We need a new language. #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol 

Climate optimism has been a disaster. 

We need a new language – desperately | Ellie Mae O’Hagan
Ellie Mae O’HaganThursday 21 September 2017 23.24 AEST

 A flooded home in Houston, with tattered US flag


A flooded home in Houston. ‘Major parts of the dominant global superpower have been decimated by two Katrina-dwarfing storms in less than a month.’ Photograph: David J Phillip/AP

In 1988, when the scientist James Hansen told a senate committee that it was “time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here”, those who took him seriously assumed that if they just persisted with emphasising that this terrible fact would eventually destroy us, action would be taken.

 Instead, the opposite happened: when confronted with the awful reality of climate change, most people tended to retreat into a panglossian vision of the future, or simply didn’t want to hear about it.

A lot of work has been done since to understand why climate change is so uniquely paralysing, most prominently by George Marshall, author of the book Don’t Even Think About It. 

Marshall describes climate change as “a perfect and undetectable crime everyone contributes to but for which no one has a motive”. 

Climate change is both too near and too far for us to be able to internalise: too near because we make it worse with every minute act of our daily lives; too far because until now it has been something that affects foreign people in foreign countries, or future versions of ourselves that we can only conceive of ephemerally.

It is also too massive. 

The truth is if we don’t take action on climate change now, the food shortages, mass migration and political turmoil it will cause could see the collapse of civilisation in our lifetimes. 

Which of us can live with that knowledge?
It’s not surprising, then, that some years ago climate activists switched to a message of optimism.

 They listened to studies that showed optimism was more galvanising than despair, and they began to talk about hope, empowerment, and success stories.

 They waited for some grand extreme weather event to make the final pieces fall into place. 

Maybe the submerging of New Orleans would be it; maybe some of the rich white people who were battered by Hurricane Sandy would use their privilege to demand action. 

Maybe Harvey or Irma – or now Maria – would cause us to snap out of our stupor. 

It hasn’t happened.

Instead what I think a message of optimism has done is create a giant canyon between the reality of climate change and most people’s perception of it.

 An optimistic message has led to complacency – “people are saying it’s doable so it will probably be fine” – and championing success stories has convinced people that the pathetic, threadbare action taken by governments so far is sufficient.

 I’ve lost count of the sheer number of politically engaged, conscientious people I’ve met who have simply no idea how high the stakes are.

It may be that if the time for a mass movement is not now, there won’t be one

The fact is, nobody knows how to solve the riddle of persuading the public to demand action on climate change.

 I certainly don’t have the answers.

 But I do think we need to contemplate that something is going disastrously wrong here – that perhaps it’s time to get back to the drawing board and rethink how we talk about climate change.
Two significant things have happened since that senate committee hearing in 1988: the first is the Paris agreement in 2015 to try to limit warming to 1.5C – research out this week shows this is still possible. 

The second is that major parts of the dominant global superpower have been decimated by two Katrina-dwarfing storms in less than a month. 

Circumstances have changed in the past 30 years: climate change is a material fact now, and we have a specific target to aim for, to limit the damage it will cause.
‘We have to challenge the pervasive silence on climate change.’ George Marshall, the author of Don’t Even Think About It, speaks at a Guardian event.

A new campaign could centre on the demand for governments to meet the 1.5C target, emphasising how dire the consequences will be if we don’t.

 People don’t need to imagine what climate change looks like any more: they can see it in the sea water that has enveloped the islands of the Caribbean, the drowning houses in Houston, the communiques from those who couldn’t escape, and prepared themselves to lose everything.

 In Britain we’ve seen floodwater inundate entire villages; a pub that became a thoroughfare for a swollen river. 

This is what catastrophe on our doorsteps looks like, and perhaps it’s time we link these images to climate change with as much gusto as the fossil fuel industry denies it.
Could the language of emergency work?

 It has never been tried with as much meteorological evidence as we have now, and we’ve never had a target as clear and unanimous as the one agreed in Paris. 

The one thing I know is that the events of the last few months have changed the game, and this is the moment to start debating a new way to talk about climate change. 

It may be that if the time for a mass movement is not now, there won’t be one.

• Ellie Mae O’Hagan is an editor at openDemocracy, and a freelance journalist

Press link for more: The Guardian

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Harvey, Irma & now Maria A world underwater! #climateChange #StopAdani 

Understanding Irma, Harvey and a world underwater!
Explaining the hurricanes, monsoons and floods of our warming world
By: Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik

Photo Credit: Punit Paranjpe, Reuters

At the time of writing, Irma, the most powerful known hurricane in the history of Atlantic, is devastating the Northeastern Caribbean. 

St Maarten and Barbuda have suffered unspeakable destruction. 

Monsoonal storms and floods have killed over a thousand people in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, forcing millions from their communities. 

Over the last weeks, we have also seen torrential rains ravage countless homes across our shared planet, from Yemen, to Mexico, to Nigeria.
Much has been written about these deluges.

 What follows is not an attempt to add to the litany of words, but to bring ideas together for the time-starved reader.

To begin, it’s important to clear the air.

 The idea of a natural disaster is misguided.

 All climate-driven human catastrophes are caused by the interaction of two things: climate conditions and societal conditions.


Whenever you see a news story relating to an environmental disaster, it’s important to look out for both types of conditions. 

Here are some short explainers that can hopefully be of use to you, and help you to understand the expressions of our warming world.

Climate Conditions


A flooded neighbourhood in Makurdi, Benue in Nigeria. Photo Credit: Environews Nigeria.

In every one of these incidents, we see intense environmental conditions: powerful winds, torrential rains, storm surges. 

Many of these conditions are part of the natural rhythyms and seasons of the planet, but increasingly, climate change is making its mark.

Where can the authorship of climate change be found?

 Storms are complex.

 The atmospheric science around hurricanes, monsoons and climate change is still developing, often challenging our intuitions. 

But this much is clear.

 What temperature rise and resulting climate change do is disrupt patterns of weather.

 Heat waves become longer, hotter and more regular.

 Rains become more torrential, more concentrated, more dispersed. 

Windspeeds rise. 

Waters warm. 

Droughts become longer, more intense and extensive. 

Floods become more frequent, forceful, and destructive. 

Extreme heat becomes more common and forceful.

 As climate scientist Katharine Haydoe explains, climate change takes familiar weather patterns and “[puts] them on steroids.”


In relation to water, such patterns interact in important ways.

 Rising temperatures accelerate the process of evaporation, removing more water from land, lakes and rivers. 

That means our air carries higher levels of moisture: when it rains, it rains harder. 

This is defined by the Clausius-Clapeyron relation: for every 1C rise in temperature, the air can hold 7% more water.

The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere traps heat, raising the temperatures of both the atmosphere and the ocean. 

Warmer ocean water fuels monsoons and hurricanes; Irma is currently travelling over water 1C warmer than normal.

 In the Himalayas, rising temperatures increase glacial melt, raising the level of rivers fed by glaciers; this in turn, increases the probability of flooding.

Climate change does not directly cause. It inflames, it exacerbates, it increases risks, it loads the dice. Such words may feel evasive, but they are more accurate. Rather than the pain itself, climate change is like a wind that blows on all the embers that are already there. It’s the detonator, not the explosive.

Models predict that extreme rain events will be more frequent, will extend to unprecedented areas, and will experience. Such events will defy our own expectations; Hurricane Harve, classed as a “500-year” storm, is the third such storm to hit Houston in three years.

Many have noted that the climate extremes we are seeing may become the “new normal”, but even this is misleading. Under current trends and scenarios, the “new normal” may be a world where the barrier of expectation is always pushed further back, a horizon of pain in constant retreat.

Human Conditions
The severity of a storm is only part of the equation of climate violence.

 The societies, the structures, the buildings, the healthcare systems, and the ecologies that storms meet will determine their impacts.

So be attentive to infrastructure.

 Be attentive to response systems, to the resources and deployment of emergency services. 

Be attentive to how evacuations unfold.

Be attentive to natural infrastructure. 

We know that wetlands, forests, mangroves and other ecosystems play vital roles in flood control. What is the state of such ecosystems in areas hit by storms? What actions have societies taken to clear or care for such ecosystems?

Be attentive to poverty. To history. To corruption. To how a city has been planned. To state neglect and state priorities. To where budget cuts have been made. To a region’s history of disaster. To how environmental risks have been denied and ignored. To wider histories of dispossession and vulnerability.

Be attentive to inequalities. To the imposed neglect of communities. Who lives in flood plains or flood ways? Which populations have been overlooked? How does climate violence affect different groups in different ways?

Be attentive to reconstruction. To flood insurance. To conflicts of interest between recovery and profitable construction.

To help illustrate the importance of human context and social conditions, here are just some examples from the last weeks.

San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, is one of the major cities affected by the path of Irma, and faces major power outage from the impact of the storm. Some areas could be left without power for up to half a year. But what explains the fragility of the country’s energy grid? The region’s decade-long recession, a longstanding process of austerity, the country’s debt burden, a historical process of colonial impoverishment, all contribute.


In Houston, buffeted by Harvey, despite numerous warnings, few measures were implemented to prepare or adapt a city for such events. 

Safety was sacrificed on the altar of urban expansion. 

Water-absorbing wetlands were paved over, replaced with concrete. 

Over thirty percent of coastal prairies, basins that can catch water, were cleared through development in the last two twenty-five years. 

Thousands of homes were built in areas highly vulnerable to flooding.

In central Nigeria, mainly in the state of Benue, over 100,000 people have been displaced by torrential rains and flooding.

 Ill preparation, clogged waterways, poor drainage system, absent long-term planning, and inadequate dam management in Nigeria and up-river Cameroon, all contributed to the toll.

In Bihar, West Bengal and Assad, hundreds of flooded villages have been deserted and abandoned. Inequality, poverty, unpreparedness, and absent infrastructure all play protagonist roles in aggravating such monsoonal impacts.

The city of Mumbai has been badly affected by days of incessant rainfall, ten times the usual levels. Dozens have been killed, hospitals flooded, and buildings collapsed. Such torrential rain and devastating recalls late July in 2005, when similar severe rains devastated the city, claiming hundreds of lives, washing thousands of homes away. Stagnating floodwaters spread disease and led to outbreaks of diarrhoea, leptospirosis and dengue.

But as we understand Mumbai’s floods, where does part of the blame lie? 

Majorly, in relentless poverty and reckless urbanisation. 

Major development schemes narrowed riverways, destroyed mangroves, and depleted water bodies. A report by a commission of concerned citizens in wake of the 2005 floods wrote, “the future of Mumbai is being strangulated by the politician-builder nexus, which has vitiated even the redevelopment of slums”. Profiteering does not protect.

Even the breadth of a disaster response is determined by disparity: compare the budget of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency ($15.5 billion), with India’s equivalent authority ($100 million).

Across all these countries and cases, the law of impact inequality holds: the poorest, the marginalized, the oppressed, the ignored, the subjugated, and the forgotten, will all be disproportionately affected by disaster, concentrated in those areas with higher environmental risk.

This tragic law meets a bitter reality: not every human life, not every neighbourhood, not every city, not every country, is worth the same. 

This is perhaps best represented in the coverage of established media outlets, whose eye is rarely equitable. In the last weeks, the known death toll of floods and mudslides affecting Congo, Niger, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone was twenty-five times higher than that of Harvey; but such incidents were mere footnotes in our published imagination.

Understanding Pain and Recovery

Finally, it’s important to acknowledge that unless we are fully present, we often struggle to understand the sadness wrought by climate violence. 

Our newspapers focus on numbers: lives lost, houses destroyed, people displaced, economic damage. These become the memorialised markers of suffering, but they fail to capture the sheer volume of possible pain.

What happens when you returned to your flooded home or village? What registers the work of “recovery”: searching for loved ones, burying bodies, clearing, cleaning, calculating costs, scrubbing mold, coping, handling mental strain and anguish? What speaks of the emptied bank accounts, the swept crops, the price of disaster food, rent owed to landlords for unliveable homes, demolished possessions?

The media is a caravansary that moves on. Within weeks, storm seasons will end. Waters will recede. Politicians will assure. We will return to the public spectacle of scandals and statements. The importance of tackling, preventing and bracing for climate violence will fade into the background of urgency. Cameras will turn away from the daily mundanity of “recovery”, impossible for so many. The dimming of media coverage will need to be replaced by the power of our memory and imagination.

Such silences and disparities in coverage reminds us that as we run further into an era of accelerating climate violence, we do not yet have an apparatus of attention that may allow for a humane, proportionate response to our global ecological crisis.

Even more than that, these storms are just a fraction of the panorama of climate violence. 

Climate change isn’t just about discrete episodes of extreme weather: floods, hurricanes, rains, mudslides, droughts and heat waves. 

It’s also the slow violence of gradually shifting environmental patterns: the patient depletion of water bodies, the ongoing loss of soil fertility, the long-term movement of rains, the growing unpredictability of weather.

We are currently not prepared for an era of encroaching environmental violence; the urgency of our reality is not synchronised with the urgency of our actions.

 But we continue to hold the power both to significantly reduce the worst possibilities of climate change, and prepare for its inevitabilities by building fairer and more flourishing societies. 

Let us hope that the horrific storms of the last weeks can serve as a wake-up call.

Press link for more: World at 1C

“Burning Coal Has Consequences!” #StopAdani #Auspol 

Environmental groups win court battle over approach to climate analysis of coal mining
Bureau of Land Management failed to conduct proper climate analysis of coal leases, court rules.
Sep 15, 2017, 3:07 pm

The coal leases are part of an expansion of the Black Thunder Mine in Wright, Wyoming. CREDIT: AP Photo/Matthew Brown


The coal leases are part of an expansion of the Black Thunder Mine in Wright, Wyoming. CREDIT: AP Photo/Matthew Brown

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the Bureau of Land Management failed to adequately consider the climate impacts of several coal leases in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, delivering a major win to environmental groups who challenged the agency’s environmental analysis of the leases.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated the BLM, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, violated federal law by skipping in-depth analysis of the potential climate impacts from four coal leases that would extend the production life of the nation’s two most productive coal mines, the North Antelope Rochelle mine and the Black Thunder mine.

 The two surface mines sit on federal land in northeast Wyoming.

In 2012, the Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians brought a lawsuit against the BLM, arguing the agency failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act when it concluded that issuing the leases would not result in higher national carbon dioxide emissions.


“Burning coal has consequences, and the court’s decision today recognizes that our environment is more important than pandering to an obsolete industry,” Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians, said Friday in a statement.
A district court upheld BLM’s decision to issue the leases. 

But the environmental groups in January 2016 appealed the case to the 10th Circuit.

 In overturning the lower court’s ruling, the appeals court concluded the BLM’s analysis was arbitrary and capricious and that its decision-making record for the coal leases did not include any clear support for its conclusion.


The decision comes one month after a federal judge blocked a proposed expansion of an underground coal mine in Montana because the project’s climate change impacts were not adequately considered by the federal Office of Surface Mining. 

In the Montana case, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ruled the agency inflated the economic benefits of the Signal Peak Energy’s Bull Mountain coal mine while minimizing its environmental impact. 

The judge ordered the company to stop mining in the proposed expansion area pending further studies.
Judge blocks coal mine expansion, citing lack of adequate climate analysis
Expansion would make Bull Mountain the nation’s largest underground coal mine.
In Friday’s decision, the appeals court remanded the Wyoming case to BLM to revise its environmental impact statements and records of decision. The court, however, decided not to do away with the leases. The court noted that three out of the four leases are actively being mined.
Although there are more than 1,000 coal mines in the United States, the North Antelope Rochelle and Black Thunder mines currently produce about 20 percent of the coal used to generate electricity in the country. The mine expansions would add two billion tons to the nation’s total coal production. The Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians stated in their lawsuit that this additional two billion tons of coal would drastically increase the amount of carbon emitted by coal-burning power plants.
While the court’s decision may not significantly affect the Wyoming leases, it “will have a dramatic impact on how the BLM and the Department of the Interior assess future land leases for fossil fuels — giving the public a clearer picture of how public land used for extraction by fossil fuel companies will impact the most significant environmental threat facing the world today,” the Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians said.
“Today’s decision sheds new light on the destructive consequences of leasing our most precious lands to corporate polluters who value their balance sheets more than public health,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a statement. “Climate change is the most pressing environmental issue we face, and this decision recognizes a simple truth: BLM’s choices matter. It can no longer stick its head in the sand and ignore its contribution to the climate problem.”

Press link for more: Think Progress

UN Secretary General “We see the consequences daily!” #ClimateChange #StopAdani  

Secretary-General’s remarks at High-Level Stakeholder Dialogue on Climate Change [as delivered]
You are the backbone of the global movement that led to the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015. 
In Paris, we rose to a global challenge.
Now we have an even bigger challenge: raising ambition and staying on course.
Emissions are going down, but not enough.  
The temperature is still rising.

We see the consequences daily.
We count the costs in lives, livelihoods and damaged economies.
Since 2008 – you know better than me – some 20 million people a year have been forcibly displaced by floods, storms, fires and extreme temperature.


Many more are on the move due to droughts and sea level rise and climate change is not a distant problem for future generations. 
It is here, it is now, and we need to deal with it.
Governments alone cannot handle the enormity of this challenge, even when they want, which is not always the case.
That is why the Paris Pledge for Action attracted more than 1,300 signatures.  
We are seeing action around the globe and many examples show it.
The shipping industry is working to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint through the Global Industry Alliance.  
In Kenya, innovative solar ‘pay as you go’ mobile companies are providing affordable energy in rural and remote areas. 
Similar public-private partnerships are supporting energy-efficient lighting in key urban areas in Egypt.  
National Centres of excellence on sustainable energy are being established in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – the world capital of oil.
Michael Bloomberg, with the Global Covenant of Mayors, and he is here with us, is leading efforts to build resilient cities. 
I will ask him as my Special Envoy to accelerate and deepen the role of sub-national actors in implementing the Paris Agreement in preparation for the 2019 Climate Summit.
California is convening a Summit of all non-state actors in 2018.  
An increasing number of private companies and businesses are taking the lead in adopting a carbon price. 
In the transport sector, car manufacturers, Tesla, Volkswagen, Volvo and many others are going electric.  
In the tech industry, we see companies like Google and Apple moving towards a target of 100 per cent renewable energy. 
Institutional investors have committed to climate action. 
Financial rule-makers, such as central banks and regulators, are responding to the risks and opportunities of climate change.
But, we still have far to go to make climate action a natural part of the global financial system. 
High-carbon investments are still massive.

The commitments made under the Paris Agreement, in the Nationally Determined Contributions, are clearly insufficient. 
There is at least a 14 Gigaton carbon gap. 
That is why we are here today.
We can change this situation. 
I am ready to work with all you to help remove barriers to your efforts. 
Finding out how and where I can help is my central objective in this meeting. 
I see three areas of focus.
First, growing and deepening your role. 
Let us think about how all stakeholders’ contribution can be recognized and measured against the goals set out in the Paris Agreement.
Second, removing barriers to the mobilization of finances and creating bankable projects. 
Tens of billions of dollars are needed to implement country actions. 
Neither governments nor the public financing mechanism can bear the cost. 
Your contribution is vital.
Third, intensifying efforts in high impact areas, such as technology, energy transmission, carbon pricing, and risk mitigation. 
In 2019, I intend that the Climate Summit will forge even closer alliances between governments and business for implementing the Paris Agreement. 
I hope, together, we can emphatically bend the emission curve by 2020.
Let us expand the limits of the possible. 
You can tell us how.
I look forward to learn with you.
Thank you very much.

Press link for more: UN.ORG

Coal Kills People! #StopAdani #Auspol 

Enough tiptoeing around. 

Let’s make this clear: coal kills people!

Tim HolloLast modified on Monday 18 September 2017 06.12 AEST


Emissions from a coal fired power station in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia.

‘How can journalists and editors report on the politics of coal on one page and bushfires around Sydney in September on another without making the connection?’ Photograph: Ashley Cooper/Getty Images

Coal kills people. 

This isn’t even slightly scientifically controversial.

From the mines to the trains to the climate disruption; from black lung to asthma, heat stress to hunger, fires to floods: coal is killing people in Australia and around the world right now.

Yet we are once again having what passes for political debate about extending the life of coal-fired power stations and, extraordinarily, building new ones.

 The conversation is completely disconnected from the fact that two thirds of Bangladesh was reported to be underwater, record-breaking hurricanes were battering the US, and wildfires were roaring in both the northern and southern hemispheres at the same time.

Even the Greens only talk coyly about the impact of climate change on our “way of life”. 

It’s time we put it clearly: If Malcolm Turnbull, Barnaby Joyce and their colleagues succeed in extending the life of the Liddell power station, let alone building new coal, they will kill people. 

Burning more coal, knowing what we know, is a deliberate act of arson, lighting a match in dry bushland, with homes just around the bend and a hot wind blowing in their direction.
It’s hard to say that. It’s hard to read it.

 But we must come to grips with this connection urgently.
And it is connection – and disconnection – which is at the heart of the problem, and which points the way to the only hope for a solution.
How is it that our politicians can be so drastically disconnected from the consequences of their actions?
 How can citizens not be out on the streets?


 How can corporate executives be continuing business as usual (a business as usual that is moving away from coal, but still nowhere near fast enough to avoid catastrophic climate disruption)? How can journalists and editors report on the politics of coal on one page and bushfires around Sydney in September on another without making the connection?
The answer, I would suggest, is because connection is fundamentally at odds with how we have trained ourselves to see the world. Our economic, social and political system is based around disconnection. And our most vital and urgent task is to find ways to get over that, to draw each other and our ideas together, to see the world as the glorious interconnected ecosystem it is.
We are, today, at the end point of a millennia-long process of disconnection. Since we first built cities and started leaving the land, we have been disconnecting from nature; losing sight of it, quite literally; losing our vocabulary of it, to the extent that blackberry is no longer a fruit to be plucked and eaten but a device to tie us to our desks when we’re on the toilet.
Nature was just the beginning. While this slow severing has been going on for thousands of years, the last few centuries – the reformation, the enlightenment, the industrial revolution, and capitalism – performed the amputation.
In capitalism, we have created the first social organising principle based on selfishness, the first system to make greed, competition, non-cooperation its credo. In Thatcherism, we have the declaration that there is no such thing as society. In neoliberalism, we have a system which alienates us from each other, from our labour, from democracy; a system which declares we have great choice while turning everything into a supermarket aisle full of different but identical toothpastes; a system which insists that we have great freedoms while systematically removing more and more of our capacity to have any real control or influence over, or stake in – anything real in our lives.
That’s why we can have politicians actively discussing doing something which not only makes no economic sense but will actually kill people, while most of the population turns away to binge watch the next series on Netflix.
There is only one way through this – we have to reconnect. And it’s already happening. Around Australia and the world, people are seeking out reconnection in all sorts of ways. We are starting community groups, getting involved in community gardens and food coops, starting childcare and health coops, joining sharing groups instead of buying more stuff. Instead of always doing things on our own, as disconnected individuals, we are looking for innovative ways to work together, to eat together, to live together. And, excitingly, we’re banding together to create social and political forces to be reckoned with.
Bringing it right back to coal, tens of thousands of people are bypassing the politicians and corporations altogether, frustrated by their inability to think beyond coal, and setting up renewable energy cooperatives. From Canberra to Copenhagen, people are pooling their resources to jointly set up solar farms or wind farms, sharing the benefits not only among themselves but with all of us.
If all this seems terribly small, remember – going from 280 to 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is already causing havoc. With a few more parts per million, we could reach tipping points in the climate beyond which unimaginable disaster looms.
But there are tipping points in society, too. And, if we work together to rebuild connection, we can reach that tipping point first. We can turn this around, and maybe not only survive, but thrive.
Tim Hollo is executive director of the Green Institute

Press link for more: The Guardian

#Irma & #Harvey should kill all doubt #climatechange is real. 

Irma and Harvey should kill any doubt that climate change is real

By By Michael E. Mann, Susan J. Hassol and Thomas C. Peterson

As we begin to clean up from Hurricane Harvey, the wettest hurricane on record, dumping up to 50 inches of rain on Houston in three days, and await landfall of Irma, the most powerful hurricane on record in the open Atlantic Ocean, people are asking: What is the role of human-induced climate change in these events, and how else have our own actions increased our risks?

Fundamental physical principles and observed weather trends mean we already know some of the answers — and we have for a long time.
Hurricanes get their energy from warm ocean waters, and the oceans are warming because of the human-caused buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, primarily from the burning of coal, oil and gas.

 The strongest hurricanes have gotten stronger because of global warming.

 Over the past two years, we have witnessed the most intense hurricanes on record for the globe, both hemispheres, the Pacific and now, with Irma, the Atlantic.

We also know that warmer air holds more moisture, and the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere has increased because of human-induced global warming.

 We’ve measured this increase, and it has been unequivocally attributed to human-caused warming. 

That extra moisture causes heavier rainfall, which has also been observed and attributed to our influence on climate. 

We know that rainfall rates in hurricanes are expected to increase in a warmer world, and now we’re living that reality.

And global warming also means higher sea levels, both because ocean water expands as it warms and because ice in the mountains and at the poles melts and makes its way into oceans.

 Sea level rise is accelerating, and storm surge from hurricanes rides on top of higher seas to infiltrate further into our coastal cities.
Heavier rain and higher sea levels can combine to compound flooding in major hurricanes, as the deluges cause flooding that must drain to the sea but can’t do so as quickly because of storm surges. 

Sadly, we saw this effect in play in the catastrophic flooding from Harvey.


We don’t have all of the answers yet. 

There are scientific linkages we’re still trying to work out. 

Harvey, like Hurricane Irene before it in 2011, resulted in record flooding, because of a combination of factors. 

Very warm ocean temperatures meant more moisture in the atmosphere to produce heavy rainfall, yes. 

But both storms were also very slow-moving, nearly stationary at times, which means that rain fell over the same areas for an extended period.
Cutting-edge climate science suggests that such stalled weather patterns could result from a slowed jet stream, itself a consequence — through principles of atmospheric science — of the accelerated warming of the Arctic. 

This is a reminder of how climate changes in far-off regions such as the North Pole can have very real effects on extreme weather faced here in the Lower 48.
These linkages are preliminary, and scientists are still actively studying them. But they are a reminder that surprises may be in store — and not welcome ones — when it comes to the unfolding effects of climate change.

Which leads us, inevitably, to a discussion of policy — and, indeed, politics. Previous administrations focused on adapting to climate change, with an eye to what the planet would look like in the future. 

But events such as Harvey, and probably Irma, show that we have not even adapted to our current climate (which has already changed because of our influence).
The effects of climate change are no longer subtle. 

We are seeing them play out before us here and now. 

And they will only worsen if we fail to act.
The Trump administration, however, seems determined to lead us backward. 

In recent months, we have witnessed a dismantling of the policies put in place by the Obama administration to

 (a) incentivize the necessary move from climate-change-producing fossil fuels toward clean energy, 

(b) increase resilience to climate change effects through sensible regulations on coastal development, and

 (c) continue to fund basic climate research that can inform our assessments of risk and adaptive strategies.

 Ironically, just 10 days before Harvey struck, President Trump rescinded flood protection standards put in place by the Obama administration that would take sea level rise and other climate change effects into account in coastal development plans.

And as Trump kills policies that would reduce the risks of climate disasters, our nation continues to support policies that actually increase our risks.

 For example, without the taxpayer-subsidized National Flood Insurance Program, banks would be less likely to provide mortgages for rebuilding houses in locations that have been flooded before, sometimes repeatedly. 

And the flood insurance program is itself underwater: badly in debt and set to expire at the end of this month unless Congress finds a way to keep it afloat, just as billions of dollars in claims from Harvey come pouring in.
Harvey and Irma are sad reminders that policy matters. At a time when damage from climate change is escalating, we need sensible policy in Washington to protect the citizens of this country, both by reducing future climate change and preparing for its consequences. We should demand better of our leaders.

Press link for more: Washington Post

The Light’s Still Out On LNP Energy Policy #Auspol #StopAdani 

Power For Power’s Sake: The Light’s Are Still Out On Coalition Energy Policy
Ben ElthamSeptember 8, 2017


(BACKGROUND IMAGE: mendhak, Flickr)
When it comes to energy policy, the government has no-one to blame but itself, writes Ben Eltham.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has run hard on energy this week.
He gave a media conference mid week after the release of the latest report by the Australian Energy Market Operator, or AEMO. AEMO was asked by the government to give advice on electricity supply in the forthcoming summer.
Unsurprisingly, the government is worried about the possibility of blackouts. AEMO says that the national grid “is not delivering enough investment in flexible dispatchable resources to maintain the defined target level of supply reliability.” 

In other words, there hasn’t been enough investment in new generation, particularly the dispatchable kind.
None of this should be news to anyone, let alone the federal government.
Australia’s electricity grid is undergoing rapid change. 

The generation mix is changing, and so are the technologies that underpin it.

 As newer forms of generation like wind and solar are added to the grid, older forms like coal are being phased out. 

In recent years, we’ve seen the retirement of a significant number of coal-fired power generators, most notably Victoria’s Hazelwood plant in Morwell.

The smoke stacks of the Hazelwood coal-fired power plant, in Morwell, Victoria. (IMAGE: Jonathan Warner, Flickr)
In the long term, this is good news, as renewable energy is the cheapest form of new electricity generation, and will eventually bring prices down. 

Renewable energy is also cleaner, obviously, which is a good thing if you think dangerous global warming is a problem.

 But in the short term, there might be some short falls in electricity supply. 

Which might mean blackouts.
The AEMO report has been misunderstood by many in the media.

 AEMO is not saying there will be rolling blackouts in the southern states this summer, but it is saying that supply will be tight, particularly on hot days when the wind isn’t blowing. 

According to AEMO, this is because “radically changing dynamics of the power system are resulting in a tight supply-demand balance in parts of the National Electricity Market.”
AEMO recommends the creation of a 1 gigawatt “strategic reserve” of dispatchable energy (in other words, energy available to be sent to the grid), to ride through any problems on those really hot days.

 The agency has been preparing for months. 

According to AEMO’s boss Audrey Zibelman, speaking to the ABC’s Rafael Esptein on Wednesday, “no, we’re not in trouble this summer.”
The government is still worried, though. It knows that when the lights go out, voters tend to blame whoever is in charge. 

And so they should: this is a failure of planning. 

The failure is entirely the Coalition’s.

When the Coalition took government in September 2013, it inherited an electricity grid that was in transition. 

It also inherited a comprehensive plan to manage that transition, in the form of Labor’s Clean Energy Future policy. 

Labor’s policy represented a plan to transition Australia slowly to renewable energy, but with rather conservative safeguards for energy security. 

A carbon price penalised dirty industries for pollution, while a renewable energy target subsidised investment in new, clean technology. 

There was money for technology innovation, and consumers were compensated for the cost of higher electricity bills. 

Carbon permit sales that raised billions a year provided a steady stream of revenue.
Tony Abbott got rid of all that. 


He killed the carbon price, slashed nearly all funding to green energy, and launched a jihad against renewables that spooked investors. 

New renewable energy investment essentially stopped for two years. 

The government then tried to wind back the Renewable Energy Target by 15,000 gigawatt hours. 

In the end, after Labor negotiated, the government reduced it by 8,000 GWh, from 41,000 to 33,000 GWh in 2020.
Four years later, we can see the results. Coal hasn’t flourished – indeed, it’s being rapidly phased out. 

Renewable energy is still the only new generation being built – because it’s the cheapest and most profitable.

 Electricity bills are even higher than they were under Julia Gillard’s carbon price. 

Carbon emissions are going up. 

It’s failure on every front.
Not to put too fine a point on it: this is all the Coalition’s doing. By killing off the carbon price, sabotaging the RET, but refusing to put in place a viable alternative, the Coalition essentially guaranteed that the grid’s problems would deteriorate.


A coal-loader in action. (IMAGE: Thom Mitchell.)

It’s pretty obvious what Australia has needed in energy policy: certainty.

 The carbon wars have led to crippling uncertainty for investors, terrible outcomes for consumers, and even worse outcomes for the environment. 

What we should have done was put in place a plan, and stick to it.
As happens so often to this government, political expediency has blinded it to policy reality, such that the inevitable somehow surprises it. 

But no-one should be surprised that coal plants are closing. 

They were always going to close.
The sad irony is that no amount of Coalition special treatment can save coal as an electricity source. 

The dirty black rock has had its day.


 As the Guardian’s Adam Morton pointed out earlier this year, “coal generators usually operate for about half a century and most Australian plants are pushing that age”. 

Many of Australia’s plants were built in the 1970s, and have simply reached the end of their productive lives.


Hazelwood, for instance, was built in the 1960s. 

It was closed by French multinational Engie this year, essentially because it was old, expensive to maintain, and highly polluting. 

“The closure of Hazelwood is in line with Engie’s strategy to gradually end its coal activities,” the company announced last year.

 “Besides, Hazelwood power station has been operating in difficult market conditions, with lower electricity prices and a surplus of electricity supply in Victoria State.”
The same can be said for the Liddell power plant in the Hunter Valley, which the government now wants to try and keep operating after 2022. 

That’s five years away, but the fact that energy oligopolist AGL wants to shut it down makes for a handy political weapon for a government keen to be seen to be doing something – anything – about energy security.

Like everything else to do with this government, ideology has trumped economics, or even common sense. 

Liddell is 46 years old. 

It suffered serious boiler leaks in 2016 and 2017.

 The reason that AGL wants to close Liddell is that it will cost too much to keep running. 

Upgrading it will be even more expensive, and coal plants don’t make as much money as they used to.
AGL’s boss Andy Vesey always seems to be smiling when you see him the media.

 Perhaps that’s because the energy giant dominates Australia’s dysfunctional energy markets. High wholesale prices are contributing to fat times for the vertically integrated ‘gentailers’. AGL raked in more than $1.5 billion from its wholesale electricity operations last financial year, contributing to underlying profits of $1.3 billion. While AGL enjoys good publicity for its claims to be getting out of coal, it’s making big dollars from the coal plants it still runs.
Note that the price rises faced by consumers are largely the government’s fault, too. Had it wanted to, the Coalition could have attempted to reform Australia’s absurdly dysfunctional National Electricity Market, in which the price gouging by the energy generators is so profitable. This has nothing to do with renewable energy: it’s simply a consequence of a poorly-designed market where clever oligopolists are gaming the system. But the Coalition hasn’t done anything to reform the NEM either.
All of this is due to policy failure. Australia can have cheaper energy, and still have energy security, and reduce emissions at the same time. We just need a plan.
It’s fairly obvious what should replace antiquated coal plants at the end of their productive lives: new technology that will be cheaper to run and cleaner for the environment. It’s not as though we don’t have the know-how. According to the Finkel Report, which the government commissioned, the cheapest new form of electricity generation is wind. But the govenrment finds such facts inconvenient, because it is completely in thrall to the fossil fuel enthusiasm of the troglodyte Liberal right wing. We’re still waiting for the government’s response to Finkel’s recommendations.


According to chief scientist Alan Kinkel, the cheapest new source of electricity generation is wind power. (Source: Finkel Review)
If we need more dispatchable energy, and a more secure electricity grid, the cheapest way to deliver that is by smart grid technologies that better manage demand. Batteries and stored hydro can also play a role. Solar thermal is now being built for the first time in Australia, promising renewable energy at all times of the day or night. A sensible combination of these options will be vastly cheaper than building new coal plants or keeping ageing plants operational well past their use-by date.
The problem for the government is that it is now so invested in the political value of fossil fuels that it seems unable to acknowledge that renewable energy has won the economic race.
“Many of the problems we face at the moment have taken a long time to create,” Turnbull said at his media conference this week. “They can’t be solved overnight.”
He got that right. Energy policy in Australia has been a train wreck for years – roughly, you might say, since the Coalition took office.

Press link for more:  New Matilda

Coastal Cities Are Increasingly Vulnerable #ClimateChange #StopAdani 

Coastal Cities Are Increasingly Vulnerable, and So Is the Economy that Relies on Them
Gregory Unruh September 07, 2017

sept17-07-490535380

There was a time a decade or two ago when society could have made a choice to write off our massive investment in a fossil fuel-based economy and begin a policy driven shift towards a cleaner renewable infrastructure that could have forestalled the worst effects of climate change.

 But the challenges of collective action, a lack of political courage, and the power of incumbent pecuniary interests to capture the levers of power meant we did not. 

The bill is now coming due.

That means that many of our great, low-lying coastal cities are what we call “stranded assets.” 

GreenBiz founder Joel Makower defines a stranded asset as “a financial term that describes something that has become obsolete or nonperforming well ahead of its useful life, and must be recorded on a company’s balance sheet as a loss of profit.”

 Makower was talking about Exxon and other companies that built their businesses on the combustion of climate changing fossil fuels, not cities. 

But the concept easily transfers from businesses built on carbon to cities threatened by carbon’s impact.

Consider Miami.

 An invaluable, irreplaceable cultural jewel that will be stranded, both figuratively and literally, by climate change.
How can an entire metropolis that encompasses the lives, culture, and wellbeing of millions be considered “nonperforming?”

 The physical installations, infrastructures, and architecture upon which Miami are founded were built on what we now can see as a flawed assumption.

 An assumption of permanence.

 That the sea’s surface would stay as it had for the entirety of human experience.

 That Atlantic hurricane season would send infrequent storms of knowable magnitude that we could prepare for and ride out. 

It was that perception of permanence and predictability that underlay urban planning and shaped of tens of thousands of investment decisions that fostered billions of dollars of wealth in Miami.

 As long as nothing disturbs that perception, value will continue to accrue on paper.

 But if the perception of permanence that underlies those expectations is undercut, market value will disappear. 

Value is in the eyes of the buyer… until its not.

Climate change in general, and sea level rise in particular, are hard for us to see.

 The tides that surround Miami are elevating at a rate of centimeters per year. 

It is a slow motion train wreck that will be measured in decades, not seconds.

 For now, Miami property buyers don’t see it. 

A 2017 survey found that the majority of property buyers (over two-thirds) don’t ask even their brokers about the implications of climate change and sea level rise on the properties they are buying.

But for those willing to look, the impacts of sea level rise are already evident. 

So-called “sunny day flooding”, (i.e tidal flooding or flooding that occurs without the rain) is already occurring predictably in many parts of Miami, inundating streets, blocking traffic, killing lawns, corroding infrastructure and cars, contaminating groundwater, and reversing sewage systems. 

As sea level rise worsens, the inescapable conclusion is that some point Miami will be inundated and unlivable. 

Absent a civil engineering miracle, the entire city will become a stranded asset that society will have to write off. 

And it’s not alone: Reuters estimates at least $1.4 trillion in property is sitting within 700 feet of the U.S. shoreline, but the number is much probably larger.
When the irrational exuberance about the value of coastal real estate pops and thousands of buyers collectively mark down those assets, it will make the housing bubble of ten years ago look like a small blip.
The consequences will reverberate through the economy, through society and through the political landscape. 

Depending on what Hurricane Irma does, we could get a sobering preview of what that will look like. 

We have already seen the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, a city that was also built on the flawed founding assumption of permanence. 

Houston’s city planners and businesses also ignored warnings as far back as 1996 that climate change would bring exactly the kind of disaster they city is currently suffering today. 

It’s hard to blame them. 

We’ve all ignored the warnings.

We can’t anymore.

 Business leaders and politicians need to begin wrapping their heads around the big idea that climate change may mean huge financial losses in the world’s great coastal metropolises.

Press link for more: Harvard Business Review

Miami Mayor Blasts Trump for Ignoring #ClimateChange 

As Irma closes in, Republican mayor of Miami blasts Trump for ignoring climate change
“This is the time to talk about climate change.”
Sep 9, 2017, 12:20 pm


Bayside Marketplace in downtown Miami as Hurricane Irma approaches, Sept. 8, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

As Hurricane Irma continues on its collision course with Florida, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, a Republican, criticized President Donald Trump and his administration for refusing to acknowledge the connection between climate change and more intense and destructive storms.

“This is the time to talk about climate change. 

This is the time that the president and the EPA and whoever makes decisions needs to talk about climate change,” Regalado told the Miami Herald on Friday. 

“If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is. 

This is a truly, truly poster child for what is to come.”
Irma is one of the most intense storms to ever form in the Atlantic Ocean. 

After devastating several Caribbean islands earlier this week, the monster storm is expected to regain strength make landfall in Florida as a Category 4 hurricane on Sunday. 

With that comes “dangerous storm surge up to 12 feet, very heavy rainfall, inland flooding, and short lived tornadoes in Florida this weekend,” according to the National Weather Service.

Scientists have emphasized that climate change intensifies hurricanes in several key ways, as ThinkProgress’ Joe Romm detailed in regard to Hurricane Harvey, which devastated portions of Texas just a few weeks ago. But the president and many of his top officials reject the scientific consensus on climate change and, in their first months in office, have made a concerted effort to roll back domestic and international climate policies.


Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency — headed by Scott Pruitt, who has repeatedly dismissed or misrepresented widely accepted climate science — rejected scientists’ efforts to connect Harvey’s extreme impact to global warming. 

“EPA is focused on the safety of those affected by Hurricane Harvey and providing emergency response support — not engaging in attempts to politicize an ongoing tragedy,” agency spokeswoman Liz Bowman said.
Pruitt took it a step further on Thursday, criticizing those who seek to discuss “the cause and effect of these storms,” and saying that “to use time and effort to address it at this point is very, very insensitive to the people in Florida.”
The Trump administration wants to ignore a major aspect of these hurricane disasters
We can’t plan for what’s to come if we can’t talk about it.
But, as Regalado explained, failing to address the underlying cause will doom major U.S. cities like Miami to keep repeating the same mistakes, leaving Americans unprepared to cope with ever-worsening natural disasters.
South Florida has long been considered ground zero for some of the most severe impacts of climate change, as sea level rise and coastal flooding meet decades of unchecked development. “Tidal flooding now predictably drenches inland streets, even when the sun is out, thanks to the region’s porous limestone bedrock,” Bloomberg’s Christopher Flavelle reported earlier this year. “Saltwater is creeping into the drinking water supply.”
Regalado told the Miami Herald that the $400 million dollar obligation bond he’s campaigning for would help the city make necessary improvements to its storm drains and pumping system.
“You know, for those who say we don’t believe in the bond issue because we can do that later, no, it’s happening now. We got [Hurricane] Jose in the back and we got Katia. We got stuff going on,” he said. “So, I think this is a lesson for the people to say you know what? We have to be prepared.”

Press link for more: Think Progress

Al Gore Warned This Would Happen. #ClimateChange #Irma #StopAdani 

Climate Change Made Hurricane Irma Worse: Al Gore Warned This Would Happen But People Didn’t Listen to His ‘Inconvenient Truth’
By Tufayel Ahmed On Friday, September 8, 2017 – 12:04


Al Gore

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore attends a screening for “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” in Los Angeles on July 25. Photo: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

When Al Gore’s climate-change documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power opened to less than $1 million at the box office in early August—coming in 16th place in its first weekend of wide release—the right-leaning media was quick to dismiss it as a “bomb.” The sequel’s takings, the likes of Fox News noted, were far below its Academy Award–winning predecessor, An Inconvenient Truth, released in 2006.
But to dwell on An Inconvenient Sequel ’s box office receipts is to the miss the point. The film’s message—a warning wrapped in the guise of a blockbuster movie experience—is no more critical than it is right now.


The devastation of Hurricane Harvey in August has flooded the city of Houston.

 In the first week of September, more tropical storms are already foretold to cause even more chaos. 

The Category 5 Hurricane Irma has ripped its way through the Caribbean on its way to Florida, while Hurricane Jose is tipped to closely follow behind it in ravaging several Caribbean Islands. 

A third hurricane, Katia, could hit Mexico by Saturday morning. That country was just hit with a major earthquake Thursday night.
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The back-to-back disasters may not be directly caused by climate change, but the intensification of global warming certainly played a factor, scientists say. 

Rising temperatures on the earth’s surface and sea can “badly exacerbate” the impact of a storm, climate scientist Anders Levermann told Bloomberg earlier this week. 

That echoes research by MIT meteorology expert Kerry Emanuel, who in March said that “climate change potentially affects the frequency, intensity and tracks of tropical cyclones.”
In spite of science, climate deniers and skeptics, like President Trump, who pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on climate change earlier in 2017, continue to dismiss the effects of human activities affecting our environment. But Irma and company are just the beginning. By the end of the 21st century, according to the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, hurricanes will be a lot more powerful and dangerous due to rising temperatures of seawater.
Someone tried to warn us—even as little as a month ago.
Al Gore’s Inconvenient films, packaged as major motion pictures with all the polished sheen and expensive marketing one expects from a superhero movie, are not just slick popcorn films. They’re packaged that way to make them more palatable to the average Joe. So if you missed the former vice president’s movie when it hit theaters last month, now is the time to see it.
The trailer for An Inconvenient Sequel alone is pretty damning of the blind eye being turned to climate change. “The most criticized scene in the movie An Inconvenient Truth,” Gore says of his first film, “was showing that the combination of sea level rise and storm surge would flood the 9/11 memorial site. And people said, ‘What a terrible exaggeration.’” Cut to footage of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, which did indeed flood the memorial.
The earlier Inconvenient film foresaw that incident, while the latest features an eerie prediction for the Florida-bound Irma.

In the film, Gore visits Miami, parts of which are under several inches of water due to rising sea levels. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine tells him they are circumventing water flooding the streets by using pumps and raising roads. But Gore points out that it’s a temporary measure at best, as sea levels continue to rise. “Kind of hard to pump the ocean.”
If Irma hits Miami—and it might—the impact could be disastrous because of the already high water levels, the consequence of which would be more flooding.
Gore told Newsweek last month that Trump pulling out of the climate accord is not yet a done deal—the earliest the U.S. would be able to withdraw is just after the next presidential election. If a new president is elected, the U.S. could choose to remain part of the Paris Agreement.
So there is still time to act. According to Gore’s Inconvenient marketing, at the state level, more than 100 million U.S. citizens live in places still committed to climate action, representing 36 percent of the population. In the wake of Irma and other tropical storms, that figure could realistically increase. Here’s how the movie advises you to take action:
By the way, An Inconvenient Sequel is still in theaters across the U.S. to help you get educated.

Press link for more: Newsweek.com