Month: March 2018

Climate Catastrophe the Earth’s future. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #Science PETM

This ancient climate catastrophe is our best clue about Earth’s future

Sarah Kaplan reports on the weird and wonderful world of science, with a focus on new discoveries in paleontology and astronomy. She previously worked overnights on The Washington Post’s Morning Mix team, covering breaking news and other stories from the nation and the world. Follow @sarahkaplan48

By Sarah Kaplan March 27

Fossils reveal what happened the last time the Earth got really hot, really fast—and it wasn’t pretty. (Anna Rothschild/The Washington Post)

Scott Wing had spent more than a decade in the badlands of Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin, most of it thirsty, sunburned, and down on his hands and knees, digging endlessly through the dirt. But he had never found anything like the fossil he now held in his hand — an exquisitely preserved leaf embossed on beige rock. Wing let out a jubilant laugh as he uncovered a second fossil and then a third. Each leaf was different from the others. Each was entirely new to him.

And then he started to cry.

Map showing exposures of the Willwood Formation (shaded) in the main part of the Bighorn Basin. The two study areas are located at Sand Creek Divide

This was exactly what he’d been searching for.

When these strange fossils formed 56 million years ago, the planet was warming faster and more dramatically than at any point in its history — except the present.

Recounting the moment recently in his office at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Wing recalled the uneasy reaction of the field assistant with whom he’d been hiking. The young man looked understandably nervous that his supervisor was shedding tears over a handful of rocks.

“I said, ‘You just have to realize, I’ve been looking for this … since you were a kid. I’m unreasonably happy right now, but I’m not crazy,'” Wing chuckled. “So, that was the first really good set of plant fossils from the PETM. It was definitely a moment that I won’t forget.”

The PETM is the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum — an ungainly name for the time that’s considered one of Earth’s best analogues to this era of modern, human-caused global warming. In a matter of a few thousand years, huge amounts of carbon were injected into the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to rise between 5 and 8 degrees Celsius. The rapid climate change disrupted weather, transformed landscapes, acidified oceans and triggered extinctions. It took more than 150,000 years for the world to recover.

If history is allowed to repeat itself, the consequences for modern life could be similarly long-lasting — which is why Wing is so determined to understand this ancient climate catastrophe.

“To me, it doesn’t lead me to be fearful,” Wing said. “It leads me to feel responsible. It leads me to feel that we need to be more informed.”

Scott Wing examines a fossil in the Bighorn Basin, where scientists seek evidence of 56-million-year-old climate catastrophe. (Laura Soul)

The first major evidence for the PETM was uncovered in the early 1990s by scientists looking at the transition from the Paleocene, the epoch after the extinction of the dinosaurs, to the Eocene, when modern mammal orders first emerged.

There was something strange about the thin band of sediment that represented the boundary between these two epochs: its ratio of carbon isotopes — different forms of the same element — was skewed. Further research revealed that something between 4 trillion and 7 trillion tons of carbon — the rough equivalent of the planet’s entire current reserve of fossil fuels — had flooded the atmosphere in this period. It came from the decomposed remains of ancient algae and plants, so it contained a larger amount of carbon 12 — the isotope that is preferred for photosynthesis.

This “spike” in carbon 12 served as a marker of the PETM and allowed researchers to start tracking the effects of this sudden climate shift in rocks and fossils around the world.

Chalk deposits at the bottom of the ocean began to dissolve as carbon dioxide made seawater more acidic. Fossils of tiny, deep sea-dwelling creatures showed evidence of an oxygen shortage — a sign that the water was getting warmer. Everywhere in the ocean, creatures adapted to the changed environment, or else they died out.

On land, mammals got smaller and smaller. Ancient ancestors of horses, tiny to begin with, shrunk 30 percent to the size of house catsAbigail Carroll, a paleoclimatologist at the University of New Hampshire, said this was probably an adaptation to the warmer weather: Smaller bodies are easier to keep cool.

Weather also got wilder. Geologists have uncovered huge rocks that were carried long distances by intense floods — something that happens when dry spells are followed by extreme rains.

Scott Wing examines a PETM plant fossil in the collections at the National Museum of Natural History. (Malcolm Cook/The Washington Post)

And then there are the plants in Wing’s collection at the National Museum of Natural History. Before the PETM, fossils suggest, Wyoming looked more like Florida — a lush, subtropical forest shaded by stately sycamores, silvery birches and waving palm trees.

But as the world warmed, the Bighorn Basin transformed. The fossils Wing finds from this period belong to plants that typically grow in hot, arid places even farther south — spindly bean plants and relatives of poinsettia and sumac. These plants must have migrated north when the weather changed, following their preferred environment to ever higher latitudes.

A swarm of ravenous herbivores apparently followed. Many of Wing’s fossils are perforated with bite marks left behind by insects more numerous and diverse than the ones that preceded them.

The source of all this mayhem remains uncertain. Some have suggested the flood of carbon that set off the PETM came from volcanic eruptions or even a comet impact.  But the most popular theory suggests that reservoirs of solid methane buried in seafloor sediments were released when the ocean’s temperature and chemistry changed. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, short-lived but harder-hitting than carbon dioxide. Once it set global warming in motion, the rising temperatures may have triggered the release of even more methane and unlocked additional carbon sources — wildfires, shifting ocean currents, soil microbes that breathe out greenhouse gases — in a chain reaction that changed the planet.

To scientists today, many of the phenomena observed during the PETM will feel familiar — so familiar “it’s almost eerie,” Wing said. Humans burning fossil fuels have produced the same kind of carbon isotope spike researchers find in 55-million-year-old rocks. The ocean has become about 30 percent more acidic and it’s losing oxygen — changes that are already triggering die-offs. The world has witnessed dramatic weather extremes — deadly heat waves, severe storms, devastating droughts. In response to these shifts, plants and animals are showing up in new places at unusual times. There’s even evidence that some species, such as birds called red knots, are getting smaller as a result of the warmer climate.

Still, the past is an imperfect predictor of what might happen as the modern world continues to warm. For one thing, Earth on the eve of the PETM was already much hotter than it is today. With the poles unfrozen and the sea levels high, ancient creatures didn’t have to worry about the effects of melting ice, as we do today.

And the pace at which we are changing the climate outstrips anything in the geologic record. The carbon surge that set off the PETM unfolded over the course of as long as 5,000 years. At our current rate, humans will produce a comparable surge in a matter of a few centuries.

“In all the major ways it’s more perilous now than it would have been then,” Wing said.

But for scientists trying to predict our future peril, the PETM is an invaluable reference. Jeff Kiehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, uses research by Wing and others to test models of the interplay between carbon and climate.

“We don’t have data for the future but we do have data from the past,” Kiehl said. “This is where Scott’s work … has played a critical role.”

Data from the PETM and other times of global warming can be used to answer the questions that haunt modern climate scientists: How much will the Earth warm if atmospheric carbon doubles? What will happen to the world’s water as a result? How long will it take for things to return to normal?

This week, Wing and his colleagues at the Smithsonian have gathered 17 experts for a symposium on ancient climate. Over the course of two days, they will try to reconstruct a timeline of Earth’s temperature and atmospheric carbon levels since complex life began roughly a half-billion years ago.

“Science has finally gotten us to a point where we have some idea of what the consequences are of the things that we do,” Wing said. “Now the question is, can we use that knowledge in something that starts to approach a wise way?”

Press link for more: Washington Post

No one believes in coal magic. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Sorry, Matt Canavan, no one believes coal magic means everyone wins |

Katharine Murphy

Katharine MurphySat 31 Mar 2018 06.00 AEDT

Empathy is fine from politicians, but truth is better because these communities aren’t stupid.

Matt Canavan has an economics degree, graduating from the University of Queensland with first class honours. The Nationals senator and federal minister for resources worked at the Productivity Commission before he entered politics, first as a staffer for his colleague and friend Barnaby Joyce, before being elected to the Senate himself.

The economic pointy head backstory makes Canavan an unconventional National, a fact that doesn’t go unnoticed among his party room colleagues.

It also makes some of his public commentary this week just that bit harder to get your head around.

In a busy week, where the government prosecuted but lost an attempt to steer its big business tax cut through the Senate, where Tony Abbott was so desperate for a “look at me” moment he launched Pauline Hanson’s new book, where the nation roiled inconsolably about the behaviour of our cricketersCanavan fronted the National Press Club to try and generate a couple of headlines of his own.

Canavan, like every other resources minister I’ve seen before him, is an unabashed champion of the mining sector.

Boosterism comes with the territory, and the current occupant of the portfolio doesn’t disappoint.

Given every major business sector in the country is pursuing a “please like me” soft advertising campaign of some type – the Business Council of Australia launched one this week, BHP urges us on high rotation to Think Big, the banks have ads specifically to tell customers they aren’t that awful – it was unsurprising to hear Canavan flagging (among other things) efforts to “bolster the community support for the resources sector” including through an “ongoing campaign” to inform people of its benefits.

All just as you’d expect, right down to Stop Adani protesters bursting into the room to puncture his remarks. Where things took an unexpected turn was in the questions, when Canavan raised a balled fist of protest against the future.

Asked whether as federal resources minister (as well as a democratically elected parliamentarian in a representative democracy) he felt an obligation to help Australian communities face up to the inevitability of a carbon-constrained future – Canavan suggested the world needed to stay as it is.

It was “objectionable” he said, to talk about people losing their livelihoods.

He said concepts like “just transitions” were a con. “I don’t like the term transition, let’s be frank. If you want to shut down the coal industry and cost people jobs, say it.

Have the guts to say it.”

Canavan advised the questioner (which, full disclosure, happened to be me) to take a trip to northern Tasmania to see what a transition really looked like. “Real poverty,” he noted. “House prices halve, people get locked in to an environment they can’t get out of and their lives are destroyed.

“Utter heartbreak.”

You might need to remind yourself at this point of the recount that this is a former Productivity Commission economist talking. If Productivity Commission economists are a foreign species to you, think about people mildly obsessed with transformation, structural adjustment, economic efficiency – that sort of thing.

They are the folks who have been saying for decades in the politest possible way: suck it up soldier, your economy needs you to understand that things change, and the way to get through these adjustments is to pursue evidence-based policy.

Couple of things.

Canavan’s empathy for the coal and power workers – while doubtless sincere at a personal level – is a bit hard to square with his service for a government that shuttered the Australian car industry with barely a backward glance.

I really don’t remember much outward concern for falling house prices, or destroyed lives or “utter heartbreak” in Adelaide. Perhaps some displaced workers are more equal than others.

Then there’s the inconvenient fact that it is his own government’s policy driving the transformation he says shouldn’t happen.

Canavan was part of a government that signed the Paris climate agreement – a set of commitments that make decarbonisation not optional, or hypothetical, but inevitable.

Nobody held a gun to the government’s head and made it sign an international agreement to reduce emissions.

Abbott might have grumbled at the time, and he engages in active revisionism now, but the fact is he signed Australia up, voluntarily.

If Canavan thinks there should be no adjustment for coal communities, then he’s actually arguing that Australia should quit the Paris agreement – except of course he doesn’t argue that, because that would be problematic for Liberals trying to hold urban seats.

The resources minister attempts to tip-toe through the obvious contradictions by arguing that high-efficiency coal will help reduce reduce emissions and help Australia meet its Paris target. In this happy story, we can reduce our emissions and boost the coal industry too.

But is this happy story true?

While it is self-evidently correct that “clean” coal plants are better in terms of emissions than ageing dirty ones, the minister omits several relevant points. “Clean coal will help us meet Paris” ignores the fact the technology is incredibly expensive; that taxpayers would bear significant risks because clean coal plants are not financeable in Australia unless the government agrees to indemnify projects against the future risk of a carbon price being introduced, and against the cost of delays prompted by likely community protest action. And the electricity grid in Australia is moving inexorably in the opposite direction – towards decentralisation.

There’s one more point that we can make about who should bear the transition. If Canavan thinks coal communities shouldn’t be made to adjust, but it’s OK for Australia to remain in the Paris deal, then he should be arguing in public and around the cabinet table for other sectors of the economy to do their fair share of heavy lifting.

The government is trying to pass off the as-yet-unfinished national energy guarantee as a settled climate and energy policy, which it most decidedly isn’t. Assuming they can land it, this is not mission accomplished. The national energy guarantee is a policy for only one sector of the economy – electricity – and a sector of the economy where emissions are already falling.

Thus far, the government has produced no plans for other sectors of the economy – say transport, or agriculture, where emissions are currently rising – presumably because the Coalition can’t ever have a rational conversation about emissions reduction without someone having a brain explosion.

So what are the facts?

If Australia remains in the Paris agreement, and we honour the undertakings we have made (and the government keeps saying we will do both those things), then a transition is coming.

The transition can’t be avoided.

It is already under way.

Ultimately, the question I asked Canavan wasn’t about whether he was intrinsically opposed to the future, but about who takes responsibility for it.

This government, and future Australian governments, will determine whether the transition associated with decarbonisation is fair and orderly and structured, or whether it is chaotic and ugly and deeply unfair to the regional communities the resources minister says he cares about.

Empathy is fine from politicians, welcome in fact, but truth is better, because these communities aren’t stupid, and they won’t be bought off by facile storytelling that suggests coal magic means everyone wins, and no one has to pick up the tab.

They want to know that someone in elected office is thinking about a new pipeline of blue-collar jobs.

These communities need a plan, and they need political representation with the foresight to give them one, and to do that, our elected representatives have to be very clear about why they are in public life, and who it is they actually represent.

Press link for more: The Guardian

How the divisive issue of climate change can be a unifier. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Contractors combed Gulf beaches for oil damage after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. (Photo by Andy Brack.)

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher  |   South Carolinians can learn something from an Alabama Christian leader who is trying to unite people through what may seem an unlikely issue – the environment.

Dr. Randy Brinson, a Montgomery gastroenterologist who is president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, is on a mission.

He wants to make climate change become a nonpartisan issue that brings people together for solutions, not allow it to continue to be a political ping pong ball manipulated by cynics for their own purposes.

“It is not a partisan issue until people make it a partisan issue,” he said this week.  “It can’t be controlled by political donations or politicians alone.

It has to involve all of us working together to reduce or mitigate factors that we can control.”

Next weekend on the Alabama coast, Brinson is hosting the first Embrace and Restore Conference.

It will be a day-long discussion to help evangelical leaders better understand the reality of changes to climate brought on by man’s interactions with the environment.

Among those scheduled to speak are Alabama’s commissioner of agriculture and former U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, a South Carolina Republican who heads the Energy and Enterprise Initiative to promote free enterprise action on climate change.

“We are hosting the conference to highlight what aspects of climate change that we can be impactful and proactive in addressing as the body of Christ,” Brinson said.  “We also are addressing the Deepwater Horizon disaster and how to keep that from occurring again along with hurricane mitigation and homeowners’ insurance concerns.”

In April 2010, oil spewed for weeks from the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico and polluted the coast from Texas to Florida.  Eight years later, memories of the kerosene scent around Mobile Bay remain as fresh as this spring’s budding flowers.

“The issue of climate change has been so politicized by the political left and right,” Brinson observed.  “The uniting theme for evangelical Christians is the impact climate is having on those areas that are being served by missionaries, particularly in sub-Sahara Africa.  There is no denying the impact of climate change on the continent causing disease and water shortage and death.  We cannot help this region recover without addressing climate change.”

In other words, Brinson sees the connection – a nexus missed by many who ignore or don’t believe in climate change – of man’s impact on the environment in destitute places where American missionaries help.  For them to be able to do their work, he says, they need to reduce man’s impacts on climate.

This approach is not unfamiliar territory for Brinson, who gained acclaim in the 2004 election for registering more than 78,000 evangelicals through Redeem the Vote, an evangelical education initiative similar to Rock the Vote for youths.

Listen to how Brinson described man’s interaction with the environment in a 2006 interview:

“We are entrusted to protect it.   This in no way implies that we worship the Earth and see it as some kind of pagan deity, as some conservatives would attempt to stereotype those interested in the environment.   It is truly our sacred duty to protect the Earth as we utilize the resources that God has provided to us.

“These ideas are not mutually exclusive.   Most sportsmen today are professing Christians, yet they support initiatives that protect our natural forests, lakes, streams and waterways so that future generations can enjoy them. We must mitigate the man-made emissions that threaten our environment.   Just as we are commanded to treat our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit, we must care for the environment and the world around us.”

Brinson’s strategy is different from how many environmentalists use logic and science to push leaders for climate change solutions.  But what’s notable is how he offers a way to get to the same place for pragmatic solutions through the parallel path of using Biblical teachings of leaving the earth a better place by reducing environmental impacts and global warming.

This is an important lesson.  It uses what many see as a divisive issue in a unifying manner.  It’s also something the conservation community in South Carolina should embrace – to join with people who may not approach issues like they do but who want to get to a common goal.

Press link for more: State House Report

Tougher climate policies could save a stunning 150 million lives! #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Tougher climate policies could save a stunning 150 million lives, researchers find

By Darryl Fears March 20

Smoke billows from a steel factory in Hebei, China, in 2015. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

There is an overlooked benefit to greatly lowering carbon emissions worldwide, a new study says.

In addition to preserving Arctic sea ice, reducing sea-level rise and alleviating other effects of global warming, it would probably save more than 150 million human lives.

According to the study, premature deaths would fall on nearly every continent if the world’s governments agree to cut emissions of carbon and other harmful gases enough to limit global temperature rise to less than 3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.

That is about a degree lower than the target set by the Paris climate agreement.

The benefit would be felt mostly in Asian countries with dirty air — 13 million lives would be saved in large cities in India alone, including the metropolitan areas of Kolkata, Delhi, Patna and Kanpur. Greater Dhaka in Bangladesh would have 3.6 million fewer deaths, and Jakarta in Indonesia would record 1.6 fewer lives lost.

The African cities of Lagos and Cairo combined would register more than 2 million fewer deaths.

In the United States, the Clean Air Act has improved air quality over the years. Still, more than 330,000 lives in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta and Washington would be spared, according to the study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“Americans don’t really grasp how pollution impacts their lives,” said Drew Shindell, a professor of Earth science at Duke University and the study’s lead author. “You say, ‘My uncle went to the hospital and died of a heart attack.’ You don’t say the heart attack was caused by air pollution, so we don’t know.

It’s still a big killer here. It’s much bigger than from people who die from plane crashes or war or terrorism, but we don’t see the link so clearly.”

Shindell used an automaker’s problem with faulty ignition switches in 2014 to further illustrate his point. When the switches failed, more than 3 million recalls were involved and auto executives were summoned to Washington to testify before Congress. “But the combined tailpipes of automobiles kill dozens and dozens more people than faulty ignition switches,” the researcher said. “We should be far more worried about pollution than the things we actually worry about.”

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt meets with coal miners during a visit to Consol Pennsylvania Coal Co.’s Harvey Mine in Sycamore, Pa. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

There is little hope that the Paris climate accord can reach its goal of limiting global temperature rise to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, let alone the 2.7-degree threshold that calls for stricter regulations on greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

The higher threshold was a bargain struck by politicians and economists who helped negotiate the global agreement as the lowest-cost approach.

As a statement that announced the study said, that strategy “permits emissions of carbon dioxide and associated air pollutants to remain higher in the short-term in hopes they can be offset by negative emissions in the far distant future.”

In other words, governments can loosely regulate emissions from power plants, cement factories and other industries in the hopes that technological advancements will reduce future carbon emissions beyond what is imaginable. Shindell said, “That’s a very risky strategy.” It’s akin to loading up on a credit card now in the belief that your future income will be much higher and you can pay later, he said.

Greg Faluvegi, a researcher at the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University, and Karl Seltzer, a researcher at Duke, contributed to the study. It was funded by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The researchers ran computer simulations of future carbon dioxide emissions as well as other pollutants — such as ozone and particulate matter — that make it harder for millions of people around the world to breathe, to arrive at different scenarios for its potentially grave effects.

Then they “calculated the human health impacts of pollution exposure under each scenario all over the world — but focusing on results in major cities — using well-established epidemiological models based on decades of public health data on air-pollution related deaths,” the statement said.

A woman wears a mask during a day of heavy pollution in Beijing. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The models calculated about 7 million deaths per year if governments fail to work toward zero emissions by the end of the century, starting today.

“There’s got to be a significant amount of progress within the 2020s or it’s too late,” Shindell said. Even for the researchers, it’s a pie-in-the-sky goal, given that South Asian nations such as India, where pollution is among the worst in the world, argue correctly that their per capita use is small compared with historical use in the Western Hemisphere and that they should be allowed time to develop just as other countries did.

While politicians, the fossil fuel industry and environmentalists fight, some people who matter in the debate are on the sidelines, Shindell said. “We should have doctors and public health professionals weigh into this. We don’t have the understanding of how people are impacted by this.”

Press link for more: Washington Post

Big Oil: Climate Change Is Real, But Don’t Blame Us #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Big Oil: Climate Change Is Real, But Don’t Blame Us

Stephanie Mlot

The science of climate change is on trial.

San Francisco and Oakland are suing the world’s oil giants for knowingly driving climate change while publicly discrediting scientific research.

The burning of fossil fuels by Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, and others allegedly created a sort of environmental domino effect: increased atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide raised global temperatures, which melted glaciers, which caused a rise in sea levels, which led to flooding in California’s coastal cities.

In an effort to protect against future effects of global warming, the municipalities must take on massive infrastructure projects—for which they want Big Oil to pay.

“These companies knew their products were causing sea-level rise, and they deceived people about it,” San Francisco attorney Dennis Herrera told Scientific American. “Now, that bill has come due.”

The accusers aren’t looking to place blame for direct carbon dioxide emissions. Instead, they are bringing action on the premise that, despite knowing their products posed “severe risks to the global climate,” the defendants produced harmful fossil fuels while simultaneously downplaying their risks.

The burning of fossil fuels allegedly created a sort of environmental domino effect (via Public Domain Pictures/Pixabay)

During last week’s hearing “tutorial”—presided over by U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup—a Chevron lawyer “explicitly” acknowledged expert consensus on man-made global warming.

“From Chevron’s perspective, there is no debate about the science of climate change,” the counselor said, as reported by The Guardian.

Yet, briefs submitted to the court by deniers tell a different story.

Top producers of fossil fuels—firms like ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell—have long agreed that humans are causing global warming. But, according to filings, they also spend tens of millions manufacturing doubt and spreading denial.

Chevron further argued that blame lies not with producers, but consumers—i.e., people who drive a car, fly on a plane, heat their home, or run a factory.

The other four oil companies have two weeks to tell Alsup if they agree with Chevron’s bloated presentation.

Press link for more:

Asian Companies Are Working To Protect Against Climate Change, Will It Be Enough? #auspol #StopAdani

Asian Companies Are Working To Protect Against Climate Change, But Will It Be Enough?

TOPSHOT – An Indian farmer walks with his cow on a dried paddy field at Srilankabasti village, on the outskirts of Agartala, the capital of northeastern state of Tripura on February 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Arindam DEY (Photo credit should read ARINDAM DEY/AFP/Getty Images)

Asia’s success over the last quarter-century in export-oriented manufacturing has powered extraordinary growth and made Asia a key player in the world economy.

When there is a supply chain disruption, be it with Apple iPhones or Toyota automobiles, it impacts the world.

Yet Asian companies and their extended supply chains are particularly susceptible to climate risk and resource constraints, notably from water.

Without an increased focus on building resilience, Asia, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, could be sowing the seeds of its own destruction.

In “Building Resilience in Businesses and Supply Chains in Asia,” a report I co-authored for the Asia Business Council, we discuss what Asian companies can do to build resilience in their supply chains in greater detail.

Asia’s Climate Vulnerability

Without serious reductions in world carbon emissions, Asia’s average temperature will rise more than the world’s average by century’s end (by six degrees Celsius, vs 4 degrees for the world, and vs the two-degree goal of the Paris climate agreement), according to a report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Higher ocean temperatures will mean severe typhoons–like Haiyan in 2013, one of the strongest ever to hit the Philippines–will be more common, as will flooding.

The World Bank names Guangzhou and Shenzhen in the top ten cities most at-risk to the rising cost of flood damage (New York and New Orleans are also on that list).

The Pearl River Delta region, home to corporate titans like Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., Ping An, and Hon Hai Precision Industry (known as Foxconn Technology Group), accounted for over 9% of China’s GDP in 2015.

The inconvenient truth is that the PRD is at serious risk from sea-level rise.

Farmers from Tamil Nadu gather in New Delhi, India to protest the government’s apathy in the face of a massive drought and mass suicides by farmers, July 27, 2017. (Photo by Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Michael Kimmelman in the New York Times, writes,  “A generation ago, this was mostly farmland.

Three vital rivers leading to the South China Sea, along with a spider’s web of crisscrossing tributaries, made the low-lying delta a fertile plain, famous for rice.”

Now the region has been paved over.

Extensive landfill at the sea’s edge, as with Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy, cannot guard against storm surge.

With natural flood barriers eliminated (almost three quarters of Shenzhen’s mangrove swamps are gone, writes Kimmelman), it is subject to flooding, tidal surges and outbreaks of mosquito-borne disease.

In July 2014, a severe outbreak of dengue fever occurred in Guangzhou.

An article in a medical journal noted that the outbreak “developed with an amazing rate of growth in the number of cases, which rose to 1000 per week.

The total number of cases finally exceeded 37 000, seven times the historical record, confirming the epidemic as the most serious dengue outbreak in history.”

The ADB report also says Asia will experience a potentially lethal combination of heat and humidity, decreased agricultural productivity, erratic monsoons, and more drought.

Asia has a water problem

Asia’s per capita availability of fresh water is about half the world average, a threat often masked by government underpricing, notably in China, where The World Economic Forum (WEF) reckons the price is less than 50 cents per cubic meter, vs over $2 per cubic meter globally.

CDP, (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) a non-profit that facilitates corporate environmental reporting, notes that Chinese companies on average see water insecurity as far less of a business risk than their global peers do; and far fewer Chinese companies report measuring their water use.

The WEF projects water deficiencies could cost China $35 billion by 2030.

Singapore is hands-down the best water manager in Asia, with companies like Hyflux working in tandem with the government. Though it lacks natural fresh water sources, Singapore views water security as a matter of national defense.

Seeking to reduce the current 40% imported from Malaysia, 30% of Singapore’s water is recycled wastewater, and the remainder is from rainfall collected in reservoirs and water catchment areas and from desalination.

Overall, Asia ranks worse than both Africa and Latin America in terms of severe water pollution – approximately 80-90% of its wastewater is released without treatment, infiltrating ground and surface water.

The availability of adequate clean water supply is crucial for many industrial processes, from brewing, to textiles, to semi-conductor manufacturing and the generation of electricity.

Water scarcity is exacerbated by drought.

In India, where a large percentage of the population are farmers, a 2016 drought and failed crops, brought on by inadequate monsoon rains, drove many to suicide or forced migration. The economic cost was $100 billion.

Foreign companies with water-intensive products were pitted against farmers fighting for water.

In both 2016 and 2017, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo were the subjects of high-profile campaigns to boycott their products.

The two American behemoths are the largest and third-largest consumers of sugar-cane, a thirsty crop that competes for water with traditional rice farming. An Indian High Court in November 2016 ordered that water from Tamil Nadu’s Tamirabarani river not be diverted to the drinks manufacturers’ bottling plants for two months. In 2017 PepsiCo shut a plant in Kerala, due to government-imposed water rationing.

The Energy Water Nexus

Asia’s electricity comes largely from coal.

Coal-fired power and nuclear power, which China is beginning to ramp up, are water intensive.

In 2016’s drought, India lost enough electricity to power Sri Lanka for a year, due to a lack of coolant water for its thermal plants.

India’s hydropower plants also suffered, in May 2016, the reservoir behind the Tehri hydroelectric dam, its tallest, ran dry of stored usable water.

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, in London on September 29, 2015. Carney spoke of risks to financial stability posed by climate change in a speech to business leaders hosted by insurers Lloyds of London. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/AFP/Getty Images)

The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), headed by Mark Carney and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), as well as CDP, are independent private sector organizations developing voluntary climate-related risk disclosures for gauging a company’s preparedness for the longer-term effects of climate change.

As the old saying goes, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” and many companies are discovering money-saving process efficiencies from implementing climate goals set by the C-Suite.

Three hundred and sixty-two companies, including many Asian champions, are setting their carbon emissions goals in line with climate science.

To date, 119 of the world’s most influential companies have joined the RE100 buyers’ consortium and are committed to using 100% renewable energy.

The transition to a lower-carbon world requires as much as $1 trillion of investment annually, for the foreseeable future, according to TCFD.

It is a staggering sum, but that number should be considered against the value of assets at risk, which could be as high as $43 trillion.

Corporate investment in resilience is in part an insurance policy against the worst effects of climate change, and it may be the best recipe for long-term corporate survival.

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Climate Change Act must set ‘net zero’ emissions target by 2020, experts say #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Climate Change Act must set ‘net zero’ emissions target by 2020, experts say

Josh Gabbatiss Science CorrespondentFriday 30 March 2018 00:02 BST

Britain’s climate change targets must be strengthened by 2020 in order to meet stringent international targets, a new report  has warned.

The nation must strive to cut its emissions to “net zero”, the point at which annual greenhouse gas emissions are balanced by the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, the experts at the London School of Economics (LSE), stated.

Achieving such a target could require anything from planting more trees to developing new technologies that suck carbon dioxide from the air, they added.

Current legislation has a goal to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, but a more ambitious target will be necessary if Britain stands a chance of meeting the goals set by the Paris climate agreement.

“The current climate change act finishes in 2050 – it doesn’t think beyond it,” Professor Sam Fankhauser, one of the report’s authors, told The Independent.

“So what we have to do is complement it with something else.”

The report concluded that an additional target should be added to the act based on the latest scientific findings – as recommended by the Committee on Climate Change.

As it stands, the authors stated: “The government’s ability and willingness to close the gap between targets and delivery is perhaps the most tangible test of its commitment to climate change”.

They found that current targets are “technically consistent” with the Paris agreement’s target to prevent the earth from warming more than 2C above pre-industrial temperatures.

However, they said it must be brought up to speed with the net zero target set out in the agreement.

“Net zero is not trivial,” said Professor Fankhauser. “If you ask experts today how we would do it you get answers based on models, you don’t get a clear blueprint based on things we have on the shelf.”

Efforts to achieve this goal are still very much in their preliminary stages, but they are likely to include carbon capture and storage technologies.

Released 10 years after the Climate Change Act, the report celebrates the legislation that forms the basis for the UK’s climate policy while also calling for improvements.

“Over 10 years the Climate Change Act has achieved a lot of very good things,” said Professor Fankhauser, who is also director of the Grantham Research Institute.

In particular, he noted the significant emissions reductions that have been seen in the UK since the act was introduced – annual emissions were 41 per cent lower in 2016 than in 1990.

The extraordinary cross-party support it has enjoyed, was also praised.

“We have had responsible ministers from all parties who have pushed the act – an amazing amount of consensus compared to the US or Australia,” he said.

However, the report – which is based on interviews with MPs, government advisers, senior officials and experts – also suggests the act is “only ever one political appointment away from difficulties”.

Press link for more: Independent

CO2 will seriously impair Coral growth. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Coral reef experiment shows: Acidification from carbon dioxide slows growth: Ocean acidification will severely impair coral reef growth before the end of the century if carbon dioxide emissions continue unchecked — ScienceDaily

Ocean acidification will severely impair coral reef growth before the end of the century if carbon dioxide emissions continue unchecked, according to new research on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef led by Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira and the California Academy of Sciences’ Rebecca Albright.

Their work, published in Nature, represents the first ocean acidification experiment in which seawater was made artificially acidic by the addition of carbon dioxide and then allowed to flow across a natural coral reef community.

The acidity of the seawater was increased to reflect end-of-century projections if carbon dioxide from greenhouse gas emissions are not abated.

Two years ago, Caldeira and Albright, then at Carnegie, published a landmark study providing evidence that ocean acidification is already slowing coral reef growth.

In that work, they made a coral reef community’s seawater chemistry more alkaline — essentially giving the reef an antacid — and demonstrated that the coral’s ability to construct its architecture was improved under these conditions. It was the first time that seawater chemistry was experimentally manipulated in a natural coral reef environment.

They once again altered seawater chemistry of reef flats surrounding One Tree Island off the coast of Australia. But this time they gave the reef heartburn, increasing acidity by adding carbon dioxide to seawater flowing over a coral reef community.

“Last time, we made the seawater less acidic, like it was 100 years ago, and this time, we added carbon dioxide to the water to make it more acidic, like it could be 100 years from now,” Caldeira explained.

When coal, oil, or gas is burned, the resulting carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.

It is well established that these emissions are the culprit of global climate change, the warming from which has a negative impact on coral reefs.

But this atmospheric carbon is also absorbed into the ocean, where it remains for millennia.

A chemical reaction between the seawater and these soaked-up carbon emissions produces carbonic acid, which is corrosive to coral reefs, shellfish, and other marine life.

Reefs are especially vulnerable to this ocean acidification, because their skeletons are constructed by accreting calcium carbonate, a process called calcification.

As the surrounding water becomes more acidic, calcification becomes more difficult.

“Our findings provide strong evidence that ocean acidification caused by carbon dioxide emissions will severely slow coral reef growth in the future unless we make steep and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” said first author Albright.

Furthermore, by working in controlled areas of a natural reef community, Caldeira, Albright, and their team were able to demonstrate how acidification affects coral reefs on the ecosystem scale, not just in terms of individual organisms or species, as other studies have done.

They say this approach is crucial to understanding the full scope and complexity of ocean acidification’s impact, as well as to predicting how acidification will affect the coastal communities that depend on these ecosystems.

“Coral reefs offer economic opportunities to their surrounding communities from fishing and tourism,” Caldeira said. “But for me the reef is a beautiful and diverse outpouring of life that we are harming with our carbon dioxide emissions.

For the denizens of the reef, there’s not a moment to lose in building an energy system that doesn’t dump its waste into the sky or sea.”

Press link for more: Science Daily

‘Harder and riskier’: Carbon removal needed if Paris goals don’t rise #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

‘Harder and riskier’: Carbon removal needed if Paris goals don’t rise

Peter Hannam29 March 2018 — 4:41pm

Greenhouse gas emission cuts must be at least 20 per cent deeper than pledged under the Paris climate accord or the world will have to begin the costly direct removal of atmospheric carbon to avoid dangerous climate change, a new study argues.

The Germany-based researchers examined the action needed if nations failed to deliver greater carbon curbs by 2030 but still kept global warming to under 2 degrees, compared with pre-industrial levels.

“Each tonne of CO2 we don’t emit, we don’t have to remove from the atmosphere afterwards in an expensive and strenuous way,” said Jessica Strefler from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the lead author of the paper published on Thursday in Environmental Research Letters.

Emissions impossible?

Delays in cutting emissions make it more likely that carbon will have to be directly captured if dangerous climate change is to be avoided.

Photo: Paul Jones

Computer simulations indicate an industry “comparable” to the size of the global petroleum sector, and able to capture and store at least 5 billion tonnes of C02 annually, will be required – and possibly much larger.

Such carbon removal – whether by reafforestation ($31 per tonne) or direct air capture ($652 per tonne) – would be costly.

“One way of paying for these technologies is imposing a price on carbon emissions and using these revenues to pay for carbon dioxide removal,” Dr Strefler told Fairfax Media.

Strengthened Paris goals – known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – could preclude the need for carbon extraction but only if they were sharply increased.

“We would have to roughly halve 2030 emissions compared to current pledges, and halve them again every decade until 2050,” Dr Strefler said. “If we do not strengthen the NDCs significantly, CO2 reduction will be necessary to achieve the 2-degree target.”

The projections underscore the challenges nations will face when delegates gather in Katowice, Poland, in December. Australia, which has pledged to cut 2005-level carbon emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030, will be among the countries pressed to do more.

Evidence of climate change mounts, and includes the past four years recording “exceptionally warm” temperatures.  Last year was the hottest year on record that was not an El Nino year, while the Arctic – the world’s fastest-changing region – just completed its warmest winter.

Pep Canadell, a research scientist with the CSIRO and executive director of the Global Carbon Project, said the German study used a simplified model that, if anything, underestimated the scale of the challenge.

For instance, it assumed a global carbon price of $US50 per tonne by 2020 for a cost-effective scenario – “something very far from our real world”, Dr Canadell said.

“For every year we delay reaching peak emissions and decline, the harder and riskier it will get to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” he said.

“[It’s] riskier because we will need to rely more on CO2 removal at scales well beyond what we can achieve from planting trees and producing ever more bioenergy.”

An inter-generational ethical issue is rapidly emerging, “leaving the hard parts” for the next generation to take care of, such as the removal of atmospheric CO2, he said.

Preliminary data for 2017 shows emissions from fossil fuels and industry rose 1.5 per cent from a year earlier, resuming growth after stabilising for the first time in decades between 2014 and 2016,  the World Meteorological Organisation said in its State of the Global Climate in 2017 report.

Peter Hannam is Environment Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald. He covers broad environmental issues ranging from climate change to renewable energy for Fairfax Media.

Press link for more: SMH.COM

If pollies won’t act on climate change, farmers will. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #Time2Choose

AUSTRALIAN farmers are pretty savvy.

Given Australia’s erratic and changing climate, they have to be.

But now, for more and more farmers and graziers, climate change is a fact, with the consequences up close and personal.

There is a growing movement of farmers who are no longer content to keep quiet.

Here in Victoria’s northeast where I farm with my family, and in Gippsland where I was raised, we don’t get the rainfall we used to. Fire seasons are growing longer and more dangerous. Even this autumn has started out a strange one, with a string of days over thirty like we’ve never seen.

When the rains do come they’re more intense, punishing the soil and putting people, animals, and property at risk. Last November the tropics came to Victoria and farmers out west had to go at it hammer and tongs, harvesting through the night, or risk losing their crops. More events like these put people under more strain, mental and physical.

When the rains do come, they’re so intense that property, people and animals are at risk. (Pic: News Corp)

There is good evidence now this change is already taking a bite out of agriculture. Indeed, as renowned ANU climate scientist Professor Mark Howden recently told a group of farmers, of which I was one, this country has become less food secure.

All this with ‘just’ one degree of warming so far.

Howden, alongside the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, and many other scientists warn things will get much more difficult. Some more warming is already locked in, they say, and we’ll need to get ready for that. But the worst-case warming scenario — more than two degrees — is not inevitable. Not yet.

We can do a lot on our farms to manage climate risk, but things are getting pretty stretched and we can’t do it alone. Time is running short to manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable. We badly need policymakers to look at the problem squarely, reach across party lines, and find long-term solutions.

There’s good evidence that climate change is taking a toll on agriculture. (Pic: iStock)

Because the way we used to do agriculture is no longer a good guide to what we do next, we need strong, sustained investment in research and development and support for new farming practices. I’m inspired by a growing passion among farmers, young and old, for practical measures to regenerate healthy soils, restore native vegetation, and manage water more wisely.

More farmers are harvesting the sun and wind for power, driven by the need to save money, diversify, and rebuild self-reliance.

Neighbours are exploring micro-grids, and there is rising interest in smart technologies and battery storage. But politicking and inconsistent policy are holding back the full potential of affordable, clean energy in rural and regional communities.

Australian farmers are wising up.

The world’s best scientists stand ready to help.

Even many big businesses are stepping up.

So, where are our politicians?

It’s way past time the political football game on climate and energy ended.

This is too important.

Nothing short of Australia’s food security and the environment underpinning it are on the line.

We want political leadership.

But if they’re not prepared to lead then, please, stand aside.

Kerri Robson is an Angus beef producer from Warrenbayne in northeastern Victoria and a Farmers for Climate Action Climate-Smart Agriculture Fellow.

Press link for more: Herald Sun