A Rough Ride to the Future

In A Rough Ride to the Future, James Lovelock – the great scientific visionary of our age – presents a radical vision of humanity’s future as the thinking brain of our Earth-system

James Lovelock, who has been hailed as ‘the man who conceived the first wholly new way of looking at life on earth since Charles Darwin’ and ‘the most profound scientific thinker of our time’ continues, in his 95th year, to be the great scientific visionary of our age. This book introduces two new Lovelockian ideas. The first is that three hundred years ago, when Thomas Newcomen invented the steam engine, he was unknowingly beginning what Lovelock calls ‘accelerated evolution’, a process which is bringing about change on our planet roughly a million times faster than Darwinian evolution. The second is that as part of this process, humanity has the capacity to become the intelligent part of Gaia, the self-regulating Earth system whose discovery Lovelock first announced nearly 50 years ago. In addition, Lovelock gives his reflections on how scientific advances are made, and his own remarkable life as a lone scientist.

The contribution of human beings to our planet is, Lovelock contends, similar to that of the early photosynthesisers around 3.4 billion years ago, which made the Earth’s atmosphere what it was until very recently. By our domination and our invention, we are now changing the atmosphere again. There is little that can be done about this, but instead of feeling guilty about it we should recognise what is happening, prepare for change, and ensure that we survive as a species so we can contribute to – perhaps even guide – the next evolution of Gaia. The road will be rough, but if we are smart enough life will continue on Earth in some form far into the future.


Posted in Climate change, Evolution, Human agency, Sustainability | Tagged , , ,

Climate Change and the Course of Global History: A Rough Journey

Climate Change and the Course of Global History presents the first global study by a historian to fully integrate the earth-system approach of the new climate science with the material history of humanity. Part I argues that geological, environmental, and climatic history explain the pattern and pace of biological and human evolution. Part II explores the environmental circumstances of the rise of agriculture and the state in the Early and Mid-Holocene, and presents an analysis of human health from the Paleolithic through the rise of the state. Part III introduces the problem of economic growth and examines the human condition in the Late Holocene from the Bronze Age through the Black Death. Part IV explores the move to modernity, stressing the emerging role of human economic and energy systems as earth-system agents in the Anthropocene. Supported by climatic, demographic, and economic data, this provides a pathbreaking model for historians of the environment, the world, and science.


Read also: Coupling Earth History and the Human Past

Posted in Climate change, Earth system, Earth system science, Evolution, History, Humans | Tagged , , , , ,

Climate Change and Cultural Dynamics

The Middle Holocene epoch (8,000 to 3,000 years ago) was a time of dramatic changes in the physical world and in human cultures. Across this span, climatic conditions changed rapidly, with cooling in the high to mid-latitudes and drying in the tropics. In many parts of the world, human groups became more complex, with early horticultural systems replaced by intensive agriculture and small-scale societies being replaced by larger, more hierarchial organizations. Climate Change and Cultural Dynamics explores the cause and effect relationship between climatic change and cultural transformations across the mid-Holocene (c. 4000 B.C.).

* Explores the role of climatic change on the development of society around the world
* Chapters detail diverse geographical regions
* Co-written by noted archaeologists and paleoclimatologists for non-specialists


Posted in Climate change, Culture, Socio-ecological systems | Tagged , ,

The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society

Climate change presents perhaps the most profound challenge ever to have confronted human social, political, and economic systems. The stakes are massive, the risks and uncertainties severe, the economics controversial, the science besieged, the politics bitter and complicated, the psychology puzzling, the impacts devastating, the interactions with other environmental and non-environmental issues running in many directions. This book summarizes the entire work which brings together a representation of the best scholars on climate change and society. It introduces the key topics, themes, layers, and issues related to climate change. It begins with the science that first identified climate change as a problem, and how it is received by and in society and government.


Posted in Climate change, Society | Tagged ,

Resource Guide on Gender and Climate Change

Climate change is the defining human development issue of our generation. The 2007 Human Development report acknowledges that climate change threatens to erode human freedoms and limit choice and the report further underscores that gender inequality intersects with climate risks and vulnerabilities. Poor women’s limited access to resources, restricted rights, limited mobility and muted voice in shaping decisions make them highly vulnerable to climate change. The nature of that vulnerability varies widely, cautioning against generalization but climate change will magnify existing patterns of inequality, including gender inequality. In the agricultural sector, rural women in developing countries are the primary producers of staple food, a sector that is highly exposed to the risks that come with drought and uncertain rainfall. In many countries, climate change means that women and young girls have to walk further to collect water, especially in the dry season. Women in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, spend 40 billion hours per year collecting water – equivalent to a year’s worth of labor by the entire workforce in France; moreover, women can be expected to contribute much of the unpaid labor that will go into coping with climate risks through soil and water conservation, the building of anti-flood embankments, and increased off-farm employment.


Posted in Climate change, Gender | Tagged ,

The Inequalities of Climate Change

Climate change is inextricably linked to economic inequality: it is a crisis that is driven by the greenhouse gas emissions of the ‘haves’ that hits the ‘have-nots’ the hardest. In this briefing Oxfam demonstrates the extent of global carbon inequality by estimating and comparing the lifestyle consumption emissions of rich and poor citizens in different countries. Strikingly, our estimates of the scale of this inequality suggest that the poorest half of the global population – around 3.5 billion people – are responsible for only around 10% of total global emissions attributed to individual consumption, yet live overwhelmingly in the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Around 50% of these emissions meanwhile can be attributed to the richest 10% of people around the world, who have average carbon footprints 11 times as high as the poorest half of the population, and 60 times as high as the poorest 10%. The average footprint of the richest 1% of people globally could be 175 times that of the poorest 10%. While COP21 in Paris will see a deal negotiated between governments on the basis of the total emissions produced in their territories, the real winners and losers will be their citizens. The litmus test of the deal will be whether it delivers something for the poorest people who are both the least responsible for and the most vulnerable to climate change, wherever they live.


Posted in Climate change, Innequality, Poverty | Tagged , ,

Oslo Principles on Global Climate Change Obligations

Climate change threatens the well-being of the Earth. The threats are grave and imminent. Indeed, climate change has already begun to harm human communities and the environment. As a group of legal experts concerned about global climate change and its disastrous effects on the planet and on life, we have come together to identify and articulate a set of Principles that comprise the essential obligations States and enterprises have to avert the critical level of global warming.

On March 1, 2015, a group of experts in international law, human rights law, environmental law, and other law adopted the Oslo Principles on Global Obligations to Reduce Climate Change. The experts came from national and international courts, universities and organizations located in every region of the world. Based on extensive legal research and discussions over a period of several years, which culminated in a meeting in Oslo, Norway, in 2014, the undersigned experts adopted the principles contained in this Occasional Paper.


Posted in Climate change | Tagged

Biodiversity increases the Resistance of Ecosystem productivity to Climate extremes

It remains unclear whether biodiversity buffers ecosystems against climate extremes, which are becoming increasingly frequent worldwide. Early results suggested that the ecosystem productivity of diverse grassland plant communities was more resistant, changing less during drought, and more resilient, recovering more quickly after drought, than that of depauperate communities. However, subsequent experimental tests produced mixed results. Here we use data from 46 experiments that manipulated grassland plant diversity to test whether biodiversity provides resistance during and resilience after climate events. We show that biodiversity increased ecosystem resistance for a broad range of climate events, including wet or dry, moderate or extreme, and brief or prolonged events. Across all studies and climate events, the productivity of low-diversity communities with one or two species changed by approximately 50% during climate events, whereas that of high-diversity communities with 16–32 species was more resistant, changing by only approximately 25%. By a year after each climate event, ecosystem productivity had often fully recovered, or overshot, normal levels of productivity in both high- and low-diversity communities, leading to no detectable dependence of ecosystem resilience on biodiversity. Our results suggest that biodiversity mainly stabilizes ecosystem productivity, and productivity-dependent ecosystem services, by increasing resistance to climate events. Anthropogenic environmental changes that drive biodiversity loss thus seem likely to decrease ecosystem stability, and restoration of biodiversity to increase it, mainly by changing the resistance of ecosystem productivity to climate events.


Read also: Ecosystem Biodiversity a key Climate Change buffer

Posted in Biodiversity, Climate change, Ecosystem | Tagged , ,

Climate Change and Society: Sociological Perspectives

Climate change is one of the most critical issues of the twenty-first century, presenting a major intellectual challenge to both the natural and social sciences. While there has been significant progress in natural science understanding of climate change, social science analyses have not been as fully developed. Climate Change and Society breaks new theoretical and empirical ground by presenting climate change as a thoroughly social phenomenon, embedded in behaviors, institutions, and cultural practices. This collection of essays summarizes existing approaches to understanding the social, economic, political, and cultural dimensions of climate change. From the factors that drive carbon emissions to those which influence societal responses to climate change, the volume provides a comprehensive overview of the social dimensions of climate change. An improved understanding of the complex relationship between climate change and society is essential for modifying ecologically harmful human behaviors and institutional practices, creating just and effective environmental policies, and developing a more sustainable future. Climate Change and Society provides a useful tool in efforts to integrate social science research, natural science research, and policymaking regarding climate change and sustainability. Produced by the American Sociological Association’s Task Force on Sociology and Global Climate Change, this book presents a challenging shift from the standard climate change discourse, and offers a valuable resource for students, scholars, and professionals involved in climate change research and policy.


Posted in Climate change, Society, Socio-ecological resilience, Socio-ecological systems | Tagged , , ,

Global Assemblages, Resilience, and Earth Stewardship in the Anthropocene

In this paper, we argue that the Anthropocene is an epoch characterized not only by the anthropogenic dominance of the Earth’s ecosystems but also by new forms of environmental governance and institutions. Echoing the literature in political ecology, we call these new forms of environmental governance “global assemblages”. Socioecological changes associated with global assemblages disproportionately impact poorer nations and communities along the development continuum, or the “Global South”, and others who depend on natural resources for subsistence. Although global assemblages are powerful mechanisms of socioecological change, we show how transnational networks of grassroots organizations are able to resist their negative social and environmental impacts, and thus foster socioecological resilience.


Posted in Anthropocene, Resilience, Socio-ecological resilience, Stewarship | Tagged , , ,