Sunday, 11 August 2019

On the edge of the ocean and life as we know it

I have spent every summer of my life on the Swedish west coast; on, in and by the water. Swimming, fishing, then more and more sailing, but sometimes just sitting on the dock watching nothing and everything. 

A long time ago I thought that whatever would happen in the world, the ocean was bigger than anything mankind could affect. I imagined that the vastness of the deep sea was so immense that whatever humans did, this was beyond our reach. I was wrong.

This summer I have been out sailing, revisiting an island in the outermost part of the archipelago that I haven’t seen in decades. On the surface, it was as beautiful as I remembered it. The cliffs were still made from pink granite and the flowers were everywhere, hiding from the wind behind rocks and in crevices. The view of the open sea was breathtaking. Terns, bird that I seldom see nowadays, where fishing in the waters around the island. 


So much beauty and tranquility that it took time to still the mind enough to open up the senses. I needed to immerse my myself in the moment, diving into my soul like I let my body dive into the still water for a morning swim. 


But in the back of my mind, the feeling of almost gratitude of being in such a place was mixed with too much knowledge. So much is happening on and below the surface. The plastic invasion, visible everywhere along the coasts but also invisibly present in both birds and fish. Overfishing has taken its toll and on almost any island you will see signs of the omnipresent oil spills. 

Even more hidden are the slow changes caused by our still increasing emissions of carbon dioxide that are changing the chemistry and life below water. And far beyond my view, the melting ice sheets on Greenland are spilling into the ocean, rising sea levels and creating havoc with both weather and ocean currents.

How to cope? How to handle these mixed feelings, both enjoy the moment and acknowledge the inevitable losses that will occur? Can I embrace and connect; not resign and become numb but transfer these feelings to the courage of resistance? 

These questions seem to be lingering in the minds of everyone that really understands the implications of the climate and biodiversity breakdowns that we are heading into; with knowledge but without understanding. Many have shared their thoughts, among them @MaryHeglar. Her answer was love:

Of course this is something that some will shy away from and other will try to ridicule. “Love? That’s nothing that will drive growth” they will say. And their will be claims from (mostly) men of power that love is a sign of weakness. But the fights we will need to enter can not be driven by revenge and vengeance only, says Mary Annaise Heglar, we need to find our strength from within and together.  
So I will try to save the moment on the island in my mind for the coming fall and winter, to use it as a grounding point in order to be ready for the hard work that lies ahead if we are to steer ourselves away from the business as usual disaster path we are on. It will be a hard struggle, overcoming both teh fossil fuelled powers and the inertia of those who have not yet realised that nobody will be sheltered if we allow the climate storm to reach its full strength.  

We will need a lot of love to pull this through. 

PS

I made this video a few years ago. Soon the august nights will be dark enough to see the starlight again.





Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Deniers, delayers, debate and democracy


When it comes to climate change, debating climate deniers is seldom worth the effort. They will stick to their talking points, won’t listen to arguments and are not interested in understanding climate science. And you can count on that sooner or later they will turn to invectives and name calling. Still, when a self proclaimed expert on tennis bookmaking makes aggressive statements on the “fake climate science” it’s a bit too much to swallow, even if responding to him is more taking a stand than for a moment believing that I can influence his views. 


Delayers on the other hand are more complicated to handle and they tend to come in many varieties. One of these persons claimed to be a “climate realists” but immediately resorted to calling Greta Thunberg a tool of the "communist elites". He must be a very scared person. 


But it is clear that Greta Thunberg has caused a lot of anxiety among the people with vested interest in fossil fuels and status quo. As this article on “What we need to do the next 18 months" by Matt McGrath points out: 


And it is not only Greta, she has many fellow activists and followers all over the globe, especially among other young girls and women. These activists have found their voice, are demanding real actions and are taking on a heavy burden to ensure that they will have a liveable future. We should do everything we can to support them!

This brings me to another example of the kind of climate delay that comes from people who claim to know better. In a recent Op-Ed in NY Times, Christopher Caldwell was ranting about Greta Thunberg as a threat to democracy, while he proposed more wait and see as a climate “strategy”. 

His piece has been thoroughly taken apart and debunked by many of the worlds climate scientists and activists: 

 

 

A huge number of scientist have already thoroughly sided with the young protesters, as shown by this article in Science and the 52 pages of signatories… 



Haven Coleman, one of these young climate activists called Caldwell a “Rita Skeeter” person (if you haven’t read Harry Potter you need to look this up). Dr. Genevieve Guenther made a thorough dissection of Caldwells “points” which is well worth reading (much better spending your time there than on Caldwell). 

There is certainly a right for everyones to have an opinion, but there is no right for anyone to have his or hers own facts. Nor is there a ‘right' for anyone to have plattform such as NY Times for attacks and spreading confusion. The fossil fuel industry has been allowed to do this for decades; what we need now is debate over which action to take, not if we should act at some later time. Predatory delay is the term Alex Steffen has coined for this behaviour.  

But the debate about Caldwells Op-Ed has made it clear that there are still other kind of delayers, who do accept the climate science - but still don’t want to press ahead with straight talk and strong actions. Instead they wave the banner of free speech and “both sides” must be able to have their say. But there is no both sides to the climate crisis and we don’t give talking space to flat earth proponents. 

What these persons also might have missed is that climate change is itself a profound threat to both society and democracy. This is already evident in the energy area


But worse is to come if we continue to delay climate action.  We all now how badly the European Union handled a million refugees from war torn Syria. Climate change will increase that number with one and maybe two factors of ten in the coming decades - can our societies handle that and still be working democracies? The scariest thing about climate change is what it will make us do to each other says Kate Marvel, climate climate scientist at Columbia University and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.



Real sustainability only comes in one variety, now: Disruptive. That is scary and will cause a great deal of discomfort for those presently in power. But the alternative, to allow climate disruption to descend us into chaos, is much worse. For all of these reasons, the time for "opinionated ignorance” by people such as Caldwell is over.   

PS

Maybe the supporters of Caldwell right to publish should have looked more into his background. Some examples:  

Here's Christopher Caldwell's glowing defense of Germany's far-right, climate denying AfD, which lost big to the Greens in the European Parliament elections after using its campaign to attack Greta Thunberg. Maybe he's bitter? 
The Spectator has somehow managed to outdo the Telegraph for ignorance on Ireland. American journalist Christopher Caldwell says that a “British unification” under the “moral tutelage” of London would make more sense for Ireland than EU membership.

Is it likely that this person has something worthwhile to contribute with when it comes to discussing climate change and democracy?

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Sunset reflections: Stand by the girls!

A few days ago, on the warmest day yet this spring, outdoor café’s and bars in Gothenburg were filled with people enjoying the weather. It was a sunny day, almost 20°C in early April so I choose to take a long walk in the nature reserve adjacent to the Botanical garden. Sitting on a hill, only a few km from the city centre, the traffic noise of the city was reduced to a slow humming in the background, almost drowned out by the sound of blackbirds singing in the treetops. 





In a moment like this, looking at the sun setting over the water in the distance, everything looked almost normal. The distant flash from the Vinga lighthouse becoming visible as dusk was setting; the spring sky still too light for any stars to show.

Yet we know… 
  • 3 million years are slowly catching up with us. 
  • 3 million years of change that we have compressed into 2 centuries since the start of the industrial revolution.
  • 3 million years of change that were hidden in the deep sea and the slowly melting glaciers.
  • 3 million years of change that will transform the world as we know it.
This brutal message can be found in several recent studies. 3 million years, that’s how far back we need to go to find a time when carbon dioxide levels were as high as they are today. If we could send a scout back in time, he or she would find a world very different from ours, with sea levels 15-20 meters higher than today and trees growing on what are now the ice covered plateaus of Antarctica. Globally, temperatures were 3-4°C higher than today, but in Antarctica, temperatures were 20°C higher, changing it from glacier to tundra. And since that time, the global temperatures have not exceeded 1.5°C over the preindustrial baseline, a level now considered a warning threshold.  


Surely on the return to our time, our time traveller would waste no time to speak before governments and the world, telling us that our coastal cities are about to become the modern versions of Atlantis and a new era of massive migration is upon us. The message would be clear, change path and prepare for a different future or succumb to the climate disruption that we have started.  

But alas, this tale of the imagined time traveller has already been told to us again and again by the scientists that have spent their lives investigating our climate system. For each passing year, their warnings have been more and more stern, their call upon us to act more urgent. So even a truth speaking time traveller might not be enough break through our obsession with “growth and progress”. 

Still, maybe this winter we have seen the arrival of a storyteller persistent enough to break through media wall. But rather than storyteller I would call Greta Thunberg a catalyst that for a movement that might become strong enough to shake us enough to make us understand that change is coming, wether we like it or not. The tool used by Greta and her fellow activists (and there are many around the world) has been to strike from school, using the hard to refute argument “why study for a future that will be denied us?”. What is really amazing and a potential game changer is that Greta has inspired so many other young girls between 13 and 18 years. This is a group that has been looked down upon, almost ridiculed as Generation Z. Instead they have shown to be smart, knowledgable and well organised, making global connections and inspiring each other. 

These kids have like the child in HC Andersens tale about the naked emperor unmasked the various attitudes so many of our political “leaders”; slow or faked engagement, hidden indifference or even climate science denial. Many of the remaining climate deniers or climate delayers are also fiercely opposed to other aspects of a just society, like women’s and LBTQ rights as well as immigration. That the same persons refuse the action on climate change that will lead to the very migration waves they are so scared of is parodic, had it not been so tragic. 

It is unlikely that the young and vocal girls now leading the climate movement will accept to step back and let “older and wiser men” take command again. But to the people in power they are a threat, one reason being that they are not yet entangled in the normality of mortgages and consumption that has subdued so many of us. So we, who call ourselves grownups, need to shake us loose and stand behind and support these young activists. Each and everyone of us should do all that we can in our own lives to live a low carbon life, there is no conflict between personal change and activism. But as I have written before, the valiant quest is not a simple journey. So we need to understand, accept and embrace this task, because it is what we need to do save our humanity.  

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Let the Boomers be grounded!

The Boomers (or Baby Boomers) is the generation born from 1945 up till about 1960. I am myself a part of this generation, albeit being born on the trailing edge. This was the generation that benefited from the rebuilding of broken societies after the second World War. Growing economies, from trade and new technologies brought affluence and created a new middle class that could enjoy the consumer society and travel in a more open world. 

Of course not everything was good. Wars were still being fought, in Vietnam among many other places. Nations were invaded, democracies crushed in both East and West, partly due to the Cold War confrontation that kept nuclear annihilation as a Damocles sword over our heads. Nevertheless  this was a period when it was natural to be living a both healthier and richer life than the previous generation. 

Most of the boomers are now entering retirement and many are economically well off. They have benefitted from a growing wealth during their working life, but also just from the passive wealth growth coming from owning a house that has increased in value. So now they want to enjoy life, travel, play golf in Spain and fly to Thailand or the Caribbean to avoid the winter cold. Sadly, that is a privilege they (we) can not be granted due to our collective failure to ensure a liveable future for our children.

The climate crisis is very much about equity in a very double meaning; both fairness and wealth. It’s a question about levelling the economical gap between countries, between the rich and the poor, ensuring that developing countries are given some opportunities that the richer countries took for granted. But as the recent youth activism by Greta Thunberg and her followers have shown, it is also very much a generational question, where the financial equity that the boomers have built up largely has been charged to a planetary credit card that is about to expire, leaving the debt fully for todays children to pick up.

Therefore I think it is time to ground the boomers and that includes myself. We’ve hade our glorious time and did not do enough to leave a stable climate for coming generations, so at least we know should step back and not continue to wreck the planet. Do I want to ban them/us from travel and trips abroad? No, because you learn from travelling and meeting other people. But we need to drastically reduce our carbon emissions in ALL sectors of society and for individuals flying can be the largest contribution of greenhouse gases. And for retired boomers, if they have the funding to travel they should have the time to travel on the ground. Take the train, make the journey into an experience, see what you might have missed during your active working life. In Europe, many of us spent summer vacations using the Interrail train pass to visit all corners of our continent. That is still possible and would also create a market demand for more and better trains, which everybody would benefit from. 


I would like coming generations to have some possibilities to travel to far off countries. There is no reason that boomers, who have had it all, should spoil the chances for their kids and grandkids to experience what they did. So, let’s ground the boomers! And while on ground, it is very overdue time for this generation to (again) become activist and fight for stable climate and a good future for coming generations! That will also ensure that the great-grandchildren will be able to say with pride that their ancestors cared for them.   


Children should be seen and heard, from David Suzuki foundation


Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Att fly(ga) från problemen



De flesta av oss vill resa. Vi har drömmar om resor vi skulle vilja göra, gärna långt och till exotiska länder. Det är en naturlig känsla, vi vill se mer av världen. Och vi har kunnat göra det på ett sätt som människor för bara några decennier sedan inte hade möjlighet till. Nu är detta inte längre en självklar möjlighet.

Tidigare har jag skrivit om Roy Scranton, dem amerikanske klimatfilosofen som har en mycket dyster bild av mänsklighetens framtid i en tid av accelererande klimatförändring. Jag håller inte med om hans nattsvarta bild av framtiden, även om jag länge har kallat mig en “dystopisk optimist”.  Men en av de viktiga sakerna som Roy lyfter fram i sina texter och framträdanden är nödvändigheten av att stanna upp, reflektera och faktiskt sörja över vad vi redan har och oundvikligen kommer att förlora när klimatet förändras 

Det är en sorg som vi behöver erkänna, för att kunna samla den beslutsamhet och det mod som krävs för att vi skall ta oss an utmaningen med att skapa ett stabilt klimat för oss själva och kommande generationer. Samma beslutsamhet som Anna-Lena Laureen beskriver när Finland trots orimliga odds besegrade den Sovjetiska armén under vinterkriget. 

Så när jag läser Kajsa Dovstads krönika i GP så låter jag mig inte uppröras, utan tänker att hon hanterar sin klimatångest så som vi gör innan vi vågar sörja, genom att tränga bort och förneka det obehagliga. Det gör hon bland annat genom att hävda att "det går utmärkt att klimatkompensera genom att köpa regnskog eller betala extra för att öka mängden biobränsle i flygplanstanken.” Om så väl vore... 

Det finns inget biobränsle att hälla i tanken, SAS har lyckats uppnå mindre än 1% inblandning och ökar istället sina utsläpp. Den slant hon (kanske) lägger på klimatkompensation räcker inte heller långt. Kajsa oroar sig för kolkraftverken i Indien och hoppas på kärnkraft, men i Indien sker redan en stor satsning på solenergiDessutom ägnar man sig där åt verklig klimatkompensation genom trädplantering, också det i mängder långt större än all världens långflygande klimatkompenserare.
I Kajsas krönika finns ett sting av avund riktad mot de som till skillnad från henne har fått chansen att resa. Kanske vill hon ta del av det liv som många av våra “influencers” lever, med långväga resor och spännande upplevelser. Tyvärr är livet inte rättvist och kanske Kajsa istället skulle rikta ilskan mot de både de individer, företag och nationer som levt över våra gemensamma tillgångar och faktiskt sett till att hon inte kommer att kunna flyga runt världen som hon önskar. 

Kajsa har också fastnat för kärnkraft; en “lösning” på klimatproblematiken som passar den som börjar våga se problemet men fortfarande vill undvika att ta eget ansvar. Tyvärr säger jag, med stöd av ekonomin, kärnkraften kommer inte att rädda oss. Den är för dyr och tar för lång tid att bygga ut.

Om jag kan ana Kajsas oförlösta sorg, så är det långt värre med politiker som har en insiktslös inställning till flygande. Av politiker som vill att vi ger dem ett mandat att påverka våra liv har vi rätt att kräva att de tar till sig befintlig kunskap. Emma Wiesner kandiderar till EU-parlamentet för Centerns räkning och fortsätter den linje av teknikoptimistisk halleluja kring fortsatt flygande som var centerns linje i riksdagsvalet. Istället för förhoppningar borde nog Emma lyssna till vad forskarna utanför flygindustrin säger:   

In the short term – and, depending on the development of aviation fuels, maybe even in the long term – the only way to significantly reduce aviation emissions is to reduce flying. 
I slutändan handlar det om val. Det går att bromsa klimatförändringen tillräckligt fort för att vi skall ha ett framtida stabilt klimat - om än mycket annorlunda mot det klimat som jag växte upp i. Men det kräver en snabb och total omställning bort från fossila bränslen

Det blir inte lätt, men det blir en värld med långt större skönhet och möjligheter än om vi rusar på som nu.




Monday, 28 January 2019

Reflections on Aniara: Everything will not be OK and we can live with that

Earth is in trouble. Or rather, we as beings living on the surface of planet Earth have gotten ourselves into real trouble, a slow disaster we might not be able to rectify. 

This past weekend I was experiencing doom and the tragic fate of humanity during Gothenburg International Film Festival. I visited the Swedish premiere of Aniara, a film based on a poem from the 1950’s by the Nobel laureate Harry Martinsson. It was written at a time when human annihilation through nuclear war was a persistent scare in peoples mind. In Martinssons story the spaceship Aniara is loaded with people fleeing the dying Earth, but an accident sets Aniara adrift on an endless voyage in space, a bubble in the vast nothingness. 

The film depicts the spaceship as a modern day cruise ship, where the passengers initially try to hang on to normality but gradually become more desperate and succumbs to sects or suicide. There is no Hollywood hopeful ending, when the spaceship finally reaches a habitable planet, the passengers have been dead for many millennia. 

While nuclear extinction was the backdrop for the poem, Harry Martinsson was already in the early 1960’s pointing to environmental destruction as a rising threat to humanity. For Roy Scranton, author of two books with the uplifting titels “Learning to die in the Anthropocene” and “We’re doomed - now what” the impending climate catastrophe is a reality we can not avoid. There are many things that I take to my heart from Roy's texts and the talk he gave during the film festival. I am deeply impressed by the journey that Roy Scranton has traveled moving out from the war in Iraq to writing about the fate of humanity in the Anthropocene. There’s a deep sorrow in his description of what we are inevitably going to loose. And I agree with his notion that we need to slow down, reflect and meditate on what’s really happening with our climate and our societies; do less instead of keep on running. Humans have the ability to make meaning under the worst of circumstances, says Scranton, what we need to do is to organise locally because the cavalry will not be coming to save us. 

But the road that his total acceptance of this situation leads him to is not mine. Roy Scranton is disavowing those who like our most recent climate activist in Sweden, Greta Thunberg choses to fight for a liveable climate. We are lost and resistance to our fate is futile says Scranton. But his reactions rings with both bitterness and even envy towards those who continue to struggle despite the odds of real success being infinitesimally small. Some of the reactions in Swedish press to Roy Scrantons visit encourage this perception, maybe as a token gift to those who fear action more than the future. 

Perhaps we should not view Scranton as a truth sayer, but as the poet he is and wants to be. We can read him as a Baudelaire or Rimbaud of our time, writing about the beauty of death and decay in times of war and conflict. Like in the final verse of Rimbauds poem “Le Dormeur du Val”:

He sleeps in the sun, his hands on his breastAt peace. There are two red holes in his right side

So what to do if we abandon hope? Maybe it is no hope but courage that may save our humanity if not our world and nature as we have come to know it. To cite from a recent article in Washington Post by Dan Zak
To grasp the problem, we have to slow down. To respond to it, we have to act fast. We have both no time and more time.“We want there to be a really simple story: You do this, and then everything will be okay,” says Kate Marvel, who works for NASA in New York. “And everything is not going to be okay.”There is opportunity in this acceptance. Marvel thinks we need courage, not hope. We must know what’s coming, we must realize it will hurt, and we must be very strong together.
So we need to accept that the times are a-changing and there are no easy paths forward. We need to strive not for control but to find a way to flow like the waves and grass. 

Hold the problem in your mind. Freak out, but don’t put it down. Give it a quarter-turn. See it like a scientist, and as a poet. As a descendant. As an ancestor.
Finally, what seems to be lacking in Scrantons narrative is the willingness to speak truth to power. "We" are not equally complicit for the climate crisis. Therefore, the light on the super rich gathering in Davos that Greta Thunberg was shining is important. If the super rich, half a percent of the worlds population are responsible for 13% of the worlds consumption related emissions, then solving the climate crisis is a question of both moral and equity. It is not a done deal and we can alter our fate. 

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Feberdrömmar

I feberdimmor och mellan hostattacker seglar de förbi i natten, bilderna av både kända och okända människor. Några kända politiker, personer som vi är beroende av och vars beslut påverkar oss. Några nära och kära, om än vissa bara via Twittermediet. Människor som förmedlar känslor, uttryck, frustration och vrede över klimatnedbrytningen.

Tillbaka till politikerna:

De verkar märkvärdigt oberörda av höstens allt grymmare klimatrapporter.
  • Vägen till 1,5 grader är så gott som stängd säger IPCC.
  • De fyra varmaste åren vi uppmätt är 2015, 2016, 2017 och 2018.
  • Den amerikanska och därmed sannolikt den globala ekonomin kommer att haverera, enligt US Climate Assessment.  
  • Och senaste data från FN säger att inga länder, inte Sverige inte EU inte USA faktiskt inga länder är i närheten av göra det man lovade i Parisavtalet.
Och Parisavtalet är åndå långt ifrån tillräcklig för att klara ett stabilt klimat.

Vad tänker då dessa beslutsfulla människor som just nu i Sverige manövrerar, spelar, och politiserar om vem som skall få nöjet att styra över den svenska nationen under de kommande fyra åren? Förresten, kommer de verkligen att få styra landet? Eller kommer de bara att vara med och påverka på marginalen?

VI vet redan att klimatförändringarna är nu och här inte sen och där. Det sker nu och det drabbar redan på så många sätt att exemplen känns överflödiga, det blir en parad av ord som “unprececedented, catastrophic, unchartered”, ord som beskriver bränderna just nu i Australien. Men även vi är redan drabbade. I Sverige torkade halva skörden bort den gångna sommarens, för 100 år sedan hade det betytt svält och kravaller. När klimatflyktingarna heter Olsen och kommer från Danmark då är det för sent.

Så varför skall vi i Sverige går före? Ja, kanske bara för att vi kan. Vi har teknik, möjligheter och förhoppningsvis vilja. Och kanske för att vi gärna vill visa oss lite bättre. Nu är vi inte så mycket bättre när det gäller klimat, vi lever långt över våra tillgångar som om vi hade fyra jordklot för våra behov.

Men vi skulle kunna vara bra, vi skulle kunna vara väldigt bra och ge starka både exempel och incitament för en hållbara framtid.
  • Det finns så mycket att göra. 
  • Det finns så många möjligheter.
  • Det blir bara värre av att vänta.

Jag kan titta in bakom dörrarna på Chalmers där jag arbetar. Där finns mängder av spännande projekt och idéer som kan utvecklas. Samma skaparkraft finns säkert på KTH eller i Linköping. I Lund skall FN starta en global innovationshub för hållbara lösningar. 

Så det är bara att köra på, vi behöver inte vänta. Men våra politiker har tyvärr antingen inte förstått eller klarar inte av att ta strid för de lösningar som krävs.

Jag har letat efter spår att Annie Lööf, ledare för Alliansens gröna part, lyfter fram klimatet i sina regeringsförhandlingar.

Det sägs att hon gör det bakom lyckta dörrar, men so what? Det är väl inte där hon påverkar oss. Det gör hon om hon vågar gå ut öppet och stolt säga: 

VI verkligen klara av detta! Kom igen Stefan (och Jan) vi skall bli det land som går före som klarar klimatomställningen på den tid som forskarvärlden säger att vi har på oss. Vi har många saker som vi är oense om. Men om vi inte klarar klimatet så spelar det faktiskt ingen roll vad vi gör i övrigt.

Men det är kanske en feberdröm att tänka att det skulle bli så.

I morgon när jag vaknar( förhoppningsvis feberfri) och lyssnar på ekot så gissar jag tyvärr att det kommer att var samma nyheter från alla partier:

Vi ställer ultimata krav! VI kan inte kompromissa om detta!
  • Skatterna!
  • Bostadspolitiken!
  • Välfärden!
  • Arbetsrätten!

Men ingenting om klimat...

Jag har feber
Jorden har feber

"The time for procrastination is over and the time of consequences is here"

Winston Churchill 1936










Sunday, 7 October 2018

Despite repeated warnings


"Despite repeated warnings 
Of dangers up ahead
The captain won't be listening
To what's been said”

These are the first lines of Paul McCartney new song from his latest album. Listen to the words. Take them to your heart. Our political leaders have been warned. But they are not listening to the dangers of climate change.

The warnings have been clearly articulated for decades, with more strength for each passing year. For every IPCC report, for every research publication on the subject of climate change, the message has been more urgent. Still carbon emissions keep going up despite the promises made when the Paris accord was signed. Economy and endless growth is still allowed to rule over the physical world. 

There has been some comments that recent severe weather events like Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Florence gives us a glimpse of the future. That is not true, they show us the present as bad as it is. The future will be much worse, how bad it'is not possible to say. Science can not yet tell us exactly when further temperature increase will result in vicious feedback cycles that will fundamentally destabilise our climate.

But by looking into the past, we can understand the future. The figure below describes the unknown era we are entering into in one graph. The red and blue lines shows carbon dioxide and temperature going up and down together as the planet has moved in and out of ice ages during many millennials. The correlation is clearly visible; as CO2 has varied between 180 and 280 ppm, the temperature has been about 4°C colder during ice ages as compared to present times. 


Atmospheric CO2 from Antarctic ice cores (Jouzel et al., 2007) and modern NOAA measurements, and global surface temperature change estimated from ocean core data of Zachos et al. (2001) using an approximation described in our Climate Sensitivity’ paper for converting ocean core δ18O to surface temperature. 

On the far right end of the graph however, the time scale has been expanded to show what has happened during the last 150 years. Two things are bluntly obvious: The present rate of change in carbon dioxide level is far quicker than at any time during the last 800,000 years. And the temperature is lagging behind, which means that we have seen only a fraction of the warming that will happen if carbon dioxide continues to rise in the atmosphere. 


The sad fact is that no graph however convincing to the people who care about our collective future is enough to be a wake up call for those who pretend to be sleeping. Climate scientist have gone from concerned to engaged, even enraged at the lack of political will and action. They know that continued emissions will lead to meters of sea level rise, unpredictable conditions for agriculture and mass extinction of both plants and animals. That in turn will disrupt civilisation as we know it. 

In Sweden, the Conservative party leader is trying to form a new government after the recent parliamentary elections which gave a very complicated outcome, with no clear majority to back a new prime minister. During the election campaign he claimed to take the role of "the grown up in the debate”. Yet at no time has he talked about the climate crisis as a fundamental factor when forming a new government. He articulates no understating of the connection between his stated ambition to reduce immigration and the fact that continued climate change will drive hundred of millions of people from their homes. 

Instead of the so called grown ups, it has been from youth that we have received the call to action. Greta Thunberg is a 15 year old girl who in the lead-up to the election decided to go on strike from school. By sitting outside the Swedish parlament, she called attention to the bizarre situation that she was obliged to learn facts in school that our politicians choose to neglect. Her question was both simple and clear: “Why don’t we treat climate change as the crisis it is?” Greta was recently interviewed in the New Yorker by Masha Gessen who wrote "Thunberg is a voice of unaccommodating clarity".

There is a link between the (mostly male) leaders unwillingness to act on the climate threat and what we have seen during the recent process to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. What Kavanaugh demonstrated above all was his scorn towards the demand that he should to take responsibility for his actions. He very clearly felt entitled to drink, harass and abuse as much as he wanted as a youth, without it having any repercussions later in life. It was clear that he sees himself as belonging to a group of (again mostly) men who deem themselves superior to others, especially women. But the same attitude can also be seen in these groups in how they view nature, the environment and our climate. Trump and his accomplices demonstrate a total lack of comprehension why they should in any way restrict themselves for the sake of our common future. Risk of 4 C warming? Then we might as well burn some more coal! A business deal with an asbestos producer? Who cares about a little cancer?

The saying "Après moi, le déluge” by Louis XV clearly fits in with Trump and similar “leaders” who hold on to power and enrich themselves by degrading both society and nature. They are a clear threat, both directly and because they drain our energy and the resources we need to fight for a liveable climate. So should we give up? Absolutely not, instead we need to muster the courage to confront both the climate change deniers and the authoritarian tendencies in our time. Sweden is not the US and the struggle will look different in different parts of the world. "We should only lament our future if we lack the will to fight for it” writes David Rothkopf. Being a man, I can do my part, but I think a large part of the fight will need to be taken by all the women who have found their strength and anger during the last year. And by young people like Greta, who’s questions we must answer. 

It is time for our leaders to listen to the warnings. When the water starts to rise, there will be a reckoning time.


"Oh, but he should have listened 
To the will of the people"

Monday, 1 October 2018

Det är allvar nu

"Det är allvar nu” står det på Expressens ledarsida och för ett ögonblick vill jag tro att nu, nu har även Anna Dahlberg förstått klimatkrisens verkliga dignitet och följderna av stigande hav och skördar som regnar eller torkar bort. Men nej, Anna D verkar inte ha läst DN, en tidning som produceras i samma hus. I en värld där vi inte hejdar klimatförändringar kan hundratals miljoner människor drivas på flykt. Den flyktingkrisen blundar Anna D för.

Istället är det samma gamla visa om att säkra gränserna mot immigranter och mera resurser till rättsväsendet. Men Anna D verkar också ha missat vilka åtgärder som ger effekt för att förbättra livet i ett “utanförskapsområde”. Gårdsten, en stadsdel i nordöstra Göteborg, är på väg att lämna den kategorin, framför allt genom att de som bor i stadsdelen får ta större plats och ansvar. Då kan det kommunala bostadsbolaget samverka med polisen och lokala eldsjälar kan driva kampanjer som ökar valdeltagandet. Ingen klanröstning, bara vanligt demokratiarbete.

Det är märkligt att just politiska journalister verkar ha så svårt att ta in det som Björn Wiman kallar världens genom tiderna största nyhetEtt skenande klimat kommer att kunna både förstöra och förändra hela den mänskliga civilisationen. Kanske beror den bristande insikten på att spelet har blivit så viktigt inom politiken; allt handlar om kampen kring makten. Men naturen och fysiken förhandlar inte, de förändringar som våra utsläpp orsakar kan vi inte kompromissa bort genom listiga politiska överenskommelser. Det spelar ingen roll vad vare sig väljare eller politiker “tycker”, ändrar vi klimatet får vi ta konsekvenserna. Den omutliga insikten verkar passa de politiska journalisterna illa.

Det hjälper inte heller att hävda att det blir “billigare” att minska utsläppen någon annan stans. Klimatkrisen kommer att beröra alla och vi i Sverige ligger i topp när det gäller utsläpp per person. Det finns ingen chans att vi kan “sitta i orubbat bo” och hoppas på att att Kina skall fixa klimatet åt oss. Det är bara genom att leda utvecklingen som vi kan få respekt och vinna tid.

Och vi är inte chanslösa! Att bryta utsläppskurvan är tekniskt möjligt, tack vare ny teknik som solceller och elektrifiering. Sverige har möjligheten att visa att det går att transformera samhället under ordnade former innan klimatkrisen ställer om genom kaos. Det räcker dock inte med ny teknik, det allra snabbaste sättet att minska de klimatpåverkande utsläppen är minskad konsumtion av varor och resor. Tiden för både ständiga köksrenoveringar och ohämmat flygande är över och grön tillväxt är en illusion skriver tex Foreign Policy. Den insikten borde både svenska politiker och journalister debattera istället för att låtsas som världen väntar på oss. För det är allvar nu. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

När blå kommuner blir verkligt blåa

Klanröstning! Det har varit ett skällsord som plötsligt dykt efter valet när vissa journalister, politiker och andra tyckare skall förklara varför S och V har fått höga röstetal i en del så kallade utanförskapsområden. Kanske borde de istället ha funderat på hur lockande det är att rösta på partier som mest visar intresse för människorna som bor där när brott som bränder eller skjutningar skett. Då brukar det inte heller handla om vad man kan göra för invånarna, utan mer vad man kan göra åt dem i form av övervakning, straffskärpning och utegångsförbud. Förmodligen inte det mest effektiva sättet att locka nya väljare.

Självklart finns det tendenser till grupptänkande och det är viktigt att varje person röstar efter sin övertygelse. Men istället för att misstänkliggöra Leila Ali Elmi, den unga kvinna med somalisk bakgrund som blev inkryssad i riksdagen från Miljöpartiets lista i Göteborg borde man se möjligheterna. Om ett stort antal människor med somalisk bakgrund blir engagerade i den politiska processen och börjar följa riksdagens arbete tror jag det är enbart positivt för den svenska demokratin. 

Grupptänkande är inte heller något som är begränsat till områden med låg ekonomisk status, röstandet i Djursholm eller Saltsjöbaden brukar vara rätt homogent borgerligt. Några andra solitt “blåa” områden är Skanör, Falsterbo och Höllviken i Vellinge kommun och Torekov i Båstads kommun. Där röstar man i huvudsak på M men med hjälp av KD når man 50-60% av rösterna. 

De senaste dagarna har delstaterna Syd och Nordkarolina på USA’s östkust drabbats hårt av orkanen Florence, med massiva översvämningar och kollapsade samhällsfunktioner i stora områden. Staden Wilmington på Sydkarolinas kust har i praktiken förvandlats till en ö utan kontakt med omvärlden. Denna orkan såväl som tidigare Harvey i Houston och Katrina i New Orleans brukar framför allt drabba de människor som redan är utsatta, de som bor i “mobile homes” och som inte har ekonomiska resurser att ta sig bort när en orkan hotar.

I Sverige däremot är det dyrt och fint att bo i områden som just ovan nämnda skånska kommuner, för strandläge och havsutsikt är mycket eftertraktat. Men dessa områden ligger dåligt till när klimatet ändras och därför har “marknaden” börjat korrigera detta. Ett exempel är Länsförsäkringar i Skåne som inte kommer att försäkra nya fastigheter som ligger i områden som Länsstyrelsen har markerat som riskområden för kommande havsvattenhöjning och översvämningar.

Men istället för att ta detta som en signal om att kommunernas byggande måste anpassas till ett ändrat klimat har detta lett till ilskna protester mot Länsförsäkringar. På kommunal nivå har man inte förstått konsekvenserna av ett ändrat klimat eller att Länsförsäkringar är ett bolag som inte skall ta risken att förlora pengar på felplacerade bostadsområden. Marknadens korrigerande hand är tydligt inte rätt medicin just här.

För M och KD som har så stort väljarstöd i dessa områden borde detta leda till eftertanke. När den första vinterstormen kommer som svämmar över Skanör-Falsterbo så kommer värdet på husen i området att falla drastiskt. Frågan är då om människorna där kommer att tacka partier som M och KD för att de inte tagit hotet om ändrat klimat på tillräckligt allvar? Met troligt kommer man att förbanna politikerna som inget gjort och samtidigt tyvärr blunda för att man själva inte brytt sig om att förstå vad ett ändrat klimat verkligen betyder. Det är också en form av grupptänkande; att tro att man med ekonomiska resurser kan köpa sig fri från konsekvenserna av klimatförändringen.

När “blå” kommuner blir verkligt blåa av stigande vatten kan den politiska spelplanen ändras rejält. Det borde Ulf och Ebba tänka noga på inför det spel som pågår om regeringsmakten. Det är en nåd att stilla bedja om men mer troligt en utopi. Välkommen till Crazytown som Björn Wiman skrev:

Alla de svenska partiledare som är inblandade i regeringsbildningen vet nog innerst inne vad klimatförändringen innebär – men ingen av dem visar att de förstår. Den regering vi (eventuellt) får nu kan vara den sista med makt att från svensk horisont göra något åt klimatkrisen, innan vi kastas in i en oåterkallelig utveckling.