From the Netherlands, green lawyer Roger Cox: “Is Revolution Justified?” From UK, Glacier specialist Thomas Bauska on the last big temperature jump in a warm world like ours. Plus, scientist Paul Beckwith warns we are in a climate emergency. Radio Ecoshock 160406
NEW! SHOW PREVIEW – 3 MINUTE VIDEO
Or listen on Soundcloud right now.
ROGER COX – IS REVOLUTION JUSTIFIED?
Despite the spring misery in Eastern North America – world heat records continue to tumble. Ice is melting faster at both poles. We’re in trouble, but world leaders are preoccupied with getting elected – or hiding money in Panamanian corporations.
If governments fail our children’s future, is revolution justified? That’s the question raised by Roger Cox, a prominent green lawyer in the Netherlands. He’s not calling for crowds in the street, but real justice. Cox sued the Dutch government for failing to protect the future, and won. That’s spreading all over Europe, Canada, New Zealand, and into the United States. Hear Roger Cox explain how it’s done.
Who is this revolutionary? In the Netherlands, Roger Cox is partner at the law firm Paulussen Advocaten. He is the power-house lawyer who sued the Dutch government, demanding a 25% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. He won, setting a precedent for people around the world, and we’ll talk about that. He founded the “Planet Prosperity Foundation” promoting a circular economy. And Roger is known in Europe as a leader in sustainable real estate development, something almost unknown in North America.
Award-winning lawyer Roger Cox
Roger Cox is also a CIGI senior fellow with the International Law Research Program. The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is an independent, non-partisan think tank on international governance. My thanks to CIGI for helping to arrange this interview.
Roger’s book is called “Revolution Justified.”
If you wish to Tweet out the Lo-Fi version of this Roger Cox interview, here is shorter URL for that: http://tinyurl.com/hujnyzh
THE PRECEDENT-SETTING DUTCH COURT VICTORY FOR THE CLIMATE
Roger was central to a lawsuit against the government of the Netherlands. The Plaintiffs were the environmental advocacy group Urgenda Foundation, and 900 individuals. Essentially they argued that the poor legislation for emissions reductions by the Dutch government endangered future generations. They won the lawsuit and the government had to enact requirements for bigger emissions cuts, much sooner. The Dutch government agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 percent by 2020 (compared with 1990 levels).
This set an international precedent which is growing into a movement.
A similar lawsuit has been launched in Belgium, and another is pending in New Zealand. Other lawsuits are being considered in Canada, Italy, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and France. The French action follows one legal victory there in June 2015.
CLIMATE JUSTICE IN AMERICA?
The Oregon-based “Our Childrens’ Trust Foundation” has launched a climate lawsuit in the United States. That suit is led by none other than Dr. James Hansen, along with 21 young people, many of them teens.
***UPDATE*** OUR CHILDRENS’ TRUST CASE WINS IMPORTANT LEGAL VICTORY
In another case, launched by the State of Massachusetts versus the EPA, the Supreme Court has already “in effect” ruled that climate change is real and dangerous, Cox tells us.
IS A “REVOLUTION” IN THE COURTS ENOUGH?
Of course, waiting for a break in the U.S. Supreme Court (depending on who gets nominated) might take too long to avert disaster. I have to ask Roger, and you as listeners, would a violent overthrow ever be justified? Let’s say the Arctic sea ice disappears, and the northern Hemisphere is hit by years of unrelenting storms and heat waves. Crops fail. If governments fail to respond, should we go down quietly? I doubt people will just go along with business as usual, once they see the impacts of an abrupt climate shift.
We’re not quite there yet, maybe (see the next interview with Paul Beckwith). It can’t hurt to have all lawyers, judges – the whole legal community – become aware of the threats posed by climate change. Roger tells us that local judges, and some state courts, are already moving in the direction of taking climate safety as a real legal issue.
Roger tells us all industrialized countries signed into an international law to protect the climate at the 2010 Climate summit in Cancun Mexico. A few countries, including Germany and Denmark, have followed up, enshrining this protection into law.
Knowingly breaching the 2 degree C “safe limit” would also be an infringement of human rights, as laid out in various United Nations binding agreements. More legal safeguards were added at the COP-21 climate summit in December, 2015, Paris. There are a lot of international laws, which your government likely agreed to, that lawyers can use to push the government to act on greenhouse gas emissions.
PAUL BECKWITH – CLIMATE EMERGENCY
One of our regular guests, scientist Paul Beckwith from the University of Ottawa, is warning anyone who will listen that we are in a global climate emergency. Forget 2050 or even 2030. Abrupt climate change has arrived, Beckwith says.
Paul has two Masters Degrees. He teaches climate science at the University of Ottawa, while working on his own Doctorate – on the subject of abrupt climate change. Paul is a scientists-activist, with a busy You tube channel, Facebook community, and more – all found on his new web site, paulbeckwith.net.
When I checked last, his new video and article is titled “My Condolences to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef” (April 3rd).
In this program, I run a slightly edited audio version from Paul’s important You tube video “Chat on our ABRUPT climate change EMERGENCY“. This just has to get out there, and I’m happy to offer Radio Ecoshock as another way to express how serious our situation really is.
As Paul explains, the shift in climate is coming much faster than most scientists expected. If you want proof, just try this Google experiment:
“Google “climate change” and “faster than expected”, “unprecedented”, etc. and you get gazillions of science articles. Google “climate change” and “slower than expected”, etc. and you get squat.”
– from Paul Beckwith’s web site.
Here is a tiny url for the Lo-Fi version (which works best for people listening on phones, or slow bandwidth) for Tweeting purposes: http://tinyurl.com/ju7o94x
THOMAS BAUSKA – CLIMATE LESSONS FROM THE DEEP PAST
We wrap up with an intriguing visit with a specialist in the story of glaciers and ancient climates. Before the 10,000 years of stable climate our civilization grew up in, the great glaciers came and went. The climate shifted with them, sometimes warming as much as 5 degrees Centigrade within 50 years. It’s a tough field to understand, and harder still to figure out what applies to climate change today, and what does not. Some climate deniers have played on that confusion.
But the science of past deglaciation is getting better and better. A new paper out from a team of scientists from the United States, Britain, and New Zealand almost crushed my skull with problems. I wrote the lead author, Thomas K. Bauska with my beginner’s questions, and he patiently schooled me in patterns of climate change I did not know.
That’s why we called on Thomas for Radio Ecoshock. Educated in Chicago, with a Ph.D in Geology from Oregon State, Dr. Bauska is currently a researcher with the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge in Britain. The paper that stimulated this discussion is titled “Carbon isotopes characterize rapid changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide during the last deglaciation.” It was just published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS.
As a non-scientist, my first surprise reading this paper was that deglaciation can cause a rise in CO2, and not the other way around.
About ten years ago, people denied carbon dioxide was warming the planet. They jumped on the science of glaciology, to produce the argument summarized as “CO2 doesn’t lead, it lags.” Can carbon levels rise AFTER a warming, and if so, what caused the initial warming?
Talking about this, Thomas referred me to a 2012 paper published in the journal Nature by Shakun et al. The title is “Global warming preceded by increasing carbon dioxide concentrations during the last deglaciation.” You can read that full article (as an online .pdf) here.
As I understand it, the point is this: past climate shifts began with geophysical forces: things like the 100,000 year cycle where the Earth’s orbit tilts toward or away from the Sun (a bit). That can start a warming, which then releases carbon dioxide (and methane!) – which becomes a positive feedback effect, increasing the warming much more.
Contrarians argue other forces, like a tilt of the Earth’s axis, can cause warming, so carbon dioxide isn’t causing warming today. That is so simplistic it’s silly.
Regarding abrupt climate change, Bauska et all write in their paper:
“At least twice during the deglaciation a rapid release of 13C-depleted carbon to the atmosphere may have occurred over a few centuries, suggesting that abrupt and significant releases of CO2 to the atmosphere may be common nonlinear features of Earth’s carbon cycle.“
A second discussion in this paper seemed familiar to me. That was about changes in ocean currents, as deglaciation developed. We have just seen a giant cold spot appear in the seas south of Greenland, big enough it is thought to be altering the winter weather in Britain.
I wouldn’t want to leave listeners with the impression that abrupt climate changes only happened as ice ages ended, and cannot happen now. I have spoken with scientists like paleontologist Peter Ward and Ottawa’s Paul Beckwith who assure me there are records of abrupt warming, even from relatively warm starting points.
ARE WE EXPERIENCING “DEGLACIATION” NOW?
Considering glaciers at both poles are melting rapidly, as well as all other land-based glaciers melting, can we say we are NOW in a period of deglaciation? In the interview, Thomas said “no” – based on the large-scale deglaciation he studied. Today’s melting is comparatively small. However, after the interview, Thomas sent me one further email explanation:
“One interesting question that I wasn’t able to answer fully is whether we are currently in a “deglaciation” or not. My gut reaction was to say “not really” because the projected sea level rise over the next century is an order of magnitude less than the last transition from the ice age.
However, this paper really changed my view of future sea level rise. The authors (colleagues from Oregon State) take a long view and project sea level and temperature changes over the next 10,000 years (rather than the next few hundred). For context the compare the past 20,000 years, essentially the last deglaciation and Holocene. This is perhaps the long-term, geologic perspective that the deglaciation that your audience might gain insight from.
As stated in the abstract: ‘This long-term perspective illustrates that policy decisions made in the next few years to decades will have profound impacts on global climate, ecosystems, and human societies — not just for this century, but for the next ten millennia and beyond.’”
If you wish to Tweet out the Lo-Fi version, here is shorter URL for that: http://tinyurl.com/j6xd9pl
GETTING RADIO ECOSHOCK OUT FURTHER
I’m still working with my team on a classy new web site and blog (combined) for Radio Ecoshock. It will have a much better search function, so you can find the scientist or author you want to hear from. Plus, the new design will really work for all the folks who reach out to Radio Ecoshock by phone or tablet. The new blog will also be compatible with Itunes, so we can raise the number of podcast listeners.
I’ll let you know as soon as it arrives.
Also, to help get the message out through video, I’m experimenting with a short (3 minutes or less) series of videos with the working title “This week on Radio Ecoshock”. I’m hoping people will share these with social media, to raise climate awareness. Please do.
If you feel you can afford to support my work on this program, please either make a one-time donation, or sign up for the $10 a month subscriber status, from this page.
Thank you for listening again this week, and caring about our world.