Month: September 2017

“Burning Coal Has Consequences!” #StopAdani #Auspol 

Environmental groups win court battle over approach to climate analysis of coal mining
Bureau of Land Management failed to conduct proper climate analysis of coal leases, court rules.
Sep 15, 2017, 3:07 pm

The coal leases are part of an expansion of the Black Thunder Mine in Wright, Wyoming. CREDIT: AP Photo/Matthew Brown


The coal leases are part of an expansion of the Black Thunder Mine in Wright, Wyoming. CREDIT: AP Photo/Matthew Brown

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the Bureau of Land Management failed to adequately consider the climate impacts of several coal leases in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, delivering a major win to environmental groups who challenged the agency’s environmental analysis of the leases.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated the BLM, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, violated federal law by skipping in-depth analysis of the potential climate impacts from four coal leases that would extend the production life of the nation’s two most productive coal mines, the North Antelope Rochelle mine and the Black Thunder mine.

 The two surface mines sit on federal land in northeast Wyoming.

In 2012, the Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians brought a lawsuit against the BLM, arguing the agency failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act when it concluded that issuing the leases would not result in higher national carbon dioxide emissions.


“Burning coal has consequences, and the court’s decision today recognizes that our environment is more important than pandering to an obsolete industry,” Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians, said Friday in a statement.
A district court upheld BLM’s decision to issue the leases. 

But the environmental groups in January 2016 appealed the case to the 10th Circuit.

 In overturning the lower court’s ruling, the appeals court concluded the BLM’s analysis was arbitrary and capricious and that its decision-making record for the coal leases did not include any clear support for its conclusion.


The decision comes one month after a federal judge blocked a proposed expansion of an underground coal mine in Montana because the project’s climate change impacts were not adequately considered by the federal Office of Surface Mining. 

In the Montana case, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ruled the agency inflated the economic benefits of the Signal Peak Energy’s Bull Mountain coal mine while minimizing its environmental impact. 

The judge ordered the company to stop mining in the proposed expansion area pending further studies.
Judge blocks coal mine expansion, citing lack of adequate climate analysis
Expansion would make Bull Mountain the nation’s largest underground coal mine.
In Friday’s decision, the appeals court remanded the Wyoming case to BLM to revise its environmental impact statements and records of decision. The court, however, decided not to do away with the leases. The court noted that three out of the four leases are actively being mined.
Although there are more than 1,000 coal mines in the United States, the North Antelope Rochelle and Black Thunder mines currently produce about 20 percent of the coal used to generate electricity in the country. The mine expansions would add two billion tons to the nation’s total coal production. The Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians stated in their lawsuit that this additional two billion tons of coal would drastically increase the amount of carbon emitted by coal-burning power plants.
While the court’s decision may not significantly affect the Wyoming leases, it “will have a dramatic impact on how the BLM and the Department of the Interior assess future land leases for fossil fuels — giving the public a clearer picture of how public land used for extraction by fossil fuel companies will impact the most significant environmental threat facing the world today,” the Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians said.
“Today’s decision sheds new light on the destructive consequences of leasing our most precious lands to corporate polluters who value their balance sheets more than public health,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a statement. “Climate change is the most pressing environmental issue we face, and this decision recognizes a simple truth: BLM’s choices matter. It can no longer stick its head in the sand and ignore its contribution to the climate problem.”

Press link for more: Think Progress

UN Secretary General “We see the consequences daily!” #ClimateChange #StopAdani  

Secretary-General’s remarks at High-Level Stakeholder Dialogue on Climate Change [as delivered]
You are the backbone of the global movement that led to the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015. 
In Paris, we rose to a global challenge.
Now we have an even bigger challenge: raising ambition and staying on course.
Emissions are going down, but not enough.  
The temperature is still rising.

We see the consequences daily.
We count the costs in lives, livelihoods and damaged economies.
Since 2008 – you know better than me – some 20 million people a year have been forcibly displaced by floods, storms, fires and extreme temperature.


Many more are on the move due to droughts and sea level rise and climate change is not a distant problem for future generations. 
It is here, it is now, and we need to deal with it.
Governments alone cannot handle the enormity of this challenge, even when they want, which is not always the case.
That is why the Paris Pledge for Action attracted more than 1,300 signatures.  
We are seeing action around the globe and many examples show it.
The shipping industry is working to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint through the Global Industry Alliance.  
In Kenya, innovative solar ‘pay as you go’ mobile companies are providing affordable energy in rural and remote areas. 
Similar public-private partnerships are supporting energy-efficient lighting in key urban areas in Egypt.  
National Centres of excellence on sustainable energy are being established in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – the world capital of oil.
Michael Bloomberg, with the Global Covenant of Mayors, and he is here with us, is leading efforts to build resilient cities. 
I will ask him as my Special Envoy to accelerate and deepen the role of sub-national actors in implementing the Paris Agreement in preparation for the 2019 Climate Summit.
California is convening a Summit of all non-state actors in 2018.  
An increasing number of private companies and businesses are taking the lead in adopting a carbon price. 
In the transport sector, car manufacturers, Tesla, Volkswagen, Volvo and many others are going electric.  
In the tech industry, we see companies like Google and Apple moving towards a target of 100 per cent renewable energy. 
Institutional investors have committed to climate action. 
Financial rule-makers, such as central banks and regulators, are responding to the risks and opportunities of climate change.
But, we still have far to go to make climate action a natural part of the global financial system. 
High-carbon investments are still massive.

The commitments made under the Paris Agreement, in the Nationally Determined Contributions, are clearly insufficient. 
There is at least a 14 Gigaton carbon gap. 
That is why we are here today.
We can change this situation. 
I am ready to work with all you to help remove barriers to your efforts. 
Finding out how and where I can help is my central objective in this meeting. 
I see three areas of focus.
First, growing and deepening your role. 
Let us think about how all stakeholders’ contribution can be recognized and measured against the goals set out in the Paris Agreement.
Second, removing barriers to the mobilization of finances and creating bankable projects. 
Tens of billions of dollars are needed to implement country actions. 
Neither governments nor the public financing mechanism can bear the cost. 
Your contribution is vital.
Third, intensifying efforts in high impact areas, such as technology, energy transmission, carbon pricing, and risk mitigation. 
In 2019, I intend that the Climate Summit will forge even closer alliances between governments and business for implementing the Paris Agreement. 
I hope, together, we can emphatically bend the emission curve by 2020.
Let us expand the limits of the possible. 
You can tell us how.
I look forward to learn with you.
Thank you very much.

Press link for more: UN.ORG

Coal Kills People! #StopAdani #Auspol 

Enough tiptoeing around. 

Let’s make this clear: coal kills people!

Tim HolloLast modified on Monday 18 September 2017 06.12 AEST


Emissions from a coal fired power station in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia.

‘How can journalists and editors report on the politics of coal on one page and bushfires around Sydney in September on another without making the connection?’ Photograph: Ashley Cooper/Getty Images

Coal kills people. 

This isn’t even slightly scientifically controversial.

From the mines to the trains to the climate disruption; from black lung to asthma, heat stress to hunger, fires to floods: coal is killing people in Australia and around the world right now.

Yet we are once again having what passes for political debate about extending the life of coal-fired power stations and, extraordinarily, building new ones.

 The conversation is completely disconnected from the fact that two thirds of Bangladesh was reported to be underwater, record-breaking hurricanes were battering the US, and wildfires were roaring in both the northern and southern hemispheres at the same time.

Even the Greens only talk coyly about the impact of climate change on our “way of life”. 

It’s time we put it clearly: If Malcolm Turnbull, Barnaby Joyce and their colleagues succeed in extending the life of the Liddell power station, let alone building new coal, they will kill people. 

Burning more coal, knowing what we know, is a deliberate act of arson, lighting a match in dry bushland, with homes just around the bend and a hot wind blowing in their direction.
It’s hard to say that. It’s hard to read it.

 But we must come to grips with this connection urgently.
And it is connection – and disconnection – which is at the heart of the problem, and which points the way to the only hope for a solution.
How is it that our politicians can be so drastically disconnected from the consequences of their actions?
 How can citizens not be out on the streets?


 How can corporate executives be continuing business as usual (a business as usual that is moving away from coal, but still nowhere near fast enough to avoid catastrophic climate disruption)? How can journalists and editors report on the politics of coal on one page and bushfires around Sydney in September on another without making the connection?
The answer, I would suggest, is because connection is fundamentally at odds with how we have trained ourselves to see the world. Our economic, social and political system is based around disconnection. And our most vital and urgent task is to find ways to get over that, to draw each other and our ideas together, to see the world as the glorious interconnected ecosystem it is.
We are, today, at the end point of a millennia-long process of disconnection. Since we first built cities and started leaving the land, we have been disconnecting from nature; losing sight of it, quite literally; losing our vocabulary of it, to the extent that blackberry is no longer a fruit to be plucked and eaten but a device to tie us to our desks when we’re on the toilet.
Nature was just the beginning. While this slow severing has been going on for thousands of years, the last few centuries – the reformation, the enlightenment, the industrial revolution, and capitalism – performed the amputation.
In capitalism, we have created the first social organising principle based on selfishness, the first system to make greed, competition, non-cooperation its credo. In Thatcherism, we have the declaration that there is no such thing as society. In neoliberalism, we have a system which alienates us from each other, from our labour, from democracy; a system which declares we have great choice while turning everything into a supermarket aisle full of different but identical toothpastes; a system which insists that we have great freedoms while systematically removing more and more of our capacity to have any real control or influence over, or stake in – anything real in our lives.
That’s why we can have politicians actively discussing doing something which not only makes no economic sense but will actually kill people, while most of the population turns away to binge watch the next series on Netflix.
There is only one way through this – we have to reconnect. And it’s already happening. Around Australia and the world, people are seeking out reconnection in all sorts of ways. We are starting community groups, getting involved in community gardens and food coops, starting childcare and health coops, joining sharing groups instead of buying more stuff. Instead of always doing things on our own, as disconnected individuals, we are looking for innovative ways to work together, to eat together, to live together. And, excitingly, we’re banding together to create social and political forces to be reckoned with.
Bringing it right back to coal, tens of thousands of people are bypassing the politicians and corporations altogether, frustrated by their inability to think beyond coal, and setting up renewable energy cooperatives. From Canberra to Copenhagen, people are pooling their resources to jointly set up solar farms or wind farms, sharing the benefits not only among themselves but with all of us.
If all this seems terribly small, remember – going from 280 to 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is already causing havoc. With a few more parts per million, we could reach tipping points in the climate beyond which unimaginable disaster looms.
But there are tipping points in society, too. And, if we work together to rebuild connection, we can reach that tipping point first. We can turn this around, and maybe not only survive, but thrive.
Tim Hollo is executive director of the Green Institute

Press link for more: The Guardian

#Irma & #Harvey should kill all doubt #climatechange is real. 

Irma and Harvey should kill any doubt that climate change is real

By By Michael E. Mann, Susan J. Hassol and Thomas C. Peterson

As we begin to clean up from Hurricane Harvey, the wettest hurricane on record, dumping up to 50 inches of rain on Houston in three days, and await landfall of Irma, the most powerful hurricane on record in the open Atlantic Ocean, people are asking: What is the role of human-induced climate change in these events, and how else have our own actions increased our risks?

Fundamental physical principles and observed weather trends mean we already know some of the answers — and we have for a long time.
Hurricanes get their energy from warm ocean waters, and the oceans are warming because of the human-caused buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, primarily from the burning of coal, oil and gas.

 The strongest hurricanes have gotten stronger because of global warming.

 Over the past two years, we have witnessed the most intense hurricanes on record for the globe, both hemispheres, the Pacific and now, with Irma, the Atlantic.

We also know that warmer air holds more moisture, and the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere has increased because of human-induced global warming.

 We’ve measured this increase, and it has been unequivocally attributed to human-caused warming. 

That extra moisture causes heavier rainfall, which has also been observed and attributed to our influence on climate. 

We know that rainfall rates in hurricanes are expected to increase in a warmer world, and now we’re living that reality.

And global warming also means higher sea levels, both because ocean water expands as it warms and because ice in the mountains and at the poles melts and makes its way into oceans.

 Sea level rise is accelerating, and storm surge from hurricanes rides on top of higher seas to infiltrate further into our coastal cities.
Heavier rain and higher sea levels can combine to compound flooding in major hurricanes, as the deluges cause flooding that must drain to the sea but can’t do so as quickly because of storm surges. 

Sadly, we saw this effect in play in the catastrophic flooding from Harvey.


We don’t have all of the answers yet. 

There are scientific linkages we’re still trying to work out. 

Harvey, like Hurricane Irene before it in 2011, resulted in record flooding, because of a combination of factors. 

Very warm ocean temperatures meant more moisture in the atmosphere to produce heavy rainfall, yes. 

But both storms were also very slow-moving, nearly stationary at times, which means that rain fell over the same areas for an extended period.
Cutting-edge climate science suggests that such stalled weather patterns could result from a slowed jet stream, itself a consequence — through principles of atmospheric science — of the accelerated warming of the Arctic. 

This is a reminder of how climate changes in far-off regions such as the North Pole can have very real effects on extreme weather faced here in the Lower 48.
These linkages are preliminary, and scientists are still actively studying them. But they are a reminder that surprises may be in store — and not welcome ones — when it comes to the unfolding effects of climate change.

Which leads us, inevitably, to a discussion of policy — and, indeed, politics. Previous administrations focused on adapting to climate change, with an eye to what the planet would look like in the future. 

But events such as Harvey, and probably Irma, show that we have not even adapted to our current climate (which has already changed because of our influence).
The effects of climate change are no longer subtle. 

We are seeing them play out before us here and now. 

And they will only worsen if we fail to act.
The Trump administration, however, seems determined to lead us backward. 

In recent months, we have witnessed a dismantling of the policies put in place by the Obama administration to

 (a) incentivize the necessary move from climate-change-producing fossil fuels toward clean energy, 

(b) increase resilience to climate change effects through sensible regulations on coastal development, and

 (c) continue to fund basic climate research that can inform our assessments of risk and adaptive strategies.

 Ironically, just 10 days before Harvey struck, President Trump rescinded flood protection standards put in place by the Obama administration that would take sea level rise and other climate change effects into account in coastal development plans.

And as Trump kills policies that would reduce the risks of climate disasters, our nation continues to support policies that actually increase our risks.

 For example, without the taxpayer-subsidized National Flood Insurance Program, banks would be less likely to provide mortgages for rebuilding houses in locations that have been flooded before, sometimes repeatedly. 

And the flood insurance program is itself underwater: badly in debt and set to expire at the end of this month unless Congress finds a way to keep it afloat, just as billions of dollars in claims from Harvey come pouring in.
Harvey and Irma are sad reminders that policy matters. At a time when damage from climate change is escalating, we need sensible policy in Washington to protect the citizens of this country, both by reducing future climate change and preparing for its consequences. We should demand better of our leaders.

Press link for more: Washington Post

The Light’s Still Out On LNP Energy Policy #Auspol #StopAdani 

Power For Power’s Sake: The Light’s Are Still Out On Coalition Energy Policy
Ben ElthamSeptember 8, 2017


(BACKGROUND IMAGE: mendhak, Flickr)
When it comes to energy policy, the government has no-one to blame but itself, writes Ben Eltham.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has run hard on energy this week.
He gave a media conference mid week after the release of the latest report by the Australian Energy Market Operator, or AEMO. AEMO was asked by the government to give advice on electricity supply in the forthcoming summer.
Unsurprisingly, the government is worried about the possibility of blackouts. AEMO says that the national grid “is not delivering enough investment in flexible dispatchable resources to maintain the defined target level of supply reliability.” 

In other words, there hasn’t been enough investment in new generation, particularly the dispatchable kind.
None of this should be news to anyone, let alone the federal government.
Australia’s electricity grid is undergoing rapid change. 

The generation mix is changing, and so are the technologies that underpin it.

 As newer forms of generation like wind and solar are added to the grid, older forms like coal are being phased out. 

In recent years, we’ve seen the retirement of a significant number of coal-fired power generators, most notably Victoria’s Hazelwood plant in Morwell.

The smoke stacks of the Hazelwood coal-fired power plant, in Morwell, Victoria. (IMAGE: Jonathan Warner, Flickr)
In the long term, this is good news, as renewable energy is the cheapest form of new electricity generation, and will eventually bring prices down. 

Renewable energy is also cleaner, obviously, which is a good thing if you think dangerous global warming is a problem.

 But in the short term, there might be some short falls in electricity supply. 

Which might mean blackouts.
The AEMO report has been misunderstood by many in the media.

 AEMO is not saying there will be rolling blackouts in the southern states this summer, but it is saying that supply will be tight, particularly on hot days when the wind isn’t blowing. 

According to AEMO, this is because “radically changing dynamics of the power system are resulting in a tight supply-demand balance in parts of the National Electricity Market.”
AEMO recommends the creation of a 1 gigawatt “strategic reserve” of dispatchable energy (in other words, energy available to be sent to the grid), to ride through any problems on those really hot days.

 The agency has been preparing for months. 

According to AEMO’s boss Audrey Zibelman, speaking to the ABC’s Rafael Esptein on Wednesday, “no, we’re not in trouble this summer.”
The government is still worried, though. It knows that when the lights go out, voters tend to blame whoever is in charge. 

And so they should: this is a failure of planning. 

The failure is entirely the Coalition’s.

When the Coalition took government in September 2013, it inherited an electricity grid that was in transition. 

It also inherited a comprehensive plan to manage that transition, in the form of Labor’s Clean Energy Future policy. 

Labor’s policy represented a plan to transition Australia slowly to renewable energy, but with rather conservative safeguards for energy security. 

A carbon price penalised dirty industries for pollution, while a renewable energy target subsidised investment in new, clean technology. 

There was money for technology innovation, and consumers were compensated for the cost of higher electricity bills. 

Carbon permit sales that raised billions a year provided a steady stream of revenue.
Tony Abbott got rid of all that. 


He killed the carbon price, slashed nearly all funding to green energy, and launched a jihad against renewables that spooked investors. 

New renewable energy investment essentially stopped for two years. 

The government then tried to wind back the Renewable Energy Target by 15,000 gigawatt hours. 

In the end, after Labor negotiated, the government reduced it by 8,000 GWh, from 41,000 to 33,000 GWh in 2020.
Four years later, we can see the results. Coal hasn’t flourished – indeed, it’s being rapidly phased out. 

Renewable energy is still the only new generation being built – because it’s the cheapest and most profitable.

 Electricity bills are even higher than they were under Julia Gillard’s carbon price. 

Carbon emissions are going up. 

It’s failure on every front.
Not to put too fine a point on it: this is all the Coalition’s doing. By killing off the carbon price, sabotaging the RET, but refusing to put in place a viable alternative, the Coalition essentially guaranteed that the grid’s problems would deteriorate.


A coal-loader in action. (IMAGE: Thom Mitchell.)

It’s pretty obvious what Australia has needed in energy policy: certainty.

 The carbon wars have led to crippling uncertainty for investors, terrible outcomes for consumers, and even worse outcomes for the environment. 

What we should have done was put in place a plan, and stick to it.
As happens so often to this government, political expediency has blinded it to policy reality, such that the inevitable somehow surprises it. 

But no-one should be surprised that coal plants are closing. 

They were always going to close.
The sad irony is that no amount of Coalition special treatment can save coal as an electricity source. 

The dirty black rock has had its day.


 As the Guardian’s Adam Morton pointed out earlier this year, “coal generators usually operate for about half a century and most Australian plants are pushing that age”. 

Many of Australia’s plants were built in the 1970s, and have simply reached the end of their productive lives.


Hazelwood, for instance, was built in the 1960s. 

It was closed by French multinational Engie this year, essentially because it was old, expensive to maintain, and highly polluting. 

“The closure of Hazelwood is in line with Engie’s strategy to gradually end its coal activities,” the company announced last year.

 “Besides, Hazelwood power station has been operating in difficult market conditions, with lower electricity prices and a surplus of electricity supply in Victoria State.”
The same can be said for the Liddell power plant in the Hunter Valley, which the government now wants to try and keep operating after 2022. 

That’s five years away, but the fact that energy oligopolist AGL wants to shut it down makes for a handy political weapon for a government keen to be seen to be doing something – anything – about energy security.

Like everything else to do with this government, ideology has trumped economics, or even common sense. 

Liddell is 46 years old. 

It suffered serious boiler leaks in 2016 and 2017.

 The reason that AGL wants to close Liddell is that it will cost too much to keep running. 

Upgrading it will be even more expensive, and coal plants don’t make as much money as they used to.
AGL’s boss Andy Vesey always seems to be smiling when you see him the media.

 Perhaps that’s because the energy giant dominates Australia’s dysfunctional energy markets. High wholesale prices are contributing to fat times for the vertically integrated ‘gentailers’. AGL raked in more than $1.5 billion from its wholesale electricity operations last financial year, contributing to underlying profits of $1.3 billion. While AGL enjoys good publicity for its claims to be getting out of coal, it’s making big dollars from the coal plants it still runs.
Note that the price rises faced by consumers are largely the government’s fault, too. Had it wanted to, the Coalition could have attempted to reform Australia’s absurdly dysfunctional National Electricity Market, in which the price gouging by the energy generators is so profitable. This has nothing to do with renewable energy: it’s simply a consequence of a poorly-designed market where clever oligopolists are gaming the system. But the Coalition hasn’t done anything to reform the NEM either.
All of this is due to policy failure. Australia can have cheaper energy, and still have energy security, and reduce emissions at the same time. We just need a plan.
It’s fairly obvious what should replace antiquated coal plants at the end of their productive lives: new technology that will be cheaper to run and cleaner for the environment. It’s not as though we don’t have the know-how. According to the Finkel Report, which the government commissioned, the cheapest new form of electricity generation is wind. But the govenrment finds such facts inconvenient, because it is completely in thrall to the fossil fuel enthusiasm of the troglodyte Liberal right wing. We’re still waiting for the government’s response to Finkel’s recommendations.


According to chief scientist Alan Kinkel, the cheapest new source of electricity generation is wind power. (Source: Finkel Review)
If we need more dispatchable energy, and a more secure electricity grid, the cheapest way to deliver that is by smart grid technologies that better manage demand. Batteries and stored hydro can also play a role. Solar thermal is now being built for the first time in Australia, promising renewable energy at all times of the day or night. A sensible combination of these options will be vastly cheaper than building new coal plants or keeping ageing plants operational well past their use-by date.
The problem for the government is that it is now so invested in the political value of fossil fuels that it seems unable to acknowledge that renewable energy has won the economic race.
“Many of the problems we face at the moment have taken a long time to create,” Turnbull said at his media conference this week. “They can’t be solved overnight.”
He got that right. Energy policy in Australia has been a train wreck for years – roughly, you might say, since the Coalition took office.

Press link for more:  New Matilda

Coastal Cities Are Increasingly Vulnerable #ClimateChange #StopAdani 

Coastal Cities Are Increasingly Vulnerable, and So Is the Economy that Relies on Them
Gregory Unruh September 07, 2017

sept17-07-490535380

There was a time a decade or two ago when society could have made a choice to write off our massive investment in a fossil fuel-based economy and begin a policy driven shift towards a cleaner renewable infrastructure that could have forestalled the worst effects of climate change.

 But the challenges of collective action, a lack of political courage, and the power of incumbent pecuniary interests to capture the levers of power meant we did not. 

The bill is now coming due.

That means that many of our great, low-lying coastal cities are what we call “stranded assets.” 

GreenBiz founder Joel Makower defines a stranded asset as “a financial term that describes something that has become obsolete or nonperforming well ahead of its useful life, and must be recorded on a company’s balance sheet as a loss of profit.”

 Makower was talking about Exxon and other companies that built their businesses on the combustion of climate changing fossil fuels, not cities. 

But the concept easily transfers from businesses built on carbon to cities threatened by carbon’s impact.

Consider Miami.

 An invaluable, irreplaceable cultural jewel that will be stranded, both figuratively and literally, by climate change.
How can an entire metropolis that encompasses the lives, culture, and wellbeing of millions be considered “nonperforming?”

 The physical installations, infrastructures, and architecture upon which Miami are founded were built on what we now can see as a flawed assumption.

 An assumption of permanence.

 That the sea’s surface would stay as it had for the entirety of human experience.

 That Atlantic hurricane season would send infrequent storms of knowable magnitude that we could prepare for and ride out. 

It was that perception of permanence and predictability that underlay urban planning and shaped of tens of thousands of investment decisions that fostered billions of dollars of wealth in Miami.

 As long as nothing disturbs that perception, value will continue to accrue on paper.

 But if the perception of permanence that underlies those expectations is undercut, market value will disappear. 

Value is in the eyes of the buyer… until its not.

Climate change in general, and sea level rise in particular, are hard for us to see.

 The tides that surround Miami are elevating at a rate of centimeters per year. 

It is a slow motion train wreck that will be measured in decades, not seconds.

 For now, Miami property buyers don’t see it. 

A 2017 survey found that the majority of property buyers (over two-thirds) don’t ask even their brokers about the implications of climate change and sea level rise on the properties they are buying.

But for those willing to look, the impacts of sea level rise are already evident. 

So-called “sunny day flooding”, (i.e tidal flooding or flooding that occurs without the rain) is already occurring predictably in many parts of Miami, inundating streets, blocking traffic, killing lawns, corroding infrastructure and cars, contaminating groundwater, and reversing sewage systems. 

As sea level rise worsens, the inescapable conclusion is that some point Miami will be inundated and unlivable. 

Absent a civil engineering miracle, the entire city will become a stranded asset that society will have to write off. 

And it’s not alone: Reuters estimates at least $1.4 trillion in property is sitting within 700 feet of the U.S. shoreline, but the number is much probably larger.
When the irrational exuberance about the value of coastal real estate pops and thousands of buyers collectively mark down those assets, it will make the housing bubble of ten years ago look like a small blip.
The consequences will reverberate through the economy, through society and through the political landscape. 

Depending on what Hurricane Irma does, we could get a sobering preview of what that will look like. 

We have already seen the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, a city that was also built on the flawed founding assumption of permanence. 

Houston’s city planners and businesses also ignored warnings as far back as 1996 that climate change would bring exactly the kind of disaster they city is currently suffering today. 

It’s hard to blame them. 

We’ve all ignored the warnings.

We can’t anymore.

 Business leaders and politicians need to begin wrapping their heads around the big idea that climate change may mean huge financial losses in the world’s great coastal metropolises.

Press link for more: Harvard Business Review

Miami Mayor Blasts Trump for Ignoring #ClimateChange 

As Irma closes in, Republican mayor of Miami blasts Trump for ignoring climate change
“This is the time to talk about climate change.”
Sep 9, 2017, 12:20 pm


Bayside Marketplace in downtown Miami as Hurricane Irma approaches, Sept. 8, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

As Hurricane Irma continues on its collision course with Florida, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, a Republican, criticized President Donald Trump and his administration for refusing to acknowledge the connection between climate change and more intense and destructive storms.

“This is the time to talk about climate change. 

This is the time that the president and the EPA and whoever makes decisions needs to talk about climate change,” Regalado told the Miami Herald on Friday. 

“If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is. 

This is a truly, truly poster child for what is to come.”
Irma is one of the most intense storms to ever form in the Atlantic Ocean. 

After devastating several Caribbean islands earlier this week, the monster storm is expected to regain strength make landfall in Florida as a Category 4 hurricane on Sunday. 

With that comes “dangerous storm surge up to 12 feet, very heavy rainfall, inland flooding, and short lived tornadoes in Florida this weekend,” according to the National Weather Service.

Scientists have emphasized that climate change intensifies hurricanes in several key ways, as ThinkProgress’ Joe Romm detailed in regard to Hurricane Harvey, which devastated portions of Texas just a few weeks ago. But the president and many of his top officials reject the scientific consensus on climate change and, in their first months in office, have made a concerted effort to roll back domestic and international climate policies.


Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency — headed by Scott Pruitt, who has repeatedly dismissed or misrepresented widely accepted climate science — rejected scientists’ efforts to connect Harvey’s extreme impact to global warming. 

“EPA is focused on the safety of those affected by Hurricane Harvey and providing emergency response support — not engaging in attempts to politicize an ongoing tragedy,” agency spokeswoman Liz Bowman said.
Pruitt took it a step further on Thursday, criticizing those who seek to discuss “the cause and effect of these storms,” and saying that “to use time and effort to address it at this point is very, very insensitive to the people in Florida.”
The Trump administration wants to ignore a major aspect of these hurricane disasters
We can’t plan for what’s to come if we can’t talk about it.
But, as Regalado explained, failing to address the underlying cause will doom major U.S. cities like Miami to keep repeating the same mistakes, leaving Americans unprepared to cope with ever-worsening natural disasters.
South Florida has long been considered ground zero for some of the most severe impacts of climate change, as sea level rise and coastal flooding meet decades of unchecked development. “Tidal flooding now predictably drenches inland streets, even when the sun is out, thanks to the region’s porous limestone bedrock,” Bloomberg’s Christopher Flavelle reported earlier this year. “Saltwater is creeping into the drinking water supply.”
Regalado told the Miami Herald that the $400 million dollar obligation bond he’s campaigning for would help the city make necessary improvements to its storm drains and pumping system.
“You know, for those who say we don’t believe in the bond issue because we can do that later, no, it’s happening now. We got [Hurricane] Jose in the back and we got Katia. We got stuff going on,” he said. “So, I think this is a lesson for the people to say you know what? We have to be prepared.”

Press link for more: Think Progress

Al Gore Warned This Would Happen. #ClimateChange #Irma #StopAdani 

Climate Change Made Hurricane Irma Worse: Al Gore Warned This Would Happen But People Didn’t Listen to His ‘Inconvenient Truth’
By Tufayel Ahmed On Friday, September 8, 2017 – 12:04


Al Gore

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore attends a screening for “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” in Los Angeles on July 25. Photo: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

When Al Gore’s climate-change documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power opened to less than $1 million at the box office in early August—coming in 16th place in its first weekend of wide release—the right-leaning media was quick to dismiss it as a “bomb.” The sequel’s takings, the likes of Fox News noted, were far below its Academy Award–winning predecessor, An Inconvenient Truth, released in 2006.
But to dwell on An Inconvenient Sequel ’s box office receipts is to the miss the point. The film’s message—a warning wrapped in the guise of a blockbuster movie experience—is no more critical than it is right now.


The devastation of Hurricane Harvey in August has flooded the city of Houston.

 In the first week of September, more tropical storms are already foretold to cause even more chaos. 

The Category 5 Hurricane Irma has ripped its way through the Caribbean on its way to Florida, while Hurricane Jose is tipped to closely follow behind it in ravaging several Caribbean Islands. 

A third hurricane, Katia, could hit Mexico by Saturday morning. That country was just hit with a major earthquake Thursday night.
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The back-to-back disasters may not be directly caused by climate change, but the intensification of global warming certainly played a factor, scientists say. 

Rising temperatures on the earth’s surface and sea can “badly exacerbate” the impact of a storm, climate scientist Anders Levermann told Bloomberg earlier this week. 

That echoes research by MIT meteorology expert Kerry Emanuel, who in March said that “climate change potentially affects the frequency, intensity and tracks of tropical cyclones.”
In spite of science, climate deniers and skeptics, like President Trump, who pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on climate change earlier in 2017, continue to dismiss the effects of human activities affecting our environment. But Irma and company are just the beginning. By the end of the 21st century, according to the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, hurricanes will be a lot more powerful and dangerous due to rising temperatures of seawater.
Someone tried to warn us—even as little as a month ago.
Al Gore’s Inconvenient films, packaged as major motion pictures with all the polished sheen and expensive marketing one expects from a superhero movie, are not just slick popcorn films. They’re packaged that way to make them more palatable to the average Joe. So if you missed the former vice president’s movie when it hit theaters last month, now is the time to see it.
The trailer for An Inconvenient Sequel alone is pretty damning of the blind eye being turned to climate change. “The most criticized scene in the movie An Inconvenient Truth,” Gore says of his first film, “was showing that the combination of sea level rise and storm surge would flood the 9/11 memorial site. And people said, ‘What a terrible exaggeration.’” Cut to footage of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, which did indeed flood the memorial.
The earlier Inconvenient film foresaw that incident, while the latest features an eerie prediction for the Florida-bound Irma.

In the film, Gore visits Miami, parts of which are under several inches of water due to rising sea levels. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine tells him they are circumventing water flooding the streets by using pumps and raising roads. But Gore points out that it’s a temporary measure at best, as sea levels continue to rise. “Kind of hard to pump the ocean.”
If Irma hits Miami—and it might—the impact could be disastrous because of the already high water levels, the consequence of which would be more flooding.
Gore told Newsweek last month that Trump pulling out of the climate accord is not yet a done deal—the earliest the U.S. would be able to withdraw is just after the next presidential election. If a new president is elected, the U.S. could choose to remain part of the Paris Agreement.
So there is still time to act. According to Gore’s Inconvenient marketing, at the state level, more than 100 million U.S. citizens live in places still committed to climate action, representing 36 percent of the population. In the wake of Irma and other tropical storms, that figure could realistically increase. Here’s how the movie advises you to take action:
By the way, An Inconvenient Sequel is still in theaters across the U.S. to help you get educated.

Press link for more: Newsweek.com

Systematic failure #ClimateChange #StopAdani 

Climate change, Migration, Capitalism. Solutions for systemic failure. 

Part 1: Systemic failures
Introduction
David Wallace-Wells’ recent article The Unhabitable Earth in New York Magazine has been read by hundreds of thousands. 

“It is, I promise, worse than you think,” the first sentence reads.

 There is no doubt that many readers have been shocked by the avalanche of sober information that the author presents in order to make the point that it is, indeed, worse, much worse, than most of us think.

 In fact, without exaggeration, it is even worse than Wallace-Wells portrays the situation because – but this is inevitable when trying to achieve the impossible by capturing the main dangers of climate change in one article – some essential papers have been left unaddressed, for example the Friedrich and the Hansen papers.
There are also some mistakes.

 For example, Wallace-Wells writes that:
“The most exciting research on the economics of warming has (…) come from Hsiang and his colleagues (…) who offer some very bleak analysis of their own: 

Every degree Celsius of warming costs, on average, 1.2 percent of GDP (…) 

This is the sterling work in the field, and their median projection is for a 23 percent loss in per capita earning globally by the end of this century (resulting from changes in agriculture, crime, storms, energy, mortality, and labor.)

 Tracing the shape of the probability curve is even scarier:

 There is a 12 percent chance that climate change will reduce global output by more than 50 percent by 2100, they say, and a 51 percent chance that it lowers per capita GDP by 20 percent or more by then, unless emissions decline” 
This is not what Hsiang, Burke and Miguel are saying (see here and here for a FAQ-list about the Nature article in question). Hsiang et al. point out that climate change will make the world economy smaller than it would be without climate change – not that it will make the world economy of the future smaller than it is now.
How large will the economy be in 2100?

 According to the OECD, the total output of the global economy will grow at three percent for the next 50 years . As Dolan explains, projecting that rate to the end of the century would make global real GDP about fourteen times higher in 2099 than in 2010.

 Hsiang et al. use several estimates of growth rates, including one that assumes that per capita GDP in each country will grow from 2010 to 2099 at the same rate it grew from 1980 to 2010.

 Their results imply an average annual growth rate of 2.35 percent, which would make per capita global GDP about eight times higher in 2099 than in 2010.

 As Ed Dolan explains, based on these estimates, if climate change cuts real GDP by 23 percent relative to what it otherwise would be, total output of the global economy would still be eleven times larger than it is today, using the OECD estimate for growth.

 And, as Dolan writes, with the method used by Hsiang et al., per capita GDP in 2099, with climate change, would be more than six times higher in 2099 than in 2010.
Burke has posted online complete country-by-country growth estimates. 

The chart shows the ratio of estimated 2099 GDP per capita to 2010 GDP per capita for 165 countries without climate change (blue dots) and with climate change (red dots). 

The points are arranged along the horizontal axis according to 2010 GDP per capita, so for each country, the blue dot lies directly above or below that same country’s red dot.

 Climate change is on average detrimental to GDP, except for 38 of the 165 countries.

 The biggest “winners” are Mongolia, Finland, Iceland, and Russia. 

The biggest losers are countries that were hot to begin with and grew slowly in the base period, with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates faring worst of all.
Dolan

Figure 1: Projected 2099 GDP per capita with and without climate change according to Burke (Source: Ed Dolan, Niskanen Center). 
Not that I believe this. Look at what Ed Dolan writes:
“(I)t is hardly surprising that these models (…) see the likely future as one with both continued global warming and continued economic growth. (…) (T)here is a fundamental causal relationship between the two. The standard models are built on the premise that economic activity is the principle source of the carbon emissions that drive climate change (…). Given the structure of the models, then, if the economy were to begin shrinking rather than growing, then other things equal, climate change itself would slow”. 
But this is a cardinal misunderstanding: there will be no other things equal, not only because of the delay phenomenon (if we stop emitting carbon dioxide today, temperature will still rise for a long time), but also, and more importantly, because, man-made climate change (Anthropogenic Climate Disruption, ACD) compromised (and continues to compromise) the capacity of the Earth system to capture CO2, while at the same time man-made warming causes the Earth system to increasingly emit CO2 and methane.


 This means that the “standard models” are wrong, because the premise they are built upon is wrong: “economic activity” is no longer the only important source of carbon emissions.

 The estimate is that about 50% of total global fossil fuel emissions over the past 100 years have been absorbed by the land and oceans. 

If the sinks are exhausted or overwhelmed or shallow marine sediment outgassing and permafrost melting occurs, it is possible that, in the worst case scenario, a 50% reduction in the use of fossil fuels (not that there is a realistic strategy to achieve this) would have no effect on the growth rate of atmospheric CO2.

This is how serious the situation is.
To make it worse than you think it is, given the above: it is not that we are making progress. 

As a world, we do not. 

Fossil fuels accounted for 81% of the world’s energy consumption in 1987.

 Incredibly, thirty years and twenty one international climate change conferences later the figure is the same: 81% And forget ‘clean coal.’ Clean coal is as feasible as it is unaffordable.

Certainly, some countries have made substantial progress. But as a world, the “business-as-usual” scenario is the progress. And this will not change, at least not for as long as, as Flassbeck writes, the current oil price remains lower than in 1974 – a fact that is not well-known and of which the consequences are unfathomable.
Systemic failures

The United Nations recently released a report warning us that we will likely see upward of 50 million climate refugees within the next decade.

 They were wrong.

 Today, the estimate of displaced persons because of ACD is in excess of 65 million. 

There is no doubt that this is only the beginning of a much bigger, almost unfathomable, change. 

In 2014, the IPCC suggested that up to 700 million people currently living in low-lying coastal zones – 438 million in Asia and 246 million in the least developed countries – will be directly at risk to threats of climate change in the 21th Century. 

According to a new study by Geisler et al. the figure could be 1.4 billion by 2060 and 2 billion by the end of the century. 

What are global policy-makers doing?
Logically enough, the low lying islands, coastal regions, large river deltas and underdeveloped regions are most in danger of catastrophic change.

 According to a report from the World Bank (2014; updated 2015), 30 percent of arable land risks disappearing in Africa and 26% in Asia by 2030.


According to this report, massive floods will occur in some areas, as well as massive reductions in fish catch, there will be prolonged and severe droughts in Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia, agricultural yields and nutritional quality will drop (in combination with growing populations), there will be sea-level rise, the destruction of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, the increasing acidification of oceans, increasing under-nourishment, increases in childhood stunting.

 Malaria and other easily preventable or curable diseases will prove lethal for many.

 As Wallace-Wells reminds us, for every degree increase in temperature, the malaria parasite reproduces ten times faster.
In sub-Saharan Africa more than 60 million people who are already going hungry are likely to see their situation worsen due to increasing drought, other ACD impacts and threat multipliers such as uprooted communities, ethnic and/or religious strife, semi-failed and failed states, rising fundamentalism, conflicts within and wars between states.
Problems by no means only occur in developing countries.

 In Europe, desertification is creeping up north year by year. 

Cities such as Madrid and Barcelona are suffering water shortages during summer.

 The drought destroys the livelihoods of rural communities, both to the south and to the north of the Pyrenees. Desertification is taking place in the south of Italy, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania. 

By the end of the century, two out of three people living in Europe will be affected by heat waves, coastal floods and other weather-related disasters, largely due to global warming and climate change, according to a study published in the Lancet Planetary Health.

 Overall, weather-related disasters are expected to cause 152,000 deaths a year in Europe between 2071 and 2100, jumping from 3.000 weather disaster-related deaths a year between 1981 and 2010.

A study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that four hundred cities in the U.S. are going to be swamped by rising sea levels, no matter what mitigation measures are taken to decrease carbon dioxide emissions.

No one knows how to react to the migration crises that will result from ACD.

 There are no plans, although it is glaringly obvious that within one generation tens of millions of people will flee their regions.

 That will only be the start. 

These people will be displaced persons in their own country or end up in refugee camps. 

International law does not recognize the existence of ecological refugees. 

It protects indigenous people, but once the ecosystem collapses, there is no protection.
This is bitterly, indeed, insanely unfair, especially since poor countries, which bear the biggest burden, contributed historically the least to climate change. 


The number of those impoverished, malnourished, and deprived of fundamental needs such as security, health care, and education totals in the hundreds of millions.

 Under current international law, climate-induced, cross-border migration triggers little, if any, protection or assistance mechanisms. 

The truism that ungoverned spaces attract terrorist networks does not need to be repeated.
The ‘best’ (sic) European policy-makers seem to be capable of is continuing to adhere to the Geneva Convention, while at the same time trying to differentiate between motives: political asylum seekers in; economic immigrants out.

 As if this makes sense, as if it is possible. 

This is now called the problem of ‘mixed migration’ . 

However, it is clear that we will not do this well: the future will see more restrictions, the further hollowing-out of the right to asylum, while voices – by far not only from the extreme Right – go up and speak louder by the day to ‘close off’ all ‘entry-points,’ such as the Mediterranean and the Balkan route (see here).
The human tragedy will get worse, much worse. 

According to Geisler et al. from the Department of Development Sociology at Cornell, in the year 2100, two billion people – about one-fifth of the world’s population – could become climate change refugees. 

Those who once lived on coastlines will face displacement and resettlement bottlenecks as they seek habitable places inland. 

The Earth’s population is expected to top 9 billion people by 2050 and climb to 11 billion people by 2100.
Geisler et al. write that:
“The colliding forces of human fertility, submerging coastal zones, residential retreat, and impediments to inland resettlement is a huge problem.

 We offer preliminary estimates of the lands unlikely to support new waves of climate refugees due to the residues of war, exhausted natural resources, declining net primary productivity, desertification, urban sprawl, land concentration, ‘paving the planet’ with roads and greenhouse gas storage zones offsetting permafrost melt”.
Feeding that population will require more arable land as swelling oceans consume fertile coastal zones and river deltas. 

Clearly, those who talk about “closing off” the Mediterranean and other “entry points” or paying off despots of countries at the border of the European continent to keep immigrants out are dreaming. 

It will not work and it should not, because it is inhumane.
That population growth, in itself, is not the problem, can be made clear by a few simple figures.

 Currently, the world population is some 7 billion.

 Of those 7 billion, some 30% is either mal-nourished, under-nourished or lives under conditions of famine, notwithstanding the fact that, today, the world produces enough food to feed in excess of 12 billion people. 

It is therefore not ‘physical limits’ that are the problem, it is the political economy of the global system, or, more prosaic, the fact that agriculture is in the hands of the Nestles, the Monsanto’s and the Cargills of this world which means that everyone can eat who can pay of it, as Amartya Sen Sen explained a long time ago. 

Climate change affects food security on both the national aggregate and the individual level. For food security to exist, Sen’s ‘three As’ – availability, accessibility and affordability – need to be present.

Food security depends on domestic production, imports and food aid. Climate change affects all of them.
How will this work?

 As Wallace-Wells explains, the basic rule for staple cereal crops grown at optimal temperature is that for every one degree Celsius of warming, yields decline by 10 percent.

 Some estimates run as high as 15 or even 17 percent.


 This means that, if average global temperature will be four degrees warmer at the end of the century – this is by no means an extravagant or unrealistic expectation any longer, the contrary is true – we may have as many as 40 percent more people to feed and 40 percent less cereal output. 

Proteins, Wallace-Wells writes, are still way worse, as it takes 16 calories of grain to produce one single calorie of hamburger meat, butchered from a cow that spent her life polluting the environment by farting and belching methane and producing nitrates.
Many – plant physiologists among them – point out that this sort of math is too simple, too childish even, that it is only valid for regions already at peak growing temperature, and even then. 

Theoretically, climate change will make growing corn in Greenland or in Northern Russia easier. 

I do not want to criticise Wallace-Wells and I hope his article reaches a lot more people, but his reference (to Rosamond Naylor and David Battisti) does not prove what he is saying. 

However, as far as I can tell, what Wallace-Wells is saying is true: the tropics are already too hot to efficiently grow grain, and those places where grain is produced today are at optimal growing temperature, which means that even small warming will push them down the slope of declining productivity. 

To this has to be added that it is impossible to move croplands up north some hundreds of miles because the soil is unsuitable to grow these crops there. It seems that it takes centuries to produce optimally fertile dirt – the couple of centimetres of top soil we depend upon for our life.
What, then, will happen?

 By 2080, without dramatic reductions in emissions – and, again, there is not one single credible sign that such reductions will become a reality – southern Europe will be in permanent extreme drought. 

The drought will be worse than the American dust bowl, the human misery of which has been immortalised in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Countries like Iraq, Iran, Syria and Pakistan will see their agricultural production plummeting. 

This, in fact, will be true for all the MENA (Middle East and North African) countries.

 The demographic evolution in each in these countries is the mirror image of most of their European counterparts: rapid population growth.


 Drought will wreck – this is, make impossible – agriculture in some of the most densely populated parts of Australia, in sub-Saharan Africa, in South America, where, in some countries such as Peru and Bolivia, conditions are already critical, and China.

 In a future not too far away, none of these places, which today still produce much of the world’s food, will be reliable sources of anything. 

Add to this that climate change will decrease the growth potential of most countries on earth and that food prices will spike. 

These changes will likely lead, or at least contribute, to a reconfiguration of global political and economic hegemony, with all risks that this will entail.
There is, and this has been going on for years now, not one month in which I do not learn about a problem which is new to me and which turns out to be incredible serious. 

Often enough, it then transpires that this problem is not being addressed, that it does not find its way into the IPCC reporting or to computer modelling.
It is, for example, of course not only drought. 

According to a new study from MIT, climate change in Pakistan, Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka could be so severe that temperatures and humidity may exceed the upper levels of human survivability.


We are talking about extreme conditions of a crescent-shaped region where 1.5 billion people live. 

The researchers used data on climate that identifies variations in terrain and vegetation down to 10 square miles (ca. 25 square km) and fed it into global circulation models to produce detailed computer simulations.

 The resulting predictions showed extremes in so-called wet-bulb temperatures in South Asia. 

Wet-bulb temperatures (WTs) hotter than 35 degrees Celsius make it impossible for the body to dissipate heat naturally.
Although WT temperatures today typically do not exceed ca. 31°C, they nearly reached the threshold (35°C) in the summer of 2015, when an extreme heat wave hit Iran and parts of the Persian/Arabian Gulf.

 Not very much of the land in and around the area of the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula is devoted to agriculture, fewer people live in this region than in South Asia and they tend to be wealthier. 

But WT temperatures could pass the threshold in parts of north-eastern India and most of Bangladesh during seasonal heat waves.

 Eltahir’s models predicted that the second-hottest wet-bulb temperatures would occur in South Asia.

 These scorching conditions would occur over land, where one-fifth of the world’s population lives and where many more people are vulnerable because they are poor and work outside.

As we need protein, it makes sense to look at fish.

 Here too, there is a plethora of problems.

 To name just one, according to an article in Global Change Biology, warmer waters as a result of climate change could shrink the size of fish by 20 to 30 percent.

William Cheung from the University of British Columbia explains the mechanism: fish, being cold blooded animals, are not able to regulate their body temperatures. When the waters they live in become warmer their metabolism accelerates and they require more oxygen to sustain their body functions. 

The problem is that the surface area of the gills, where oxygen is gathered, does not grow at the same rate as the rest of the body, so the fish stops growing prematurely and, with it, our food supply diminishes.
A new study in Science projects that climate change will increase the amount of nitrogen ending up in US rivers and other waterways by 19 percent on average over the remainder of the century — and much more in hard-hit areas such as the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin (up 24 percent) and the Northeast (up 28 percent). And that is not counting likely increases in nitrogen inputs from more intensive agriculture, or from increased human population (see here).
Eva Sinha (from Stanford) et al. took historical records of nitrogen runoff as a result of rainstorms over the past few decades, recorded by the US Geological Survey. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that there will be no change in the amount of nitrogen being added to the environment, they calculated how much additional nitrogen would be leached out of farm fields and washed down rivers solely because of extreme weather events and increased rainfall predicted in most climate change scenarios. As Sinha et al. write:
“Anticipated changes in future precipitation patterns alone will lead to large and robust increases in watershed-scale nitrogen fluxes by the end of the century for the business-as-usual scenario” (see here).
More on this can be read here. Nitrogen creates dead zones, for example in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Pacific and inland waterways, lakes and other freshwater bodies where toxic blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) bloom (this is also a problem in Sweden, where more rain decreases the amount of drinking water). This problem is being exacerbated by warmer temperatures and increased rainfall associated with climate change. Efforts to protect the water supply may not work in the future because climate change introduces many new uncertainties about hydrology, stratification, and nutrient dynamics (see here). One such bloom in the western end of Lake Erie forced the city of Toledo in Ohio, to cut off the water supply temporarily to 500.000 residents in 2014. The same happened in China’s Lake Taihu in 2007, leaving 2.3 million people without water (see here). In the United States, a 2015 study found evidence of blue-green algae blooms in 62 percent of the 3,100 U.S. counties surveyed and concluded that these blooms were “significantly related to the risk of non-alcoholic liver disease death” (see here).
In fact, the nitrogen problem is enormous. Atmospheric nitrogen – from intensive farming and livestock operations, power plants, road traffic, and other sources – now gets deposited everywhere, making soils more fertile. That has the paradoxical effect of reducing plant diversity by displacing native species adapted to nutrient-poor soils (this also happens in Sweden where the invasive Lupinus is displacing native plants).
According to Sinha, climate change means that it will be necessary to cut agricultural nitrogen use in the Mississippi River Valley not by 32 percent, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now proposes, but by almost double that amount (see here), which will – perhaps – be accomplished by genetically engineered cereals and laboratory cultured meat. But the challenge will be far greater in the developing world, particularly Asia. India is especially vulnerable because it has one of the fastest-growing populations. As climate change multiplies the rate of nitrogen runoff, they may increasingly find their water undrinkable (see here).
And so on and so forth.
“The uncomfortable truth,” Istvan Meszaros argued many years ago, “is that if there is no future for a radical mass movement in our time, there can be no future for humanity itself.” What is more, those who want to stand up need to do it now. It is not only a question of cooperation. We can all very well cooperate to make our ultimate demise a reality. We need to stand up for humanity as a whole. All the rest is betrayal. In this normative position, lies the kernel of a “solution” that I will explain in Part 2.
Let’s take a break for now and read the news about Irma, the second “once in 500 years” storm in a week. It seems that two more are on their way.

Press link for more: Flassbeck Economics

Climate Change is an existential risk. 

Human-induced climate change is an existential risk to human civilisation: an adverse outcome that would either annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential.

Special precautions that go well beyond conventional risk management practice are required if the “fat tails” — the increased likelihood of very large impacts — are to be adequately dealt with.

 The potential consequences of these lower-probability, but higher-impact, events would be devastating for human societies.

The bulk of climate research has tended to underplay these risks, and exhibited a preference for conservative projections and scholarly reticence, albeit increasing numbers of scientists have spoken out in recent years on the dangers of such an approach.


Climate policymaking and the public narrative are significantly informed by the important work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

 However, IPCC reports also tend toward reticence and caution, erring on the side of “least drama”, and downplaying more extreme and more damaging outcomes. 

 Whilst this has been understandable historically, given the pressure exerted upon the IPCC by political and vested interests, it is now becoming dangerously misleading, given the acceleration of climate impacts globally.

 What were lower-probability, higher-impact, events are now becoming more likely.

This is a particular concern with potential climatic “tipping points” — passing critical thresholds which result in step changes in the system — such as the polar ice sheets (and hence sea levels), and permafrost and other carbon stores, where the impacts of global warming are non-linear and difficult to model at present.


 Under-reporting on these issues contributes to the “failure of imagination” that is occurring today in our understanding of, and response to, climate change.

If climate policymaking is to be soundly based, a reframing of scientific research within an existential risk-management framework is now urgently required.

 This must be taken up not just in the work of the IPCC, but also in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations if we are to address the real climate challenge.

Current processes will not deliver either the speed or the extent of change required.

Three decades ago, when serious debate on human-induced climate change began at the global level, a great deal of statesmanship was on display. 

 There was a preparedness to recognise that this was an issue transcending nation states, ideologies and political parties which had to be addressed proactively in the long-term interests of humanity as a whole, even if the existential nature of the risk it posed was far less clear cut than it is today.


As global institutions were established to take up this challenge, such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and the extent of change this would demand of the fossil-fuel-dominated world order became clearer, the forces of resistance began to mobilise.

 Today, as a consequence, and despite the diplomatic triumph of the 2015 Paris Agreement , the debate around climate change policy has never been more dysfunctional, indeed Orwellian.
In his book 1984, George Orwell describes a double-speak totalitarian state where most of the population accepts “the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. 

 By lack of understanding they remained sane.”
Orwell could have been writing about climate change and policymaking. 

 International agreements talk of limiting global warming to 1.5–2°C, but in reality they set the world on a path of 3–5°C.


 Goals are reaffirmed, only to be abandoned. 

 Coal is “clean”. 


 Just 1°C of warming is already dangerous, but this cannot be said. 

 The planetary future is hostage to myopic national self-interest. 

 Action is delayed on the assumption that as yet unproven technologies will save the day, decades hence. 

 The risks are existential, but it is “alarmist” to say so.

 A one-in-two chance of missing a goal is normalised as reasonable.

Climate policymaking for years has been cognitively dissonant, “a flagrant violation of reality”.

 So it is unsurprising that there is a lack of a understanding amongst the public and elites of the full measure of the climate challenge. 

 Yet most Australians sense where we are heading: three-quarters of Australians see climate change as catastrophic risk and half see our way of life ending within the next 100 years.

Politics and policymaking have norms: rules and practices, assumptions and boundaries, that constrain and shape them. 

 In recent years, the previous norms of statesmanship and long-term thinking have disappeared, replaced by an obsession with short-term political and commercial advantage Climate policymaking is no exception.

Since 1992, short-term economic interest has trumped environmental and future human needs.  

The world today emits 48% more carbon dioxide (CO2 ) from the consumption of energy than it did 25 years ago, and the global economy has more than doubled in size.

 The UNFCCC strives ” to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner”, but every year humanity’s ecological footprint becomes larger and less sustainable.

 Humanity now requires the biophysical capacity of 1.7 planets annually to survive as it rapidly chews up the natural capital.

A fast, emergency-scale transition to a post-fossil fuel world is absolutely necessary to address climate change. But this is excluded from consideration by policymakers because it is considered to be too disruptive. 

 The orthodoxy is that there is
time for an orderly economic transition within the current short-termist political paradigm. 

 Discussion of what would be safe –– less warming that we presently experience –– is non-existent. 

 And so we have a policy failure of epic proportions.

Policymakers, in their magical thinking, imagine a mitigation path of gradual change, to be constructed over many decades in a growing, prosperous world.

 The world not imagined is the one that now exists: of looming financial instability; of a global crisis of political legitimacy; of a sustainability crisis that extends far beyond climate change to include all the fundamentals of human existence and most significant planetary boundaries (soils, potable water, oceans, the atmosphere, biodiversity, and so on); and of severe global energy sector dislocation.

In anticipation of the upheaval that climate change would impose upon the global order, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was established by the UN in 1988, charged with regularly assessing the global consensus on climate science as a basis for policymaking.

 The IPCC Assessment Reports ( AR ), produced every 5–6 years, play a large part in the public framing of the climate narrative: new reports are a global media event.

 AR5 was produced in 2013-14, with AR6 due in 2022. 

 The IPCC has done critical, indispensable work of the highest standard in pulling together a periodic consensus of what must be the most exhaustive scientific investigation in world history. 

 It does not carry out its own research, but reviews and collates peer-reviewed material from across the spectrum of this incredibly complex area, identifying key issues and trends for policymaker consideration.

However, the IPCC process suffers from all the dangers of consensus-building in such a wide-ranging and complex arena.

 For example, IPCC reports, of necessity, do not always contain the latest available information.

 Consensus-building can lead to “least drama”, lowest-common-denominator outcomes which overlook critical issues. 

 This is particularly the case with the “fat-tails” of probability distributions, that is, the high-impact but relatively low-probability events where scientific knowledge is more limited. 

 Vested interest pressure is acute in all directions; climate denialists accuse the IPCC of alarmism, whereas climate action proponents consider the IPCC to be far too conservative. 

 To cap it all, the IPCC conclusions are subject to intense political oversight before being released, which historically has had the effect of substantially watering-down sound scientific findings.

These limitations are understandable, and arguably were not of overriding importance in the early period of the IPCC.

 However, as time has progressed, it is now clear that the risks posed by climate change are far greater than previously anticipated. 

 We have moved out of the twilight period of much talk but relatively limited climate impacts. Climate change is now turning nasty, as we have witnessed in 2017 in the USA, South Asia, the Middle East and Europe, with record-breaking heatwaves and wildfires, more intense flooding and more damaging hurricanes.


The distinction between climate science and risk is now the critical issue, for the two are not the same.

 Scientific reticence — a reluctance to spell out the full risk implications of climate science in the absence of perfect information — has become a major problem. 

 Whilst this is understandable, particularly when scientists are continually criticised by denialists and political apparatchiks for speaking out, it is extremely dangerous given the “fat tail” risks of climate change.

 Waiting for perfect information, as we are continually urged to do by political and economic elites, means it will be too late to act.

Irreversible, adverse climate change on the global scale now occurring is an existential risk to human civilisation.

 Many of the world’s top climate scientists quoted in this report well understand these implications — James Hansen, Michael E. Mann, John Schellnhuber, Kevin Anderson, Eric Rignot, Naomi Oreskes, Kevin Trenberth, Michael Oppenheimer, Stefan Rahmstorf and others — and are forthright about their findings, where we are heading, and the limitations of IPCC reports.

This report seeks to alert the wider community and leaders to these limitations and urges change to the IPCC approach, and to the wider UNFCCC negotiations. It is clear that existing processes will not deliver the transformation to a low-carbon world in the limited time now available.
We urgently require a reframing of scientific research within an existential risk-management framework. This requires special precautions that go well beyond conventional risk management. 

 Like an iceberg, there is great danger “In what lies beneath”.

Press link for more: What lies beneath Report