Month: November 2016

Biggest-Ever Coral Die-Off Reported on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef #auspol

Warm seas have “essentially cooked” hundreds of kilometers of the landmark, a surveyor says.


By Tom Westbrook

Warm seas around Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have killed two-thirds of a 700-km (435 miles) stretch of coral in the past nine months, the worst die-off ever recorded on the World Heritage site, scientists who surveyed the reef said on Tuesday.

Their finding of the die-off in the reef’s north is a major blow for tourism at reef which, according to a 2013 Deloitte Access Economics report, attracts about A$5.2 billion ($3.9 billion) in spending each year.

“The coral is essentially cooked,” professor Andrew Baird, a researcher at James Cook University who was part of the reef surveys, told Reuters by telephone from Townsville in Australia’s tropical north.

He said the die-off was “almost certainly” the largest ever recorded anywhere because of the size of the Barrier Reef, which at 348,000 sq km (134,400 sq miles) is the biggest coral reef in the world.


Bleaching occurs when the water is too warm, forcing coral to expel living algae and causing it to calcify and turn white. Mildly bleached coral can recover if the temperature drops and the survey found this occurred in southern parts of the reef, where coral mortality was much lower.

While bleaching occurs naturally, scientists are concerned that rising sea temperatures caused by global warming magnifies the damage, leaving sensitive underwater ecosystems unable to recover.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee stopped short of placing the Great Barrier Reef on an “in danger” list last May but asked the Australian government for an update on its progress in safeguarding the reef.

Australia will lodge that update on Friday, said a spokesman for Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg. In June, during an election campaign, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised A$1 billion in spending to protect the reef.


Climate scientists say that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps heat radiating from earth, creating global warming. Australia is one of the largest carbon emitters per capita because of its reliance on coal-fired power plants for electricity.

“Climate change is killing the Great Barrier Reef,” said environmentalist Charlie Wood, director of 350.org, an anti-fossil fuels movement.

“The continued mining and burning of coal, oil and gas is irreparably damaging the climate.

 If we want our kids to enjoy the Great Barrier Reef for generations to come, we must act now to keep fossil fuels in the ground,” Wood said in an emailed statement.

Press link for more: Scientific American

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12 Words of Wisdom From Leonard Cohen #auspol 

By Virginia Small
Just before Donald Trump became our reality TV star president-elect, songwriter-bard Leonard Cohen died, leaving an incomparable legacy.
Releasing his last album weeks before his death at 82, Cohen charted courses for survival and redemption. And he pulled no punches.

 To the end, he deftly interwove themes of darkness and light that were political and personal, erotic and sacred. More than entertaining his listeners, Cohen intimately engaged them.

 He called on fellow travelers to take heart, make change, laugh, pray, dance, and act with courage, dignity and love.

Insights from a dozen Cohen songs are relevant to today’s unsettling realities.
1. Achieving democratic ideals is an ongoing challenge. Cohen’s prescient Democracy (1992) recounts the governmental system’s challenges and shortcomings. “It’s coming to America first, the cradle of the best and the worst … from the brave, the bold, the battered heart of Chevrolet … It’s coming from the sorrow in the streets, from the holy places where the races meet … Democracy is coming to the USA.”
Cohen told Paul Zollo in Songwriters on Songwriting in 1992: “It’s not an ironic song. It’s a song of deep intimacy and affirmation of the experiment of democracy in this country … This is really where the races confront one another, where the classes, where the genders, where even the sexual orientations confront one another.”
How to navigate all this complexity? The song admonishes: “The heart has got to open in a fundamental way.” Cohen sends godspeed for America’s precarious journey: “Sail on, sail on, O mighty ship of state! To the shores of need, past the reefs of greed, through the squalls of hate…”
2. Stare down desolation with grit and grace. In Steer Your Way (2016), released on his final album, Cohen’s sings: “Steer your way past the ruins of the altar and the mall … /Steer your way past the pain that is far more real than you/That’s smashed the Cosmic Model/That blinded every view.”

He calls for unflinching self-review and humility: “Steer your way past the Truth that you believed in yesterday/ … And say the mea culpa which you gradually forgot/Year by year, month by month, day by day/Thought by thought.”
As Cohen prepared to bid farewell, he surveyed the natural world and a coarsened culture with trademark irony: “They whisper still, the struggling stones/The blunted mountains weep/As he died to make men holy/Let us die to make things cheap.”
3. Yes, the system is rigged—now what? Decades before Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren railed against oligarchs and plutocrats controlling America, Cohen pronounced, “Everybody knows the deal is rotten/Old Black Joe’s still pickin’ cotton/For your ribbons and bows.”
Everybody Knows (1988, with Sharon Robinson) is a caustic litany: “Everybody knows that the dice are loaded/Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed/Everybody knows the war is over/Everybody knows the good guys lost/Everybody knows the fight was fixed/The poor stay poor, the rich get rich/That’s how it goes/Everybody knows.”
Both bleak and droll, it can be heard as a fatalistic accounting of corruption or an urgent plea to clean things up.
4. Hold onto an inner guiding compass. In My Secret Life (2001, with Sharon Robinson) celebrates quiet subversiveness. “I do what I have to do/to get by/But I know what is wrong/And I know what is right/And I’d die for the truth/in my secret life.”
The song recounts the strain of facing ever-present horrors: “Looked through the paper/Makes you want to cry/nobody cares if the people/live or die/And the dealer wants you thinking/That it’s either black or white/thank God it’s not that simple/ in my secret life.”
5. Take care of body and spirit. Come Healing (2012, with Patrick Leonard) is reverent, transcendent: “O see the darkness yielding/That tore the light apart/Come healing of the reason/Come healing of the heart.”
A devout Jew, Cohen also often referenced other spiritual traditions: “Behold the gates of mercy/In arbitrary space/And none of us deserving/The cruelty or the grace/O solitude of longing/Where love has been confined/Come healing of the body/Come healing of the mind.”
6. Tough times call for clear-eyed vision and empathy. The Future (1992) is prophetically stark: “Give me back the Berlin Wall/give me Stalin and St. Paul/Give me Christ/or give me Hiroshima…I’ve seen the future, baby: it is murder.”
Cohen explained to Rolling Stone in 2009 that The Future and Democracy were on his concert set list, “because their apocalyptic vision seems truer now than when they were recorded. People really thought I needed help back then,” Cohen told the reporter, laughing.
The song warns: “Things are going to slide, slide in all directions/ … the blizzard of the world/has crossed the threshold/And it has overturned/the order of the soul.” Nevertheless, he offers a way out: “I’ve seen the nations rise and fall/I’ve heard their stories, heard them all/But love’s the only engine of survival.”
7. Embrace imperfection. Anthem (1992) starts as a solemn serenity prayer, “The birds, they sang/At the break of day/Start again/ I heard them say/Don’t dwell on what/Has passed away/Or what is yet to be.”
Then it urges action and acceptance, despite all: “Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack, a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.”
The narrator defiantly prepares for mythic battle: “I can’t run no more/With that lawless crowd/While the killers in high places/Say their prayers out loud/But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up/A thundercloud/And they’re going to hear from me.”
Rebecca De Mornay, who co-produced the song, told Uncut about the verse: “That ‘I’—that’s the soul of Leonard Cohen.”
8. Invoke a higher power. The incantatory tone of If It Be Your Will (1984) reflects Cohen’s fervent mysticism. “From this broken hill/All your praises they shall ring/If it be your will/To let me sing.”
It’s a plea for global as well as personal salvation: “If there is a choice/Let the rivers fill/Let the hills rejoice/Let your mercy spill/On all these burning hearts in Hell/If it be your will/To make us well.”
9. Comfort others and do what you can to sleep well. Cohen told Rolling Stone about a song he was working on in 2009, in the midst of the Great Recession: “I thought that ‘Lullaby’ was just what everyone needs to get to sleep in these troubled times,” he said.
Released in 2012, it’s beautifully simple: “Sleep baby sleep/The day’s on the run/The wind in the trees/Is talking in tongues … If your heart is torn/I don’t wonder why/If the night is long/Here’s my lullaby.” Cohen reassures the listener: “There’s a morning to come.”
10. Live passionately. A popular standard, Dance Me to the End of Love (1992) honors deep love and the protection it can provide.

 “Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin/Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in/Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove/And dance me to the end of love.”

 Even as passion gets spent, it shields: “Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn/Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn.”
Cohen told an interviewer the “burning violin” image “came from just hearing or reading or knowing that in the death camps, beside the crematoria, in certain of the death camps, a string quartet was pressed into performance while this horror was going on.” He added that “It’s not important that anybody knows the genesis of it, because if the language comes from that passionate resource, it will be able to embrace all passionate activity.”
11. Celebrate paradox (and cultivate patience). Hallelujah (1984), Cohen’s exultant and erotic anthem has been covered some 300 times. He drafted 80 verses over five years before its release, sometimes singing alternate lyrics in concert, such as: “There’s a blaze of light/In every word/It doesn’t matter which you heard/The holy or the broken Hallelujah.”
It took 15 years for Hallelujah to become a massive hit. Cohen told the CBC radio show Q in 2009 that after it was released on Various Positions in 1984 in Canada and Europe, Sony decided not to release the album in the U.S.: “The only person who seemed to recognize the song was Dylan. He was doing it in concert,” Cohen said.
More than a decade later, Hallelujah recordings by John Cale and Jeff Buckley began building an audience. Rufus Wainwright’s version in the 2001 film Shrek brought it into the mainstream.
12. Take positive action, however you can. In You Got Me Singing (2014, with Patrick Leonard) Cohen’s deep-throated delivery conveys triumphant optimism (accompanied by a violin and country-tinged vocals). He makes a winking nod to his signature song: “You got me singing/Even tho’ the news is bad/You got me singing/The only song I ever had … You got me singing/Even tho’ it all looks grim/You got me singing/The Hallelujah hymn.”
His tone is matter-of-fact and resilient, even lighthearted: “Even though the world is gone/You got me thinking/I’d like to carry on.”

Press link for more: Eco Watch

What to do about climate change deniers? #auspol Criminal Neglect?

By Professor Dr. Heiner Flassbeck 

Although it is by now clear that humanity finds itself in major trouble, deniers are not stopping their attempts to manipulate public opinion. 

These people have been a curse for many decades.

As I said in the first part, a new study by Friedrich et al. shows that the IPCC prediction of an increase of the Earth’s average temperature of 2.6 and 4.8 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2100 is an under-estimation.

 Instead they predict that the range could be between 4.78C and 7.36C by 2100.


 If this is true – and there is no scientific valid reason to doubt this result – we are facing a gigantic crisis.

 Nothing less than the survival of our species – and many others (or perhaps all) – is at stake.

 But the deniers go on. They publish op-eds, papers (although not in peer-reviewed journals) and books in which they either deny that climate change is real or that it is a problem. I will give some examples. The real question is what to do about climate change denial.
A couple of examples
Hundreds of examples of hocus pocus pseud0-science can be given. I choose one, more or less at random: the idea that it is the sun’s variability – not CO2 emissions – that is responsible for climate change. This thesis has been defended in a book by Vahrenholt and Lüning, Die kalte Sonne: warum die Klimakatastrophe nicht stattfindet (The Cold Sun: Why the Climate Crisis Is Not Happening).
To my amazement, Vahrenholt is (or was) a member of the SPD. He was actually Umweltsenator (senator for the environment) in Hamburg from 1991 to 1997. Before that, Vahrenholt worked at the federal Umweltbundesamt (the environmental protection agency) in Berlin and the Ministry for the Environment in Hessen. Vahrenholt then entered the energy industry. Until 2011, he was on the Board of Deutsche Shell AG. In 2001, he became the CEO of the wind turbine company REpower Systems AG and remained there until 2007. From February 2008 to June 2012 he was CEO of the electric power company RWE subsidiary RWE Innogy and remains on the supervisory board. According to Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Centre for Climate Change (see here), RWE is Europe’s largest CO2 emitter. In 1999, Vahrenholt was made Honorary Professor of Chemistry at the University of Hamburg (see here).
In 2012, Vahrenholt, together with geologist Sebastian Lüning, who has also been employed by RWE, published The Cold Sun. Vahrenholt and Lüning predicted that the Earth is entering a cooling phase due to periodic solar cycles and that it will cool by 0.2 to 0.3 degrees C by 2035. Other contributors were Nir Shaviv, Henrik Svensmark (see here for an excellent article on Svensmark’s “cosmoclimatology”) and Nicola Scafetta. Numerous scientists, including the Council for Sustainable Development, criticised the book. According to Wikipedia, the book’s underlying assumptions were “either outdated or highly speculative.” In fact, they are flat out, radically, completely wrong.
The last three years have set records in global warming. 2010 was globally the hottest year on record, until it got topped by 2014. 2014 was overtaken by 2015 and there is no doubt that 2016 will be warmer than 2015. 

Three record years in a row are unprecedented in all those decades of global warming.
As Stefan Rahmstorf writes in an article in RealClimate (see here – Realclimate.org is one of the best and most solid climate change science blogs on the internet), one aspect of climate change that barely receives attention is that the heat records occur despite a colder sun. The last solar minimum (2008-2010) was the lowest since at least 1950. This is shown, among others, by sunspot data (see figure 1) as well as measurements of the solar luminosity from satellites.


Figure 1: Time evolution of global temperature, CO2 concentration and solar activity. Temperature and CO2 are scaled relative to each other according to the physically expected CO2 effect on climate (i.e. the best estimate of transient climate sensitivity). The amplitude of the solar curve is scaled to correspond to the observed correlation of solar and temperatures (Source: Stefan Rahmstorf, here).
This, in itself, is enough to close the Vahrenholt and Lüning case. There is ample and clear evidence that variations of the sun’s activity have, in the words of Stefan Rahmstorf,
“played a completely subordinate role in climate change over the last 65 years. (…) Global warming is driven by greenhouse gases, which is a long-standing consensus in science. The current IPCC report, for example, limits the natural contribution to global warming since 1950 to less than plus or minus 0.1 ° C (it might have been negative, e.g. because of the fading sun). (…) (S)ome unsupported claims by “climate skeptics” about the importance of solar variability are now clearly falsified” (see here).
While it is absolutely undeniable that the Earth is warming up faster than ever before in human history, Vahrenholt and Lüning argue that it is cooling because of reduced sun activity. It is just wrong. As Rahmstorf says, solar activity has been essentially constant, except for the well-known 11-year Schwabe cycle (which also has little effect on global temperature) and a slight downward trend.
Vahrenholt and Lüning and other “sceptics” replied that there is a time-delayed reaction to an increase in solar activity before 1950 and, as Rahmstorf says, this idea is not wrong: of course the climate system has a certain inertia. This effect has been quantified with the help of model simulations (see here). Researchers have shown that 60% of the temperature reaction occurs within the first 20 years. But this does not help their case. Around 80% of global warming since the 19th century has taken place after 1970. It is completely illogical to argue that the slight and gradual increase in solar activity before 1950 could have contributed significantly to the strong warming since 1970 (see here). Furthermore, solar activity could affect climate either by variation in the sun’s output or, more speculatively, by an indirect effect on the amount of cloud formation (as in Svensmark’s “cosmoclimatology” (see here)). But this has also been completely refuted. For example, Lockwood and Fröhlich concluded an article on solar variability by writing that “the observed rapid rise in global mean temperatures seen after 1985 cannot be ascribed to solar variability, whichever of the mechanisms is invoked and no matter how much the solar variation is amplified” (see here).
The problem with Vahrenholt and Lüning is not that they are wrong. Scientists are often wrong. Science advances through a process of rejecting and accepting hypotheses.

 But this is not science. Its aim is not to find the truth, but to create confusion, to plant the seeds of doubt. 

Write a book and suddenly you are an “expert” and the media will give you attention. Vahrenholt once claimed that Greenland was nearly free of ice in the Middle Ages (because it is cooling, you see?). 

In 2010 Vahrenholt (who was then in a leading position with the energy utility RWE), published a newspaper article arguing that the winters are becoming noticeable harsher and that this worries all those who are concerned about why global warming is obviously pausing. In fact, global warming was not pausing, it never did, but Vahrenholt knew the cause anway: it is the sun, stupid! (see here).
In their 2012 book, The Cold Sun, Vahrenholt and Lüning presented their own forecast for the global temperature evolution until 2030. Rahmstorf compares it in the next figure to the measured data (i.e. reality). As he says: “No comment required” (see here).


Figure 2: Measurements of global temperature (NASA GISTEMP, moving average over 12 months) compared to the forecast for global temperature by 2030 by Vahrenholt and Lüning, after Figure 73 of their book. (Image by Stefan Rahmstorf, Potsdam Climate Centre).
Another “argument” of the sceptics – that one, unfortunately, hears very often, is that increased levels of CO2 are actually benign as plants need CO2 and makes them grow more.

 The truth is that increased levels of CO2 will be detrimental for almost all life on earth (see Liebig’s Law of the Minimum here). It is not just a matter of increasing CO2 concentrations. The nutrient available in least supply (following Liebig’s law) is likely to be water and climate change increases drought. It is true that open air enhanced CO2 trials have shown that higher levels of CO2 promotes faster and more robust plant growth in only some species, but even then it mainly promotes increased production of cellulose and lignin in the plant stem and leaf structure, rather than in increased fruit and seed yields. Other research shows that increased heat will be detrimental to many domesticated cereal crops and that it will promote increased loss of soil moisture and mineral uptake, both of which will promote reduced crop yields (see here).
The wider picture: the funding of the denier movement
Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science, has argued that the appearance of overlapping groups of “sceptical” scientists, commentators and think tanks in seemingly unrelated controversies results from an organized attempt to replace scientific analysis with political ideology. Organised campaigning to undermine public trust in climate science and in science in general (for example evolution) is associated with conservative economic policies and backed by industrial interests opposed to the regulation of CO2 emissions. Climate change denial has been associated with the fossil fuels lobby, the Koch brothers, industry advocates and libertarian think tanks, advancing the agenda of “free markets,” small government and anti-Keynesianism ‘intervention.’ According to Mooney, more than 90% of papers sceptical on climate change originate from right-wing think tanks (see here).
The total annual income of these climate change counter-movement-organizations has been estimated at roughly $900 million. Between 2002 and 2010, nearly $120 million was anonymously donated via the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund to more than 100 organisations seeking to undermine the public perception of the science on climate change. Do not forget that, as the The New York Times and others wrote in 2015, that oil companies knew that burning oil and gas could cause global warming since the 1970s but that they nonetheless funded deniers for decades and also that historically, just under 70 companies are responsible for two thirds of all emissions (see here).
The Greenpeace research project ExxonSecrets, and George Monbiot writing in The Guardian, as well as various academics, have linked several skeptical scientists—Fred Singer, Fred Seitz and Patrick Michaels—to organizations funded by ExxonMobil and Philip Morris for the purpose of promoting global warming skepticism. These organizations include the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation. Similarly, groups employing global warming skeptics, such as the George C. Marshall Institute, have been criticized for their ties to fossil fuel companies (see here).
According to Greenpeace, the climate change writer Willie Soon, who is at the Smithsonian and once said that nothing is happening in the Arctic and that polar bears like climate change anyway (yes – this is the level!) failed to disclose to to academic journals funding including more than $1.2 million from fossil fuel industry related interests including ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Southern Company. Emails show that Soon considered these papers as ‘deliverables’ for payment. The Union of Concerned Scientists produced a report titled ‘Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air,’ that criticizes ExxonMobil for “underwriting the most sophisticated and most successful disinformation campaign since the tobacco industry” and for “funnelling about $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of ideological and advocacy organizations that manufacture uncertainty on the issue” (see here).
This is not the only consortium of skeptics that Exxon Mobil has supported financially. The George C. Marshall Institute received $630,000 in funding for climate change research from ExxonMobil between 1998 and 2005. Exxon Mobil also gave $472,000 in funding to The Board of Academic and Scientific Advisors for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow from 1998 to 2005. Dr. Frederick Seitz, well known as “the godfather of global warming scepticism,” served as both Chairman Emeritus of The George C. Marshall Institute and a board member of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow from 1998 to 2005. The Royal Society conducted a survey that found ExxonMobil had given US$ 2.9 million to American groups that “misinformed the public about climate change.”
No one knows exactly what the real consequences of these ideological misrepresentations have been. Have the deniers been successful? It certainly seems to be the case. In Europe, the notion of human influence on climate gained wide acceptance much more rapidly than in the United States. For example, a 2009 survey found that Europeans rated climate change as the second most serious problem facing the world, between “poverty, the lack of food and drinking water” and “a major global economic downturn”. Eighty seven percent of Europeans considered climate change to be a “very serious” or a “serious problem.” But there is no evidence of alarm over global warming in the United States – historically, by far, the biggest producer of greenhouse gases. Just 19% of Americans who have heard of the issue say they worry a lot about global warming—the lowest percentages in the 15 countries surveyed. Moreover, nearly half of Americans (47%) express little or no concern about the problem. It is of course much too simple to blame the deniers for these differences. Still, there is no doubt that their work had impact and, most probably, that it was a significant (see here).
What to do about it and the hypocrisy of the West
While all of this has been well documented in many reports, papers and books, the question remains what should be done about it.
Amost three years ago, Lawrence Torcello, an assistant professor at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York state wrote a piece for The Conversation, ‘Is misinformation about the climate criminally negligent?’ in which he argued that the funding of climate denial should be considered to be “criminally and morally negligent” (see also here). He wrote:
“Criminal negligence is normally understood to result from failures to avoid reasonably foreseeable harms, or the threat of harms to public safety, consequent of certain activities. Those funding climate denial campaigns can reasonably predict the public’s diminished ability to respond to climate change as a result of their behaviour. Indeed, public uncertainty regarding climate science, and the resulting failure to respond to climate change, is the intentional aim of politically and financially motivated denialists” (see here).
Torcello’s article sparked a rage among conservative media and climate science denialist bloggers, who went on to completely misrepresent what Torcello had actually said (see here about this ‘controversy’). Some claimed that Torcello had written in anger about “sceptical scientists,” when he had not mentioned climate scientists. Others said, he was calling for jail sentences, which he did not do either. 

What he said was:
“I have been thinking about both scientific literacy and the legality of funded campaigns aimed at undermining public confidence in climate science. It may be the case that a different charge is more applicable than the one I suggest, for example, that “hate speech” more appropriately characterizes such funded campaigns. I would like more philosophers and scholars of jurisprudence to take up the subject of misinformation and harmful speech with regard to climate change” (see here).
I completely agree. Criminal negligence is normally understood to result from failures to avoid reasonably foreseeable harms or the threat of harms to public safety, consequent of certain activities. Why does this not apply to climate change denial? Mark Lynas, the author of Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, wrote that:
“I wonder what sentences judges might hand down at future international criminal tribunals on those who will be partially but directly responsible for millions of deaths from starvation, famine and disease in decades ahead.

 I put (their climate change denial) in a similar moral category to Holocaust denial – except that this time the Holocaust is yet to come, and we still have time to avoid it.

 Those who try to ensure we don’t will one day have to answer for their crimes.”

Press link for more: Flassbeck-economics

Climate goals abandoned as adaptation gap opens wide

By David Spratt

Here is a question we need to ask: are climate policy makers actually pursuing the goals they set themselves more than 20 years ago, or have the goals been abandoned, and are we falling fast through an “adaptation gap”?
Like the United Nations, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Conference of the Parties (COP) are diplomatic fora, populated by professional representatives of national ruling elites, and subject to the diplomatic processes of negotiation, trade-offs and deals. Civil society sectors are excluded from formal decision-making.
Decision-making is inclusive (by consensus), making outcomes hostage to national interests and lowest-common-denominator politics.
As one example, the COP 21 Paris Agreement is almost devoid of substantive language on the cause of human-induced climate change and contains no reference to “coal”, “oil”, “fracking”, “shale oil”, “fossil fuel” or “carbon dioxide”, nor to the words “zero”, “ban”, “prohibit” or “stop”. 

By way of comparison, the term “adaptation” occurs 85 times in 31 pages, though responsibility for forcing others to adapt is not mentioned, and both liability and compensation are explicitly excluded.
The Agreement has a goal but no firm action plan, and bureaucratic jargon abounds, including the terms “enhance” (58 times) and “capacity” (59 times).
At COP 21, the proposed emission cuts by individual nations were voluntary (unilateral) and without an enforceable compliance mechanism. 

In a practical sense, the Agreement cannot be considered “binding” on signatories. The voluntary national emission reduction commitments are not critically analysed in the Agreement, but noted to be inadequate for limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius (°C).
In fact, the Paris voluntary national commitments would result in emissions in 2030 being substantially higher that in 2015 and are consistent with a 3°C warming path, and significantly higher if the warming impacts of carbon cycle feedbacks are considered. 

Unless dramatically improved upon, the present commitments exclude the attainment of either the 1.5°C or 2°C targets this century without fantastic assumptions about negative emissions.
So what’s the goal in all this diplomacy?
The UNFCCC’s stated primary goal is to prevent “dangerous anthropogenic influence with the climate system”. But what is “dangerous”?
Traditionally, policy makers have focused on the 2°C target, but the Paris Agreement emphasises “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”.
As warming has advanced, scientists are distinguishing between “dangerous” (1-2°C band) and “very dangerous” (above 2°C) climate warming.
But we now have clear evidence that significant tipping points –– for example, summer sea-ice free Arctic conditions, the loss of West Antarctic glaciers and a multi-metre sea level rise –– have already been passed at less than 1°C of warming. 
In other words, climate change is already dangerous, but the UNFCCC apparatus has refused to acknowledge this reality, proposing warming targets significanty higher than 1°C as policy goals. 

The question as to what would be safe for the protection of people and other species is not answered, nor even asked.
As well, evidence is accumulating that at just the current 1°C level of warming more elements of the system may be heading towards tipping points or experiencing qualitative change. These include the slowing of the major sea current known as the Atlantic conveyor, likely as a result of climate change; accelerating ice-mass loss from Greenland; declining carbon efficiency of the Amazon forests and other sinks; and the vulnerability of Arctic permafrost stores. 


Warming of 1.5°C would set sea level rises in train sufficient to challenge significant components of human civilisation, besides reducing the world’s coral ecosystems to remnant structures. 

If climate change is already dangerous, then the only logical conclusion to be drawn is that by setting the 1.5°C and 2°C targets, the UNFCCC process has abandoned the goal of preventing “dangerous anthropogenic influence with the climate system”.
The UNFCCC key goals ”to ensure that food production is not threatened” and achieving “a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change” have been discarded for all practical purposes.
Food production is already threatened by rising sea levels and inundation, shifting rainfall patterns and desertification, and extreme heatwave and wildfire episodes. Such events became a driver of the “Arab Spring” and a threat multiplier in the Syrian conflict and in Darfur.
Ecosystems including corals, mangroves and kelp forests in Australia are degrading fast as the world’s six mass extinction gathers pace. Major ecosystems are now severely degraded and climate policy-makers have no realistic agreement to save or restore them, from the Arctic to the Amazon, from the Great Barrier Reef to the Sahel.
The Paris Agreement recognised the “fundamental priority of safeguarding food security” . Note the change from the original 1992 goal which was to “ensure” food production is not threatened.
The Paris Agreement made no references to time-frames sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, suggesting this goal has been (literally) dropped.
So with the UNFCCC’s foundational 1992 goals now abandoned, what are the new objectives of the UNFCC and COP processes?
Some would say that it is to mitigate (reduce) emissions to a temperature level where adaptation to hotter conditions can be reasonably achieved and, conversely, to adapt to what cannot be mitigated. 

 This assumes that there is a “sweet spot” around 2°C where the capacity to mitigate and the capacity to adapt overlap. This is the current policy-making paradigm.
But the evidence at the moment is that world’s mitigation efforts will take us towards 3°C or more, and many systems are collapsing or close to collapse at just 1°C, leading to a huge “adaptation gap” through which human societies and planetary systems are falling, fast. 

Press link for more: Climate code red

Carbon Farming: Hope for a Hot Planet #auspol #climatechange 

By Brian Barth

Carbon farming. The phrase is suddenly on the lips of every major player in the sustainable food movement.
Michael Pollan deemed it agriculture’s “secret weapon” in a December op-ed for the Washington Post.

 Bill McKibben, in his praise for an upcoming book on the topic, described carbon farming as “a powerful vision,” one that he hopes will “presage major changes in our species’ use of the land.” Paul Hawken went so far as to call it “the foundation of the future of civilization,” with potential to “surpass the productivity of industrial agriculture.”
Why all the hubbub? And, for that matter, what exactly is it about?
Carbon farming is agriculture’s answer to climate change. Simply put, the goal is to take excess carbon out of the atmosphere, where the element causes global warming, and store it in the soil, where carbon aids the growth of plants.

 The principle is pretty straightforward—the practice, not so much.
Most folks understand that burning fossil fuels puts carbon that was once buried deep beneath the earth into the atmosphere, turning the planet into one big greenhouse in the process. But in addition to petroleum underground, the soil on the surface of the earth contains a sizable store of carbon in the form of organic matter—the stuff that environmentally aware farmers and gardeners are always striving to maximize. Plants add organic matter to the soil when they decompose, and photosynthesis, by definition, removes carbon dioxide from the air and pumps it through the roots of plants and into the soil.


Concern over climate change may have thrust the concept of carbon farming into the limelight—25 countries pledged to pursue it during the December climate talks in Paris—but ranchers like Gabe Brown, who raises livestock and an array of crops on 5,000 acres outside Bismarck, North Dakota, have preached its virtues for decades. “All soil biology eats carbon, and that’s how nutrients cycle,” explains Brown of the network of microbes and fungi and earthworms underground. “Farmers need to think of carbon as their fertilizer, because it’s what drives a healthy system.”

At first glance, most carbon-farming techniques mirror age-old organic growing methods: Instead of relying on chemical crutches and pulverizing the soil with constant tillage, you enrich it with compost and rotate a diverse array of food and cover crops through the fields each season. (See “Five Tenets of Carbon Sequestration,” below.) But Brown and other practitioners of carbon farming—Virginia’s Joel Salatin and Zimbabwe’s Allan Savory are the best known among them—go to extraordinary lengths to keep carbon-producing organic matter in the soil and out of the atmosphere. Plowing is avoided like the plague. Instead of turning up the earth at the end of a given crop’s cycle, Brown sends his livestock—Angus cattle, Katahdin sheep, hogs, and chickens—into the field to trample and eat the crop. He then uses a seed drill to plant the next crop among the decaying roots of the previous one.
Brown, a former conventional commodity-crop farmer, still grows corn, but with a groundcover of clover or vetch beneath the stalks. He follows each cash crop with a mix of pearl millet, Sudan grass, cowpeas, sunflowers, and other soil-enriching cover crops, combining up to 70 different species in a single planting. Each occupies a slightly different niche in terms of height, root depth, leaf shape, and growth rate, forming a dense blanket of vegetation that pumps carbon from the sky to the soil and provides a rich “cocktail” on which his livestock graze.
Brown says he has greatly increased his profitability since adopting carbon-farming practices more than 20 years ago. In addition to improved yields on the corn, soy, and wheat he’s always sold on the wholesale market, he now supplies beef, pork, eggs, broilers, and honey to local customers.
Another way carbon farming pays off, at least abroad: carbon-credit markets. For the past five years, Australia’s agricultural sector has benefited from a nationally mandated cap-and-trade program that lets farmers who adopt carbon-sequestration practices sell carbon credits to heavily polluting corporations in need of offsetting carbon footprints. And two years ago, the World Bank established a fund to buy carbon credits from Kenyan farmers as a means to incentivize climate- friendly practices in a part of the world known for its slash-and-burn approach to the land.
America has yet to institute a federally mandated carbon-credit system, though nine northeastern and mid-Atlantic states have adopted cap-and-trade schemes covering the emissions of 168 power plants. Only California can claim a wide-reaching cap-and-trade program that requires more than 600 polluters across various industries to offset their emissions, but even there, most farm-based practices for carbon sequestration remain ineligible for credits. Under California’s current system, credits are available mainly to farmers who are themselves big polluters—livestock farmers who install anaerobic digesters to capture methane (one of the three main greenhouse gases) released from their manure lagoons, for example—not those who follow the low-impact practices espoused by the carbon-farming movement.

That’s starting to change, thanks in part to the efforts of a group of dairy farmers in Marin County. The challenge involves quantifying the amount of carbon sequestered and providing assurance that the numbers can be reliably replicated, according to John Wick, cofounder of the Marin Carbon Project. Last year, Wick’s organization—in conjunction with ecologists at the University of California, Berkeley—managed to convince the agency that administers the state’s voluntary carbon-credit exchange (as opposed to its government-mandated one) to grant credits to farmers who spread com-post over grazed grasslands. “We’re at that pivotal moment,” Wick says, “between demonstrating scale, which we’ve done, and implementation.”
Many consider livestock on pastureland the ideal system for sequestering carbon. Each time an animal nibbles on a blade of grass, the roots release a bit of carbon into the soil; pasture-raised beasts and birds also convert grass into marketable products like meat, dairy, and eggs. But opponents argue that animals emit as much carbon as they help sequester, pointing to the belches and manure of ruminant animals as a major source of green-house gases.
Eric Toensmeier—author of The Carbon Farming Solution, the new book that has Hawken, McKibben, and other activists buzzing—offers a reality check and a realistic solution. “There’s this conversation happening that suggests grazing is the only way to go, yet the rates [of sequestration] are among the lowest of all carbon-farming practices,” he explains. “It’s quite complicated when you really drill down into it.”
A proponent of long-lived perennials as the best carbon capturers, Toensmeier urges ranchers to consider “silvopasture,” the practice of grazing livestock among trees, spaced widely to allow enough sunlight to reach the fields, as compensation for the carbon released by the animals. Yet he acknowledges the many variables that influence a farm-er’s decision-making process: “It’s a matter of what practices are suited to your climate and fit in your marketing mix, as well as the mechanisms for financing the transition.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping farmers transition to carbon-sequestering practices with a free web-based tool called COMET-Farm, which provides an approximate carbon footprint based on user-supplied data and allows farmers to experiment with different land management scenarios to see which works best. USDA air-quality scientist Adam Chambers says the data the tool provides should help pave the way for farmers to monetize sequestration practices as the carbon market matures. “This is the cookbook, if you will, for how farmers can accomplish emission reductions,” he explains.
Through a partnership with the USDA, Chevrolet recently purchased 40,000 carbon credits from 23 ranchers in North Dakota who have voluntarily pledged to adopt no-till methods on their combined 11,000 acres of grazing land. Chambers hopes the transaction, which equates to taking 5,000 cars off the road and is the largest of its kind to date in the United States, will jump-start the market for farm-based carbon sequestration. As one of the world’s largest auto companies, it’s fitting that Chevy should start that ball rolling.


Five Tenets of Carbon Sequestration
NO-TILL Tilling mixes soil with air, allowing carbon to oxidize back into the atmosphere. Instead, focus on perennial crops that don’t require tillage, or use a no-till seed drill for large-scale annual plantings.

ORGANIC MULCH Cover the soil around small-scale plantings with a wood chip or straw mulch to prevent carbon losses. On large plantings, leave crop residue in place as mulch. As it decomposes, the residue fuels the carbon cycle in the soil.
COMPOST Compost is rich in a stable (not easily oxidized) form of carbon. Carbon farmers recommend dusting it over the surface of the soil—you can spread it directly over the grass in your pasture—rather than tilling it in.
LIVESTOCK ROTATION Moving concentrated herds and flocks of animals through a series of small paddocks on a regular basis is preferable to letting the animals forage continuously over a single large area. Many carbon farmers move their animals every day and try to let each paddock “rest” as long as possible between grazings.

COVER CROPS Fast-growing species such as clover and vetch keep the soil covered and enriched with carbon through the winter and may also be planted together with cash crops during the growing season to compensate for carbon lost when those crops are harvested.

Press link for more: Modern Farmer

Climate change in age of ignorance #auspol 

Science is illuminating but it can and has been used as a tool of deception by interest groups.

The good news got pretty much drowned out this month:

 Yes, 2016 is on track to become the hottest year on record, but thankfully also the third year in a row to see relatively flat growth in global greenhouse gas emissions. 

With global economic growth on the order of 3 per cent a year, we may well have turned a corner towards a sustainable climate economy.
The bad news, of course, is that the world’s wealthiest nation, home to many of the scholars scrambling to reverse global warming, has elected a new president with little or no interest in the topic. Or an active disinterest. 


Mr Donald Trump is surrounding himself with advisers who are likely to do little to challenge his notion of climate change as a Chinese hoax. People like to think of us as living in an age of information, but a better descriptor might be “the age of ignorance”. 

How did we get into this predicament? 

Why are we about to inaugurate the most anti-science administration in US history?
As a graduate student at Harvard in the 1970s and early 1980s, I was astonished to find how little concern there was for the beliefs of ordinary Americans.

 I was in the history of science department, where all the talk was of Einstein and Darwin and Newton, with the occasional glance at the “reception” of such ideas in the larger literate populace.


I had grown up in a small town in Texas, and later in Kansas City, Missouri, where the people I knew often talked about nature and God’s glory and corruption and the good life. 

At Harvard, though, I was puzzled that my professors seemed to have little interest in people outside the vanguard, the kinds of people I had come from, many of whom were fundamentalist Christians, people of solid faith but often in desperate conditions. 

Why was there so little interest in what they thought or believed? That’s Point 1.
Point 2: Early in my career as a historian, I was further bothered by how little attention was being given to science as an instrument of popular deception. 

We like to think of science as the opposite of ignorance, the light that washes away the darkness, but there’s more to that story.
Here my Harvard years were more illuminating. 

I got into a crowd of appropriately radicalised students, and started to better understand the place of science in the arc of human history. I learnt about how science has not always been the saving grace we like to imagine; science gives rise as easily to nuclear bombs and bioweapons as to penicillin and the iPad. I taught for several years in the biology department, where I learnt that cigarette makers had been giving millions of dollars to Harvard and other elite institutions to curry favour.
I also started understanding how science could be used as an instrument of deception – and to create or perpetuate ignorance. That is important, because while scholars were ignoring what Karl Marx dismissively called “the idiocy of rural life” (Point 1), tobacco and soft drink and oil companies facing taxation and regulation were busily disseminating mythologies about their products, to keep potential regulators at bay (Point 2).
The denialist conspiracy of the cigarette industry was crucial in this context, since science was one of the instruments used by Big Tobacco to carry out its denial (and distraction) campaign. 

Cigarette makers had met on Dec 14, 1953, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City to plan a strategy to rebut the evidence that cigarettes were causing cancer and other maladies. The strategy was pure genius: The claim would be that it had not been “proved” that cigarettes really cause disease, so there was room for honest doubt. Cigarette makers promised to finance research to get to the truth, while privately acknowledging (in a notorious Brown & Williamson document from 1969) that “Doubt is our product”.
For decades thereafter, cigarette makers poured hundreds of millions of dollars into basic biomedical research, exploring things such as genetic and viral or occupational causes of cancer – anything but tobacco. Research financed by the industry led to more than 7,000 publications in peer-reviewed medical literature and 10 Nobel Prizes. Including consulting relationships, my research shows that at least 25 Nobel laureates have taken money from the cigarette industry over the past half-century. (Full disclosure: I’ve testified against that industry in dozens of tobacco trials.)
Now we know many other industries have learnt from Big Tobacco’s playbook.

 Physicians hired by the National Football League have questioned evidence that concussions can cause brain disease, and soda sellers have financed research to deny that sugar causes obesity. And climate deniers have held a kind of scavenger hunt for oddities that appear to challenge the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists.
This latter fact might be little more than a historical quirk, were it not for the fact that there will soon be a president in the US whose understanding of science is more like that of the people in the towns where I grew up than those scholars who taught me about Darwin and Einstein at Harvard.
We now live in a world where ignorance of a very dangerous sort is being deliberately manufactured, to protect certain kinds of unfettered corporate enterprise. 

The climate catastrophe gets short shrift, largely because powerful fossil fuel producers still have enormous political clout following decades-long campaigns to sow doubt about whether anthropogenic emissions are really causing planetary warming. Trust in science suffers, but also trust in government. And that is not an accident. Climate deniers are not so much anti-science as anti- regulation and anti-government.
US author Jeff Nesbit, in his recent book, Poison Tea: How Big Oil And Big Tobacco Invented The Tea Party And Captured The GOP, documents how Big Tobacco joined with Big Oil in the early 1990s to create anti- tax front groups.
These astroturf organisations waged a concerted effort to defend the unencumbered sale of cigarettes and petro-products. The breathtaking idea was to protect tobacco and oil from regulation and taxes by starting a movement that would combat all regulation and all taxes.
Part of the strategy, according to Nesbit, who worked for a group involved in the effort and witnessed firsthand the beginning of this devil’s dance, was to sow doubt by corrupting expertise, while simultaneously capturing the high ground of open-mindedness and even caution itself, with the deceptive mantra: “We need more research.” Much of the climate denial now embraced by people like Mr Trump was first expressed in the disinformation campaigns of Big Oil – campaigns modelled closely on Big Tobacco’s strategies.
We sometimes hear that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, but a “repeat” is perhaps now the least of our worries. Judging purely from his transition team, Trump’s administration could be more hostile to modern science – and especially earth and environmental sciences – than any we have ever had. Whole agencies could go on the chopping block or face deliberate evisceration.
President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan may be in jeopardy, along with funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Grumblings can even be heard from Europe that if the Paris climate accord is abandoned, the United States may face carbon taxes on its export goods. Ignorance and its diabolic facilitator – the corruption of expertise – both have real-world costs that we ignore at our peril.
NYTIMES
• Robert N. Proctor is a professor of the history of science at Stanford University and the author of Golden Holocaust: Origins Of The Cigarette Catastrophe And The Case For Abolition.

Press link for more: Strait times

The Ponzi scheme that is our global economy. #auspol 

And who better to oversee our unsustainable economy than Donald Trump?

By Dr. Joe Romm

Donald Trump launches Trump University in 2005. He recently settled the Trump U fraud case for $25 million. CREDIT: AP/Bebeto Matthews

Black Friday has become an orgiastic celebration of unbridled consumerism. It’s perhaps the inevitable outcome of a country whose citizens are commonly referred to as “consumers.”

So it’s a good day to reflect on the Ponzi scheme that is our global economy — and the modern-day King Midas we just elected to run it.

Donald Trump, is, after all, the king of conspicuous over-consumption. As the National Review reported last year, he owns a “custom gold motorcycle,” a “gold-plated helicopter,” a Trump tower penthouse with extensive 24-karat fittings befitting “King Midas’s abode,” a Boeing 757 with “the predictable 24-karat gold faucets, table legs, seatbelt buckles, trimmings, and insignias,” and a line of vodka “labeled with a 24-karat gold ‘T’.”

Just like the unsustainable global economy, however, Trump’s wealth is a house of cards. CNNMoney reports that his only public company went belly-up and lost tens of millions of dollars for investors, all while Trump was extracting $39 million to pay himself.

Trump has had six bankruptcies total, and actually lost $900 million in one year. 

The Wall Street Journal reported Trump “Made Millions From Multilevel Marketing Firm” (aka a pyramid scheme). The Atlantic described an expose on the Trump Network as “the latest in a series of stories you can find online about Trump duping hard-working people like you.”

After the president-elect settled a fraud case against Trump University for $25 million, the New York Attorney General said, “Mr. Trump used his celebrity status and personally appeared in commercials making false promises to convince people to spend tens of thousands of dollars they couldn’t afford for lessons they never got.”

It’s no wonder people like billionaire Michael Bloomberg, Marco Rubio, and so many other have described him as a con man.

In contrast, Pope Francis — the anti-Trump — has warned world leaders that “unbridled consumerism” is assaulting the natural environment “and this will have serious consequences for the world economy.” In his powerful 2015 climate encyclical, the Pope went further, writing of “extreme consumerism” and “compulsive consumerism” and “an unethical consumerism bereft of social or ecological awareness.”

The “pace of consumption,” the Pope asserts, “can only precipitate catastrophes.” Francis offered this blunt warning:

“Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction.”

The definition of a Ponzi scheme, such as the one Bernie Madoff ran, is “a fraudulent investment operation where the operator … pays returns to its investors from new capital paid to the operators by new investors, rather than from profit earned by the operator,” as Wikipedia notes. It is unsustainable because it “requires an ever-increasing flow of money from new investors to sustain the scheme.” Eventually, people catch on, and the whole thing collapses.

Our current global economy is a Ponzi scheme in this sense: It is an utterly unsustainable system that effectively takes wealth from our children and future generations — wealth in the form of ground water, arable land, fisheries, a livable climate — to prop up our carbon-intensive lifestyles. To avoid collapse, we must rapidly transition to a sustainable low-carbon economy.

We cannot stop catastrophic climate change — in the long term and possibly even the medium-term — without a pretty dramatic change to our overconsumption-based economic system. We have already overshot the Earth’s biocapacity — and the overshoot gets worse every year.

“A quarter of the energy we use is just in our crap,” physicist Saul Griffith explains in his detailed discussion of our carbon footprint. You can watch the MacArthur genius award winner soberly dissect his formerly unsustainable lifestyle here.

Or you can read the Onion’s black humor, “Chinese Factory Worker Can’t Believe The Shit He Makes For Americans.”

The tragic irony is that much of this holiday shopping is supposedly for our kids — and yet this overconsumption is a core part of our climate inaction, which, as President Obama has said, “would betray our children.”

Climate science is clear that inaction is suicidal. That’s why “virtually all” climatologists “are now convinced that global warming is a clear and present danger to civilization,” as Lonnie Thompson has put it.

That’s why a stunning 2012 World Bank climate report warned that, “A 4°C [7°F] world can, and must, be avoided’ to avert ‘devastating’ impacts,”

Tom Friedman interviewed me for a NY Times column on this subject, several years ago:

“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog climateprogress.org. We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.

“You can get this burst of wealth that we have created from this rapacious behavior,” added Romm. “But it has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate …’ Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.”

The adults, in short, are not standing up. Sadly, most still haven’t even taken the time to understand that they should.

And so every generation that comes after the Baby Boomers is poised to experience the dramatic changes in lifestyle that inevitably follow the collapse of any Ponzi scheme, a point that bears repeating on Black Friday.

In our version of a Ponzi scheme, investors (i.e. current generations) are paying themselves (i.e. you and me) by taking the nonrenewable resources and livable climate from future generations. To perpetuate the high returns the rich countries in particular have been achieving in recent decades, we have been taking an ever greater fraction of nonrenewable energy resources (especially hydrocarbons) and natural capital (fresh water, arable land, forests, fisheries), and, the most important nonrenewable natural capital of all — a livable climate.

We aren’t all Madoffs in the sense of people who have knowingly created a fraudulent Ponzi scheme for humanity. But given all of the warnings from scientists and international governments and independent energy organizations over the past quarter-century — we still elected a gilded climate science denier who campaigned on destroying the Paris climate agreement.

So it has gotten harder and harder for any of us to pretend that we are innocent victims, that we aren’t just hoping we can maintain our own personal wealth and well-being for a few more decades before the day of reckoning. Après nous le déluge.

Press link for more:  thinkprogress.org

‘Nowhere on earth safe’ from climate change as survival challenge grows #auspol

By Peter Hannam

As if humans weren’t making it hard enough for the world’s creatures great and small.
Evidence continues to mount that global warming is having an impact on ecosystems across the planet in a myriad of ways, altering both individual species and ecological communities.


There’s really nowhere on earth where the natural systems are not being affected by climate change,” Lesley Hughes, a professor of biology at Macquarie University, said.
“Climate change is simply an additional stress on already stressed ecosystems,”

 Professor Hughes said, listing habitat loss, pollution and over-exploitation among the existing challenges.

A recent paper in Science said research on 94 core ecological processes and found 82 per cent were already revealing climate change impacts as temperatures warmed.
James Watson, a conservation biologist at the University of Queensland and one of the paper’s authors, said people often fixated on polar bears, penguins or another emblematic species.


They think, ‘that’s miles away from me; it’s a pity but it doesn’t affect me’,” Professor Watson said. “It’s everything that’s affected.”
Here are six key areas of change:
Physiology
Warming temperatures alter the sex ratio of offspring of certain marine and terrestrial species.

As Fairfax Media reported, sea turtle eggs incubate at a uniform 29 degrees, with the male-female ratio changing according to temperature. If temperatures reach 30.5 degrees all offspring will be females. (Should the species survive long enough without males, 33 degrees is enough to ensure no embryos make it.)

Changes, such as increasing acidity as waters absorb more carbon dioxide.
Corals are among the species in the firing line, as are creatures with shells, such as tiny pteropods, the Science paper said.
“Severe levels of shell dissolution” were reported for some Antarctic pteropods, according to a paper in Nature Geoscience.
“As deep-water up-welling and CO2 absorption by surface waters is likely to increase as a result of human activities, we conclude that upper ocean regions where aragonite-shelled organisms are affected by dissolution are likely to expand,” the paper said.
These kinds of changes “have the capacity to undermine and change dramatically the structure of marine food webs, which ultimately underpin much of the protein sources for humans”, Professor Hughes said.
Genetics
Species with short generation spans, such as phytoplankton, are changing fast, but not fast enough.
In the Gulf of Cariaco, off Venezuela, phytoplankton have managed to adjust their ecological thermal niche by 0.45 degrees over a 15-year period. The response, though, lagged the 0.73-degree warming of waters over that time.
For others, such as the southern flying squirrels on North America, hybridisation with “cousin species” the northern flying squirrel is one response.
Since 1995, a series of unusually warm winters has marked the start of a northward surge of 240 km in the range of the southern squirrel, the Daily Climate reported, based on work published in Global Change Biology.
Similar hybridisation is evident elsewhere, generating other concerns.
“The interbreeding has several consequences, none well understood: It could increase genetic diversity, helping species weather rapid ecosystem changes,” the Daily Climate said. “It also could dilute the genetics of at-risk animals such as polar bears, perhaps even diluting them beyond recognition. And the changes threaten to wreak havoc with conservation efforts.”
Morphology
Individuals of some species are shrinking in size, as scientists have expected, as creatures with larger surface-to-volume ratios are favoured as temperatures rise.
The body size of six woodland salamander species in the US Appalachian Mountains has shrunk an average of 8 per cent over the past 50 years, Science said.

Also changing colour, other studies showed, with some becoming darker or lighter, depending on local advantages. 

The skull shape of alpine chipmunk has “revealed significant changes” in California over the past century as its ranges narrow and its diet changes.
Phenology
The timing of many life processes of species – such as the budding of plants, the hatching of birds and migration timings – is closely tied to climate variation. Climate shifts are throwing such processes out of whack.
“Across marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems, spring phenologies have advanced by 2.3 to 5.1 days per decade, the Science paper said. “A combination of climate warming and higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations has extended the growing period of many plant populations.”
Examples include reduced fledging success of tawny owls in the UK as hatchings over the past 27 years have become synchronous with its principal prey, the field vole.
Another predator-prey mismatch is evident among blooms of spring diatoms, which have advanced more than 20 days since 1962, triggering declining populations of its main grazer, the water flea.
Distribution
A shift in species’ location is one of the most rapid responses observed especially for marine creatures with fewer connectivity issues compared with land-based ones, Science said.
Professor Watson said changing seasonal rains mean Australia’s savannah regions are experiencing more intense fires later in the season, killing off grasses. The result is that rainforests are expanding to fill the ecological gap.

Press link for more: smh.com.au

Trump (And Turnbull) a disaster for global climate. #auspol #climatechange 

By Marty Nathan

The bad news is that President-elect Donald Trump (Just like Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull) aim to cut taxes on the rich, wipe out remaining restrictions on predation by corporations, register and attack Muslims, scapegoat and deport undocumented workers and students, block voting rights for African-Americans, vacate abortion rights for women, eliminate health care options for the working poor and tear up the hard-won treaty with Iran over nuclear development.


Worse news is that he is actively planning to destroy all federal policy standing between us and global climate disaster.
2016 will be the hottest year on record. 

About this time last year, I wrote the same words about 2015. 

There is already enough greenhouse gas, mainly CO2 and methane, in the atmosphere to raise temperatures 1.5 degrees Celsius, ushering in some of the feedback loops that create runaway global warming. Our window of opportunity for action to cut emissions is very narrow. We need to start now to stop burning coal, oil and gas and convert to an economy based on conservation and renewable energy.
The Democratic Party platform, though not perfect, conveyed the urgency of the situation and provided a path for the energy transition. Hillary Clinton, previously no environmental champion for sure, rejected the Transpacific Partnership, a climate-killer, in response to Bernie Sanders’ opposition to it. Her campaign talked of making the US a “clean energy superpower.” Sanders was developing a Senate coalition, assuming a Clinton presidency and Democratic Senate majority, to create the programs needed to make the enormous transition.
Clinton did win the popular vote by 1.82 million votes, but did not win the presidency, and with majorities in the House and Senate, Trump faces few obstacles to his plans to raise emissions and end support for renewable energy.


It is hard not to note the inconsistency — no, perfidy — of his climate-change stance. He calls global warming a “hoax” and its remedy “a very expensive tax,” consistent with his investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline and his reliance in the election on the fossil-fuel infrastructure baron Koch brothers. Yet he plans to build a wall to prevent sea-level rise from destroying his Irish golf course.

One could never call Trump subtle. To understand his future energy and environmental policy, look to those whom he is appointing to key positions in his transition team and his new administration. Many are Koch-related fossil fuel moguls and their standard-bearers, set to gain billions by pushing their product. So much for his pledge to “drain the swamp.”

The head of the Koch-funded Freedom Partners, Marc Short, will serve as a senior adviser. Michael McKenna of the Koch lobbying group MWR will be advising The Donald regarding the Energy Department. Both Michael Catanzaro and Harold Hamm have been mentioned for the post of energy czar. Catanzaro lobbies for Koch Industries as well as for the fracking firm Devon Energy, while Hamm is the founder of a shale oil company and a major contributor to the Koch political funding network.

The one who has raised the most ire, though, is Myron Ebell, a climate-change denier who is heading the transition team for the EPA. His Competitive Enterprise Institute opposes environmental regulations and is funded by fossil-fuel companies including Koch and Exxon-Mobil. Ebell’s EPA working group includes David Schnare who became infamous for his hounding of leading climate scientist Michael Mann.
Rather than draining, Trump is filling the swamp with the most toxic and corrupt operators Washington has seen in a while.
Their mission is not just to prevent further progress on halting greenhouse gas emissions but to wipe out years of progress made by the Obama administration. 

They openly plan to:
1. Stop the United States’ participation in the United Nations climate agreement, or kill it softly by sending it to the Senate for (non)ratification. This not-very-strong agreement still is the stage on which countries continue to negotiate and ratchet up their emissions reductions. It is crucial to battling climate change. Should the U.S. pull out, huge developing countries like India have the moral and political right to wash their hands of converting from coal and oil to renewables.
2. Destroy the clean power plan. A key element of the Obama administration’s domestic plan to battle climate change, this set of regulations reining in coal-fired power plants has been tied up in the courts, allowing a new Trump administration simply to abandon it.
3. Frack more gas and build the infrastructure needed to ship it overseas.
4. Dig and burn more coal.
5. Open federal lands, offshore sites and the Arctic to drilling.
6. Build the Keystone XL pipeline and whatever other cheap mode of transport is necessary to liberate the four trillion barrels of tar sands oil from Canada.
7. Destroy the EPA which has been critical to regulating carbon pollution in the face of legislative inaction to deal with the climate crisis.
This is just the beginning. I do not have the space to explore all the planned iniquities of this profit-driven, ignorant cabal.
Trump and friends want to drill, burn and profit from all the fossil fuels still in the ground, no matter the consequences. Mann has declared that, because of the narrow time frame left to slow down climate change, a Trump administration means “game over for the climate.”
As Dr. Seuss’s Lorax said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Caring will mean lifestyle changes, but more importantly meeting, marching, writing letters, voting, coalition-building and empowering our local governments to resist. 

This is going to be the fight of our lives, my friends.
Dr. Marty Nathan is a mother and grandmother who lives in Northampton and works at Baystate Brightwood Health Center in Springfield. She is on the steering committee of Climate Action NOW and is a regular contributor to the Gazette Opinion page.

Press link for more: gazettenet.com

7 shocking facts about air pollution. #auspol Time to put a price on pollution. 

Air pollution is the fourth-largest threat to human health.

It is the deadliest form of pollution, killing millions of people each year, according to a new study.
The Cost of Air Pollution, a joint report by the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), also highlights the economic toll, showing that premature deaths linked to air pollution cost the global economy hundreds of billions of dollars in lost labour income.

92%
More than nine out of 10 of the world’s population – 92% – lives in places where air pollution exceeds safe limits, according to research from the World Health Organization (WHO).
4th
Air pollution is the fourth-largest threat to human health, behind high blood pressure, dietary risks and smoking.
The health risks of breathing dirty air include respiratory infections and cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic lung disease and lung cancer.
6.5 million
There were an estimated 6.5 million deaths worldwide from air pollution-related diseases in 2012, WHO data shows. That’s 11.6% of all global deaths – more than the number of people killed by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and road injuries combined.


Press link for more: weforum:org