Month: December 2017

2017 Clean Energy Revolution is unstoppable. #StopAdani #Auspol #qldpol

2017 showed the global clean energy revolution is unstoppable no matter what Trump does

The solar, wind, battery, and electric car “miracles” have gone mainstream.

Dec 14, 2017, 1:56 pm

The competition for the biggest clean energy story of 2017 is intense.

Building and running new renewable energy is now cheaper than just running old coal and nuclear plants. The lowest price for solar power last year is the highest price now. Battery prices were cut in half just since 2014.

And who could have imagined — just a few years after Tesla put a defibrillator to the flat-lined electric vehicle market — that China would announce plans to join the rapidly expanding list of countries planning to phase out fossil fuel-burning cars in the next decade or two, a list that by year’s end included the UKFranceNorway, and India?

It must always be repeated that the clean energy revolution can’t prevent catastrophic climate change without far more aggressive government policies to speed the transition off fossil fuels. And President Donald Trump can at least temporarily slow the revolution in the U.S. with his pro-polluter policies.

But the revolution is now unstoppable at a global level. That means the super-cheap solution to climate change is at hand — and in 2017, these individual technologies started to team up, joining their powers like the Marvel superheroes in the Avengers movies.

Solar remains the most amazing story. Solar panel prices plunged by a shocking 26 percent in the last year — despite having already dropped 80 percent in price in the previous 10 years and 99 percent since the late 1970s.

CREDIT: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

In a Saudi Arabian auction for a 300-megawatt (MW) solar farm this October, solar power crushed its own record for cheapest electricity “ever, anywhere, by any technology.”

Whereas in a March 2016 auction, the record low unsubsidized solar energy price was contracted at 3.6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), every single bid Saudi Arabia received was cheaper than that. For context, the average U.S. commercial price for electricity is 11 cents/kWh.


Wind’s story is almost as amazing.

In October, India saw the lowest bids in the world for 1000 MW of wind electricity at 2.64 rupees (4 U.S. cents) per kWh  –a 24 percent drop just from February.

But perhaps the most remarkable wind energy story of 2017 is for building wind turbines offshore, where prices dropped a game-changing 28 percent in one year. In April, Denmark’s Dong Energy won a German power auction for two offshore wind projects in the North Sea — without any government subsidies.

As the chief of business development at Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy explained, “it’s staggering to think that in not much more than five years, we could have turned a technology seen as prohibitively expensive into the lowest cost, utility-scale technology available.”

Offshore wind is important to the growth of wind power for two reasons: first, it’s near where many people live.

About half the U.S. population lives in coastal areas, for instance.

Second, with steadier winds, offshore farms typically deliver power that is less variable than onshore wind.

An onshore wind farm might only produce 25 percent of its full power averaged over a year — a 25 percent capacity factor. R

The best new offshore wind turbines, on the other hand, are already at a 50 percent capacity factor , and that may well rise to 60 percent and higher.

The battery revolution is another incredible story, one that will speed the renewable energy transition while enabling the rapid switch to electric cars.

Battery packs have dropped 75 percent since 2010 alone, as the top chart shows, and BNEF projects they will drop another 75 percent by 2030.

The result is that “a price and energy cost analysis of conventional, hybrid, and electric vehicles illustrates that the EV has the lowest lifetime cost, even in a low-oil-price environment,” as the author of a GTM Research report on EVs explained.

This has led to soaring sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) worldwide, leaving hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) — the only plausible competition for replacing fossil fuel powered vehicles — in the dust:

Meanwhile, battery technology advances have allowed Tesla’s Elon Musk to unveil an electric truck with a 500-mile range, and a “Roadster” with a 620-mile range.

Until very recently, electric vehicles typically had a range of under 200 miles, limiting the usefulness of EVs, especially in a world with a handful of (relatively slow) charging stations.

A 500+ mile range means you could do almost any kind of typical driving and then recharge overnight, either at home, or a hotel, or a shopping mall–or even a rest-station during dinner, since the latest super-chargers can already do a major recharge in a half hour.

As for the future, both BNEF and the International Energy Agency (IEA) now expect we will see EV sticker prices directly competitive with that of gas-powered cars within a decade — and they will continue to drop after that.

Yet, the EVs will offer superior performance and zero total emissions (running on renewable energy), and will be far cheaper to operate, especially as solar and wind power prices continue to plummet.

“More than 37 million plug-in electric vehicles are expected to be in use in 2025,” Navigant Research projected in January.

In July, BNEF projected that “electric cars will outsell fossil fuel-powered vehicles within two decades as battery prices plunge, turning the global auto industry upside down and signaling economic turmoil for oil-exporting countries.”

The plans by China, India, and others to phase out Fossil fuel powered vehicles could make this transition occur even faster.

So could the next generation solid-state lithium battery, which “delivers 2.5 times the energy density of typical lithium-ion batteries, with the potential of costing one third of the 2020 projected price of those batteries,” Green Car Congress reported.

Such batteries could be charged in as short as one minute.

Oops: Rick Perry may have stumbled upon the solution to going 100 percent renewable

Buried in his grid study is how electric cars and smart control systems will enable deep penetration of solar and wind energy

At the same time, deep penetration of renewables will be assisted by the dropping battery prices and soaring EV sales. As BNEF explains, “This will help renewable energy reach 74 percent penetration in Germany, 38 percent in the U.S., 55 percent in China, and 49 percent in India by 2040.”

Indeed, Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s own grid study came to a similar conclusion:

“An aggregated fleet of vehicles or chargers can act as a [demand response] resource, shifting load in response to price signals or operational needs; for example, vehicle charging could be shifted to the middle of the day to absorb high levels of solar generation and shifted away from evening hours when solar generation disappears and system net load peaks.”

As a result of all these technology advances working together, renewables will capture the lion’s share of the $10.2 trillion the world will invest in new power generation by 2040, BNEF projects in its annual New Energy Outlook 2017 report.


Solar and wind will make up nearly half of installed capacity and over one-third of global power generation by 2040.

That’s a four-fold jump in wind capacity and a 14-fold jump in solar from today.

Finally, while high-visibility technologies like solar and wind and electric cars dominate the headlines, we’re seeing a continued explosion of the cheapest and cleanest source of electricity — using energy more efficiently, such as by replacing traditional lighting with LED bulbs.

Smarter, state-based utility regulations have led to a massive investment in energy efficiency in recent years.

And that investment is a major reason why electricity demand in this country has been flat for nearly a decade, decoupling from economic growth.

The future is now.

Press link for more: Think Progress

Towards a Clean Energy future. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Let’s make 2018 the year we turned our back on coal & demand a clean energy future.

There are more jobs in a sustainable economy based on clean energy.

Don’t let Australia fall behind.

Electric Cars









Mega disasters. They’re going to get worse. #StopAdani #ClimateChange #auspol

Megadisasters devastated America this year.

They’re going to get worse.

Storms, fires, floods, and heat caused unprecedented destruction in 2017. Why?

By Umair Irfan and Brian Resnick Dec 28, 2017, 9:40am EST

2017 is about to become the most expensive disaster year in US history, costing nearly $400 billion in damages.

How did that happen? Consider some of the record-breaking weather events that came our way:

• California was drenched in the wettest winter on record, ending years of drought.

• Then came California’s most destructive and largest wildfire season ever. The Tubbs Fire in Northern California killed 22 people and damaged more than 5,600 structures.

• Hurricane Harvey broke a rainfall record for a single tropical storm with more than 4 feet of rain.

• Puerto Rico is still mired in the longest blackout in US history after Hurricane Maria struck three months ago. More than 1,000 are estimated to have died in the storm and its aftermath.

San Francisco reported its hottest temperature ever, 106 degrees Fahrenheit, while other parts of the country set records for high-temperature streaks.

• 14 places across Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas reported record-high water levels during floods in April and May.

• Requests for federal disaster aid jumped tenfold compared to 2016, with 4.7 million people registering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

As of October, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had counted 15 disasters with damages topping $1 billion, tying 2017 with 2011 for the most billion-dollar disasters in a year to date. And that was before the California wildfires. (We included some of those fires in the map below):

The unending string of calamities was shocking to many Americans. As Paolo Bacigalupi, who writes climate dystopia fiction, tweeted in August: “The thing that bothers me most about these unprecedented disasters is that even I imagined they wouldn’t happen for a long time yet.”

Yet we must see 2017 as an average year, if not a baseline. We must reckon with the likelihood of even worse storms, heat waves, fires, and droughts as the Earth warms — because scientists expect even this “new normal” to get worse.

The reasons for this are many: As the climate changes, the US is becoming much more vulnerable to disasters. People keep flocking to live in places we know are likely to be hit. And our policies don’t protect them, not by a long shot.

Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned from 2017, and what they suggest for how to prepare for future catastrophes.

What 2017 taught us about climate and extreme weather

Climate scientists have been warning about extreme weather, that it would become more frequent and intense in new ways. Yet 2017 still seemed like a brutal wake-up call to nature’s extraordinary power, and the frightening possibilities of this warmer world.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about why some weather is so extreme and how much climate change is to blame (especially when it comes to hurricanes). But 2017 gave us more clues about what we can expect in the world to come, hints that hopefully will help us prepare for the future.

This is what we understand about the connections between climate change and the disasters we saw this year.

Floods and rain

The year started off with torrential rainfall in California, marking the wettest winter in a century. Parched after years of drought, the rainfall officially brought the dry spell to an end as floods inundated hundreds of homes, landslides buried roads, and high water levels threatened to burst dams. Flooding across Missouri and Arkansas in the spring also claimed 20 lives and carried a $1.7 billion price tag.

California’s Oroville Dam suffered damage to its spillway after record rainfall, forcing almost 200,000 people to evacuate. Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Rainfall, both the amount and the rate, represents one of the strongest signals of climate change. Warmer air increases the evaporation rate of water, and for every degree Celsius increase in temperature, a parcel of air can hold 7 percent more water.

Average annual rainfall across the United States has gone up by 5 percent since 1990, though there’s regional variation, according to the National Climate Assessment.

Scientists have found that the amount of rain dished out by heavy rainstorms has gone up 10 percent since 1900 due to global warming. Extreme rainfall events are trending upward, and nine of the top 10 years for extreme one-day precipitation events have happened since 1990.

And all this moisture-laden air helped drive the powerful hurricanes that made landfall in the United States.

“Hurricanes live and die by the amount of rainfall they make out of moisture,” George Huffman, a research meteorologist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, told Vox.

The three biggest hurricanes of 2017 making landfall in the US. Courtesy of Chris Dolce


“To say this hurricane season has been historic is an understatement,” FEMA Administrator Brock Long told Congress in October.

Harvey, Irma, and Maria all made landfall as powerful Category 4 storms with winds exceeding 130 mph. Harvey in particular dumped a truly staggering amount of rain over Houston. The estimated 24 trillion gallons that fell there was so heavy it actually depressed the earth more than half an inch in some spots, according to preliminary analysis from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

These are the types of storms climate scientists expect to see more of in a warmer world.

Hurricane Harvey dumped somewhere between 24 and 34 trillion gallons on Texas and Louisiana. Javier Zarracina/Vox

First off, yes: There’s consensus that the science of climate change predicts that in a warming world, hurricanes will become more intense, carry more rain, and cause worse coastal flooding linked in part to sea level rise.

But here’s the thing: We don’t yet currently know, conclusively, that the hurricane season as a whole represents a result of climate change. “At this point it’s really uncertain if there’s any detectable human influence on any hurricane or tropical cyclone metric,” Tom Knutson, an NOAA meteorologist who studies hurricanes, told Vox in October.

There’s just not enough data. Meteorologists have only been tracking hurricanes with satellites since the 1970s. It’s possible that historic hurricane records, which go back to the 1800s, are incomplete or have inaccurate information on wind speeds and size. Considering how hurricanes have been lashing against the Atlantic’s coasts for untold epochs, we just have a tiny slice of data to determine what’s “normal.”

While it’s hard to say if the punishing number and intensity of storms were due to climate change, climate scientists have now determined — in two separate research efforts — that Hurricane Harvey’s record-blasting rains (best measured in feet for much of Houston) were likely amplified by climate change.

“Human-induced climate change likely increased Harvey’s total rainfall around Houston by at least 19 percent, with a best estimate of 37 percent,” Michael Wehner, a co-author on an attribution study recently published in Geophysical Research Letters, said at the American Geophysical Union conference in December. And the corresponding study in Environmental Research Letters concluded that climate change increased flooding by around 15 percent.

Even with climate change, Harvey’s rain was an extremely rare event, expected not to return for thousands of years, Karin van der Wiel, a co-author of the Environmental Research Letters study, said. Still, the odds of seeing such an extreme event have changed, she says. “It’s between 1.5 and 5 times more likely now than in pre-industrial times.”

What’s still not known: Did climate change alter the odds of seeing three incredibly strong storms — Harvey, Irma, Maria — in a row this season?

“We tend to look at [hurricanes] one at a time,” Wehner said. “What’s the probability of having three extraordinary events? What’s the probability of having $250 billion in damage one season? That’s a blind spot.”

Heat waves

In June, the Western US experienced the most intense heat wave ever to strike so early in the year, leading to dozens of flight cancellations. On June 21, Ocotillo Wells, California, reported a temperature of 124 degrees Fahrenheit, the hottest reading ever in San Diego County.

A map of how much higher temperatures were this year relative to the average between 1895 and 2017. NOAA

Farther north, Olympia, Washington, set a June temperature record of 98 degrees Fahrenheit. The searing heat persisted throughout July in the Pacific Northwest, and was followed by another wave in October, as high temperatures rippled through the Midwest and reached triple digits around Los Angeles, shattering records.


One of the biggest factors in this year’s record wildfire season was, oddly, rainfall.

Vegetation across much of the drought-stricken west eagerly soaked up the surfeit of water from the wet winter, leading to a rapid, vast growth spurt in trees, grasses, and shrubs in the spring. Then summer and fall brought intense heat that dried out these plants, turning the greenery into fuel.

Wildfires began igniting over the summer, sending choking air pollution through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and California. Huge new fires appeared in subsequent months, causing record damage, including the ongoing fires around Los Angeles that are poised to burn the rest of the year. The Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, at more than 280,000 acres, is the largest fire in California history. Across the United States, more than 9.5 million acres have burned to date, making 2017 the second-worst year for fires in terms of area.

A Los Angeles County firefighter monitors approaching flames on October 9. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

But the wildfires that scorched vast swaths of the US this year can scarcely be described as natural disasters, since human activities exacerbated them at every step.

“The context for this is as much about society living in these very fire-prone environments as it is about the climate,” said Tim Brown, director of NOAA’s Western Regional Climate Center. “One significant difference is we’ve had very significant population growth and urban development here since the 1960s.”

And changes in the climate are making many of these wildfires worse. Researchers found that human-caused climate change accounts for 55 percent of the increase in drying out of Western forests, a major factor in wildfires, and has led to a doubling of the area burned.

But as with hurricanes, there is some nuance to climate’s role in wildfires. Rising temperatures and less precipitation have had a bigger effect on fire risk in a temperate region like Northern California but has less of an impact in an area that’s already hot and dry, like Los Angeles County.

At the moment, scientists say they haven’t detected a climate signal in fire patterns in this region. But in study published in Environmental Research Letters in 2015, researchers projected that the area scorched by wildfires in Southern California will grow by as much as 77 percent by the middle of the century due to warming.

Why these disaster cost billions

Irma Maldanado stands with Sussury, her parrot, and her dog in what is left of her home in Corozal, Puerto Rico, on September 27. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Worldwide, 2017 is shaping up to be the most expensive year for climate disasters ever. In the US, it’s already the most costly year ever for hurricanes and for wildfires.

Such expensive weather events are part of an ongoing trend. Since 1980, there have been 218 disasters across the United States with costs topping $1 billion. The Congressional Research Service reported earlier this year that inflation-adjusted disaster appropriations have shot up 46 percent from a median of $6.2 billion between 2000 and 2006 to $9.1 billion between 2007 and 2013.

And the price of disaster damage is continuing to go up, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Part of it is that the hurricanes this year really were immense, but they have a bigger impact when they collide with growing cities. As more people compete for real estate, property values have skyrocketed in Florida and California. That means any time a disaster strikes, it becomes horrendously expensive to repair all the infrastructure and personal property.

But it’s still difficult to tabulate the costs of the storms. Many of the dollar values are drawn from insured properties, which represent only a fraction of the devastation. Over the past decade, only 30 percent of catastrophic losses around the world were insured, according to the reinsurance firm Swiss Re. That leaves a gap of $1.7 trillion in uninsured damages.

And for a place like Puerto Rico, still mired in blackout, the estimated $95 billion it will cost to rebuild doesn’t really convey all the suffering caused by the storm. About 43 percent of the island’s 3.3 million residents live below the poverty line, so the dollar amount of the damage may be lower than for places like Houston, Texas, with large homes and expensive industrial facilities.

Now the big question is who pays the bill. FEMA has offered more than $3.3 billion in aid to disaster victims through its Individuals and Households Program and $1.4 billion in public assistance this year. But it’s crunched for cash, as the huge storms and fires have depleted its reserves. An $81 billion emergency disaster relief package for Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, and California is likely to languish for weeks as Congress leaves for the holidays.

The disasters will have long-lasting health effects

The disasters of 2017 took hundreds of lives. Hurricane Maria was especially cruel, with estimates of more than 1,000 deaths in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Harvey was responsible for taking 82 lives. The Tubbs Fire in Northern California killed 22 people. There were at least six deaths attributed to heat waves this year.

Yet the toll of storms, fires, floods, and heat on human health can also be more insidious and can linger for years.

Heat is rarely listed as a cause of death, but it can be a factor in heart attacks, strokes, and respiratory arrests. High temperatures also worsen deadly air pollutants like ozone, which is linked to respiratory illnesses such as asthma.

Smoke inhalation from wildfires can also be deadly over time, since fine smoke particles in the air aggravate asthma, provoke inflammation, and strain the heart and lungs.

When concentrations of very small particles of wood smoke pollution (smaller than 2.5 microns, a.k.a. “PM 2.5”) reach above 10 micrograms per cubic meter, researchers find a 7 percent increase in asthma inhaler refills. “But if there’s a 100 microgram per meter smoke day, we’d expect that to go to a 100 percent increase of inhaler refills for the population,” Katelyn O’Dell, who studies the health hazards of wildfire smoke at Colorado state university said. Many of the wildfires this past year created conditions that exceeded this level of pollution.

Researchers expect that as climate change makes wildfires more likely over the course of this century, deaths and illnesses attributed to pollution from wood smoke will rise too, even offsetting gains made from cleaning up emissions from industry.

And the fury of a hurricane can leave people scraped, bruised, crushed, or drowned. When a storm cuts off electricity, other dangers abound. “Just about every interaction with the health system now involves electricity, from calling a hospital for help to accessing electronic medical records and powering lifesaving equipment like hemodialysis machines or ventilators,” Vox’s Julia Belluz wrote in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Smoke from the Thomas Fire on December 12 in Carpinteria, California. David McNew/Getty Images

Disasters are a strain not just on physical health but on mental health as well. “Expect a burden of mental health problems, which will include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and it’s particularly going to impact groups who don’t have access to rapid opportunities for recovery,” Sandro Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, told Vox after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas.

After a major disaster, studies find a 5 to 15 percent increase in the incidence of mental health problems among survivors.

“We all have a threshold that if we watch a loved one swept away in rushing water and drown, that can definitely create post-traumatic stress disorder,” Charles Benight, who studies trauma at the University of Colorado, said during the peak of the hurricane season.

We’ve always been vulnerable to natural disasters. But now the climate is changing.

There are few signs at the local or federal level that policymakers are taking the risks of climate change and extreme weather seriously, and some forces are even exacerbating the risk.

Engineers have long known that Houston is especially prone to flooding, yet land developers have acted as though the risk is nonexistent for decades. Future development will need to reckon with a need for better drainage.


We have no system to deal with escalating climate damages. It’s time to build one.

As sea levels rise and disaster risks to coastal communities grow, some planners are broaching the idea of a “strategic retreat” from areas that face persistent floods and fires. And based on projections showing these events happening over and over, we should be saving up money to rebuild when these disasters happen again.

But we’re not doing any of that.

International Space Station orbited over Hurricane Harvey and photographed the storm bearing down on the Texas coast. NASA

Instead, programs like the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program, which helps homeowners pay for damage from floods, ends up encouraging people to rebuild in areas that are likely to get flooded again. In one egregious case, a Houston home valued at $115,000 flooded 18 times in 16 years, costing the government $800,000.

We see similar problems with fire insurance in California, which lets homeowners rebuild a torched home, though some insurers are dropping homeowners in high fire risk areas. And as insurance rates rise, fewer people are buying insurance at all, which ends up passing recovery costs to the federal government.

Meanwhile, the Stafford Act limits federal reconstruction efforts to restoring the status quo ante. That means for a place like Puerto Rico, whose energy infrastructure vulnerabilities were laid bare after Hurricane Maria, there isn’t much room in the budget to make power lines, generators, and transformers more resistant to future disasters.

Even without the threat of climate change, we’ve long known that hurricanes are dangerous. They’ve inflicted grave damage on coastal communities for as long as we’ve had them. Louisiana has long been notorious for flooding, and Arizona renowned for triple-digit heat, and wildfires have always been an iconic part of the American West.

But the climate is changing, and the potential harm from these events is growing. In a recent analysis of climate events from last year, 2016, scientists determined three events — record-breaking global heat, a heat wave over Asia, and a “blob” of unusually warm water in the Northern Pacific — could not have occurred without human-induced climate change. “I’ve never seen that language in a paper until now,” Jeff Rosenfeld, editor-in-chief of Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, which published the report, said. “We’re virtually certain that [these events were] impossible without human-induced climate change.”

So larger hurricanes are coming.

More wildfires will ignite.

Longer heat waves will sear.

And other climate disasters are likely grow bigger, more intense, more expensive, and more frequent.

We see them on the horizon.

And we need to start preparing now.

Press link for more:

A look back on 2017 Deadly Extremes #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

From America’s hurricanes to Portugal’s fires, ABC Weather looks back at 2017’s deadly extremes

ABC Weather By Kate Doyle and Ben Deacon

Posted 25 minutes ago

Fri 29 Dec 2017, 6:25am

PHOTO: A helicopter dumps water on a burning house in the Anaheim Hills during October’s California fires. (AP: Jeff Gritchen/The Orange County Register)

Cyclones, bushfires and heatwaves are typically Australian natural disasters, but in 2017 devastating fires, record heat, hurricanes and typhoons — what we call cyclones — struck around the world.

Here are a few of the events that caught our attention this year.

Cyclone Debbie

It was the cyclone that just kept on going.

Debbie made landfall near Airlie Beach as a category 4 system on March 28 with wind gusts of 263 kilometres per hour recorded at Hamilton Island, the highest gust ever recorded in the Queensland digital climate archive, and its initial impact was ferocious.

But what set Debbie apart from the average cyclone was the trail of drenching rain it left as its remnants made their way down the Queensland coast and across the New South Wales border.

In an historic move, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk closed all schools south of Agnes Water, north of Bundaberg, and east of Nanango in the South Burnett region, including Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

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VIDEO: SES workers rescue a man from floodwaters in Lismore (ABC News)

The flooding did not stop at the border as far south in Lismore, NSW, 324.8 millimetres fell in 18 hours, leading to the highest river levels since 1974 and waist-high flooding in the CBD when the town’s levee breached.

Media reports attributed nine deaths to Tropical Cyclone Debbie in Australia.

Debbie did not just leave it at that, as New Zealand’s North Island was drenched when the tail end of the system made its way across the Tasman a week after it first made landfall in Queensland.

Thousands of homes were evacuated there as well.

Pakistan record heat

In May, there was a major heat event which affected most of the Persian Gulf but seemed to go largely under the radar in western media.

The town of Turbat in south-west Pakistan recorded 54.0 degrees Celsius, equal to the maximum temperature recorded in Mitrabah, Kuwait in July last year.

Neither of the temperatures have been officially confirmed by the World Meteorological Organisation, but if it turns out to be legitimate will be a new Asian record.

These record high temperatures stir up debate around the global highest recorded temperature.

The current record of 56.7C taken in Death Valley, USA, in 1913 is viewed with scepticism because of dubious equipment.

Likewise the eastern hemisphere record of 55.0 recorded in Kebili, Tunisia, is also questionable due to inconsistencies in previous temperature recording practices.

So it could well be that the hottest temperature directly recorded on Earth happened this year.

Australia’s official hottest temperature was recorded at Oodnadatta in 1960 at 50.7 degrees Celsius.

US hurricane cluster

Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia, and Maria — the US was battered by hurricane after hurricane this year.

Of these, Harvey, Irma and Maria did the most damage.

3 hurricanes threatening land simultaneously in the W Atlantic Basin. Never seen anything like this in the modern record #Irma #Jose

Harvey led the pack as the first major hurricane to hit the mainland US in almost a decade when it stalled over Houston and led to widespread, devastating flooding.

Hurricane Irma, even stronger than Harvey, battered the Caribbean before travelling across Cuba, to make landfall in Florida.

What made Irma special meteorologically was the length of time it maintained extremely high wind speeds, more than 297km/h for 37 hours, far and away the highest ever recorded.

Maria’s biggest impact was on Puerto Rico, where US media reports suggest the death toll was at least 48 people.

As of early December, around one million people on the island were still without power, more than two months after the hurricane ripped through on September 20.

East Africa drought

UN data suggests there are more than 15.2 million people who remain severely food insecure on the horn of Africa as of December 8.

Some parts received decent rain in October and November this year but it will take time for those benefits to trickle through, especially when coupled with other conflicts.

For other areas, this will be the fourth consecutive year the rains have failed.

As with many of the other events on this list, the question of whether climate change is to blame has been raised and, as with many other events, the answers are complicated.

Extreme cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons are expected to be less common because of climate change, but could be worse when they do hit because of their increased capacity to dump more rain and rising oceans.

Likewise, extreme fires are expected to be worsened by higher temperatures and longer fire seasons.

With the East African drought though, the role of climate change is not definitive.

Portugal fires

Portugal suffered two major rounds of deadly fires this year, one in June and one in October.

The July fires led to 62 deaths and the October fires killed more than 40 people.

The July fires took place during a heatwave when there were several days in a row above 40C.

The October fires were whipped up by the passing of Hurricane Ophelia.

The unusually placed storm was in the area thanks its formation much further north east than a normal Atlantic hurricane, combined with a run-in with the mid-latitude jet stream. It made a beeline for Ireland rather than taking the typical route and heading for the Americas.

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VIDEO: Rare fire devil on camera in Portugal (ABC News)

As with the Californian fires later in the year, there has been speculation that introduced eucalypts contributed to the rapid spread of these fires.

South Asia floods

It was reported that more than 1,300 people died in the flooding that hit India, Bangladesh and Nepal in mid-August this year.

These fires were not just significant because Ellen DeGeneres and Paris Hilton’s homes were evacuated, the fires in early October led to tens of thousands of people being forced to flee their homes and more than 40 people lost their lives.

Entire suburbs were reduced to rubble.

Firefighters faced the impossible task of fighting 14 fires at once in gusts of up to 120km/h with low relative humidity.

The fires were fanned by what are known as the ‘Diablo’ winds in Northern California.

Like their more well-known Southern Californian counterpart, the Santa Ana winds, they come from over the continent bringing hot dry conditions.

Diablo winds are traditionally associated with wildfires, especially in autumn.

Victoria storms

Although many in Melbourne were underwhelmed by the much-publicised December storms, there was no denying the rainfall totals in north-east Victoria were record-breaking.

Echuca, Euroa and Eildon all recorded their highest daily rainfall totals on record.

Rainfall Totals

Location Rainfall (mm) Duration of Records (years)

Echuca. 123 159

Euroa. 146. 132

Eildon. 149. 131

Record breaking rainfall totals recorded in the 24 hours to 9 am December 21 2017

The storm set off debate surrounding natural disaster messaging in Australia and is a timely reminder to be prepared heading into the traditional summer disaster period.

Philippines typhoon and landslides

On December 16, Tropical Storm Kia-tak — known locally as Urduja — made landfall in the Philippines.

Severe flooding and landsides were triggered when two months of rain fell in 48 hours.

Less than two weeks later, Typhoon Tembin — also known as Typhoon Vinta — hit the Philippines.

So far, more than 250 people are confirmed dead as a result of the storm.

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VIDEO: Landslides kill 32 in storm-hit Philippine province (ABC News)

Central Australian floods

Technically during the dying days of 2016, but close enough that we thought it warranted a mention, the flooding rains that hit central Australia on Christmas night were described as a once in a half-century storm by the Bureau of Meteorology.

In Kintore 61.4mm fell between 8:00pm and 9:00pm alone, and 232mm fell in the 24 hours after 9:00am on Christmas Day.

The widespread flooding closed the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and several locations were cut off for weeks.

Press link for more: ABC.NET.AU

Climate Change is happening faster than expected! #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Climate Change Is Happening Faster Than Expected, and It’s More Extreme

Scientists warned in 2017 that not enough has been done to protect millions of people from an expected increase in dangerous heat waves. Credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

In the past year, the scientific consensus shifted toward a grimmer and less uncertain picture of the risks posed by climate change.

When the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its 5th Climate Assessment in 2014, it formally declared that observed warming was “extremely likely” to be mostly caused by human activity.

This year, a major scientific update from the United States Global Change Research Program put it more bluntly: “There is no convincing alternative explanation.”

Other scientific authorities have issued similar assessments:

• The Royal Society published a compendium of how the science has advanced, warning that it seems likelier that we’ve been underestimating the risks of warming than overestimating them.

• The American Meteorological Society issued its annual study of extreme weather events and said that many of those it studied this year would not have been possible without the influence of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

• The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said recent melting of the Arctic was not moderating and was more intense than at any time in recorded history.

While 2017 may not have hit a global temperature record, it is running in second or third place, and on the heels of records set in 2015 and 2016. Talk of some kind of “hiatus” seems as old as disco music.

‘A Deadly Tragedy in the Making’

Some of the strongest warnings in the Royal Society update came from health researchers, who said there hasn’t been nearly enough done to protect millions of vulnerable people worldwide from the expected increase in heat waves.

“It’s a deadly tragedy in the making, all the worse because the same experts are saying such heat waves are eminently survivable with adequate resources to protect people,” said climate researcher Eric Wolff, lead author of the Royal Society update.

Atmospheric scientist Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research said climate science has progressed in all directions since the IPCC report was published in 2014. He works with a group of scientists trying to update the IPCC reporting process to make it more fluid and meaningful in real time.

The need to build resilience is clear and missing in action,” Trenberth said. “The result is we suffer the consequences at costs of hundreds of billions of dollars.”

One of the starkest conclusions of the Royal Society update is that up to 350 million people in places like Karachi, Kolkota, Lagos and Shanghai are likely to face deadly heat waves every year by 2050—even if nations are able to rein in greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep the average global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as per the Paris climate agreement.

There’s also an increasing chance global warming will affect a key North Atlantic current that carries ocean heat from the tropics toward western Europe, according to a 2016 study. It shows the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current weakening by 37 percent by 2100, which could have big effects on European climate and food production.

Melting Ice and Risks to Oceans and Ecosystems

The Royal Society report also notes:

• An increasing risk that ocean acidification will rapidly and significantly alter many ecosystems and food webs;

• A concern that crops grown in high-CO2 conditions could be less nutritious, leading to mineral deficiencies;

• That the commonly accepted wet-areas-wetter and dry-areas-drier scenario has regional nuances with important implications for local water management and food production planning; and,

• That scientists are finding more links between melting Arctic sea ice and weather extremes like heat waves, droughts and blizzards.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program, an interagency group whose work went through exhaustive peer review and emerged from the Trump administration’s political review mostly unscathed, also cited several emerging conclusions that are much clearer today than five years ago.

Among them are changes in ocean ecosystems that go far beyond rising sea levels. Ocean acidification is increasing, as is oxygen loss, and scientists are more acutely aware than before of the severity of their impacts. In some U.S. coastal waters, these trends are “raising the risk of serious ecological and economic consequences,” the report noted.

The most ominous of its chapters addressed the risks of surprises like “tipping points” or “compound extremes”—sucker punches, combination punches, and even knockout punches. “The more the climate changes, the greater the potential for these,” it said.

“Uncertainty is not our friend here,” said Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann. “We are seeing increases in extreme weather events that go well beyond what has been predicted or projected in the past. We’re learning that there are factors we were not previously aware of that may be magnifying the impacts of human-caused climate change.” Among those are “subtle mechanisms involving the behavior of the jet stream that may be involved in explaining the dramatic increase we’ve seen in floods, droughts, heat waves and wildfires,” he said.

“Increasingly, the science suggests that many of the impacts are occurring earlier and with greater amplitude than was predicted,” Mann said, after considering new research since the milestone of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment, which served as the scientific basis for the Paris Agreement.

“We have literally, in the space of a year, doubled our assessment of the potential sea level rise we could see by the end of this century. That is simply remarkable. And it is sobering,” he said.

In general, there should be more monitoring of global warming impacts, but all those programs are threatened under the current administration, Mann said. “Continued funding to support research is critical,” he said, “and here, again, we encounter a very unfavorable political environment where fossil fuel-beholden politicians that run the White House and Congress are doing everything they can to defund and suppress research on climate change science and impact assessments.”

Press link for more: Inside Climate News

Baba Brinkman makes Climate Rap hot. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Rapper’s Lyrics about Climate Change Are Smart

Baba Brinkman makes climate rap hot

Mark FischettiDecember 27, 2017

Credit: Olivia Sebesky

Want to hear the most cogent scientific, social and political arguments about climate change?

Check out Baba Brinkman’s song “Make It Hot.” Brinkman is a Canadian rapper who has garnered fame for his various collections of work, such as The Rap Guide to Religion.

He’s become a bit of a phenomenon in the science and policy community, first with The Rap Guide to Evolution and his more recent collection of 24 songs called The Rap Guide to Climate Chaos.

He performed what may be his biggest hit, “Make It Hot,” at the COP21 climate meeting in Paris. And I heard him perform that piece last week at the AGU Annual Meeting in New Orleans, a conference of 23,000 earth, climate and space scientists. The audience was spellbound.

The organizers invited Brinkman, who now lives in New York City, to perform the song at the beginning of a major keynote address for the week. Not knowing what to expect, the audience was a little skeptical when Brinkman appeared—a tall, clean cut, well-dressed, middle-aged man who began by talking about climate, not rapping. But the large crowd became thoroughly enthralled after he got about a minute into the song. That’s because the lyrics are smart. Really smart.

I’m not the first to write about Brinkman’s work, but this may be the first time you’ve heard about him. Rather than me say more, just read the lyrics for yourself, below. I’ve highlighted a couple lines in particular that struck me. You can also see Brinkman perform the song on YouTube, below.

Enjoy. And share; the song will make people reflect about the role they, and all of us, play in making the climate issue hot.

“Make It Hot”

Written by D. Brinkman and D. Moross


Scientists are telling us that we’re standing on a precipice

And we have to convert the global economy and make it emission-less

And those emissions are caused by every single one of our jobs

Every one of us contributing carbon emissions to the smog

For instance, if I write a rhyme tryin’ to describe climate change

And it’s hot, so it catches on, someone’s gonna fly me someplace

To perform it, and the appeal of that is enormous

It’s not an option for me to turn down work for global warming

‘Cause I make it hot, people say my rhymes are dope

I twist words until they’re unrecognizable

I make it hot, make it heezy fa sheezy

So hot even climate change skeptics will believe me

I make it hot, like the temperature it needs to be

Before the tea party will believe the IPCC

I make it hot, I liquefy the Greenland ice sheets

Seven meters of sea level rise, that’ll do nicely

And yeah, humans are adaptable, and we can toughen up

But that response ignores people who feel like it’s already tough enough

Make a list of countries that nobody visits as a tourist
They have low carbon emissions, the richest inflicted this on the poorest

We did it by heating our houses, and feeding our spouses

And flying and driving places and having no patience for power outages

The Pope calls it anthropocentric, he calls it obnoxious

But I got work to do, and work takes energy to accomplish

And I make it hot, I turn up the heat on the crowd

You make it hot too though, so don’t try to be weaseling out

I make it hot like the African sun

Like the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

I make it hot, feel that bass when it vibrates

Hot like the permafrost releasing methyl hydrates

I make it hot, like a planet with low albedo

Like me rockin’ a trench coat on a beach instead of a speedo

Hot with no apologies, but still I’m feelin’ a lot grief

For the impact my lifestyle has on the planet’s ecology

My carbon footprint is bigger than crypto-zoology’s

I’m talkin’ Loch Ness monstrous, so I’m not at peace

Because the aggregate effect of every decision I’m makin’ is tragic

But I can’t just quit, they say that we’re “carbon emission addicts”

But that’s just glib, you want me to live in poverty abject

And if I did, what happens to greenhouse gasses on average?

If I quit and you don’t, it’s still hell in a hand-basket


A traffic jam with no plan of action, fantastic

This is a classic arms race that we’re trapped in, it’s ominous

Self-interested parties stuck in a tragedy of the commons

The problem is caused by our collective emissions of carbon

But the person who emits is not the person emissions are harmin’

So it’s a failure of the market, everyone is incentivized

To pollute as much as they can get away with, and catch a free ride

So it’s no surprise to see emissions on the rise
When the cost of burning fossil fuel is externalized

It’s effectively subsidized, it’s paid for by the victims

Of the eventual climate impacts caused by our emissions

And Bill McKibben and the Guardian have been targeting investments

Like: Dirty energy is the new tobacco, so keep your distance

From anybody makin’ a profit off of fossil fuels

Cool, I’m down with the boycott, I’m just boycotting myself too

‘Cause I make it hot, I cause a heat wave

How about nine degrees hotter than the hottest ones these days?

I make it hot, like climate refugees

Picture a hot hundred million displaced Bangladeshis

I make it hot, split flames, rap metaphors

A five-alarm blaze killing the last redwood forest

I make it hot, I make it six degrees

Causing the extinction of forty percent of species

Hot! So what are we left with?

A speeding train with no brakes, some kind of a death wish?

A scientific consensus that we’re standing on a precipice

And a population with no idea of how to reduce their emissions

Some people do offset their footprint voluntarily

With the milk of human altruism, hope, faith and charity

But that’s not gonna cut it – it’s not counterproductive

But we got a global carbon budget and it’s globally busted

And there are hundreds of gigatons that you would have to offset

You might as well donate your piggy bank to the national debt

I ain’t got no spare change to donate to carbon offsetting

I don’t even want to calculate my footprint, I find it upsetting

It’s like the medieval Catholic church, back when it was indulgence-selling

If you get a big mac and a diet coke, your belly is still swelling

But here’s what I’m willing: I’m willing to pay a tax

A fee that’s calculated against my carbon impacts

And globally harmonized to switch incentives around

And make sure most of that carbon stays safely underground

But I’m not gonna pay it, not unless you all pay it too

That way I can be sure that you’ll do what you say you’ll do

How about everyone has to pay it, no free riders allowed

No international pact with the US or China left out

You can invest it in green R&D, or you can dividend it back to me

But either way I won’t be happy until the day they’re carbon taxing me


‘Cause then I can make it hot, without ever feelin’ a chill

I’m sick of the guilt trip killin’ my high when I’m feelin’ a thrill

So I make it hot, I get your emotions aroused

If we can’t make those hot, we’re not gonna keep the oceans down

So let’s make it hot, people, let’s turn up the heat

On polluters tryin’ to catch a ride on all the rest of us for free

I make it hot on the mic and in my social life

When I agitate for my friends to agitate for a carbon price

And that’s how you make it hot

From The Rap Guide to Climate Chaos, released September 30, 2016

Written by D. Brinkman and D. Moross

Press link for more: Scientific American

Best Environmental Journalism 2017 #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Our Favorite Environmental Journalism of 2017

Popular Dec. 26, 2017 01:01PM EST

By Joe Sandler Clarke and Unearthed reporters

From the finest American journalism chronicling the worst excesses of the Trump administration to international stories showing the impact of climate change on the developing world, here are the stories we wish we had written this year.

On our changing climate

Alaska’s permafrost is no longer permanent – New York Times, Henry Fountain @henryfountain

This striking New York Times piece is one of those rare pieces of journalism that communicates an issue so effectively and with such clarity that the reader is able to immediately grasp the complex science that too often makes environmental journalism impenetrable.

The perfect storm – Reveal

Hurricane Harvey pummelled Houston in August, and Reveal reporter Neena Satija was there to document the city’s unpreparedness for the storm. This piece is a follow-up to Hell and High Water, the extraordinary 2016 joint investigation by ProPublica, The Texas Tribune and Reveal.

One of the clearest signs of climate change in Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey was the rain – Vox, Umair Irfan @umairfan

We were crying out for a piece of forensic reporting setting out the links between climate change and this summer’s storms in the Caribbean and southern America, and Umair Irfan delivered. This is the kind of explanatory journalism Vox excels at.

The U.S. flooded one of Houston’s richest neighborhoods to save everyone else – Bloomberg Businessweek, Shannon Sims @shannongsims

Another piece on the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. This cover story from Bloomberg Businessweek gives an insight into what a natural disaster looks like in one of America’s most important economic areas. As Sims herself said, this is an article about “what justice looks like in a changing climate.”

Why climate change is creating a new generation of child brides – The Observer, Gethin Chamberlain @newsandpics

Stories that connect climate change with real human consequences should be the gold standard of environmental reporting. This piece from the Observer does just that, showing how increased droughts and floods are forcing farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to give away their daughters to stay out of poverty.

‘Not a single thing was dry’: Mumbai’s residents count the cost of floods – The Guardian, Amrit Dhillon and Carlin Carr

Devastating floods in South Asia made for one of the most dramatic environmental stories this year. In this piece, Mumbai residents talk to the Guardian about facing up to the torrential rains.

Mapped: How UK foreign aid is spent on climate change – Carbon Brief, Rosamund Pearce @_rospearce and Leo Hickman @LeoHickman

Rich countries are providing aid to help developing nations adapt to climate change. But how much is being spent? Who is spending it? And where is the money going? Back in October, Carbon Brief set out to answer these questions. A month later, they also mapped how multilateral climate funds spend their money.

On Trump

Under Trump, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has slowed actions against polluters, and put limits on enforcement officers – New York Times, Eric Lipton @EricLiptonNYT and Danielle Ivory @danielle_ivory

While the president’s agenda has largely floundered in Congress, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt‘s efforts to undo Obama-era environmental rules have happened at a rapid pace. This New York Times piece sets out just what the agency has been up to in the first year of the Trump presidency.

Why the scariest nuclear threat may be coming from inside the White House – Vanity Fair, Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis has done some amazing work chronicling the Trump administration. We could easily have picked his piece on the administration’s actions against scientists in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But with the news dominated by fears over North Korea, this look at U.S. nuclear policy at home was timely and fascinating.

America’s climate refugees have been abandoned by Trump – Mother Jones, Kyla Mandel @kylamandel

With Puerto Rico and the Gulf Coast devastated by hurricanes this year, Kyla Mandel reported on the Trump administration’s efforts to cut support for American communities at the forefront of climate change.

Bombs in your backyard – ProPublica

It turns out that the U.S. military spends more than a billion dollars a year cleaning up sites it has contaminated with explosives and toxic chemicals. Some of these areas are near schools and residential neighborhoods. We know this because ProPublica went ahead and mapped them.

On the shifting energy system

How China floated to the top in solar – Time, Charlie Campbell @CharlieCamp6ell

This was the year the world got serious about green energy, and this feature from Time magazine tells the story of how China became a leader in renewable energy. We liked this line from Sang Dajie, a former coal miner who now works on the world’s largest floating solar farm: “The coal mine was very hot and the air was bad. But here I feel safe. The new energy is safe.”

The story behind this days-long traffic jam in Mongolia – Quartz, Johnny Simon

China may be leading the world on renewable energy, but it still loves coal. This photo gallery was a clear illustration of the country’s energy conundrum.

The race to solar-power Africa – New Yorker, Bill McKibben @billmckibben

Activist and journalist Bill McKibben reported on how American start-ups are competing with Chinese and European firms, and homegrown companies, to provide cheap, reliable power to a continent where fossil fuels have failed to spark development.

The town that disappeared – BBC News, Jenny Norton

Across Russia, hundreds of small towns have been abandoned in the past ten years as coal mining becomes increasingly unviable in the country and the fallout from the collapse of the Soviet Union continues.

Russia-backed hackers try to hijack Britain’s power supply – The Times, Aaron Rogan and Mark Bridge

Amid the flurry of concern about hacking in the U.S. election, The Times reported in June that Russian hackers attacked networks running the national grid in the UK. A couple of days later, Motherboard, Vice’s sister tech publication, reported that GCHQ believed the hackers had already compromised UK energy sector targets.

On the new and persistent threats to the environment

Series: So I can breathe – BBC World Service

There have been plenty of air pollution stories in the media over the last 12 months, but this series of programs broadcast across BBC platforms in March caught our eye for reporting on solutions to the global crisis.

Vladimir’s Venezuela: Leveraging loans to Caracas, Moscow snaps up oil assets – Reuters, Marianna Parraga and Alexandra Ulmer

Venezuela’s economy is unravelling and, as this special report from Reuters in August shows, the country’s socialist government is taking increasingly drastic measures to survive.

Attack of the bee killers – Politico, Giulia Paravicini @giuliaparavicin and Simon Marks @MarksSimon

2017 saw even more scientific research linking bee deaths with controversial pesticides called neonicotinoids. This piece in Politico methodically and forcefully lays out how chemical giants Bayer and Syngenta have lobbied EU politicians for years to weaken regulations.

There’s an army of Indian Twitter accounts pushing suspiciously identical pro-mining tweets – BuzzFeed, Mark Di Stefano @MarkDiStef

With Indian mining company Adani seeking support for a controversial coal project on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef, the company’s boss Gautam Adani visited Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in April. As BuzzFeed reported, his visit was wildly cheered on by a bunch of definitely real Indian tweeters who all believed that Adani would bring coal jobs to Queensland.

A fight for Brazil’s Amazon forest – Financial Times, Sue Branford

Since Michel Temer became president in August 2016, Brazilian politics has been dominated by rollbacks for key environmental and Indigenous protections. In September, as part of the FT’s ‘Brazil: the Road Ahead’ series, Sue Branford reported on the new scramble for natural resources in the Brazilian Amazon.

Environmental defenders being killed in record numbers globally, new research reveals – The Guardian, Jonathan Watts @jonathanwatts and John Vidal @john_vidal

Protecting the environment is an increasingly dangerous thing to do. This research by Global Witness found that in 2016, 200 environmental activists and others protecting their land from destructive industries were killed—and the rate only increased in 2017. This story launched The Defenders, an ongoing collaboration between the Guardian and Global Witness tracking such killings.

Press link for more:

2017 A year of dark hours & green optimism #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

James Murray reviews a year in which terrifying climate impacts wrestled with heartening green business breakthroughs

The default setting of business is optimism.

No one starts a company imagining the day bailiffs knock at the door.

No one goes to a job interview and asks about the redundancy package.

Optimism is doubly important to green businesses.

There is the standard commercial optimism the enterprise will prove a world-beating success. And then there is the environmentalists’ optimism that they might deliver world-saving success.

The past year has seen this optimism sorely tested. Not to breaking point – never to breaking point. But it has still been more brutally challenged than at any point in the decade BusinessGreen has been covering these issues.

The terrifying metrics have been repeated so often they risk losing potency, but there is no alternative but to keep facing up to them.

The story that should dominate every end of year round up from every media outlet on the planet came last month in the form of two reports released at the UN climate summit in Bonn.

The first confirmed atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are at their highest levels in at least 800,000 years and possibly three to five million years.

As Dr Emily Shuckburgh of the British Antarctic Survey told the BusinessGreen Leaders’ Summit this autumn, the last time concentrations of greenhouse gas were as high as they are now sea levels were around 10 metres higher.

Up to two metres of sea level rise this century is now entirely plausible.

However, it was the second report that was the real kicker.

The Global Carbon Project predicted carbon emissions will rise this year after four years when flat emissions fuelled hopes global economic growth and carbon emissions had been decoupled.

There are reasons to hope this is just a blip. The data is preliminary and the primary driver of any increase appears to be lower than expected hydropower output in China, which in turn led to an uptick in coal use. But China remains firmly committed to curbing its coal use and recently confirmed plans for a national carbon market to help drive the switch to cleaner energy sources.

Economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions have not suddenly recoupled.

And yet, even if the estimates of rising emissions prove to be overly pessimistic one thing is clear: they are not falling, are they? And they need to – fast.

Again at our BusinessGreen Leaders’ Summit, M&S’s Mike Barry observed that if, as the world’s science academies insist, we need to ensure global emissions peak by 2020 before falling sharply we have just 1,000 days to save the world.

With each day, month, year that passes the climate crisis gets more daunting.

But for all the progress made by green businesses the lack of urgency amongst political and business elites, not to mention the general populus, remains as palpable as it is terrifying.

Alongside the scientific warnings came economic studies showing investment in clean energy is likely to fall this year.

Thankfully levels of renewables deployment keep rising because the fall in investment is largely a function of the near miraculous reductions in the cost of clean power.

But even taking these plummeting cost into account, overall investment should not be falling – the decarbonisation challenge is too urgent for us to take our time.

The hope remains that once the impacts of climate change become truly explicit a full spectrum response will follow.

But here too optimism and sea fronts took a battering in 2017.

To borrow Al Gore’s line, the newsreels have looked like a “nature hike through the Book of Revelation”.

Despite the lack of an El Nino effect, 2017 is set to be the second or third hottest year on record; hurricanes unprecedented in their power pummelled the US and Caribbean; the largest wildfires California has ever seen burned deep into the Northern Hemisphere winter; scientists warned the “Arctic shows no sign of returning to the reliably frozen region of recent past decades”; studies revealed an ‘ecological armageddon‘ amongst insect populations; droughts fuelled famine and insecurity across East Africa and the Middle East; the UN warned the number of chronically undernourished people has risen for the first time since the turn of the century due in large part to climate impacts. “Alarm bells we cannot ignore,” declared the UN – and yet we can and we do.

Good men and women sought to amplify these alarm bells. David Wallace Wells penned an epic examination of the long tail, unlikely but not impossible risks of full-blown climate breakdown that we all too easily ignore (and got attacked by people who should know better for his trouble). Bill McKibben continued his campaign to raise awareness of the “hot new world” we live in. Emily Shuckburgh teamed up with Tony Juniper and Prince of Wales to produce a beautiful little book that attempted to explain climate risks to new audiences. The peerless George Monbiot again and again highlighted the terrifying and credible environmental projections coming out of the scientific community. Eric Holthaus documented the ‘ice apocalypse’ that is underway at the planet’s poles.

Meanwhile, in the world of business and politics AXA CEO Thomas Buberl pointedly observed that a “+4C world is not insurable”. Mark Carney continued to warn of climate risk and the “tragedy of the horizon”. President Macron stepped seamlessly into the role of global climate leader with his campaign to “make our planet great again”.

One of the few upsides of the climate crisis is it has unleashed a wave of evocative writing and memorable sound bites. Although it’s not much compensation, to be honest. I’d settle for fewer great essays and a more habitable biosphere.

Faced with the litany of climate impacts and avalanche of warnings, David Powell of the New Economics Foundation asked “what is this pathology”? What is it in our psychological make up that allows societies to accept these realities and then fail to adequately respond to them? To essentially shrug off the credible risk of apocalypse?

Pathology is the right word and if it is not yet fully understood we do know the evidence of it is everywhere. Because if 2017 was bleak from an environmental perspective, the political climate felt little better.

2017 was the year when the world’s understanding of the most powerful man on the planet moved from ‘he’s not necessarily dangerous and racist, he just says dangerous and racist things’ to ‘he is dangerous and racist, but he’s not necessarily fascist, he just says fascist things’.

Who knows where we go next.

To watch a US administration that has been completely captured by climate sceptic ideologues responding to hurricanes and wildfires with barely literate hymns to coal power and Arctic drilling felt like a sick joke.

But this disconnect is everywhere.

Mark Campanale of the Carbon Tracker think tank told a story this year of a meeting with a group of fund managers in California, where he struggled to convince them of the  climate-related risks in their portfolio even as they looked out the window of the skyscraper they were in and watched fires burn on the horizon.

In her MaddAddam trilogy, the novelist Margaret Atwood envisages a Church of PetrOleum that preaches about how “oil is holy throughout the Bible”. As the Trump administration releases a National Security Strategy that argues US leadership is “indispensable” in pushing back against an “anti-growth” and borderline immoral climate agenda, Atwood’s dystopian imaginings have never felt more prescient.

On this side of the Atlantic, the pathology is nowhere near as prevalent, but climate action has still been comprehensively overshadowed by the unending psychodrama that is Brexit.

There may well be good reasons to leave the EU and Brexit may yet be delivered in a way that averts national disaster. But watching the past year of ministerial mis-steps, botched elections, and Brussels-related monomania has only emphasised how Brexit remains a dire distraction from the real economic, social, and environmental challenges the UK faces.

When even one of the architects of the Vote Leave campaign has said he thought calling the referendum was a terrible idea and there were numerous other reforms the government should have pursued before addressing its relationship with the EU, it is hard to conclude the UK is engaged in anything other than an era-shaping bout of displacement activity – an exercise that could yet hand control of the government to a hard right cabal of climate sceptic, libertarian hacks.

But then again, we are hardly alone.

2017 has seen the forces of authoritarianism on the march – often with a battalion of climate scepticism on their right flank.

In Turkey, in Russia, in Hungary, in the US, even in Germany where support for the hard right effectively denied Merkel the opportunity to move forward with more ambitious decarbonisation plans, the kind of nationalist politics the West thought had been confined to the history books has enjoyed a shocking revival. As one observer put it on Twitter: “Nazis are bad. That is not an argument I was expecting to have to reprosecute”.

2017 was the year the political and cultural cold war that has been simmering since the 2008 financial crash broke into the open.

It is a battle progressive forces cannot duck away from, but it is also of grave concern that a time when international co-operation is desperately required to tackle the escalating climate threat the necessary geopolitical priority has become containing the spread of nationalist autocracy and avoiding the very real risk of a volatile and cornered US president turning trade wars into shooting wars.

The parallels with the 1930s may be imperfect, but at times they have felt fearfully relevant.

Faced with all this the one dominant question of the past year has been how to respond?

How do we get from ratcheting tensions and interlocking crises which are so reminiscent of the 1930s to a new green economic settlement and global low carbon infrastructure blitz to echo the 1950s and 1960s, only without going through any equivalent of the 1940s?

The truth is no-one has the answer.

Many of the people I speak to through my work at BusinessGreen are more worried than they have ever been.

On the record, the veneer of corporate optimism remains in place.

Off the record, for many the nagging sense that we are not making sufficient progress, that the risks are becoming ever more daunting is becoming harder to resist.

The green economy is chalking up more victories than ever before, but like an Escher Drawing the road ahead keeps getting steeper.

As a journalist I have no such professional constraints and few qualms about admitting how scared I become when considering the Himalayan environmental risks we face, which, inevitably, is most days.

When the most important thing in your life is two sons under the age of three and you have a good chance of living well into the second half of the century, the fact the worst climate impacts will not be felt for decades is little comfort.

Where then is the optimism to be found?

Was 2017 really that bleak?

Or are there countervailing forces mobilising against the elite-level indifference and vested interests that have acted a drag on green economic progress?

The good news – and there is good news – is that while they struggled to command headlines there were plenty of encouraging developments to pierce the gloom.

The best news came not in the form of the incremental environmental improvements made by thousands of businesses and governments around the world, but in the signs of inter-locking, economy-wide, systems level change that could yet provide a route to curbing global emissions during the 2020s.

More encouraging still, the pace at which these welcome developments are moving from well-meaning idea to global trend or technological breakthrough appears to be accelerating, even as public support for decarbonisation grows.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance provided one such example, moving from a concept cooked up by the British and Canadian government to a global push backed by over 50 countries, regions and businesses within a matter of months.

Similarly, the Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) has, in less than a year, moved from an academic exercise to a market-shaping endeavour fully endorsed by 225 global investors with more than $26.3tr in assets under management and 237 firms with a market capitalisation of $6.3tr. It is easy to see how within a few short years every listed company on the planet will face calls from shareholders to explain how they plan to adjust to a decarbonising economy and escalating climate risks.

The divestment trend has enjoyed a longer gestation period, but this year again saw significant breakthroughs. Arguably the three most powerful and influential investors in the world – Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, the World Bank, and Blackrock – all took sizeable steps towards either ending investment in carbon intensive assets or engaging with companies to force them to come forward with climate strategies.

Many of the bellwether businesses that set global corporate norms refused to bow to the bully in the White House and quietly intensified their climate strategies. At the last count over 300 companies had committed to setting and meeting science-based emissions targets. Coupled with the RE100 initiative to source 100 per cent renewables, the EP100 initiative to double energy productivity, and the EV100 initiative to switch to electric fleets, this year saw the emergence of a viable blueprint to decarbonise multinational giants.

Crucially, we even began to see some of the oil and energy majors get in on the act. DONG Energy changed its name to Ørsted, because the ONG stood for oil and gas and it didn’t want to do that anymore. Shell opened its first electric vehicle charging stations and BP returned to the solar market. Only this week BHP Billiton said it was preparing to quit the World Coal Association over a stance on climate change the mining giant regarded as less than constructive.

These corporate trends formed a virtuous circle with similarly encouraging technological trends. Records for renewables costs and output were toppled. In the UK, the first day without coal power since the Industrial Revolution was recorded. The offshore wind industry delivered a previously unimaginable feat of engineering and economics, declaring it had halved the cost of the power it could deliver inside four years. Solar, wind, and energy storage costs kept falling and smart grid functionality continued to improve, making renewables the default option for new generation projects in a growing number of countries, even when grid balancing costs are considered.

In the field of transport, Volvo pledged to end the sale of conventional internal combustion engine cars, as auto giants around the world rushed to electrify their fleets in response to tightening air quality rules and mounting consumer interest. Elon Musk unveiled an electric truck that could conceivably transform global supply chains (and delivered the world’s largest battery storage project inside 100 days for good measure). Progress in green aviation and shipping industry continued to disappoint, but there were signs key players such as Airbus and Rolls Royce are finally starting to take decarbonisation seriously with fresh investments in the development of electric aircraft.

In many countries a third force also contributed to this virtuous circle, as two years on from the Paris Agreement governments began to strengthen the climate policy landscape.

Emmanuel Macron pulled off a shock election victory on a platform that prioritised bold climate action. The Chinese government continued to work on an emissions trading scheme that will dwarf the original European market, and the EU edged forward with plans for a new wave of post-2020 climate goals.

In the UK, an election that saw the ruling Conservative Party lose votes because of the perception it did not care about the environment sparked something of a green policy arms race. Now the talk in Westminster is of a Green Brexit, a plastic pollution crackdown, and an industrial and clean growth strategy centred on clean tech innovation, low carbon infrastructure, and green finance. The policy signals in support of green investment and corporate decarbonisation have never been stronger.

Meanwhile, 2017 has also emphasised how change is afoot amongst the public. Polls show how people under 40 are demanding ever more environmental action from political and business leaders. The lag time between the launch of a campaign – on plastic waste or air quality, for example – and it reaching the critical mass at which companies and governments have to respond is shortening all the time.

Globally, millennials’ frustration with a broken economic system that is degrading the planet and struggling to deliver on its promises is only going to grow. At the same time younger people’s willingness to engage with new business models and emerging value systems that place less emphasis on endless consumption is opening up fascinating new economic possibilities. Culturally, the #MeToo movement has powerfully demonstrated how toxic behaviours that have been tolerated for decades can quickly be called to account once a social tipping point is triggered.

All these trends have not yet added up to a tangible reduction in global emissions, but there are encouraging signs that one day soon they could.

A report from the World Resources Institute this year revealed 49 countries covering around 36 per cent of global emissions have already seen their carbon output peak. Separately, a report from IRENA explored how the national climate action plans put forward under the Paris Agreement are underselling the amount of renewable energy capacity many countries are planning to deploy. There are reasons to think that while we are not yet doing enough to avoid the worst climate change impacts, the proven viability of clean technologies and strengthening market forces mean we might be doing a bit better than we think.

Of course, the problem all these sources of green optimism face can be summed up in one word: politics. Both corporate politics and politics politics.

For every company pursuing a credible decarbonisation strategy there are many more staring at their shoes whenever the subject of climate action is brought up. I had lunch recently with a sustainability executive who admitted the failure to pick the lowest of low hanging fruit remained a source of constant frustration. The example they offered was LED lighting – an established technology that can deliver payback periods of less than two years, millions of pounds in savings, and millions more tonnes of emissions reductions. And yet a combination of chronic short termism, management incompetence, and the failure to prioritise climate action mean thousands of firms are deferring investment in a technology that could save them money.

The political sphere sees much the same phenomenon. Leaving aside the dysfunction of the Trump administration, around the world there are numerous well-meaning political leaders who are happy embracing climate action, but only up to the point where they face even the smallest amount of pushback from the media or vested interests.

This year the UK government unveiled a welcome and ambitious Clean Growth Strategy, but it was hamstrung by the failure to properly fund new energy efficiency programmes and the inability of the government to face down the handful of vocal media critics who loathe onshore wind and solar farms. Only this week the government put forward a diluted plan to improve the efficiency of the coldest private rental properties, weakening its emissions-saving ambition in order to keep landlords happy. Some days it feels like Theresa May might as well have done with it and just give Paul Dacre a seat at the cabinet table.

But if green business optimism has been tested in 2017 it has remained intact, and not just for professional and psychological reasons.

The chasm between the best and the worst of the past year is itself a source of hope, as well as fear. The hope is that while the forces of reactionary nationalism may be enjoying a good run they are at the same time fuelling a backlash, which, when it comes, will usher in a whole new era of progressive economics and values.

It is too early to say for sure, but it is possible the rise of Trumpism represents a final noxious belch for an entitled pollutocrat class of toxic masculinity that has dangerously stirred up a hornets’ nest of populist nationalism in order to defend its unsustainable interests. If this movement was to collapse under its own contradictions and corruptions, and a peaceful pushback could be engineered, then climate action and the green businesses that are driving it are perfectly positioned to build a new economic model that both tackles the environmental crisis and addresses the social challenges that gave rise to the new populists in the first place.

As 2017 draws to a close it is hard to tell whether we are approaching a turning point from which global climate action will rapidly accelerate, or are treading water as some terrifying political and climatic forces gain momentum.

If global greenhouse gas emissions really are rising again, if Trump’s world view does become normalised, if the bursting of the carbon bubble prompts petro-states to lash out in defence of their diminishing power, then there is no denying the outlook could get bleak, and fast.

But then again, as Bob Dylan once sang, “they say the darkest hour is right before the dawn”. As a New Year awaits the job of green businesses is to nurture their natural optimism, face down their opponents, and redouble efforts to build a genuinely sustainable economy as quickly as possible.

A brighter 2018 is not just possible, it’s essential.

Press link for more: Business Green

Environmental Activists are Heroes. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpolh

They should be thought of as heroes’: Why killings of environmental activists are rising globally

Shashank Bengali

In 2012, recognizing the threats posed by environmental degradation, the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed an independent expert to study how countries’ human rights obligations are connected to promoting “a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.”

John Knox, a law professor at Wake Forest University, was appointed the first special rapporteur on human rights and the environment. His three-year mandate was extended in 2015.

This year, with killings of land activists increasing worldwide, Knox helped launch a web portal,, with information and resources in English and Spanish. In March, at the Human Rights Council, he will present guidelines for states on their obligations to protect environmental rights, including ensuring that people most vulnerable to harm have access to effective remedies.

Knox spoke to The Times about the threats facing environmental defenders. His comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Why is it such a dangerous time for land activists?

There are basically three reasons that come together. One is simply there’s greater demand for the natural resources these activists are trying to defend. Many of these countries are pretty rich in natural resources — minerals, lumber, land that can be used for palm oil plantations or other industries.

And that leads to the second factor, which is that many of the groups living in these areas are vulnerable for other reasons. They are rural, they don’t have much money, they’re already marginalized in their own countries and don’t have a standing in the political debate.

The last is the absence of effective rule of law, either in the country as a whole or in a region. A common denominator is the courts, police and law enforcement mechanisms are ineffective. What I see over and over again is that these murders and other kinds of harassment take place when there’s impunity.

Are more activists being killed or is there just more awareness of the issue?

It’s hard to know. Personally, I think it’s likely that it has been going on for a long time, and the numbers in some ways seem to be going up because groups like Global Witness are doing a better job of reporting what’s happening.

Part of how you can see that is there are countries that seem to have low numbers of killings, but in large part that’s simply the effect of not knowing what’s going on in those countries.

You mean like China or Russia?

I’m not going to single out any countries, but I do think that in countries that have the highest numbers of killings, there’s enough space for civil society to find out and report on it. That’s true of Brazil, the Philippines, some Latin American countries.

Having said that, I agree with Global Witness that there does seem to be an increase in these murders, and other types of harassment, because of increasing demand for resources.

It seems like many of the killings occur in places inhabited by indigenous peoples.

That is what makes the struggle so desperate. They’re fighting not just for a healthy community but also for their culture and their way of life. Many of the most vulnerable communities are faced with a kind of existential threat: If they give up their ancestral territory, their culture dies.

What have you learned about impunity rates for environmental murders?

In Global Witness’ first report, when they went back over 12 years’ worth of data and over 900 deaths of environmental and land defenders [from 2002 to 2013], there were [10] cases where perpetrators were arrested, tried and convicted. If that’s even close to accurate, that’s 1% — essentially a green light to allow people to kill environmentalists with impunity.

What’s the link between these killings and corruption?

One reason why governments, especially at the local level, fail to take adequate steps to protect people is that government officials themselves are somehow being paid off or are in collusion with powerful economic interests. Another is that often in these countries, the land defenders are somehow seen as standing in the way of progress, whether it means building this dam or awarding this mining concession.

That’s fundamentally mistaken. The only type of economic development that makes sense is sustainable development, and often these environmentalists are the ones asking whether these projects are truly sustainable. If you don’t ask those questions, you end up with projects that down the road will hurt the countries’ economies. So these defenders, they should be thought of as heroes, rather than obstacles to state interests.

How are governments responding?

There are some promising developments. One is that conceptually, thanks largely to Global Witness and other environmental organizations, like Front Line Defenders, these deaths are increasingly seen as part of a global pattern instead of a series of local events.

Several men who were shot by security guards outside a Guatemalan mine are suing the Canadian mining company, Tahoe Resources, in Canada, where legal protections are stronger. Are you seeing such attempts to take international companies to court?

There have historically been efforts like that, but often they run into legal problems in the corporations’ home countries. In the U.S., the Supreme Court effectively stopped these efforts by ruling that U.S. statutes are only concerned with activities in the U.S. [in a 2013 case involving Nigerians who tried to sue Royal Dutch Petroleum over killings at a Shell oil plant in Nigeria]. There are lots of hurdles to overcome in bringing cases in home jurisdictions, but we continue to see them brought.

Last year, the International Criminal Court prosecutor issued a statement saying they would be open to considering cases of land grabbing and massive environmental harm as crimes against humanity, and therefore within their jurisdiction. That would be a big development if the ICC started such cases — a real shock to the system in terms of overcoming impunity at the international level.

A woman holds up a poster of a slain environmentalist and indigenous rights activist during a protest march in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. (Fernando Antonio / Associated Press)

Press link for more: LA Times

What happens when you ignore #ClimateChange Science? #auspol #StopAdani

California Wildfires: What Happens When Trump’s EPA Ignores Climate Change Science?

By Jonathan Samet On 12/23/17 at 7:00 AM

Record-setting wildfires burn uncontrolled in California, and with them comes a need to reckon with the Trump administration’s disastrous climate policies.

At this moment, a few days before Christmas, firefighters have finally started bringing the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, California—burning for almost three weeks—under control. Gov. Jerry Brown recently commented, “This is the new normal … We’re about ready to have firefighting at Christmas. This is very odd and unusual.”

He’s right. Thanks to climate change, droughts have been increasingly frequent and severe in California. Such weather patterns invite more, and more extreme, fires to the region—fires that desiccate trees and brush, and unleash toxic smoke particles into the air.

A paper published in 2016 summarized the results of 115 studies on the risks of wildfire smoke. The findings were clear: Smoke harmed people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The study also demonstrated, though to a less consistent degree, other harms, including respiratory infections, heart disease risk and even death.

Of course, and by necessity, public health officials have advised the public about the smoke and the steps to take to reduce risk, particularly those with lung problems. But the government’s undermining of climate change science, both in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the leadership of Scott Pruitt, and in other agencies, suggests the Trump administration will continue putting Americans’ health in danger.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies about the fiscal year 2018 budget on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. in June. Getty

This year, Pruitt has taken steps to assure that some of the country’s most knowledgeable scientists cannot advise the agency by serving on its Science Advisory Board. EPA-funded researchers can no longer serve on the SAB, and some have been replaced, while industry scientists serve without being considered as having conflicts of interest. The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), which provides advice to the EPA as scientific evidence is reviewed and changes to Clean Air Act standards are considered, is one of the SAB committees affected by Pruitt’s new policies.

I chaired CSAC from 2009 to 2012. Prior to taking the position, I had successfully competed for EPA research on particles in the air and health. Under the new policy, which may exclude some of the most knowledgeable researchers from SAB service, I would not be considered for CASAC membership, even though my background meets several requirements of the Clean Air Act for serving on CASAC.

Climate change has become the exemplar for how evidence is now weighed—or rather, not weighed—in decision-making. Since 1990, the findings of research on climate change have been summarized five times by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), founded by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme. With each report, there is more evidence and greater certainty about the impact of human activities on the climate. While there is still uncertainty about some matters in the scientific findings, glib statements like “climate change is a hoax,” and more serious efforts to remove scientists from government, should not displace the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, amassed in thousands of scientific reports.

Since it was established in 1970, the EPA has used scientific evidence as the foundation for effective regulations. Through the Clean Air Act, tremendous gains have been made in air quality throughout the nation. So-called “brown-outs” that once blanketed the Northeast and the choking smog of Los Angeles have ended.

Firefighters try to contain the Thomas wildfire which continues to burn in Ojai, California. Getty

But the wildfire smoke from this year’s fires offers a reminder of the need to continue to improve air quality, and research shows that current levels of air pollution still pose a public health threat.

The current administration, however, is turning away from environmental policies based in science that have worked, and instead embracing policies flimsily grounded in opinion or belief, or even worse, to policies that reflect the financial interests of various industries. The energy sector, for example, has undue influence in climate policy, as the U.S. government promotes fossil fuels, even coal, over renewables and Congress opens the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

The process for reviewing and strengthening the main air quality standards—the National Ambient Air Quality Standards—is described in the Clean Air Act, and it rightly involves the scientific, public health and medical communities. This is why I am disheartened by Pruitt’s and the Trump administration’s turn away from evidence, and from scientific expertise. The denial of evidence is dangerous for human and environmental health, and I hope it will be short-lived.

Jonathan Samet is dean and professor at the Colorado School of Public Health. He is a pulmonary physician and epidemiologist, and has carried out air pollution research for decades, serving on many committees that support the development of evidence-based environmental policies.

Press link for more: Newsweek