Friday, November 30, 2018

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Stop the insanity!

I simply can't believe that my vote - the one thing that separates us a functioning democracy - will be viewed through the lens of lawyers and lawsuits.

And worse still - this is not the first time we've seen that in Florida.

What's the point of voting if I can't just trust that my vote countered and matters?

Broward County voting

I'm not sure if anyone outside of Florida knows how the voting process works here. We fill out ballots like the ones shown on this post, though obviously this wasn't the one used last week.

You bubble in your selection, then walk over to an optical reader that scans your ballot.

As far as a count - or recount - there's an easy way to eliminate possible fraud or "new ballots being added late"

When you walk into the polling place, you swipe your license or id, or fill out an affidavit, which is recorded.

Absentee ballots are likewise recorded, and they track when they were received back.

A paper ballot is printed and it has on it a code that matches to that ID swipe or request for a ballot.

The first step in any recount would be to compare the totals - how many were swiped, had affidavits, or had been received back - and compare it to what you have. If there was a discrepancy, or a concern about what you see, then you could match them up by code, and see what happened.

And that would eliminate the possibility that there were new ballots added.

And count away at that point. All that really matters is that every vote gets counted. I live in this county. I want to be assured that it was free and fair, and that my vote actually did get counted.

There are a couple of douchebags (a technical term) who are saying it's a liberal conspiracy to undermine the election. If the vote totals match and don't show anything unusual then this is utter nonsense. It seems that they are trying to disenfranchise ME to gain power. Not cool on any level. It's personal.

Now you could rightfully ask the question of what happened: incompetence, an honest mistake, or something more nefarious.

But that should happen after we get on with the counting.

As far as possibly being nefarious, we could read about or build conspiracy theories, but mostly they don't make sense.

As a mental exercise, I tried to build a few that involved cheating by either side, one that was for personal gain, and an elaborate few just because...

Some ended in a why/for what purpose. Some ended in a "yeah but it would be easy to spot if anyone looked, and they are." And the rest were just so wildly silly that they were unlikely.

I would argue it's incompetence at some level. But that's just me.

The mystery of our first instellar visitor just got more complicated #MakeAmericaSmartAgain

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s Election Day. No excuses. Get out and #Vote

elections always have consequences....

I was thinking about a Smashmouth song from the late 90s “Walking on the Sun”

The jaunty melody belies the serious nature of this song, which is about the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. The song was written by the group's guitarist Greg Camp, who told Songfacts: "The song was basically a social and racial battle cry. It was a sort of 'Can't we all get along?' song for the time when I wrote it. It was just about all the things that were going on around me as a young person. And I'm, like, God, what is going on? I don't understand why this is happening. It's like we might as well be walking around a planet on fire."

So don't sit back kick back and watch the world get bushwhacked
News at 10:00 your neighborhood is under attack

It ain't no joke I'd like to buy the world a toke
And teach the world to sing in perfect harmony
And teach the world to snuff the fires and the liars
Hey I know it's just a song but it's spice for the recipe
This is a love attack I know it went out but it's back.
It's just like any fad it retracts before impact
And just like fashion it's a passion for the with it and hip
If you got the goods they'll come and buy it just to stay in the clique

So don't delay act now supplies are running out
Allow if you're still alive six to eight years to arrive
And if you follow there may be a tomorrow
But if the offer's shunned you might as well be walkin' on the sun

Twenty-five years ago they spoke out and they broke out
Of recession and oppression and together they toked
And they folked out with guitars around a bonfire
Just singin' and clappin' man what the hell happened
Then some were spellbound some were hellbound
Some they fell down and some got back up and
Fought back 'gainst the melt down
And their kids were hippie chicks all hypocrites
Because fashion is smashin' the true meaning of it

[Repeat Chorus]

It ain't no joke when a mama's handkerchief is soaked
With her tears because her baby's life has been revoked
The bond is broke up so choke up and focus on the close up
Mr. Wizard can't perform no godlike hocus-pocus
So don't sit back kick back and watch the world get bushwhacked
News at 10:00 your neighborhood is under attack
Put away the crack before the crack puts you away
You need to be there when your baby's old enough to relate

[Repeat Chorus]

You might as well be walkin' on the sun
You might as well be walkin' on the sun
You might as well be walkin' on the sun
You might as well be walkin' on the sun

Monday, November 5, 2018

Fearmomgering, dissociation, and reality #MakeAmericaSmartAgain

Remember that you should vote for your own best interests. Not for party. Not for the guy/gal who says what they want you to believe. Vote for the person who will represent you.

Lately we’ve been hearing about the migrant caravan.  It’s coming. It’s dangerous. The want to destroy “our” way of life.

Let’s assume for a moment that this reporting is accurate. First off, does it pass the “sniff test?”  Does it seem logical?  Okay let’s suppose for a moment that the reporting is compelling enough, and enough people are shouting it that it sounds plausible.

What’s the plan exactly?  People - including women and children - are traveling many hundreds of miles mostly on foot. They have limited rations, and surely they are tired. Are they going to make a big rush across the border? Miles and miles of desert to

Who remembers their civil war history?  In the turning point of the war we had the battle of Gettysburg. One of the big moments came when the confederate army called in more troops. A contingent (I think from NC) travelled many hundreds of miles on foot to reach PA, over the course of a few days. They were well trained, in good physical condition, and supplied well enough to make them ready reinforcements. They had a mere couple of hours rest, and were put into battle as part of “Pickett’s charge” - a full out assault on union positions. They lost. Decisively.

Do you think a group from Central America would fare better with objectives that are completely unclear?

Besides the group size is estimated to be under 7,000.  Think about how many people live in your city. I think that border patrol and the police can handle a group that size. Thousands of troops are required to handle this? Yeah no.

You can educate yourself on the caravan here.

But what of the Muslim terrorists who are reported to be among them? Hmmm. A group that speaks Spanish and native dialects welcomes in people who don’t speak the language and are, what, brandishing guns? Sounds unlikely.

Meanwhile in what I like to call the “real world” we have actual people committing actual crimes against fellow Americans. Often with guns. But because they don’t fit the narrative (they’re white rather than middle eastern) they are ignored.

Wake up and pay attention! The threat is not from the boogey man, it’s from these nationalists who believe they are better than everyone else.

Arm yourself with knowledge.

Don’t vote for them. Vote blue. Don’t encourage the hate. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Media reporting.

"Think Disney is expensive now? Prices just went up — before you even walk in the gate."

The headline for the article is technically correct (they're raising parking fees), but it's a little misleading.

And the article itself is poorly written and links to a piece from March about Disney charging for resort parking - a move that Disney has (for now) rescinded.

And this is exactly what's wrong with the media today. A sensational headline followed by sub-par reporting, with references to reports that are either wrong or which have changed.

I expect more from the media overall.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Elections always have consequences ... make a plan to #Vote

If you live in Florida, here's the info you need to vote:

As for polling places, check these links, based on your county:

Early voting begins in many places as early as next week! You should make a plan and bring a friend!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The family mystery of sorts

I mentioned in an earlier post that my grandmothers family history revealed a bit of a mystery.  I wanted to explore that a little....

My grandmother was always fairly secretive about her family and her past.  She would lie, mislead, and otherwise obfuscate her past.  As I mentioned, her mother was around for most of my childhood, so I got some nuggets from her that help me understand this more, and raises more questions.

Here's the story: she was born in 1914 to an immigrant mother, and a father who had been in the country for one generation.  Her mother's lineage is easy enough to trace.  But her father is more of an enigma. 

She was born with a Jewish name, and it seems clear both of her parents were Jews.  But the mystery starts with a decision made in about 1930 when her father decided to change the family name.  Why then?  I realize there were always whispers of anti-semitism, but this was before the rise of Hitler.  And he was a painter by trade and a sometime semi-professional wrestler, so it seems mildly unlikely that his name would have cost him jobs.

And so far, I haven't found anything official about their name change.  Did they just adopt a new one?

My grandmother had once told me that her past was secret and her father told her never to speak of it.  Were they hiding?  Running?  Was there a simple explanation like his wrestling career would go farther with a name like "Field" ?

So here they were during the depression, living as best they could.  Then, he died in 1935.  My grandmother and her mother made ends meet however they could.  But they had literally nothing.  They boarded at various houses, they lived with relatives, they took whatever jobs they could.

My grandmother told me that she often would contrive something to try and get work - or outright lie at times.  That strikes me as an interesting piece of information.  She dropped out of high school to make a living.

A few years later, she met my grandfather.  What they had in common, I have no idea.  But the two of them, and her mother decided to board somewhere together to save money. 

And here's the next mystery.  She got married at some point, and had my dad.  In what order, and on what dates, is a little fuzzy.  She had documents that showed the dates, but we learned after she died that some of them were forged, or altered.  And some of them were based on earlier documents that had also been altered (more on that later).

In any case, at some point in the early 1940s, the 4 of them decided to move to Florida.  My grandmother .... hustled .... to make money.  My grandfather worked odd jobs, but mostly was a painter.  Later, my great grandmother moved out and it was just the three of them and a really bad marriage.

They divorced in the early 1950s, and my father bounced between the two of them.  But how they both managed to earn wages was another mystery.  My grandmother was the "entertainment coordinator" at one of the Miami Beach hotels in the heyday. 

And this is where the documents took an interesting turn.  She had a marriage certificate to her husband recreated that had some errors on it.  And she also filed a "delayed birth certificate" with the state of new york, which was wrong on a few counts, and listed her name as "Fields" (with an s), and some information that made it all seem legit. Both documents had raised seals, so how did she get these?  I know for a fact that she managed to change my father's date of birth on official documents - and that posed some issues when he applied for Social Security; his info simply didn't match.

And then she remarried.  A Cuban national, whose past is totally obscure.  She always said he was nefarious or something like that, so you have to wonder.  Then, there's the story about her having done jail time for attempting to commit arson to get insurance money.  She didn't own anything - who stood to benefit? 

While she was in jail, my dad lived with a great aunt in NY.  After she got out, my grandmother severed connections with her aunt?  Why?  What was happening there? 

Its a little odd.  The evidence here would suggest that my grandmother was a bit of a con artist, a grifter, someone who did whatever it took to make ends meet.  Who was she, really?

Later, she would marry a man who was a little older, who had been successful in retail.  They ran shops together, they travelled together, and for the first time she really didn't have to worry about money.  He left her enough to live on for a few years when he died.

The funny thing is that I recall his family didn't like her, particularly.  They accepted her, but questioned her motives. 

Some years later, she married for the 4th time, and this time it was a well-to-do widower.  She cared for him, and helped him lead a fun life in later years.  But his family hated her, and thought she was a gold digger. Could it be true?

I would suggest it was more happy accident.  She died with a little money, though, so her later years were comfortable.

So my questions are all around who she really was, why the name change, and how she made ends meet.

Its peculiar, I tell you.

And that's the mystery that was uncovered by simply doing a little genealogy. They say you can expect surprises. And I stumbled into one.

Genealogy - my own story.

I was always connected to my mom's side of the family.  We all knew the basic history, and knew ancestor's names and where they came from.  Sure my grandfather would tell tall tales sometimes, but the basic history matched up.

So when my mom's sister did a DNA test, there were no real surprises.  A couple of things were interesting, but yep, we were descended from Spain and had some roots in Venezuela.  Good.

To me, the more intriguing part of this part of the family lineage came because of who my grandfather's father knew, and how he was connected to politicians and so forth before the second world war.

And then, how my grandfather (and some of his siblings) became defacto spies working for the OSS during the second world war.  The story there is intriguing, and one day I'll have to get into it.

My point here is that on that side of my family, there were no surprises, really. 

Now on my dad's side we thought we knew who we were.  We knew some family names, and some relatives.  But we were missing details and didn't know as much as maybe we could have.  My grandfather on that side was illiterate, and didn't know much about his family history more than a generation back.  His brother's children, though, attempted to do some genealogy research in the 80s.

But they were looking up history between Ireland and Newfoundland with a family name as common as ours...good luck.  They hit a lot of dead ends.  But they did give us some insights that would pay off later.

My grandmother on that side was always cagy and coy when it came to her background.  I knew the family had changed their name at some point.  I knew some things about her mother because I had the good fortune to meet her; she died when I was in high school.  So I knew nuggets, but not all that much.

And so my dad took a DNA test, and it came back with a moderately surprising result: we weren't as Irish as we thought we were, and it turns out my grandmother was Jewish (the markers for the Jewish lineage are quite pronounced, and though people in the lineage lived many places, they typically intermarried, keeping the DNA markers strong).  But he also had some Iberian (ie, Spanish) and Syrian, and some Eastern Eurpoean in his lineage.

Starting with what I knew of my grandmother, great grandmother, and what my relatives had discovered about my grandfather, I set off on a quest to learn more.

Oh the internet is an amazing thing.  And the fact that census data is released 72 years after its collected, meant I had access to info my relatives didn't.

Over a week or so, I discovered that Syrian and Iberian connection both came through the same side - as near as I can figure, relatives (who were probably Jewish) were kicked out of Spain at a time around the inquisition and likely wound up in Damascus.  Then, a few generations later, a family immigrated to Newfoundland and married into that part of our family.


Then, on my grandmothers side, I was able to track down her original birth record, and found her given family name, and learned that her father had immigrated to the US from "Austria" which I quickly discovered probably meant Hungary.  As I understand it, immigrants from Hungary would use Austria as country of origin when heading through Ellis Island as it was easier.

And that pretty well summed up his history.  I had no idea about most of it, and was moderately surprised.  But it honestly doesn't change anything about who I am.  Its just neat to learn about who I am and where I come from.

That said, they say the DNA results do often surprise. And this one did, because it uncovered a mystery about my grandmother's side that was more intriguing than any of the results.

I'll post more about that later....

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Trump-Russia news: the past 48 hours in Mueller investigation news, explained - Vox

Trump-Russia news: the past 48 hours in Mueller investigation news, explained - Vox

The past 48 hours in Mueller investigation news, explained

We've gotten news on Alfa Bank, Psy-Group, and Peter W. Smith — three long-simmering subplots of the Russia investigation.

Robert Mueller.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

New reports over the past two days have brought increased attention to three long-simmering subplots in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

First, the Wall Street Journal revealed new details about GOP operative Peter W. Smith's quest to obtain Hillary Clinton's emails from Russian hackers during the 2016 campaign — including that he raised at least $100,000 for the effort and then pitched in $50,000 of his own money. (Smith was found dead last year, and local authorities ruled his death a suicide.)

Second, the New Yorker revisited the question of mysterious online communications between a Russian bank and a domain tied to the Trump Organization. This topic came up during the campaign and was received skeptically, but now the New Yorker quotes experts who've reviewed the data and still suspect there's something there.

Third, the New York Times revealed that an Israeli firm called Psy-Group pitched its "social media manipulation" services to Trump campaign aide Rick Gates in early 2016, but that Gates didn't hire the firm. Mueller's team has been investigating Psy-Group closely for months for reasons that are not entirely clear but seem to be about whether the firm did in fact do work on behalf of Trump's campaign.

All three of these storylines could be quite consequential — or they could have relatively innocuous explanations. But as former Justice Department official Matthew Miller observed on Twitter, all this news should remind us of the staggering complexity of the Mueller investigation, and that there's still so much we don't know about what he's found.

Peter W. Smith: what happened when he sought Hillary Clinton's emails from Russian hackers?

Michael Flynn
Michael Flynn.
The Washington Post/Getty Images

What we already knew: During the 2016 campaign, 80-year-old GOP operative Peter W. Smith recruited a team to try to obtain Hillary Clinton's 33,000 deleted emails from "dark web" hackers — including hackers he thought were "probably around the Russian government." It's not clear if Smith had any success, but we know he tried because he freely admitted all this to reporter Shane Harris in May 2017.

Then, 10 days after Smith told his story to Harris (but before it published), Smith was found dead in a Minnesota hotel, with a plastic bag over his head and a source of helium attached. Per the Chicago Tribune, an accompanying note said Smith was taking his life because of a "RECENT BAD TURN IN HEALTH SINCE JANUARY, 2017," and because of "LIFE INSURANCE OF $5 MILLION EXPIRING." The note stated that "NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER" was involved in his death. Local authorities ruled his death a suicide.

Since Smith's death, we've learned that he name-dropped Michael Flynn a lot during the email quest, and that Smith distributed a document suggesting "Trump campaign" involvement. Harris also reported that US intelligence reports describe Russian hackers talking about how to get Clinton emails to Flynn through an intermediary. Mueller's team started looking into the matter last year.

What's new: On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal's Byron Tau, Dustin Volz, and Shelby Holliday reported several fascinating new details about Smith's operation and investigators' interest in it.

First off, they described how Smith communicated with some associates about the project. He and others had access to a Gmail account with the name "Robert Tyler." Sometimes, rather than sending emails, they would simply type messages in the "drafts" folder to try to avoid a paper trail. (The other person could then log in and see the draft.)

Second, they revealed that a large amount of money was involved. They describe an October 11, 2016, email in the account from an unknown person called "ROB" to Smith, mentioning in an apparent code that "$150K" will "allow us to fund the Washington Scholarship for the Russian students." The code is somewhat undercut by the subject line ("Wire Instructions — Clinton Email Reconnaissance Initiative") and a mention that "the students are very pleased with the email releases they have seen" (WikiLeaks had begun posting John Podesta's emails a few days earlier).

Finally, the Journal reporters say that Mueller's team has remained quite focused on John Szobocsan, a business associate of Smith's who was involved in the email operation, was interviewed by the special counsel's team three times this year, and went before a grand jury in August.

The questions remaining: Did Smith's operation come up with nothing in the end, as he claims? After all, Clinton's deleted emails were never released. Was he operating independently (as he claimed to Harris), or was the Trump campaign involved somehow (as his document claimed)? And, uh, are local authorities correct that he killed himself?

Smith may be dead, but Flynn is alive and cooperating with Mueller, so he may have provided some answers. But the fact that a grand jury was hearing testimony about this as recently as August suggests it's still very much under scrutiny.

Psy-Group: did this social media "manipulation" company end up helping Trump, or not?

Erik Prince, who met with Psy-Group owner Joel Zamel, George Nader, and Donald Trump Jr.
Erik Prince, who met with Psy-Group owner Joel Zamel, George Nader, and Donald Trump Jr.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

What we already knew: This year, Mueller's investigators have focused intently on a new set of non-Russian supporting characters in the scandal: a trio who met with Donald Trump Jr. in August 2016 to discuss how they could help the Trump campaign on social media.

There's Joel Zamel, owner of the Israeli "social media manipulation" company in question, Psy-Group. There's George Nader, an adviser to the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates. And there's Erik Prince, the American private security company CEO and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who had a mysterious meeting with a Russian financier in Seychelles after the election. (Also shortly after the election, Nader paid Zamel about $2 million, for unclear reasons.)

Mueller has questioned both Zamel and Nader at US airports and called them in for grand jury testimony, and he's even sent FBI agents to Israel to dig into Psy-Group. But we still haven't gotten the full picture of why, and how it might relate to Russian interference.

What's new: On Monday, the New York Times's Mark Mazzetti, Ronen Bergman, David Kirkpatrick, and Maggie Haberman reported that Psy-Group actually pitched Trump campaign aide Rick Gates on their services back in March 2016.

At the time, the big question was whether Trump could hold on to enough delegates at the Republican convention to lock down the nomination. Psy-Group wrote a proposal that "veteran intelligence officers" would create psychological profiles of thousands of delegates and bombard them with "authentic looking" but fake online messages to encourage them to back Trump. However, Gates did not end up hiring Psy-Group, it seems.

The questions remaining: This has clearly been a major focus for Mueller this year, and the big question is why he's so focused on Psy-Group and this cast of characters. Might it involve information provided by his cooperators, Michael Flynn and Rick Gates?

The answer is unclear, but reading between the lines, Mueller may suspect Psy-Group did in fact end up doing social media manipulation on Trump's behalf (Zamel has denied this), that George Nader (who paid Psy-Group $2 million after the election) and Erik Prince were involved, and that there may even have been a Russian angle.

Alfa Bank: what is up with a Russian bank's online contacts with a Trump domain?

A branch of Alfa Bank in Minsk
A branch of Alfa Bank in Minsk.
Viktor Drachev\TASS via Getty Images

What we already knew: All the way back in October 2016, Franklin Foer asked in a reported piece: "Was a Trump server communicating with Russia?" He asked because computer scientists crawling the internet for signs of Russian hacking online had noticed something odd: that two servers owned by Russia's Alfa Bank had repeatedly looked up a Trump Organization domain ( over several months. Then two days after New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau asked Alfa's lobbyists for comment on the matter, the Trump domain was deleted, which seemed odd.

But Foer's piece was received skeptically. For one, when Lichtblau's Times piece finally ran, it was under the soon-to-be infamous headline "Investigating Donald Trump, FBI sees no clear link to Russia," and said the FBI had "ultimately concluded that there could be an innocuous explanation, like a marketing email or spam, for the computer contacts." Other media outlets and commentators chimed in to opine that because the Trump domain was administered by a separate company handling the Trump Organization's marketing emails, the "spam" explanation or some other mistake was more likely.

So the conventional wisdom became that Foer's piece was probably wrong, and that's remained the case even after Trump-Russia links started looking a lot less conspiratorial. Still, CNN reported in March 2017 that the FBI was still looking into the topic.

What's new: On Monday, the New Yorker's Dexter Filkins revisited the issue at length. He talked to members of the initial group of computer experts who first surfaced the matter, who reaffirmed their analysis that this was not a coincidence. He also revealed that a former FBI investigator and Democratic Senate staffer, Dan Jones, had assembled two separate teams of computer scientists to independently look over the server data.

They concluded that the domain lookups were deliberate and likely entailed some form of communication (perhaps use of an instant messaging service). "Is it possible there is an innocuous explanation for all this?" one told Filkins. "Yes, of course. And it's also possible that space aliens did this. It's possible — just not very likely." In the article, they elaborate at length as to why they think so (and Alfa Bank continues to dispute their claims).

The questions remaining: I'm not equipped to judge the technical details of this argument, but if you do buy it, the questions of what this communication actually entailed and who was involved remain unanswered.

The piece notes that one of the only other companies to repeatedly look up the Trump domain was Spectrum Health, a Grand Rapids, Michigan, nonprofit whose board chairman is Dick DeVos — brother-in-law of the aforementioned Erik Prince. It also mentions that the curious server traffic mostly occurred within the time Paul Manafort chaired the Trump campaign, though it continued after he resigned in August 2016.

Now, of these three stories, Alfa Bank is the one with the weakest evidence that Mueller is still investigating it. (The FBI looked into the matter before Mueller's appointment, but we don't have a more recent report confirming continued interest.) Still, Manafort recently flipped, meaning if he does know anything nefarious about this, Mueller probably now knows too, so stay tuned.

Short. Sweet. To the point. That's the beauty Dave's iPhone. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN | Environment | The Guardian

We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN | Environment | The Guardian

We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN

Urgent changes needed to cut risk of extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty, says IPCC

Urgent changes needed to cut risk of extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty, says IPCC

The world's leading climate scientists have warned there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

The authors of the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released on Monday say urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the target, which they say is affordable and feasible although it lies at the most ambitious end of the Paris agreement pledge to keep temperatures between 1.5C and 2C.

The half-degree difference could also prevent corals from being completely eradicated and ease pressure on the Arctic, according to the 1.5C study, which was launched after approval at a final plenary of all 195 countries in Incheon in South Korea that saw delegates hugging one another, with some in tears.

Quick guide

What difference would restricting warming to 1.5C make?

A key finding of the new IPCC report is the dramatic difference that restricting warming to 1.5C above pre industrial levels would have on the global environment.

The scientists found:

• By 2100, global sea level rise would be 10cm lower with global warming of 1.5C compared with 2C.

• Extreme heatwaves will be experienced by 14% of the world's population at least once every five years at 1.5C. But that figure rises to more than a third of the planet if temperatures rise to 2C

• Arctic sea ice would remain during most summers if warming is kept to 1.5C. But at 2C, ice free summers are 10 times more likely, leading to greater habitat losses for polar bears, whales, seals and sea birds.

• If warming is kept to 1.5C, coral reefs will still decline by 70-90% but if temperatures rise to 2C virtually all of the world's reefs would be lost

"It's a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now," said Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the working group on impacts. "This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilises people and dents the mood of complacency."

Policymakers commissioned the report at the Paris climate talks in 2016, but since then the gap between science and politics has widened. Donald Trump has promised to withdraw the US – the world's biggest source of historical emissions – from the accord. The first round of Brazil's presidential election on Sunday put Jair Bolsonaro into a strong position to carry out his threat to do the same and also open the Amazon rainforest to agribusiness.

The world is currently 1C warmer than preindustrial levels. Following devastating hurricanes in the US, record droughts in Cape Town and forest fires in the Arctic, the IPCC makes clear that climate change is already happening, upgraded its risk warning from previous reports, and warned that every fraction of additional warming would worsen the impact.

Scientists who reviewed the 6,000 works referenced in the report, said the change caused by just half a degree came as a revelation. "We can see there is a difference and it's substantial," Roberts said.

At 1.5C the proportion of the global population exposed to water stress could be 50% lower than at 2C, it notes. Food scarcity would be less of a problem and hundreds of millions fewer people, particularly in poor countries, would be at risk of climate-related poverty.

Attendees take a photo before the opening of the 48th session of the IPCC in Incheon
Attendees take a photo before the opening of the 48th session of the IPCC in Incheon. Photograph: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

At 2C extremely hot days, such as those experienced in the northern hemisphere this summer, would become more severe and common, increasing heat-related deaths and causing more forest fires.

But the greatest difference would be to nature. Insects, which are vital for pollination of crops, and plants are almost twice as likely to lose half their habitat at 2C compared with 1.5C. Corals would be 99% lost at the higher of the two temperatures, but more than 10% have a chance of surviving if the lower target is reached.

Sea-level rise would affect 10 million more people by 2100 if the half-degree extra warming brought a forecast 10cm additional pressure on coastlines. The number affected would increase substantially in the following centuries due to locked-in ice melt.

Oceans are already suffering from elevated acidity and lower levels of oxygen as a result of climate change. One model shows marine fisheries would lose 3m tonnes at 2C, twice the decline at 1.5C.

Sea ice-free summers in the Arctic, which is warming two to three times fast than the world average, would come once every 100 years at 1.5C, but every 10 years with half a degree more of global warming.

Time and carbon budgets are running out. By mid-century, a shift to the lower goal would require a supercharged roll-back of emissions sources that have built up over the past 250 years.

The IPCC maps out four pathways to achieve 1.5C, with different combinations of land use and technological change. Reforestation is essential to all of them as are shifts to electric transport systems and greater adoption of carbon capture technology.

Carbon pollution would have to be cut by 45% by 2030 – compared with a 20% cut under the 2C pathway – and come down to zero by 2050, compared with 2075 for 2C. This would require carbon prices that are three to four times higher than for a 2C target. But the costs of doing nothing would be far higher.

"We have presented governments with pretty hard choices. We have pointed out the enormous benefits of keeping to 1.5C, and also the unprecedented shift in energy systems and transport that would be needed to achieve that," said Jim Skea, a co-chair of the working group on mitigation. "We show it can be done within laws of physics and chemistry. Then the final tick box is political will. We cannot answer that. Only our audience can – and that is the governments that receive it."

He said the main finding of his group was the need for urgency. Although unexpectedly good progress has been made in the adoption of renewable energy, deforestation for agriculture was turning a natural carbon sink into a source of emissions. Carbon capture and storage projects, which are essential for reducing emissions in the concrete and waste disposal industries, have also ground to a halt.

Reversing these trends is essential if the world has any chance of reaching 1.5C without relying on the untried technology of solar radiation modification and other forms of geo-engineering, which could have negative consequences.

A nearly ice-free Northwest Passage in the Arctic in August 2016
A nearly ice-free Northwest Passage in the Arctic in August 2016. Photograph: VIIRS/Suomi NPP/Nasa

In the run-up to the final week of negotiations, there were fears the text of the report would be watered down by the US, Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich countries that are reluctant to consider more ambitious cuts. The authors said nothing of substance was cut from a text.

Bob Ward, of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, said the final document was "incredibly conservative" because it did not mention the likely rise in climate-driven refugees or the danger of tipping points that could push the world on to an irreversible path of extreme warming.

The report will be presented to governments at the UN climate conference in Poland at the end of this year. But analysts say there is much work to be done, with even pro-Paris deal nations involved in fossil fuel extraction that runs against the spirit of their commitments. Britain is pushing ahead with gas fracking, Norway with oil exploration in the Arctic, and the German government wants to tear down Hambach forest to dig for coal.

At the current level of commitments, the world is on course for a disastrous 3C of warming. The report authors are refuseing to accept defeat, believing the increasingly visible damage caused by climate change will shift opinion their way.

"I hope this can change the world," said Jiang Kejun of China's semi-governmental Energy Research Institute, who is one of the authors. "Two years ago, even I didn't believe 1.5C was possible but when I look at the options I have confidence it can be done. I want to use this report to do something big in China."

The timing was good, he said, because the Chinese government was drawing up a long-term plan for 2050 and there was more awareness among the population about the problem of rising temperatures. "People in Beijing have never experienced so many hot days as this summer. It's made them talk more about climate change."

Regardless of the US and Brazil, he said, China, Europe and major cities could push ahead. "We can set an example and show what can be done. This is more about technology than politics."

James Hansen, the former Nasa scientist who helped raised the alarm about climate change, said both 1.5C and 2C would take humanity into uncharted and dangerous territory because they were both well above the Holocene-era range in which human civilisation developed. But he said there was a huge difference between the two: "1.5C gives young people and the next generation a fighting chance of getting back to the Holocene or close to it. That is probably necessary if we want to keep shorelines where they are and preserve our coastal cities."

Johan Rockström, a co-author of the recent Hothouse Earth report, said scientists never previously discussed 1.5C, which was initially seen as a political concession to small island states. But he said opinion had shifted in the past few years along with growing evidence of climate instability and the approach of tipping points that might push the world off a course that could be controlled by emissions reductions.

"Climate change is occurring earlier and more rapidly than expected. Even at the current level of 1C warming, it is painful," he told the Guardian. "This report is really important. It has a scientific robustness that shows 1.5C is not just a political concession. There is a growing recognition that 2C is dangerous."

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