What’s happening worldwide about climate policy

Climate strike, Quito, Ecuador, Sept 2019. Pachamama is Mother Earth as revered in Andes. Photo Kai Medina (Mk170101), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Since the global protests of September 2019, I’ve been looking for words to describe what is happening in climate campaigning and policy formation, and for historical precedents which may help us understand where we’re going.

Calls for action are getting stronger, and they’re coming from many directions: scientists, politicians, the UN, and the emerging generation.

The World Health Organisation is warning that climate change already causes about 150,000 deaths annually, and is likely to cause about 250,000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050.

Two of the world’s most revered religious leaders, Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama, have spoken…


How global protests can turn climate policies around

Climate demonstrators in Dili, Timor-Leste, September 2019 (Francisco Amaral, via Wikimedia Commons)

Greta Thunberg, the best-known of the young people advocating for science-based climate policies, has been called a “revolutionary” both by admirers and critics. This is because she wants change that is serious and fast.

Can it happen in the world today?

I think the answer is yes. A process of serious political change is not only possible; it has already begun. Global youth-led demonstrations are part of this process, and changing voter behaviour is another part.

We’re in a time when the wind of change is blowing, as Harold Macmillan said about Africa back in 1960.

Climate-conscious people demonstrated in…


But for most of those 2.5 billion years there was almost no free oxygen (O2) in Earth's atmosphere. (See the page "Geological history of oxygen" in Wikipedia.) This oxygen-less Earth was an environment where many forms of microbial life could emerge and flourish, but not mitochondria which are adapted to process O2.


Have you heard of the “outside-in” hypothesis of eucaryote origin proposed by David Baum and Buzz Baum? In this model, the ancestors of mitochondria originally lived just outside another, larger species of cell, with which they already had a mutually beneficial relationship. In which case there was selective pressure to keep the two species of cell close to one another. And the eventual incorporation of the mitochondria into the larger cell was not a miracle of pure chance after all.


I agree that sentiment plays a part in theorising about presence or absence of life beyond Earth… but not necessarily in the way you think. I’d suggest that sentiment, in the form of excitement about our own current and future technology, leads us to make working assumptions about our future that may or may not be true, such as the idea that we’ll soon be spreading through the galaxy as fast as our imagined future space ships can fly. …


Would colonies on Mars or in orbit be “places where whatever conflicts and disasters that threaten Earth are less able to reach”? Aren’t most of the threats we face right now due to our failure to use high technology in a sustainable way? Wouldn’t space colonists be even more dependent on high technology, therefore even more vulnerable to system collapse?


The insurrection at the Capitol was part of a larger fight against facts.

Pro-Trump crowd under a cloud of tear gas outside the Capitol, January 6 2021. Tyler Merbler from USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“Facts are stubborn things.” — John Adams (1735 to 1826)

“The current, best available science is not opinions — it’s facts.” — Greta Thunberg September 2019

The January 6 insurrection in Washington can be characterised several ways, for instance as an attempted self-coup and as an anti-democratic putsch.

It was also a revolt for denial—part of a larger, on-going conflict between those who take well-established facts seriously, and those who deny facts that don’t fit their narrative.

Like Donald J. Trump, the insurrectionists were in denial of Biden’s election victory, which had already been confirmed by the Electoral College and…


Diverse living worlds may be bad news for would-be galaxy colonists

The Dragonfly probe is scheduled to reach Titan in 2036 and look for evidence of life there. (NASA graphic)

There are good reasons to think that Titan and Venus may have life, or something very like it. If so, it implies an awe-inspiring diversity of living worlds in the Milky Way Galaxy. For those who dream of humans colonising the Galaxy, this would be bad news, because of what it says about the Great Filter…

The recent report about Venusian phosphine is the latest in a series of surprises from that planet, and from another world with clouds, Saturn’s moon Titan.

The phosphine report by Jane S. Greaves and others was both serious and exciting, though we don’t yet…


Why Venus microbes could be as comfortable with concentrated sulfuric as Earth living things are with water…

Earth’s sister planet robed in her clouds. Hell or habitat? (NASA photo)

Life in the clouds of Venus?

The recent report of phosphine there looks like a serious clue.

The apparently successful quest for phosphine was conducted because Clara Sousa-Silva and others singled out the compound as a strong biosignature — a compound whose discovery on a rocky planet would be an major indicator of life there, because it is unlikely to be produced by non-living processes.

The biggest apparent obstacle to Venusian life is neither temperature nor pressure, but the presence of sulfuric acid…


And which other worlds could have done the same. Looks like answers are emerging.

Artist’s impression of Earth in Archean Eon, 4 to 2.5 billion years ago, by Tim Bertelink. Via Wikimedia Commons

How could life emerge on a previously lifeless planet? Is life’s origin a chance event, or a stepwise process? Is it likely that worlds other than Earth have also come up with life; and if so, which ones?

After many frustrations and false starts, developing lines of research are finally offering answers to these questions.

A recent paper in the scientific journal Astrobiology concludes — subject to further testing — that life could be produced via a step-by-step process in and around hot springs on a volcanic island about four billion years ago.

Like earlier theories of life’s origin, the…

Colin Robinson

Someone who likes sharing factual information and fragments of the big picture

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