Growing, Growing, Gone: Reaching the Limits The Limits to Growth, released in 1972, has profoundly influenced environmental research and discourse over the past four decades. Allen White of the Tellus Institute talks with Dennis Meadows, one of its co-authors, about the genesis of the report and its lessons for understanding and managing our uncertain and perilous global future. The Limits to Growth report was a project of the Club of Rome. How did the Club of Rome become involved with global scenario work? The origins of the Club of Rome can be traced back to a keynote speech by Italian industrialist Aurelio Pecci in 1965 at the first meeting of Adela, an investment partnership of banks and multinational corporations working on development in Latin America. His speech caught the attention of a number of prominent people—Russians, Brits, Americans—and triggered a discussion around some of the most prominent global issues of the day, such as poverty and the arms race.
The real story behind Shell's climate change rhetoric A man of Ben van Beurden’s power and reputation for blunt speaking is capable of silencing a ballroom packed with his boisterous peers. When the chief executive of Shell rose to address an industry gathering in a London hotel, a respectful hush descended. Van Beurden, 57, rose from a modest background in the Netherlands to the top of a cut-throat, politically fraught sector that rarely finds itself out of the public firing line. The annual black-tie dinner at International Petroleum Week in February, a typical nexus of senior executives and high-ranking government officials, was expecting a frank assessment of its response to its biggest challenge: global warming. Van Beurden did not disappoint. That speech was a far cry from the usual backslapping fare at the annual event and it put some noses out of joint.
India's monsoons: A change in the rain The Western Ghats are a 1,500 kilometre-long ribbon of mountains that run through the southwestern part of India, forming a jagged edge that separates the high Deccan Plateau, which makes up most of the Indian peninsula, from the low-lying coast of the Arabian Sea. As the land heats up during the summer, it pulls in a mighty body of cold air from the ocean. When this water-laden air hits the Western Ghats, it deposits torrents of water over the mountains, drenching the area for six months of every year. UNESCO, which recognised the Western Ghats as a world heritage site in 2012, has listed them as "one of the best examples of the monsoon system on the planet". The mountains moderate the tropical climate of the region, and an overwhelming 245 million people depend on these systems for their water. By extension, these mountains regulate the water cycle of India and its inhabitants, who make up one-sixth of the world's population.
Climate change is far from the only cause of a rapid rise disasters A recent World Meteorological Organisation report described the frightening increase in weather and climate related disasters that occurred over the last four decades. Floods became more frequent and costly, hurricanes caused more damage. Drought killed hundreds of thousands and blighted the lives of millions, and heat waves emerged as a new threat. A casual reader of the resulting Guardian story might be forgiven for thinking that the rapid rise in disasters was due solely to climate change, but it had as much to do with a rapidly changing human world as it did changes in the weather.
Sweet! Scientists developing sugar-filled batteries - CNET Anisha Vora remembers when she first realized something was wrong. It was February 2012, and the then-22-year-old student learned that photos showing her naked or partially clothed were circulating on the Internet. The culprit was an ex-boyfriend she'd dated on and off for four years and had known since childhood. Photos she'd sent him during their long-distance relationship were soon posted on more than 300 websites, including Tumblr, Flickr and Facebook, and her friends, family and neighbors were invited to view them. Some of the posts gave her name, address and phone number. Strangers were coming by her house.
The best thing a business could do for the environment is shut down Earlier this week Tim Sanderson, a former executive of the fossil fuel giant BP, wrote about the pride he felt for his daughter after her involvement in a climate change protest at Heathrow airport. With 12 others from climate activist group Plane Stupid, Rebecca Sanderson had occupied a runway to highlight the conflict between airport expansion and escalating carbon emissions. Having spent most of his working life in oil exploration, Sanderson said he was an “unlikely apologist” for his daughter’s actions.
New G7 Report Highlights Climate Change and Fragility as a Foreign Policy Priority At the close of a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Lübeck today, ministers announced a stronger collective commitment to tackling climate-related risks in states experiencing situations of fragility. “Climate change is among the most serious challenges facing our world,” the ministers’ final communiqué declared. “It poses a threat to the environment, global security, and economic prosperity. It has the potential to reverse the progress that has been made in the past decades in tackling global poverty.
BP dropped green energy projects worth billions to focus on fossil fuels BP pumped billions of pounds into low-carbon technology and green energy over a number of decades but gradually retired the programme to focus almost exclusively on its fossil fuel business, the Guardian has established. At one stage the company, whose annual general meeting is in London on Thursday, was spending in-house around $450m (£300m) a year on research alone - the equivalent of $830m today. The energy efficiency programme employed 4,400 research scientists and R&D support staff at bases in Sunbury, Berkshire, and Cleveland, Ohio, among other locations, while $8bn was directly invested over five years in zero- or low-carbon energy. But almost all of the technology was sold off and much of the research locked away in a private corporate archive. Facing shareholders at its AGM, company executives will insist they are playing a responsible role in a world facing dangerous climate change, not least by supporting arguments for a global carbon price.
World heritage forests burn as global tragedy unfolds in Tasmania A global tragedy is unfolding in Tasmania. World heritage forests are burning; 1,000-year-old trees and the hoary peat beneath are reduced to char. Fires have already taken stands of king billy and pencil pine – the last remaining fragments of an ecosystem that once spread across the supercontinent of Gondwana. Pockets of Australia’s only winter deciduous tree, the beloved nothofagus – whose direct kin shade the sides of the South American Andes – are now just a wind change away from eternity. Unlike Australia’s eucalyptus forests, which use fire to regenerate, these plants have not evolved to live within the natural cycle of conflagration and renewal.
River flooding to affect 40M people annually by 2030 WRI flood map for Indonesia 20.7 million people are affected by river flooding each year, and the number is expected to more than double by 2030 as population growth, urban expansion, and climate change will increasingly put people at risk. This according to the World Resources Institute (WRI), who recently released the Aqueduct Global Flood Analyzer, an online tool to help public, private, and corporate entities understand flooding potential and develop risk reduction and mitigation strategies. 56% of people at risk of being impacted by river flooding live in just three countries: India, Bangladesh, and China. These combined with the next 12 largest impacted populations—in Vietnam, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Brazil, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, and Cambodia—account for 80% of the people at risk world-wide.
'Everything is awesome': Cambridge University will get a Lego professor Everything is awesome, including this hiring news from one of the UK's most prestigious institutions: Cambridge University is getting a Lego professor. The university announced on Tuesday the school had accepted £2.5 million from the Lego Foundation to set up a Lego Professorship of Play in Education, Development and Learning, the Cambridge University Reporter wrote. The foundation also gifted the school an additional £1.5 million to set up a Research Centre on Play in Education, Development, and Learning within its Faculty of Education. One lucky professor will start the new role on October 1, 2015. No word yet on whether Cambridge students can spend their days building the Lego Starship Enterprise, rather than slaving over books. The Danish Lego Foundation, which owns 25% of the Lego Group, aims to reimagine and redefine learning and play for children aged 0 to 12, according to its website.
The Zika virus foreshadows our dystopian climate future I’ve spent much of my life chronicling the ongoing tragedies stemming from global warming: the floods and droughts and storms, the failed harvests and forced migrations. But no single item on the list seems any more horrible than the emerging news from South America about the newly prominent Zika disease. Spread by mosquitoes whose range inexorably expands as the climate warms, Zika causes mild flu-like symptoms. But pregnant women bitten by the wrong mosquito are liable to give birth to babies with shrunken heads. Brazil last year recorded 4,000 cases of this “microcephaly”. Vanuatu's president blames climate change for extreme weather The president of Vanuatu says climate change is contributing to more extreme weather conditions and cyclone seasons, after cyclone Pam ripped through the island nation. The damage from the category five storm to the island nation has been extensive, and is still being assessed as aid workers scrambled to get to affected areas on Monday morning. The official death toll remains at six, with many more injured, and is expected to rise as communication begins to be restored. Vanuatu’s president, Baldwin Lonsdale, spoke at a United Nations world conference in Sendai, Japan, on Monday, and said the storm was a major setback for the people, virtually wiping out Vanuatu’s development. “This is a very devastating cyclone … I term it a monster that has hit Vanuatu,” he said.