The big heatwave: from Algeria to the Arctic. But what’s the cause? #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ClimateChange #Longman

The big heatwave: from Algeria to the Arctic. But what’s the cause?

Robin McKieSun 22 Jul 2018 08.00 BST

Last week, authorities in Sweden took an unusual step.

They issued an appeal for international aid to help them tackle an epidemic of wildfires that has spread across the nation over the past few days.

After months without rain, followed by weeks of soaring temperatures, the nation’s forests had become tinderboxes.

The result was inevitable. Wildfires broke out and, by the end of last week, more than 50 forest blazes – a dozen inside the Arctic circle – had spread across Sweden.

A nation famous for its cold and snow found itself unable to cope with the conflagrations taking place within its border and so made its appeal for international help, a request that has already been answered by Norway and Italy who have both sent airborne firefighting teams to help battle Sweden’s blazes.

Nor is the nation’s fiery fate particularly unusual at present. Across much of the northern hemisphere, intense and prolonged heatwaves have triggered disruption and devastation as North America, the Arctic, northern Europe and Africa have sweltered in record-breaking temperatures. In Africa, a weather station at Ouargla, Algeria, in the Sahara desert, recorded a temperature of 51.3C, the highest reliable temperature ever recorded in Africa.

In Japan, where temperatures have reached more than 40C, people were last week urged to take precautions after the death toll reached 30 with thousands more having sought hospital treatment for heat-related conditions. And in California increased use of air conditioning units, switched on to counter the scorching conditions there, has led to power shortages.

But perhaps the strangest impact of the intense heat has been felt in Canada. It too has been gripped by ferocious heat, with Toronto recording temperatures that have exceeded 30C on 18 days so far this year. This figure compares with only nine such days all last summer.

Dozens have died in the withering heat – with startling and grim consequences. Montreal’s morgue has been swamped with the bodies of those who have died because of the heat, and many corpses have had to be stored elsewhere in the city. Montreal coroner Jean Brochu said it was first time the city’s morgue had been overwhelmed this way.

Britain’s scorching weather – which has melted the roof of Glasgow’s Science Centre and parched the lawns of the nation’s historic homes – may have made regular UK headlines. However, it has been relatively mild in impact compared to those experienced in many other parts of the world.

Fighting wildfires near Brasilia, Brazil, last week. Photograph: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Far from being a parochial problem, the current heatwave is clearly an issue that affects vast stretches of our planet: a global concern not a local one.

But why is so much of our world currently being afflicted with blisteringly hot weather? What is driving the wildfires, the soaring temperatures and those melting rooftops? These are tricky questions to answer, such is the complex nature of the planet’s weather systems. Most scientists point to a number of factors with global warming being the most obvious candidate. Others warn that it would be wrong to overstate its role in the current heatwaves, however.

“Yes, it is hard not to believe that climate change has to be playing a part in what is going on round the globe at present,” said Dann Mitchell of Bristol University. “There have been some remarkable extremes recorded in the past few weeks, after all. However, we should take care about overstating climate change’s influence for it is equally clear there are also other influences at work.”

One of those other factors is the jet stream – a core of strong winds around five to seven miles above the Earth’s surface that blow from west to east and which steer weather around the globe. Sometimes, when they are intense, they bring storms. On other occasions, when they are weak, they bring very calm and settled days. And that is what is occurring at present.

“The jet stream we are currently experiencing is extremely weak and, as a result, areas of atmospheric high pressure are lingering for long periods over the same place,” added Mitchell.

Other factors involved in creating the meteorological conditions that have brought such heat to the northern hemisphere include substantial changes to sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic. “These are part of a phenomenon known as the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation,” said Professor Adam Scaife, of the Met Office.

“In fact, the situation is very like the one we had in 1976, when we had similar ocean temperatures in the Atlantic and an unchanging jet stream that left great areas of high pressure over many areas for long periods,” said Scaife.

“And of course, that year we had one of the driest, sunniest and warmest summers in the UK in the 20th century.”

Farmers are battling an extreme drought in New South Wales, Australia.

Photograph: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

However, there is one crucial difference between 1976 and today, added Professor Tim Osborn, director of research at the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia. “The baseline on which these effects operated is very different today. Since 1976 we have had several decades of global warming – caused by rising carbon emissions – which has raised baseline global temperatures significantly.”

As a result, any phenomenon such as the weakening of the jet stream is going to have a more pronounced effect than it did 40 years ago.

And as global carbon emissions continue to rise and predictions suggest the world will be unable to hold global temperature rises this century to below 2C above pre-industrial levels, widespread heatwaves are very likely to get worse and become more frequent, scientists warn.

Nor is the problem of increasingly severe heatwaves confined to the land. “We have marine heatwaves as well – all over the globe,” said Michael Burrows, of the Scottish Marine Institute, Oban. “For example, there was a major marine heatwave that struck the coast of Australia last year. It devastated vast swathes of the Great Barrier Reef. More to the point, marine heatwaves are also becoming more and more frequent and intense, like those on land, and that is something else that we should be very worried about.”

A simulation of maximum temperatures on 21 July. Photograph: Climate Reanalyzer/Climate Change Institute/University of Maine

Press link for more: The Guardian

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Invisible Hands #auspol #qldpol #IPA #Longman #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ClimateChange #Neoliberalism

Dark money is undermining our democracies, and it’s never darker than when channelled through lobby groups masquerading as think tanks

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 19th July 2018

A mere two millennia after Roman politicians paid mobs to riot on their behalf, we are beginning to understand the role of dark money in politics, and its perennial threat to democracy.

Dark money is cash whose source is not made public, that is spent to change political outcomes.

The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal unearthed by Carole Cadwalladr and the mysterious funds channelled through Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to the Leave campaign in England and Scotland have helped to bring the concept to public attention. But these examples hint at a much wider problem. Dark money can be seen as the underlying corruption from which our immediate crises emerge: the collapse of public trust in politics, the rise of a demagogic anti-politics, assaults on the living world, public health and civic society. Democracy is meaningless without transparency.

The techniques now being used to throw elections and referendums were developed by the tobacco industry, and refined by biotechnology, fossil fuel and junk food companies. Some of us have spent years exposing the fake grassroots campaigns they established, the false identities and bogus scientific controversies they created, and the way in which public broadcasters and other media outlets have been played by them. Our warnings went unheeded, while the ultrarich learnt how to buy the political system.

The problem is exemplified, in my view, by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). In the latest reshuffle, two ministers with close links to the institute, Dominic Raab and Matthew Hancock, have been promoted to the front bench, responsible for issues that obsess the IEA: Brexit and the NHS. Dominic Raab credits the IEA with supporting him “in waging the war of ideas.” Matthew Hancock, in his former role as Cabinet Office minister, notoriously ruled that charities receiving public funds should not be allowed to lobby the government. His department credited the IEA with the research that prompted the policy. This rule, in effect, granted a monopoly on lobbying to groups like the IEA, which receive their money only from private sources. Hancock has received a total of £32,000 in political donations from the IEA’s chairman, Neil Record.

The IEA has lobbied consistently for a hard Brexit. A report it published on Monday as an alternative to Theresa May’s White Paper calls for Brexit to be used to tear down the rules protecting agency workers, to deregulate finance, annul the rules on hazardous chemicals and weaken food labelling laws. Darren Grimes, who was fined by the Electoral Commission on Tuesday for spending offences during the Leave campaign, now works as the IEA’s digital manager.

So what is this organisation, and on whose behalf does it speak? If only we knew. It is rated by the accountability group Transparify as “highly opaque”. In my view, all that distinguishes organisations like the IEA from acknowledged public relations companies like Burson Marsteller is that we don’t know who it is working for. The only hard information we have is that, for many years, it has been funded by British American Tobacco (BAT), Japan Tobacco International, Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris International. When this funding was exposed, the IEA claimed that its campaigns against tobacco regulation were unrelated to the money it had received.

Recently, it has been repeatedly dissing the NHS, that it wants to privatise; campaigning against controls on junk food; attacking trade unions; and defending zero hour contracts, unpaid internships and tax havens. Its staff appear on the BBC, promoting these positions, several times a week. But never do interviewers ask the basic democratic questions: who funds you, and do they have a financial interest in these topics?

The BBC’s editorial guidelines seem clear on this issue: “We should make checks to establish the credentials of our contributors and to avoid being ‘hoaxed’”. In my view, the entire IEA is a hoax. As Adam Curtis has revealed (ironically on the BBC’s website), when the institute was created in 1955, one of its founders, Major Oliver Smedley, wrote to the other, Antony Fisher, urging that it was “imperative that we should give no indication in our literature that we are working to educate the Public along certain lines which might be interpreted as having a political bias. … That is why the first draft [of the Institute’s aims] is written in rather cagey terms.”

The two men were clear about its purpose: to become a public relations agency which would change society along the lines advocated by the founder of neoliberalism, Friedrich Hayek. It should not, Hayek urged them, do any actual thinking, but become a “second-hand dealer in ideas”. The IEA became the template for other neoliberal institutes. It was financed initially from the fortune Anthony Fisher made by importing broiler chicken farming into the UK. Curtis credits him with founding 150 such lobby groups around the world.

While dark money has been used to influence elections, the role of groups like the IEA is to reach much deeper into political life. As its current director, Mark Littlewood, explains, “We want to totally re-frame the debate about the proper role of the state and civil society in our country … Our true mission is to change the climate of opinion.”

Astonishingly, the IEA is registered as an educational charity, with the official purpose of helping “the general public/mankind”. As a result it is exempted from the kind of taxes about which it complains so bitterly. Charity Commission rules state that “an organisation will not be charitable if its purposes are political.” How much more political can you get? In what sense is ripping down public protections and attacking the rights of workers charitable? Surely no organisation should be registered as a charity unless any funds it receives above a certain threshold (say £1000) are declared?

Last week, the Charity Commission announced that, after thinking about it for just 60 years, it has decided to examine the role of the IEA, to see whether it has broken its rules. I don’t hold out much hope. In response to a complaint by Andrew Purkis, a former member of the Charity Commission’s board, the commission’s head of regulatory compliance, Anthony Blake, claimed that the IEA provides a “relatively uncontroversial perspective accepted by informed opinion.” If he sees hard Brexit, privatising the NHS and defending tax havens as uncontroversial, it makes you wonder what circles he moves in.

I see such organisations as insidious and corrupting. I see them as the means by which money comes to dominate public life, without having to declare its hand. I see them as representing everything that has gone wrong with our politics.

http://www.monbiot.com

Global heat wave: an epic TV news fail #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ThisIsZeroHour

Simulation of maximum temperatures on July 18 at two meters above the ground, from the Global Forecast System weather model. Credit: University of Maine Climate Reanalyzer

This month’s scorching heat wave broke records around the world.

The Algerian city of Ouargla, with a population of half a million, had a temperature of 124.3 degrees Fahrenheit on July 6, the hottest reliably measured temperature on record in Africa. In Ireland and Wales, the unusually hot weather revealed ancient structures normally hidden by grass or crops.

In Chino, California, the mercury soared to 120 degrees.

Another round of hazardous summer heat is expected this week, with record high temperatures possible in the southern United States.

The prolonged heat wave has been a staple of television news for weeks.

However, most of the coverage has been sorely lacking in context: Humans are warming the planet, and scientists have already linked some heat waves to climate change.

A recent analysis published in the journal Nature Climate Change concludes that human-driven climate change, rather than natural variability, will be the leading cause of heat waves over the western United States and Great Lakes region as early as the 2020s and 2030s, respectively.

Like the heat itself, much of the media coverage was stupefying. “Major broadcast TV networks overwhelmingly failed to report on the links between climate change and extreme heat,” according to a Media Matters survey. “Over a two-week period from late June to early July, ABC, CBS, and NBC aired a combined 127 segments or weathercasts that discussed the heat wave, but only one segment, on CBS This Morning, mentioned climate change.”

TV coverage would undoubtedly improve if weather forecasters were better informed about climate science.

But four Republican senators with close ties to the fossil fuel industry are trying to eliminate government funding for a National Science Foundation designed to help forecasters (and by extension, the general public) “become more familiar with the science behind how their local weather and its trends are related to the dynamics of the climate.”

Press link for more: The Bulletin

Major polluters spend 10 times as much on climate lobbying as green groups #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

Fossil fuel companies are some of the most significant lobby groups in the US for climate change-related issues ( Getty Images )

Major polluters have had a massively disproportionate financial influence on US politics in recent years, according to a new analysis of climate lobbying.

Over the past two decades lobby groups have spent more than $2bn (£1.55bn) in attempts to influence climate change legislation in the US.

The vast majority of this money has come from groups that stand to lose out from limits on carbon emissions, such as the electrical utilities sector, fossil fuel companies and transportation.

This spending dwarfed that of environmental organisations and the renewable energy sector, which overall contributed around a tenth of the funds given by sectors with significant greenhouse gas emissions.

“The vast majority of climate lobbying expenditure came from sectors that would be highly impacted by climate legislation,” explained Dr Robert Brulle of Drexel University, who conducted the analysis.

An environmental sociologist by background, Dr Brulle conducted his study using mandatory lobbying reports made available on the website OpenSecrets.

“The spending of environmental groups and the renewable energy sector was eclipsed by the spending of the electrical utilities, fossil fuel and transportation sectors,” he said.

Dr Brulle looked at spending information for related issues between 2000 and 2016, a period in which climate change was a crucial issue in national politics.

The electrical utilities sector spent the most on climate change lobbying during this stretch – over $500m and a quarter of all overall spending.

This was followed closely by the fossil fuel sector at $370m and the transportation sector at around $250m.

The efforts of environmental groups and the renewable energy sector paled in comparison to these figures, accounting for just 3 per cent of overall funding each.

Overall, this meant sectors relying on fossil fuels spent ten times as much as green interests did during this 16-year period. These findings were published in the journal Climatic Change.

“Lobbying is conducted away from the public eye. There is no open debate or refutation of viewpoints offered by professional lobbyists meeting in private with government officials,” said Dr Brulle.

“Control over the nature and flow of information to government decision-makers can be significantly altered by the lobbying process and creates a situation of systematically distorted communication.

“This process may limit the communication of accurate scientific information in the decision-making process.”

Dr Brulle said that as lobbying by environmental groups often constitutes short-term efforts, it cannot compete with the considerable firepower employed by professional lobbyists. He said his findings have considerable implications for the future of climate legislation in the US.

Press link for more: Independent.Co

Meet the Teenagers Leading a Climate Change Movement. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #Longman

By Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks

“The march is a launch,” Jamie Margolin, the founder of Zero Hour, said of Saturday’s demonstration in Washington. “It isn’t, ‘That’s it, we’re done.’”Erin Schaff for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Some of them met on Instagram. Others coordinated during lunchtime phone conferences. Most of them haven’t even graduated from high school.

The teenagers behind Zero Hour — an environmentally focused, creatively minded and technologically savvy nationwide coalition — are trying to build a youth-led movement to sound the alarm and call for action on climate change and environmental justice.

For the last year, a tight-knit group spanning both coasts has been organizing on social media.

The teenagers kicked off their campaign with a protest on Saturday at the National Mall in Washington, along with sister marches across the country.

As sea levels rise, ice caps melt and erratic weather affects communities across the globe, they say time is running out to address climate change.

The core organizing group of about 20 met with almost 40 federal lawmakers about their platforms on Thursday, and hope to inspire other teenagers to step up and demand change.

“The march is a launch. It isn’t, ‘That’s it, we’re done,’” said Jamie Margolin, the founder of Zero Hour. “It means it doesn’t give them an excuse to be like, ‘I don’t know what the kids want.’ It’s like, ‘Yes, you do.’”

They are trying to prove the adults wrong, to show that people their age are taking heed of what they see as the greatest crisis threatening their generation.

“In our generation when we talk about climate change, they’re like: ‘Ha ha, that’s so funny.

It’s not something we’ll have to deal with,’” said Nadia Nazar, Zero Hour’s art director. “‘Oh, yeah, the polar bears will just die, the seas will just rise.’ They don’t understand the actual caliber of the destruction.”

The group is building off the momentum of other recent youth-led movements, such as the nationwide March for Our Lives rallies against gun violence.

“No one gives you an organizing guide of how to raise thousands of dollars, how to get people on board, how to mobilize,” Ms. Margolin said. “There was no help. It was just me floundering around with Dory-like determination, like, ‘Just keep swimming,’” she said, referring to the Disney movie “Finding Nemo.”

At the Sierra Club’s Washington headquarters on Wednesday, as Zero Hour members continued to make preparations, six of the coalition’s leaders and founding members discussed how they became involved with the group, and why they think it’s one of young people’s best shots at creating a healthy, sustainable environment.

Ms. Margolin said she has been overwhelmed by the response from people of all ages to Zero Hour. “We’ve proven ourselves,” she said.Erin Schaff for The New York Times

‘We are on the verge of something amazing’

Jamie Margolin, 16, Seattle

“I’ve always planned my future in ifs,” Ms. Margolin said. If climate change hasn’t destroyed this, if the environment hasn’t become that.

So for the last few years, Ms. Margolin has worked to raise awareness about climate justice issues.

A passionate writer, she went through an “op-ed phase,” submitting essays to publications, like one titled “An Open Letter to Climate Change Deniers” published in the monthly magazine Teen Ink.

Still, Ms. Margolin thought that she and other young people could — and should — be doing more.

“I had had this idea building up since January, since the Women’s March” last year, Ms. Margolin said. “The kind of idea that was nagging me and you try to ignore, but it’s an idea poking you.”

At a Princeton University summer program last year, she met other teenagers interested in taking action on climate change and created Zero Hour.

They began to plan a huge protest in the nation’s capital.

On social media, Ms. Margolin espoused factoids and reached out to other young activists.

A professed climate justice advocate, Ms. Margolin has kept the movement inclusive, putting the stories and concerns of those most directly affected by environmental issues at the heart of Zero Hour’s mission.

Youths from in and around the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation spoke on Saturday, and others repeatedly called attention to those killed during

Hurricane Maria and threatened by rising sea levels in the Marshall Islands.

Since starting Zero Hour, Ms. Margolin said she had been overwhelmed by the response from people of all ages.

Dozens of environmental advocacy groups and nonprofits have approached the coalition, looking to donate to or sponsor it.

“We flipped the scenario as the underdog. We’ve proven ourselves,” she said. “We are on the verge of something amazing. We’re going to change history.”

Kallan Benson has encouraged other young people to express their concerns about the climate through art.Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Showing a movement’s artistic side

Kallan Benson, 14, Crownsville, Md.

When Ms. Benson was planning a trip to the Peoples Climate March last year with her family, she knew she wanted to make a statement.

Ms. Benson doesn’t consider herself an artist. But a 24-foot-wide play parachute that she covered in a gigantic monarch butterfly design and hundreds of signatures from children in her community became a canvas for her to display the dire future she and coming generations may face, and express optimism that they will overcome it.

A chance encounter with the son of the founder of the nonprofit Mother Earth Project led Ms. Benson to encourage children around the world to create parachutes of their own made of recycled bedsheets (to be “environmentally conscious,” of course).

Inspired by the AIDS Memorial Quilt that has been unfurled on the National Mall in years past, some of those parachutes, sent from every continent except Antarctica, were laid out on the grass during Saturday’s march.

“The original idea was, ‘We got to get them on the National Mall,’ but then we thought that, ‘Well that shouldn’t be our first exhibit; it’s a little ambitious,’” Ms. Benson said.

“Then we talked to Zero Hour and they were like, ‘Hey, why don’t you bring them out?’” she continued. “I never imagined it would get this far.”

Madelaine Tew’s finance team has raised about $70,000 for Zero Hour.Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Where business and the environment meet

Madelaine Tew, 15, Teaneck, N.J.

As Zero Hour’s director of finance, Ms. Tew has had to get creative about securing funds and grants.

On the day of a deadline for a major grant — $16,000 from the Common Sense Fund — Ms. Tew’s school was hosting an event where seniors gave presentations about their internships. But she knew the grant would be a huge boost for Zero Hour.

“So I went to the nurse and was like: ‘Oh, I have cramps. Can I lie down with my computer?’” she said. “Then I just went in and wrote the whole grant.”

Her stunt paid off. Zero Hour secured the grant, and now Ms. Tew’s finance team, made up of students just like her, has raised about $70,000 for the coalition.

Ms. Tew, who attends a magnet high school where she takes classes in business and finance, has been involved in clubs to get the school and local businesses to adopt more renewable practices. But before meeting Ms. Margolin at the Princeton summer program last year, she thought those local efforts were “as far as you can go” for someone her age.

“It shifted from youth being a limitation to ‘it doesn’t matter,’” Ms. Tew said.

Though the practices of big corporations can sometimes anger environmentalists, for Ms. Tew, combining “my love for business and my care, my concern for climate” just makes sense.

“In many cases you can see how the environmental movement can be rooted in the way we do business,” she said.

That could take the form of encouraging companies to divest from fossil fuel industries or having local communities build their own solar or wind grids.

“We’re not just talking about building more cooperative farms,” Ms. Tew said, but also figuring out how to integrate ethical and sustainable environmental policies into business so “we can continue the American economy’s future.”

Iris Fen Gillingham believes that sustainable lifestyles are essential for the success of her generation.Erin Schaff for The New York Times

‘Repping the younger generation’

Iris Fen Gillingham, 18, Livingston Manor, N.Y.

When three floods in the mid- to late 2000s swept through the vegetable farm Iris Fen Gillingham’s family owned in the Catskill Mountains, the topsoil was washed away and their equipment was submerged, eliminating their main source of income.

The floods devastated Ms. Gillingham’s family, which has always lived “very consciously with the land and with nature,” she said. Even her name, Iris Fen, like the flower and marshy wetland behind her house, alludes to that attachment.

“I have a pair of mittens that are made out of one of our Icelandic sheep, Rosalie,” Ms. Gillingham said. “My brother named her, I remember her being born and I’ve seen her grow up and my mom sheering her and spinning the wool.”

So when landsmen came to explore the possibility of hydraulic fracturing — a technique of oil and gas extraction also known as fracking — in their neighborhood when she was about 10, Ms. Gillingham joined her father, an environmental activist, in speaking out at local meetings, often as the youngest in the room.

“It was always myself repping the younger generation,” Ms. Gillingham said. “Part of that was my brother and I saying, ‘We don’t want to play on contaminated soil,’” (The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that fracking can contaminate drinking water in some circumstances.)

But part of it was also knowing firsthand how essential a sustainable lifestyle — growing food at home, conscious spending, building greener homes — will be for her generation.

“We’re setting aside our differences and we are building a family and a community using our skills and our creativity,” Ms. Gillingham said of the movement. “We’re having fun, we’re laughing with each other, but we’re also talking about some pretty serious issues and injustices happening in this country.”

Nadia Nazar got her start as an activist by trying to persuade people not to go to SeaWorld.Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Linking animal rights and environmentalism

Nadia Nazar, 16, Baltimore

Before joining Zero Hour, Nadia Nazar considered herself mostly an animal-rights activist. When she was 12, she saw a PETA video on slaughterhouses and immediately became a vegetarian.

“I had just gotten a cat,” Ms. Nazar said. “What if my cat was that cow?”

She got her start as an activist by trying to persuade people in her neighborhood not to go to SeaWorld, which has been criticized over its treatment of animals. (“I was slightly successful in that.”)

Then she dug deeper into the root causes of animal suffering and death.

“I found out how so many species are endangered by climate change, and how many are dying and going towards extinction that we caused ourselves,” Ms. Nazar said.

During a class, she stumbled upon Ms. Margolin’s Teen Ink essay and followed her on Instagram. And a little over a year ago, when Ms. Nazar saw a post by Ms. Margolin calling for action, she knew it was her chance to put her artistic skills to use. As art director, she helped organize a smaller art festival on Friday, and created the majority of the graphic elements for the coalition.

“Her story said: ‘I’m going to do it. Who wants to join me?” Ms. Nazar said. She immediately messaged Ms. Margolin. She was in.

Zanagee Artis said he was inspired by Ms. Margolin’s enthusiasm to do “a big, big thing.”Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Working together toward a bigger goal

Zanagee Artis, 18, Clinton, Conn.

Zanagee Artis’s journey as an environmentalist began in the same place many other budding activists get their start — in a high school club.

During his junior year, he had big ambitions for his school: the building facilities department would finally start recycling white paper, students would start composting their food waste and the lunchroom would be free of plastic foam trays.

“I’m going to accomplish all these things and I’m going to go to the administration and tell them, ‘Stuff needs to change,’” Mr. Artis said.

But, he said, “nothing ever happened.” Mr. Artis said the problem was clear: Without engaging other students who might be interested, change was unlikely to happen.

So he started a sustainability committee within the school’s National Honor Society, and the results spoke for themselves. The group was able to buy the school an aquaponic system — a tank-based farming system that combines hydroponics (water-based planting) and aquaculture (fish cultivation) — and raise $700 to install water bottle refilling stations.

“So we accomplished all these things because we worked together as a community, and that’s how I feel about the climate movement,” he said.

Still, Mr. Artis said he “really didn’t think I could do much” beyond his local community until he met Ms. Margolin and Ms. Tew last summer at Princeton. Inspired by Ms. Margolin’s enthusiasm to do “a big, big thing,” Mr. Artis became Zero Hour’s logistics director, in charge of submitting permits for Saturday’s march, estimating attendance numbers, checking for counterprotests and helping sister marches with logistical issues.

“I was like, ‘Yes!’” he said with a satisfying clap. “‘Let’s do it.’”

Press link for more: New York Times

Breakthroughs Converging to Completely Derail Fossil Fuels #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #Innovation #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

What will ultimately push fossil fuels back the way of the dinosaur?

Purely and simply, is it our ethics and our resolve as consumers and brands that will end our dependence on dirty energy.

The response to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement — in which business and civic leaders vowed to continue working towards clean energy, anyway — is easily part of the mix. The response demonstrated a deep level of commitment.

So, too, are efforts from activists, such as the Rise for Climate rally scheduled for September 8th, 2018.

With participants from Australia, East Asia, Africa and Europe planning to take action, Rise for Climate should be a fitting follow-up to the 300,000-strong march that took place in New York in September of 2014.

It will also be good prep for the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, September 12-14.

Brands, business leaders, activists — we also can’t overlook changes that people make to their lifestyles every day in an effort to lessen their climate impacts. Network theory says that individuals are linked to each other via “relationships or structural connections.”

In this case, the relationship is one of producers and consumers, as well as prosumers. There’s a conversation going on between consumers and brands, no doubt because market research says people value sustainability, but also because many people are using their brands to espouse their own values.

Without any incentive to do so, Max Burgers began planting trees in Africa in 2008, and is now making burgers that offset production-related climate emissions by 110 percent. Ambient Bamboo, a company that sells bamboo floors, dedicates its entire blog to more sustainable living and publishes tips on how to “eco-hack” homes, including info on cutting down on energy usage. These brands and many more know that minimizing energy usage is essential for leaving fossil fuels in the ground because many grids still operate on dirty energy; but according to the journal Nature, that will soon change.

A new study shows that there’s a “carbon bubble” that will burst, leaving fossil fuel assets “stranded.”

Regardless of whether nations implement policies, there will be stranded fossil fuel assets because of “an already ongoing technological trajectory.” If nations, particularly the US, adopt new climate policies in keeping with the Paris Accord — in effort to keep the global temperature from rising more than 2℃ — there will be even more stranded fossil fuel assets. But in effect, the damage has already been done. The study’s simulations and analyses show that new technologies will derail fossil fuels by 2050.

The coming technological upheaval

The aforementioned study calls it a “Technology Diffusion Trajectory.” This is the scenario in which countries don’t necessarily adopt additional 2℃ policies, but rather embrace low-carbon technologies, such as solar energy, to replace fossil fuels. The study refers to low-carbon technologies repeatedly, but begs the question, which low-carbon technologies?

The obvious answer is technologies related to wind and solar, but there are also many exciting advances in electrical and computer engineering that will no doubt have an impact:

• “Pee-to-power Technology,” created by Ohio University’s Dr. Gerardine Botte, turns wastewater into hydrogen, which can power hydrogen fuel cells. It also produces clean water. The invention features the GreenBox, an ingenious electrochemical conversion device.

Click to enlarge. | Image credit: Ohio University

• This electrochemical flow capacitor from Drexel University enables efficient renewable energy storage at scale, meaning grids will no longer need huge supercapacitors.

Click to enlarge. | Image credit: Drexel University

• Electric cars are becoming more efficient.

Click to enlarge. | Image credit: Ohio University

Ohio University notes that “an estimated $1 trillion is expected to be spent nationwide in bringing the grid up to date by 2030.” As solar and wind energy gets cheaper, expect grids to adopt technologies like the electrochemical flow capacitor as a solution to storage, which, combined with cheap, clean energy, would eliminate the need for coal and gas.

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, notes that a Nevada solar energy plant recently hit a record low price of 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour, even though the US recently imposed tariffs on Chinese solar panels (in addition to the 30 percent he slapped on foreign panels earlier this year). The Nevada solar plant’s low price on solar demonstrates the inevitability of a low-carbon technology diffusion, as does Volkswagen’s decision to spend $84 billion on electric drivetrains.

The moral of the story: Countries that continue trying to favor fossil fuels will find themselves falling behind economies that adopt renewable and inexpensive methods of producing energy; investors who hold onto fossil fuel assets will see those assets dwindle in value, to the point where it will make no economic sense to hang onto them.

In that sense, environmental stewardship is no longer the primary reason for clean energy. Investors (and governments) who kowtow to the market and care little for ethics and the environment will find themselves sitting high and dry should they continue to support an energy source that makes no economic sense.

Press link for more: Sustainable Brands

Mass coral bleaching forces review of reef protection plan #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

By Tony Moore

An urgently revised plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef has been bought forward following evidence of damage from the back-to-back coral bleaching incidents in 2016 and 2017.

The Australian and Queensland governments have on Friday released the 2018 mid-term review of their long-term 2050 Reef Plan, after studies in 2017 confirmed serious damage to the reef from climate change.

Great Barrier Reef coral of Port Douglas in 2017.

Photo: Dean Legacy

“The unprecedented instance of back-to-back mass bleaching events shows that climate change is already having impacts on the reef and clearly underlines the importance of urgent action to build the Reef’s resilience and maintain its functionality,” the report says.

“Consecutive coral bleaching events and the impact of other stressors have fundamentally changed the character of the Reef. Coral bleaching is projected to increase in frequency. As corals are relatively slow growing they will have too little time to recover between events or to evolve genetically.”

The report identifies four climate change trajectories to try to keep ocean temperature warming below 2 degrees to prevent coral bleaching.

The timeline: Why has this report been bought forward?

• 2015 – The Australian and Queensland governments released the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan

• 2016 – There were major problems with coral bleaching on areas of the Great Barrier Reef

• 2017 – There were more coral-bleaching incidents happened along the Great Barrier Reef. Coral bleaching is linked to ocean warming

• March-April 2017 – There was extra damage was caused by Cyclone Debbie

• September 2017 and May 2018 – Surveys showed “sustained significant coral loss due to coral bleaching, cyclones and crown-of-thorns starfish”

• July 2018 – The Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Forum decided to bring forward a revised Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan

What has changed in policy and direction in this new report?

There is a stronger focus on climate change in the revised report.

1. New climate adaptation actions have been added. A new policy is developing a Reef Resilience Network and working on localised restoration activities to build up this network.

2. Research will begin on climate change trajectories to judge their impact on the Great Barrier Reef. These climate change trajectories will be reviewed in 2020 in the first comprehensive review of the revised plan.

3. Water quality targets have been updated.

What is the big issue?

Water temperature increases around the Great Barrier Reef need to be kept below an increase of 1.5 degrees, according to peer-reviewed scientists, to reduce the frequency of coral bleaching, the report says.

A concerted “international effort” is required.

What are some of the key projects under way now?

This three-page table shows $600 million worth of fertilizer and sediment control projects now underway, funded by the Australian and Queensland governments.

Most of them are directed to cane farmers, banana farmers and graziers.

It includes $8.5 million for two sediment-erosion control and restoration projects run by Greening Australia to stop silt flowing down rivers and on to the reef.

Sediment flowing down the Burdekin River towards Upstart Bay near Bowen.

Photo: Tony Moore

Where is the money coming from?

The Australian government put in $500 million in the 2018-19 Budget.

The Queensland government put in $500 million to a Land Restoration Fund in its 2018-19 Budget.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has $1 billion available “on a commercial basis” for clean energy projects close to the reef.

By December 2017 it has invested $345 million to more than 280 projects including seven utility scale solar farms in central and north Queensland.

Earlier funding promises

In 2016, $1.28 billion was committed to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

That included $716 million from the Australian Government, $409 million from the Queensland government and $161 million from other sources.

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What does the Great Barrier Reef contribute to the economy?

1 Over two million visitors each year

2 64,000 jobs

3 Generates economic activity of $6.4 billion each year, largely through tourism

4 It is a “maze” of 1050 islands and 3000 reefs stretching 2300 kilometres along the Queensland coast

How will results be checked?

There are annual reports to Queensland and Australian environment ministers and updated in five-year Outlook Reports, independently monitored by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The first major review will be in 2020 before UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee reviews the health of the Great Barrier Reef in 2020.

The Great Barrier Reef has been a UNESCO protected site since 1981.

What do observers say about the revised reef plan?

Climate Council – Acting chief executive Dr Martin Rice said the revised plan failed to acknowledge Australia’s weak greenhouse gas pollution reduction targets and instead relied heavily on $500 million dollars to improve water quality and eradicate the crown-of-thorn starfish to protect the Reef.

World Wildlife Fund Australia – WWF’s Oceans campaigner Richard Leck said the plan showed more effort was needed to keep ocean warming to below 2 degrees centigrade.

He also questioned why farmers were not updating their practices to stop fertiliser run-off.

Press link for more: Brisbane Times

Australian governments concede Great Barrier Reef headed for ‘collapse’ #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ClimateChange

By Nicole Hasham

The world’s climate change path means the Great Barrier Reef is headed for “collapse” according to a plan endorsed by state and federal governments that critics say turns a blind eye to Australia’s inadequate effort to cut carbon emissions.

The federal and Queensland governments on Friday released a “new and improved” Reef 2050 Plan to save the iconic natural wonder, which explicitly acknowledges climate change poses a deadly threat to the reef.

The comments depart starkly from previous official efforts to downplay damage wrought on the reef for fear of denting the tourism industry.

Global temperature rises this century must be kept below 1.5 degrees to ensure the Great Barrier Reef’s survival, the government plan says.

Photo: E.Matson, AIMS

Based on current climate projections, the outlook for coral reefs generally is “one of continuing decline over time, and in many regions, including the Great Barrier Reef, the collapse and loss of coral reef ecosystems”, the plan says.

It concedes that consecutive coral bleaching events and other stressors “have fundamentally changed the character of the reef”, which is one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet.

“Coral bleaching is projected to increase in frequency … those coral reefs that survive are expected to be less biodiverse than in the past,” the plan says.

Critics say the revised Reef 2050 Plan ignores Australia’s weak emissions reduction targets.

Photo: Australian Institute of Marine Science

The reef is the world’s largest living structure, covering an area roughly the size of Italy.

Coral reefs are particularly sensitive to the effects of climate change including higher sea temperatures, ocean acidification and more intense storms and cyclones.

The plan recognised that “holding the global temperature increase to 1.5°C or less is critical to ensure the survival of coral reefs”.

“Respected coral scientists have documented in peer-reviewed journals that most of the world’s coral reefs will not survive unless the global temperature increase is limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels,” it said.

However WWF-Australia head of oceans Richard Leck said Australia’s emissions reduction efforts were not even in line with limiting warming to 2°.

He cited a 2017 report by the United Nations environment program that found Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions were set to far exceed its pledge under the Paris accord. This agreement aims to limit global temperature rises this century to well below 2° and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°.

“It is simply not good enough for the revised plan to suggest the global community must work to limit warming when Australia is not doing its fair share,” Mr Leck said.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society’s reef campaign director Imogen Zethoven said increased recognition of climate change as a threat to the reef must be followed by action.

Fish swim among bleached coral in the Great Barrier Reef.

Photo: Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

She said scientific research soon to be published showed that if global temperature rises reached an average 2.4°, the Great Barrier Reef would suffer bleaching events twice a decade from 2041. This would occur as early as 2035 if average temperature rises reached 4.3°.

Bleaching events would be far less frequent under an average temperature rise of 1.6°, Ms Zethoven said.

“The onset of twice-a-decade bleaching will then become the onset of annual bleaching and eventually [the entire reef] will be affected,” she said.

Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said Australia’s Paris target was ambitious and the nation was “on track to meet and beat its 2020 target, we will also meet our 2030 target”.

The Queensland government has previously said millions of dollars in federal reef spending is essentially useless unless matched by efforts to tackle climate change

Labor environment spokesman Tony Burke said the federal government had neglected the reef by allowing large-scale land clearing in nearby catchments, which damages water quality.

Press link for more: SMH

Life after coal: South Australian city leading the way #auspol #qldpol #sapol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ClimateChange

It was a coal town, predicted to be wiped out by the closure of two ageing power plants. Now Port Augusta has 13 renewable projects in train

Adam Morton

The largest solar farm in the southern hemisphere lies on arid land at the foot of the Flinders Ranges, more than 300km north of Adelaide.

If that sounds remote, it doesn’t do justice to how removed local residents feel from what currently qualifies as debate in Canberra.

As government MPs and national newspapers thundered over whether taxpayers should underwrite new coal-fired power, mauling advice from government agencies as they went, residents of South Australia’s Upper Spencer Gulf region have been left to ponder why decision-makers weren’t paying attention to what is happening in their backyard.

What’s happening here is going to be happening on the eastern seaboard in the next 10 years.

Sam Johnson, mayor of Port Augusta

In mid 2016, this region was on the brink, hit by the closure and near collapse of coal and steel plants.

Now it’s on the cusp of a wave of construction that investors and community leaders say should place the region at the vanguard of green innovation – not just in Australia but globally.

There has been an explosion in investment, with $5bn spread over the next five years. There are 13 projects in various stages of development, with more than 3,000 construction and 200 ongoing jobs.

The economy of this once-deflated region has been transformed and those who live here are starting to feel hopeful again.

The Port Augusta mayor, Sam Johnson, a 32-year-old former Liberal member, is continually surprised at how resistant some are to the idea that the energy environment has changed. “You might choose to ignore what’s happening here now because we’re out of sight, out of mind, but the reality is that what’s happening here is going to be happening on the eastern seaboard in the next 10 years,” he says.

In simple terms, the Upper Spencer Gulf transition story goes like this. Port Augusta was a coal town, home to the state’s only two lignite – or brown coal – plants, Playford B and Northern. Playford B, ageing and failing, was mothballed in 2012. Northern, the larger and younger of the two, closed in May 2016 when owner Alinta Energy decided it was no longer economically viable. The Leigh Creek mine that supplied it, by then offering up mostly low-quality coal, shut at the same time. About 400 workers at the plant and the mine lost their jobs. Roughly a third retired, a third found other employment locally and a third had to leave town to find work.

At the same time, further around the gulf, the steel town of Whyalla was teetering precipitously after the owner, Arrium, put the mill in voluntary administration facing debts of more than $4bn.

Nexif Energy project manager Ben Williams, inspects the interconnector under construction to service the Lincoln Gap wind farm. Photograph: The Guardian

Yet as the doom hit, there were also rays of hope as several clean power projects were mooted for the surrounding area.

Two years on, the Port Augusta city council lists 13 projects at varying stages of development. And Whyalla has unearthed a potential saviour in British billionaire industrialist Sanjeev Gupta, who not only bought the steelworks but promised to expand it while also spending what will likely end up being $1.5bn in solar, hydro and batteries to make it viable.

Gupta says the logic behind his investment in solar and storage is simple: it’s now cheaper than coal.

Johnson says he expects the Upper Gulf region to receive $5bn in clean energy investment over the next five years. “My gut feel – and I’m an optimist – is that they will all go ahead,” he says. “They are different technologies and they are playing in different markets, so they are not competing for power purchase agreements.”

By any measure, the Bungala solar power plant is vast. Once its second stage is complete, 800,000 photovoltaic modules will cover an area the size of the Melbourne central business district. The scale is neatly summarised by Chris Rowe, the plant’s operations manager and, with maintenance officer Andrew Bartsch, our tour guide around the site. Both men recently returned to Port Augusta after working away to take up positions with Enel Green Power. One day Rowe decided to stroll back from the 275MW farm’s outer edge, weaving in and out of the rows of panels as he went. By the time he got back to his office, he had covered 12km. “At that point I thought, ‘gee, this is really something’,” he says.

Bungala is nearing completion, with work on the $425m plant expected to be finished by January. Its first section started feeding into the national electricity grid in May. Further west, ground has been broken on the 59-turbine, 212MW Lincoln Gap wind farm, though progress has temporarily stalled after developer Nexif Energy discovered unexploded ordnance from historic military testing on site.

As Guardian Australia visited the region, the South Australian Liberal government gave final approval for a $600m hybrid wind-and-solar energy park on the south-eastern edge of Port Augusta that proponent DP Energy says will be the largest development of its kind in the country. A second stage with more solar and a 400MW battery is slated to follow.

At Cultana, just north of Whyalla, Energy Australia is investigating building the country’s first saltwater pumped hydro energy storage plant. It would draw water from the Spencer Gulf, pump it uphill when energy is plentiful and cheap, and convert it to hydro electricity at times of high demand. A decision on the project is expected in 2019.

All are potentially agenda setting, but none are as anticipated as the Aurora solar thermal power station. It is the culmination of a push that began in 2010. A research paper by advocacy group Beyond Zero Emissions formed the basis for the creation of Repower Port Augusta, a community group that built widespread support for bringing the developing technology to the region among councils, business and unions.

US developer SolarReserve took notice. It plans to use a field of mirrors to heat a molten salt system inside a 234-metre tower. It will both generate electricity and store eight hours of energy that can be sent out when the sun isn’t shining. The company says the $650m plant, to be built at the Carriewerloo sheep station about 30km north of Port Augusta, will be the world’s largest solar tower with storage and provide 5% of the state’s energy needs.

The planned Aurora solar thermal plant will both generate electricity and store eight hours of energy that can be sent out when the sun isn’t shining.

The SolarReserve vice-president, Mary Grikas, stresses the plant will operate “just like a conventional coal or gas power station, reliably generating electricity day and night – except without any emissions”.

With the increasing emphasis on “firming” power to back up variable renewables, solar thermal is seen as a potentially major player in filling the gaps, along with other fast-starting options such as pumped hydro, lithium-ion batteries and peaking gas. The 150MW Aurora plant is underpinned by a 20-year power supply contract with the South Australian government, but the company is still to finalise a $110m concessional loan with the federal government, the result of a deal with former senator Nick Xenophon in return for his support for company tax cuts.

Dan Spencer worked on the solar thermal campaign as an activist with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and Solar Citizens, relocating from Adelaide for six months to help build local support. Now a campaigner with the Australian Services Union, he is still pinching himself that it is set to become a reality. “The transition from coal hasn’t been perfect, but in a couple of years we will be seeing this incredible project that people not that long ago thought was just pie in the sky,” he says. “The local community really deserves the credit.”

Aurora is not the only solar-thermal project linked to the region. Port Augusta is already home to a small concentrated solar-thermal plant owned by Sundrop Farms that it uses to run a hydroponic greenhouse that provides Coles with tomatoes.

Also on the horizon, and just as unique design-wise, is a proposal by Solastor, chaired by former Liberal party leader John Hewson. It promises new graphite-based technology to capture solar energy and store it in a load-shifting battery. Hewson says it will be a world-class project. “Solar thermal will take the market, there’s no doubt about that,” he says.

Why are developers choosing the Upper Spencer Gulf? Investors say it has several things going for it: great sunshine; a history of electricity generation that left strong connections into the national grid; nearby industry – particularly mine developments – demanding reliable energy; strong facilitating support from the Weatherill Labor government that has continued under the new Liberal premier, Steven Marshall.

Ross Garnaut is a former Labor climate policy adviser who is now the president of Zen Energy, a solar and battery firm that has projects in the region and is 51% owned by Gupta.

“The Upper Spencer Gulf happens to be a very good place to start,” Garnaut says. “Some coal generation regions have good renewables and others don’t, and no others have them as good as Port Augusta. [But] the Port Augusta developments could be replicated in any region that has good solar and wind resources.”

The inclusion of solar thermal is crucial as it means jobs on a semi-industrial scale. Wind and solar photovoltaic plants bring plenty of jobs in construction, but few in operation. Solar thermal has more in common in operation with coal, using steam to spin a turbine. SolarReserve expects to have a 50-strong permanent workforce at the Aurora plant.

It is an important point. While enthusiasm about the new projects in the gulf is high, the shift away from coal has not been seamless – less a transition than a period of loss followed by rebirth. There remains significant disappointment, in some cases anger, about what some consider the unnecessary pain caused by a failure to plan for life after coal.

My advice is: learn from the Port Augusta experience. I wish the federal government would,’ says Port Augusta mayor Sam Johnson. Photograph: Che Chorley for the Guardian

Gary Rowbottom is a case in point. A mechanical technical officer at the town’s power stations for 17 years, he joined the Repower Port Augusta campaign in 2012 and became the public face of the campaign. He was persuaded that solar thermal was the future and hopeful Alinta would be persuaded to embrace the technology to replace coal. He says he was naive about how easy that would be. When the company announced Northern’s closure earlier than expected, he was 55 and left hunting for work.

Fifty job applications and 11 interviews later, he was still looking. After about 18 months he left town to take a position on a coal plant in central Queensland. He now sees his wife, Debbie, only every couple of months.

“It’s not been ideal,” he says. “I did my best to get a job that would have kept me home. I guess it was hurting me financially, watching my redundancy steadily getting eroded away, and I had a growing sense of failure. I worry that others are going through the same thing.”

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Rowbottom is buoyed by the developments under way at home, and hopeful the Aurora solar thermal plant will provide his ticket back. “It’s great it is happening. We just wish it could have happened a bit sooner,” he says. “What is hard for many of us to understand is why the closure couldn’t have been organised as a proper transition.”

Johnson, who ran unsuccessfully for Xenophon’s SA Best party at the state election, says Port Augusta is set to be the renewable energy capital of the country, with more ongoing jobs if all proposed projects in the Upper Spencer Gulf go ahead than at the former coal plant.

But he says both the former Labor state and current Coalition federal governments failed to offer the community the support it needed when the coal plant closed. The ramifications of the rapid closure were significant. Some small businesses and shut. Dirt and coal ash continue to blanket Port Augusta when the wind blows from the south-east because the former coal plant site was not properly rehabilitated. Wholesale electricity prices across the state increased more than they would have had more significant replacement generation been readied earlier.

“I’d love for people to learn from what’s happened here [about] what not to do when you’re closing a power station,” Johnson says.

Whyalla seems to have fewer issues in the wake of Gupta’s arrival in July 2017. Seeing a business opportunity that governments and publicly listed companies did not, he promised to initially spend $1bn to double the steel mill’s production and convert it to a “green steel” model he has applied in other countries. This includes using more recycled steel and investing heavily in clean energy close to the plant. He is spending $700m building two farms of solar panels, a cogeneration plant to convert the waste gases from steel production into electricity, the country’s largest lithium-ion battery and up to three pumped hydro plants in disused mining pits in the Middlebank Ranges.

He says more will follow.

Both Gupta and Johnson say the message for the rest of the country is: embrace change.

Gupta says: “Be braver. Be more entrepreneurial. Take risks … It is very difficult to change things in Australia. Everyone is too stuck in their ways.”

Johnson says: “You can resist change as much as you like, but the reality is, if you’re in a community that has a coal-fired power station, its days are numbered. The market is dictating that change whether we like it or not.

“My advice is: learn from the Port Augusta experience. I wish the federal government would.”

Press link for more: The Guardian

We must bridge generational divide to prevent climate & budget crises #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange Intergenerational Debt #Neoliberalism

Progressives must bridge the generational divide to prevent climate and budget crises

BY PAUL BLEDSOE AND BEN RITZ, OPINION CONTRIBUTORS

Amid the daily drama of President Trump‘s tweets and scandals, it can be hard to focus on the most important issues for our future.

An unfortunate consequence of this purposeful turmoil is that few serious solutions are being offered for addressing two of the greatest threats facing the United States: runaway climate change and unsustainable budget policies.

The resignation of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt may end his days of plundering the environment and public treasury, but the Trump administration will continue doing both even in his absence, risking long-term national well-being for temporary political benefits.

It’s critical that progressives offer credible alternatives, especially if they hope to inspire younger voters who will bear the burden of these problems, because we cannot afford to dither on either issue much longer.

We speak from experience.

One of us is a baby boomer who has spent most of his career working on energy and climate policy; the other is a millennial focused on the federal budget.

Although our two fields may seem unrelated, both these existential challenges require our generations to work together to solve.

Our leaders have been warned about the climate crisis for more than a generation.

Thirty years ago last month, NASA scientist James Hansen first testified before Congress noting the irrefutable relationship between growing carbon dioxide emissions and rising temperatures.

Since then, global average temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions have increased relentlessly, leading to enormously expensive climate change impacts around the world.

Just last year, Hurricane Harvey and other major storms made worse by climate change devastated the US costing federal taxpayers over $130 billion so far.

The longer we wait to stem rising temperatures, the higher these costs will grow.

The Long-term Budget Outlook recently published by the Congressional Budget Office tells a similar story.

The gap between federal revenues and spending is growing at an alarming rate, requiring the government to borrow more each year to cover the difference.

If current policies remain in place, the national debt relative to the size of the economy could rocket past the record-high level reached just after World War II as soon as 2029.

From then onward, the federal government will be stuck spending over $1 trillion every year just to pay interest on the debt, making the growing budget deficit increasingly difficult to close the longer we wait.

Both our climate and our budget problems stem in large part from a moral failure by baby boomers.

Rather than investing in their children’s future via sustainable energy and fiscal policies, boomers emitted greenhouse gases and cut their own taxes with reckless abandon, while promising themselves generous retirement benefits paid-for by future workers.

Now millennials will be stuck with a debt and a climate that are far more dangerous than in previous generations.

The two problems exacerbate one another.

As climate change worsens, hundreds of billions each year will need to be spent each year on adaptation and disaster relief, making it that much harder to reduce future budget deficits.

Conversely, the federal government will find it increasingly difficult to invest in technologies to combat climate change when so much of tax revenue is pre-committed to servicing our debt and paying for past promises.

Alas, the Republican-controlled government in Washington (like the LNP government in Australia) has made both problems much worse.

Party leaders deny or ignore the overwhelming scientific consensus around climate change, with the president calling it a “hoax” while his administration is pushing to replacing the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with a pro-pollution alternative that props up dying industries at the expense of our planet and economy.

The GOP exhibits the same pattern of willful ignorance on the federal budget: just recently, National Economic Council Chairman Larry Kudlow erroneously claimed that the deficit is falling even as it does the exact opposite – a problem which was made worse by the $2 trillion tax cut Republicans enacted at the end of last year without making any serious effort to pay for it.

Democrats and Labor have to do better.

Just as the far right wants to play chicken with our climate, some on the far left want to play chicken with our national debt.

Neither is a risk worth taking.

Democrats must resist the far left’s calls to pursue expensive expansions of social insurance programs before making our current obligations financially sustainable.

When it comes to climate change, most of the party understands the need for action but has yet to coalesce around practical approaches for solving the problem that would attract rather than alienate swing voters.

Democrats must realize there is little value in having the moral high ground, on either climate or the budget, without the political power to implement solutions.

The responsibility for making these changes thus lies with voters as much as their leaders, and both of our respective generations must do our part to promote responsible solutions.

Baby boomers need to accept responsibility for the unresolved problems they leave millennials and be willing to contribute to solutions.

But millennials need to take ownership of their future by showing up at the polls and making these challenges core voting issues.

Young voters already overwhelmingly support Democrats – it’s time they show up and demand Democrats support them in return by addressing the two greatest threats to our future prosperity.

Paul Bledsoe is strategic advisor for the Progressive Policy Institute, and Ben Ritz is the director of PPI’s Center for Funding America’s Future.

Press link for more: The Hill