As usual, the best is last (or the worst as the case may be), and comes to me from a Brasilian report - Humanidade esgota seu "espaço de operação", dizem cientistas / Humanity is wasting its operating space say scientists: A safe operating space for humanity - Planetary Boundaries - below from this week's Nature. (Also a brief update on k-k-Canada's role as official foot-dragger from Jeffrey Simpson, and the c-c-Cowardly editorial from the k-k-Canadians at the g-g-Globe) My opinion? In a word ...
Unless the political maggots get their thumbs out, we are FUCKED!
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire in thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, and what art?
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand, and what dread feet?
What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb, make thee?
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
YEARS AGO, not that long ago I guess, sometime in the early 2000s, I was hanging around with a woman in Rio, Mariá. She and her friends used to tell me stories. It was a good time for me - I like stories.
She told me about a 'busy night,' some year, some Carnaval time. Back and forth a half-dozen times from Help, the pick-up disco in Copacabana, to various hotels. Till finally as dawn was breaking she was going down the elevator in the Meridian with a pocketfull of cash - when a guy got on who recognized her from the club. He looked at her with a raised eyebrow and she said, "Oh well ... one more ... let's go."
I was remembering that old Linda Ronstadt tune, Willin', hummed a few drunken bars ... I b'in warped by the rain, driven by the snow, I'm drunk and dirty don't you know, but ahh, I'm still willin'
Not very romantic, 'the life' in Rio ... Mariá was bitter at times when she had too many drinks. Her apartment was a boarding house for some of the girls - they would stay out of her way when she got ragin'. Someone told me that later on she bought a house over in Niteroi and got out of it. Someone else said that her daughter had followed her into it ... different stories, different reasons.
Then there's that Jane Fonda & Michael Sarrazin film 'They Shoot Horses Don't They?' Some get burned out, some burned up, some carry on I guess ... who knows?
"We are gradually beginning to realize that the exploitation of man by man is evil, and not merely evil but unnecessary. Human nature being what it is, the transforming of some of the natural environment into a humanized one has not been wholly a creative operation: there has been an immense amount of spoiling, wasting, destroying, and plundering as well. But only recently have we come to feel much uneasiness of conscience about this: our cultural traditions insist that nature was provided for the sake of man, and that the unlimited and uninhibited exploitation of nature has nothing to be said against it, except that we obviously have to call a halt after we have used up everything there is." (Northrop Frye, Creation and Recreation, 1980 - p21-22)
In the extremely unlikely event that someone reading this wishes to recapitulate my tortured train of thought, it will now be necessary to read Northrop Frye's Creation and Recreation in its entirety, it's not long, seventy-five pages, three chapters, reasonably small pages and big type.
Here, for me at least, Frye brings together the threads of Gwynne Dyer's prophecies - that humankind will be indeed the master of its fate - and, weaves in Blake's vision of the Lamb and the Tyger which were the kick-off for this post ... not to mention a sort of explanation/justification for Charles Taylor's A Secular Age ... a mouthful, whatever.
Frye was giving these lectures in January of 1980, fifty years ago, dig it! Lovelock started formulating Gaia in the 70s, first Gaia book published in 1979, Frye was on top of it all, obviously.
"The gates of love they budged an inch
I can't say much has happened since
But closin' time."
Leonard Cohen, Closing Time, 1992, 2, 3, 4, 5 (last one in Newfie, I was actually there that night:-)
The other kick-off was finding two articles (It’s Easy Being Green, and The Climate Improves) in the New York Times which make a common mistake, viz. that if only Waxman/Narkey could be passed quickly through the Senate, America would somehow be on its way to redemption. The arguments against Waxman/Markey as any kind of solution have been posted here before (and here and here).
That said, I do note a certain expansion of the horizon in American world-views - it seems to be becoming more and more common to meet Americans who do not think that the world ends at their borders. Good.
And I tell you what, that little Creation and Recreation book has been on my shelf since 1998 when I read it first, and all this basketball psychology is not doing my head any good, and I am sure glad I picked it off the shelf last night on my way to bed, really I was just looking for something short and instead got a much-needed boost.
A-and if I also find that my attachment to the clockmaker myth of believing in God is (according to Frye) childish, worse - it is puerile & sophomoric, even ignorant - then ok, some work to do there too, ok ok.
HERE'S the good Republican Senator from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski, a Sarah Palin clone mentioned trying to pull dirty tricks in the Sanate struggle over the Waxman/Markey bill (see below):
A-AND HERE'S a k-k-Canadian version of the same:
Patricia Nelson, ex Alberta Finance Minister, ex provincial member for Calgary Foothills electoral district, now a shill for tar sands development at In Situ Oil Sands Alliance - IOSA, law and order wise or otherwise, she says, "Every other country in the world would have stopped them at the gates, even if it meant using force," this in reference to the recent Albian Sands action by Greenpeace (see 4 below).
Looking at them makes me want to hear American Woman ... The Guess Who, 1970, Lenny Kravitz, 1999, Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, 2006 ... I'm gonna leave ... bye bye bye bye ... so ... where to exactly?
I want my life back!
I want my life baaaack!!!
My children will never be journalists, Oliveira.
It's no good pretending that you can still have children.
People are jumping from buildings simply for lack of love.
So what? It's not our fault ...
We should control our selfishness.
Ours?! The selfishness is mine!!!
He was a serious intellectual, a lover of books.
Above all he was a dedicated and generous father.
He fought the dictatorship and was brutally tortured.
He never bowed his head to the powerful.
... and he only came when you massaged his prostate.
Annual Meeting of the Masters of the World
You studied at the worlds's best schools, Samara.
What did you learn about poor people sweetheart?
I learned that the poor are lazy, but even so they deserve the scraps of food we throw in the garbage.
This sensibility didn't even exist in your grandfather's time Samara.
LOOKS LIKE ONE MORE HONOURABLE MOUNTIE in a bushel of noxious scumbag liars, Dick Bent, not exactly a hero but at least he is sticking to his truth - see below. (cartoons thanks to The non conformer’s Canadian Weblog)
"I loved you when our love was blessed, I love you now there's nothing left but closin' time."
Pliocene - began 5.3 million years ago,
Pleistocene - began 2.5 million years ago,
Holocene - began 12,000 years ago, covers all of civilization,
Anthropocene - since 1800.
1. Willing, Linda Ronstadt, 1974.
1a. YouTube 1.
1b. YouTube 2.
2-1. It’s Easy Being Green, Paul Krugman, September 24 2009.
2-2. Cassandras of Climate, Paul Krugman, September 27 2009.
2a. Cassandra, Wikipedia.
3. The Climate Improves, NYT Editorial, September 25 2009.
4-1. Oil sands: The muddied message, Nathan VanderKlippe, 24 Sept 2009.
4-2. Greenpeace ends blockade at Shell Albian Sands tar sands mine, Greenpeace, 16 September 2009.
4-3. Greenpeace activists block giant tar sands mining operation, Greenpeace, 15 September 2009.
4a. Tar Sands action Albian Sands mine September 2009, YouTube.
5-1. Top Mountie tells Braidwood inquiry he stands by his contradictory e-mail, Neal Hall, September 22 2009.
5-2. RCMP officer 'wrong' in email: senior Mountie, CBC, Tuesday September 22 2009.
5-3. Shame on the RCMP, National Post editorial, September 24 2009.
5-4. My RCMP mea culpa, Lorne Gunter, September 25 2009.
6-1. Humanidade esgota seu "espaço de operação", dizem cientistas, 28/09/2009.
6-2. Earth's boundaries?, Nature Editorial, 24 September 2009.
6-3. A safe operating space for humanity, Nature 461, 24 September 2009.
6a. Tipping towards the unknown, Stockholm Resilience Centre - Source Report.
6-5. Canada and climate change: Nothing gets done, fingers get pointed, Jeffrey Simpson, Sept 25 2009.
6-6. The resilience of species, Globe Editorial, Sept 28 2009.
Willin', Linda Ronstadt, 1974.
Not written by her but by Lowell George of Little Feat (says Wikipedia).
I been warped by the rain, driven by the snow
I'm drunk and dirty, don't you know
But I'm still willin'
Out on the road late last night
I'd see my pretty Alice in every headlight
Alice, Dallas Alice
And I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonopah
Driven every kind of rig that's ever been made
Driven the backroads so I wouldn't get weighed
And if you give me weed, whites and wine
And you show me a sign
I'll be willin' to be movin'
And I've been kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet
Had my head stove in but I'm still on my feet
And I'm still willin'
And I smuggled some smokes and folks from Mexico
Baked by the sun every time I go to Mexico
Ah but I'm still...
And I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonopah
Driven every kind of rig that's ever been made
Driven the backroads so I wouldn't get weighed
And if you give me weed, whites and wine
And you show me a sign
And I'll be willin' to be movin'
It’s Easy Being Green, Paul Krugman, September 24 2009.
So, have you enjoyed the debate over health care reform? Have you been impressed by the civility of the discussion and the intellectual honesty of reform opponents?
If so, you’ll love the next big debate: the fight over climate change.
The House has already passed a fairly strong cap-and-trade climate bill, the Waxman-Markey act, which if it becomes law would eventually lead to sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. But on climate change, as on health care, the sticking point will be the Senate. And the usual suspects are doing their best to prevent action.
Some of them still claim that there’s no such thing as global warming, or at least that the evidence isn’t yet conclusive. But that argument is wearing thin — as thin as the Arctic pack ice, which has now diminished to the point that shipping companies are opening up new routes through the formerly impassable seas north of Siberia.
Even corporations are losing patience with the deniers: earlier this week Pacific Gas and Electric canceled its membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in protest over the chamber’s “disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality” of climate change.
So the main argument against climate action probably won’t be the claim that global warming is a myth. It will, instead, be the argument that doing anything to limit global warming would destroy the economy. As the blog Climate Progress puts it, opponents of climate change legislation “keep raising their estimated cost of the clean energy and global warming pollution reduction programs like some out of control auctioneer.”
It’s important, then, to understand that claims of immense economic damage from climate legislation are as bogus, in their own way, as climate-change denial. Saving the planet won’t come free (although the early stages of conservation actually might). But it won’t cost all that much either.
How do we know this? First, the evidence suggests that we’re wasting a lot of energy right now. That is, we’re burning large amounts of coal, oil and gas in ways that don’t actually enhance our standard of living — a phenomenon known in the research literature as the “energy-efficiency gap.” The existence of this gap suggests that policies promoting energy conservation could, up to a point, actually make consumers richer.
Second, the best available economic analyses suggest that even deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions would impose only modest costs on the average family. Earlier this month, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of the effects of Waxman-Markey, concluding that in 2020 the bill would cost the average family only $160 a year, or 0.2 percent of income. That’s roughly the cost of a postage stamp a day.
By 2050, when the emissions limit would be much tighter, the burden would rise to 1.2 percent of income. But the budget office also predicts that real G.D.P. will be about two-and-a-half times larger in 2050 than it is today, so that G.D.P. per person will rise by about 80 percent. The cost of climate protection would barely make a dent in that growth. And all of this, of course, ignores the benefits of limiting global warming.
So where do the apocalyptic warnings about the cost of climate-change policy come from?
Are the opponents of cap-and-trade relying on different studies that reach fundamentally different conclusions? No, not really. It’s true that last spring the Heritage Foundation put out a report claiming that Waxman-Markey would lead to huge job losses, but the study seems to have been so obviously absurd that I’ve hardly seen anyone cite it.
Instead, the campaign against saving the planet rests mainly on lies.
Thus, last week Glenn Beck — who seems to be challenging Rush Limbaugh for the role of de facto leader of the G.O.P. — informed his audience of a “buried” Obama administration study showing that Waxman-Markey would actually cost the average family $1,787 per year. Needless to say, no such study exists.
But we shouldn’t be too hard on Mr. Beck. Similar — and similarly false — claims about the cost of Waxman-Markey have been circulated by many supposed experts.
A year ago I would have been shocked by this behavior. But as we’ve already seen in the health care debate, the polarization of our political discourse has forced self-proclaimed “centrists” to choose sides — and many of them have apparently decided that partisan opposition to President Obama trumps any concerns about intellectual honesty.
So here’s the bottom line: The claim that climate legislation will kill the economy deserves the same disdain as the claim that global warming is a hoax. The truth about the economics of climate change is that it’s relatively easy being green.
The Climate Improves, NYT Editorial, September 25 2009.
This week’s speeches at the United Nations by President Obama and President Hu Jintao of China raised hopes that — with vision, political will and a lot more work — the world may eventually reach a new agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, back in Washington, the struggle continued on a retail level.
The Senate’s Democratic leadership managed to beat back an extraordinarily mischievous amendment to a spending bill offered by Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican. The amendment would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from using its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from major sources like power plants and vehicles.
The amendment was in clear conflict with a landmark 2007 Supreme Court decision giving the agency explicit authority to regulate such gases from vehicles and implicit authority to regulate them from other sources. With a global climate summit in Copenhagen less than three months away, the move would also have sent a terrible signal about Washington’s lack of commitment.
In another positive development, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of eight states, New York City and two conservation groups that had sued five big electric utilities to get them to curb their carbon dioxide emissions. The case, brought in 2004 and based on the common law of public nuisance, said the companies threatened health and welfare.
The ruling can be appealed, and will have no immediate impact on the companies’ emissions. But it affirms that polluters can be held accountable in the federal courts, and provides another pathway to action against carbon pollution.
The preferred path, the one that will have the greatest impact on global negotiations and the atmosphere, would be a comprehensive bill committing this country to binding cuts in emissions. The House passed such a bill in June. The Senate must now follow suit.
Oil sands: The muddied message, Nathan VanderKlippe, 24 Sept 2009.
Recent Greenpeace stunt reveals need for industry to tackle its ‘dirty oil' image problem head on, observers say
Calgary and Edmonton — Alberta's former energy minister warned the oil sands industry to “wake up” and start fighting an aggressive public relations battle, telling producers they should be embarrassed that 25 protesters were able to sneak into and temporarily shut down a major mine last week.
In a passionate call for the oil patch to more fiercely fight the public image battle it is waging – and, by some accounts, losing – Pat Nelson called a Greenpeace stunt a moment of shame in an address to the Oil Sands Trade Show and Conference in Edmonton Wednesday.
“Wake up, people! It's no wonder what we are getting [out are] the wrong messages,” said Ms. Nelson, who left office in 2004 and is now the vice-chairman of an industry group called the In Situ Oil Sands Alliance. “Every other country in the world would have stopped them at the gates, even if it meant using force. What a message to send.”
For an industry that has faced a growing line of opponents, the Greenpeace stunt reveals a dire need for a concerted campaign to tackle its “dirty oil” image problem head on, observers say.
The protest serves as evidence that efforts to counter the environmentalist message have been far too passive, Ms. Nelson said, showing conference-goers images of a huge “Tar Sands: Climate Crime” banner that Greenpeace unfurled inside the Albian Sands mine, owned by Royal Dutch Shell. The protest succeeded in closing down the mine north of Fort McMurray, Alta., for several hours.
Pictures of that banner were sent across the world. For industry to undo the damage they have done, it needs to show the public “the real pictures of the oil sands,” she said.
It is an argument that strikes at the heart of the oil patch's response to its growing chorus of critics. Rather than strike back with a broad-based marketing campaign, aimed at putting its message before large swaths of the public, the industry has relied instead on websites and conversations with smaller audiences. Its rationale has been that it can be more influential by making a stronger connection with fewer people.
Marketers, however, say that's a mistake. By failing to push back more aggressively, they say, the campaign against oil sands is going largely unchallenged. In part, that may be because the oil industry simply has not been wired to fight back in public, said Russell Stedman, the managing director at the Calgary office of ad firm Taxi Canada Inc.
“Most of these companies have been successful in spite of their marketing,” he said.
But, he said, an effective response may require that those attitudes change. “[Better marketing is] going to have to play a role,” Mr. Stedman said.
The industry could highlight some progress it's made in reducing emissions, oil extraction technologies that step more lightly on the boreal forest, and ongoing efforts to reclaim exploited lands. Critics, of course, say an image overhaul is impossible because the industry is inherently environmentally destructive.
Industry has done some mass marketing – including ads in several smaller U.S. publications such as the Washington Times, and The Hill, last week.
But rather than spend on big-budget advertising, companies have instead worked to stir up a “conversation” on oil sands. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers launched a Twitter feed this summer, and spends the bulk of its advertising budget on Google ad buys, which for $10,000 a month have delivered 10,000 monthly hits to its website. It has worked to build up canadasoilsands.ca, where it lays out industry positions on issues like water use and emissions. And it has tendered favoured numbers-heavy slideshow presentations to get its message out.
But the volume of that response appears to be outmatched by critics, who have taken out ads in some of the biggest U.S. newspapers, launched a satirical oil sands travel website (inviting guests to mornings that start with a “propane cannon wake-up call”) and greeted both travelling senators and President Barack Obama with published anti-tar sands messages.
Industry itself admits it has been slow to respond.
“We have to a large degree neglected the broader NGO communities, and some of the concerns that have related to our operations,” said Janet Annesley, Shell's senior manager of external relations. “We do know we need to do better. That's the bottom line. Industry has been on the back foot.”
Damaged reputations aren't the only danger of unchallenged criticism. Public opposition could also hurt the “social licence” of oil sands companies to operate, and potentially affect policy.
But industry hasn't yet seen evidence of that – U.S. leaders, in fact, have made recent statements supporting oil sands in the name of energy security. And the oil patch believes firing back with a mass market salvo won't work. For one, there's the question of whether anyone would actually believe them. “We don't have the credibility to tell our story in a one-way medium,” said CAPP spokesman Travis Davies, who acknowledges the PR battle will likely become more strident in the months ahead of the Copenhagen climate talks in December.
Still, rather than fight fire with fire, he believes industry first needs to build a base of believable supporters.
“We need to build some advocates on both the media side and the public side that will engage us in a bigger conversation, and then maybe we'll have some legs to stand on in terms of traditional messaging,” he said. “But until we do that, we just don't have the luxury of sloganeering.”
Greenpeace ends blockade at Shell Albian Sands tar sands mine, Greenpeace, 16 September 2009.
Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada — Greenpeace has ended its blockade at Shell’s Albian Sands mine after successfully bringing international attention to the climate crime of tar sands operations.
“We went in on the eve of the meeting in Washington between Prime Minister Harper and President Obama to send a message that climate leaders don’t buy tar sands,” said Mike Hudema, Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner. “It’s clear from their meeting today that our work is not yet done. Greenpeace will continue to expose the climate crime of the tar sands.”
The Greenpeace blockade began at 8 a.m. Tuesday 15 September 2009 when 25 activists went into the Shell mine and blockaded a giant shovel and two giant trucks. At one point the whole mining operation was shut down in response to the Greenpeace blockade. The activists stayed for more than 30 hours to focus attention on the urgent need for action on climate change.
“Through this action, Greenpeace put this destruction centre stage to show the world why we must stop the tar sands,” said Hudema. “Greenpeace will press world leaders to make strong commitments to fighting climate change, that means stopping the tar sands and embracing a clean energy future.”
With only 80 days remaining before the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen, the Greenpeace blockade brought a much needed focus on the threat of catastrophic climate change caused by the world’s addiction to oil.
Through its KYOTOplus campaign, Greenpeace Canada is working to convince the Harper government to become a leader at the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen in December.
Greenpeace activists block giant tar sands mining operation, Greenpeace, 15 September 2009.
Message to Obama and Harper: Climate leaders don’t buy tar sands
Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada — On the eve of the Harper-Obama meeting in Washington D.C., about 25 daring Greenpeace activists have locked down and blockaded a giant dump truck and shovel at Shell’s massive Albian Sands open-pit mine in northern Alberta to send the message that the tar sands are a global climate crime that must be stopped.
Activists from Canada, the United States and France entered the mine site, about 60 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, at 8:00 a.m. They blockaded a giant three-storey dump truck and hydraulic shovel by chaining together pick-up trucks. Two teams then scaled the truck and shovel and chained themselves to them, while another team placed giant banners on the tarry ground reading, “Tar Sands: Climate Crime.”
“Greenpeace has come here today, to the frontiers of climate destruction to block this giant mining operation and tell Harper and Obama meeting tomorrow that climate leaders don’t buy tar sands” said Mike Hudema, Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner, from inside the blockade. “The tar sands are a devastating example of how our future will look unless urgent action is taken to protect the climate.”
Canada is now the number one exporter of oil to the US, most of which is dirty tar sands oil. The climate crimes of tar sands development—rising energy intensity, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and Boreal forest destruction—are leading the world to climate chaos.
The world’s oil addiction has turned the tar sands into the biggest industrial project on the planet, occupying an area the size of England. Tar sands GHG emissions, already nearing those of Norway, could soon more than triple to 140 million tonnes a year. At that point they would equal or exceed the current emissions of Belgium, a county of 10 million, as outlined in a Greenpeace report by award winning author Andrew Nikiforuk released this week. These numbers account only for the production of tar sands oil, and do not account for the massive additional GHG impact of burning the fuel.
“The tar sands are at the leading edge of climate chaos. Climate leadership from President Obama, Prime Minister Harper and other world leaders means abandoning the dirty oil that is pushing our planet to climate collapse and forging a green energy economy and a healthy world for our children.”
Today’s action targeted Shell, but other major companies including BP, Suncor, Syncrude, ExxonMobil, Total and StatoilHydro run tar sands operations that put them at the forefront of oil addiction.
Urgent action on the climate must be front and centre at the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen in December. With fewer than 90 days left to the most important climate negotiations in history, Greenpeace is calling on world leaders to end to the climate catastrophe that is the Alberta tar sands and to commit to deep emissions cuts at Copenhagen.
“World leaders need to turn away from the dirtiest oil on the planet and embrace clean energy alternatives” said Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Melina Laboucan-Massimo. “Until they do, oil interests will continue to dominate and Canada will continue to obstruct crucial international climate talks like those in Copenhagen.”
Through its KYOTOplus campaign, Greenpeace Canada is working to convince the Harper government to become a leader at the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen in December.
At the time of this release, all activists were still in place.
Top Mountie tells Braidwood inquiry he stands by his contradictory e-mail, Neal Hall, September 22 2009.
VANCOUVER - Two senior Mounties gave conflicting testimony at the Braidwood inquiry Tuesday about an e-mail sent following the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport.
Chief Supt. Dick Bent testified the e-mail he sent — which concerned the four officers involved in the incident — was accurate.
But Supt. Wayne Rideout, the officer in charge of the investigation into Dziekanski’s death, said Bent’s recollection of a conversation they had, summarized in the e-mail, was wrong.
Dziekanski died Oct. 14, 2007 after a confrontation with the officers during which he was zapped five times with a Taser.
Bent sent the e-mail on Nov. 5, 2007 to Assistant Commissioner Al Macintyre under the subject line “Media Strategy — Release of YVR video.”
Bent’s e-mail said: “Finally spoke to Wayne [Rideout] and he indicated that the members did not articulate that they saw the symptoms of excited delirium, but instead had discussed the response en route and decided that if he did not comply that they would go to CEW [conducted energy weapon].”
The e-mail brought the inquiry to a sudden halt when it was first disclosed last June because it contradicted the testimony of the four officers involved in Dziekanski’s death — Constables Bill Bentley, Kwesi Millington, Gerry Rundel and Cpl. Monty Robinson said they had no discussions before arriving at the airport.
The e-mail caused a further investigation and resulted in another 18,000 RCMP documents being disclosed to the inquiry, which is probing the Dziekanski’s death. The 40-year-old, who spoke no English, had spent hours at the airport trying to find his mother, who was to meet him upon his arrival from Poland.
When Dziekanski became agitated and began throwing things around, the four officers arrived. Seconds later, Millington deployed the Taser five times and the officers handcuffed Dziekanski, who died at the scene.
Bent, who plans to retire in two weeks after 35 years with the force, testified his e-mail was an accurate reflection of his conversation with Rideout. Although he had no notes of the conversation, he said he wrote the e-mail “very quickly after our conversation.” But he admitted under questioning by Rideout’s lawyer, Alex Pringle, that he could have misunderstood parts of what Rideout had said.
Rideout testified that while Bent was a highly respected senior officer, his e-mail was wrong. “The last paragraph is inaccurate,” Rideout testified. “The IHIT [Integrated Homicide Investigation Team] investigation found no evidence whatsoever of any plan to deploy the CEW [conducted energy weapon].”
Cross-examined by Don Rosenbloom, the lawyer representing the government of Poland, Rideout admitted he said during an internal investigation that it was time for an independent agency, similar to the Special Investigations Unit in Ontario, to take over investigating police-involved deaths in B.C.
The officer testified that while the investigation into Dziekanski’s death was thorough and impartial, the public perception is that it was biased. “The perception is the problem,” Rideout testified. “And it’s going to get worse.”
Outside court, RCMP spokesman Sgt. Tim Shields said the RCMP’s commanding officer in B.C., Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass, has expressed similar sentiments. “We’re aware of the optics of police investigating police,” he said, “and we are in discussions with the provincial government.”
Rosenbloom said outside court that he finds it “troubling” that there was contradictory evidence by two senior Mounties, which the inquiry commissioner will have to resolve in his final report.
The inquiry will continue today with another police witness and two civilians.
RCMP officer 'wrong' in email: senior Mountie, CBC, Tuesday September 22 2009.
A senior RCMP officer says he was misquoted by a colleague in a controversial email written weeks after Robert Dziekanski died after being stunned by a Mountie Taser at the Vancouver airport.
In the email, Chief Supt. Dick Bent told Assistant Commissioner Al McIntyre that Supt. Wayne Rideout told him the officers who used a Taser on Dziekanski in October 2007 discussed using the weapon on their way to the scene.
That contradicted testimony the Mounties themselves gave earlier in the Braidwood inquiry looking into Dziekanski's death. He died after RCMP officers shot him five times with a stun gun and left him handcuffed face down on the floor of the arrivals lounge of Vancouver International Airport.
"Chief Supt. Bent is a highly respected member of the RCMP. But the way he has portrayed my comments to him in that passage that I read out is wrong," Rideout told the inquiry at a courtroom in downtown Vancouver on Tuesday.
Bent stands by interpretation
Bent also testified Tuesday, and said he was standing by his initial interpretation of what the officers discussed on the way to the airport, but admitted he might have been mistaken.
Bent said he wrote the email shortly after speaking by phone to the supervisor of the officers involved in the incident. The revelation that Bent's email existed halted inquiry proceedings in June just as summations were to begin. The inquiry resumed Tuesday after a three-month delay to allow the contents of the email to be examined.
The November 2007 email suggests the four Mounties who responded to the airport call discussed, before they arrived on the scene, a plan to use a Taser against the Polish immigrant.
"Finally, spoke to Wayne and he indicated that the members did not articulate that they saw the symptoms of excited delirium, but instead had discussed the response en route and decided that if he did not comply that they would go to CEW," Bent said in the email.
The "Wayne" in the email is Rideout, then head of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team looking into Dziekanski's death. CEW is short for a conducted energy weapon, the RCMP name for a Taser-type weapon.
'We're going to deal with it'
The email appears to contradict the statements of the officers involved in the incident, Const. Bill Bentley, Const. Gerry Rundel, Const. Kwesi Millington and Cpl. Benjamin Robinson. They testified in the spring that they didn't have a plan before reaching the scene to use the stun gun on Dziekanski. Inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood has scolded the RCMP for failing to disclose the email sooner.
"I was critical back in June because that email we should have had," inquiry lawyer Art Vertlieb said. "The more important thing is we've got it and we're going to deal with it."
Vertlieb has acknowledged the comments on the email are hearsay but he said they must be investigated since they're from senior RCMP.
"On its face, the email appears to tell a significantly different story," he said.
Crown prosecutors decided not to charge the officers who were at the scene. The Mounties are not scheduled to appear again at the inquiry.
"There is not a single shred of evidence to support the assertion made in Chief Bent's email," said lawyer David Butcher, who represents Bentley.
Dziekanski's mother's lawyer skeptical
However, Walter Kosteckyj, the lawyer representing Dziekanski's mother, said he'll consider asking the inquiry to call back the four officers if he thinks there are unanswered questions.
"The only thing that has to be explained is why does a person who is in command write that kind of an email," Kosteckyj told The Canadian Press. "When I take a look at how quickly (the Taser) was used, I have a hard time believing that it wasn't discussed."
The RCMP has produced about 18,000 new documents since June. Vertlieb said final arguments will likely finish by mid-October.
Shame on the RCMP, National Post editorial, September 24 2009.
Is there a sadder spectacle in Canadian public life than watching the RCMP immolate themselves at the Braidwood inquiry into the tazering death of Robert Dziekanski two years ago at Vancouver International airport? A once proud institution -- the best known icon of Canada in the rest of the world -- seems hell-bent on destroying its last shreds of credibility.
New documents, the existence of which the RCMP had concealed from the commission and Canadians for over 18 months, now show that the force knew days before video of Mr. Dziekanski's killing became public that it had a time bomb ticking in its hands. Rather than deal with it proactively and forcefully by suspending the officers involved and conducting a thorough internal investigation, the Mounties devised a cover-up to mute or at least minimize the consequences.
This is shameful.
Even more shameful is the way the force has continued to justify its officers' behaviour and its own actions in papering over their offences. Instead of sweeping clean, new Commissioner William Elliott has quickly become the RCMP's apologist-in-chief.
The Mounties can begin to restore their reputation for independent, fair-minded policing only if they come clean, apologize for what their officers did, punish them and take their lumps in the theatre of Canadian public opinion.
My RCMP mea culpa, Lorne Gunter, September 25 2009.
I apologize for sticking up for the Mounties who Tasered Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007. He died soon after. More than that, I am sorry for suggesting in print that Mr. Dziekanski and his mother, Zofia Cisowski, had some culpability in his death; he for acting bizarrely, she for failing to do more to locate her son before he went berserk after waiting mistakenly for hours in a Canada Customs office in the terminal.
I still believe Mr. Dziekanski's behaviour was inappropriate and disturbing. But he did not deserve to die. And he died because police officers forgot their training and obligation to the public, acted excessively and in haste, may have killed an innocent, if disturbed, man in the process.
As guardians of the peace, they failed, just as I failed as a journalist by standing by them too long.
The Braidwood inquiry into the incident is ongoing in Vancouver, so it remains too early to come to some conclusions about the officers' actions and about the behaviour of their superiors following the event. But what we have learned so far has made a few very important conclusions unavoidable: The four officers on the scene overreacted to the situation before them. An innocent man died as a result of their misjudgment and excessive use of force. And ever since, their superiors have been attempting to cover up their blameworthiness.
This latter transgression -- the attempt by the brass to keep the truth from coming out -- is the greatest problem now plaguing our once-proud national police force. It speaks to the institutional rot and corrosive culture at the upper echelons of the RCMP.
I am not doubting that the Dziekanski call-out, coming after 1:00 in the morning, was no routine episode. The dispatcher had told the quartet of officers to expect an "intoxicated male throwing luggage around" and "throwing chairs through [a] glass window." He was cursing, throwing furniture, erecting a barricade and swinging a small table at a civilian who approached him to see whether they might help.
Witnesses in the airport at the time sided with the officers, although many have since recanted their original statements in front of the inquiry. Mr. Dziekanski "deserved the Taser," they told investigators, and police "had no choice" because he was "out of control."
Still, the officers acted far too quickly in Tasering the Polish traveller. They made almost none of the standard peaceful approaches they are trained to make and escalated instead almost instantly to the conducted energy weapon.
Their after-incident reports at the time disagree with the video evidence and, more damagingly, with their sworn statements to the Braidwood commission. They each claimed Mr. Dziekanski refused to co-operate with them, although the video evidence seems to indicate he, being a non-speaker of English, was complying the best he could with commands they gave by gesture. And while they insisted he became "combative," picked up a stapler to use as a weapon and lunged at them, none of that is supported in the video recordings.
More damning for me was what the officers told paramedics on the scene. While the officers had jolted Mr. Dziekanski five times with their Taser, they informed paramedics they had stunned the blue-faced, convulsive, breathless victim only once, a possible sign that even then they knew they had done something wrong and were preparing a common cover story.
But worst of all is the way senior Mounties have done all they can to keep the bright light of public scrutiny from shining on the Dziekanski death. Their initial response to the incident was less than frank. They tried to block a comprehensive video taken at the scene from being made public. They resisted an inquiry, whitewashed their own findings and, as we learned this week, kept 18,000 documents -- some highly damaging -- from being seen by the formal inquiry and from the public.
Senior Mounties who helped perpetrate a cover-up should be sacked. Likely the four officers should be fired, too, although Canadians might want to wait for the Braidwood report before urging that. And the RCMP itself should apologize formally for its role in all this.
Next the force needs to be remade from top to bottom, stressing its responsibility and rectitude.
Only then will it have any chance of repairing its tarnished reputation.
Humanidade esgota seu "espaço de operação", dizem cientistas, 28/09/2009.
A humanidade pode estar tirando o planeta da excepcional estabilidade ambiental em que ele se encontra há 10 mil anos e lançando-o numa zona turbulenta com consequências "catastróficas". O novo alerta é feito por um grupo internacional de 29 cientistas, em artigo nesta semana na revista "Nature".
O time reúne alguns dos maiores especialistas no sistema terrestre, entre eles o holandês Paul Crutzen, Nobel de Química em 95 por seu trabalho sobre a camada de ozônio.
Eles identificaram nove fatores-chave do funcionamento do planeta que não deveriam ser perturbados além de um certo limite para que a estabilidade ambiental que permitiu o florescimento da civilização continue por milhares de anos.
Acontece que, dos nove "limiares planetários", como o artigo chama esses fatores, três já foram excedidos de longe: a mudança climática, a perda da biodiversidade e a alteração no ciclo do nitrogênio. Sobre dois deles, a poluição química e o lançamento de aerossóis na atmosfera, não há informação suficiente.
Outros três - uso de água doce, mudança no uso da terra e acidificação dos oceanos - ainda não tiveram seus limites ultrapassados, mas terão, se as atividades humanas mantiverem o ritmo e o caráter atuais. Um único limiar, a destruição do ozônio estratosférico, está sendo revertido aos valores pré-industriais.
O ciclo do nitrogênio não costuma aparecer entre as pragas ambientais mais citadas. No entanto, os pesquisadores, liderados por Johan Rockström (Universidade de Estocolmo), apontam que a quantidade desse gás removida da atmosfera para uso humano - quase tudo como fertilizante para a agricultura - já é quatro vezes maior do que o limite proposto. "É mais do que os efeitos combinados de todos os processos (naturais) da Terra", escrevem os autores. Nos fertilizantes, o nitrogênio é convertido a uma forma reativa e acaba no ambiente, poluindo rios e zonas costeiras e formando óxido nítrico, um gás-estufa.
Outro nutriente importante, o fósforo, também está tendo seu ciclo alterado, embora haja "grandes incertezas" sobre qual seria seu limite.
O grupo aponta que o fato de "apenas" três limiares terem sido cruzados não é garantia de que o mundo não sofrerá mudanças catastróficas. Afinal, há múltiplas interações entre os limiares. "Transgredir a barreira do nitrogênio-fósforo pode erodir a resiliência de alguns ecossistemas marinhos, potencialmente reduzindo sua capacidade de absorver CO2, afetando assim a barreira climática."
Earth's boundaries?, Nature Editorial, 24 September 2009.
An attempt to quantify the limits of humanity's load on our planet opens an important debate.
In this issue of Nature, a group of renowned Earth-system and environmental scientists led by Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Resilience Centre sets out to define boundaries for the biophysical processes that determine the Earth's capacity for self-regulation (see page 472). The framework presented is an attempt to look holistically at how humanity is stressing the entire Earth system. Provocatively, they go beyond the conceptual to suggest numerical boundaries for seven parameters: climate change, ozone depletion, ocean acidification, biodiversity, freshwater use, the global nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, and change in land use. The authors argue that we must stay within all of these boundaries in order to avoid catastrophic environmental change.
The boundaries are based on existing data. For some processes, such as anthropogenic climate change and human modification of the nitrogen cycle, we may already have crossed the line, and need to back-pedal quickly. For others, such as ocean acidification, we are rapidly approaching a threshold beyond which there may be abrupt and nonlinear changes.
The exercise requires many qualifications. For the most part, the exact values chosen as boundaries by Rockström and his colleagues are arbitrary. So too, in some cases, are the indicators of change. There is, as yet, little scientific evidence to suggest that stabilizing long-term concentrations of carbon dioxide at 350 parts per million is the right target for avoiding dangerous interference with the climate system. Focusing on long-term atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gas is perhaps an unnecessary distraction from the much more immediate target of keeping warming to within 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. Nor is there a consensus on the need to cap species extinctions at ten times the background rate, as is being advised.
Furthermore, boundaries don't always apply globally, even for processes that regulate the entire planet. Local circumstances can ultimately determine how soon water shortages or biodiversity loss reach a critical threshold.
Assigning 'acceptable' limits to processes that ultimately determine our own survival is risky in other ways, too. After all, some of the suggested limits may be easier to balance with ethical and economic issues than others. Human interference in the nitrogen cycle may well have damaging long-term consequences, but the production of nitrogen for agriculture has also fed large parts of humanity.
But even if the science is preliminary, this is a creditable attempt to quantify the limitations of our existence on Earth, and provides a good basis for discussion and future refinement. To facilitate that discussion, Nature is simultaneously publishing seven commentaries from leading experts that can be freely accessed at Nature Reports Climate Change (see http://tinyurl.com/planetboundaries).
Defining the limits to our growth and existence on this planet is not only a grand intellectual challenge, it is also a potential source of badly needed information for policy-makers. Such numerical values, however, should not be seen as targets. If the history of environmental negotiations has taught us anything, it is that targets are there to be broken. Setting limits that are well within the bounds of linear behaviour might therefore be a wiser, if somewhat less dramatic, approach. That would still give policy-makers a clear indication of the magnitude and direction of change, without risking the possibility that boundaries will be used to justify prolonged degradation of the environment up to the point of no return.
A safe operating space for humanity, Nature 461, 24 September 2009.
Johan Rockström, Will Steffen, Kevin Noone, Åsa Persson, F. Stuart Chapin, Eric F. Lambin6, Timothy M. Lenton, Marten Scheffer, Carl Folke, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Björn Nykvist, Cynthia A. de Wit, Terry Hughes, Sander van der Leeuw, Henning Rodhe, Sverker Sörlin, Peter K. Snyder, Robert Costanza, Uno Svedin, Malin Falkenmark, Louise Karlberg, Robert W. Corell, Victoria J. Fabry, James Hansen, Brian Walker, Diana Liverman, Katherine Richardson, Paul Crutzen & Jonathan A. Foley
Identifying and quantifying planetary boundaries that must not be transgressed could help prevent human activities from causing unacceptable environmental change, argue Johan Rockström and colleagues.
Summary - A safe operating space for humanity
* New approach proposed for defining preconditions for human development
* Crossing certain biophysical thresholds could have disastrous consequences for humanity
* Three of nine interlinked planetary boundaries have already been overstepped
Although Earth has undergone many periods of significant environmental change, the planet's environment has been unusually stable for the past 10,000 years. This period of stability — known to geologists as the Holocene — has seen human civilizations arise, develop and thrive. Such stability may now be under threat. Since the Industrial Revolution, a new era has arisen, the Anthropocene, in which human actions have become the main driver of global environmental change. This could see human activities push the Earth system outside the stable environmental state of the Holocene, with consequences that are detrimental or even catastrophic for large parts of the world.
During the Holocene, environmental change occurred naturally and Earth's regulatory capacity maintained the conditions that enabled human development. Regular temperatures, freshwater availability and biogeochemical flows all stayed within a relatively narrow range. Now, largely because of a rapidly growing reliance on fossil fuels and industrialized forms of agriculture, human activities have reached a level that could damage the systems that keep Earth in the desirable Holocene state. The result could be irreversible and, in some cases, abrupt environmental change, leading to a state less conducive to human development6. Without pressure from humans, the Holocene is expected to continue for at least several thousands of years.
To meet the challenge of maintaining the Holocene state, we propose a framework based on 'planetary boundaries'. These boundaries define the safe operating space for humanity with respect to the Earth system and are associated with the planet's biophysical subsystems or processes. Although Earth's complex systems sometimes respond smoothly to changing pressures, it seems that this will prove to be the exception rather than the rule. Many subsystems of Earth react in a nonlinear, often abrupt, way, and are particularly sensitive around threshold levels of certain key variables. If these thresholds are crossed, then important subsystems, such as a monsoon system, could shift into a new state, often with deleterious or potentially even disastrous consequences for humans.
Most of these thresholds can be defined by a critical value for one or more control variables, such as carbon dioxide concentration. Not all processes or subsystems on Earth have well-defined thresholds, although human actions that undermine the resilience of such processes or subsystems — for example, land and water degradation — can increase the risk that thresholds will also be crossed in other processes, such as the climate system.
We have tried to identify the Earth-system processes and associated thresholds which, if crossed, could generate unacceptable environmental change. We have found nine such processes for which we believe it is necessary to define planetary boundaries: climate change; rate of biodiversity loss (terrestrial and marine); interference with the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles; stratospheric ozone depletion; ocean acidification; global freshwater use; change in land use; chemical pollution; and atmospheric aerosol loading (see Fig. 1 and Table).
Figure 1: Beyond the boundary. (click for larger view in separate window)
The inner green shading represents the proposed safe operating space for nine planetary systems. The red wedges represent an estimate of the current position for each variable. The boundaries in three systems (rate of biodiversity loss, climate change and human interference with the nitrogen cycle), have already been exceeded.
High resolution image and legend (86K)
In general, planetary boundaries are values for control variables that are either at a 'safe' distance from thresholds — for processes with evidence of threshold behaviour — or at dangerous levels — for processes without evidence of thresholds. Determining a safe distance involves normative judgements of how societies choose to deal with risk and uncertainty. We have taken a conservative, risk-averse approach to quantifying our planetary boundaries, taking into account the large uncertainties that surround the true position of many thresholds. (A detailed description of the boundaries — and the analyses behind them — is given in ref. 10.)
Humanity may soon be approaching the boundaries for global freshwater use, change in land use, ocean acidification and interference with the global phosphorus cycle (see Fig. 1). Our analysis suggests that three of the Earth-system processes — climate change, rate of biodiversity loss and interference with the nitrogen cycle — have already transgressed their boundaries. For the latter two of these, the control variables are the rate of species loss and the rate at which N2 is removed from the atmosphere and converted to reactive nitrogen for human use, respectively. These are rates of change that cannot continue without significantly eroding the resilience of major components of Earth-system functioning. Here we describe these three processes.
Anthropogenic climate change is now beyond dispute, and in the run-up to the climate negotiations in Copenhagen this December, the international discussions on targets for climate mitigation have intensified. There is a growing convergence towards a '2 °C guardrail' approach, that is, containing the rise in global mean temperature to no more than 2 °C above the pre-industrial level.
Our proposed climate boundary is based on two critical thresholds that separate qualitatively different climate-system states. It has two parameters: atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and radiative forcing (the rate of energy change per unit area of the globe as measured at the top of the atmosphere). We propose that human changes to atmospheric CO2 concentrations should not exceed 350 parts per million by volume, and that radiative forcing should not exceed 1 watt per square metre above pre-industrial levels. Transgressing these boundaries will increase the risk of irreversible climate change, such as the loss of major ice sheets, accelerated sea-level rise and abrupt shifts in forest and agricultural systems. Current CO2 concentration stands at 387 p.p.m.v. and the change in radiative forcing is 1.5 W m-2.
There are at least three reasons for our proposed climate boundary. First, current climate models may significantly underestimate the severity of long-term climate change for a given concentration of greenhouse gases. Most models suggest that a doubling in atmospheric CO2 concentration will lead to a global temperature rise of about 3 °C (with a probable uncertainty range of 2–4.5 °C) once the climate has regained equilibrium. But these models do not include long-term reinforcing feedback processes that further warm the climate, such as decreases in the surface area of ice cover or changes in the distribution of vegetation. If these slow feedbacks are included, doubling CO2 levels gives an eventual temperature increase of 6 °C (with a probable uncertainty range of 4–8 °C). This would threaten the ecological life-support systems that have developed in the late Quaternary environment, and would severely challenge the viability of contemporary human societies.
The second consideration is the stability of the large polar ice sheets. Palaeoclimate data from the past 100 million years show that CO2 concentrations were a major factor in the long-term cooling of the past 50 million years. Moreover, the planet was largely ice-free until CO2 concentrations fell below 450 p.p.m.v. (plusminus100 p.p.m.v.), suggesting that there is a critical threshold between 350 and 550 p.p.m.v.. Our boundary of 350 p.p.m.v. aims to ensure the continued existence of the large polar ice sheets.
Third, we are beginning to see evidence that some of Earth's subsystems are already moving outside their stable Holocene state. This includes the rapid retreat of the summer sea ice in the Arctic ocean, the retreat of mountain glaciers around the world11, the loss of mass from the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets and the accelerating rates of sea-level rise during the past 10–15 years.
Rate of biodiversity loss
Species extinction is a natural process, and would occur without human actions. However, biodiversity loss in the Anthropocene has accelerated massively. Species are becoming extinct at a rate that has not been seen since the last global mass-extinction event.
The fossil record shows that the background extinction rate for marine life is 0.1–1 extinctions per million species per year; for mammals it is 0.2–0.5 extinctions per million species per year. Today, the rate of extinction of species is estimated to be 100 to 1,000 times more than what could be considered natural. As with climate change, human activities are the main cause of the acceleration. Changes in land use exert the most significant effect. These changes include the conversion of natural ecosystems into agriculture or into urban areas; changes in frequency, duration or magnitude of wildfires and similar disturbances; and the introduction of new species into land and freshwater environments. The speed of climate change will become a more important driver of change in biodiversity this century, leading to an accelerating rate of species loss18. Up to 30% of all mammal, bird and amphibian species will be threatened with extinction this century.
Biodiversity loss occurs at the local to regional level, but it can have pervasive effects on how the Earth system functions, and it interacts with several other planetary boundaries. For example, loss of biodiversity can increase the vulnerability of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to changes in climate and ocean acidity, thus reducing the safe boundary levels of these processes. There is growing understanding of the importance of functional biodiversity in preventing ecosystems from tipping into undesired states when they are disturbed. This means that apparent redundancy is required to maintain an ecosystem's resilience. Ecosystems that depend on a few or single species for critical functions are vulnerable to disturbances, such as disease, and at a greater risk of tipping into undesired states.
From an Earth-system perspective, setting a boundary for biodiversity is difficult. Although it is now accepted that a rich mix of species underpins the resilience of ecosystems, little is known quantitatively about how much and what kinds of biodiversity can be lost before this resilience is eroded22. This is particularly true at the scale of Earth as a whole, or for major subsystems such as the Borneo rainforests or the Amazon Basin. Ideally, a planetary boundary should capture the role of biodiversity in regulating the resilience of systems on Earth. Because science cannot yet provide such information at an aggregate level, we propose extinction rate as an alternative (but weaker) indicator. As a result, our suggested planetary boundary for biodiversity of ten times the background rates of extinction is only a very preliminary estimate. More research is required to pin down this boundary with greater certainty. However, we can say with some confidence that Earth cannot sustain the current rate of loss without significant erosion of ecosystem resilience.
Nitrogen and phosphorus cycles
Modern agriculture is a major cause of environmental pollution, including large-scale nitrogen- and phosphorus-induced environmental change. At the planetary scale, the additional amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus activated by humans are now so large that they significantly perturb the global cycles of these two important elements.
Human processes — primarily the manufacture of fertilizer for food production and the cultivation of leguminous crops — convert around 120 million tonnes of N2 from the atmosphere per year into reactive forms — which is more than the combined effects from all Earth's terrestrial processes. Much of this new reactive nitrogen ends up in the environment, polluting waterways and the coastal zone, accumulating in land systems and adding a number of gases to the atmosphere. It slowly erodes the resilience of important Earth subsystems. Nitrous oxide, for example, is one of the most important non-CO2 greenhouse gases and thus directly increases radiative forcing.
Anthropogenic distortion of the nitrogen cycle and phosphorus flows has shifted the state of lake systems from clear to turbid water. Marine ecosystems have been subject to similar shifts, for example, during periods of anoxia in the Baltic Sea caused by excessive nutrients. These and other nutrient-generated impacts justify the formulation of a planetary boundary for nitrogen and phosphorus flows, which we propose should be kept together as one boundary given their close interactions with other Earth-system processes.
Setting a planetary boundary for human modification of the nitrogen cycle is not straightforward. We have defined the boundary by considering the human fixation of N2 from the atmosphere as a giant 'valve' that controls a massive flow of new reactive nitrogen into Earth. As a first guess, we suggest that this valve should contain the flow of new reactive nitrogen to 25% of its current value, or about 35 million tonnes of nitrogen per year. Given the implications of trying to reach this target, much more research and synthesis of information is required to determine a more informed boundary.
Unlike nitrogen, phosphorus is a fossil mineral that accumulates as a result of geological processes. It is mined from rock and its uses range from fertilizers to toothpaste. Some 20 million tonnes of phosphorus is mined every year and around 8.5 million–9.5 million tonnes of it finds its way into the oceans. This is estimated to be approximately eight times the natural background rate of influx.
Records of Earth history show that large-scale ocean anoxic events occur when critical thresholds of phosphorus inflow to the oceans are crossed. This potentially explains past mass extinctions of marine life. Modelling suggests that a sustained increase of phosphorus flowing into the oceans exceeding 20% of the natural background weathering was enough to induce past ocean anoxic events.
Our tentative modelling estimates suggest that if there is a greater than tenfold increase in phosphorus flowing into the oceans (compared with pre-industrial levels), then anoxic ocean events become more likely within 1,000 years. Despite the large uncertainties involved, the state of current science and the present observations of abrupt phosphorus-induced regional anoxic events indicate that no more than 11 million tonnes of phosphorus per year should be allowed to flow into the oceans — ten times the natural background rate. We estimate that this boundary level will allow humanity to safely steer away from the risk of ocean anoxic events for more than 1,000 years, acknowledging that current levels already exceed critical thresholds for many estuaries and freshwater systems.
Although the planetary boundaries are described in terms of individual quantities and separate processes, the boundaries are tightly coupled. We do not have the luxury of concentrating our efforts on any one of them in isolation from the others. If one boundary is transgressed, then other boundaries are also under serious risk. For instance, significant land-use changes in the Amazon could influence water resources as far away as Tibet30. The climate-change boundary depends on staying on the safe side of the freshwater, land, aerosol, nitrogen–phosphorus, ocean and stratospheric boundaries. Transgressing the nitrogen–phosphorus boundary can erode the resilience of some marine ecosystems, potentially reducing their capacity to absorb CO2 and thus affecting the climate boundary.
The boundaries we propose represent a new approach to defining biophysical preconditions for human development. For the first time, we are trying to quantify the safe limits outside of which the Earth system cannot continue to function in a stable, Holocene-like state.
The approach rests on three branches of scientific enquiry. The first addresses the scale of human action in relation to the capacity of Earth to sustain it. This is a significant feature of the ecological economics research agenda, drawing on knowledge of the essential role of the life-support properties of the environment for human well being and the biophysical constraints for the growth of the economy. The second is the work on understanding essential Earth processes6, including human actions, brought together in the fields of global change research and sustainability science39. The third field of enquiry is research into resilience and its links to complex dynamics and self-regulation of living systems emphasizing thresholds and shifts between states.
Although we present evidence that three boundaries have been overstepped, there remain many gaps in our knowledge. We have tentatively quantified seven boundaries, but some of the figures are merely our first best guesses. Furthermore, because many of the boundaries are linked, exceeding one will have implications for others in ways that we do not as yet completely understand. There is also significant uncertainty over how long it takes to cause dangerous environmental change or to trigger other feedbacks that drastically reduce the ability of the Earth system, or important subsystems, to return to safe levels.
The evidence so far suggests that, as long as the thresholds are not crossed, humanity has the freedom to pursue long-term social and economic development.
Editor's note This Feature is an edited summary of a longer paper available at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (http://www.stockholmresilience.org/planetary-boundaries). To facilitate debate and discussion, we are simultaneously publishing a number of linked Commentaries from independent experts in some of the disciplines covered by the planetary boundaries concept. Please note that this Feature and the Commentaries are not peer-reviewed research. This Feature, the full paper and the expert Commentaries can all be accessed from http://tinyurl.com/planetboundaries.
Canada and climate change: Nothing gets done, fingers get pointed, Jeffrey Simpson, September 25 2009.
The Liberals' lame record doesn't excuse the Conservatives' part in our national shame
Global warming simply is not an issue on which Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to expend one ounce of political capital.
The “tragedy of the commons” occurs when something – a pasture, a lake, a fish stock, the atmosphere – becomes degraded by the actions of all.
No single action by a person, property owner or government causes the degradation, and no single action will materially reverse the negative trend. So nothing gets done, fingers get pointed and the “commons” degradation continues.
The world faces its greatest tragedy of the commons with the warming of the planet's atmosphere that is overwhelmingly caused by human activities, especially emissions of carbon dioxide and methane. Crank scientists and their dwindling band of supporters contest this warming, but the overwhelming majority of scientists have declared it to be a fact. Indeed, the latest scientific evidence suggests an acceleration of warming trends.
Although some are far more than others, no one industry or country is responsible. So, for example, in Canada, which produces roughly 2 per cent of the world's emissions, it is easy for those who want little or nothing done at home to point fingers at others.
Creating 2 per cent of the world's emissions is actually a terrible record for a country with a population of just 33 million. On a per capita basis, Canada is one of the worst emitters on the planet.
Canada's emissions record is the worst in the industrialized world, because since a previous government signed the Kyoto accord, the country's emissions have grown by 27 per cent, instead of declining the promised 6 per cent. The latest government report has shown Canada's emissions rising again after a slight decline in the previous two years.
You might think that for a country bathing in its own moral superiority, believing “the world needs more Canada,” this record would be a source of national shame, such that citizens would demand the government take a leading role in reversing the domestic record while urging the world to do much more to reverse the ominous trends.
If so, you would be wrong.
The Liberals' record on this file while in office was appalling. Never forget this. But the Liberals' dreadful record of empty rhetoric, failed plans and false targets does not excuse the Conservatives' lame efforts since arriving in office.
Global warming simply is not an issue on which Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to expend one ounce of political capital. Earlier this week, while other world leaders took the podium for a special United Nations session on climate change, he preferred a meeting and photo opportunity with the mayor of New York. He did attend a private leaders' dinner, but then rushed back to Canada for another of his patented economic “announcements” at a Tim Hortons facility.
Mr. Harper sent Environment Minister Jim Prentice to the UN, where he criticized the Chinese and Americans for not presenting carbon reduction targets, despite the fact that every expert in Canada (and many overseas) knows that Mr. Harper's own government's target – a 20-per-cent reduction by 2020 – cannot possibly be met under current policies.
Not for Mr. Harper the kind of carbon tax being imposed in France by President Nicolas Sarkozy. Not for him the urgency with which Britain's Gordon Brown, Germany's Angela Merkel and Australia's Kevin Rudd approach climate change. Not for him the moral imperative that infuses President Barack Obama's speeches on the subject, although congressional politics will ultimately dilute his actions.
No, climate change is something Mr. Harper has been forced to tackle with the greatest reluctance. He was long a skeptic about the science, and he has always feared the economic fallout of serious action.
Politically, he has calculated that action on climate change doesn't have any upside for his party, since few voters associate the Conservatives with environmentalism. He certainly does not want to upset anyone in the fossil-fuel-producing provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, which are the core of his party's political base. He wants his own reputation to be associated with economic management and lower taxes, not climate change.
After all, those Tim Hortons voters are quite literally the bull's eye of Conservative political ambitions, and they don't seem terribly worried about climate change. So Mr. Harper isn't going to spend an ounce of political capital being associated with the issue, or providing serious leadership at home and abroad.
Cassandras of Climate, Paul Krugman, September 27 2009.
Every once in a while I feel despair over the fate of the planet. If you’ve been following climate science, you know what I mean: the sense that we’re hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it.
And here’s the thing: I’m not engaging in hyperbole. These days, dire warnings aren’t the delusional raving of cranks. They’re what come out of the most widely respected climate models, devised by the leading researchers. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.
What’s driving this new pessimism? Partly it’s the fact that some predicted changes, like a decline in Arctic Sea ice, are happening much faster than expected. Partly it’s growing evidence that feedback loops amplifying the effects of man-made greenhouse gas emissions are stronger than previously realized. For example, it has long been understood that global warming will cause the tundra to thaw, releasing carbon dioxide, which will cause even more warming, but new research shows far more carbon dioxide locked in the permafrost than previously thought, which means a much bigger feedback effect.
The result of all this is that climate scientists have, en masse, become Cassandras — gifted with the ability to prophesy future disasters, but cursed with the inability to get anyone to believe them.
And we’re not just talking about disasters in the distant future, either. The really big rise in global temperature probably won’t take place until the second half of this century, but there will be plenty of damage long before then.
For example, one 2007 paper in the journal Science is titled “Model Projections of an Imminent Transition to a More Arid Climate in Southwestern North America” — yes, “imminent” — and reports “a broad consensus among climate models” that a permanent drought, bringing Dust Bowl-type conditions, “will become the new climatology of the American Southwest within a time frame of years to decades.”
So if you live in, say, Los Angeles, and liked those pictures of red skies and choking dust in Sydney, Australia, last week, no need to travel. They’ll be coming your way in the not-too-distant future.
Now, at this point I have to make the obligatory disclaimer that no individual weather event can be attributed to global warming. The point, however, is that climate change will make events like that Australian dust storm much more common.
In a rational world, then, the looming climate disaster would be our dominant political and policy concern. But it manifestly isn’t. Why not?
Part of the answer is that it’s hard to keep peoples’ attention focused. Weather fluctuates — New Yorkers may recall the heat wave that pushed the thermometer above 90 in April — and even at a global level, this is enough to cause substantial year-to-year wobbles in average temperature. As a result, any year with record heat is normally followed by a number of cooler years: According to Britain’s Met Office, 1998 was the hottest year so far, although NASA — which arguably has better data — says it was 2005. And it’s all too easy to reach the false conclusion that the danger is past.
But the larger reason we’re ignoring climate change is that Al Gore was right: This truth is just too inconvenient. Responding to climate change with the vigor that the threat deserves would not, contrary to legend, be devastating for the economy as a whole. But it would shuffle the economic deck, hurting some powerful vested interests even as it created new economic opportunities. And the industries of the past have armies of lobbyists in place right now; the industries of the future don’t.
Nor is it just a matter of vested interests. It’s also a matter of vested ideas. For three decades the dominant political ideology in America has extolled private enterprise and denigrated government, but climate change is a problem that can only be addressed through government action. And rather than concede the limits of their philosophy, many on the right have chosen to deny that the problem exists.
So here we are, with the greatest challenge facing mankind on the back burner, at best, as a policy issue. I’m not, by the way, saying that the Obama administration was wrong to push health care first. It was necessary to show voters a tangible achievement before next November. But climate change legislation had better be next.
And as I pointed out in my last column, we can afford to do this. Even as climate modelers have been reaching consensus on the view that the threat is worse than we realized, economic modelers have been reaching consensus on the view that the costs of emission control are lower than many feared.
So the time for action is now. O.K., strictly speaking it’s long past. But better late than never.
The resilience of species, Globe Editorial, Sept 28 2009.
In the latest edition of the journal Nature, 28 environmental scientists issued a provocative report on what they call nine biophysical boundaries that humans cannot cross without risking global collapse.
The boundaries are meant to be guideposts for sound environmental policy. "The idea is to say, 'Let's put up some guardrails,' notes one of the participating scholars, the ecological economist Robert Costanza of the University of Vermont. "Maybe the guardrails are for a slope we could have taken and survived, but maybe not. We owe it to human civilization to be more careful."
Fair enough. But human civilization will tend not to be more careful if it is scared out of its wits. Establishing guardrails and then claiming, as the Nature article does, that we have already crossed three of them sends people scurrying to escapist TV shows.
We need to be able to engage in environmental stewardship hopefully, with ingenuity and resourcefulness, mindful that we have survived brushes with catastrophe before.
As the scientists themselves point out in Nature, the world came smartly together to avert the disaster of ozone depletion by banning fluorocarbons in time.
Likewise, the primate expert Jane Goodall is in Canada this weekend launching an inspiringly titled book, Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species are Being Rescued from the Brink.
Human beings once reached the edge of extinction before, dwindling to an estimated 2,000 individuals about 70,000 years ago during a period of extreme climate change, according to the Washington-based Genographic Project, whose geneticists have been tracking mitochondrial DNA. Most recently they have studied genetic markers in the Khoi and San people of South Africa, trying to fill in the gaps between our first female DNA contributor, or "Eve," about 200,000 years ago, and the global spread of humans out of Africa at the dawn of the Stone Age.
The research into this gap of 100,000 years shows that humans struggled mightily to survive harsh environmental challenges before reuniting and prevailing as a species.
Such resiliency is worth recalling. A belief that we can protect biodiversity will be essential to our ability to do so.