Tag: Robert Watson

It’s time to change our habits.

Funny how things evolve!

A week ago I was casually reading a copy of our local newspaper, the Grants Pass Daily Courier, and inside was a piece by Kathleen Parker, a syndicated columnist, entitled It’s the end of everything – or not.

I found it particularly interesting especially a quotation in her piece by Robert Watson, a British chemist who served as the chair of the panel of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The IPBES had recently published the results of the three-year study by 145 authors from 50 countries.

So I wrote to Kathleen Parker asking if I might have permission to quote that excerpt and, in turn, received her permission to so do.

Here it is:

Robert Watson wrote in a statement that:

“the health of ecosystems on which we and all species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundation of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

But, Watson also said, it’s not too late to repair and sustain nature – if we act now in transformative ways.

It is time to change our habits both at an individual level and the level of countries working together.

Moreover we haven’t got decades. We have got to do it now!

A new NEON light beckons.

A wonderful investment in studying America’s ecology is just starting.

I am indebted to The Economist for including in their issue of the 25th August a story about NEON, something I had previously not heard about.

It was then an easy step to locate the main website for the National Ecological Observatory Network, or NEON.  (Just an aside that I can’t resist – NEON is such a fabulous acronym that one wonders how much push and shove there was to come up with the full name that also fitted the word ‘NEON’!  Sorry, it’s just me!)

Anyway, back to the plot.  The following video gives a very good idea of the projects aims.  When I watched it, I found it inspiring because it seemed a solid example of how the nation, that is the USA, is starting to recognise that evolving to a new, sustainable way of life has to be  built on good science.  NEON strikes me as excellent science.  You watch the video and see if you come to the same conclusion.

There’s also a comprehensive introduction to the project from which I will republish this,

In an era of dramatic changes in land use and other human activities, we must understand how the biosphere – the living part of earth – is changing in response to human activities. Humans depend on a diverse set of biosphere services and products, including air, water, food, fiber, and fuel. Enhancements or disruptions of these services could alter the quality of human life in many parts of the world.

To help us understand how we can maintain our quality of life on this planet, we must develop a more holistic understanding of how biosphere services and products are interlinked with human impacts. This cannot be investigated using disconnected studies on individual sites or over short periods of observation. Further, existing monitoring programs that collect data to meet natural resource management objectives are not designed to address climate change and other new, complex environmental challenges.

NEON, the first continental-scale ecological observatory, will provide comprehensive data that will allow scientists to address these issues.

Later on there’s more detail, as follows,

NEON has partitioned the U. S. into 20 eco-climatic domains, each of which represents different regions of vegetation, landforms, climate, and ecosystem performance. In those domains, NEON will collect site-based data about climate and atmospheresoils and streams and ponds, and a variety of organisms. Additionally, NEON will provide a wealth of regional and national-scale data from airborne observationsand geographical data collected by Federal agencies and processed by NEON to be accessible and useful to the ecological research community. NEON will also manage a long-term multi-site stream experiment and provide a platform for future observations and experiments proposed by the scientific community.

The data collected and generated across NEON’s network – all day, every day, over a period of 30 years — will be synthesized into information products that can be used to describe changes in the nation’s ecosystem through space and time. It will be readily available in many formats to scientists, educators, students, decision makers and the general public.

For some reason I couldn’t find on the NEON website the informative map that was included in The Economist so I grabbed that one, and offer it below:

These eco-climatic domains are fully described here on the NEON website.

The benefits of this fabulous project are described thus, “The data NEON collects and provides will focus on how land use change, climate change and invasive species affect the structure and function of our ecosystems. Obtaining this kind of data over a long-term period is crucial to improving ecological forecast models. The Observatory will enable a virtual network of researchers and environmental managers to collaborate, coordinate research, and address ecological challenges at regional, national and continental scales by providing comparable information across sites and regions.

As they say in business, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it!  So reading in the above the sentence, ‘Obtaining this kind of data over a long-term period is crucial to improving ecological forecast models.‘ is cheering to the soul.

The United States quite rightly gets a huge bashing over it CO2 emissions but to condemn the USA for that and not to applaud this sort of wonderful research is utterly unjustified.  As I have hinted before, America has, more than any other country in the world, the energy to make things better over the coming years.

As Professor Sir Robert Watson highlighted here recently said, ‘… deep cuts in CO2 emissions are possible using innovative technologies without harming economic recovery.’

Amen to that!

Too hot to handle!

A stark reminder that more of the same will hurt us.

On the 14th August I published a post with the title of From feeling to doing.  The post was a 15-minute video presented by David Roberts of Grist showing, in essence, how fundamentally simple was the issue of climate change and how profound the implications if we didn’t halt the rise in the temperature of Planet Earth.

I’m not going to insert that video in this post because you can click on the link above and do that yourself.  What I will do is to draw your attention to the accompanying article on Grist under the title of Climate change is simple: We do something or we’re screwed. That article includes the slides that were in the video, such as this one:

So with that in mind, here’s what the BBC published on their news website yesterday morning,

Science advisor warns climate target ‘out the window’

Pallab GhoshBy Pallab Ghosh, Science correspondent, BBC News

One of the Government’s most senior scientific advisors has said that efforts to stop a sharp rise in global temperatures were now unrealistic.

Professor Sir Robert Watson said that the hope of restricting the average temperature rise to 2C was “out the window”.

He said that the rise could be as high as 5C – with dire conseqences.

Professor Watson added the Chancellor, George Osborne, should back efforts to cut the UK’s CO2 emissions.

He said: “I have to look back (on the outcome of sucessive climate change summits) Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban and say that I can’t be overly optimistic.

“To be quite candid the idea of a 2C target is largely out of the window.”

As the BBC points out Professor Watson is a highly respected and world renown scientist on climate change policy and is currently Chief Scientist at the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and a former Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  Professor Watson was also with the World Bank and an advisor to former Vice President Al Gore.  The BBC item goes on,

Professor Watson, who is due to step down from his role at Defra next month, suggested that the Chancellor, George Osborne, reconsider his opposition to tough measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Mr Osborne has said that the UK’s ambitious targets for CO2 should be relaxed so as not to drive businesses to countries which have set themselves much lower targets.

“I would say to George Osborne, ‘work with the public sector. Work with the public on behavior change. Let’s demonstrate to the rest of the world that we can make significant progress here” Professor Watson argues that the UK and Germany should continue to take the lead in driving efforts to reach an effective international treaty.

Hurt Poorest

“If we carry on the way we are there is a 50-50 chance that we will get to a 3 degree rise,” he said.

“I wouldn’t rule out a 5 degree world and that would be quite serious for the people of the world especially the poorest. We need more political will than we currently have”.

The IPCC 2007 assessment summarised the probable impact of various temperature rise sceanrios.

It shows that the impact on human health, the availability of food and water, the loss of coastlines becomes progressively worse as the average temperature of the planet rises.

The 2C target was agreed at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in 2010.

The majority of countries though prefer a lower target of 1.5C.

A number of analyses have also concluded that the 2C would be missed. The most recent was by the International Energy Agency earlier this year.

Professor Watson added that deep cuts in CO2 emissions are possible using innovative technologies without harming economic recovery.

“This doesn’t take a revolution in energy technology, an evolution would get us there.”

What I would add to this report that has been widely circulated is that while it’s natural to assume, ‘We need more political will than we currently have‘, that political will flows from the will of the people.

Take the effect of a 4C rise, as David Roberts explains,

Which is described in the Grist article as,

Here’s the edition of the Royal Society journal that came out of the conference on 4 degrees C of warming. Read through it and see if you think “hell on earth” is an exaggeration. Desertification, water shortages, agricultural disruptions, rising sea levels, vanishing coral, tropical forest die-offs, mass species extinctions, oh my. Kevin Anderson, one of the lead scientists involved, was moved to say that “a 4 degrees C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable.”

So come on people, get real!  Make sure that the democratic systems work and that our leaders know the sort of change that has to take place.  As the wise Professor highlighted, ‘… deep cuts in CO2 emissions are possible using innovative technologies without harming economic recovery.’  Sort of makes sense to me.  How about you?