Month: November 2016

Perils of Climate Change Could Swamp Coastal Real Estate #auspol

Homeowners are slowly growing wary of buying property in the areas most at risk, setting up a potential economic time bomb in an industry that is struggling to adapt.
By IAN URBINANOV. 24, 2016

MIAMI — Real estate agents looking to sell coastal properties usually focus on one thing: how close the home is to the water’s edge. But buyers are increasingly asking instead how far back it is from the waterline. How many feet above sea level? Is it fortified against storm surges? Does it have emergency power and sump pumps?
Rising sea levels are changing the way people think about waterfront real estate. Though demand remains strong and developers continue to build near the water in many coastal cities, homeowners across the nation are slowly growing wary of buying property in areas most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
A warming planet has already forced a number of industries — coal, oil, agriculture and utilities among them — to account for potential future costs of a changed climate. The real estate industry, particularly along the vulnerable coastlines, is slowly awakening to the need to factor in the risks of catastrophic damage from climate change, including that wrought by rising seas and storm-driven flooding.
But many economists say that this reckoning needs to happen much faster and that home buyers urgently need to be better informed. Some analysts say the economic impact of a collapse in the waterfront property market could surpass that of the bursting dot-com and real estate bubbles of 2000 and 2008.
The fallout would be felt by property owners, developers, real estate lenders and the financial institutions that bundle and resell mortgages.

Over the past five years, home sales in flood-prone areas grew about 25 percent less quickly than in counties that do not typically flood, according to county-by-county data from Attom Data Solutions, the parent company of RealtyTrac. Many coastal residents are rethinking their investments and heading for safer ground.

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8 predictions for the world in 2030 #auspol 

As Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory show, predicting even the immediate future is no easy feat. When it comes to what our world will look like in the medium-term – how we will organise our cities, where we will get our power from, what we will eat, what it will mean to be a refugee – it gets even trickier. But imagining the societies of tomorrow can give us a fresh perspective on the challenges and opportunities of today.
We asked experts from our Global Future Councils for their take on the world in 2030, and these are the results, from the death of shopping to the resurgence of the nation state.

1. All products will have become services. 

“I don’t own anything. I don’t own a car. I don’t own a house. I don’t own any appliances or any clothes,” writes Danish MP Ida Auken. Shopping is a distant memory in the city of 2030, whose inhabitants have cracked clean energy and borrow what they need on demand. It sounds utopian, until she mentions that her every move is tracked and outside the city live swathes of discontents, the ultimate vision of a society split in two.

2. There is a global price on carbon. 

China took the lead in 2017 with a market for trading the right to emit a tonne of CO2, setting the world on a path towards a single carbon price and a powerful incentive to ditch fossil fuels, predicts Jane Burston, Head of Climate and Environment at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory. Europe, meanwhile, found itself at the centre of the trade in cheap, efficient solar panels, as prices for renewables fell sharply.

3. US dominance is over.

 We have a handful of global powers. Nation states will have staged a comeback, writes Robert Muggah, Research Director at the Igarapé Institute. Instead of a single force, a handful of countries – the U.S., Russia, China, Germany, India and Japan chief among them – show semi-imperial tendencies. However, at the same time, the role of the state is threatened by trends including the rise of cities and the spread of online identities.

4. Farewell hospital, hello home-spital. 

Technology will have further disrupted disease, writes Melanie Walker, a medical doctor and World Bank advisor. The hospital as we know it will be on its way out, with fewer accidents thanks to self-driving cars and great strides in preventive and personalised medicine. Scalpels and organ donors are out, tiny robotic tubes and bio-printed organs are in.

5. We are eating much less meat.

 Rather like our grandparents, we will treat meat as a treat rather than a staple, writes Tim Benton, Professor of Population Ecology at the University of Leeds, UK. It won’t be big agriculture or little artisan producers that win, but rather a combination of the two, with convenience food redesigned to be healthier and less harmful to the environment.

6. Today’s Syrian refugees, 2030’s CEOs. 

Highly educated Syrian refugees will have come of age by 2030, making the case for the economic integration of those who have been forced to flee conflict. The world needs to be better prepared for populations on the move, writes Lorna Solis, Founder and CEO of the NGO Blue Rose Compass, as climate change will have displaced 1 billion people.

7. The values that built the West will have been tested to breaking point. 

We forget the checks and balances that bolster our democracies at our peril, writes Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch.

8. “By the 2030s, we’ll be ready to move humans toward the Red Planet.” What’s more, once we get there, we’ll probably discover evidence of alien life, writes Ellen Stofan, Chief Scientist at NASA. Big science will help us to answer big questions about life on earth, as well as opening up practical applications for space technology.

Written by
Ceri Parker, Commissioning Editor, Agenda, World Economic Forum
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Energy Security: The New Black!

Local Micro grids using renewable energy will be more secure than anything we have today.

Climate, People & Organizations

As many Australian readers will know, ‘energy security’ has become the latest buzzword in government and industry circles. Much of this new focus has been driven by the political fallout following October’s catastrophic storms in South Australia and a state-wide power blackout. In the political recrimination that followed, the Federal Government and some media outlets argued that state government policies favouring renewable energy were (in part) to blame. Both the Prime Minister and the Federal Energy Minister quickly labelled energy security their ‘number one priority’ and established an energy security review to be chaired by the nations’ Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel. Interestingly however, the meaning of the term ‘energy security’ is itself open to multiple interpretations. To a large extent this ‘framing’ of ‘energy security’ reflects a number of developments that are playing out globally in the areas of energy and environmental policy.

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#Brexit, the populist surge and the crisis of complexity

Interesting times

Paul Arbair

BrexitThe British vote in favour of an exit from the EU has thrown the UK’s political system into chaos and shocked Europe and the world. The long-term consequences of this vote are still unclear, but some fear it could trigger the undoing of the UK and accelerate the disintegration of the EU. Many see this outcome as a new victory for populist movements, which are on the rise across much of the Western world. Something more fundamental, however, might be at play.

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Trump’s climate denial is just one of the forces that points towards war #auspol

By George Monbiot

The failure to get to grips with our crises, by all mainstream political parties, is likely to lead to a war between the major powers in my lifetime.

Wave the magic wand and the problem goes away. 

Those pesky pollution laws, carbon caps and clean-power plans: swish them away and the golden age of blue-collar employment will return. This is Donald Trump’s promise, in his video message on Monday, in which the US president-elect claimed that unleashing coal and fracking would create “many millions of high-paid jobs”. 

He will tear down everything to make it come true.

But it won’t come true. Even if we ripped the world to pieces in the search for full employment, leaving no mountain unturned, we would not find it.

 Instead, we would merely jeopardise the prosperity – and the lives – of people everywhere. 

However slavishly governments grovel to corporate Luddism, they will not bring the smog economy back.

No one can deny the problem Trump claims to be addressing. 

The old mining and industrial areas are in crisis throughout the rich world. And we have seen nothing yet. I have just reread the study published by the Oxford Martin School in 2013 on the impacts of computerisation. 

What jumps out, to put it crudely, is that jobs in the rust belts and rural towns that voted for Trump are at high risk of automation, while the professions of many Hillary Clinton supporters are at low risk.

The jobs most likely to be destroyed are in mining, raw materials, manufacturing, transport and logistics, cargo handling, warehousing and retailing, construction (prefabricated buildings will be assembled by robots in factories), office support, administration and telemarketing. So what, in the areas that voted for Trump, will be left?

Farm jobs have mostly gone already. Service and care work, where hope for some appeared to lie, will be threatened by a further wave of automation, as service robots – commercial and domestic – take over.
Yes, there will be jobs in the green economy: more and better than any that could be revived in the fossil economy. But they won’t be enough to fill the gaps, and many will be in the wrong places for those losing their professions.
At lower risk is work that requires negotiation, persuasion, originality and creativity. 

The management and business jobs that demand these skills are comparatively safe from automation; so are those of lawyers, teachers, researchers, doctors, journalists, actors and artists. The jobs that demand the highest educational attainment are the least susceptible to computerisation. 

The divisions tearing America apart will only widen.

Even this bleak analysis does not capture in full the underlying reasons why good, abundant jobs will not return to the places that need them most. As Paul Mason argues in PostCapitalism, the impacts of information technology go way beyond simple automation: they are likely to destroy the very basis of the market economy, and the relationship between work and wages.

And, as the French writer Paul Arbair notes in the most interesting essay I have read this year, beyond a certain level of complexity economies become harder to sustain. There’s a point at which further complexity delivers diminishing returns; society is then overwhelmed by its demands, and breaks down. He argues that the political crisis in western countries suggests we may have reached this point.

Trump has also announced that on his first day in office he will withdraw America from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). He is right to do so, but for the wrong reasons. 

Like TTIP and Ceta, the TPP is a fake trade treaty whose primary impact is to extend corporate property rights at the expense of both competition and democracy. But withdrawal will not, as he claims, “bring jobs and industry back to American shores”. The work in Mexico and China that Trump wants to reclaim will evaporate long before it can be repatriated.

As for the high-quality, high-waged working-class jobs he promised, these are never handed down from on high. 

They are secured through the organisation of labour. 

But the unions were smashed by Ronald Reagan, and collective bargaining has been suppressed ever since by casualisation and fragmentation.

 So how is this going to happen? Out of the kindness of Trump’s heart? Kindness, Trump, heart?
But it’s not just Trump. Clinton and Bernie Sanders also made impossible promises to bring back jobs. Half the platform of each party was based on a delusion. The social, environmental and economic crises we face require a complete reappraisal of the way we live and work. 

The failure by mainstream political parties to produce a new and persuasive economic narrative, which does not rely on sustaining impossible levels of growth and generating illusory jobs, provides a marvellous opening for demagogues everywhere.

Governments across the world are making promises they cannot keep. 

In the absence of a new vision, their failure to materialise will mean only one thing: something or someone must be found to blame.

 As people become angrier and more alienated, as the complexity and connectivity of global systems becomes ever harder to manage, as institutions such as the European Union collapse and as climate change renders parts of the world uninhabitable, forcing hundreds of millions of people from their homes, the net of blame will be cast ever wider.

Eventually the anger that cannot be assuaged through policy will be turned outwards, towards other nations. 

Faced with a choice between hard truths and easy lies, politicians and their supporters in the media will discover that foreign aggression is among the few options for political survival.

 I now believe that we will see war between the major powers within my lifetime. 

Which ones it will involve, and on what apparent cause, remains far from clear. But something that once seemed remote now looks probable.

A complete reframing of economic life is needed not just to suppress the existential risk that climate change presents (a risk marked by a 20°C anomaly reported in the Arctic Ocean while I was writing this article), but other existential threats as well – including war. 

Today’s governments, whether they are run by Trump or Obama or May or Merkel, lack the courage and imagination even to open this conversation.

 It is left to others to conceive of a more plausible vision than trying to magic back the good old days. 

The task for all those who love this world and fear for our children is to imagine a different future rather than another past.

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World War II mobilisation for climate action #auspol 

Drawing upon episodes of World War II mobilisations Dr. Delina lays out contingency climate action strategies based upon the relative optimism provided by rapid deployment of demonstrated and proven sustainable energy technologies.

In this assessment of accelerated sustainable energy transitions, Dr. Delina describes in a thought experiment how we could quickly mobilise the required technologies, finance, and labour resources, as well as how these processes can be coordinated by governments. 

Although wartime narratives can provide some lenses for getting us back to a safer climate, Dr. Delina acknowledges that this analogy is far from perfect.

Dr. Laurence Delina discusses his recent book, ‘Strategies for Rapid Climate Mitigation: wartime mobilisation as a model for action?’.

Press link for audio presentation: Breakthrough online

What Does A Trump Presidency Mean For Climate-Change Education? #auspol 

By Tania Lombrozo

On Nov. 8, the World Meteorological Organization published a press release summarizing the findings from a report on global climate from 2011-2015.

The report identified the last five years as the hottest on record, with 2015 marking the first year with global temperatures more than 1 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial era. Arctic sea ice declined, sea levels rose and many extreme weather events occurred — events that were “made more likely as a result of human-induced (anthropogenic) climate change.”
The same day the press release was published, Donald Trump was elected as the next president of the United States.

This combination of events is deeply troubling. Trump has called climate change a hoax and has threatened to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement to limit climate change. Already, Trump has named climate skeptic Myron Ebell to head his Environmental Protection Agency transition team.
More generally, there’s speculation and concern about what a Trump presidency will mean for scientifically informed policy, for science funding and for science education. 

In an evaluation by Scientific American of four presidential candidates’ responses to 20 questions about science posed by, Trump came in last, with 7 points out of a possible 100. (For comparison, Clinton earned the highest score at 64).
“The good thing about science,” says Neil deGrasse Tyson, “is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” But the bad thing about science — at least when it comes to issues like climate change — is that it’s true whether or not government policies take it into account.
In sum: The next four years aren’t looking good for science (or for the natural world). Concerns are especially acute when it comes to climate change and science education, where today’s policies will have effects that extend well beyond a single presidential term.
To help me think about the implications of a Trump presidency for climate change education and for science instruction more generally, I was fortunate to reach Ann Reid, executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a non-profit organization with the stated mission of defending “the integrity of science education against ideological interference.”
Reid answered several questions about the future of science education in a conversation by email:
The National Center for Science Education initially focused on evolution education, but since 2012 climate-change education has also been a core focus. Why do you think climate-change education is so important?
Climate-change education is important because climate change is important — certainly the most important environmental challenge of our age. But the now-robust scientific consensus about its magnitude and potential consequences has emerged relatively recently; few people over 30 learned anything about it when they were in school. So making sure that the next generation understands what we know, how we know it, and what we can do about it, is absolutely essential.
What is NCSE’s particular mission when it comes to climate change education? 

Historically, we focused on evolution — an area of the science curriculum that faced (and continues to face) relentless interference by those who reject the vast and varied evidence for evolution for religious reasons. We added climate change to our mission because we were seeing the same kinds of tactics that had long been used against evolution being deployed against climate change. Calls for teachers to “teach both sides,” “teach the controversy,” or “emphasize the strengths and weaknesses” of the science. All of these approaches are insidious: superficially banal but substantively dangerous. There are not two scientifically valid “sides,” nor is there a scientific “controversy,” nor are there “weaknesses” in the evidence for either evolution or climate change that merit emphasis in the high school classroom.
What is especially disturbing is that even as these efforts to interfere with the science curriculum have generally been blocked, they have, in a way, still succeeded, because they have singled out these areas of science as somehow different from the rest of science. Even those teachers who just want to teach the science are uneasy: Will there be pushback? 

Will parents or school board members complain? In too many cases, this uneasiness leads to compromise. We know that some 60 percent of high school public biology teachers somehow hedge, thin down, or avoid teaching evolution altogether. About one-quarter of middle- and high-school science teachers confusingly emphasize both that “many scientists believe that recent increases in temperature are likely due to natural causes” and “scientists agree that recent global warming is primarily being caused by human release of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels.” This kind of mixed message not only interferes with teaching climate change and evolution, but risks confusing students about the nature of science itself. Students need to leave school understanding that scientific conclusions are based on evidence, not beliefs.
What do you see as the greatest current threats to the integrity of science education in general, and to climate change education in particular?
We are deeply concerned that the politicization of climate change will continue to have a chilling effect in classrooms, where many teachers may be reluctant simply to teach the science, which is straightforward and unambiguous. Rising levels of carbon dioxide trap heat.

 Humans are releasing a lot of carbon dioxide. That’s the crux of the scientific argument and it’s not very complicated! 

Even though climate change is covered well in the Next Generation Science Standards, and is likely to be included in much greater depth in new editions of textbooks, if teachers are concerned about community disapproval, they may nevertheless avoid teaching the science, or inappropriately present it as debatable.
It is important to recognize that most science teachers have not received any formal instruction in climate change, a topic that crosses disciplinary boundaries and has not traditionally been a required course for aspiring science teachers. In our survey, teachers reported great enthusiasm for professional development on the topic; they need and deserve to get that training, along with advice on how to deal with potential conflict and confusion.
What is the NCSE doing to address these threats?
We have a three-pronged strategy: support teachers directly, get scientists involved in helping teachers cover climate change, and support teachers indirectly by organizing communities to bring fun, accessible, respectful climate change activities to public events and raise funds to support their local science teachers. We call the three programs NCSEteach, Scientist in the Classroom and NCSE Science Booster Clubs. 

Our goal is to ensure that every single science teacher has the expertise and support they need to teach climate change confidently and accurately.
How, if at all, do you anticipate that a Trump presidency will affect science education or public attitudes towards science?
The good news is that the federal government has little direct control over local science education; standards, curricula and assessment are all determined at the state level or below.

 For us, the danger is that the utterly baseless arguments that climate change isn’t happening, isn’t human-caused, or isn’t serious, are likely to gain even greater exposure. The more credence is given to the wrong-headed assertions that the science is unsettled (at best) or fraudulent (at worst), the harder it will be for teachers to do the right thing and teach the science straight up. Sadly, it isn’t even necessary to present any genuine evidence against the scientific consensus, all the rejecters of the science need to do is cast enough doubt, and education will suffer.
What can parents do who want to support science education at their children’s schools?
I’m so glad you asked! We have lots of advice on our website. 

Briefly, be sure to let your children’s teachers know that you support climate change education. 

Don’t assume it’s being covered, and covered appropriately. 

Ask your children what they’re learning in class and keep an eye on homework assignments. Offer to help by identifying local resources or accompanying field trips (or just encourage teachers to join NCSEteach). You can also get involved at the level of your school or district by letting science coordinators, principals and school board members know that you support climate change education. Go to school board meetings. Encourage local media to ask school board candidates about their position on climate change education.
Finally, NCSE’s Science Booster Club program is now entering an expansion phase, after a successful pilot in and around Iowa City. If you really want to get involved, contact Emily Schoerning at and learn about starting a science booster club in your community.
Are there other ways that concerned citizens and “citizen scientists” can effectively contribute to the quality of science education in formal or informal settings?
If you’re a citizen who loves science, there are so many great, local, science resources: museums, zoos, parks, nature centers, after-school programs and more. Join them! Support them! Bring your children and your neighbors’ children to visit them! And, of course, there are wonderful environmental groups to join that raise awareness, organize local activities and lobby for effective policies.
If you’re a citizen who wants to do science, there are more and more opportunities to participate in projects by collecting data and pooling your results with lots of other citizens. For example the Zooniverse website lists 45 possible projects you can join, eight of them focused on climate. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Gorongoza lesson plan allows students to participate in ongoing ecology research in the Gorongoza National Park in Mozambique. Who doesn’t want to help track elephants? Those are just a few options; there are many more available.
Are there any additional thoughts you’d like to share with readers of 13.7?
In my book, science teachers are real heroes. For many, many people, a high school science teacher was the last connection they had to the world of science. A good science teacher can give students the tools they need to be curious, critical and confident evaluators of evidence about all sorts of topics throughout their lives. This ability — to be curious, but also discerning — has never been more important now that we essentially have a universe of information at our fingertips, with the valid and the spurious often difficult to distinguish. Making sure our science teachers have what they need to do a good job is an investment that will pay off for decades.
Tania Lombrozo is a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley. She writes about psychology, cognitive science and philosophy, with occasional forays into parenting and veganism. You can keep up with more of what she is thinking on Twitter: @TaniaLombrozo

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Trump is the wake-up call on #climatechange we needed #Auspol 

By Julian Cribb

Contrary to appearances, Donald Trump might just be the best thing that ever happened to climate action.
The presence of a climate denier in the White House and his obtuse, coal-funded minions in key government posts is liable to ignite such fury among sensible people across America and around the world as to accelerate the demise of coal, oil and gas (“the fossils”) and the adoption of climate-saving policies at every level from home to city to industry, to nation, to the world itself.

Trump might be just the bitter medicine we needed to jerk us out of our complacency about what a 4 or 5-degree world will really be like: approaching uninhabitable.
Depending on the rate at which Arctic methane is released, the world has somewhere between 15-20 years to do away with fossil fuels completely. After that, a hot world of +4 or +5 degrees, with all the food, water, conflict and migration crises for billions that entails, becomes almost unavoidable. 

The US election result has gifted the sedate pace of climate action from Paris COP22 with a fresh urgency as, around the world, people wake up to the brutal fact that if they wait for government action then Hell will not freeze over but engulf the planet in a conflagration that will consume their children and grandchildren.
Waiting for governments to agree on the necessity of saving civilisation is, in a phrase, a mug’s game. 

Their hearts aren’t in it, and there are far too many juicy bribes and sinecures for individual politicians not to mention political parties paid off by the coal lobby to posture and then sit on their hands. 

In Australia, for example, a recent count (by Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham) tagged more than 40 retired MPs, their staffers and former public servants as working for the dark side – that’s the side that doesn’t care if your grandkids burn. There are scores of closet Trumps among us.

If Trump and his ilk are to be stopped from their headlong, selfish pursuit of planetary devastation, it will be by the people of the planet – not the institutions or politicians. Here’s how.

Go green
Not even Trump can defy world market reality. The one thing that can destroy the price and profitability of coal, oil and gas is low-cost renewable energy. As they well know – hence all the campaigns against wind turbines and solar farms. 

Put solar on your home, support your city or local government in taking your community off-grid. 

Invest in tidal, wave, geothermal and the new energies to balance the power supply. 

Resources companies have the option to go green themselves – they just don’t want to. They will end up with stranded assets and bankrupt, like many US coal majors already are.

Divest now
Don’t put your life savings into anything that might destroy your grandkids. It’s not a formula for human survival. Ethical and green investment services are mushrooming. Concerned citizens can compel their bank, super fund, university, local government etc to invest ethically by demanding accountability, including divestment in fossil fuels – and by shifting their accounts. In the Trump years, there will be massive global divestment by hundreds of millions in the source of the greatest hazard facing humanity.
Sue the bastards
Though they may look like pinpricks for now, there is a rolling wave of lawsuits around the world against their governments for failing in their duty of care, and against the oil and coal majors for risking human lives and destroying the environment. Every lawsuit adds to the sovereign risk of investing in fossil fuels – and scares other, less ethical, investors. Shrewd investment analysts are already advising their clients to bail out of fossils, and there’s not a darn thing Trump and his acolytes can do to stop it.
Many people still underestimate the power, in a social media age, of peaceful citizens’ protests to change minds, values and perceptions within communities and countries. The way the world, especially its indigenous communities, has rallied behind the Sioux nation to oppose the Keystone tar sands pipeline is a case in point. As are the citizens’ protests over the Liverpool Plains and Adani. Local protests over just causes reverberate worldwide. There is a global movement building that responds instantly.
Trust the youth
Following the US election, the electoral map of how 18-24 year olds voted gained currency. Young Americans, at any rate, are not willing to be pawned to the interests of the fossils. Globally, many of the lawsuits against government or the fossils are led by youngsters, even teenagers – and for similar reasons. This is a demographic that can only grow and, aided by social media, can do so at lightspeed and universally.
Change your habits
The food industry contributes roughly 30 per cent of global climate change drivers, and wastes about 40 per cent of all food. So stop wasting food, and buy it from farmers who care, not from supermarkets who don’t. Don’t buy your kids plastic toys – you are only funding the very petrochemical industry that threatens their future. Likewise look for organic food, clothing and household products, which are produced without petrochemicals (pesticides, dyes, preservatives etc). Again, there’s nothing the Trumpists can do to stop you eating and shopping more safely and sustainably – and contributing your dollar signals to a burgeoning global marketplace.
Electric cars are only a climate solution if the electricity they run on is renewable not fossil – but some stunning technologies are just around the corner, including using vehicles themselves as generators of green energy into the local grid. The worldwide spread of high voltage DC (HVDC) cables over thousands of kilometres is the genesis of an international grid for moving energy efficiently around the planet: one day your home may help run a factory in China. Sunlight in the Sahara will help power Europe, etc.
In the face of universal threats like climate change, people often feel powerless to influence the future. This is no longer the case, as these six examples show. You can have quite a big impact simply by choosing where you shop, bank, mortgage your home and save your money. Aligned with hundreds of millions of others, equally concerned, equally empowered, you can change the world.
If humanity itself forms a consensus to prevent and mitigate climate change it will be a political act like none other in history. No nation, corporate, religious order, political party or belief system can stop it, because they will have no power over it. It will unleash the next great phase of global economic growth and development, the new industries, jobs and opportunities that transition us into a sustainable, prosperous world.
So, thanks Donald, for supplying the wake-up call.
Julian Cribb is author of Surviving the 21st Century

Press link for more: Canberra Times

China Takes the Climate Spotlight as U.S. Heads for Exit #auspol

If the U.S. backs out of the Paris accord, it could give China the upper hand on a host of international issues.
By Jean Chemnick, ClimateWire on November 18, 2016

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with US President Barack Obama (L) before their meeting at the West Lake State Guest House ahead of G20 Summit on September 3, 2016 in Hangzhou, China. Credit: Wang Zhou, Pool, Getty Images

MARRAKECH, Morocco—The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States has the world holding out for a climate hero, and parties here are determined that it be China.

The world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter and second-largest economy is not backing away from the challenge—or the Paris Agreement, as Trump has vowed to do.

Xie Zhenhua, China’s top special envoy, reiterated yesterday that his country’s stance on the climate deal will “remain the same and unchanged,” no matter what the world’s other economic superpower chooses to do.

“China will fulfill and honor its commitments to the Paris Agreement,” he said.

That’s been the Chinese message throughout the U.N. conference that concludes today in this imperial desert town. Participants here, still reeling from last week’s news that the United States has elected a president who plans to cancel or renegotiate Paris, have warned that China’s steadfastness will place America at a competitive advantage economically and politically if Trump doesn’t recant.

“One of the risks that I think the Trump administration needs to consider is the risk that China will become a global leader in this new technology, which is market-driven, and the Americans will be left behind,” said Leon Charles, a former veteran negotiator from Grenada.

“I can’t imagine a scenario where U.S. companies are not in that game,” echoed U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing. The U.S. delegation has taken to answering all questions about Trump’s Paris stance by presenting climate action as an economic boon.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with US President Barack Obama (L) before their meeting at the West Lake State Guest House ahead of G20 Summit on September 3, 2016 in Hangzhou, China. Credit: Wang Zhou, Pool, Getty Images

MARRAKECH, Morocco—The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States has the world holding out for a climate hero, and parties here are determined that it be China.

The world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter and second-largest economy is not backing away from the challenge—or the Paris Agreement, as Trump has vowed to do.

Xie Zhenhua, China’s top special envoy, reiterated yesterday that his country’s stance on the climate deal will “remain the same and unchanged,” no matter what the world’s other economic superpower chooses to do.

“China will fulfill and honor its commitments to the Paris Agreement,” he said.

That’s been the Chinese message throughout the U.N. conference that concludes today in this imperial desert town. Participants here, still reeling from last week’s news that the United States has elected a president who plans to cancel or renegotiate Paris, have warned that China’s steadfastness will place America at a competitive advantage economically and politically if Trump doesn’t recant.

“One of the risks that I think the Trump administration needs to consider is the risk that China will become a global leader in this new technology, which is market-driven, and the Americans will be left behind,” said Leon Charles, a former veteran negotiator from Grenada.

“I can’t imagine a scenario where U.S. companies are not in that game,” echoed U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing. The U.S. delegation has taken to answering all questions about Trump’s Paris stance by presenting climate action as an economic boon.

A look at China’s recent progress on climate and energy shows that China has indeed made strides in both—policies its officials here say are in the country’s own national interest.

Data from the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) show China bringing renewable energy and energy efficiency equipment online at record speed, a fact IEA energy head Dave Turk said has helped to “move the needle” on global deployment of these technologies.

IEA’s “World Energy Investment” report shows that China was the largest destination of renewable-based power capacity investment in the world last year, reaching more than $90 billion, or over 60 percent of its total investment in generation.

China also appears likely to deliver on its Paris pledges of peaking emissions and drawing 20 percent of non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030 several years early. Add to that the boom in Chinese renewable energy and next year’s debut of an economywide cap-and-trade program, and China has become a much-needed good-news story here.

By contrast, Trump’s presidency casts serious doubt on the United States’ ability to meet its own commitment to cut emissions between 26 and 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025—though the U.S. delegation has promised foreign colleagues here that America’s private sector can deliver without federal support.

Observers here say a voluntary U.S. exodus from the Paris Agreement just as its rulebook is beginning to take shape would obliterate U.S. influence over this process. Issues that it has championed in the past—like greater transparency in monitoring, reporting and verification processes—may be watered down.

David Sandalow, a former assistant secretary at the Department of Energy, said that if China is perceived by other countries to be the stalwart defender of climate action, it could gain the upper hand over a laggard United States on other issues, like the South China Sea or intellectual property rights.

“The United States and China agree on some issues and disagree on others,” noted Sandalow, who now heads Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. “And we have tensions on some issues where we are seeking to enlist the aid of other countries to support us. If the United States were to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and China gains credibility as a result, China would have more credibility with other countries across a whole range of issues.”

Jane Nakano, a senior fellow and China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., said China would indeed gain leverage for itself and other developing countries if it remains within Paris while the United States exits.

“If the U.S. pulls out and China delivers on its commitment in both the qualitative and quantitative terms, China will have a much stronger case in its effort to have a global energy governance system that is much more multi-polar in nature and has greater voice from [developing] countries,” she said in an email to E&E News. “The extent to which this may spill into other areas is a much harder question.”

If Trump’s Paris exit is perceived by other countries as a symptom of a broader U.S. decline vis-à-vis China, that will weaken the United States’ position in Asia-Pacific politics, she said.

Back in Washington, D.C., Republicans who support Trump say they’re not worried about seeing China filling America’s void on climate diplomacy.

“That would be great, since they’re one of the world’s leading polluters,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R).

“I just don’t have a lot of confidence that the Paris Agreement will lead to any meaningful outcome,” Rubio said. “The largest carbon emitters and the ones who are emitting the most in the future aren’t even committed to doing anything meaningful for two decades or longer.”
China’s role as a potential climate hero is new. Vanquished Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton frequently recounted how she and President Obama crashed a meeting led by the Chinese at the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, to insist that China come back to the negotiating table.

And for years, China insisted that as a developing nation, its responsibilities to cut emissions were much less than those of rich countries like the United States. But that long-held position was effectively demolished in 2014 when President Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping jointly announced their Paris pledges. It included China’s first-ever promise to cap greenhouse gas emissions and injected new life into the flagging U.N. climate process.

Obama and Xi have now reached four leader-level agreements on climate change. And whatever advantages China sees following from its continued commitment to the Paris deal, Chinese officials have said here all week that they want the United States to honor all of its commitments.

“The participation of the U.S. is very important to China because these are the two most important economies in the world,” said Lingling Mu, general manager of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Network on Green Supply Chain. “We borrowed the concept of carbon trading from the U.S., and we participated with the U.S. in other developing countries in fighting climate change.”

Li Shuo of Greenpeace China noted that Obama and Xi set up several bilateral working groups and processes under the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue that are now in question. He said he expected Xi to continue to insist that Trump make good on the promises Obama made, not only to the world but to China.

“I would expect this to be raised in the most important bilateral relationship in the world,” he said. “I would expect it to be raised from the Chinese side.”

If Trump reneges, he said, “reputational costs will be very significant.”

Climate change, which has been a bright spot in an otherwise complicated U.S.-China relationship, could become an area of particular tension between the world’s two superpowers if China perceives it has been jilted, Li said.

Meanwhile, China has expressed some trepidation about becoming the world’s climate “leader,” especially when it comes to providing finance.

China’s top special envoy Xie yesterday noted China’s willingness to partner with other countries or alliances, including the European Union. The feeling appears to be mutual. E.U. Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said yesterday that the bloc will seek ways to partner with China in the wake of the U.S. election.

Li noted that the uncertainty around what Trump might do has elevated Chinese participation with other countries higher on the agenda.

“If we lose one of the most important engines in this process, all the other engines need to work harder,” he said.

But while many painted a rosy picture of Chinese commitment, Harvard University’s Robert Stavins said a U.S. departure could still signal the unravelling of the Paris accord as other countries become reluctant to take on commitments.

“Think about the fact that the U.S. and China together were pulling along an unwilling and uninterested India, think about all the other countries, think also about within China the opposition that exists within the government to taking on targets and taking on costs and hurting your international competitiveness,” he said.

Reporters Umair Ifran and Kavya Balaraman contributed.

Press link for more: Scientific American

Countries hit by climate change pledge to go 100% renewable #auspol

By Megan Darby in Marrakech

Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Costa Rica are in 47-strong coalition aspiring to go 100% renewable, with international support, in Marrakech statement.

Bangladesh is one of the most exposed countries in the world to flooding and sea level rise (Flickr/Nasif Ahmed/UNDP Bangladesh)
Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Costa Rica are among 47 countries on the front line of global warming impacts that “will strive to lead” the transition to a green economy.
At UN climate talks in Marrakech, the Climate Vulnerable Forum set out an intention to go 100% renewable and carbon neutral. Members promised to update their national climate plans and produce mid-century strategies before 2020, in line with the aspirational 1.5C global warming limit agreed last year in Paris.
“The impact climate change has brought on us is very high and we have come here to make sure we have a say in our common future,” said forum chair Gemedo Dalle, environment minister of Ethiopia.
Collectively responsible for greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to Russia, members of the informal grouping have huge latent demand for energy.
Low-lying Bangladesh, while already suffering from rising sea levels and flooding, is planning more than 20 coal power plants to meet the needs of its 157 million people. This path of development was “suicide”, US secretary of state John Kerry said in a speech to the conference on Wednesday.
The communique stressed that climate change endangers development and peace, calling for support to take a greener path.
“We shouldn’t see it as a burden, but an opportunity,” said Saleemul Huq, Bangladeshi adviser to the forum. “Climate vulnerable countries can seize those opportunities.”

The Forum was a driving force for including 1.5C in the Paris Agreement, as well as the more widely accepted 2C goal.
Scientists say the chances of holding global warming to that lower threshold are vanishingly small, more than ever now a climate sceptic is taking charge of the world’s second largest emitter. Still, those who will be most affected by warming are not abandoning hope.
“This level of ambition and this vision is needed now more than ever,” said UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa, speaking at the forum meeting. “We welcome these decisions adopted by the members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum and we assure you of our support for the implementation of this vision.”
By declaring their intentions, the poorer parties to the UN climate talks aim to shame developed countries into stepping up their efforts. All have been invited to submit more ambitious targets by 2020, but it is not clear how that fits into the political cycles of the EU, US and other rich nations.
“It’s sad that it is the countries suffering first and worst from climate change that need to go furthest and fastest to show the world what needs to be done,” said Mohamed Adow, climate lead at Christian Aid. “But thank heavens they have done. Now it’s up to other nations to follow their lead.”
Climate bigwigs were quick to shower praise on the show of commitment.
“These ambitious and inspiring commitments show the path forward for others and give us all renewed optimism that we are going to meet the challenge before us and meet it in time,” said former US vice president Al Gore.
EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said: “These countries are already living the terrifying reality of climate change today and their very existence is on the line. The EU stands with them and their commitment to greater ambition in the years ahead.”
Espinosa’s predecessor Christiana Figueres, who steered UN climate talks towards the Paris Agreement, sounded a typically optimistic note: “Our goal must be to bend the curve of emissions by 2020 in order to limit temperature rise to 1.5C and enable an orderly and just transition. For this we must accelerate the shift of capital and promote radical collaboration among all stakeholders. We can do it.”

Press link for more: Climate Change News