Following days of warnings from meteorologists, temperatures soared to historic highs throughout Western Europe Thursday, eliciting impassioned demands for governments to take more ambitious action to combat the climate crisis.
Arid soils are shown in Mauritania in 2012, when crops failed because of a severe drought which led to a food crisis that impacted millions of people across West Africa. (Photo: Oxfam International/Flickr/cc)
Noting previous warnings that the human-caused climate crisis could cause trillions of dollars in damage to the global economy by the end of the century, a new report from Moody’s Analytics explores the economic implications of the international community’s failure to curb planet-warming emissions.
Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi told The Washington Post—which first reported on the new analysis—that this is “the first stab at trying to quantify what the macroeconomic consequences might be” of the global climate crisis, and it comes in response to European commercial banks and central banks. The climate emergency is “not a cliff event. It’s not a shock to the economy. It’s more like a corrosive,” Zandi added. But it is “getting weightier with each passing year.” Continue reading →
Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg, who began the global movement in which students around the world have walked out of their classrooms on a weekly basis since last fall to demand climate action, reported Tuesday that at least 1,351 separate strikes are now scheduled to take place all over the world on Friday. Continue reading →
A new study warns that if the Earth’s atmospheric carbon hits a certain level, stratocumulus clouds could completely vanish, causing the planet’s temperatures to skyrocket even higher. (Photo: Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr/cc)
Stratocumulus clouds cover about two-thirds of the Earth and help keep it cool by reflecting solar radiation back to space. Recent research has suggested that planetary warming correlates with greater cloud loss, stoking fears about a feedback loop that could spell disaster. Continue reading →
Atmospheric concentrations of planet-warming gases have hit record highs, according to a leading U.N. climate agency. (Photo: Tony Webster/Flickr/cc)
As communities most impacted by the climate crisis ramp up demands for urgent global action, atmospheric concentrations of the top three greenhouse gases driving global warming have hit record high levels, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) out Thursday.”
Last year, as the latest WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin (pdf) details, average concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide all rose—with CO2 hitting 405.5 parts per million (ppm), its highest level in a few million years.
The report also noted that there was a “resurgence of a potent greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting substance”—called trichlorofluoromethane, or CFC-11—likely tied to “increased emissions associated with production of CFC-11 in eastern Asia.” Continue reading →
Environmentalists on Monday slammed President Donald Trump’s replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), with Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter warning that it “would enshrine and globalize Trump’s deregulatory zealotry into a trade pact that would outlast the administration and imperil future efforts to protect consumers, workers, and the environment.”
Presented as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), many have noted that Trump’s trade deal, as Bloombergput it, “looks more like a rebranding than a revolution,” despite Trump’s vows when he was a presidential candidate that he would negotiate a new deal that’s dramatically better for American workers. As experts and campaigners comb through the details of the agreement, environmental activists are homing in on provisions they warn would endanger people and the planet. Continue reading →
The Colorado River, one of the longest rivers in the United States, is gradually shrinking. This is partly a result of overuse by municipalities and seasonal drought. The other reason is global warming.
The decline in the river reservoir will have serious implications for large U.S. cities, such as Los Angeles, that depend on the Colorado River as their water source. In addition, this will also have an impact on the Native American tribes who view the Colorado River as sacred to their religions.
As Ka-Voka Jackson, a member of the Hualapai tribe and a graduate student working to address climate change on the Colorado River and restoring native plant species along its banks, stated,
“The Colorado River is so sacred not just to my tribe, but to so many others.”
As a scholar of Native American religions and the environment, I understand how indigenous people’s religions and sacred places are closely tied to their landscape. For the past 100 years, indigenous peoples have been forced to adapt to changes in their environments and modify their religious rituals in the United States. The U.S. government made certain Native American religious practices illegal in the 19th and early 20th century. Although these policies have since been rescinded, they led to changes in many indigenous practices.
Global warming, however, is different. The question is whether indigenous people will be able to adapt their beliefs all over again due to the impact of global warming on the natural world.
Adapting to change
The Blackfeet tribe in Montana brought changes in their relationship with the natural world as a result of the policies of the U.S. government from the 1880s to the 1930s.
For example, the Blackfeet purposefully moved religious ceremonies from one time on their liturgical calendar to completely different times to avoid the U.S. government penalizing native people for dancing or participating in religious ceremonies.
The Blackfeet moved their annual O’kan, or sundance festival, from late summer (usually held at the end of August) to the Fourth of July celebration. They avoided U.S. government punishment by masking their ceremonies within state-sanctioned public events.
Policies related to the mining of natural resources and damming of rivers on indigenous lands have also led to changes in Native Americans’ religious practices.
Historian David R. M. Beckinterviewed elders and researched how the Menominee tribe in Wisconsin adapted to the loss of their sacred fish, the sturgeon, after a paper mill built a dam across the Wolf River.
The sturgeon disappeared after the dam was built in 1892, because they could no longer swim upstream to spawn. For over 100 years, the Menominee tribal members continued to pray and conduct their annual “returning of the sturgeon” ceremony in the spring – even though there were no more sturgeon in the river. The Menominee ultimately won the right to return the sturgeon to the Wolf River in 1992 and the tribe revitalized the full ceremony and celebration of their sacred fish.
In all these situations, Native American tribes learned to adapt to the challenges placed before them, modify their religious practice and embrace a different relationship with the natural world.
Global warming and religion
When it comes to global climate change, it affects everyone, not just specific groups in specific places. But for many indigenous peoples, natural resources are closely linked to religious beliefs and practices.
Historically, indigenous peoples used the natural seasonal cycles of weather, plants and animals as part of their liturgical or religious calendar. The Blackfeet held their annual “beaver bundle ceremony” in the early spring as ice melted off rivers and beavers returned to the open waters. In Blackfeet mythology, a beaver served as a deity who taught humans how to cultivate tobacco, which the tribe used for important religious ceremonies and as a peace offering to their enemies.
There are signs, though, that beavers are now moving north due to global warming. Biologists are currently studying both beavers and the birch and alder shrubs
that beavers eat, as both move north into new regions. Scientists worry that as a keystone species, the movement of beavers will change the northern ecosystems as they cut off waterways and build beaver dams. And shrubs will change the local waterways that they grow by. This will affect local animal species.
What will happen when there are no more beaver in Blackfeet territory? Will their religious traditions adapt similar to the Menominee when they faced the loss of their sacred sturgeon?
Religion and resiliency
From the arctic tundra to the American desert southwest, and places worldwide, indigenous peoples will be facing the impact of global climate change.
Regarding the shrinking of the Colorado River, researchers Brad Udall and Jonathan Overpeckhave concluded that, “Failing to act on climate change means accepting the very high risk that the Colorado River basin will continue to dry up into the future.”
If this river faces a drier future, it will likely affect the Mojave, a people indigenous to the Colorado River basin, who believe the river was created by their ancient deity Mastamho as part of their sacred landscape.
As the G-20 convenes in Germany this week to discuss global issues including climate change, indigenous scholars, such as myself, are wondering what the future holds for indigenous peoples, their environments and their religions.
Indigenous communities can be resilient and adapt their internal religious beliefs to outside challenges, as Native American tribes from the turn of the 20th century have proven. Climate change presents yet another challenge.
Heads of state cheer after the Paris Climate Change Agreement was signed at COP21, 2015, by 197 parties. (cc/Wikipedia)
The world is worried as Decision Day nears.
At a April 29th rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Trump said he would make a “big decision” on Paris within the next two weeks and vowed to end “a broken system of global plunder at American expense.”
Now the Trump administration has a meeting scheduled this Tuesday to decide whether to drop out of the Paris Agreement. Continue reading →
What is happening in the Arctic will not stay in the Arctic.
In an ominous (though not hopeless) report published Friday, researchers warn that as many as 19 various ‘tipping points’ could be triggered by the increasingly warm temperatures in the world’s northern polar region.
The Arctic Resilience Report, produced under the auspices of the Arctic Council by an international team of researchers from multiple institutes and universities, is the first comprehensive assessment of its kind, looking at the unique region from a combined social and ecological perspective. By surveying and synthesizing a large body of previous research on how both communities and natural systems are responding to global warming, the report offers a worrying conclusion. Continue reading →