that the Earth is not heading toward catastrophe when the scientific evidence conclusively proves otherwise.

“Tempting though the idea is, I would not favor modifying Western legal systems to permit the imposition of financial liability on any individual or organization that is found to have ‘spread incorrect information about man-made climate change,’” Laurence Tribe, an author and constitutional law professor at Harvard, told Salon by email. “The key to my reason for resisting such a modification is in the word ‘found.’ If I ask myself: Whom would I trust to make an authoritative ‘finding’ about which information about a topic as complex as man-made climate change is ‘incorrect,’ I must answer: Nobody. Certainly not any public official or governmental agency or any government-designated private group. I trust the process of open uncensored dialogue among experts and lay persons to generate truthful understandings over time, especially if we enact and enforce requirements of transparency and disclosure about who is funding which assertions. But I would be deeply concerned about anything resembling the identification and empowerment of a Commissar of Truth.”

He added, “That said, I am not opposed to litigation against particular corporations – take Exxon, just for illustration – based on clear and convincing proof (to the satisfaction of a judicially supervised jury) that those corporations (or the individuals who direct their activities) deliberately falsified research results or other data in order to cover up their own knowledge about how and to what degree their own products or services and those who purchase them contribute to anthropogenic climate change.”

“Such litigation,” Tribe continued, “would be predicated on classic principles of economically motivated fraud and would avoid the pitfalls and perils of establishing an official scheme for determining what is true and what is false in the world of scientific claims. Such official schemes amount to government censorship, and I think we are better off if we assume that all such censorship can and in the long run will be turned to evil ends.”

Michael E. Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, shared his own views on whether individuals who mislead the public about climate change should face penalties for doing so.

“In my book ‘The Hockey Stick and the Climate War,’ I state that those who knowingly misled the public and policymakers about the reality and threat of climate change must be held responsible for their actions, and that includes legal repercussions,” Mann told Salon. “Note that there is a distinction between those at the top (e.g., fossil fuel executives and lobbyists and the politicians in their pocket) who are guilty of misleading the public, and those at the bottom (the typical climate denying trolls we encounter on the internet) who in many cases are actually victims of the disinformation campaign.”

Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, broke down the situation in a similar way.

“Yes but. The ‘but’ is the difficulty in doing so and how one assigns blame,” Trenberth told Salon. “I do think that the other countries in the world ought to put something like a 25% tariff on all American goods on the grounds that they were produced using artificially low energy prices. This comes back directly to the government policies (of getting out of the Paris agreement), for instance.”

“I doubt it will happen because of the might of the [money],” Trenberth continued. “I do think that politicians like Trump and the Republicans will go down in history as major bad guys (and gals).”

Tribe also acknowledged that, while it is questionable whether climate change deniers should be held financially accountable for spreading misinformation, harsher consequences should be imposed on government officials who shirk their responsibility to the public.

“I certainly favor holding government officials accountable for deliberately withholding information of public importance, let alone information about existential threats, when the release of that information would not genuinely threaten national security (e.g., by ‘outing’ the identity of CIA operatives in the field),” Tribe pointed out. “Imposing such accountability on government officials furthers the values of free and open expression that the First Amendment protects and does not in any way entail the worries about censorship and its dangers that I mentioned in my first answer. On the contrary, it is settled that ‘government speech’ is not shielded by the First Amendment at all. See, e.g., Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans (2015).”

Expanding on Tribe’s point, there is no reason that Republican Party politicians who have access to reliable information about the threat posed by man-made climate change and choose not to act on it — or even actively suppress it — should not be held legally accountable for doing so. While it is tempting to focus on President Donald Trump in this respect, it is important to remember that most of his fellow Republicans share his climate change denialism and likely would have acted similarly when it comes to stifling scientific research and ignoring the threat of global warming. While Trump should be held accountable for what he has done, it would be folly to forget that on this issue, his actions are entirely consistent with the will of his party.

And should that entire party be held legally accountable? Like Tribe, I would argue no, but the answer doesn’t entirely sit well with me. Whether they ignore man-made climate change because they hate liberals and wish to defy them, or because admitting to its reality would force them to modify their economic philosophy, or for any other reason, the bottom line is that they are convincing people that the theater isn’t on fire even as it continues to burn to the ground. The fact that the prevailing concepts regarding political freedom protect their right to abet the conflagration, but not the rights of those whose lives will be destroyed in the process, demonstrates that — if nothing else — our ideas about preserving freedom and justice in a civilized society need to be updated.

The Best Technology for Fighting Climate Change Isn’t a Technology


Forests are the most powerful and efficient carbon-capture system on the planet

The Best Technology for Fighting Climate Change Isn't a Technology
A forest planted on an abandoned open-pit coal mine, Germany.

The latest IPCC report  does not mince words about the state of our planet: we must act now to achieve global change at a scale that has “no documented historical precedent” in order to avoid the climate catastrophe that would result from a 2 degree C rise in average global temperature. Climate change already disproportionately affects the world’s most vulnerable people including poor rural communities that depend on the land for their livelihoods and coastal communities throughout the tropics. Indeed, we have already seen the stark asymmetry of suffering resulting from extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, floods, droughts, wildfires and more.

So far, advocates and politicians have tended to focus on reducing fossil fuel consumption through technology and/or policy, such as a steep carbon tax, as climate solutions. These proposals are, of course, essential to reducing manmade carbon emissions—71 percent of which are generated by just 100 fossil fuel companies. For this reason, fossil-fuel–related emissions reductions rightly figure heavily in the national climate commitments of the 181 nations that signed the global Paris Agreement.

Yet the international focus on fossil fuels has overshadowed the most powerful and cost-efficient carbon-capture technology the world has yet seen: forests. Recent scientific research confirms that forests and other “natural climate solutions” are absolutely essential in mitigating climate change, thanks to their carbon sequestering and storage capabilities. In fact, natural climate solutions can help us achieve 37 percent of our climate target, even though they currently receive only 2.5 percent of public climate financing.

Forests’ power to store carbon dioxide through the simple process of tree growth is staggering: one tree can store an average of about 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in one year. Recent research shows intact forests are capable of storing the equivalent of the carbon dioxide emissions of entire countries such as Peru and Colombia.

For this reason, policy makers and business leaders must create and enforce ambitious policies and incentives to prevent deforestation, foster reforestation of degraded land, and support the sustainable management of standing forests in the fight against climate change. Protecting the world’s forests ensures they can continue to provide essential functions aside from climate stability, including producing oxygen, filtering water and supporting biodiversity. Not only do all the world’s people depend on forests to provide clean air, clean water, oxygen, and medicines, but 1.6 billion people rely on them directly for their livelihoods.

Unfortunately, we are fighting a crisis of deforestation, much of it driven by conversion to agricultural lands to produce a handful of resource-intensive commodities, despite zero-deforestation commitments from companies and governments. With increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, insufficient emissions reductions and continued high rates of deforestation, urgent action is needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Now is the time to increase investment in and attention to forest protection and restoration. In doing so, we will also address a number of other pressing global issues. For example, increasing tree cover can help address the problem of food security in many areas. Trees can enhance farm productivity and provide farmers with another source of revenue through the sale of fruits, nuts or timber—all while storing carbon dioxide. It is estimated that increased investment in the multi-strata agroforestry area could help sequester up to 9.28 gigatons of carbon dioxide, while saving a net $709.8 billion by 2050. In production landscapes where large-scale tree cover increases are difficult, agroforestry serves as an attractive compromise.

And in less-developed, rural areas—especially in the tropics—community-based sustainable forest management programs can provide pathways out of poverty. In the Petén region of Guatemala, for instance, community-managed forests have boasted a near-zero deforestation rate over the past 14 years, as compared to 12 percent in nearby protected areas and buffer zones. These communities have built low-impact, sustainable forest-based businesses that have bolstered the economy of the region enough to fund the creation of local schools and health services. Their success is especially poignant in a region otherwise besieged by deforestation; outside the community-managed zones, deforestation rates increase by 20x.

Finally, landscape restoration promises an unparalleled return on investment, in terms of ecosystem services and carbon sequestered and stored. Landscape restoration could potentially sequester up to 1.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide every year, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Reforestation projects can also intersect neatly and positively with human systems—restored forests provide a renewed resource base and new economic opportunities for communities.

There is good work being done on this front already. The Bonn Challenge, issued by world leaders with the goal of reforestation and restoration of 150 million hectares of degraded landscapes by 2020, has been adopted by 56 countries. Many governments and groups pledged to halve global deforestation by 2020 through the New York Declaration on Forests. And in an exemplary display of public-private sector cooperation, the Cocoa and Forests Initiative in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana aims to end deforestation from cocoa cultivation.

With world leaders gathering in December for their yearly U.N. climate talks, the time is ripe for concrete action on forests and natural climate solutions. World leaders now have the opportunity to make big gains on climate by dramatically ramping up their investment in proven, natural solutions. More trees in the ground. More reforestation projects. More sustainable forestry. More avoided deforestation through sustainable agriculture and certified crops.

Economists Who Changed Thinking on Climate Change Win Nobel Prize


The ideas of William Nordhaus and Paul Romer have shaped today’s policies on greenhouse gas emissions.
Economists Who Changed Thinking on Climate Change Win Nobel Prize
William Nordhaus (left) and Paul Romer.

A pair of U.S. economists, William Nordhaus and Paul Romer, share the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for integrating climate change, and technological change, into macroeconomics, which deals with the behaviour of an economy as a whole.

Nordhaus, at the University of Yale in New Haven, Connecticut, is the founding father of the study of climate change economics. Economic models he has developed since the 1990s are now widely used to weigh the costs and benefits of curbing greenhouse gas emissions against those of inaction. His studies are central to determining the social cost of carbon, an attempt to quantify the total cost to society of greenhouse-gases, including hidden factors such as extreme weather and lower crop yields. The metric is increasingly used when implementing climate change policies.

“Nordhaus was in a position early on to think about climate change from a human welfare and well-being perspective,” says Ottmar Edenhofer, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “Without him, there wouldn’t be such a subject of climate economics.”

Romer, who is at the NYU Stern School of Business in New York, was honoured for his work on the role of technological change in economic growth. The economist is best-known for his studies on how market forces and economic decisions facilitate technological change. His ‘endogenous growth theory’, developed in the 1990s, opened new avenues of research on how policies and regulations can prompt new ideas and economic innovation.

And Romer’s work also has implications for policies relating to climate-change mitigation. “He showed clearly that unregulated free markets will not sufficiently invest in research and development activities,” says Edenhofer.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement: “William D. Nordhaus and Paul M. Romer have designed methods for addressing some of ourtime’s most basic and pressing questions about how we create long-term sustained and sustainableeconomic growth.”

UN gives 12-year deadline to crush climate change


Climate change activists holding a banner that reads '1POINT5 = LIFE LINE' during previous UN Climate Conference. /

Climate change activists holding a banner that reads ‘1POINT5 = LIFE LINE’ during previous UN Climate Conference.

The world’s politicians have just over a decade left to implement drastic transformations in their energy, food and transport systems that could avoid dangerous climate change, a report has revealed.

The report, published today by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that crucial policies to reduce global warming must be in place by 2030 to avoid the worst. If emissions continue at the current rate, 1.5 degrees of warming could be reached between 2030 and 2052, and temperatures would continue to rise steeply, the IPCC authors said.

According to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Earth has already warmed by nearly a degree since 1900 due to carbon emissions from industry, farming, heating, and transport. Stabilising global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial level is possible, the authors of the report said. But, they added, meeting the goal will depend entirely on the political will of all countries.

“But it also comes with some wishful thinking that the messages are being taken up by the public, by policymakers and by governments,”

Hans-Otto Pörtner

The aim of the report was to follow up on the Paris Agreement, a set of targets to limit climate change signed at a UN summit in Paris, France, in 2015. Scientists have warned that, even if all pledges under the agreement are implemented, humans will still emit around 58 gigatonnes of CO2 in 2030, far beyond the 35gt needed to halt global warming at 1.5 degrees.

The report highlights a number of potential pathways to prevent further warming, including removing carbon from the atmosphere, phasing out coal and reducing food waste. “The preparation of this report […] was a benefit in itself,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, an ecologist at Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute, who chairs an IPCC working group. “But it also comes with some wishful thinking that the messages are being taken up by the public, by policymakers and by governments.”

The IPCC report pointed out that there would be significant differences between a 1.5 degree world and 2 degrees of global warming. Under a 2-degree scenario, the proportion of people exposed to heat waves at least once every five years would leap from 14 to 37 percent. This will increase ozone-related mortality and the spread of vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, the report warned.

Even under the 1.5-degree scenario, ocean fishing is expected to decline by 1.5 million tonnes a year. But this figure would double, were global mean temperatures to reach 2 degrees of additional warming, the report said.

However, the IPCC authors make it clear that some mitigation measures need to be carefully managed to avoid negative ‘trade-offs’. “Any poorly designed policy is going to have unexpected consequences,” says Joyashree Roy, an economics researcher at Jadavpur University in India, who coordinated the report’s summary for policymakers. “For example, if we adopted bioenergy at massive scale, this may lead to competition for land, which in turn may cause food prices to spike.”

Niklas Höhne, a co-founder of the NewClimate Institute think tank in the Netherlands, said that many transformations have already happened on a small scale. “One example is renewable energy, that has developed much faster than people thought only five years ago,” he told SciDev.Net. “Right now, renewables are so cheap that are outpricing coal even in countries like India, where people always thought this would never happen.”

Höhne concedes that the 1.5 degree target by itself is an aspirational goal, but that striving for it keeps global leaders aware of the problem. “Whether we reach it or not,” he said, “is not the most important question.”

5 Photos That Show Just How Much The EPA Website Has Censored Climate Change


Last year, on January 19th, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began removing key references to climate change from its website. Now, over a year later, the information is still conspicuously missing.

Thankfully, the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) has carefully documented the overhaul and removal of all government documents, webpages and websites regarding climate change – not to mention significant language changes to the information that still exists.

While several other agencies, like the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of State, have also removed or significantly reduced climate web content, under administrator and climate denier Scott Pruitt, the EPA has removed the most.

The most drastic changes at the EPA came one day before the People’s Climate March, when the agency made substantial alterations to its climate change website.

Now, when you try to access the EPA climate change web page, it merely reads “This page is being updated.” Plus, the climate change tab is now entirely removed from the EPA homepage.

Before 1Screenshots and red underlines in the sections are by TIME.

According to a statement from the agency, these changes are being made to the website to better “reflect the agency’s new direction under President Donald Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt.”

After the overhaul, the agency provided archived screenshots of the older pages in order to comply with the Freedom of Information Act. However, some pages which were entirely removed, like the “Student’s Global Guide to Climate Change”, were not included in EPA archives.

Screen Shot 2018 03 05 at 1.31.35 pm

“The EPA’s notice that an overhaul was in progress did represent some degree of transparency, yet it failed to note which domains and pages were being removed or altered,” reads the EDGI report.

“Moreover, it was posted the same day that the overhaul began, preventing stakeholders from being able to download and archive valuable pages and information.”

One of the many websites removed last year was the “Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local, and Tribal Governments” website, which contained 380 pages of information.

About three months after this website was removed, a new website titled “Energy Resources for State, Local, and Tribal Governments” was launched. On the new page, over 200 pages of information were omitted, including references to and descriptions of climate and change change.

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While many of the links contained within the climate change subdomain still exist, they are notoriously difficult to find, buried within pages and pages of government material. Meanwhile, other pages have simply been deleted.

For instance, if you search the term “climate change” on EPA.gov, it produce around 5,000 results. In the past, a similar search would have produced closer to 12,000 results.

Apart from burying and deleting information, the agency has also drastically changed the information available. For instance, a map that detail the regional affects of climate change has now been replaced with a far less-detailed version.

Of the 56 states and territories on the new EPA map, only 19 bother to mention climate change, and out of 19 links, only 8 are functional.

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Still, many American states and cities are not letting the federal government get away with such censorship.

Concerned by the lost climate information, for instance, Chicago has copied old EPA web pages over to the city’s own website.

A banner on the site states that “while this information may not be readily available on the EPA’s website, in Chicago we know climate change is real. We are joining cities around the country to make sure citizens have access to information on climate change.”

Alongside Chicago, 14 states and territories have formed the U.S. Climate Alliance, which represents a pledge to uphold the Paris accord and reduce emissions, and 382 cities have joined the Climate Mayors, promising similar sustainable practices.

“Censoring scientific data doesn’t make its threats any less real, it hides the problem from the American people so the Trump administration can wage a dangerous assault on public health safeguards that protect all Americans,” Gina McCarthy, the EPA administrator under President Obama told TIME.

“It is beyond comprehension that they would ever purposely limit and remove access to information that communities need to save lives and property.”

Four Lessons Psychology Teaches Us about Inspiring Climate Action


There’s the old line that the first step to solving a problem is understanding it. But when it comes to climate change, what happens when understanding alone isn’t enough?

We know it’s important to educate the public so people understand why climate change is happening, what regions are most at risk, and how impacts like sea-level rise, extreme weather, and ocean acidification continue to harm our health and economy.

But education is the easy part. It’s getting people to take action that can be a challenge – and that’s because changing people’s attitudes and behaviors is a daunting task.

Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution, say, to eat healthier – and you find yourself saying “yes” to that second piece of chocolate cake on January 15? You may know eating too many sugary treats isn’t good for your health (attitude), but you may find it difficult to stick to eating healthier (behavior).

Social scientists of all kinds have studied the question of how to change human behavior in many different contexts from public health to public policy to environmental psychology and more. In the climate context, environmental psychologists have begun exploring this larger question by trying to understand why, for example, more Americans aren’t taking action with their votes and voices. Especially when the majority agree that humans are causing climate change.

There’s no simple answer here. The reality is that changing the behavior of one person is hard enough – let alone millions of citizens around the world. But psychology can give us some insight into better ways to motivate people to change their behavior and stand up for the planet we share.

That’s why we’ve compiled four lessons from the field that any activist can take and use to help inspire their friends, colleagues, family members, and more to act.

1. Connect the climate crisis to what’s happening in real communities to reduce psychological distance.

Climate change is a unique issue because although millions of people in the US and around the world feel the drastic effects of it in their daily lives, many people don’t (yet).

Why does this matter? Because of a construct known as psychological distance. Psychological distance refers to things that are not in our immediate reality or felt in the present moment. For example, you might think about your first year of marriage if you’re still single (temporal distance), what neighborhood or city you might buy a home in one day (spatial distance), how your best friend or family member perceives you (social distance), or how your career would be different if you had studied a different major in college (hypothetical distance).

Why is psychological distance relevant to the climate crisis? Studies have found that people who believe the effects of climate change are unlikely to happen to them or are more likely to affect other people and regions of the world are less likely to be concerned about solving it. In other words, if climate change feels psychologically distant, you worry less about it in your daily life and feel less urgency to take action.

To bridge this gap, research suggests that we should discuss how climate change affects communities and families on the local level. That means calling attention to real-life examples of how the climate crisis is affecting real people, especially in regions experiencing extreme weather. From wildfires destroying homes in the western US to hurricanes damaging homes and businesses along the Gulf Coast and southern US to droughts affecting farms in dozens of countries, it’s clear that extreme weather is devastating the livelihoods of many communities around the world.

 

2. Make climate action a group experience to promote social norms.

Humans are pack animals. In 1943, American psychologist Abraham Maslow created his Hierarchy of Needs, which proposed that humans have certain needs that begin with the most basic needs (food, sleep, safety) and end with ego-centered needs (self-esteem, creativity).

The hierarchy also proposed that once humans have their physical and safety needs satisfied, the next need in the hierarchy is belongingness. Put simply, humans are social beings that respond to group norms, and for our ancestors, group acceptance meant access to shared resources and feeling protected from predators.

Today, humans are just as keenly aware of social dynamics and psychology tells us that we fear feeling socially rejected. That’s why the more we can make climate action the norm in our social and family circles, the more likely others will join in.

3. Talk about what we’re gaining, not what we’re losing, to avoid loss aversion.

The psychological concept of loss aversion is nothing new, but behavioral scientists have started thinking about it more as it relates to the climate movement. One study examined how framing climate change impacts can affect attitudes and perceptions. In the experiment, researchers presented different climate change impacts to participants (sourced from the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report), who then answered questions about what they saw.

The results showed that framing climate change impacts in a way that highlights possible gains rather than losses increased positive attitudes toward mitigation responses. Participants also perceived climate change impacts as more severe when they were framed as gains.

So when talking about climate change with your friends and family, explain how action is an opportunity. For example, America’s Clean Power Plan, which is now under threat by the Trump Administration, could lead to public health and climate benefits worth an estimated $34 billion to $54 billion annually in 2030. Those are some serious gains! If you agree, we invite you to add your name to support the Clean Power Plan and stand up for clean energy.

4. Give your friends real ways to take action to prevent “environmental melancholia.”

We know that the climate crisis isn’t just an environmental issue. Not only do the people who experience extreme weather, warmer temperatures, drought, rising sea levels, and other devastating impacts feel psychological effects, but many people are affected simply by hearing about the crisis or seeing unsettling images in the news.

Dr. Renee Lertzman, a researcher who promotes climate change activism inside the workplace, explains that people often experience “environmental melancholia.” She explains that although we know the climate crisis is a threat, many people feel anxious and powerless about how they can make a difference, which can prevent them from doing something.

By understanding that people may feel powerless when thinking about the climate crisis, we should communicate and provide real ways to take action and support them throughout the process. If your friends or family members feel powerless or have anxiety about getting involved, one way to help is to share helpful content that gives them specific ways to take action. Our blog post, “Four Ways Anyone Can Take Climate Action,” is a great place to start.

How You Can Make a Difference

Humans are complicated and changing behavior is no easy task, but thinking about how to overcome empathy or powerlessness is the first step to getting others involved with the movement for solutions. If you’re ready to make a difference in your community, download our Make It a Reality Action Kit now to get started. Our climate action kit will give you a thorough look at the climate crisis and ways you can participate in the fight for a bright, sustainable future.

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