A review of David Attenborough’s ‘Climate Change: The Facts’: Facts Do Not Speak for Themselves

Screenshot 2019-04-24 at 10.17.33

In April 2019, the BBC broadcast the ‘Climate Change: The Facts’, fronted by Sir David Attenborough,[i]whose previous programmes about the state of the seas had done much to raise public concern about plastic pollution.[ii] In a 60 minute programme, there is, of course, only so much that can be said about what is an extremely complex issue.

‘Climate Change: The Facts’ was, at that level, a remarkable piece of television. It was clear and hard-hitting, far better than other attempts, some of whom were much longer but failed to hit home.[iii]It was telling demolition job of assorted deniers such as Nigel Lawson and a certain man in the White House.[iv]It also tried to encourage viewers to become involved rather than just gape at another documentary.

Facts and frameworks

‘Climate Change: The Facts’ bend over backwards to provide solid facts. A strong team of scientists gave testimonies to back up Attenborough’s narrative. It is certainly better to be guided by evidence than by wild guesses. The fact remains, however that if we wait until all the facts are ‘in’, it will probably be too late. As the programme itself made clear, there simply too many unknowns and perhaps never to be knowns.

Data & Evidence-based policy

In any case, isolated facts seldom ‘speak’ for themselves. Their value depends not only the quality of the original research. There is also the problem of robust interpretation. Many critical variables such as ‘ecosystem functions’, ‘food security’ and ‘safety’ are hard to quantify and not amenable to expression in prices. Furthermore, factually we humans might survive the losses of some other species but that does not give us the ‘right’ to wipe them out.

We can state certain facts about, say, wind turbines (they filled the screen at times). There are still bound to be conflicting interests and value judgements inherent in plans for more wind power . It is a fact, one not seen in the programme, that mining for neodymium (used in wind turbine magnets) has caused terrible pollution in certain places.[v]Some forms of solar power have generated so much heat as to burn passing birds. We need to be upfront about  the dilemmas involved in some ‘alternatives.’

The statement that nuclear power is ‘carbon-free’ was made without qualification. Yet the fact is that nuclear power plants are part of a whole fuel cycle, from uranium mine to waste disposal site, one that generates significant levels of CO2, not least in the transportation from one part of the cycle to another.[vi]Those emissions (and the many other problems inherent in this blighted energy source) will get far worse as high grade and easily accessible source of uranium are depleted.

The fundamental problem of not one of shortages of evidence or deficient data-processing. The deeper problem is one of analysis, vision and appropriate policy. Here ‘Climate Change: The Facts’ fell short. Mention was made, for example, of rewilding. On a quite huge scale and with more space for ‘non-people’, it will make a real difference.[ix]But, of course, that means restriction on the scale and locations of human activity. Here the programme remained glued to vague generalities.

Though the programme dealt with ‘facts’, it might be imagined that a number of assumptions were being made, if not by Attenborough then by some of the ‘talking heads’. They perhaps include the fallacy of ‘green growth’ and two related assumptions, those of ‘decoupling’ and of a ‘circular economy, both propositions that defy biophysical reality, not least the entropy law,

There was scarcely a hint in the programme that we will have to abandon the pursuit of growth, trying to find paths to significant degrowth in several sectors[vii]and, overall, build a steady-state with a much lower overall level of economic activity.[viii]Instead, the impression was left that the magic wand of technology will vanquish the climate monster, aided by a more responsible form of consumerism. Palatable or not, society is, in toto, obese: some slimming is the only sustainable option.

Gloves Off

Attenborough has been criticised in the past for pulling his punches. He was certainly much more forthright this time round. Overall, ‘Climate Change: The Facts’ was a big change of tone compared to previous Attenborough series and, indeed, parts of the programme, notably on ‘tipping points’, were truly scary.

There is, of course, a difficult balance to be struck between doom and gloom on the one hand and, on the other, messages of hope. Too much of the former only leads to dismay and abandonment of all effort to turn things around. Too much of the latter can feed unwarranted optimism, leading, in turn, to seemingly ‘realistic’ but, in fact, really ineffective programmes of modest changes.

On balance, ‘Climate Change: The Facts’ erred on the side of underestimating the danger. Time is running out and at an accelerating speed.[x]The scale of the overall global predicament is actually worse than the programme recognised. Climate breakdown is, in fact, only one expression of a multiple and interacting set of crises, for which the only accurate description is ‘overshoot.’[xi]Through the sheer weight of its collective ‘footprint’, humanity is depleting, degrading and destroying the web of life.

Climate breakdown is only one symptom of that excess. Deforestation was indeed spotlighted but mainly regarding the loss of carbon ‘sinks’ (there was a particularly moving sequence in which an orangutan seemingly tried to stop a machine cutting down its habitat). Yet there are many other symptoms of an unsustainable imbalance between people and planet: soil erosion and denutrification, aquifer depletion, salinisation, eutrophication, direct pollution of air, land and water, coming ‘peaks’ across a whole range of key resources, including even sand …[xii]We live in what economist Herman Daly has called a “full world” (ie a full-up world).[xiii]‘Decarbonisation’ and a ‘low carbon economy are very far from enough.[xiv]

As its title rather suggests, the programme was indeed about just climate change but ways could have been found to allude to those other ‘crunches’, some of which, especially falling water tables, might wreck whole regions well before climate breakdown finishes them off. Other species are certainly being wiped out in a variety of ways, not just from the impact of climate chaos: the animal body parts trade, bush meat consumption, trophy hunting as well as, more broadly, habitat clearance, poisoning by biocides and human-introduced invasive species. Trawling techniques alone are decimating the seas. It is not just a matter of changing water temperature and acid levels due to GHG emissions.[xv]

Mercifully, many of the measures that can halt global overwarming are solution multipliers. That fact could perhaps have been used towards the end of the programme, showing such benign interactions, forest conservation and reforestation being an obvious example. In purely human terms, a national effort to make every house energy efficient would also reduce the economic and health problems associated with fuel poverty.

Causes and consequences

Much of the programme was devoted to the relentless climb in CO2 omissions, the biggest ‘driver’ of climate breakdown. Only later did methane appear in the story, while other potent GHGs, nitrous oxide and CFCs, were somewhat passed over.[xvi]Clearly, in such a programme there must be some simplification and the main task was to link human activity to global overwarming. Rather unwisely, the programme stuck with the term ‘climate change’, terminology that can cause complacency, unlike, say, ‘climate breakdown’. Global warming does not sound too bad, unlike ‘global overheating.’

There were good sequences on what lies behind such immediate drivers. Thus, the programme featured the images of the tidal wave of cars and lorries. But it said less about the number of governments and businesses, with some public support, seeking to massively expand road networks, thereby inducing yet more traffic. The biggest scheme is China’s ‘Belt and Roads’ project, a veritable infrastructural Armageddon.[xvii]But most countries are racing down the same road.[xviii]It is one thing to talk in generalities about emissions from the transport sector. It is another to condemn actual transport projects that are driving climate breakdown.[xix]

There were certainly some alarming images of the extreme weather events and other consequences of global overheating. The images of mass bat deaths in northern Australia, due to a heat wave, were truly awful but again they are only one symptom of its impact on wildlife.[xx]It made for gripping television but the footage still ate into time that could have been used to tease out wider aspects of the climate crisis.

For instance, little attention was paid to the likely spread of tropical diseases and its impacts.[xxi]Another understated was the likelihood of more civil unrest and war[xxii]as well as migration on an unprecedented scale,[xxiii]probably triggering further rounds of violence. The problem of such colossal human population shifts tends to be kept under wraps.

Indeed, many otherwise sensible people seem to prefer to hide behind the cosy but facile rhetoric of ‘freedom of movement’, the logical application of which would mean no wilderness areas, no nature reserves, no restrictions on settlements on, say, flood plains or the best soils, and no action to protect areas where facilities such as accomodation, schools, welfare facilities, transport systems and so forth are overcrowded. Building more hospitals and other infrastructure may buy a bit more time (at the cost of more sprawl and resource use) but does not resolve the problem.

Pointing the finger

One of the ‘taking heads’ commented that the bulk of us are to blame, though rightly adding that some are more responsible than others. Of course, there are many, many reasons why people and organisations do what they should not do, in terms of the sustainable common good. They range from ignorance, laziness, insecurity, rashness, myopia, delusion, group think, short termism, and hubris to profiteering and power plays. Sometimes, there is wilful intent or, at least, culpable irresponsibility, at other times, more benign purposes which, nonetheless , cumulatively still produce malign consequences.

It would take an entire series to unpick all these elements, not least what is sometimes called the ‘tyranny of small decisions’, a dynamic more significant than self-serving behaviour of assorted vested interests.[xxiv]Sir David specifically ‘called out’ the major fossil fuel companies for their public denial of the crisis when, internally, they had acknowledged the facts of fossil fuel and global overwarming. Yet the list of culpable parties is far, far longer. Almost two thousand companies with investments in fossil fuel extraction, infrastructure, and power, received a shocking $1.912 trillion from 33 global bankssince the Paris Accord was adopted.[xxv]

Sir David did focus on the enormous profits of the fossil fuel industries. However, they make all that money only because they do not pay for the costs of all the damage they cause and fail to make reparations for all the resources they deplete. Government subsidies further inflate those profits, with the UK being especially generous in giving public monies to dirty private coffers.[xxvi],

Businesses are driven by economic demand, in the main the spending patterns of ordinary consumers (the key exception being the arms industry and defence sector, together a major generator of greenhouse emissions).[xxvii]In the call for more responsible consumption, the current stranglehold of consumerist values was somewhat underplayed. Apparently, Easter 2019 saw British consumers splash out over £1 billion, most of which expenditure will add to the unsustainable demands we collectively place on the planet.[xxviii]Sales of SUV and ‘top-end’ TVs rise.[xxix]There are roughly 1,000,000 people in the air at any given time and over 100,000 flights the cross-cross the world every day.[xxx]Many without such spending power aspire to join the party. Such predilections constitute a formidable barrier that messages of hope cannot wish away.

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Extinction Rebellion protest in London, April 2019

Action!

A number of reviewers deemed the programme to be a robust “call to arm”.[xxxi]The question is, of course, what is to be done. To his great credit, Sir David praised the protests from school students around the world, triggered by the brave action of Greta Thunberg.[xxxii]By contrast, he was rather reticent about the actions of Extinction Rebellion and other such militant bodies.

Yet the most inspiring protests still beg big questions not about just immediate tactics but also basic goals and the best means by which to achieve them. In other words, we need a practicable, comprehensive and internally coherent programme of policies. Otherwise, we might solve one problem but only by making others worse. Like it or not, that means not just protests and slogans but politics and use of the levers of power. It also means rigorous debate alongside protests and practical projects. We need politically active citizens as well as conscientious consumers.

As noted above, great of emphasis was placed was put on personal lifestyle change. To be sure, it is important that people feel that they can be part of the necessary change. It is better to be part of a solution, even in small ways, than persist in helping to make things worse. But personal change is small change, even if, over time, it can add up. The biggest single difference individuals might make was not mentioned, however.[xxxiii]We will return to that deafening silence later.

Yet, often, there are structural, economic and cultural barriers to what individuals can achieve on their own. It is hard to use public transport when there are no bus or train services or when the fares are much, much higher than the alternative of going by car or plane. Such choices are, however, not just shaped by prices but also knowledge of the relevant facts, time needed to seek out better good and services (assuming availability), peer pressure and much more, not least the baleful influence of advertising. In any case, the time factor is decisive. Consider the speed with which CFCs would have been phased out if it had been just left to consumer choice, compared to the much speedier impact of the Montréal Accords.

Changing the framework

Governmental action is more critical than was recognised in ‘Climate Change: The Facts.’ Of course, in the age of Trump as well as seemingly all mighty transnational corporations, that may sound implausible. Yet major steps are being taken by local and provincial governments, despite such straightjackets, some of the best examples being in the USA.[xxxiv]

Thus, the renewable energy revolution rolls on despite the obstacles put in its way. Around the world, community groups and networks are taking matters in their own hands and, in the process, pushing at least some politicians to act. Part of that drive is divestment from fossil fuel firms.[xxxv]Though not without real limitations, the actions of Norway’s Government Pension Fund to pull out of oil and gas is a step forward.[xxxvi]Some actions may be symbolic, such as declarations of a ‘climate emergency’ by local councils, yet it is all part of a shift in the overall agenda. It is a pity a few minutes were not found in the programme to mention more of this work.

In some cases, it will be a case of governments enforcing laws that already exist, in others new laws and regulations.[xxxvii]A whole series of regulations favour the carbon emitters and other forms of unsustainable development.[xxxviii]Only governments can address the huge perversions in land ownership, releasing land for reforestation and other desiderata.[xxxix]Only governmental action can reverse the enclose of public urban spaces, reclaiming them for sustainable regeneration schemes.[xl]Only government action can put in place schemes such as universal basic income to help people get of the growth treadmill.[xli]Specific schemes such as diesel car scrappage payments or mandatory deposit return (bottles etc) similarly depend on government action. So too does the creation of an attractive, affordable and reliable public transport network.[xlii]

Governments retain a huge raft of powers. Indeed, in many ways private businesses depend upon the state.[xliii]Simply switching around current grants, tax breaks, subsidies, insurance requirements, research outlays, infrastructural support and so forth would make a huge difference as would much stronger legislation and enforcement regarding producer liability.[xliv]Again, the programme would have been more powerful had there been more recognition of such opportunities.

Cars filling massive road copy

How much difference would it make if all these vehicles were electric?

Limited alternatives

The programme emphasised technological innovation as the main way forward. To be sure, it is part of the answer but only a part and one not without pitfalls. There is indeed a long history of fetishising the ‘technofix’ as an alternative to necessary economic and social and especially cultural change. [xlv]

Yet, as the programme did depict, there are a number of technologies that really would help. The problem is to separate out the genuinely benign ones, rejecting those what look as if they will do more harm than good or simply not work. ‘Clean’ technology is not necessarily ‘green’ technology. Large-scale hydroelectric schemes, for example, have wrought grievance ecological and social damage. In hot regions, their reservoirs are adding to global overwarming.[xlvi]

Meanwhile, ‘bioenergy’ covers a range of options, some genuine possibilities, others literally taking food out of people’s mouths as well as spreading ecologically unstable monocultures and depleting nutrient cycles.[xlvii]Carbon capture featured quite prominently in the programme but, again, all that glisters… [xlviii]It was interesting to be shown electric aeroplanes but there is little chance they can make even tiny inroads into today’s enormous and still growing aviation industry.

There are many other proposed fixes of one sort or another where a choice has to be made. Examples include: high-speed trains; autonomous vehicles; ‘solar roads’; small modular nuclear reactors; the so-called ‘gas bridge’; hydrogen fuel (often wrongly portrayed as an energy source, not just a potential carrier of energy that has to be generated somewhere); big tidal barrages; energy-from-waste; ‘vertical farms’; aquaculture; genetically modified fast-growing trees; biochar; crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin; ‘teleworking’; concrete flood defences; even geo-engineering and space colonisation. There are still of people deluded enough to think there is such a thing as ‘clean coal’, most of whom focus on the problems caused by burning coal, not its mining.

In all cases, we have to test proposals against likely output, land take, reliability, safety, storage requirements, costs (including opportunity costs), scaling up constraints, dependency on diminishing non-renewable resource inputs (rare earths etc), ecological side-effects, specific impacts on wildlife and so forth. Production and operating costs apart, electric cars, for example, will still need land-guzzling roads and parking spaces as well as traffic signals, road lighting, policing and so forth. Their tyres and brakes will still generate air pollutants. They will still compete with other road users. In 2015, there were 947 million passenger cars and 335 million commercial vehicles worldwide. It may take some time to electrify them!

Or take the case of plastics. Apart from direct pollution, they have a fast rising carbon footprint. By 2050, they are projected to account for a sixth of all global emissions. When they degrade, they further add to global overwarming by releasing methane. Let us assume that biological feedstocks are a good alternative. Currently, they account for less than 1% of all plastics. Other problems apart, shifting all plastic from petroleum to bio-based feedstocks would also require as much as 5 percent of all arable land, a formidable constraint.[xlix]

There is no single economic policy or technology that alone can do the trick. We need a whole programme. However, if we were to single out one overriding ‘fix’, it is not new gadgetry but an age-old entity: the tree.[l]That alternative extends to what are sometimes called ‘natural climate solutions.’[li]Overall, however it will be simpler, cheaper, safer and faster to consume less than to switch from one mode of production to another. Yes, we need better forms of supply but far more important is the level of demand. That means not just looking at per capita consumption but also the number of consumers.

Energy futures delusion

Some visions of  a sustainable alternative (this one is taken from a ‘National Geographic’ magazine special edition on ‘energy futures’) look rather like a modified ‘business-as-usual’. Sources of carbon-free energy are prominent but there is scarcely any space for non-human nature and the this new ‘civilisation’ is devoid of human scale, with people reduced to some anonymus mass.

Numbers count too

Some 230,000 people are added to world population each day.[lii]The growth rate might have slowed but that is very different from an absolute and lasting fall in total numbers. Each addition means more demand for food, water, energy, housing, transport, education and employment opportunities, plus, at least basic consumer goods such as furniture and cooking equipment. Their provision will add more greenhouse gases and more generally, increase the weight of humankind’s already unsustainable ‘footprint’ on the Earth’s life-support systems. It will also take away space and resources for non-human species. Responsible reproduction is in fact more important than responsible consumption (not that it is an either/or choice matter but both!).[liii]

Sir David has indeed been very vocal about this elsewhere, but tjhere was scarcely a peep in this programme, apart from a passing mention of the ‘p’ word (but no strong images to drive home the point). As noted, it focused instead on technology and consumption, not the numbers that multiply their effects.[liv]Respected journals such as ‘The Lancet’[lv]have put their heads above the parapet on this matter as have ecologists such as Paul Ehrlich.[lvi]Surely a minute might have been found for someone from such sources to give the issue at least more a mention.

It is as foolish to omit the role of human numbers as it is ignore the ‘overconsumers’ and the inherently malign impacts of certain technologies. This is as true of climate breakdown as it is of just about every other environmental problem and many ‘purely’ social ones too.[lvii]Conversely ,there are few problems that would not be easier to solve if there were fewer people. ‘Population deniers’ are little better than climate deniers. One wonders why the usually forthright Attenborough was so quiet about the biggest elephant in the room.

Elephant getting on bus

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“Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess. What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and education of the billions who are its victims.” (Martin Luther King)
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Time and scale

Finally, we come to a barrier that the programme somewhat skirted. It rightly noted a number of solutions, even if the range could have been wider, with more emphasis on the role of government. Whatever the proposed solution, we have to test it against the ‘rate and magnitude’ barrier, ie could it deliver in sufficient time and on sufficient scale, at an affordable cost, without dangerous disruption and without compromising safety and other standards, to make a meaningful difference?

All other arguments apart, nuclear power, for example, fails to pass muster. It is simply beyond all credibility that sufficient nuclear reactors could be built, to replace not just fossil fuel powered plants but also the fast ageing fleet of current reactors plus all those likely to be threatened by rising sea levels. Arguably, carbon capture schemes fail the same test. But the question must be asked of all proposals. Some proposals for PV and wind power seem to assume a rate of manufacture and installation several times that achieved to date by leading countries such as Germany.

‘Climate Change: The Facts’ knocked on the head a lot of nonsense from those who deny or evade what is now compelling evidence. But, for all the alarm bells it rang, it still did not paint a full enough picture of the predicaments now facing us. There is much to be still debated and clarified about what needs to be done.

Box ticked

The BBC has been under a lot of criticism for its failure to cover adequately the climate crisis.[lviii]In particular it has given platforms to deniers as part of a misguided policy of so-called ‘balance’.[lix]It gave the impression that there really was room for doubt. More generally, its sense of ‘newsworthiness’ and overall scheduling policy treat a truly existential crisis as but one matter amongst many.

Conversely, its reportage, as with most media, continues to treat the human economy as the fundamental source of wealth, not the Earth’s life-support systems. Money is treated as real value in itself, rather than what it is: a symbolic token conferring a claim on resources. ‘Market forces’ continue to be represented as some natural phenomenon, just blowing like the wind, not the human constructs that they actually are. Economic growth is deemed to be, ipso facto, a good thing, the bigger the better.

‘Climate Change: The Facts’ did permit the BBC to claw back some of its reputation as a serious broadcaster, not just entertaining but informing and educating. But it will have to do far more if this single programme isn’t going to be just an exercice in box-ticking.

Endnotes

[i]https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00049b1

[ii] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/15/david-attenborough-urges-immediate-action-on-plastics-blue-planet
and https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2018-01-25/david-attenborough-says-plastic-pollution-outcry-makes-blue-planet-ii-a-job-worth-doing/

[iii]Eg https://sandyirvineblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/04/age-of-stupid-not-so-clever/and https://sandyirvineblog.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/al-gores-an-inconvenient-truth-a-critique.pdf

[iv]Even the Daily Telegraph’, not a bastion of radical politics, gave the programme a 5 star rating:
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/2019/04/18/climate-change-facts-review-david-attenboroughs-superb-documentary/
The Daily Mail however still found it necessary to moan about scientists and what it called their ‘pet theories”:
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-6937767/CHRISTOPHER-STEVENS-reviews-nights-TV-Pity-Sir-David-got-hijacked-doom-mongers-theories.html

[v]http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150402-the-worst-place-on-earth

[vi]https://theecologist.org/2015/feb/05/false-solution-nuclear-power-not-low-carbon; https://wiseinternational.org/sites/default/files/u93/climatenuclear.pdf; https://worldbusiness.org/nuclear-power-totally-unqualified-to-combat-climate-change/; https://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2018/11/more-nuclear-energy-is-not-the-solution-to-our-climate-crisis.html; https://www.resilience.org/stories/2006-05-11/does-nuclear-power-produce-no-co2/;

[vii]http://kevinanderson.info/blog/avoiding-dangerous-climate-change-demands-de-growth-strategies-from-wealthier-nations/?fbclid=IwAR3ARMZ1P5WKg_vHQK2TzZv_M25O_fCPXG_C9JTi1X46Gcfh1Azp594qYw4;
https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/why-green-growth-is-an-illusion;
https://www.resilience.org/stories/2018-11-21/the-limits-of-renewable-energy-and-the-case-for-degrowth/ 

[viii]https://steadystate.org

[ix]https://www.half-earthproject.org

[x]eg
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-26/record-carbon-emissions-seen-as-energy-use-grew-most-in-decade; https://library.wmo.int/index.php?lvl=notice_display&id=20697#.XLyncS_MzgF; https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/06/deforestation-accelerating-despite-mounting-efforts-protect-tropical-forests;
https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/plastic-production-increase-pollution-ocean-waste/;
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/10/earths-sixth-mass-extinction-event-already-underway-scientists-warn; https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/05/air-pollution-everything-you-should-know-about-a-public-health-emergency; https://theecologist.org/2019/mar/15/global-use-natural-resources-skyrocketing

[xi]https://www.overshootday.org/about-earth-overshoot-day/

[xii]Examples:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/30/humanity-wiped-out-animals-since-1970-major-report-finds; https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/19/water-shortages-could-affect-5bn-people-by-2050-un-report-warns?CMP=share_btn_link;
https://phys.org/news/2019-01-global-groundwater-agriculture.html; https://ensia.com/features/salinization-salt-threatens-soil-crops-ecosystems/; https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/only-60-years-of-farming-left-if-soil-degradation-continues/;
https://www.vims.edu/research/topics/dead_zones/index.php; https://www.livescience.com/62489-dead-zone-arabian-sea.html; https://www.wri.org/our-work/project/eutrophication-and-hypoxia/interactive-map-eutrophication-hypoxia; https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X19302061; https://theecologist.org/2019/apr/23/europes-rivers-riddled-pesticides; https://www.stateofglobalair.org/sites/default/files/soga_2019_report.pdf; https://www.pnas.org/content/112/18/5750; https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/10/plummeting-insect-numbers-threaten-collapse-of-nature; http://peak-oil.org/peak-oil-review-19-nov-2018/; https://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-09-19/peak-oil-demand-peak-oil/; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/49846798_Energy_return_on_investment_peak_oil_and_the_end_of_economic_growth;
https://www.americanscientist.org/article/does-peak-phosphorus-loom; https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2018/07/13/628894815/episode-853-peak-sand;
Everywhere is being hit, unlike crises in the past. Some snapshots: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/microplastics-found-in-remote-region-frances-pyrenees-180971973/; https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/03/mongolia-air-pollution/https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/18/decades-of-denial-major-report-finds-new-zealands-environment-is-in-serious-trouble; https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42947155;
https://amp.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/18/gwent-levels-wetlands-biodiversity-risk-wales-motorway?fbclid=IwAR1vySyaX1XpVWePFcyht0KGRnehRJWBrrdTOBesRoadcKCTCjSR6ly_1Ew; https://theconversation.com/from-australia-to-africa-fences-are-stopping-earths-great-animal-migrations-114586?fbclid=IwAR3f8fCgvuxHOKkQ6KqIYSUCynQ4tlpn-rKJdRvRKekU3tnsLnPAZVFmvA8;
https://theecologist.org/2019/jan/30/highway-threatens-bolivian-national-park?fbclid=IwAR0gafnXMRxHiTXQQGZ4iGT6mRxBl3cRErjoZEmm7SFazyJJ4U1B-0l4Wms; https://blueheart.patagonia.com/discover; https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/china-belt-and-road-initiative-silk-route-cost-environment-damage-a8354256.html;
Even sea beds are not safe eg
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00757-y?utm_source=Nature+Briefing&utm_campaign=85e9e98bc8-briefing-dy-20190318&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c9dfd39373-85e9e98bc8-43745793&fbclid=IwAR0blwKJzYAavYqgF3liRMNRBEbErjI252O8-PPp_cBqDhEQhR0YdwU9UWs

[xiii]https://pages.wustl.edu/files/pages/imce/fazz/ad_5_2_daly.pdf

[xiv]https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/currentstudents/postgraduate/masters/modules/en9b5worldlitanthropocene/crist-beyond_the_climate_crisis.pdf?fbclid=IwAR07dc5VjKlj3jgXN_nwyE0-z8pJ_TpfWXebbom1BygFYy3eCou2V9ozHP4

[xv]Eg https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/ocean-acidification;

[xvi]https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nitrous-oxide-emissions-could-double/; https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/03/countries-crank-ac-emissions-potent-greenhouse-gases-are-likely-skyrocket;

[xvii]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhuEvnkVXBE&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR1FodeVRHBMa4tofOFu3Bt0ZTseVsqP-Zg2acNztHWnWHj6aI3SgjdtVXI

[xviii]https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/15/new-map-reveals-shattering-effect-of-roads-on-nature?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Green+Light+2016&utm_term=204482&subid=7423597&CMP=EMCENVEML1631&fbclid=IwAR3fQk16edfkSdI1bLqWmysqHXJDid_MH6km-yXwAiOyQyoK3O9eCOK1Tj4; https://news.mongabay.com/2018/04/chinas-belt-and-road-poised-to-transform-the-earth-but-at-what-cost/?n3wsletter&utm_source=Mongabay+Newsletter&utm_campaign=15abe15f05-newsletter_2018_04_19&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_940652e1f4-15abe15f05-67232675&fbclid=IwAR0JHx4SFiORsAaidLjazWyPpVjajXMoDAlHdJu02_cL3GEdoDm4cEtCxe0;
https://friendsoftheearth.uk/climate-change/roads-ruin-uks-most-controversial-road-plans;
https://e360.yale.edu/features/a-highway-megaproject-tears-at-the-heart-of-papuas-rainforest;

[xix]By way of comparison, the edition of the BBC’s ‘Gardeners’ World’ magazine on sale at the time of the Attenborough broadcast featured an article by Monty Don in which he forthrightly and unquivocally condemned all use of biocides in the garden (https://magsdirect.co.uk/magazine/gwmay19/)
Sticking to generalities can be a form of evasion itself.

[xx]https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/australia-heatwave-latest-temperature-heat-records-stress-new-south-wales-bushfires-a8735541.html

[xxi]Eg https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/apr/14/tropical-insect-diseases-europe-at-risk-dengue-fever
and
https://grist.org/article/climate-change-could-push-tropical-diseases-to-alaska-according-to-a-new-study/;

[xxii]https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/full/10.1175/WCAS-D-13-00059.1; http://emiguel.econ.berkeley.edu/research/warming-increases-the-risk-of-civil-war-in-africa;
https://www.newclimateforpeace.org/blog/insurgency-terrorism-and-organised-crime-warming-climate

The causal link between climate and conflict is another instance of the straw man arguments common in the whole debate. Those who warn of dangers are portrayed as if they only blame climate and other environmental factors. The fact that, as is usually the case in history, there are many factors at work does not thereby mean that ecological dynamics can be ignored. In fact, they are increasingly significant direct drivers of conflict and make other factors more potent eg
https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/220575-pentagon-unveils-plan-to-fight-climate-change.
See also:
https://nexusmedianews.com/study-shows-climate-change-is-fueling-conflict-and-mass-migration-5f37de166ec6

[xxiii]https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/climate-change-already-driving-mass-migration-around-globe
and
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/19/climate-change-soon-to-cause-mass-movement-world-bank-warns.

[xxiv]https://www.researchgate.net/publication/240297227_Environmental_Degradation_and_the_Tyranny_of_Small_Decisions

[xxv]https://www.ran.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Banking_on_Climate_Change_2019_vFINAL1.pdf

[xxvi]https://www.carbonbrief.org/oecd-fossil-fuel-subsidies-373-billion-2015
and
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/23/uk-has-biggest-fossil-fuel-subsidies-in-the-eu-finds-commission
‘Free market’ America is also free-handed with the public purse eg http://priceofoil.org/content/uploads/2017/10/OCI_US-Fossil-Fuel-Subs-2015-16_Final_Oct2017.pdf

[xxvii]https://www.tni.org/es/node/22587;https://truthout.org/articles/the-military-assault-on-global-climate/
Such matters can only be addressed by people as citizens (eg voters), not consumers

[xxviii]US consumers play their part:
https://r-login.wordpress.com/remote-login.php?action=auth&host=philadelphia.cbslocal.com&id=15116066&back=https%3A%2F%2Fphiladelphia.cbslocal.com%2F2018%2F03%2F22%2Feaster-spending-survey-2nd-highest-in-history%2F&h=
Perhaps the straw that is breaking the Earth’s back is the rise of the new global middle class eg
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22956470; https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2018/09/27/a-global-tipping-point-half-the-world-is-now-middle-class-or-wealthier/;
https://www.reuters.com/middle-class-infographic.

[xxix]https://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/manufacturer-news/2018/04/16/suvs-account-for-almost-a-third-of-cars-on-uk-roads; https://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2018/08/29/high-end-tv-sets-drive-global-market/

[xxx]https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07g70j1

[xxxi]https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/apr/18/climate-change-the-facts-review-our-greatest-threat-laid-bare-david-attenborough

[xxxii]https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/11/greta-thunberg-schoolgirl-climate-change-warrior-some-people-can-let-things-go-i-cant

[xxxiii]https://qz.com/1590642/these-millennials-are-going-on-birth-strike-due-to-climate-change/?utm_campaign=Weekly%20Digest&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=71906136&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8nLuafa1WjxQ-hCc48Q1Q4fHgrjVGcblhgnIyuBQefpSSlIAMIb3K70iAQRy9g3zChoSvK_GM38M9ibvch17gu2klIUA&_hsmi=71906136

[xxxiv]Eg https://wallethub.com/edu/most-least-green-cities/16246/?fbclid=IwAR2OH47IQBC4OvLe8GZBb4mSKnjAXsdbs-0OTl-5Qmz29T1XnRx8ReTxT3wand https://insideclimatenews.org/news/18042019/new-york-city-climate-solutions-buildings-energy-efficiency-jobs-low-income-greenhouse-gases?utm_source=InsideClimate+News&utm_campaign=421af59ce8-&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_29c928ffb5-421af59ce8-327903589See also: https://carbonneutralcities.org

[xxxv]Eg https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/16/divestment-fossil-fuel-industry-trillions-dollars-investments-carbon

[xxxvi]https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2019/03/15/how-significant-is-norways-fossil-fuel-divestment-announcement/#7755dd9e50de

[xxxvii]Eg https://eradicatingecocide.com/the-law/what-is-ecocide/

[xxxviii]Examples in the UK include the National Planning Policy Framework and the energy market ‘capacity’ mechanism, the latter favouring large-scale centralised power generation.

[xxxix]https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/apr/17/who-owns-england-thousand-secret-landowners-author

[xl]https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/e87dab_c893a52a18624acdb94472869d942a09.pdf
Land Value Tax is another part of this armoury eg http://www.andywightman.com/docs/LVT_england_final.pdf.

[xli]One of the first statements of this case was by Warren Johnson: https://books.openedition.org/pucl/1772?lang=en

[xlii]https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/luxembourg-free-public-transport-no-fares-trains-trams-buses-tickets-2020-a8743581.html

[xliii]Some ways are outlined here: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/392081/the-trouble-with-billionaires-by-linda-mcquaigneil-brooks/9780143174547
and
https://policy.bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/why-we-cant-afford-the-rich.

[xliv]There is a flavour here: https://www.taxpayer.net/energy-natural-resources/green-scissors-report-2012/;
https://www.cbd.int/financial/fiscalenviron/g-subsidiesoverview.pdf ;
and
http://www.earth-policy.org/books/eco/eech11_ss4

[xlv]https://www.newsociety.com/Books/T/Techno-Fix
and http://www.edwardtenner.com/why_things_bite_back__technology_and_the_revenge_of_unintended_consequences_21108.htm.
Specifically on carbon fixes:
https://corporatewatch.org/product/technofixes-a-critical-guide-to-climate-change-technologies/

[xlvi]https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/nov/06/hydropower-hydroelectricity-methane-clean-climate-change-study; https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/09/hundreds-new-dams-could-mean-trouble-our-climate;
https://www.climatecentral.org/news/hydropower-as-major-methane-emitter-18246?fbclid=IwAR3Qm1zS-IlC8NPhXRBiQncpXyvR5t6tHmsAhAO-DZSGAwFiXItvHJ4rLOU;  and https://www.earthlawcenter.org/blog-entries/2017/12/dams-climate-change-bad-news.

Again the challenge is not to think just in terms of carbon emissions but to see the big ecological picture: https://www.internationalrivers.org/problems-with-big-dams; https://phys.org/news/2017-05-major-driver-global-environmental.htmland http://www.ecoropa.info/publication/social-and-environmental-effects-large-dams

[xlvii]https://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk; https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-016-1764-4?fbclid=IwAR3TzqqjaV-6F96ftHHS-Zh6MIP9JTxXNdiVLE6s9QLBruGbBJfIosSGsGU; https://www.independentsciencenews.org/environment/biofuel-or-biofraud-the-vast-taxpayer-cost-of-failed-cellulosic-and-algal-biofuels/?fbclid=IwAR1Z39OUkizHljbBnjljAvx7_9MeSt6egvLYGknJaCMMvMxIX0zO9ozc58s;  http://ww2.rspb.org.uk/Images/biomass_report_tcm9-326672.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0gKhMzzXmw-0sq4meZ3c64cvmQ60gaa9hR8t07GPUsByfrKtpnwUPR8Ukand https://www.econexus.info/sites/econexus/files/EU%20Bioenergy%20Briefing_0.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2wPXS6gIYjdV78E8NZehl_prnw6bXjdktOvUniPT8Pj6gmc_uh6S9IDWs

Sometimes, bioenergy is linked to carbon capture (BECCS) eg https://www.technologyreview.com/s/544736/the-dubious-promise-of-bioenergy-plus-carbon-capture/?fbclid=IwAR2OoLQ_qe1aaOw_GKQpeNKyII64WSUUVrGGXXfbKxyAVqcpb2NqpPiI_3c.
For an overview, see:
https://tyndall.ac.uk/publications/tyndall-working-paper/2010/biomass-energy-carbon-capture-and-storage-beccs-revie
See also:
https://www.carbonbrief.org/world-can-limit-global-warming-to-onepointfive-without-beccs?fbclid=IwAR38Jo6ear4xyAcM6kznOLy2PcNVvPOlSpw9ti3msO2DjgilfIoo1WZOjew

[xlviii]https://truthout.org/articles/techno-optimism-and-bad-science-in-paris-the-problem-with-carbon-capture-and-storage/; https://hub.globalccsinstitute.com/sites/default/files/publications/49611/424-alstom-sub3.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1EZTlrmMAolICtGnTv8ayFbJzCL_2DF_VYcoAl73T-CUmJMh_Z6gI9waY;
https://thebulletin.org/2016/10/wed-have-to-finish-one-new-facility-every-working-day-for-the-next-70-years-why-carbon-capture-is-no-panacea/; https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/wp-content/uploads/legacy/Global/usa/planet3/PDFs/Carbon-Capture-Scam.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3rH7-FyxKeJ0uObExOBqVij0dfhzcWddit939ccNHMYe5dj6Kt_TFxWkM; https://www.independentsciencenews.org/environment/climate-technofix-weaving-carbon-into-gold-and-other-myths-of-negative-emissions/?fbclid=IwAR3ZBu8JLVZmT3AiVfe3EPKAHOl606fo4MoVmkvjwQZ7Hn_W-5MSF606vds; http://airclim.org/acidnews/myths-about-carbon-storage-–-sleipner-case?fbclid=IwAR0r0zulqwzMT_4UtuCdem556X21d8k-mxvYZdGOwZgkC0VJcGVsGiS-ptU; https://corporatewatch.org/the-zombie-technofix/?fbclid=IwAR09aIbWYmt60OMNcdTerdCg9IlzcrphRhqDGjARCUvNhxeegfThxASC3ck; https://www.greenamerica.org/fight-dirty-energy/amazon-build-cleaner-cloud/coal-carbon-capture-and-storage-not-solution?fbclid=IwAR0SCVvEWtJnydI_0YwBqP1C5CpRpTV2jcFb2C54eSOgXNX4xlbWrButFxc

Carbon capture might, however, be a fix for oil companies, of course: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-15/big-oil-ceos-appeal-to-norway-to-back-carbon-capture-and-storage?fbclid=IwAR2r-9a2naH7W32–V_8k8RS2Av2u817I2F0LwbSYouhNWtwzNDE91tvvJ8

[xlix]https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-019-0459-z

[l]Eg https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-best-technology-for-fighting-climate-change-isnt-a-technology/
and
https://www.postcarbon.org/amazing-new-energy-source-introducing-trees/

[li]http://naturalclimatesolutions.org

[lii]This is an interesting overview here:
https://overpopulation-project.com/2019/03/28/overpopulation-during-my-lifetime-of-eighty-years/?utm_campaign=Weekly%20Digest&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=71906136&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8nLuafa1WjxQ-hCc48Q1Q4fHgrjVGcblhgnIyuBQefpSSlIAMIb3K70iAQRy9g3zChoSvK_GM38M9ibvch17gu2klIUA&_hsmi=71906136

To watch the human race still racing, see:

https://population.io/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=population&campaignid=1695828135&adgroupid=64502612525&adid=329422103477&gclid=Cj0KCQjw4-XlBRDuARIsAK96p3BFlPjDdPlCUTYEHWpqlXDkeQsedkm2b9fQw09Umm6mTt_l-zxLt-waAmgSEALw_wcB

https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

[liii]https://www.bigissue.com/latest/social-activism/how-do-you-stop-the-planet-burning-through-climate-change-stop-making-babies/;

[liv]https://mahb.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/2010_Ryerson_TheMultiplierofEverythingElse_PostCarbonReaderSeries.pdf; https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=HqhFbplNYQEC&pg=PA136&lpg=PA136&dq=John+Harte+Numbers+matter&source=bl&ots=0-IxF8z4x9&sig=ACfU3U3-Y_-2L6jtRDCaIl60o6_SNRLJdQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwin1pGlxubhAhUITBUIHe23AN4Q6AEwAXoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=John%20Harte%20Numbers%20matter&f=false; https://www.albartlett.org/presentations/arithmetic_population_energy.htmlhttps://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/population_and_sustainability/climate/.

[lv]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22784534

[lvi]https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/mar/22/collapse-civilisation-near-certain-decades-population-bomb-paul-ehrlich;
http://dieoff.org/page112.htm.

[lvii]https://www.pnas.org/content/107/41/17521;
https://phys.org/news/2010-10-population-trends-climate.html; https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/360.pdf;
http://www.philipcafaro.com/alternative-climate-wedges/population-wedge.

With particular reference to the so-called developing world (sometimes an out-of-date descriptiongiven the level of industrialisation and urbanisation across many parts of such regions), see:
https://www.cgdev.org/publication/economics-population-policy-carbon-emissions-reduction-developing-countries-working

[lviii]https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/07/bbc-we-get-climate-change-coverage-wrong-too-often

[lix]https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/02/bbc-climate-change-deniers-balance