Month: May 2015

Insights into climate change’s impact on children released #Auspol 

IF we don’t tackle climate change as a matter of urgency, this will be the last generation of children to live longer than their parents, warns leading Australian child health researcher, paediatrician and former Australian of the Year Professor Fiona Stanley.
The patron and former director of the Telethon Kids Institute delivered the message in Perth today, while launching a report on the impact climate change will have on children.
“I think the health effects of climate change, and particularly the health effects on children, have been grossly neglected and have not been acknowledged,” Professor Stanley said.

The Doctors for the Environment Australia report, called ‘No Time for Games – Children’s Health and Climate Change’, has called on the Federal Government to adopt a national action plan on the health effects of climate change.
“When you actually factor in the health costs of burning coal then the cost benefit ratios diminish considerably,” Professor Stanley said.
“It’s not too late to mitigate and adapt and this report is a message for political leaders that we have got to up the targets on reducing emissions, leave fossil fuels in the ground and drastically increase our use of renewable energy.”
The report’s authors and Professor Stanley said Australia must use the Paris climate change talks to reverse its lagging efforts on reducing greenhouse gases and commit to much more ambitious emissions reductions.
They said the 2020 target of a 5% reduction on 2000 levels should be boosted to 30 per cent.
“We really need to up those targets significantly, as other countries around the world are doing,” Professor Stanley said.
They said the target needed to be bolstered to 30 per cent.

Press link for more: Kate Rieben |

What the world needs to watch. #Auspol 

Global warming is mainly the result of CO2 levels rising in the Earth’s atmosphere. Both atmospheric CO2 and climate change are accelerating. Climate scientists say we have years, not decades, to stabilize CO2 and other greenhouse gases.To help the world succeed, makes it easy to see the most current CO2 level and what it means. So, use this site and keep an eye on CO2. Invite others to do the same. Then we can do more to send CO2 in the right direction.

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World Medical Association takes stand on climate change. #Auspol 

Association (WMA) has urged its 111 national medical associations to make their voices heard in the United Nations Climate Change talks.
The WMA, representing 10 million physicians worldwide, has written to its members urging them to write to their national negotiating representatives to emphasise that climate change is the greatest global health challenge of the 21st century.
It said physicians have serious concerns about the adverse effects of climate change on health, such as disease and injury, increased malnutrition, and premature deaths, particularly among the most vulnerable populations.

The World Medical Association (WMA) has urged its 111 national medical associations to make their voices heard in the United Nations Climate Change talks.
The WMA, representing 10 million physicians worldwide, has written to its members urging them to write to their national negotiating representatives to emphasise that climate change is the greatest global health challenge of the 21st century.
It said physicians have serious concerns about the adverse effects of climate change on health, such as disease and injury, increased malnutrition, and premature deaths, particularly among the most vulnerable populations.
The WMA release said: ‘The coming 21st Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change next December constitutes a decisive opportunity to address these challenges through an effective universal agreement bringing health to the forefront of the global warming debate and mitigating the severe health risks facing the world.”
Dr Xavier Deau WMA President said he is very concerned that crucial health issues are being ignored in the build up to the summit and time is running out for the voice of the health community to be heard.
He said the negotiations need to transform energy systems from fossil fuels to renewables.
“Reducing fossil fuel consumption improves air quality and public health, as well as mitigating climate change. Last week’s resolution by the World Health Assembly on air pollution is a clear and positive step towards the improvement of the lives and health of millions of people who suffer from poor air quality.
“ However, we believe that much more needs to be done globally and domestically to take fully into account the health impact of climate change and to engage the health sector in the process,’ he said.
Dr Deau said: “Improving insulation in homes and buildings can protect people from extreme temperatures and reduce energy consumption. We need to get people to adopt a more active lifestyle. So we need to see an expansion of public transport systems to improve health through increased physical activity and reduced air pollution.
“All these changes will provide significant economic savings. Climate action that recognises these benefits can improve health, support sustainable development, and advance global equity.
“National medical associations have a vital part to play in persuading the world that the impact of climate change on health is one of the most significant measures of harm associated with our warming planet.”

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6 Climate Triggers That Could Completely Change Our World #Auspol

One of the biggest fears about climate change is that it may be triggering events that would dramatically alter Earth as we know it.
Known to scientists as “tipping events,” they could contribute to the mass extinction of species, dramatic sea level rise, extensive droughts and the transformation of forests into vast grasslands — among other upheavals our stressed world can ill afford.

Here are the top six climate events scientists worry about today.
1. The Arctic sea ice melts

The melting of the Arctic’s summer ice is considered to be the single greatest threat, and some scientists think we’ve already passed the tipping point. As sea ice melts and the Arctic warms , dark ocean water is exposed that absorbs more sunlight, thus reinforcing the warming. The transition to an ice-free Arctic summer can occur rapidly — within decades — and this has geopolitical implications as nations compete for the newly opened space and petroleum resources. Added to all that will be the damage that would result from the disruption of an entire ecosystem.
2. Greenland becomes ice free

The warming of the Arctic may also render Greenland largely ice free. While Greenland’s ice loss will likely reach the point of no return within this century, the full transition will take at least a few hundred years. The impacts of the Greenland ice melt is expected to raise sea levels by up to 20 feet. Half of the 10 largest cities in the world, including New York City, and one-third of the world’s 30 largest cities are already threatened by this sea-level rise. Today, those cities are home to nearly 1.8 billion people. Other vulnerable American cities include Miami, Norfolk and Boston. 
3. The West Antarctic ice sheet disintegrates.

On the other side of Earth, the West Antarctic ice sheet is also disintegrating . Because the bottom of this glacier is grounded below sea level, it’s vulnerable to rapid breakup, thinning and retreat as warm ocean water eats away at the ice. Scientists expect the West Antarctic ice sheet to “tip” this century, and there is evidence that it already began happening in 2014. However, the entire collapse of the glacier, which would raise sea level by 16 feet, could take a few hundred years.
4. El Niño becomes a more permanent climate fixture.

The oceans absorb about 90 percent of the extra heat that is being trapped in the Earth system by greenhouse gases. This could affect the ocean dynamics that control El Niño events. While there are several theories about what could happen in the future, the most likely consequence of ocean heat uptake is that El Niño, a natural climate phenomenon , could become a more permanent part of our climate system. That would cause extensive drought conditions in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, while some drought-prone areas such as California would get relief. While the transition to a world with more El Niños is expected to be gradual and take around one hundred years, the event could be triggered during this century.
5. The Amazon rainforest dies back

Deforestation, a longer dry season and rising summer temperatures are threatening the amount of rainfall in the Amazon. At least half of the Amazon rainforest could turn into savannah and grassland. Once that event is triggered, the changes could happen over just a few decades. This would make it very difficult for the rainforest to reestablish itself and would lead to a considerable loss in biodiversity. However, the reduction of the Amazon ultimately depends on what happens with El Niño, along with future land-use changes from human activities.
6. Boreal forests are cut in half

Increased water and heat stress are taking a toll on the large forests in Canada, Russia and other parts of the uppermost Northern Hemisphere. So are their vulnerability to disease and fires. This could lead to a 50 percent reduction of the boreal forests — an event from which they may never be able to recover. Instead, the forest would gradually transition into open woodlands or grasslands over several decades. This would have a huge impact on the world’s carbon balance because forests can absorb much more carbon than grasslands can. As the forest diminishes, the climate will be affected — as will the Earth’s energy balance. However, the complex interaction between tree physiology, permafrost and fires makes the situation tricky to understand.

Press link for more: Ilissa Ocko |

Earth’s 5th Deadliest Heat Wave in Recorded History Kills 1,826 in India #ClimateChange

The death toll from India’s horrid May heat wave has risen to 1,826, making this year’s heat wave the second deadliest in India’s recorded history–and the fifth deadliest in world history. According to statistics from EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database, India’s only deadlier heat wave was in 1998, when 2,541 died. With over 400 deaths recorded in just the past day and the heat expected to continue over India for another week, the 1998 death toll could well be exceeded in this year’s heat wave. However, death tolls from heat waves are very difficult to estimate, since excess heat is typically not listed as the primary cause of death in cases where the victim has a pre-existing condition such as heart or lung disease. For example, the U.S. National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) lists the total direct deaths from the U.S. heat wave of 1980 at 1,260, but estimates that the combined direct and indirect deaths (i.e., excess mortality) due to heat stress was 10,000. Below is the list of top ten deadliest heat waves in world history as compiled by EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database, which uses direct deaths for their statistics, and not excess mortality. 

The 10 Deadliest Heat Waves in World History

1) Europe, 2003: 71,310

2) Russia, 2010: 55,736

3) Europe, 2006: 3,418

4) India, 1998: 2,541

5) India, 2015: 1,826+

6) U.S. and Canada, 1936: 1,693

7) U.S., 1980: 1,260

8) India, 2003: 1,210

9) India, 2002: 1,030

9) Greece and Turkey, 1987: 1,030

It’s the heat and the humidity

Temperatures across much of India have been 5°C (9°F) above average this May, with very high humidity. In many of the hardest-hit areas of eastern India, the heat index dropped below 100°F for only four hours each night for several consecutive days this week. This sort of day-after-day heat stress is very hard on vulnerable people, and leads to high mortality. For example, in Channai (Madras) on May 24, the high temperature reached 108°F and the heat index topped out at 123°F, and never dropped below 97°F the entire day. Far more extreme heat index values have been observed in some areas. For example, on May 23 at 14:30, Bhubneshwar recorded a temperature of of 42.2°C (108°F) with a dew point of 29.3°C (84.7°F), giving an astonishing heat index of 62°C (143.6°F.) According to weather records researcher Maximiliano Herrera, a heat index of up to 65°C (149°F) has been measured at some stations in eastern India during the heat wave. 

Climate change and India

This year’s deadly heat wave in India was made much more probable by the fact that Earth is experiencing its hottest temperatures on record–the past twelve months were the warmest twelve-month period in recorded history, and so was the January – April 2015 period. According to the India Meteorological Department, a warming climate increased heat waves in India by a third between 1961 to 2010. As the planet continues to warm due to human-caused global warming, heat waves will become more frequent and more intense, and heat-related deaths will soar unless we take strong measures to adapt. An April 2015 paper published in Regional Environmental Change, Intensification of future severe heat waves in India and their effect on heat stress and mortality, warned that “heat waves are projected to be more intense, have longer durations and occur at a higher frequency and earlier in the year. Southern India, currently not influenced by heat waves, is expected to be severely affected by the end of the twenty-first century.” Perhaps a bigger concern for India with climate change is drought, though. Many climate models show that climate change might increase the average rainfall in India from the monsoon, but when dry years occur, the hotter temperatures accompanying the dry years will drive much more intense droughts capable of causing significant challenges to growing food in India.

Press link for more: Jeff Masters |

This has been a month of extreme weather around the world

The Secular Jurist

WASHINGTON (AP) — Even for a world getting used to wild weather, May seems stuck on strange.

Torrential downpours in Texas that have whiplashed the region from drought to flooding. A heat wave that has killed more than 1,800 people in India. Record 91-degree (32 Celsiu) readings in Alaska, of all places. A pair of top-of-the-scale typhoons in the Northwest Pacific. And a drought taking hold in the East.

“Mother Nature keeps throwing us crazy stuff,” Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis says. “It’s just been one thing after another.”

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Fossil industry faces a perfect political and technological storm. #Auspol #Divest

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Fossil fuel divestment economics in line with morality. #Auspol #ClimateChange

The Norwegian Parliament has just ordered its $A1.15 trillion Sovereign Wealth Fund to divest from coal. This represents the largest single divestment from fossil fuels in human history, and our biggest sign yet that the age of coal is over and the financial case for investing in fossil fuels is likely to disintegrate.
‘Investing in coal companies poses both a climate-related and economic risk,’ said Svein Flaatten, a Conservative member of the parliamentary finance committee. Australia believes Norway’s decision sets a groundbreaking precedent that is likely to drive a major new wave of fossil fuel divestment. ‘With coal prices at an all time low and renewables increasingly bullish, it’s no surprise that major investors like Norway are getting their money out of this damaging sector.’

Over 220 institutions, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Stanford University and French Insurance megalith Axa, who’ve committed to divest from fossil fuels in the past 12 months.
In the past week, and the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARCC) have both questioned why Australia is apparently blind to the rejection of coal elsewhere. They say that it makes no sense for Australia to double down on it and open up massive new coal mines, like those in the Galilee Basin.
The ARCC adds moral argument to the economics that triggered Norway’s decision. ‘It is shameful for a relatively wealthy country to be putting forward targets below the offerings of other nations with comparable economies.’
The moral cost of inaction is clear from numerous studies such as the Australian Government Department of the Environment’s Climate Variability, Extremes and Change in the Western Tropical Pacific 2014 report, which details why the small island developing nations in our vicinity are among the most vulnerable to climate change.

Press link for more: Michael Mullins |

5 Reasons Utility Companies Hate Renewables. #Auspol 

1. Bigger used to be better. Utilities have thrived over the last sixty five years by building bigger and bigger power plants, based on the reasonable principle that there are economies of scale in bigness, and fuel costs were trivial. You couldn’t build a power plant in your back yard at any reasonable cost, never mind how mad your neighbors would be. But all of that has changed. Solar especially is a technology where scale doesn’t matter, or at least it doesn’t matter nearly as much as in other technologies. Photovoltaic panels are small, stand alone power plants that can be installed anywhere that there’s enough sun to make them effective. Small wind machines are also moving down the cost curve, although they have more challenges for installation at the residential level.
2. It’s cheaper to run wind and solar plants than it is to run traditional sources of generation, even at the residential level. The absence of fuel costs is obvious, but the operating and maintenance requirements are much lower as well. You can put a small natural gas fired generating set in your basement, but you’ll need engineering and maintenance and careful attention to ventilation, and other complications. Solar panels on your roof have no such requirement, and this is a very attractive feature.
3. The solar industry has matured. There are lots of solar installers around to offer their services. This is no longer an experimental technology, or one only for the environmental nuts, or something you do just to impress your neighbors. It’s here, it works, and it’s getting cheaper and cheaper. The same cannot be said for the electricity from your local supplier.
4. You are pretty likely to save money if you make your own power. The price your utility charges you for energy is always complicated, and not more than two or three customers out of a hundred understand their applicable “rate schedule.” Before the Arabs started the energy crisis and the Mideast became an unending headache, your kilowatt-hour price came down per unit as you used more electricity–think volume discount. This mimicked the utilities’ costs. But that cost structure hasn’t been true for a long time, and rates have been adjusted so that you pay MORE per unit as your consumption goes up. In San Diego, for example, there are four price levels, from 17, 20, 37 and 39 cents, which increase as more electricity is used. This clearly encourages customers to use less rather than more.
5. All this creates a real night mare for the industry. Utilities fundamentally are in business to sell electricity. Having pricing that discourages consumption of your only product is bad enough. Now having a technology that is available and attractive to customers, and that results in them making their own power, and even selling the excess back to you at preferential rates, is a real threat to the franchise.
What makes this even more troublesome is that the utility has high fixed costs that must be paid, even if the production of electricity drops — it’s all that expensive capital sitting there that converts the coal or gas or uranium into electricity. If you buy a new car and finance it with a loan, you still have to pay back the loan even if you only drive the car two miles a week. The fewer kilowatt hours the utility sells, the higher the rates have to be to recover these intractable costs. Which in turn makes installing solar panels even a better proposition. This potential dynamic has justly been called the “death spiral.”

Inside the war on coal. #Auspol 

How Mike Bloomberg, red-state businesses, and a lot of Midwestern lawyers are changing American energy faster than you think.
By Michael Grunwald

The war on coal is not just political rhetoric, or a paranoid fantasy concocted by rapacious polluters. It’s real and it’s relentless. Over the past five years, it has killed a coal-fired power plant every 10 days. It has quietly transformed the U.S. electric grid and the global climate debate.
The industry and its supporters use “war on coal” as shorthand for a ferocious assault by a hostile White House, but the real war on coal is not primarily an Obama war, or even a Washington war. It’s a guerrilla war. The front lines are not at the Environmental Protection Agency or the Supreme Court. If you want to see how the fossil fuel that once powered most of the country is being battered by enemy forces, you have to watch state and local hearings where utility commissions and other obscure governing bodies debate individual coal plants. You probably won’t find much drama. You’ll definitely find lawyers from the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, the boots on the ground in the war on coal.
Beyond Coal is the most extensive, expensive and effective campaign in the Club’s 123-year history, and maybe the history of the environmental movement. It’s gone largely unnoticed amid the furor over the Keystone pipeline and President Barack Obama’s efforts to regulate carbon, but it’s helped retire more than one third of America’s coal plants since its launch in 2010, one dull hearing at a time. With a vast war chest donated by Michael Bloomberg, unlikely allies from the business world, and a strategy that relies more on economics than ecology, its team of nearly 200 litigators and organizers has won battles in the Midwestern and Appalachian coal belts, in the reddest of red states, in almost every state that burns coal.

This is a big deal, because coal is America’s top source of greenhouse gases, and coal retirements are the main reason U.S. carbon emissions have declined 10 percent in a decade. Coal is also America’s top source of mercury, sulfur dioxide and other toxic air pollutants, so fewer coal plants also means less asthma and lung disease—not to mention fewer coal-ash spills and coal-mining disasters. The shift toward cleaner-burning gas and zero-emissions renewables is the most important change in our electricity mix in decades, and while Obama has been an ally in the war on coal—not always as aggressive an ally as the industry claims—the Sierra Club is in the trenches. The U.S. had 523 coal-fired power plants when Beyond Coal began targeting them; just last week, it celebrated the 190th retirement of its campaign in Asheville, N.C., culminating a three-year fight that had been featured in the climate documentary “Years of Living Dangerously.” 
Beyond Coal isn’t the stereotypical Sierra Club campaign, tree-huggers shouting save-the-Earth slogans. Yes, it sometimes deploys its 2.4 million-member, grass-roots army to shutter plants with traditional not-in-my-back-yard organizing and right-to-breathe agitating. But it usually wins by arguing that ditching coal will save ratepayers money. 

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