Month: January 2018

Singapore is punching above it’s weight on #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Climate change: Many think they can’t make a difference

Singapore is breaking new temperature records every year, the weather is getting increasingly erratic and the country is punching above its weight when it comes to producing harmful carbon emissions.

Yet, while most people here are concerned about the effects of climate change, a significant portion do not believe their actions can make a difference to the country’s carbon footprint.

The authorities are trying to change this attitude.

(Meanwhile in Australia our government does next to nothing)

“We feel it is important to raise the level of national consciousness around the need to take individual and collective action to fight climate change,” Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said yesterday at the launch of Singapore’s Year of Climate Action.

As part of this effort, people and organisations will, for instance, be able to make a Climate Action Pledge, where they can declare publicly what they want to do to make Singapore greener.

Individuals can promise to recycle, take public transport, walk or cycle, while organisations can raise office temperatures by 1 deg C to 2 deg C, for example. More than 210 pledges have been made so far.

The effort is timely.

Singapore may contribute just 0.11 per cent of global emissions, but it ranks 26th out of 142 countries in terms of emissions per capita, according to 2015 data from the International Energy Agency.

(Australia ranks 56 a real Laggard)

But one in three respondents of a 2016 survey here believes that what he does will not have any impact on this figure.

This is even though nine out of 10 were concerned about the effects of climate change on future generations.

Disagreeing, Mr Masagos said that tackling climate change cannot be the work of the Government alone.

“Taking action individually all adds up… towards making sure that climate change is not as adverse as predicted,” Mr Masagos told reporters.

A climate action blog has also been launched at www.climateaction.sg, which will be a resource for those looking for ways to cut their carbon footprint.

Asked if his ministry will consider punitive measures for individuals, whether through the implementation of pay-as-you-throw schemes or a plastic bag tax, Mr Masagos would say only that his ministry’s focus for this year is the carbon tax, which will be levied on large emitters in 2019.

“This is a year when we will join forces with all of you here, plus many other parties across Singapore and beyond, to rally everybody to take action to reduce our carbon footprint and fight climate change,” Mr Masagos said yesterday, even as he reaffirmed Singapore’s commitment to meeting its targets under the Paris Agreement, an international effort to limit global warming.

Singapore will be hosting a Special Asean Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change in July, Mr Masagos said, and this will be an important meeting for Asean to show leadership on climate action.

On the ground, there are already encouraging initiatives.

The Nature Society (Singapore) is planning to organise activities such as talks and forums to show how climate change affects biodiversity.

Environmental scientist Pui Cuifen, 36, is also on a personal campaign to urge marathon or-ganisers to become greener. This includes providing recycling bins along marathon routes to re-cycle cups, and collecting waste from bananas given out at events for composting.

Ms Nor Lastrina Hamid, co-founder of the Singapore Youth for Climate Action, said the Government’s effort was a good start.

“I thought it was good to designate this year as the Year of Climate Action, for some branding and emphasis at the national level. But whether or not the various movements are strategic enough to affect change at a national level – that remains to be seen.”

Press link for more:Straits Times

Climate should be on the agenda. #Davos #WEF2018 #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

AGRA chief, Kalibata says Davos agenda should include climate

Saturday January 27 2018

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) chief Agnes Kalibata addresses a past forum. She has said Davos agenda should include climate, youth, private sector engagement. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Agnes Kalibata, the president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, has said Davos agenda should include climate, youth, private sector engagement.

She said Davos presents a big opportunity for government, private sector, and civil societies leaders to come together and find new ways of working together.

“Climate has to be part of the conversation about addressing agriculture challenges in Africa,” she said.

“It is an important conversation to be had in Davos because African farmers have little to do with the creation of the climate challenges they face, but have to contend with outsized impacts.

“Climate change has contributed to a shift from the number of people facing hunger decreasing globally to an increase again last year, she said.

The impacts of climate change are resulting in farmers being unable to even provide enough food for themselves, let alone help alleviate other food security concerns.

“That already strained environment is compounded by high rates of youth unemployment in a rapidly changing world, which is not a challenge unique to the African continent but is a problem there in particular,” Kalibata said.

“It is important at a global forum to address the issue from the root causes and how to work together to prevent it and support nations where the problem is most important,” she said.

“Davos also presents an important opportunity for the development and agriculture community to engage with private sector leaders and talk about the types of investment opportunities they are looking for, and what is available.

Africa’s food market may be worth more than $1 trillion a year by 2030, according to the latest Africa Agriculture Status Report released by AGRA last year.

There is a market opportunity for those willing to invest in Africa, the continent continues to import significant amount of food and there is abundant cheap labour, but political leaders need to create a better environment for the private sector to be willing to invest.

The main hurdles, including physical infrastructure and an enabling policy environment where business policies are secure and predictable, can be overcome if there are commitments on both sides.

“We see the opportunity and the challenges and try to help governments understand the real opportunity and partner with the private sector the right way to reduce hurdles.

“To that end, AGRA will be focusing on helping to strengthen country capacity to work with the private sector, find investment opportunities and improve leadership around key agriculture issues.

The continent needs to build the right institutions and systems to deliver for farmers.”

Press link for more: Nation.co.ke

Dust levels in the Hunter above national exceedance levels #auspol #nswpol #qldpol #StopAdani

Windy weekend weather pushed dust levels in the Hunter above national exceedance levels

Joanne McCarthyJanuary 23 2018 – 6:00AM

DOCTORS have slammed the Hunter’s air quality regime as “trivial”, “sloppy”, “inadequate”, “ineffective” and “failing to protect human health” after a weekend of national air quality standard exceedances linked to dust from coal mines.

Doctors for the Environment members said NSW Government assurances of rigorous conditions and monitoring of Hunter coal mines were exposed as empty words after hot, windy conditions left Jerrys Plains with coarse particle pollution figures that breached national 24-hour standards on Saturday.

This was despite Yancoal’s nearby Mount Thorley Warkworth and Hunter Valley Operations mines shutting down dragline, excavator and truck operations for hours at a time because of strong winds pushing dust towards the village.

“What happens when there are air quality exceedances? Nothing,” said Doctors for the Environment member and University of Newcastle epidemiologist Dr Ben Ewald.

“These are called national reporting standards but they’re failing to protect people’s health. There’s no obligation for air to be better than these standards and the response is very vague. Apart from getting beaten up in the media there’s not much likely to happen.

“In Muswellbrook there have been fine particle exceedances ever since the national reporting standards were established, and that’s the more serious health problem because of impacts on human health, but again, nothing happens when there’s exceedances.”

He said a $15,000 fine for BHP Billiton last week after a dust pollution incident at Muswellbrook’s Mount Arthur coal mine in late 2017 was “trivial and shows a lack of serious intent on the part of the Environment Protection Authority”.

Doctors for the Environment member, rheumatologist and University of Newcastle lecturer John Van Der Kaalen said the Hunter’s weekend figures were worth noting because they weren’t unusual, and showed that standard summer conditions regularly led to exceedances without consequences.

In Jerrys Plains on Saturday hourly air quality data showed strong winds from 5pm pushed air quality to poor after a day of fluctuating hourly figures, with an air pollution health alert for sensitive groups including the young, the elderly and asthmatics.

The EPA confirmed the daily average PM10 level peaked at 52.1 micrograms per metre cubed at Jerrys Plains. The National Environment Protection Measure standard is 50 micrograms per metre cubed.

When you look at how much land has been disturbed and the great piles of earth that’s exposed you can see how strong, dry winds can have a terrible impact on air quality.

Doctors for the Environment member Dr John Van Der Kaalen

On Saturday evening hourly Jerrys Plains readings were over 100 micrograms per metre cubed.

“It is terrible. When you look at how much land has been disturbed and the great piles of earth that’s exposed you can see how strong, dry winds can have a terrible impact on air quality,” Dr Van Der Kaalen said.

“These huge mines are proposing to expand further. People argue and argue and argue about the cumulative impacts of all these mines and it is time for a proper health study. We haven’t had one for over 10 years and it’s begging to be done.”

Dr Van Der Kaalen and Dr Ewald said inclusion of coal mining in the NSW load-based licensing scheme – where companies pay a fee per tonne for pollution generated – would be one of the quickest and most effective ways of quantifying the true cost of coal-related air pollution in the Hunter.

In a submission to the government’s review of the scheme Doctors for the Environment said mining’s exclusion from the existing scheme was the most glaring example of substantial polluters “getting away free” and “unfairly leaving other industries to pay for pollution”.

Mining is the biggest emitter of fine particle PM2.5 pollution and the dominant source of coarse particle PM10 pollution.

Public interest legal practice Environmental Justice Australia said there was no reason why coal mines should be exempted from the scheme. The group strongly criticised the EPA’s $15,000 fine for Mount Arthur after Muswellbrook mayor Martin Rush last week said current environmental laws did not protect Hunter communities.

“If Mount Arthur was to pay a fee based on their PM10 and other toxic emissions and the fee was based on health impacts, that would be a genuine deterrent,” an Environmental Justice Australia spokesperson said.

Dr Ewald said the state’s environmental regulatory system needed real penalties and mines “should be designed so that they don’t encroach on where people are living and don’t impact people to the point of threatening their health” but “that’s not the system we have at the moment”.

”We’re told there are rigorous conditions and monitoring of mines but the system we have is very sloppy and prioritises mines rather than human health,” Dr Ewald said.

Mount Thorley Warkworth and Hunter Valley Operations reports on weekend operations showed both mines repeatedly stopped operating major machinery because of high wind and dust conditions from as early as shortly after midnight on Saturday, with three draglines at Mount Thorley Warkworth “parked up” on and off for hours from 3.28pm.

At Hunter Valley Operations dust and wind stopped graders, excavators and loaders from operating from 3.30pm, with the first dragling “parked up” because of dust and wind at 6pm.

The EPA said it contacted a number of mines on Friday and Monday for information about “action taken to implement best practice dust emissions controls over last Friday and Saturday to review compliance against the licence conditions”.

“The EPA and Office of Environment and Heritage recently completed a trial, in cooperation with Hunter Valley mines, of a dust risk forecasting model to identify periods of high dust risk,” the EPA said.

“More accurate forecasting of the risk of high dust emissions from coal mining activities will provide another tool for mines to use to implement best practice dust mitigation.”

The air quality monitoring network was not a regulatory tool but a scheme “to provide information to the local communities on air quality”.

Press link for more: TheHerald

Here’s How Our Filthy Air Is Impacting Our Health #auspol #qldpol #StopAdanit

Nobody is immune.

We are all at risk of the toxic air that surrounds us

Dr Penny Woods

Air pollution is a cradle to grave issue; in fact, research has shown that if a baby is exposed to air pollution in the womb it can alter its development.

Nobody is immune.

We are all at risk of the toxic air that surrounds us.

The impact is even greater on the vulnerable: children, the elderly and those living with an existing lung condition.

In October 2017, it was revealed that air pollution has exceeded World Health Organization safe limits in 44 out of 51 urban areas. This simply cannot be ignored.

The UK’s air quality is more than a hot topic.

It’s a public health crisis, that affects us all.

Air pollution can get deep into our lungs, irritating the airways and making us feel very out of breath, as well as increasing our chances of developing a lung condition.

We know that it increases our risk of getting lung cancer.

For those with lung conditions it makes their symptoms worse and generally makes life harder.

They may experience breathing difficulties when pollution levels are high.

People we support have told us that air pollution often makes them feel like prisoners in their own home as they are frightened to go outside and risk the gasping sensation of breathlessness.

Children are more vulnerable to the negative impacts of air pollution as their lungs are not fully developed. Filthy air can stunt their lung growth, making them more susceptible to conditions such as asthma and chronic chest problems.

Short-term exposure to air pollution can lead to wheeziness, shortness of breath and coughing.

Long-term exposure to dirty air increases the risk of developing lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Filthy air can stunt their lung growth, making them more susceptible to conditions such as asthma and chronic chest problems

The main culprit responsible for polluting our air is traffic emissions.

Reducing diesel vehicles on our roads is a major part of the solution.

In last year’s budget, the chancellor announced an increase on the first year rate of vehicle excise duty for new diesel cars.

The government also published a new air quality plan that covers many more cities across the UK. This is progress, but more needs to be done.

At the British Lung Foundation we’re calling on the government to fund a targeted diesel scrappage scheme that provides incentives for electric vehicles, public transport, walking and cycling.

Cleaner modes of transport are vital for our health and the health of the future generations to come.

There are also small, everyday changes we can do to protect ourselves against air pollution.

Avoid spending long periods of time in highly polluted areas such as busy main roads.

Look for alternative routes if walking to school or work, such as taking back roads away from congestion or finding a short cut through a park or green space.

Small changes all add up.

Cycling instead of taking the car or simply travelling a little earlier during rush hour can help protect you against air pollution.

We all have a right to breathe clean air and the time to act is now.

For the sake of our own health and the health of future generations.

Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation

Press link for more: Huffington Post

Prescription For Climate Change Could Reduce Your Health Problems. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

A study suggests reducing air pollution could lead to a lower rate of infection and help to save costs out of individual wallets and government coffers.

Jason Tetro

Climate change is a big issue in Canada as this country attempts to lead the world in the reduction of chemical emissions known to impact the planet.

That being said, proposed and passed legislation at both the national and provincial levels have led to, at times, inflammatory reactions.

In essence, despite the good associated with action, some Canadians do not seem to appreciate the benefits at the personal level.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Soon, this may change thanks to a recent study from a team of researchers in Taiwan. They decided to look at how one aspect of climate change action — air pollution — harms individual health, leading to increased infection and health-care costs.

The results reveal the work to reduce chemicals in the air may end up saving people and government money, now.

The study is based on a long history of air pollution studies.

For well over six decades, researchers have known particles in the air can lead to troubles in the lungs. As the years have passed, the work has focused on a particular type of molecule in the atmosphere. It’s officially known as fine particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, although it’s commonly referred to as PM2.5.

As far back as the 1990s, PM2.5 was regarded as a potential threat to long-term health, and prolonged exposure could lead to chronic conditions that may shorten a person’s lifespan. Over time, the short-term impact of exposure was also identified when researchers found a direct link between PM2.5 and allergic conditions such as asthma.

In these cases, the particles increased the potential for irritation in the lungs, which could lessen the threshold for the trigger response.

This information alone can reveal the importance of improving our air.

Eventually, at least in mice, researchers found great exposure to these particles led to an imbalance in the immune system that could improve the chances for an attack.

The same was found for normal levels of air pollution a few years later.

The immediate impact of PM2.5 was revealed.

This information alone can reveal the importance of improving our air.

Yet, from a population-based perspective, the results may appear not to justify the means. Reducing asthma is valuable, yet may not be worth the costs associated with carbon taxes, reduced fossil-fuel dependence and the shift to environmentally friendly energy production.

But this new Taiwanese study underscores how PM2.5 affects us all.

The researchers did this by focusing on the entire immune response, not just the one associated with asthma.

The team wanted to determine if each of us can be affected by exposure and, if so, how exactly that happens.

Getty Images/EyeEm

As with any theory, it first had to be tested in the lab.

The team used experiments known to mimic the immune response in the lungs in the hopes of finding one marker they could then use in animal and human studies.

They actually found two.

The first is known as intercellular adhesion molecule-1, or ICAM-1. It’s a major player in inflammation, as it helps to recruit immune cells to an environment under attack. Based on the work in the laboratory environment, exposure to certain types of PM2.5 led to an increase in the production of this molecule suggesting more inflammation would occur.

The other marker is known as interleukin-6, most commonly referred to as IL-6. This is one of the key molecules involved in inflammation and is a regular suspect in chronic inflammatory illnesses.

A rise in this molecule means the immune system is going through a fight, even if there is no real enemy.

Reducing exposure could lead to a lower rate of infection and help to save costs out of individual wallets and government coffers.

With the markers in hand, the Taiwanese team next tested their theory with mice to see if the findings held true in living animals.

The results revealed the same outcome.

While this was enough to show how mammals could be effective, the group they wanted to take this one step further and find out if people affected by PM2.5 had the same issues.

As one of the most common routes of exposure to PM2.5 happens to be cigarette smoke, the team asked current and ex-smokers to offer samples of their blood.

Eight such people agreed and, as expected, they had higher levels of ICAM-1 and IL-6 as predicted.

As controls, an equal number of non-smokers were tested.

Their levels were normal.

The team had shown the results from the lab, animals and humans were similar enough to suggest these two molecules were the basis for problems due to exposure.

More from HuffPost Canada:

Doctors Are Proving Climate Change Is A Health Risk

Extreme Heat Consequences Of Climate Change Hurt Public Health

Elites Are Now Acknowledging Key Drivers Of The Climate Crisis

The results of this study highlight the importance of PM2.5 on our health in the short term.

As one example, the increase in inflammation due to exposure can lead to a higher risk for respiratory infection.

This can be extremely costly on the health-care system as well as the individual in terms of both health and productivity.

Reducing exposure could lead to a lower rate of infection and help to save costs out of individual wallets and government coffers.

The results also offer a glimpse at long-term savings as well.

Both ICAM-1 and IL-6 are implicated in chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiac ailments and depression.

Lowering the levels of these molecules by preventing PM2.5 exposure may help to keep people healthier longer.

There is little doubt the debate over actions to control air pollution in the context of climate change will continue for years to come.

However, thanks in part to this study, a new reason for these efforts can be seen.

Granted, the costs of these motions may seem to be a significant burden in the short term.

Yet, they may end up being far less costly then the health-care and out-of-pocket dollars needed to treat ailments due to PM2.5 exposure.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

Why I’m stepping down from Less Meat Less Heat #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #doughnuteconomics

By Igor Voronkov on Wednesday, January 24, 2018

This photo represents our power to influence nature being ultimately eclipsed by natures ability to wipe us out.

It is with a heavy heart that I announce my resignation from my leadership role as the CEO of Less Meat Less Heat.

I hope you will take the time to read and understand my reasons for doing so as I have in my best attempts to explain and communicate them to you.

Ultimately my decision stems from the understanding that, as Albert Einstein so eloquently put it, that ‘we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them’.

That ‘thinking’ is more than just a thought but rather the overarching paradigm of the perpetual-growth capitalistic socio-economic model within which we live. But before I dive into a deeper discussion of my reasoning, I’d like to take you on a little journey.

Less Meat Less Heat (LMLH) has come a long way from its humble beginnings as an idea I had on a particularly pensive walk back when I was living in Amsterdam about three years ago. I originally conceived LMLH out of necessity from the realisation that we cannot solve the climate crisis through the transition to renewable energy alone, as I later argued here.

I was ultimately frustrated at both the grass-roots climate movement and our international geo-political response to the climate crisis for being so narrow-mindedly focused only on the transition from fossil-fuels to renewable energy, since this left out both a third of greenhouse gas emissions as well as massive opportunities for sucking the carbon out of the atmosphere – trees.

Although we worked hard at changing their minds, not much has changed since, with LMLH still being in the minority of organisations attempting to address climate change through diet change, alongside the vital decarbonisation of society (side note – Al Gore did briefly mention the impact of livestock agriculture at his presentation at COP23, however this only accounted for about 10 seconds of a half-hour-long presentation).

LMLH was ultimately conceived to fill a gap in the marketplace of ideas required to solve the climate crisis and this is precisely why I was so passionate about LMLH until recent months. I still believe it to be a vital part of the global grass-roots climate movement, so I hope we can find someone to take over my role as CEO, however I understand due to the high demands of the role and non-existent pay, this may take some time.

Before I dive into a discussion of my reasoning and train of thought I would like to thank you all for your amazing work, passion and determination over the years.

Over the past 3 years we have achieved a lot at LMLH, from building a movement both on social media and in real life that spans the world to crowdfunding, developing and publicly launching a multi-platform smartphone app that had been used by thousands to learn about the climate impacts of their food choices, just to name a few key milestones.

Let’s not forget that we actually represented our growing movement at two international UN climate talks – COP21 and COP23! I have learned a lot throughout this incredible journey and had a lot of fun along the way.

From the bottom of my heart, I’d like to extend a BIG THANK YOU in the form of virtual hugs and kisses (redeemable in person next time we meet) to all volunteers and supporters no matter how big or small your involvement – none of this would have been possible without your hard work and support.

My thinking has since evolved greatly towards a deeper understanding of the structural, systemic root causes of the social justice and environmental symptoms we are battling – climate change being just one of many. Dr Samuel Alexander taught me in his paradigm-shifting course ‘Consumerism and the Growth Economy’, to question the assumptions underlying any problem, which is ultimately how I arrived at LMLH in the first place, questioning the assumption that we could solve climate change through a transition towards renewable energy alone, as I denoted above. Elon Musk taught me to take this thinking a step further by starting from first principles while Peter Joseph rounded out this way of thinking by teaching me to zoom out and think of the problem from a structural, systemic perspective.

Applied to climate change it looks something like this:

1 Identify and define your current assumptions:

1 The climate change effects we are currently experiencing are predominantly caused by human activity (anthropogenic).

2 The human activities that are contributing most to the climate crisis is the burning of fossil fuels for energy and transport and rising emissions from the increasing consumption of ruminant livestock also causing the destruction of carbon sinks (forests).

3 We know how to solve the climate crisis and have the technology to do so but we are lacking political will.

The first two points are backed up by solid science (with more consensus than on the theory of gravity!), however the third point is an observational value judgement which requires us to zoom out and see it from a systemic, structural perspective.

Digging deeper we find that the lack of political will at the UN climate talks 23 years on is largely due to corporate influence from the fossil fuel industry.

This is exacerbated by the fossil fuel industry spreading doubt around the science of anthropogenic climate change as revealed in the book and documentary of the same name, Merchants of Doubt.

Although many progressives campaign for the removal of financial influence from politics, it is hard to envisage this actually occurring when you consider the fact that 69 of the world’s top 100 economies are in fact, corporations, most of which span across many countries and pay little tax.

A recent study from Princeton University found that, “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”

That’s right – the average citizen exerts little to no influence on both policy and the outcomes of the actual elections themselves.

I recall experiencing this first hand at COP21 when our Climate Action Network delegation were advised that the US delegation would not proceed with the climate talks unless they were assured that the final outcome would not be legally binding, since if it were it would not be passed by the fossil-fuel industry-controlled senate.

According to Transparency International’s global corruption reports, the situation is prevalent in most countries around the world. Further discussion of this ubiquitous phenomena is outside the scope of this piece, however I would recommend reading The New Human Right’s Movement if you would like to learn more.

It is easy to vilify the corporations but trickier to identify the system that gave rise to them in the first place – the c word, whose questioning is often retorted with accusations of Marxism and communism – capitalism.

We have lived in a paradigm of capitalism single-mindedly focused on perpetual economic growth at all costs since the industrial revolution, with most of the exponential growth occurring since the end of World War II.

This has resulted in our surpassing several physical planetary boundaries that allowed our modern societies to exist and flourish in the first place.

Capitalism has not only driven climate change through the rapidly increasing burning of fossil fuels for energy, rising meat consumption and destruction of carbon sinks as denoted earlier, it has also corrupted our response to the climate crisis through doubt-mongering and political dithering.

When you couple this sobering fact with an understanding that year-on-year economic growth is exponential, not linear (as simply explained in the highly recommended The Crash Course series here), we have a recipe for almost-certain disaster towards greater inequality, environmental destruction and all of the suffering that both factors exacerbate. Since we live in a globalised society, climate-induced shocks in one country create a butterfly effect-like consequences all around the world as we have seen in Syria in recent years just to name one example that is usually not connected to climate change.

Climate change is hence just one of many externalised costs of production economists refer to as negative externalities. Negative externalities are costs that the public and environment bears and are the key reason why we have such affordable goods and services that result in such dire environmental consequences such as climate change and pollution – they are simply left of out of the price.

Therefore, we can eat $5 hamburgers and fly internationally for not much more – we don’t pay the true environmental and social cost of producing those goods or delivering those services.

Research shows that when the true environmental costs of production are factored in, none of the world’s industries would be profitable any longer.

Hence capitalism privatises the profits to the shrinking few (8 men have more wealth than the bottom 50% of the human race) while more and more of us bear the costs.

As a side note, rising income inequality has been linked to many pernicious social effects, from increased violence to deteriorating mental health just to name a few (related documentary is on Netflix).

I could go on but in the interests of brevity and respect for your time I will move on. To summarise the above points, we are governed by the global system of capitalism which requires perpetual economic growth with no respect for physical planetary boundaries which we rely on for life as we know it, or political attempts to control it over the long term (we all saw how easily environmental laws can be reversed or even ignored in recent years).

Hence, therefore attempts to promote ‘sustainable consumption’ are doomed to fail in the long term.

That is not to say that we shouldn’t try to live more sustainably in our own lives and just do as we please, but that we should let go of the idea that we can have a truly sustainable capitalistic society in the long term.

Naomi Klein recently echoed this understanding as it relates to climate change in her documentary and book of the same name, This Changes Everything. Legendary post-apocalyptic author Margaret Atwood echoed these sentiments in her piece It’s not just climate change, it’s everything change’.

Simply put, we cannot solve the climate crisis within the paradigm that created it – capitalism.

Furthermore, politically-mandated economic growth coupled with externalised public costs are a recipe for the collapse of civilisation as we know it. Esteemed investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed put it in the recent piece Beyond Extinction Transition to post-capitalism is inevitable

“The risk of civilizational collapse — and outright extinction — is perhaps the clearest signal that there is something deeply wrong with the global system in its current form. So wrong, that it is right now on a path to self-annihilation.

The science of impending doom does not prove the inevitability of human extinction, but it does prove the inevitability of something else: the extinction of industrial civilization in its current form.

The endless growth model of contemporary global capitalism is not just unsustainable — it is on track to destabilize the Earth System in a way that could make the planet uninhabitable for society as we know it.”

Therefore, it is not just our relatively safe and somewhat predictable climate that it is at stake here, it is modern industrial civilisation as we know it that we risk unless we connect the dots.

What’s next for LMLH?

This is a difficult question to answer at this point since one of the downsides of being a founding director of an organisation is that everything is led and coordinated by yours truly. Hence without me at the wheel there will likely be a drastic slowdown in activity until a time when we find someone else to take over. I’ve been convinced by eager volunteers that some activities can continue, such as building the movement through social media, screening events and the occasional fundraising BBQ to keep the [digital] lights on. I believe this to be possible, however programs such as upgrade of The Climatarian Challenge, Skip Beef for the Reef and the LMLH schools program will have to be put on hold until further notice.

This is unfortunate to say the least, but I don’t see any other way.

Furthermore, we will have to figure out what to do with the busy LMLH inbox – an out of office advising of the current situation will have to suffice for the time being.

Should you have any ideas on how the organisation can move forward then please do let me know on Slack which I will continue to check for the coming weeks.

What’s next for me?

Although I can be stubborn at times, I am humble enough to admit that I don’t have all the answers.

Therefore, I feel it’s only fitting to bring our old friend Albert Einstein into the mix with another pertinent quote, “If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.”

I do, however, have some idea of the vision of the future I would like to work towards.

I would like to work towards a global society that is not just sustainable but regenerative (vital when you consider the sick state of our ecosystems), one which builds community rather than destroying it and one which promotes values of altruism and collaboration rather than individualism and greed.

Hence, I plan on taking my time to research the projects out there that fit this criterion, meet the people working on them and either join an existing project or begin a new one.

As a side note, I have been constantly inspired by the ideas coming out of The Zeitgeist Movement so will definitely be reconnecting with them soon.

Whatever I pick, it would have to generate a passionate ‘hell yeah‘ from me to be considered.

I also think I need a break as I have worked tirelessly on LMLH and difficult family circumstances I’d rather not divulge for the time being.

I look forward to at least a month of relaxing, surfing, leaning Spanish and reading lots of fiction (bring on Montanita!).

Much love,

Igor Voronkov

Press link for more: Igor Voronkov

Two minutes to midnight! #ClimateChange #Science #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

An insufficient response to climate change.

Last year, the US government pursued unwise and ineffectual policies on climate change, following through on a promise to derail past

US climate policies.

The Trump administration, which includes avowed climate denialists in top positions at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, and other key agencies, has announced its plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

In its rush to dismantle rational climate and energy policy, the administration has ignored scientific fact and well-founded economic analyses.

Australia’s climate policies

These US government and Australian government climate decisions transpired against a backdrop of worsening climate change and high-impact weather-related related disasters.

This year past, the Caribbean region and other parts of North America suffered a season of historic damage from exceedingly powerful hurricanes.

Extreme heat waves occurred in Australia, South America, Asia, Europe, and California, with mounting evidence that heat-related illness and death are correspondingly increasing.

The Arctic ice cap achieved its smallest-ever winter maximum in 2017, the third year in a row that this record has been broken.

The United States has witnessed devastating wildfires, likely exacerbated by extreme drought and subsequent heavy rains that spurred underbrush growth.

When the data are assessed, 2017 is almost certain to continue the trend of exceptional global warmth: All the warmest years in the instrumental record, which extends back to the 1800s, have—excepting one year in the late 1990s—occurred in the 21st century.

Despite the sophisticated disinformation campaign run by climate denialists, the unfolding consequences of an altered climate are a harrowing testament to an undeniable reality: The science linking climate change to human activity—mainly the burning of fossil fuels that produce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases—is sound.

The world continues to warm as costly impacts mount, and there is evidence that overall rates of sea level rise are accelerating—regardless of protestations to the contrary.

Especially against these trends, it is heartening that the US government’s defection from the Paris Agreement did not prompt its unravelling or diminish its support within the United States at large.

The “We Are Still In” movement signals a strong commitment within the United States—by some 1,700 businesses, 250 cities, 200 communities of faith, and nine states, representing more than 40 percent of the US population—to its international climate commitments and to the validity of scientific facts.

This reaffirmation is reassuring, and other countries have maintained their steadfast support for climate action, reconfirmed their commitments to global climate cooperation, and clearly acknowledged that more needs to be done.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s sober message to global leaders assembled at December’s global climate summit in Paris was a reality check after the heady climate negotiations his country hosted two years earlier:

“We’re losing the battle.

We’re not moving quickly enough.

We all need to act.”

And indeed, after plateauing for a few years, greenhouse gas emissions resumed their stubborn rise in 2017.

As we have noted before, the true measure of the Paris Agreement is whether nations actually fulfill their pledges to cut emissions, strengthen those pledges, and see to it that global greenhouse gas emissions start declining in short order and head toward zero.

As we drift yet farther from this goal, the urgency of shifting course becomes greater, and the existential threat posed by climate change looms larger.

Press link for more: The Bulletin

California Governor rebukes Trump on #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol 2 minutes to midnight #qldpol

California governor rebukes Donald Trump in warning of ‘immediate and genuine risk’ of climate change, nuclear weapons and poisoned politics

Jeremy B White San FranciscoThursday 25 January 2018 21:46 GMT

California Governor Jerry Brown used his final State of the State address to warn of imminent peril from climate change and nuclear weapons, drawing a sharp contrast to Donald Trump.

“Our world, our way of life, our system of governance — all are at immediate and genuine risk.

Endless new weapons systems, growing antagonism among nations, the poison in our politics, climate change,” Mr Brown said before a joint sessions of the California Legislature in Sacramento, with potential successors looking on.

Offered in the final year of his fourth term leading America’s most populous state, Mr Brown’s cautionary remarks echoed some long-standing themes.

He has aggressively pursued state-level policies to limit the effects of climate change, positioning California as a global leader in contrast to the President’s scepticism of climate science.

California has also enacted policies shielding immigrants from deportation in deliberate defiance of the Trump administration.

“Despite what is widely believed by some of the most powerful people in Washington, the science of climate change is not in doubt,” Mr Brown said.

The science and reality of #climatechange keeps getting stronger.

How much longer can Washington deny and delay?

And his reference to destructive weapons implicitly rebuked the Trump administration, which has dangled the threat of a nuclear strike over a belligerent North Korea.

The President himself has hinted at annihilating the country and taunted Pyongyang with a reference to his “nuclear button”.

Kim Jong-un inspects weapon North Korea says is powerful hydrogen bomb

Shortly before Mr Brown’s speech, his official account shared a tweet from former Secretary of Defence William Perry, noting that the “Doomsday Clock” managed by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists — a symbolic representation of the world’s proximity to disaster — had ticked to two minutes to midnight because “world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change.

Mr Brown delivered a keynote address at a 2015 symposium focused on the Doomsday Clock, warning of the “catastrophic consequences” of climate change and nuclear arms competition.

Press link for more: Independent.co.uk

Perfect storm threatens the world’s reefs #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Reef monitoring around the world has revealed that heat-stress-related coral bleaching is now happening so frequently that there is insufficient time to recover in between events.

A sharp rise in ocean acidification will further aggravate the situation.

Parallels from the geological past show that this combination will likely cause widespread extinction of coral reefs, with severe to complete biodiversity collapse in the oceans.

It is time to act.

Early in the 1980s, bleaching events happened once every three decades or so.

Today, they are happening every six years or so, and more frequently in some places.

The events occur because the corals are stressed by high water temperatures, which cause their polyps to lose their symbionts.

The symbionts are algae that photosynthesise by trapping energy from sunlight, using pigments.

Ejection of the algae thus causes the coral polyp to lose its colour and become transparent.

This in turn allows the bright, white calcium-carbonate skeleton to be seen through the polyp — the coral appears bright white, or “bleached”.

Recovery is possible.

If the bleaching events don’t follow each other too rapidly, the coral polyps can take up new symbionts, and regain their colourful appearance.

However, recovery typically takes a couple of years, and may be incomplete — some sections of the reef may die.

If the stressful bleaching events follow each other too rapidly, then most of the reef will perish.

Examples have been well documented for the famous Great Barrier Reef complex off north-eastern Australia.

In March 2016, the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies reported that 95% of its northern half, from Papua New Guinea to the northern Australian coastal city of Cairns, had been severely bleached.

Only four out of 520 surveyed reefs in this sector were spared.

In April 2017, the Centre reported a similarly long section of bleaching, albeit a bit further south toward the centre of the reef. Especially in the overlapping region of these events, around Cairns, the corals have had preciously little time for recovery.

Warm sea-surface waters, and increased coral bleaching, used to be restricted to severe El Niño years. El Niño is part of ENSO, the El Niño Southern Oscillation, a quasi-regular atmosphere-ocean interaction in the low latitudes. El Niño years are the warmer ones in this cycle.

This is still true, but the underlying trend of global warming has caused cold years in today’s ENSO cycle to be warmer than the cycle’s warmest years 30 years ago.

In consequence, coral bleaching now occurs every few years, or even — as on the Great Barrier Reef — every year.

It is clear that global warming has made heat stress, and eventually heat death, a firm part of our imminent future.

This is true both on land, where billions will face repeated deadly heatwaves, and in the sea where it will severely affect coral reefs.

It is easy to think that widespread heat death of the reefs would be less alarming than deadly heatwaves on land. But this would be a mistake: the impacts on Earth’s ecosystems will be tremendous, because coral reefs are home to about a third of all biodiversity in the oceans, and the oceans cover more than two thirds of Earth’s surface area.

Exacerbating the stress resulting from heat, we are further stressing reefs through ocean acidification (caused by uptake of part of our CO2 emissions in ocean water), pollution, overfishing, and physical damage.

Thus, we are fast approaching a crunch-point regarding the very survival of coral reefs.

To understand what we might expect if we let this continue, it is useful to consider times in Earth’s geological past when marine biodiversity crashed.

The first massive, wave-resistant reef systems appeared during the Silurian Period, 444 to 416 million years ago, followed by their peak development during the Devonian Period, 416 to 359 million years ago.

Devonian reefs and their biodiversity rivalled those of today.

Later, climatic instability caused reefs to become less dominant, but they continued until the world’s largest mass extinction, 252 million years ago: the end-Permian event.

This wiped out 70% of all land-based and 96% of all marine life, including all reef builders of the time. The corals we know today all evolved more recently.

The end-Permian event really was a total ecosystem collapse in the oceans, and something alarmingly close to that on land.

The end-Permian event is quite well understood. About 60,000 years before it, volcanic activity increased massively, especially in Siberia. This pushed CO2 levels up, and there was about 8 degrees Celsius of global warming.

One consequence was widespread de-oxygenation of the world oceans (something that is also occurring today), which kicked off the extinction sequence 10,000 years after the volcanism increased.

Then, a second, much more rapid carbon release took place.

Within 10,000 years, ocean pH (a measure of acidity) dropped by up to 0.7 pH units. The acidification finished off the process that had been started with the warming and ocean deoxygenation: almost all life was wiped from the oceans.

For scale, the dramatic end-Permian pH change still is 30 times slower than the rate of ocean acidification today, which is projected to reach 0.5 pH units by the year 2100. And the underlying fastest rate of end-Permian warming is thought to have been possibly similar, but more likely 10 times slower than that of today.

A drop of only 0.2 pH units can result in seizures, coma, and death in humans. Fish have a similar sensitivity. In addition, marine organisms that form calcium-carbonate skeletons, such as corals and shells, will run into great difficulties in forming their skeletal framework under strong acidification. And it makes it difficult for larvae to find new places to settle.

We saw already that the end-Permian acidification succeeded in wiping out all reef builders; they did not have enough time to adapt or evolve against that massive change. Given that the end-Permian acidification was similar in size, but about 30 times slower than the current change, things are looking grim for today’s reefs. They find themselves under a barrage of extremely fast warming and unprecedentedly fast acidification, as well as the other human impacts on reefs.

It would be another grave mistake to pin our hopes on recovery after first making no improvements to our behaviour, and then magically cleaning up our act by waving a wand of some sorts. Dead is dead. Although recovery happened after all of Earth’s past mass extinctions, including the end-Permian one, this typically took many hundreds of thousands to millions of years. And the recovering ecosystem was completely different from what existed before the event. We humans — complex, multi-cellular eukaryotes with high dependence on other complex, multi-cellular eukaryotes for our survival — won’t stand a chance. Much better to use our intelligence right now and prevent things from going completely off the rails.

One final warning: viewed on human timescales, an extinction would creep up on you almost unnoticed. They are not Hollywood-style “one day to the next” events. Instead, they are periods with a rate of extinction that is enhanced relative to normal background rates, but not dramatically so. But biologists are helping us by monitoring extinction. And today’s extinction rates are, alarmingly, 1000 to 10,000 times higher than normal background rates. This may even be 10 to 100 times higher than the rate during the end-Permian event! So, a mass extinction is already upon us — we’re on the top of the slippery slope, and must ensure that we don’t ignore it until it’s too late.

What should we do?

We need stop pretending that there is an argument about what’s being observed all around the world.

Instead, we need to turn the tide of both global warming and ocean acidification.

This means that we must make a very rapid transition toward a zero-carbon-emissions society, and that we urgently need to develop ways of removing excess, already emitted, carbon from the coupled atmosphere-ocean system.

By the way, these measures will also reduce pollution, improve public health, boost research and development into new technologies, increase new business opportunities, and so on.

Why not?

Press link for more: Cosmos Magazine

Does Wall Street Finally Care About Sustainability? #auspol #StopAdani

By Andrew Winston

“Wall Street doesn’t care.”

I’ve been attending conferences on green or sustainable business for more than 15 years, and I’ve worked closely with senior executives at multinationals on sustainability strategy. Through it all, I hear a common refrain: Even though climate change is already creating material risks and opportunities for companies, and expectations from stakeholders about social responsibility are clearly rising, investors aren’t asking CEOs about their sustainability performance.

But could that finally be changing?

Last year there was significant movement by the financial community to push companies to look harder at climate change in particular, but also at other factors that matter to long-term performance, such as LGBT rights, economic inequality, and boardroom diversity.

Then 2018 started with a bang — one that could indicate a further shift in investor priorities.

In his annual letter to S&P 500 CEOs, Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, made a full-throated defense of both long-term value creation and corporate purpose. And it’s powerful stuff, especially coming from the world’s largest asset owner.

Fink points out that governments seem to be failing to prepare for long-term issues and that “society is increasingly turning to the private sector” to step up on societal challenges. (Interestingly, Apple CEO Tim Cook used remarkably similar language about the role of business in society last summer).

But the money quote from Fink was this:

Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose.

To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.

Andrew Ross Sorkin, financial reporter for the New York Times, wrote a glowing report and summed up Fink’s message as “contribute to society, or risk losing our support.”

It’s good news. But before I get too excited, I pause to remind myself that we’ve been here before.

This is the fourth straight year that Fink’s letter has made the pitch for long-term thinking and sustainability.

The language this year is even broader, but he’s been hitting these themes for a while:

The 2017 letter: “[are you] attuned to the key factors that contribute to long-term growth…attention to external and environmental factors…and recognition of the company’s role as a member of the communities in which it operates.”

The 2016 letter: “Today’s culture of quarterly earnings hysteria is totally contrary to the long-term approach we need…ESG issues, from climate change to diversity, have real and quantifiable financial impacts.”

The 2015 letter: We see “acute pressure…for companies to meet short-term financial goals at the expense of building long-term value.”

Fink has used the phrase “long-term” 20 or more times every one of these years. Throughout these letters, and other pronouncements, BlackRock has made clear that managing issues like climate change and diversity creates business value.

But have the letters made much of a difference?

It’s not clear.

I’m not remotely suggesting that Fink isn’t serious.

But there’s a critical structural problem here.

Most of BlackRock’s trillions are “passive” investments, sitting peacefully in index funds (and even BlackRock points out that passive funds have limited impact on equity prices).

So, BlackRock can’t move capital around based on its assessment of how well companies do at managing long-term value, even though it owns a chunk of every large company and hold assets “on par with Japan’s GDP.”

In essence, the company is a bizarre, oxymoronic blend of unprecedented clout and powerlessness.

It’s also not clear how much attention CEOs pay to these letters.

On the day that this year’s letter came out, I spoke to a client of mine, an S&P 500 CEO. He gave me a kind of shrug. As he saw it, leaders that get the value of sustainability to their core business are already doing what BlackRock wants, so it’s moot. And those that don’t buy it may not be rushing to change, since the capital won’t leave their stock.

So, what can BlackRock do to step up the pressure?

I asked Ross Sorkin this question on Twitter. After he pointed out that index funds can’t move capital, he said, “They can vote directors off of boards.”

And here’s where it perhaps gets more interesting.

The idea of shifting board composition used to be a fairly weak threat, but the rise of activist investors has made companies much more nervous.

That said, could low-risk, index investor BlackRock really get more aggressive?

Well, Fink did say in this year’s letter, “We must be active, engaged agents on behalf of the clients invested with BlackRock, who are the true owners of your company.”

That sounds like it could be read as a veiled threat. After all, “active” is pretty darn close to “activist.”

And last year BlackRock did vote against two ExxonMobil directors while supporting a shareholder resolution to force the oil giant to “report on the impact of global measures designed to keep climate change to 2 degrees centigrade.” BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street Global Advisors helped swing the resolution with their combined 18% of the company’s shares. These once “passive” voices became a lot more active.

It’s worth pausing to note the financial logic of supporting a resolution like this.

The U.S. may have, in essence, pulled out of Paris climate accord, but every other country in the world is still in.

And the prospects for oil are dimming. Big countries are banning gas and diesel vehicles, and Ford just announced an $11 billion investment in electric vehicles.

So, yeah, global measures to slash carbon emissions will have a direct impact on ExxonMobil’s value. Stranded assets are not worth much.

BlackRock and other investors are in this for the money, as always.

They are serving their fiduciary responsibility well.

And thus I’m optimistic that action will continue, as the social responsibility argument increasingly lines up perfectly with the financial one.

Fink’s intentions and his letters do matter. But votes matter more.

Press link for more: Harvard Business Review