Ice Apocalypse Coastal Cities flooded by 2100 #StopAdani

Ice Apocalypse: How the rapid collapse of Antarctic glaciers could flood coastal cities by the end of this century

by Eric Holthaus, Grist

Pine Island Glacier shelf edge. Jeremy Harbeck

In a remote region of Antarctica known as Pine Island Bay, 2,500 miles from the tip of South America, two glaciers hold human civilization hostage.

Stretching across a frozen plain more than 150 miles long, these glaciers, named Pine Island and Thwaites, have marched steadily for millennia toward the Amundsen Sea, part of the vast Southern Ocean. Further inland, the glaciers widen into a two-mile-thick reserve of ice covering an area the size of Texas.

There’s no doubt this ice will melt as the world warms. The vital question is when.

The glaciers of Pine Island Bay are two of the largest and fastest-melting in Antarctica. (A Rolling Stone feature earlier this year dubbed Thwaites “The Doomsday Glacier.”) Together, they act as a plug holding back enough ice to pour 11 feet of sea-level rise into the world’s oceans — an amount that would submerge every coastal city on the planet. For that reason, finding out how fast these glaciers will collapse is one of the most important scientific questions in the world today.

To figure that out, scientists have been looking back to the end of the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago, when global temperatures stood at roughly their current levels. The bad news? There’s growing evidence that the Pine Island Bay glaciers collapsed rapidly back then, flooding the world’s coastlines — partially the result of something called “marine ice-cliff instability.”

The ocean floor gets deeper toward the center of this part of Antarctica, so each new iceberg that breaks away exposes taller and taller cliffs. Ice gets so heavy that these taller cliffs can’t support their own weight. Once they start to crumble, the destruction would be unstoppable.

“Ice is only so strong, so it will collapse if these cliffs reach a certain height,” explains Kristin Poinar, a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “We need to know how fast it’s going to happen.”

In the past few years, scientists have identified marine ice-cliff instability as a feedback loop that could kickstart the disintegration of the entire West Antarctic ice sheet this century — much more quickly than previously thought.

Minute-by-minute, huge skyscraper-sized shards of ice cliffs would crumble into the sea, as tall as the Statue of Liberty and as deep underwater as the height of the Empire State Building. The result: a global catastrophe the likes of which we’ve never seen.

Ice comes in many forms, with different consequences when it melts. Floating ice, like the kind that covers the Arctic Ocean in wintertime and comprises ice shelves, doesn’t raise sea levels. (Think of a melting ice cube, which won’t cause a drink to spill over.)

Land-based ice, on the other hand, is much more troublesome. When it falls into the ocean, it adds to the overall volume of liquid in the seas. Thus, sea-level rise.

Antarctica is a giant landmass — about half the size of Africa — and the ice that covers it averages more than a mile thick. Before human burning of fossil fuels triggered global warming, the continent’s ice was in relative balance: The snows in the interior of the continent roughly matched the icebergs that broke away from glaciers at its edges.

Now, as carbon dioxide traps more heat in the atmosphere and warms the planet, the scales have tipped.

A wholesale collapse of Pine Island and Thwaites would set off a catastrophe. Giant icebergs would stream away from Antarctica like a parade of frozen soldiers. All over the world, high tides would creep higher, slowly burying every shoreline on the planet, flooding coastal cities and creating hundreds of millions of climate refugees.

Pine Island Glacier calving front. NASA ICE

All this could play out in a mere 20 to 50 years — much too quickly for humanity to adapt.

“With marine ice cliff instability, sea-level rise for the next century is potentially much larger than we thought it might be five or 10 years ago,” Poinar says.

A lot of this newfound concern is driven by the research of two climatologists: Rob DeConto at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and David Pollard at Penn State University. A study they published last year was the first to incorporate the latest understanding of marine ice-cliff instability into a continent-scale model of Antarctica.

Their results drove estimates for how high the seas could rise this century sharply higher. “Antarctic model raises prospect of unstoppable ice collapse,” read the headline in the scientific journal Nature, a publication not known for hyperbole.

Instead of a three-foot increase in ocean levels by the end of the century, six feet was more likely, according to DeConto and Pollard’s findings. But if carbon emissions continue to track on something resembling a worst-case scenario, the full 11 feet of ice locked in West Antarctica might be freed up, their study showed.

Three feet of sea-level rise would be bad, leading to more frequent flooding of U.S. cities such as New Orleans, Houston, New York, and Miami. Pacific Island nations, like the Marshall Islands, would lose most of their territory. Unfortunately, it now seems like three feet is possible only under the rosiest of scenarios.

At six feet, though, around 12 million people in the United States would be displaced, and the world’s most vulnerable megacities, like Shanghai, Mumbai, and Ho Chi Minh City, could be wiped off the map.

At 11 feet, land currently inhabited by hundreds of millions of people worldwide would wind up underwater. South Florida would be largely uninhabitable; floods on the scale of Hurricane Sandy would strike twice a month in New York and New Jersey, as the tug of the moon alone would be enough to send tidewaters into homes and buildings.

DeConto and Pollard’s breakthrough came from trying to match observations of ancient sea levels at shorelines around the world with current ice sheet behavior.

Around 3 million years ago, when global temperatures were about as warm as they’re expected to be later this century, oceans were dozens of feet higher than today.

Previous models suggested that it would take hundreds or thousands of years for sea-level rise of that magnitude to occur. But once they accounted for marine ice-cliff instability, DeConto and Pollard’s model pointed toward a catastrophe if the world maintains a “business as usual” path — meaning we don’t dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

Rapid cuts in greenhouse gases, however, showed Antarctica remaining almost completely intact for hundreds of years.

Pollard and DeConto are the first to admit that their model is still crude, but its results have pushed the entire scientific community into emergency mode.

“It could happen faster or slower, I don’t think we really know yet,” says Jeremy Bassis, a leading ice sheet scientist at the University of Michigan. “But it’s within the realm of possibility, and that’s kind of a scary thing.”

Scientists used to think that ice sheets could take millennia to respond to changing climates. These are, after all, mile-thick chunks of ice.

The new evidence, though, says that once a certain temperature threshold is reached, ice shelves of glaciers that extend into the sea, like those near Pine Island Bay, will begin to melt from both above and below, weakening their structure and hastening their demise, and paving the way for ice-cliff instability to kick in.

In a new study out last month in the journal Nature, a team of scientists from Cambridge and Sweden point to evidence from thousands of scratches left by ancient icebergs on the ocean floor, indicating that Pine Island’s glaciers shattered in a relatively short amount of time at the end of the last ice age.

The only place in the world where you can see ice-cliff instability in action today is at Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland, one of the fastest-collapsing glaciers in the world. DeConto says that to construct their model, they took the collapse rate of Jakobshavn, cut it in half to be extra conservative, then applied it to Thwaites and Pine Island.

But there’s reason to think Thwaites and Pine Island could go even faster than Jakobshavn.

Right now, there’s a floating ice shelf protecting the two glaciers, helping to hold back the flow of ice into the sea. But recent examples from other regions, like the rapidly collapsing Larsen B ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula, show that once ice shelves break apart as a result of warming, their parent glaciers start to flow faster toward the sea, an effect that can weaken the stability of ice further inland, too.

“If you remove the ice shelf, there’s a potential that not just ice-cliff instabilities will start occurring, but a process called marine ice-sheet instabilities,” says Matthew Wise, a polar scientist at the University of Cambridge.

This signals the possible rapid destabilization of the entire West Antarctic ice sheet in this century. “Once the stresses exceed the strength of the ice,” Wise says, “it just falls off.”

And, it’s not just Pine Island Bay. On our current course, other glaciers around Antarctica will be similarly vulnerable. And then there’s Greenland, which could contribute as much as 20 feet of sea-level rise if it melts.

Next to a meteor strike, rapid sea-level rise from collapsing ice cliffs is one of the quickest ways our world can remake itself. This is about as fast as climate change gets.

Still, some scientists aren’t fully convinced the alarm is warranted. Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado, says the new research by Wise and his colleagues, which identified ice-cliff instabilities in Pine Island Bay 11,000 years ago, is “tantalizing evidence.” But he says that research doesn’t establish how quickly it happened.

“There’s a whole lot more to understand if we’re going to use this mechanism to predict how far Thwaites glacier and the other glaciers are going to retreat,” he says. “The question boils down to, what are the brakes on this process?”

Scambos thinks it is unlikely that Thwaites or Pine Island would collapse all at once. For one thing, if rapid collapse did happen, it would produce a pile of icebergs that could act like a temporary ice shelf, slowing down the rate of retreat.

Despite the differences of opinion, however, there’s growing agreement within the scientific community that we need to do much more to determine the risk of rapid sea-level rise. In 2015, the U.S. and U.K. governments began to plan a rare and urgent joint research program to study Thwaites glacier. Called “How much, how fast?,” the effort is set to begin early next year and run for five years.

Seeing the two governments pooling their resources is “really a sign of the importance of research like this,” NASA’s Poinar says.

Given what’s at stake, the research program at Thwaites isn’t enough, but it might be the most researchers can get. “Realistically, it’s probably all that can be done in the next five years in the current funding environment,” says Pollard.

He’s referring, of course, to the Trump administration’s disregard for science and adequate scientific funding; the White House’s 2018 budget proposal includes the first-ever cut to the National Science Foundation, which typically funds research in Antarctica.

“It would be sensible to put a huge effort into this, from my perspective,” Pollard says. Structural engineers need to study Antarctica’s key glaciers as though they were analyzing a building, he says, probing for weak spots and understanding how exactly they might fail. “If you vastly increase the research now, [the cost] would still be trivial compared to the losses that might happen.”

Bassis, the ice sheet scientist at the University of Michigan, first described the theoretical process of marine ice-cliff instability in research published only a few years ago.

He’s 40 years old, but his field has already changed enormously over the course of his career. In 2002, when Bassis was conducting his PhD research in a different region of Antarctica, he was shocked to return to his base camp and learn that the Larsen B ice shelf had vanished practically overnight.

“Every revision to our understanding has said that ice sheets can change faster than we thought,” he says. “We didn’t predict that Pine Island was going to retreat, we didn’t predict that Larsen B was going to disintegrate. We tend to look at these things after they’ve happened.”

There’s a recurring theme throughout these scientists’ findings in Antarctica: What we do now will determine how quickly Pine Island and Thwaites collapse. A fast transition away from fossil fuels in the next few decades could be enough to put off rapid sea-level rise for centuries. That’s a decision worth countless trillions of dollars and millions of lives.

“The range of outcomes,” Bassis says, “is really going to depend on choices that people make.”

Press link for more: Climate Code Red

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Solar & Wind cheaper than Coal. #StopAdani #Qldvotes #CoralnotCoal

New study reaches a stunning conclusion about the cost of solar and wind energy

Building new renewables is now cheaper than just running old coal and nuclear plants.

Nov 20, 2017, 11:34 am

CREDIT: Patrick Pleul/dpa via AP file

In one of the fastest and most astonishing turnarounds in the history of energy, building and running new renewable energy is now cheaper than just running existing coal and nuclear plants in many areas.

A widely-used yearly benchmarking study — the Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis (LCOE) from the financial firm Lazard Ltd. — reached this stunning conclusion: In many regions “the full-lifecycle costs of building and operating renewables-based projects have dropped below the operating costs alone of conventional generation technologies such as coal or nuclear.”

Lazard focused on the cost of a power for a plant over its entire lifetime in North America, and how the “increasing economic advantage of renewables in the U.S.” will drive even deeper penetration of solar and wind here.

But Lazard also makes a key global point: It’s more expensive to operate conventional energy sources in the developing world than it is in the United States. So the advantage renewables have over conventional sources is even larger in the rapidly growing electricity markets like India and China.

Forget coal, solar will soon be cheaper than natural gas power

Renewables to capture three-fourths of the $10 trillion the world will invest in new generation through 2040.

Since power from new renewables is cheaper than power from existing coal and nuclear, it’s no surprise that the lifetime cost of new renewables is much cheaper than new coal and nuclear power. And that gap is growing.

Lazard notes that in North America, the cost for utility scale solar and wind power dropped 6 percent last year, while the price for coal remained flat and the cost of nuclear soared. “The estimated levelized cost of energy for nuclear generation increased ~35 percent versus prior estimates, reflecting increased capital costs at various nuclear facilities currently in development,” the analysis found.

Indeed, as Lazard shows in this remarkable chart, while solar and wind have dropped dramatically in price since 2009, nuclear power has simply priced itself out of the market for new power.

The lifecycle cost of electricity from new nuclear plants is now $148 per megawatt-hour, or 14.8 cents per kilowatt-hour, while it is 5 c/kwh for utility scale solar and 4.5 c/kwh for wind. By comparison, the average price for electricity in United States is 11 cents per kWh.

So it’s no big shock that there’s only one new nuclear power plant still being built in the United States — or that even existing power plants are struggling to stay competitive.

Indeed, over half of all existing U.S. nuclear power plants are “bleeding cash,” according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report released earlier this summer. Even the draft report from the U.S. Department of Energy staff for Secretary Rick Perry conceded that coal and nuclear are simply no longer economic.

Coal and nuclear are uneconomic — more bombshells from Perry’s draft grid study

“High levels of wind penetration can be integrated into the grid without harming reliability.”

Right now, as the chart above shows, new solar and wind are actually cheaper than new gas plants. The variability of solar and wind still give new gas power an edge in some markets. But with the price of electricity storage, especially lithium-ion batteries, coming down sharply, the future of renewable energy is sunnier than ever.

Press link for more: Think Progress

Climate Change could kill 50-80% of Pacific fish. #StopAdani #Qldvotes #CoralnotCoal

Climate change could kill 50-80% of Pacific fish species: study

From Dateline Pacific, 6:04 am today


Pacific island nations could lose between 50 and 80 percent of their fish species by the end of the century if climate change continues unabated.

The figure is published in a new study, published in the journal Marine Policy, which examined more than a thousand species across the region to see how they are reacting to changes in the ocean.

Its lead researcher, associate professor Rebecca Asch from the University of East Carolina, says the Pacific’s temperature has little variability, with the temperature being more or less the same all year.

She told Jamie Tahana this means species are unlikely to be able to adapt to dramatic changes in ocean temperatures, and could die out.

REBECCA ASCH: So we did look at two climate change scenarios. One that is a warmer kind of scenario where we are getting changes. Generally between two and four degrees. There is a scenario where if everyone came together and really took mitigating climate change seriously the warming would only be about one degree. Which would be a much better situation.

JAMIE TAHANA: And on that sort of more bleak scenario a prediction of between 50 and 80 percent of species extinction or migration that is a very dramatic number how did you come to that?

RA: Well what we did is we looked at the habitat species used and where that habitat will be in the future and on a regional basis what we looked at is for each region of the ocean how much species will gain locally versus how many basically leave that area. So it is a local extinction those species still might be occurring in other parts of the ocean but not necessarily the regions where they were in the past. And so what we have been finding is that the gains for most areas are fairly low often about two to six percent of biodiversity but these losses are a lot higher and there are some areas where it does exceed 80 percent but overall all over the Pacific you kind of have losses that are kind of in the 50 to 60 percent range. And this is kind of at the end of the century under the higher climate change impact scenario.

JT: Is that largely because the Pacific is quite a static temperature and the species can’t adapt to a change?

RA: Yeah that is part of it. So basically if you look at kind of the seasonal cycle how much temperature varies. The most variability over the course of the year tends to be in the mid latitudes and in the lower latitudes as well as at the poles you don’t to get as much change which means that organisms are often very kind of adapted to a narrow range of temperature and that means that you know if temperatures go beyond that range we are either going to have species migrating out of an area decreasing in abundance or in some cases you could get adaptation to these changes. But the question is just as the changes are happening fairly quickly so can organisms adapt quickly enough.

JT: Yes because adaptation is a sort of really slow process isn’t it and if we have had these dramatic changes in mere decades.

RA: Yes that is exactly. Like there is some cases where you can get rapid evolution but that is something that we can’t count on happening.

JT: To what extent is this affecting the species that Pacific Islanders rely on for their livelihoods or Sustenance and such?

RA: Okay the study looked at about a thousand different species because it was looking at biodiversity patterns and one of the things that was a little bit surprising is that we are then divided up into species that either have more reef fish species or open water species and surprisingly we kind of found similar patterns across a lot of different species. So it does seem like that is going to be a problem though for you know small scale fisheries you know people rely on for subsistence as well as larger scale fisheries are focussing on commercially important species like Tuna.

JT: Already we are starting to see in countries like Kiribati, Tuvalu and that fishermen reporting reduced catches or having to go out further into the sea to actually find fish and stuff is this all part of that? Is it already underway?

RA: So one of the things that is really difficult to sometimes tell is how much is due to fishing pressure as well as changes in climate and for the most part it is something where you know often times trends that we see are a bit of those and certainly that would be consistent with projections that people might see under climate change. But you know it may be a kind of a combination of historical or over-fishing as well.

JT: Is this trend reversible. You say kind of the 50 to 80 percent is sort of in the worst case scenario of global warming but say with the targets I mean we have got all the world leaders in Germany at the moment trying to thrash out some rules for climate action and stuff. If action comes together is this avoidable or reversible or anything?

RA: It think that avoidable is definitely a possibility. I think the hard thing is once we have CO2 in the atmosphere a lot of it will stick around for centuries so once it happens it is going to take a long time to reverse. But I think we are still at a point in time where we can avoid the worst impacts scenario. So like I think that this is a really important moment in history for that reason and we did find that for a lot of the climate variables if you kind of take this best case scenario where we do take action now the changes in things like temperature, Ph will be two to four times smaller than otherwise. So that is certainly going to have a positive impact compared to a business as usual scenario.

Press link for more: Radio New Zealand

Climate change is here. Can Our infrastructure handle it?

This has been a year of extremes in California.

We’ve experienced all-time temperature highs (statewide and regionally), a deadly heat wave, the most destructive and lethal wildfires in the state’s history, and the second wettest winter on record following a historic five year drought.

The impacts have been staggering: many lives lost, thousands of properties destroyed, and costly infrastructure damage.

We know that extreme weather events will become more common and intense as a result of climate change. Such events multiply threats to infrastructure across the state, endangering community well-being, public health and safety, and the economy. A new white paper released by UCS today – Built to Last: Challenges and Opportunities for Climate-Smart Infrastructure in California –makes the case for investing limited public resources in infrastructure that can withstand climate change impacts and keep Californians safe.

A better path forward

Extreme weather-related infrastructure disruptions in recent years – from power losses and train derailments to bridge and spillway failures, road closures, and low water supplies – provide us with a sobering preview of the future challenges facing California’s infrastructure systems. (See this map for other recent examples.) The type, frequency, and severity of these climate-related hazards will vary by location, but no region of California or infrastructure type will be left untouched.

While the state of our dams, pipes, levees, bridges, and roads is mediocre at best (they received a combined C- on ASCE’s 2012 report card), the need to upgrade or replace our water, power, and transportation systems is a golden opportunity to plan, design, and build these systems with climate resilience in mind.

The UCS white paper describes a set of principles for ‘climate-smart’ infrastructure and then highlights barriers and opportunities for improving and accelerating their integration into public infrastructure decisions.

What is climate-smart infrastructure?

Climate-smart infrastructure is designed and built with future climate projections in mind, rather than relying on historic data that are no longer a good predictor of our climate future. It bolsters the resilience of the Golden State’s communities and economy to the impacts of extreme weather and climate change instead of leaving communities high and dry, overheated, or underwater.

A microgrid is providing efficient, reliable, cleaner power for Blue Lake Rancheria government offices, buildings, and other critical infrastructure, such as an American Red Cross disaster shelter. It will also create local jobs and bring energy cost savings. Photo: Blue Lake Rancheria

Climate-smart also can reduce heat-trapping emissions, spend limited public funds wisely, and prioritize equitable infrastructure decisions. This last point is important because some communities in California are more vulnerable to both climate impacts and infrastructure failure due in part to decades of underinvestment and disinvestment, especially in many low-income communities, communities of color, and tribal communities.

When done right, the results can be innovative infrastructure solutions, like the Blue Lake Rancheria microgrid, that bring social, economic, health, and environmental benefits to Californians AND protect us from the weather extremes we are inevitably facing.  More examples of climate-smart principles in action are described in the white paper, and some are shown in the accompanying StoryMap.

We’re just getting started

The Golden State is beginning to integrate climate change into its plans and investments and recently released high-level guidance for state agencies. These and other efforts underway at the state level must be accelerated and implemented in a consistent and analytically rigorous, climate-smart manner.

This is especially important in light of the billions of taxpayer dollars the state is planning on spending on new long-lived infrastructure projects. Many more billions will be spent on maintenance and retrofitting of existing infrastructure over the next few years. These projects must be able to function reliably and safely despite worsening climate impacts over the coming decades. Otherwise, we risk building costly systems that will fail well before their intended lifespans.

Barriers can be overcome

There are still many reasons why public infrastructure is not being upgraded or built today in a more consistently climate-smart way.

They generally fall into three categories:

1) inadequate data, tools, and standards;

2) insufficient financial and economic assessments and investments; and

3) institutional capacity and good governance are lacking.

For example, many engineers, planners, and other practitioners still don’t have enough readily usable information to easily insert climate impacts into their existing decision-making processes and economic analyses.

In addition, there has not been enough attention focused on the unique risks and infrastructure vulnerabilities faced by low-income communities, communities of color, and other underserved communities.

The UCS white paper includes several recommendations on how to overcome the barriers we identified. They focus on ways to improve and accelerate the integration of our climate-smart principles into public sector infrastructure decisions. For instance, they range from increasing state and local government staff’s technical capacity and updating standards and codes to better incorporating climate-related costs and criteria, as well as climate resilience benefits, into project evaluations and funding decisions. Others include better planning in advance for more climate-smart disaster recovery efforts, ensuring better interjurisdictional coordination at the local and state government levels, and addressing the funding gap. Additional recommendations and specifics can be found in the paper. All infrastructure solutions should help advance more equitable outcomes, so equity is integrated throughout these recommendations

Building to last? There’s reason for optimism

Progress is being made, as evidenced by the recent state actions mentioned above and a growing number of climate-smart projects and local solutions. For example, Los Angeles has begun a process to update its building codes, policies, and procedures, called Building Forward L.A. San Francisco is incorporating sea level rise into its capital planning. Plus, there’s an ever-expanding list of novel funding mechanisms for these types of infrastructure investment. But we need more, and soon, to help inform the tough decisions ahead as we adapt to climate change and invest in long-lived infrastructure projects. Thoughtful implementation of our recommendations can help clear the way.

California governments should grab hold of the opportunities before them to spend limited resources in climate-smart ways that increase our infrastructure’s ability to provide California’s communities and businesses with the needed services to thrive now and in a changing climate future.

Press link for more: UCSUSA.ORG

Listening to the voices we don’t want to hear #Science #ClimateChange #StopAdani

Climate change: We were warned in 1992

By Anthony Doerr:

November 20, 2017

Twenty-five years ago this month, more than 1,500 prominent scientists, including over half of the living Nobel laureates, issued a manifesto titled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” in which they admonished, “A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”

They cited stresses on the planet’s atmosphere, forests, oceans and soils, and called on everybody to act decisively.

“No more than one or a few decades remain,” the scientists wrote, “before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost.”

I was 19 years old when their warning was published and though I understood, in a teenager-y, “Rainforest Rap” sort of way, that humans were messing with the planet, the document freaked me out.

It was so urgent, so dire. E.O. Wilson had signed it.

Carl Sagan had signed it!

So did I act immediately and decisively?

Um, I did not.

In the ensuing years I wrote cheques to some conservation organisations, replaced some incandescent bulbs and rode my bike to work.

I hammered together a composting bin that promptly fell apart.

I gave a self-important lecture to a neighbour on the importance of using his recycling can.

I also hurtled through the troposphere on hundreds of airplanes (each round trip from New York to London costs the Arctic another three square metres of ice), bought and sold multiple automobiles and helped my wife put two more Americans onto the planet.

Our air-conditioning compressor is at least a decade old, my truck averages 15 miles to the gallon and I routinely walk up to a podium, open a brand new plastic bottle of water, take a sip and promptly forget that it exists.

Sometimes I wake at 2am worrying that my great-granddaughter will have to march through her distant, broiling future gathering all the plastic I ever disposed of.

“You mean he knew,” she’ll ask her mum, as she pulls the plastic clamshell I ate a Chinese chicken salad out of back in November 2017, “and he still did this?”

 If our biological imperative is to pass our genes to the next generation, our moral imperative has to be to try, before we become corpses, to leave them a planet they can survive on.

“I told you,” her mother will say. “He was the absolute worst.”

This autumn, as smoke from dozens of wildfires made the air outside our windows in Boise, Idaho, about as healthy as a casino smoking lounge, as Harvey flooded parts of Texas and Maria smashed Puerto Rico, as 210,000 gallons of oil leaked from the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota, I was tempted to imagine US President Donald Trump cruising in his jumbo jet above the various cataclysms with some coal-friendly legislation in his lap and his fingers in his ears.

This is a man, after all, who in a single month in 2007 poured 2 million gallons of fresh water through the lawns, pool and 22 bathrooms of his Palm Beach, Florida, residence.

But sometimes making villains out of other people can distract us from our own complicities. If Trump were never elected, Harvey still would have flooded Houston, October still would have been the 394th consecutive month that global average temperatures were above the 20th century average, and New Delhi would still be choking on air so foul that just breathing for a day is roughly equivalent to smoking 44 cigarettes.

In a season when the silencing of voices is so rightfully in the public discussion, maybe the 25th anniversary of the “Scientists’ Warning” offers an opportunity to reflect on just how well each of us is listening to the voices we don’t want to hear.

Here’s what I think happens with me.

Maybe I wake up, turn on my phone, read something like, “On average, populations of vertebrate species declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012,” and I feel queasy — as though I’m living in a world that’s a shadow of the world I was born into — and at the same time I probably also get a little less sensitive to the insanity of our trajectory, and then I put down my phone and get swamped by the tsunami of the day: One kid has strep throat, another needs to go to the dentist, I’ve forgotten six or seven internet passwords, the dog just pooped on the rug.

Hour by hour, minute by minute, I make decisions that seem like the right things to do at the time, but which prevent me from reflecting on the most significant, most critical fact in my life: Every day I participate in a system that is womanising our big, gorgeous planet against our kids.

“Death,” Zadie Smith wrote in 2013, “is what happens to everyone else; If I truly believed that being a corpse was not only a possible future but my only guaranteed future — I’d do all kinds of things differently.”

If our biological imperative is to pass our genes to the next generation, our moral imperative has to be to try, before we become corpses, to leave them a planet they can survive on.

Since the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” humans have done extraordinary things. We stabilised the stratospheric ozone layer; we connected people in instantaneous and previously unimaginable ways; we landed a golf cart on Mars and drove it around.

We even got every nation-state on earth (except ours, apparently) to agree to try to achieve net zero greenhouse-gas emissions by midcentury.

But we’ve also removed enough forests to cover Texas nearly twice, pumped almost half of the carbon emitted in human history into the atmosphere, grown the population by over two billion and cut the number of wild animals on earth by something close to half.

This month a new coalition of scientists, led by researchers at Oregon State University, published a new warning: “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice.”

It’s not as poetic as the first, unfortunately, but it’s just as grim. “Soon,” they write, “it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out.” Over 15,000 scientists have signed the new call to action; according to the Alliance of World Scientists, that’s the most people to ever co-sign and formally support a published journal article.

For decades science has been warning us that we are compromising earth’s systems, and that none of us will be immune to the consequences.

Everywhere you look, people are trying: adopting renewable energy, working to guarantee women control over their reproductive decisions, fighting food waste, shifting to plant-based diets.

Maybe the most important thing the rest of us can do is take our fingers out of our ears and join them.

— New York Times News Service

Anthony Doerr is the author, most recently, of the novel All the Light We Cannot See.

Press link for more: Gulf News.com

“Life on earth would suffocate” #COP23 #StopAdani

Donald Trump Is Wiping Out the World’s Coral Reefs and Small Islands And We’re Not Doing Anything to Stop It

By Helena Wright On 11/19/17 at 9:05 AM

The island nation of Fiji hosted the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn last week, bringing attention to the plight of small islands under climate change.

Fiji is already facing migration of its people, loss of coral reefs, and more intense cyclones such as the one last year that wiped out a third of its GDP.

Fiji is also home to the Great Sea Reef, the third longest continuous barrier reef in the world.

All the countries in the world except the U.S. have now backed the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to keep climate change below 2 degrees of warming and strive for 1.5 degrees.

However, to save coral reefs the world needs to meet the more ambitious goal of 1.5 degrees, a level at which around a third of coral reefs may survive.

Any warmer that this – and scientists expect virtually none of the world’s coral reefs to survive.

There is still hope for the world’s coral reefs, but President Donald Trump’s stance on climate change means he is actively contributing to their destruction.

1.5 degrees: Last call for corals

This year, carbon dioxide reached record levels not seen for millions of years, making oceans more acidic.

This reduces the ability of corals to build skeletons, which combined with rising sea temperatures and stronger storms is contributing to their death.

For this reason, coral reefs have been cited as one of the early causalities of climate change. Sometimes known as the ‘rainforests of the sea’, coral reefs support about a quarter of all ocean fish species.

They are a vital part of ocean food webs and as a nursery for young fish, their loss would be devastating for ocean life.

Not only do more than 500 million people around the world directly rely on coral reefs for their livelihood, income and food, but coral reefs provide an estimated $375 billion per year in goods and services to the world.

President Trump’s rejection of climate science not only affects coral reefs – it could affect life on earth. For instance, phytoplankton in the ocean produce over half the world’s oxygen supplies.

Global warming of six degrees could interfere with this, meaning oxygen levels would plummet and life on earth could suffocate.

If we burn all known fossil fuel reserves, the planet could warm by more than six degrees as soon as the end of this century.

To achieve the Paris Agreement, we need to keep the majority of the world’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

However, last week, amid protests from campaigners, the United States hosted an event at the UN Climate Conference to promote fossil fuels.

Trump is actively working against global efforts on climate change, leading to the destruction of the world’s coral reefs and low-lying small islands.

Coral reefs are highly sensitive to climate change, and may experience most damage at relatively low warming thresholds. “

“Once you’ve killed off the coral reefs you are no longer at risk of killing off the coral reefs,” explains Ken Caldeira, an environmental scientist at Stanford University. Dr. Line K Bay/Australian Institute of Marine Science

Raising ambition

Existing climate pledges under the Paris Agreement are not nearly sufficient to achieve the two-degree goal, let alone to keep warming to a level that would save coral reefs.

In fact, national pledges only add up to around 3.2 degrees.   Recent data does not look good either – global emissions are expected to go up again this year after remaining relatively flat for three years.

In order to have a chance of enabling some reefs to survive, global emissions must peak immediately, which means coal power must be phased out within the next ten years.  Some countries are doing this already, with Canada and the U.K. announcing this week a new global alliance on coal phase out.

Efforts have also begun to save coral reefs through coral gardening – growing the most resilient strains of corals and transplanting them into the ocean. However, it is unlikely this can be done on a large enough or fast enough scale to save huge reefs.  There have also been calls for a global ‘seed bank’ for corals to preserve existing coral strains with the hope of restoring them later. This is urgent because damages have already occurred, for example, a third of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef died from bleaching last year.

There is still a fading hope for coral reefs if we raise global ambition on climate change. Globally, renewable energy is getting cheaper which may make this easier, with solar energy costs expected to fall by a further 60% over the next ten years. Earlier this year, solar prices reached a record low in India, making solar cheaper than fossil fuels and prompting a rethink on coal projects.

In addition, many sub-national cities and states are raising ambition on air pollution and climate change.  Several U.S. states including Washington State and Oregon have already joined the new alliance to phase out coal.  There are also individual actions we can take – from buying efficient cars to eating sustainably.

However, President Trump is standing in the way.  All countries will need to phase out fossil fuels by mid-century to meet the Paris climate goals.  This will have to include Russia – one of the world’s leading oil and gas producers and exporters.  Trump’s support for fossil fuels is giving Russia an economic gift, but condemning the rest of the world to mass destruction.

Unless Trump changes his stance, the world will hold the U.S. responsible for the damages to coral reefs and small islands.  The clock is ticking, and time is running out.

Dr. Helena Wright is a senior policy adviser at independent sustainability organization E3G currently based in Fiji.

Press link for more: Newsweek.com

Where is all the sea level rise? #ClimateChange #StopAdani #Qldvotes

If Climate Change Is Such A Terrible Threat, Where Is All The Sea Level Rise?

Expert says we’re already committed to at least 10 metres of sea level rise. Yes, 10 metres.

Anthony Sharwood

Corbis via Getty Images

This game should be right for the next 80 years or so, then things might get wet.

It’s coming. Oh boy, is it coming.

Dramatic sea level rise is not here yet.

Oceans are estimated to have risen about 20 centimetres since the mid 19th century.

That’s already enough to have caused climate refugees in low lying islands (including some in the U.S.) but it’s still barely noticeable in most places.

Indeed, in his recent controversial speech, ex-Prime Minister Tony Abbott said “more than 100 years of photography at Manly Beach in my electorate does not suggest that sea levels have risen, despite frequent reports from climate alarmists that this is imminent”.

That’s a pretty common sentiment.

Not too many Australians are afraid of buying coastal properties yet.

But massive sea level rise is coming.

In fact it’s already locked in, as Australian National University climate change expert and Climate Council councillor Professor Will Steffen explained to HuffPost Australia.

Alex Ellingshausen, Fairfax

“Sea level lags temperature rise by a long way,” Steffen explained.

“The last warm period before this one about 125,000 years ago was somewhere about one degree warmer [than the world is now on average], and sea level was six to nine metres higher.

“So [assuming projections of several degrees of global average temperature rises] we are already committed to at least 10 metres of sea level rise.”

Which is a lot. And which would make vast areas of both the developed and developing world uninhabitable.

Why is there a lag behind a warming atmosphere and a rising sea?

That’s explained really simply on the site Skeptical Science, which exists to debunk false information that seeks to downplay or deny the reality of climate change.

The site asks the reader to imagine a really hot flame under a pot of water. It takes a while for the water in the pot to respond to all that heat, right? So it is with the oceans. As Skeptical Science explains:

“The mass of the oceans is around 500 times that of the atmosphere.

The time that it takes to warm up is measured in decades.”

How many decades exactly?

Ah, well there’s the thing.

“Because of the difficulty in quantifying the rate at which the warm upper layers of the ocean mix with the cooler deeper waters, there is significant variation in estimates of climate lag.”

But despite the fact we don’t know exactly how much the sea will rise, companies are already acting.

Projections can be dangerous.

Projections are where climate scientists have often met the sternest resistance from sceptics. Projections, by their very nature, are imprecise, and as Steffen said “we have to give appropriate qualifiers”.

But projections of things like sea level rise are increasingly being taken seriously by companies and governments when millions and even billions of dollars worth of infrastructure are at stake.

Climate Council

Storm surge caused this coastal flooding in Queensland. That’s another aspect of sea level rise. Even with moderate rises, events that cause this sort of damage are many times more likely.

As Steffen said, “the fact that you can’t predict perfectly what the stock market is going to do doesn’t stop you investing”.

Steffen gave the example of Brisbane Airport, which is Australia’s third busiest airport, and which recently, on the advice of CSIRO sea level experts, invested hundreds of millions to raise the height of the second parallel runway it is building.

The airport said:

“It was important to consider climate change implications in the design. Accordingly, a runway height of 1.5 m above the minimum regulatory requirements was adopted. Other climate change adaptation actions were also implemented including channels to reduce tidal flooding, and construction of a seawall.”

Experts say we’re running out of time to act.

While experts agree that sea level rise will increase over the course of the 21st century, it’s not too late to slow things down.

The Climate Council has just issued a report called Critical Decade 2017: Accelerating Climate Action. It says:

Decisions in the next three years are likely to determine whether or not our children and grandchildren will have a fighting chance for a bright future or will be scrambling to survive in a disintegrating and increasingly dangerous global society trying to cope with a chaotic, rapidly changing climate.

“This is a critical warning that the window of opportunity for the federal government to tackle climate change is closing,” Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

Science on Climate Change goes from bad to worse #StopAdani

Scientists monitoring the Earth’s climate and environment have delivered a cascade of grim news this year, adding a sense of urgency to UN talks on how best to draw down the greenhouse gases that drive global warming.

Here is a summary of recent findings:

1.1 degrees

Earth’s average surface temperature last year was a record 1.1 degree Celsius (1.98 Fahrenheit) above the preindustrial era.

The planet’s rising fever is caused by the accumulation of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide (CO2) cast off when fossil fuels are burned to produce energy.

Sixteen of the hottest years on record have occurred since the start of the 21st century, and 2017 is on track to be the warmest year not affected by the El Nino weather phenomenon.

The 196-nation Paris Agreement calls on humanity to block the rise in temperature at “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) compared to preindustrial levels, and to strive for a cap of 1.5 C.

403.3 ppm

The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached an average of 403.3 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, the highest level in at least 800,000 years.

CO2 emissions—after remaining stable for three years, raising hopes that they had peaked—will rise by two percent in 2017.

Concentrations of methane (CH4), the second most important greenhouse gas, have also risen sharply over the last decade, driven by leakage from the gas industry’s fracking boom and growth in global livestock production.

Many climate scientists argue that capping CO2 at 450 ppm offers a fighting chance at staying under the 2 C threshold. But others say the limit for a “climate safe” world is much lower, at about 350 ppm.

h

Melting ice

Arctic summer sea ice shrank to 4.64 million square kilometres (1.79 million square miles) in 2017, leaving ice extent well above the record low of 3.39 million square kilometres set in 2012.

But long-term trends are unmistakable: Arctic sea ice cover is declining at a rate of 13.2 percent per decade, relative to the 1981-2010 average.

Climate models predict the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer as early as 2030.

At the other end of the world, Antarctic sea ice last year hit the lowest extent ever recorded by satellites.

Earth’s two massive ice sheets—atop Greenland and Antarctica—are shedding 286 billion and 127 billion tonnes of mass per year, respectively.

High-altitude glaciers, meanwhile, suffered a decline in surface area in 2016 for the 37th year in a row.

Extreme events

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says there are demonstrable links between climate change caused by human activity and some extreme weather events, especially heatwaves.

The number of climate-related extreme events—such as droughts, forest fires, floods and major storm surges—has doubled since 1990, research has shown.

2017 saw the first severe tropical storm known to sustain winds of 295 kilometres per hour (185 miles per hour) for more than 33 hours (Irma); and a hurricane that dropped a record 125 centimetres of water (nearly 50 inches) on land (Harvey).

The intensity of typhoons battering China, Taiwan, Japan and the Korean Peninsula since 1980, one study has shown, has increased by 12 to 15 percent.

Natural disasters drive about 26 million people into poverty every year, according to the World Bank, and cause annual losses of about $520 million (440 million euros).

84.8 millimetres

Sea level rise—caused mainly by water expanding as it warms, as well as runoff from ice sheets and glaciers—is now 3.4 millimetres (0.13 inches) per year. Since 1993, the global ocean watermark has gone up by 84.8 mm (3.3 inches).

The pace is likely to pick up, threatening the homes and livelihoods of tens of millions of people in low-lying areas around the world.

Global warming is likely to add at least a metre (three feet) to the global watermark by century’s end, according to recent estimates.

1,688 species

Of the 8,688 species of animals and plants listed as “threatened” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List, 19 percent have been negatively affected by climate change.

Twenty-five years after 1,700 scientists issued a “warning to humanity” about environmental degradation, more than 15,000 experts updated the alert this month and noted that virtually all the planet’s problems are getting “far worse”.

Scientists say the planet has entered a “mass extinction event”—the sixth in the last half-billion years.

Sources: NASA, National Snow and Ice Data Center, WMO, peer-reviewed studies.

Press link for more: PHYS.ORG

Pope Denounces #ClimateChange deniers #Auspol #Qldvotes #StopAdani

Pope Francis denounces climate change deniers

AP November 16, 2017, 4:48 PM

BONN, Germany — Pope Francis denounced those who deny global warming and urged negotiators at climate talks in Germany to avoid falling prey to such “perverse attitudes” and instead accelerate efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Francis issued a message Thursday to the Bonn meeting, which is working to implement the 2015 Paris accord aimed at capping global emissions.

In the message, Francis called climate change “one of the most worrisome phenomena that humanity is facing,” and urged negotiators to ignore special interests and political or economic pressures and instead engage in an honest dialogue about the future of the planet.

He denounced that such efforts are often frustrated by those who deny climate change, are indifferent to it, or think it can only be solved by technical solutions.

Pope Francis gives his weekly general audience at St. Peter’s Square on Nov. 15, 2017, in Vatican City.

Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

Also Thursday, the top American representative at the talks told other delegates the United States is still committed to reducing greenhouse gas even though the Trump administration still plans to pull out of the Paris accord.

Britain and Canada, meanwhile, announced a new alliance aimed at encouraging countries to phase out the use of coal to curb climate change. Among others, the Global Alliance to Power Past Coal also includes Finland, France, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand and several U.S. states and Canadian provinces.

In closing remarks to the conference, the U.S. State Department’s Judith Garber said “we remain open to the possibility of rejoining (the Paris climate deal) at a later date under terms more favorable to the American people.”

Despite U.S. skepticism over the Paris accord, “the United States will continue to be a leader in clean energy and innovation, and we understand the need for transforming energy systems,” said Garber, the acting assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs.

“We remain collectively committed to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions through, among other things, increased innovation on sustainable energy and energy efficiency, and working towards low greenhouse gas emissions energy systems,” she said.

The talks are expected to end Friday.

While coal-fueled power stations are considered one of the biggest sources of carbon dioxide that’s heating up the Earth’s atmosphere, countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and the United States are planning to expand their use of coal in the coming years. Even Germany and Poland, hosts of climate talks this year and next, are holding onto coal for the foreseeable future.

Garber did not mention the use of coal, but said as countries strive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, each “will need to determine the appropriate energy mix based on its particular circumstances, taking into account the need for energy security, promotion of economic growth and environmental protection.”

“In that context, we want to support the cleanest, most efficient power generation, regardless of source,” she added.

In a private initiative announced Thursday, Storebrand, a Norwegian investment fund that manages assets worth over $80 billion, said it would pull investments from 10 companies over their involvement in the coal sector.

Chief executive, Jan Erik Saugestad, said the decision is meant as a warning to utility companies to “clean up” their energy sources “or lose customers and investors.”

The companies affected include German energy company RWE, Poland’s PGE and Eskom Holdings of South Africa.

Storebrand said it hopes the much larger Norwegian Sovereign Wealth fund, which holds $1 trillion generated from the country’s sale of oil, will follow its divestment decision.

Press link for more: CBSNEWS

#PoweringPastCoal #COP23 #Qldvotes #CoralnotCoal “Coal must be phased out by 2030”

Bonn (AFP) – A score of mostly wealthy nations banded together at UN climate talks Thursday to swear off coal-fired power, a key driver of global warming and air pollution.

Battle lines drawn over coal at UN climate talks

To cap global warming at “well under” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) — the planet-saving target in the 196-nation Paris Agreement — coal must be phased out in developed countries by 2030, and “by no later than 2050 in the rest of the world,” they said in a declaration.

The dirtiest of fossil fuels still generates 40 percent of the world’s electricity, and none of the countries that truly depend on it were on hand to take the “no coal” pledge.

One country participating in the 12-day talks, which end Friday, has made a point of promoting the development of “clean fossil fuels”: the United States.

The near-pariah status of coal at the UN negotiations was in evidence earlier in the week when an event featuring White House officials and energy executives was greeted with protests.

The US position “is only controversial if we choose to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the realities of the global energy system,” countered George David Banks, a special energy and environment assistant to US President Donald Trump.

Led by ministers from Britain and Canada, the “Powering Past Coal Alliance” committed to phasing out CO2-belching coal power, and a moratorium on new plants that lack the technology to capture emissions before they reach the atmosphere.

“In a few short years, we have almost entirely reduced our reliance on coal,” said British Minister of State Claire Perry.

The share of electricity generated by coal in Britain dropped from 40 percent in July 2012 to two percent in July of this year, she noted.

Other signatories included Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands and New Zealand.

Germany — where coal powers 40 percent of the country’s electricity — was asked to join, said environment minister Barbara Hendricks.

“I asked them to understand that we can’t make a decision like that before forming a new government,” she told journalists.

Most of the enlisted countries don’t have far to go to complete a phase-out.

Deadlines range from 2022 for France, which has four coal-fired plants in operation, to 2025 for Britain, where eight such power stations are still running, and 2030 for the Netherlands.

No economic rationale –

“This climate meeting has seen Donald Trump trying to perversely promote coal,” said Mohamed Adow, top Climate analyst at Christian Aid, which advocated for the interests of poor countries.

“But it will finish with the UK, Canada and a host of other countries signalling the death knell of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel in their countries.”

But not all countries are in the same boat, said Benjamin Sporton, president of the World Coal Association.

“There are 24 nations that have included a role for low-emissions coal technology as part of their NDCs,” or nationally determined contributions, the voluntary greenhouse gas cuts pledged under the Paris treaty.

Coal continues to play a major role in powering the Chinese economy, and will see “big increases in India and Southeast Asia,” he told AFP.

Making coal “clean”, Sporton acknowledged, depends on the massive expansion of a technology called carbon capture and storage (CCS), in which CO2 emitted when coal is burned is syphoned off and stored in the ground.

The UN’s climate science panel, and the International Energy Agency, both say that staying under the 2 C temperature threshold will require deploying CCS.

The problem is that — despite decades of development — very little CO2 is being captured in this way.

There are only 20 CCS plants in the world that stock at least one million tonnes of CO2 per year, a relatively insignificant amount given the scope of the problem.

One reason is the price tag: it costs about a billion dollars (900,000 euros) to fit CCS technology to a large-scale, coal-fired plant.

“If you could develop cost-effective technology that would be permanent and work at scale, it could be a real game-changer,” said Alden Meyer, a climate analyst at the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists.

“But you have to be realistic about the prospects.”

At the same time, the price of wind and especially solar power has dropped so much that CCS may no longer be economical.

The crucial issue is not retro-fitting old plants, but avoiding the construction of new ones, Meyer added.

“There’s really no economic rationale for coal, and there’s certainly no environmental rationale for it,” he told AFP.

Press link for more: Yahoo.com