Transition Brockville archive

Category : Big picture (473)

AI, fake images and crumbling trust in our narratives

Resource Insights / Kurt Cobb / 19 August 2018

In a piece I wrote in 2014 I opined, “If you want to corrupt a people, corrupt the language.” I added, “Once it becomes impossible to say the truth with the language we have, it will ultimately be impossible for us to adapt and survive.”

In that piece I was complaining about what I dubbed “oil Newspeak,” an Orwellian lexicon created by the oil industry to deceive policymakers, investors and the public.

Of course, back then I concerned myself only with words. But with the increasing power of artificial intelligence (AI) enhanced software which is now available to average computer users, practically anyone can alter and/or create images and audio recordings that seem real, but which are entirely concocted. It means that comedian Richard Pryor’s famous line—”Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?”—may very well morph from a joke into a serious question.

[ FULL ARTICLE ]

More heat, drought and longer fire season in Canada’s future

Montreal Gazette / Anna Junker / 18 August 2018

Heat and drought. A longer fire season with more frequent wildfires and larger areas burned. That’s what’s in store for Canada, especially the prairie provinces, in the coming years, experts say, a situation that is being directly attributed to climate change.

In Canada, 2.5-million hectares — equivalent to about half the size of Nova Scotia — burn every year from wildfires on average. The annual destruction has more than doubled since about the 1970s, where numbers were around one million hectares.

Current projections forecast even warmer, drier conditions across the country, creating the perfect catalyst for more wildfires in the future.

[ FULL ARTICLE ]

The message of a scorching 2018: Scientists were right

National Post / Somini Sengupta / 13 August 2018

This summer of fire and swelter looks a lot like the future that scientists have been warning about in the era of climate change, and it is revealing in real time how unprepared much of the world remains for life on a hotter planet.

The disruptions to everyday life have been far-reaching and devastating. In California, firefighters are racing to control what has become the largest fire in state history. Harvests of staple grains like wheat and corn are expected to dip this year, in some cases sharply, in countries as different as Sweden and El Salvador. In Europe, nuclear power plants have had to shut down because the river water that cools the reactors was too warm. Heat waves on four continents have brought electricity grids crashing.

And dozens of heat-related deaths in Japan this summer offered a foretaste of what researchers warn could be big increases in mortality from extreme heat. A study last month in the journal PLOS Medicine projected a fivefold rise for the United States by 2080. The outlook for less wealthy countries is worse; for the Philippines, researchers forecast 12 times more deaths.

[ FULL ARTICLE ]

Extreme temperatures ‘especially likely for next four years’

The Guardian / Jonathan Watts / 14 August 2018

The world is likely to see more extreme temperatures in the coming four years as natural warming reinforces manmade climate change, according to a new global forecasting system.

Following a summer of heatwaves and forest fires in the northern hemisphere, the study in the journal Nature Communications suggests there will be little respite for the planet until at least 2022, and possibly not even then.

Rising greenhouse gas emissions are steadily adding to the upward pressure on temperatures, but humans do not feel the change as a straight line because the effects are diminished or amplified by phases of natural variation.

From 1998 to 2010, global temperatures were in a “hiatus” as natural cooling (from ocean circulation and weather systems) offset anthropogenic global warming. But the planet has now entered almost the opposite phase, when natural trends are boosting man-made effects.

[ FULL ARTICLE ]

CO2 has soared to levels not seen in 800,000 years

Common Dreams / 03 August 2018

As temperatures bust heat records across the globe and wildfires rage from California to the Arctic, a new report produced annually by more than 500 scientists worldwide found that last year, the carbon dioxide concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere reached the highest levels “in the modern atmospheric measurement record and in ice core records dating back as far as 800,000 years.”

While the most significant jump was the global average for carbon dioxide (CO2)—which, at 405.0 parts per million (ppm), saw a 2.2 ppm increase from the previous year—concentrations of other dominant planet-warming greenhouse gases, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), also hit “record highs,” according to State of the Climate in 2017 (pdf) released Wednesday.

[ FULL ARTICLE ]

The world is hot, on fire, and flooding. Climate change is here.

Grist / Eric Holthaus / 24 July 2018

The worst ravages of climate change are on display around the world.

Wildfires have ripped through towns in Greece, floods have submerged parts of Laos, and heat waves have overwhelmed Japan. These are striking examples of climate change playing out in its deadliest forms, and they’re making the term “natural disaster” an outdated concept.

[ FULL ARTICLE ]

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The Transition Framework

What the Transition movement does incredibly well is small-scale experiments which are practical, which resonate with local people, which look as if they’re doable, and that can engage people at a practical and meaningful level. It connects up the big issues and the local issues and shows you that change can happen at a local level.

— Julian Dobson, 21 Stories of Transition
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