Tuesday, October 08, 2019

The Amazon rain forest has existed for 10 million years. It might not survive the next 100

This article starts out with a lie.  Amazonia was extensively inhabited by native people within historical memory.  Does any reasonable person believe that the natives would have built great civilizations in Mexico and Peru (Aztecs and Incas) and at the same time ignored the vast expanse of the Amazonian lands?

The Spanish conquistadores and the  priests who followed them reported great cities in the Amazon basin when they arrived and they called the area Amazonia.  In the warm tropics of Amazonia however the diseases that the Spaniards brought with them spread like wildfire, wiping out whole cities at a time.  And with their civilization destroyed, the few natives who survived reverted to primitive ways.

And there is one legacy of that past big settlement that you can see today: black soil.  The natural Amazonian soils are thin and poor so the natives had to fertilize them to get the most out of them.  And a principal way of doing that was by fire.  Any vegetation that came to hand was burnt to enrich the soil.  And that produced the black soil we see today.  And "black" soils are found throughout Amazonia today.

So most of the forest in Amazonia is actually a recent growth, not much more than 400 years old. And what can grow once can grow again. There is no tragedy in turning forest into farms. And once the loggers have departed, the land does often become farms -- thus bringing Amazonia back to what it once was. And it was burning that made Amazonia as fertile as it is today.

Fuller details of all that here .  I reproduce below  just the opening blast from a very long-winded article in "Time" magazine

Five decades ago Brazil incentivized millions of its people to colonize the Amazon. Today their logging yards, cattle enclosures and soy farms sit on the fringes of a vanishing forest. Powered by murky sources of capital and rising demand for beef, a violent and corrupt frontier is now pushing into indigenous land, national parks and one of the most preserved parts of the jungle.

Brazil’s new President, Jair Bolsonaro, an unapologetic cheerleader for the exploitation of the Amazon, has the colonists’ backs; he’s sacked key environmental officials and slashed enforcement. His message: the Amazon is open for business. Since his inauguration in January, the rate of deforestation has soared by as much as 92%, according to satellite imaging.

As human activity in the Amazon ramps up, its future has never been less clear. Scientists warn that decades of human activity and a changing climate has brought the jungle near a “tipping point.” The rain forest is so-called because it’s such a wet place, where the trees pull up water from the earth that then gathers in the atmosphere to become rain. That balance is upended by deforestation, forest fires and global temperature rises. Experts warn that soon the water cycle will become irreversibly broken, locking in a trend of declining rainfall and longer dry seasons that began decades ago. At least half of the shrinking forest will give way to savanna. With as much as 17% of the forest lost already, scientists believe that the tipping point will be reached at 20% to 25% of deforestation even if climate change is tamed. If, as predicted, global temperatures rise by 4°C, much of the central, eastern and southern Amazon will certainly become barren scrubland.

The fires that raged across the Amazon in August helped illuminate something the world can no longer ignore. Inside the crucible of this ancient forest, relentless colonization is combining with environmental vandalism and a warming climate to create a crisis. If things continue as they are now, the Amazon might not exist at all within a few generations, with dire consequences for all life on earth.

To understand what is truly happening to the world’s largest rain forest, TIME journeyed thousands of miles by road, boat and small plane this year to the front lines of deforestation. We spoke to loggers, tribespeople, environmentalists, ranchers and scientists. Despite growing outrage and threats by Western leaders to withhold trade with Brazil until Bolsonaro reverses course, on the ground we discovered the battle for the Amazon is close to being lost. The emboldened forces of development are running without restraint, and the stakes for the planet couldn’t be higher. As the official formerly responsible for Brazil’s deforestation monitoring, Ricardo Galvão, who was fired in August for defending his data on tree loss, told us, “If the Amazon is destroyed, it will be impossible to control global warming.”

The Amazon is 10 million years old. Home to 390 billion trees, the vast river basin reigns over South America and is an unrivaled nest of biodiversity. From blue morpho butterflies to emperor tamarins to pink river dolphins, biologists find a new species every other day.

The first humans migrated to the Amazon from Central America about 13,000 years ago. Up to 10 million tribespeople lived in fortified settlements, creating ceremonial earthworks, and cultivating fields and orchards. The Karipuna tribe roamed one enclave just south of where the Madeira River splinters into its tributaries amid rapids and waterfalls, in what today is the Brazilian state of Rondônia. The mouth of the Amazon sits 1,000 miles to the northeast. To the west and north the forest stretches into Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela.

The European colonization of the Americas from 1492 saw settler plantations advance across the New World, bringing deforestation on a vast scale for farmland, firewood and houses. By the early 20th century, the world had lost trees that would have covered the Amazon rain forest at least once over, but its rain forest remained largely intact. Not so its inhabitants. As with many of the more than 300 tribes that survive in Brazil, contact with outsiders decimated the Karipuna’s numbers through illnesses such as measles and flu.

The 20th century saw more global tree loss than the rest of history. The Amazon, with vast mineral riches under its soil, finally came under threat. In 1964, Brazil’s military dictatorship took power and decreed the “empty” jungle was a security risk. It went on to create the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) to conquer the forest and make it an agricultural stronghold.

In the early 1970s, the government ran television ads for a new mecca of cheap land—and freedom. Bertola and his family, farm laborers descended from Italian immigrants to the south of Brazil, joined millions flooding northward on newly built highways. “Everyone had the same dream,” says Bertola, now 52. “It just meant deforesting it all.” Men like Bertola are the forward cavalry of deforestation. Where main roads are built, hundreds of makeshift logging tracks splinter offin a fish-bone pattern. The land is demarcated, often illegally, and lots are typically sold for a few hundred dollars by grileiros, or “land grabbers,” to poor farmers, who raze the forest and build communities.

Over time, electricity and phone lines arrive, and the jaguars that threaten the cattle disappear from the landscape. Once infrastructure is in place, wealthy tycoons buy up the land to build cattle ranches or vast fields of soy. Bertola and those like him track the frontier northward into the virgin forest.

Once in motion, expansion is relentless. In Brazil— one of nine countries in the Amazon basin—an area larger than Texas has been cut. Here in the frontier state of Rondônia, ranching is king, much economic activity is illegal, and state agents are bought offor outmuscled. Agri business in Brazil generates nearly a quarter of the country’s GDP, and the Amazon alone has over 50 million cattle.


Nature is not just for environmentalists

You don't have to be a green zealot to care about the environment

As the atmosphere surrounding environmental issues and climate change becomes more politically and emotionally charged, the criteria of what constitutes a good environmental citizen continues to narrow.

In days gone by, if you recycled, made a deliberate choice about driving an environmentally friendly vehicle, and composted your green waste, you were generally considered an upstanding and responsible, environmentally aware citizen. But in recent years, prominent environmental groups have narrowed that criteria considerably, to the point where anyone who flies to their annual holiday on the sunny beaches of the Mediterranean may no longer make the grade.

Unsurprisingly, this has led to the impression that the likes of eco-activist Greta Thurnberg and members of climate-change advocacy groups, such as Extinction Rebellion are alone against the world in the fight to save the environment.

But nothing could be further from the truth. Many people in nations across the globe care deeply about the natural world and their environment. While some may be sceptical about the extent of mankind’s contribution to climate change, or believe reducing carbon emissions to zero is unnecessary, many of the same people who hold these now scorned viewpoints also believe strongly in protecting the environment.

If you were to ask 100 random members of the public on any high street in Britain if they thought that policies should be enacted to protect fish stocks, encourage reforestation and ensure biodiversity, I would imagine a large majority would agree that they should.

After all, there aren’t many people in this world who purposefully want to cut down the rainforests and consign endangered species to extinction.

While the public is generally reticent to commit to supporting environmental groups as a whole, on an issue-by-issue basis there is often broad public support for protecting the environment. But instead of environmentally focused political parties and advocacy groups pressing hard for policies such as saving the rainforest or protecting fishing stocks, with the overwhelming support of the general public, the focus generally remains on an ‘everything or nothing’ approach.

Policies such as protecting fish stocks could be passed through parliament and start having a positive effect on the environment in the here and now. While their contribution to combating climate change would surely be relatively minor compared with the more comprehensive proposals environmental groups advocate, small-scale achievable projects would still be a step forward.

It is not hard to understand why so many people feel it is necessary to pursue the goal, say, of zero carbon emissions globally, given the potential consequences of inaction laid out by scientists. But environmentalists also need to learn how to take a win, even if protecting fish stocks or a policy ensuring biodiversity in an area of the countryside are relatively minor aims compared to the overall goals of environmentalism.

Despite the mistaken impression that hardcore eco-warriors are alone in the battle to save the planet, there are members of the public who are ready and willing to back the policies and changes necessary to make a difference right now.

Rather than greens solely focusing on a great environmentalist crusade, perhaps a portion of their energy would be better spent pursuing those smaller-scale proposals the public tends to support. If environmentalists could only adjust their sights, and seek to win public consent for achievable proposals, they might be able to start saving the environment today.


The Real Problem with Greta Thunberg is Not Her Age

March 15 saw enthusiastic worldwide school student protests inspired by the passionate appeals by 16-year-old Swedish school-girl-turned-global-leader Greta Thunberg. Thunberg first came into the public light last year when she started a school strike on climate in front of the Swedish parliament. She rose to worldwide fame in January when she addressed the audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Predictably, a lot of the reactions from those who are sceptical of climate change alarmism seem to focus on Thunberg’s age. Even Bjorn Lomborg seems to have alluded to her in his remark about how the predominant narrative about climate change makes children scared.

I disagree with this perspective. I believe that people in the age of 16 have as much intellectual capacity as those who are legally adults to understand the issues related to climate change and potential measures that could be taken to mitigate it.

However, if 16-year-olds desire to seriously contribute to important political debates, they should, as anyone else, do it without engaging in demagoguery and scaremongering. It is here that Greta Thunberg — in spite of all her genuine sincerity and passion — has failed spectacularly and made the legions of her fans, as well as people who may face the consequences of the panicky measures she advocates, a great disservice.

To get a taste of the content of Thunberg’s preachings, let us consider her recent remarks to the European Union President Jean-Claude Juncker:

We have to focus every inch of our being on climate change. Because if we fail to do so then all our achievements and progress have been for nothing. […] According to the IPCC report, we are about 11 years away from being in the position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control. To avoid that, unprecedented changes in all aspects of society need to have taken place within this coming decade.

There is no place for nuance here, no trace of uncertainty, no appeal to actual facts or pragmatics of politics, only the demand for total commitment and sacrifice because the absolute urgency of the our predicament is supposed to be self-evident, since none other than IPCC purportedly said so.

I would wager that it would be pointless to ask Thunberg any serious questions about the actual science underlying the climate change issue.

* To ask her how much the Earth has warmed so far since 1979 compared to computer model predictions.

* That the bulk of the recent warming occurred during the El Ninho stages of the ENSO climate oscillation.

* Or whether she is aware that the doubling of CO2 can only in itself cause only about 1°C of warming and that to postulate alarmist scenarios one needs to postulate uncertain positive feedbacks, whereas, in reality the net feedback may be zero or negative.

*That a lot more people die from cold temperatures than from hot ones, and that it is not the extreme cold temperatures that are the most deadly.

*That increased CO2 concentrations are good for plant life, and so on.

Let us focus on an easier issue and ask whether the latest IPCC report even in the (as usual) distorted summary for policymakers says anything remotely similar to Thunberg’s 11-years-left-till-Apocalypse-unless-we-act claim. Unsurprisingly, the summary — biased as it is in favor of alarm — says no such thing.

Thunberg seems to be wildly misinterpreting the statement on page 6 of the summary that “global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 (till which date 11 years remain) and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.” There is no implication in the summary that this extent of warming may cause catastrophic planetary consequences.

Even if we take what Thunberg claims about the inevitable impacts of an unaddressed climate change at face value, she does not appear to be congnizant that the only viable way of reducing CO2 emissions is switching to nuclear power.

Writing for that famous den of climate change deniers MIT Technology Review last July, James Temple cited an estimate that if even California, with its abundant sunshine, were to switch to 100% to renewables, that would make the price per megawatt-hour skyrocket to $1612.

Instead, we hear from her the usual platitudes that massive emission reduction should be made immediately using renewable energy sources. Added to this are calls to abandon the focus on competition and focus on equity, as if that clearly had anything to do with climate change or handling it.

We must also reflect on the fact that Thunberg is considered by lots of people to be a global hero. She has even been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. But is it really brave or enlightened to advocate a cause that has long enjoyed the status of a conventional wisdom? To which one can only sadly hear widely disseminated public objections from the likes of President Trump, who is, admittedly, as clueless on the issue as the most religious alarmists are, and who does not care about the outrage his remarks can cause.

It is sad if this is what is taken for Nobel-worthy heroism these days. Countless Venezuelans, for instance, risk their freedom, health and lives every day, protesting against the Maduro regime that has lost any semblance of connection to reality and plunged the formerly richest country in Latin America into the literal darkness of the pre-industrial age.

It is people like them who should be invited to global fora to tell their tale. Them, not a girl from one of the richest and most comfortable countries on Earth who is in too much panic because she cannot make herself actually read up on the actual science about climate change and the real state of the potential solutions.

To wrap up, the real problem with the climate change activist sensation Greta Thunberg is not that she is 16 years old. Rather, it is that she is a clueless fanatic who is considered brave and enlightened for promoting a cause that almost everyone agrees with without any study or reflection. And it is the duty of anyone who does not want clueless fanaticism to determine policies affecting billions to call it out as such.


Environmentalists need to check their privilege

Wealthy middle-class Westerners think nothing of telling the world's poorest how they should live.

‘You don’t have to be posh to be privileged’, said Joanna Lumley in insurance ads of the noughties. This could be a mantra for our age, an age in which the homeless white man can apparently be a beneficiary of ‘white privilege’.

While parts of the left have taken the idea of privilege to such bizarre conclusions as these, there’s one area where they don’t seem to apply the same analysis. One area, that is, where it is socially acceptable to exercise one’s privilege and tell poor people, many of them non-white, that they aren’t living their lives in the correct way. One area where the moral imperialism of the privileged is still fashionable.

That one area is climate change. Here, some environmentalists really show how much their own privilege has clouded their judgment. This is the case both domestically and internationally. In the UK, middle-class campaigners are happy to tell us all that we must use electric cars and avoid mass-produced food, while signally failing to acknowledge that such sacrifices might not be possible for many of the worst off in our society. They don’t tend to ponder whether a single mum in a low-wage job can really afford a Toyota Prius, or an organic farmhouse joint of Aberdeen Angus. They don’t really consider whether it’s reasonable to insist upon regressive taxes like the green levy or the ‘clean air’ tax, when these will inevitably hit the poorest the hardest.

The campaigners don’t think about these things, because most of them have not had to face real financial hardship in their lives. And so, to them, the idea of paying extra for green energy or cutting foreign meat out of their diet is a no-brainer: they can afford it. And they are so convinced by their own understanding of climate change that even if they did think about these things, they’d deem them irrelevant. They deem climate change to be an issue of such overwhelming importance – an emergency, no less – that everything else must be sacrificed if it conflicts in any way with addressing it.

The eco-privilege problem really reaches its greatest level on the international stage. It is here that comparatively wealthy white people are prepared to inform poor non-white folk in other countries that they need to stop burning fossil fuels, and in so doing kiss goodbye to a big chunk of their prospects of material advancement. It is particularly odd that activists are prepared to make such demands when many of them spend the rest of their time talking about racial inequality in our society. They don’t seem to see the irony of condemning Western imperialism with one hand, and re-enacting it with the other.

It is even more confusing when we recall the basic fact that Western economies were built on fossil fuels. So when we go and tell Nigeria that it needs to cut out coal, oil and gas, we’re basically saying that they don’t have the same right as we had to extract as much out of the world’s natural resources as possible. They missed the boat: we had our Industrial Revolution yonks ago, and they’ve come to it too late.

It’s a case of Western countries being able to do what they want, and non-Western ones being told what to do. Westerners who have grown fat off the profits of an economy driven by fossil fuels are telling those at the bottom they’re not allowed to do the same. Because Western environmentalists are so much better-off, they don’t see the sacrifices they are demanding from the rest of the world as a big deal. They are genuinely oblivious to how absurd their orders sound to struggling farmers in India or factory workers in Nigeria.

Surely this is the essence of ultimate privilege — that one not only benefits from one’s country of birth or one’s parents’ wealth, but is also completely unaware of doing so, and is utterly unable to fathom how anyone could have lived any differently. Too many environmentalists are blissfully ignorant of how hard life is for much of the world’s population, who haven’t had the good grace to be born into the middle class of one of its richest countries.

Such views as I’m expressing will no doubt be branded by many as right-wing. But there’s nothing more right-wing than a rich person telling a poor person that they’re being irresponsible with their resources. Which is precisely what the environmentalist movement is doing. This betrays a total failure to understand that not everyone has it as good as environmentalists. It constitutes the imposition of middle-class morality on to the lives of those who simply can’t relate to it.

So if we’re going to talk about privilege, let’s at least be consistent. It’s true that not everyone in the environmentalist movement is middle class or white. But activists in this country have the benefit of living in a society wealthier than most. Let’s be conscious of the vast number of people in the world who don’t live amid the same abundance that most Brits do. Let’s beware telling them how to live their lives. Let’s remember who we are, and where we come from.


Crippling drought ravaging Australia HAS been caused by climate change according to minister - after he stumbled when asked if he thought global warming was man-made

He's out of his depth.  There is no way that global warming could generate drought.  Global warming would cause the seas to evaporate off more which would come down as rain. Warming would cause MORE rain, not less

Drought Minister David Littleproud insists the federal government is acting on a major report into the prolonged dry spell in Australia which he accepts has been partly caused by man-made climate change.

The government has resisted calls to make Drought Coordinator Stephen Day's report public because it's headed to cabinet for consideration.

Senior ministers are yet to see it, with Mr Littleproud agreeing to wait until the National Farmers' Federation finalises its drought strategy before sending it to cabinet.

Mr Littleproud stumbled in September when asked if he thought climate change was man-made. 'I don't know if climate change is man-made,' he told the Guardian.

On Sunday, Mr Littleproud told the ABC's Insiders that 'there was nothing in Major-General Day's report that we are not already acting on'.

But Labor's agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said that claim should be tested by making the document public. 'He should let farmers be the judge of that by releasing the taxpayer-funded drought coordinator's report,' he said.

Mr Littleproud said he '100 per cent' believed the science around human contribution to climate change, which is playing a role in the drought.

'I live it. This drought in my electorate alone has been going for eight years,' he said. 'We can't run away from that. We simply have to get on with it and equip our farmers and communities with the tools to be able to adapt as best they can.'

He said Australia had a responsibility to reduce emissions and would do so through meeting international commitments.

Additional support for farmers appears to be edging closer after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg spent three days with Mr Littleproud in some of the worst-affected areas of NSW and Queensland last week.

'We understand this is going to cost more and the treasurer has been quite clear he accepts that,' the drought minister said.

NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall launched an extraordinary attack on Mr Littleproud after he toured through drought-ravaged Inverell last week.

The federal government has been calling on the states to look at payroll tax and council rates in drought-hit communities, but praised NSW for planning to fund dam-building.

The savage criticism left Mr Littleproud miffed. 'I was surprised by that. In fact, most of my comments have been that New South Wales has done the heavy lifting,' he said.

'It's sadly been Victoria and Queensland that haven't lifted a finger.'

Mr Littleproud also rebuffed suggestions the government lacked a long-term drought strategy, pointing to a future fund which will dole out $100 million a year for resilience and other projects from 2020.



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1 comment:

Climate Fraud Inc. said...

Amazon Jungle Once Home to Millions More Than Previously Thought
Forget small nomadic tribes and pristine jungle: the southern Amazon was likely covered in a network of large villages and ceremonial centers before Columbus.