Month: September 2015

Creative Self-Destruction and the Climate

In his 2006 landmark report on how we should respond to the climate crisis, Nicholas Stern characterised global warming as an ‘externality’, a damage to others due to market activity whose cost is not met by those who cause it.
Indeed, Stern characterised climate change as ‘the largest ever market failure’. In other words, the problem of global warming arises because the market system is not working well enough, and if we could find a way to correct the fault then the problem would be solved.
It was a geophysicist, Brad Werner, who in 2012 argued precisely the opposite case – that we are in this mess not because the market system is not working well enough but because it is working too well. Werner’s startling presentation to the annual conference of the American Geophysical Union was titled ‘Is the Earth F**ked?’ and he posed in public the question climate scientists and others who follow their work had been asking in private. His answer was bleak, or just possibly inspirational.
Building on the fact that humans now constitute a force of nature so powerful that we have caused the Earth to enter a new geological epoch, Werner approaches the question of the sustainability of humankind through a dynamic model known as a global coupled human-environmental system.
The activities of humans are captured in a module called ‘the dominant global culture’, which essentially describes the globally integrated market system of resource-use and waste generation driven by the relentless need to grow. He also included a representation of the political institutions that facilitate the smooth operation of the system.
The essential problem, Werner argued, is that there is a mismatch between the short time-scales of markets, and the political systems tied to them, and the much longer time-scales that the Earth system needs to accommodate human activity, including soaking up our carbon dioxide and other wastes.
Technological progress and globalization of finance, transport and communications have oiled the wheels of the human components of the planetary system allowing it to speed up. But the pace of the natural system carries on as it always has. The problem is not Stern’s market failure but market success.
System compatibility
Brad Werner’s conclusion is that the Earth is indeed f**ked, unless somehow the market system can be prevented from working so well. What we urgently need is friction; sand must be thrown into the machine to slow it down. Only resistance to the dominant culture will give some hope of avoiding collapse.
For Werner, prevailing political customs, including system-compatible ideas like cost-benefit analysis, global agreements and carbon prices, are embedded in the established structure of the human component of the planetary system.
Only activism that disrupts the dominant culture—including ‘protests, blockades and sabotage’—provides an avenue for a negative answer to his rude question. It is a kind of geophysical model of Naomi Klein’s recent call to arms.
In an important new book, Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations, Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg, both academics with the University of Sydney, give us a detailed and fascinating analysis of what global corporations do to keep the wheels of the system spinning; a phenomenon they term ‘creative self-destruction’.
This extends beyond how business activities contribute to the climate crisis, to how the ‘dominant global culture’ persuades those inclined to throw sand in the wheels to express their anger in more system-compatible ways. That is, they show how critique of corporate responsibility is incorporated and converted to the continuation of ‘business as usual’.
The stakes could not be higher, on both sides.
When Bill McKibben calculated that limiting global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels requires that 80 per cent of proven reserves of coal, oil and natural gas be left in the ground untouched, but that doing so would destroy the balance sheets of several of the world’s largest and most powerful corporations, he showed us in the starkest possible way the fundamental incompatibility of the current structure of economic power and the survival of the world as we know it.
The hard truth is that these corporations would sooner see the world destroyed than relinquish their power. As Wright and Nyberg show in fascinating detail, it is not that the executives who run them are evil; they simply function the way the system dictates and the system, as we find over and over, is structured to keep the global capitalist system growing.
The executives have no choice: if they cannot stomach it then they must leave and be replaced by people with fewer scruples or an enhanced ability to deceive themselves, to believe the stories their own PR people make up.
Corporate governmentality
Wright and Nyberg seek ‘to outline the processes through which corporations are shaping humanity’s response to the climate crisis’. Their analysis is revolutionary in a way because it explains to us that these shaping processes are much deeper and subtler than we realised, and include how corporations manipulate our very identities and emotional responses to the predicament we face.
The oleaginous rhetoric about sustainable business practices, green consumerism and green growth churned out by the clever people in marketing has proven highly effective. Even some environmental organisations believe we can somehow consume our way out of the crisis and persuade themselves that the only way to change the system is by working with it (and taking corporate money in the process).
Ecologists and conservation biologists have been convinced that they have to speak the language of the market to be heard and so busy themselves with ‘putting a price on the environment’ so that the externalities can be internalised.
Governments fall over themselves to laud corporations as ‘wealth creators’ who must be allowed to get on with the job (political donations help oil the wheels of that machine too), even if the job in question is killing our world.
It is astonishing how gullible we all are. In the history of greenwash rarely has there been a more cynical corporation that the oil company BP, which in July 2000 rebranded itself ‘Beyond Petroleum’, announcing it would over time transition out of fossil fuels and into renewable energy.
Today it has sold out of its small investments in wind power and solar energy and is investing heavily in the development of shale gas, oil sands in Alberta (the worst kind of fossil energy), and, we must not forget, new oil fields under the melting Arctic.
Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations a very welcome corrective to the beguiling world of mistaken ideas we carry around, ideas that have us sleepwalking into disaster.

Press link for more: Clive Hamilton |

How does climate change fit within the Sustainable Development Goals? #Auspol

On Friday in New York, countries will adopt a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will guide global development up to 2030.

The SDGs take the form of 17 goals, accompanied by 169 targets that give precise information about what should be achieved.
They do not skimp on ambition. If countries succeed in meeting the goals, by 2030 there will be an end to poverty, hunger, child labour, AIDS and various other problems that blight millions of lives globally.

UN is calling the “post-2015 development agenda”. “Sustainable development” – a notoriously difficult term to define – becomes impossible unless global temperature rise is tackled, according to the final document:
“Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and its adverse impacts undermine the ability of all countries to achieve sustainable development.”
Not only has climate change been given its own, dedicated target, but it is also integrated into almost all of the other goals. Many of the targets directly reference the need to tackle climate change and its impacts in some form or another.
What was the process?
Governments instigated the process of designing the SDGs in June 2012, when they met in Brazil for the Rio+20 conference, 20 years after the original 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
Here, it was decided that there should be a new set of goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – a more modest set of eight goals that are set to expire in 2015. These would continue to build on Agenda 21, the 700-page guidebook for development adopted by the UN in 1992.
The MDGs registered many successes: the number of people living in extreme poverty declined by more than half; more than 6.2m malaria deaths were averted; and development assistance from developed countries increased by 66%, according to the 2015 progress report.
However, it also points out that there are limitations to their achievements, with progress patchy across regions, and hundreds of millions of people still living in extreme poverty.
The SDGs aim to fill this gap, and this time they are stressing that no one should be left behind. The SDGs also elevate the issue of environmental sustainability, which was missing from the MDGs.
How are they different from the MDGs?
There are high hopes that the SDGs will be more successful than the MDGs. Bernadette Fischler, executive advisor at WWF UK, who followed the negotiations, tells Carbon Brief that the process was more open and inclusive this time around. She said:
“The Millennium Development Goals were really put together by a bunch of middle-aged, white guys somewhere in the basement of the UN, basically, at the exclusion of other parties. It took the MDGs about five years to take off, also because there was quite a bit of pushback.
“Countries, especially developing countries, were a bit suspicious of this agenda, and that was completely different to the SDGs. With the SDGs, everybody was part of the creation of the agenda, which is maybe why it’s such a broad and inclusive agenda.”
The SDGs are also different qualitatively to the MDGs, offering a more systemic approach to tackling the world’s problems, says Kitty van der Heijden, director of the World Resources Institute Europe.
This should also help to frame the new goals, not just as something for the developing world, but for everyone. She said:
“It is a truly global action agenda, whereas the MDGs were largely about an agenda for the south, with the role of the north just being the funders. This agenda is as much about what happens there in the south, as about what happens here in the developed economies. This is not about development cooperation like the MDGs, but it is about a structural transformation of our economy in all countries, for all sectors and for all people, and the great thing is it will be adopted universally.”
Climate change
The SDGs cover a range of topics, but it is hard to ignore the way in which climate change is woven throughout the 17 goals.
The thirteenth goal in the SDGs sees governments pledging to: “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.”
This is accompanied by five underlying targets. These are:
13.1 Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries
13.2 Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning
13.3 Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning
13.a Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible
13.b Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities
(Note that the first three are targets for the goal; the fourth and fifth, labelled with letters, provide direction about how to implement the targets. This applies throughout the SDGs.)
The document acknowledges that the UNFCCC, the agency responsible for overseeing the international climate deal this December, remains the driving force within the UN for pushing action on climate change. During the negotiations, some parties expressed concerns about how the SDG and UNFCCC processes would operate in parallel, without interfering with each other.
There is also a goal dedicated to energy. This is a pledge to: “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”
This, too, comes with five associated goals. These are:
7.1 By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services
7.2 By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
7.3 By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency
7.a By 2030, enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology
7.b By 2030, expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and landlocked developing countries, in accordance with their respective programmes of support
However, references to climate change don’t stop at these goals. The need to tackle rising emissions and prepare communities for the impacts of climate change is embedded throughout the document, sometimes directly and sometimes obliquely.
The first goal, for instance, is to end poverty. But this includes a target to reduce the exposure and vulnerability of the poor to climate-related extreme events.
The second goal is to end hunger. One of the targets involves ensuring that food production systems are able to adapt to climate change.
The goal relating to education includes a target that all learners should be educated in sustainable development and how to live a sustainable lifestyle.
These are just a few examples of the many places in which climate change is woven throughout the SDGs.
Press link for more: Sophie Yeo |

America’s Elders Flex Their Political Muscles On Climate Change #Auspol 

Few things strike fear into the hearts of politicians like a disgruntled grandparent entering a voting booth. Seniors wield immense political power in the United States, a fact made plain by their voting record. In the 2014 midterm elections, a year of historically low voter turnout, nearly 59 percent of adults aged 65 and older pulled the lever on Election Day. Just 23 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds bothered to do the same. It’s numbers like these that have made Social Security and Medicare the third rail of American politics.So, what happens when America’s seniors find out what climate change means for their grandkids?

Recently, dozens of retirees descended on Capitol Hill to advocate for climate action. Organized by the Conscious Elders Network, the Grandparents Climate Action Day brought together seniors from around the country. Following a day of training, during which renowned NASA climatologist James Hansen spoke to those assembled, the gray-haired activists headed for the Hill. They urged their representatives to support the Clean Power Plan and they advocated for pricing carbon emissions using systems like cap and dividend.

Grandmothers and grandfathers even formed a flash mob in the cafeteria of the Longworth House Office Building, dancing and singing about the need to address climate change.

It was an inspiring sight, and a reminder that old age does not destine one to political irrelevance. “We represent a very big block of voters,” said John Sorensen, co-founder of the Conscious Elders Network. He pointed to his peers, who were gearing up to lobby their member of Congress. Said Sorensen, “There’s a lot of people that don’t want to go play shuffleboard and bingo. They want to go do stuff.”

For the seniors in attendance, that means fighting to safeguard an uncertain future. Sunny Thompson, a small business owner from Ashford, Washington, said, “If you have children or grandchildren, or you are an aunt or an uncle, or you just care about life in general, it upwells within you to make sure you’re leaving it in good standing, and we’re not.” It was a sentiment echoed by many of those in attendance.

Erv DeSmet, a retired lawyer from Woodinville, Washington, said, “A special sense that I have is I’m a grandfather. I have four grandkids.” He added, “I’ve come to understand that it’s time for me to open my big mouth and talk about these things.” DeSmet expressed his frustration at the dearth of meaningful climate legislation at the federal level. As he correctly noted, “A majority of people want some action on the climate; It’s not, ‘You lose, we win.’ No, it’s ‘everybody wins.’”

Although casual observers of politics will note that common sense often carries little weight on Capitol Hill, lawmakers answer to political pressure. They answer to the threats of party leaders, to the pleas of rich financial backers, and to the angry letters of aggrieved constituents. For Thompson, Desmet and the rest of the elder activists, power and influence comes less from the strength of their argument than from the strength of their numbers. As they quietly mill about a congressional waiting room, they serve as a visible reminder of what many voters care about: climate change and environmental care.

If the lawmakers don’t respond to their concerns, they say, there’s always Election Day.

Jeremy Deaton writes about the science, policy, and politics of climate and energy for Nexus Media. You can follow him at @deaton_jeremy.

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Arctic melting will cost the global economy £33 trillion by end of next century, scientists calculate

The melting of the Arctic permafrost and the subsequent release of carbon dioxide and methane gas into the atmosphere will alone add an extra $43 trillion (£33tn) cost of climate change to the global economy by the end of the next century, scientists have calculated.
This represents a 13 per cent increase on the predicted economic impact of climate change by 2200, up from $326tn to $369tn, according to a study by Cambridge University and the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado.
The researchers point out that the Arctic is one of the fastest warming regions on the planet and the permanent ice on land and under the seabed prevents billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere to exacerbate the greenhouse effect.

Using computer models of the global economy and the predicted increase in carbon dioxide and methane, the researchers estimated the direct economic impact on the gross domestic product of countries, such as the loss of agricultural output and the additional cost of air conditioning.

The predicted $43tn of extra economic damage is equivalent to more than half of the current output of the global economy, the researchers calculate in a a study published in the journal Nature Climate change.
“These results show just how much we need urgent action to slow the melting of the permafrost in order to minimise the scale of the release of greenhouse gases,” said co-author Chris Hope of the Cambridge Judge Business School.

Press link for more: Steve Connor |

OMG The hidden meltdown of Greenland

NEWS | September 22, 2015The hidden meltdown of Greenland

From NASA Science News

NASA-supported researchers have found that ice covering Greenland is melting faster than thought.

More than 90 percent of our planet’s freshwater ice is bound in the massive ice sheets and glaciers of the Antarctic and Greenland. As temperatures around the world slowly climb, melt waters from these vast stores of ice add to rising sea levels. All by itself, Greenland could bump sea levels by 7 meters (23 feet) if its ice melted completely.

And … it’s melting.
In August 2014, Eric Rignot, a glaciologist working at the University of California, Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, led a team in mapping ice cliffs at the front edges of three outlet glaciers in Greenland. The researchers found cavities that undercut the base of these leading edges that can destabilize the ice front and enhance iceberg calving, the process where parts of the glacier break off and float away.
“In Greenland we have melt rates of a few meters a day in the summer months,” says Rignot.
What’s causing this “big thaw”?
Rignot’s team found that Greenland’s glaciers flowing into the ocean are grounded deeper below sea level than previously measured. This means that the warm ocean currents at depth can sweep across the glacier faces and erode them.
“In polar regions, the upper layers of ocean water are cold and fresh,” he explains. “Cold water is less effective at melting ice.”
“The real ocean heat is at a depth of 350-400 meters and below. This warm, salty water is of subtropical origin and melts the ice much more rapidly.”
Rignot’s research team is providing critical information needed to document this effect and accurately predict where and how fast glaciers will give way. The team gathered and analyzed around-the-clock measurements of the depth, salinity and temperature of channel waters and their intersection with the coastal edge of Greenland’s ice sheet.
They found that some of the glaciers balance on giant earthen sills that are protecting them, for now. But other glaciers are being severely undercut out of sight beneath the surface, meaning they could collapse and melt much sooner. 
It’s not easy gathering such data. On top of the rough waters, wind, rain and cold weather, there’s the ice itself.
“We came to study glaciers that discharge into the fjord. And the fjords are full of ice. In some places it can be so full of ice that the boat can’t even push through.”
But ice holds a peculiar fascination for Rignot. “I’ve always been interested in polar regions,” he says. “My friends wanted to cruise in the Caribbean but I’d rather cruise here in these waters. I don’t know why. I just like them.”
What’s next?
“OMG,” answers Rignot. And he’s not using chatspeak.
OMG stands for Ocean Melting Greenland — the name of a new NASA-funded 5-year project that will take their investigation even further, to the four corners of Greenland by ship and by plane.
“We hope that the data collected will be a game changer for studying ice-ocean interaction in Greenland,” says Rignot. “It will help modelers make better projections of Greenland ice sheet melt in the future.”
Rignot’s results have been accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and are now available online.
Related resource

11505 logo data gov

Data related to climate change that can help inform and prepare America’s communities, businesses and citizens.


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A Present We Can’t Unwrap

In only 150 years or so, we will have burned all fossil fuel on the planet, if carbon emissions keep rising like last year. Over time all ice on Earth will melt and cities like New York will be commited to the sea. Humankind has found other energy sources already, but coal, oil and gas are a gift to those who own them and as long as they can be sold for more than it costs to get them out the ground there is no economic brake for carbon emissions. We need to solve this problem. And for this, we might want to link the climate risk with its cause to incentivize company strategies that have a chance to survive.
Long before it was born, humanity got this incredibly valuable present: fossil fuels. Oil, coal and gas are captured sunlight once collected by tiny algae and huge forests. Over time this fossilized solar energy sunk into Earth’s depth. Not everyone got the same piece of the cake; some regions got more, some less. It took us a while to discover how to use this wealth, but its energy density was unprecedented, so much greater than that of wood. So it fueled our industrial evolution – it was a present that meant prosperity as well as cultural development.
Yet in the meantime it has turned out to cause climate change and we are forced to think how to use solar power directly, without the carbon-detour. If emissions continue to rise linearly by 2.5 billion metric tons of carbon every year, we will have burned everything we found in the second half of the next century. That sounds far away, but it is also an incredible amount of carbon. Once turned into CO2 and blown into the sky, a large part of it stays there for hundreds of years and even millennia. Already now, it causes changes of the Earth system that will last for thousands of years.
Burn it all – melt it all
Last week we showed in a study in Science Advances that if we do that, burn all the fossil fuels, we melt all the ice of Antarctica. Since Antarctica is the coldest continent on Earth this means we would turn all the ice on the planet into liquid water and hence raise sea level worldwide higher than ever before in the history of humanity – let alone human civilization. That would reshape our coastlines and thereby change the face of our planet (see National Geographic maps for ice-free world). Cities like New York, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Calcutta, Hamburg, Jakarta, Cairo would be committed to the sea.
Eliminating all ice on Antarctica would take thousands of years. That is even further away than the 150 years we need to burn all fossil fuels. And, understandably, possible changes in the far future are perceived as something we can ignore for now. But that is not true. As mind-blowing as it is: What we do now, within just a few decades, triggers changes that will be felt for thousands of years to come. We are setting the Earth system in motion and, on the way, destroy important parts of our cultural heritage.
But not just that. Even though melting all ice on Earth will take long, the sea-level rise will be quick enough to pose a real challenge for us to adapt to: Already in the first few centuries of the great melting, sea levels will rise up to two feet every ten years (see graph). This is a lot. New York City is currently preparing for a sea-level rise of about four feet for the end of the century. More than two inches every year is faster than most administrative processes can handle.
All this only happens if we do not stop emitting carbon. We carried out comprehensive computer simulations for this hypothetical scenario – gedankenexperiments, if you like. Now people might say: who knows what’s in a thousand years? The answer is: physics does. While it’s hard to predict the speed of near-term melting, because the climate system is complex, long-term projections are easier. If you put an ice-cube into your living room, in most families guesses on the rate with which the ice cube disappears will diverge. But none of us has a doubt that it will disappear. The reason is that we know the melting temperature of ice – and it is lower than what we normally like to endure in our living room.
A diamond that needs to stay coal
Sea-level rise is just one example of why we might not want to warm our planet by 20°F or more. If we want to avoid that we have to keep coal in the ground. That is a well-known fact. So fossil fuels are a present to those who own it, yet one that we cannot unwrap, if we do not want to change our entire planet.
Now here is a problem: Even if renewables can provide all the energy humanity needs, fossil fuels would still be worth something as long as you can sell them for more than you need to get them out of the ground and around the world to its consumers. What is needed is an economic mechanism to keep it in the ground. The simplest way is to put a price on carbon emissions.
Complement the trading by relocating future risk
Europe uses an emissions trading scheme to do exactly that. Emission rights are given to the emitting industries and they can trade them among each other. The total amount of certificates is, in principle, following the emission reduction path that is politically set. The carbon price is then determined by the demand – similar to the trading on a stock market.
So much for the trading. But if a company gives out stocks, it receives investment money in return. How does this work for the emission certificates? When the trading scheme was introduced in Europe all emission rights were given out for free and companies were able to profit by selling emission certificates they did not need. Later, part of the emission rights were auctioned which brought some money into public budgets, but the initial price of the certificates was and is not linked to the actual damage the emissions cause. It is an undetermined variable in the equation.
An alternative could be to couple this initial price of carbon to climate damages. This should not be confused with a “cost-benefit analysis” because a lot of climate impacts cannot be monetarized. There is no price tag one can put on a refugee that is fleeing a monsoon flooding or even “just” on a polar bear that is drowning? A lot of climate impacts cannot be monetarized in an ethical way. Thus the total amount of emission should continue to be determined by political will.
But just because there are not only monetary reasons to reduce carbon emissions does not mean we have to ignore the monetary ones that exist. It makes a lot of sense that the price of carbon should also reflect the price society pays to repair at least some of the damages caused by climate change. One way could be via the initial price of emission certificates. This way the risk of an increase in climate damages including those that are difficult to predict, like extreme weather events, would be transferred to the emitting industries.
The damages are likely to increase over time which creates an additional incentive to find future strategies of carbon reduction. Such a scheme would change the price of carbon but it would not replace a carbon trading scheme. It would complement the trading to incorporate the risk of future climate change and the societal need for adaptation into the price of carbon. Including future risks into your company’s strategy is a very common challenge. At the moment the carbon risk for companies lies within the uncertainty of future European policies – not within the uncertainty of future climate. But it is the climate uncertainty against which we want to protect ourselves. It should be the one that determines our strategies.
The principle is simple: Once you use the carbon you pay for the damages it creates. This is not uncommon in situations concerning our global commons. For example, damages caused by the disaster of the Deepwater Horizon in 2010 had to be paid for by the company that caused it. The final claim filing deadline for the court-supervised Economic and Property Damages Settlement program for compensation of damages induced by the oil spill has just passed in June this year.
Since, in the case of climate change the attribution of specific events to the carbon emissions is scientifically challenging, one might withdraw to an attribution of the total damage increase over time adjusted for economic and demographic growth effects. Also the distribution of the money that is collected for the emission certificates needs some thought. But neither of these complications question the principle: incorporate the risk of future changes into the price of carbon to create the right incentive.
Make emission reduction a direct benefit
Obviously, all costs-of-carbon will come back to society. We will all pay the price for our emissions. The question is how these costs are distributed to create an incentive to best reduce the emissions and thereby the risk of future damages. At the moment, European companies try to assess the decision makers in Brussels because they represent the biggest uncertainty with respect to the future price of carbon. In reality however, the biggest risk for society lies within the uncertainties of future changes of climate itself. To incorporate this risk into the price of carbon is a step that is currently missing.
The Munich Re reinsurance company has calculated the meteorologically induced damages during the past three decades to be of the order of four trillion US$, one of which was insured. That means one trillion US$ of uninsured weather-induced damages per decade in the last thirty years. Integrated over a century, this is the same order of magnitude as the cost of transferring our global energy system onto a renewable path as estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – and that sum does not even include possible future changes in the intensity of weather extremes as they are likely to develop in a warming climate.
We are currently spending a similar amount of money as we would need to completely transform our energy system just for repairing the damages caused by weather. If we learn how to link changes in this enourmous monetary flow to the emissions of carbon, we will be faster on our path towards a renewable energy system.
100 million years ago, we were given a diamond that has to stay coal, if we want to avoid dangerous climate change. We need to find a way to achieve that. A sensible way is to incorporate the risk of future climate change into the price of carbon so that reducing emissions will become a direct benefit.


Pope Francis: A spokesman for the planet. 

This could be a great week for Planet Earth.

The confluence of Pope Francis’s first visit to the United States and the United Nations’ acceptance of 17 Sustainable Development Goals make this week a potential tipping point for our planet.

On June 18, Pope Francis issued an encyclical on the environment.
In it, Francis messages to the Roman Catholic Church’s 1.2 billion followers and to all: “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”
He adds: “Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.”
There are countless appeals from Francis beyond this encyclical advising us all that we have an obligation to be mindful stewards of our planet. Advising that everything in this world is connected. Especially, caring for the environment and caring for the poor.

When Francis speaks to Congress and the United Nations this week, as he did in Havana recently, this call for all of us to be responsible will no doubt be a part of his message to this country. 
And the timing is perfect.
This week, the UN is expected to confirm 17 Sustainable Development Goals, also known as The Global Goals. These goals are our planet’s agenda. They are our work plan “for people, planet and prosperity.”
The 17 goals range from ensuring sustainable use of natural resources, to taking action on wildlife trafficking, to ending hunger and achieving food security.
While the Sustainable Development Goals are not solely about conservation, the work of conservationists can play a key role in achieving many of these goals. For example, ending hunger and achieving food security can be tackled by working diligently to conserve terrestrial wildlife and freshwater and coastal fisheries. These resources, if well managed, are essential for food security and can act as insurance to smooth consumption during economic, health, and climatic shocks.

Conservation work, while focused on wildlife and the environment, has the effect of protecting the air, water, and land, which are vital for ensuring a healthy environment for all life. The connection between nature and people is as strong a force as gravity.
This link between nature and people is core to the message of Francis and the Sustainable Development Goals.
With the United Nations accepting these global goals and with a spokesperson like Francis for our planet, this week could end up being a game changer for Earth — or as the Pope calls it, “our common home.”

Press link for more: Dr Cristian Samper |

Be Prepared: Climate Change, Security and Australia’s Defence Force #Auspol 


Climate change is a significant and growing national security threat that is undermining the preparedness of the Australian Defence Force, our new report authored by Australia’s former Defence Chief found.
Be Prepared: Climate Change, Security and Australia’s Defence Force report reveals Australia is lagging behind its UK and US allies in preparing its militaries for climate change, with Australian Defence Force resources already under strain from the increased need for humanitarian assistance in response to climate-induced disasters. 

Key Findings

1. Climate change is a security threat. Climate change poses a significant and growing threat to human and societal wellbeing, threatening food, water, health and national security.

Food security. The 2008 food crisis increased the number of undernourished people worldwide by 75 million. The cost of wheat increased by 127%, rice by 170% and maize by 300%. By increasing the frequency and severity of droughts in important food producing regions, climate change was a key factor in the crisis.

Water security. Climate change will significantly affect the accessibility and availability of freshwater resources. Rising sea-levels can result in saltwater intrusion of coastal acquifers, while rainfall patterns are changing worldwide.

Extreme weather. Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of many extreme weather events. These events affect individuals and societies through the displacement of people, damage to critical infrastructure, and damage to health and livelihoods.

2. Global military forces are labelling climate change a “threat multiplier”.

The impacts of climate change can exacerbate other stresses, like poverty, economic shocks and unstable institutions, to make crises worse. For instance, increasing extreme weather events can reduce the availability of food. Extreme weather and water scarcity contributed to soaring food prices, which saw food riots erupt across Africa and the Middle East in 2008. Rising food prices in 2011 have also been identified as one of the factors that destabilised the Middle East, leading, for example, to the “Arab Spring”.

Climate change can worsen tensions and increase the risk of conflict between states as sea-level rises, coastlines retreat and the eventual submergence of small low-lying islands affect maritime boundaries and exclusive economic zones where natural resources are located.

Leading international organisations and defence forces around the world, from the Pentagon to NATO member states and now the G7, have all identified climate change as a significant threat to national security.

3. Climate change puts the Australian Defence Force under pressure.

Australia and the Asia-Pacific region are vulnerable to climate change with over half of the world’s natural disasters occurring in the Asia-Pacific region last year. The ADF will increasingly be called upon to deliver humanitarian assistance in response to extreme weather and its impacts both at home and overseas. In serious cases the ADF may need to coordinate with other countries to provide assistance.

Extreme weather could also affect the ADF’s readiness and capability by disabling critical military and civilian infrastructure at times when rapid mobilisation is needed. Defence property (military bases) are also at risk from sea level rise and extreme weather.

Rising temperatures and more frequent and intense heatwaves will have implications for the health of Australia’s military personnel when undertaking training and conducting military exercises.

4. The UK and US militaries are rapidly preparing for climate change while Australia lags behind.

Governments in the UK and US have taken significant legislative and strategic steps to ensure that climate change is integrated into defence planning. The US has mandated that their military forces address the risks of climate change as a routine part of all mission planning.

In Australia, comparatively less action is being taken by the Government to ensure the Australian Defence Force is prepared for the security risks posed by climate change.

Increasingly, Australia is out of step with its allies in preparing for climate change, exposing Australian soldiers, sailors and airforce personnel, as well as Australia more broadly, to the considerable strategic risk and uncertainty climate change brings.

5. Strong action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is critical for limiting the security implications of a changing climate.

Global emissions must start tracking downward this decade if there is to be a chance of keeping the warming of the planet to below 2°C, and limiting the severity of climate change and its implications for security.

We must adapt to the inevitable changes that are already occurring while working hard to minimise the long-term changes, some of which could be massive, abrupt and disruptive.

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Starving Polar Bear a new icon of #ClimateChange #Auspol  

Even as researchers confirm another summer with near record melting of Arctic sea ice, a photo gone viral of an emaciated polar bear has become a new icon of climate change.
German photographer Kerstin Langenberger sighted the bear stranded on an ice floe, its bones visible through its wet fur, in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, far north of the Arctic Circle. She posted the image to Facebook on Aug. 20, writing that the bear’s terrible condition was not an unusual sight.
The photo quickly made its way from Facebook to other social and viral news media sites.
For the polar bear to survive in the wild, the Arctic must remain extremely cold and largely covered in ice year-round. Unless nations slash burning of coal and oil for energy in the next few decades, scientists believe, Arctic summer sea ice will likely disappear by midcentury, and much of the region will become too warm year-round for polar bears and the ice seals they prey on to thrive.
Extreme warmth in the Arctic has also disrupted the jet stream in recent years, causing severe winter weather in eastern North America and Southeast Asia, and is implicated in this year’s massive wildfire season in Alaska and Canada.
The Svalbard islands are in the Barents Sea, an area of the Arctic Ocean bordered by Scandinavia and Russia. Sea ice there has diminished even more quickly in the past 35 years than on the side of the Arctic bounded by the United States and Canada, putting polar bears in increasing peril.
“I do not have scientific data to proof my observations, but I have eyes to see—and a brain to draw conclusions,” Langenberger wrote about the starving polar bear. “Climate change is happening big deal here in the Arctic.”
Polar bear biologist Geoff York agreed to a point. “Bears get sick,” he said. “Bears get injured. Bears get old, and bears die. Attributing cause is difficult even when we can handle those animals.”
The negative impacts of climate change on the Arctic and on polar bears, however, are beyond argument, said York, senior director of conservation for the nonprofit Polar Bears International, who has 14 years of field experience studying the species. But that doesn’t make it certain that global warming–driven starvation is what caused this polar bear’s deterioration.
“If someone wanted to point a finger to one large fire in California and say that’s climate change, it would be hard to do,” he said. “It’s the same thing here.”
Still, he emphasized, the bear’s condition was consistent with expert forecasts of what is happening as the species becomes cut off from sea ice and seals for longer periods of time. 
“There have always been good and bad years in the Arctic for polar bears, and we’re expecting more bad years,” York said, noting that the Barents Sea is now ice-free for 20 weeks more every year than it was in 1979, when satellite measurements of Arctic sea ice began. “Scientists in that part of the world are starting to see effects of that rippling up the food chain.”
On the other side of the Arctic Ocean, summer sea ice dwindled to an area of 1.7 million square miles as of Sept. 11, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center. This is its fourth-lowest extent on record, with all four lows occurring since 2010. The extent of 2014–15 winter ice was the lowest ever recorded.
With temperatures in the Arctic warming at twice the rate of lower latitudes, Arctic Ocean ice pack has dropped by 40 percent overall since the late 1970s.
A 2014 study in the journal Nature Geoscience noted, however, that even though 2012 witnessed the lowest summer sea ice extent recorded, the amount of ice recovered substantially in 2013 and 2014. These unexpected freezes were a sign, the authors said, that the Arctic may be able to recover if the world acts quickly to curb climate change.

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Why we need a politics of the far future. #Auspol

By Richard Eckersley, first published at On Line Opinion on 4 September 2015
If you were to assess various personal life paths and their risks and opportunities, would you choose one that had a 1 in 2 chance of wrecking your life, or even ending it? In most circumstances, no-one would; the risks are just too high.
Yet a new study suggests that many people think that we are taking risks of this magnitude with our future as a civilisation or a species. The study found most Australians (53%) believe there is a 50% or greater chance our way of life will end within the next 100 years, and a quarter (24%) that humans will be wiped out. These are surprisingly high estimates; no person or organization would accept or choose this level of risk, given the stakes.
When asked about different responses to these threats, 75% of the Australians surveyed agreed ‘we need to transform our worldview and way of life if we are to create a better future for the world’ (an ‘activist’ response); 44% agreed that ‘the world’s future looks grim so we have to focus on looking after ourselves and those we love’ (nihilism); and 33% agreed that ‘we are facing a final conflict between good and evil in the world’ (fundamentalism).
The findings strip the ground from under the largely ‘business as usual’ strategies that dominate political thinking. Concerns about the world’s future barely register in our politics; our political leaders proclaim constantly that Australia is a great nation with a great future. This tension may contribute more than politicians and political pundits suspect to the current mood of political disillusion and cynicism.
Melanie Randle, of the Faculty of Business at the University of Wollongong, and I co-authored the study, recently published online in the journal Futures. The study involved a survey of over 2,000 people in Australia, US, UK and Canada.
Findings were similar across countries, age, sex and other demographic groups, although some interesting differences emerged. More Americans rated high the risk of humans being wiped out (30%), and that humanity faces a final conflict between good and evil (47%) – reflecting the strength in the US of Christian fundamentalism and its belief in the ‘end time’ and a coming Apocalypse. Such beliefs can influence national politics; some commentators thought they shaped President Bush’s outlook.
There is mounting scientific evidence and concern that humanity faces a defining moment in history, a time when it must address growing adversities, or suffer grave consequences. Reputable journals are canvassing the possibilities; the new study will be published in a special issue of Futures on ‘Confronting catastrophic threats to humanity’.
Most focus today is on climate change and its many, potentially catastrophic, impacts; other threats include depletion and degradation of natural resources and ecosystems; continuing world population growth; disease pandemics; global economic collapse; nuclear and biological war and terrorism; and runaway technological change.
Not surprisingly, surveys reveal widespread public pessimism about the future of the world, at least in Western countries, including a common perception of declining quality of life, or that future generations will be worse off. However, there appears to have been little research into people’s perceptions of how dire humanity’s predicament is, including the risk of the collapse of civilisation or human extinction. These perceptions have a significant bearing on how societies, and humanity as a whole, deal with potentially catastrophic futures.
People’s responses in our study do not necessarily represent considered assessments of the specific risks. Rather, they are likely to be an expression of a more general uncertainty and fear, a loss of faith in a future constructed around notions of material progress, economic growth and scientific and technological fixes to the challenges we face. This loss is important, yet hardly registers in current debate and discussion. We have yet to understand its full implications.
At best, the high perception of risk and the strong endorsement of transformational change could drive a much greater effort to confront global threats. At worst, with a loss of hope, fear of a catastrophic future erodes people’s faith in society, affecting their roles and responsibilities, and their relationship to social institutions, especially government. It can deny us a social ideal to believe in – something to convince us to subordinate our own individual interests to a higher social purpose.
There is a deeply mythic dimension to this situation. Humans have always been susceptible to apocalyptic visions, especially in times of rapid change; and we need utopian ideals to inspire us. Our visions of the future are woven into the stories we create to make sense and meaning of our lives, to link us to a broader social or collective narrative. Historians and futurists have emphasised the importance of confidence and optimism to the health of civilisations and, conversely, the dangers of cynicism and disillusion.
Despite increasing political action on specific issues like climate change, globally the scale of our response falls far short of matching the magnitude of the threats, as the study findings imply. Closing this gap requires a deeper understanding of how people perceive the risks and how they might respond. Offering false hope is not the solution; to address the challenges we must first acknowledged them.
On the evidence, the far future is drawing closer – and it worries us.

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