Month: March 2018

Climate Change Is Becoming a Top Threat to Biodiversity #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Climate Change Is Becoming a Top Threat to Biodiversity

Warming rivals habitat loss and land degradation as a threat to global wildlife

Chelsea Harvey, E&E NewsMarch 28, 2018

Credit: Ricardo Funari Getty Images

Climate change will be the fastest-growing cause of species loss in the Americas by midcentury, according to a new set of reports from the leading global organization on ecosystems and biodiversity.

Climate change, alongside factors like land degradation and habitat loss, is emerging as a top threat to wildlife around the globe, the reports suggest.

In Africa, it could cause some animals to decline by as much as 50 percent by the end of the century, and up to 90 percent of coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean may bleach or degrade by the year 2050.

The reports, released last week by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), included a sweeping set of biodiversity assessments for four major regions around the world, with contributions from more than 500 experts.

A separate report on global land degradation, which was launched yesterday, included more than 100 authors.

Both were approved by IPBES’s 129 member states at an ongoing plenary session in Medellín, Colombia.

Numerous other threats still challenge the world’s biodiversity, from pollution and overexploitation to land-use change and habitat loss, and in many places these are still greater immediate dangers to the world’s wildlife than climate change. But the new series of reports emphasize that action on global warming is also action in favor of wild plants and animals. And in turn, protecting the world’s remaining natural places is also a step toward safeguarding the climate.

“Land degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change are three different faces of the same central challenge: the increasingly dangerous impact of our choices on the health of our natural environment,” IPBES Chairman Robert Watson said in a statement. “We cannot afford to tackle any one of these three threats in isolation—they each deserve the highest policy priority and must be addressed together.”

According to yesterday’s report, the degradation of land—either by human activities or by natural disasters—may be adversely affecting more than 3 billion people around the globe. And the resulting losses in biodiversity and ecosystem services may be costing 10 percent of the world’s annual global gross product.

Land degradation is also a significant contributor to climate change, the report warns. Deforestation, the destruction of wetlands and other forms of land conversion can release massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, which may worsen global warming.

Climate change can continue the cycle by thawing out frozen ecosystems, creating harsher conditions for vegetation to survive, and increasing the severity of storms and other natural disasters, which can also damage natural landscapes.

The upside of linked stressors is that addressing one can help the other.

Working to protect natural landscapes can play a significant role in the fight against climate change, the report suggests.

Restoring natural lands or preventing them from being destroyed in the first place could deliver more than a third of the action needed by 2030 to keep keep global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, the authors note.

And that’s a big step in preserving the world’s biodiversity, as well, according to the four reports released last week. While each report focused on a different region of the world—Africa, Europe, the Asia-Pacific region and the Americas—each one highlighted the growing threat of climate change, among a variety of other human-caused threats to global wildlife.

Africa is particularly vulnerable, the reports suggest, with some bird and mammal species facing declines of up to 50 percent if serious action isn’t taken. Africa’s lakes could also see declines in productivity of up to 30 percent by the end of the century.

Other global regions are facing major risks, as well.

In the Americas, about 31 percent of all indigenous species are believed to have been lost since European settlers first arrived. Under a “business-as-usual” trajectory, and accounting for other threats, such as habitat loss, the report suggests that this number could climb as high as 40 percent by 2050.

Press link for more: Scientific America

The high price of delayed action on #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

The high price of delayed action on climate change

New research published Tuesday, February 20, in Nature Communications found that in the 168 years that have passed since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the world’s oceans have risen a total of about 8 inches.

The study also found that for every five years we avoid our obligations under the Paris Agreement and delay on reining-in our greenhouse gas emissions, the world can expect another 8 inches of sea level rise.

To put this finding in perspective, that means that for every five years we continue business as usual, sea levels will rise as much as they rose in the entire past 168 years. “This is the same amount we have experienced… since the beginning of the fossil fuel economy,” the study’s principal investigator, Matthias Mengel of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told Agence France Presse.

Consequently, the trajectory of emissions in the next few decades will shape our coastlines in the centuries to come.

This finding is in line with research published recently in Science Advances, which predicts that most wetlands along the west coast of the United States will be submerged by rising ocean waters by the end of this century. “Pacific coast tidal wetlands are at imminent risk of submergence with projected rates of rapid [sea level rise],” the authors concluded.

Even more disturbing, these estimates are very likely to be on the low side—although exactly just how low is still open to debate.

There is evidence that the current rate of sea level rise from the melting Antarctic ice sheet may be twice what had previously been estimated, said Tim Naish, director of the Antarctic Research Center at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington, at the Pacific Climate Change Convention in Wellington. “We may have underestimated the Antarctic contribution by 1 meter (3.3 feet) by the end of the century. So, add another meter to the one meter we’re already predicting for global sea level,” he said. That’s nearly seven feet total, with the water levels accelerating in that direction.

Meanwhile, even greater rates theoretically could be occurring, with some outlying sea-level rise estimates projecting one meter of sea-level rise for every five years’ delay—though these estimates are far from the median. But just because some estimates lie at the far edge of the scale, that does not mean they can’t happen. (And if they do turn out to be correct, their impact could be devastating.)

The take-away from all these facts and figures? “Large ice loss seems possible even under modest warming in line with the Paris Agreement. A sea level rise of up to 3 meters [nearly 10 feet] by 2300 cannot be ruled out,” said Mengel, citing just the more moderate estimates that lie close to the median. That would put parts, if not all, of some low-lying nations and almost the entire state of Florida—home to Mar-a-Lago, the “winter White House” of President Trump—under water.

Press link for more: The Bulletin

Unprofitable coal plants now play ‘game of chicken’ to survive #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Unprofitable coal plants now play ‘game of chicken’ to survive, says Bloomberg

Half of U.S. coal plants lost money last year—just like nuclear reactors did

Mar 27, 2018, 1:07 pm

A coal power plant in Utah. CASTLE DALE, UT – OCTOBER 19: A truck delivers coal to Pacificorp’s 1440 megawatt coal fired power plant on October 9, 2017 in Castle Dale, Utah, October 2017. CREDIT: George Frey/Getty Images

Coal power plants are becoming too expensive to operate compared to natural gas and renewable energy, a new report shows.

“Half of U.S. coal capacity ran with net losses last year,” explains a detailed Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report, noting that “operating expenses exceeded revenue.” BNEF had similarly concluded last year that over half of U.S. nuclear reactors are bleeding cash.

The marginal cost for operating a coal plant is simply too high compared to both natural gas and renewables in most regions of the country, BNEF explains. Indeed, building and running new renewable energy is now cheaper than just running existing coal (and nuclear) plants in many areas.

New study reaches a stunning conclusion about the cost of solar and wind energy

“A tide has clearly turned against coal’s energy dominance,” explains BNEF, “gas and renewables have stolen coal’s place” as the cheapest power plants to run.

Solar and wind invariably have the lowest operating costs — you don’t have to pay for sunlight or wind.

Gas plants are cheaper and easier to operate than coal plants.

What had been holding them back for decades was high gas prices. But the shale gas revolution changed that by moving us into an era of sustained low prices for gas.

In recent years, the average coal plant has been on a “shaky economic footing,” the report finds.

The big exception was 2014, as BNEF power analyst and report coauthor William Nelson explained in a phone interview. That year the cold “polar vortex” winter drove up gas usage for heating homes, which in turn drove up gas prices, which made coal very profitable (see chart).

Coal power operating margins have hovered around zero in the last several years–except in 2014, when a cold winter drove up natural gas prices.

So, it’s no surprise that coal plants are shutting down at a faster rate under President Trump than they did during President Obama’s first term.

One reason coal plants aren’t shutting down even faster is that, as the report states, “There is also a ‘game of chicken’ being played by neighboring coal operators.”

Every time a coal plant shuts down, the nearby plants all become a bit more profitable.

With less competition, they now have a greater chance of being dispatched during times of peak demand and operating margins improve.

Thus “the reward for ‘outliving your neighbor’ factors into retirement decision.”

Another factor keeping unprofitable plants alive is that, in regulated markets, all plants are guaranteed a profit.

The result, as Nelson explains, is that “consumers pay for uneconomic coal plants,” at least until regulators decide a plant simply isn’t needed anymore.

Reality sets in for the coal industry: Trump is powerless to save it

But the report makes clear the outlook for coal is grim.

The average coal plant ran just under half the time in 2016. This is compared to 2008, where the average was two thirds of the time.

Indeed, while coal power was designed to be used as 24-7 baseload, “in New England coal has devolved into backup capacity,” the report notes.

BNEF goes on to warn, “This progression (‘baseload to backup to phase-out’) characterizes coal plants’ lifecycles.”

This is how coal dies — super cheap renewables plus battery storage

Finally, while natural gas prices will always fluctuate, solar and wind power continue to get cheaper and cheaper.

As Nelson put it, “what’s scary about renewables is that they are irreversibly bad for coal.”

Turnbull calls snap review of Australia’s mining industry #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Turnbull government calls snap review of Australia’s mining industry

Eryk Bagshaw27 March 2018 — 6:36pm

The Turnbull government has called a snap review of Australia’s mining industry – the first in nearly three decades – in a bid to find new reserves, attract more investment and end bitter political debate over the future of the lucrative resources sector.

In a major speech defending coal as a “great and beautiful industry,” Resources Minister Matthew Canavan will on Wednesday declare the “mining boom is not over” and call for big business to go beyond “high profile campaigns on tax policy” and publicly back the resources sector.

Senator Canavan will announce a seven-member panel will have six months to examine the resources sector before providing the Turnbull government with a suite of policy recommendations.

Senator Matt Canavan will on Wednesday declare the “mining boom is not over”.

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

“Without limiting their work, I will ask them to focus on policies that can attract investment, contribute to regional economic progress, build community support, cut red tape, find new minerals and ensure that Australia gets best use of its mineral resources before they are exported,” Senator Canavan will say.

Indigenous community leader Marcia Langton has been appointed as a member of the review taskforce, which will be led by Queensland’s former Liberal National Party minister for natural resources, Andrew Cripps.

The mining-industry will have four heavyweights on the panel including BHP’s president of operations Mike Henry, the chief executive of Whitehaven Coal Paul Flynn, and president of the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies Will Robinson. The mayor of Mt Isa, Joyce McCulloch, has also been appointed.

Senator Canavan vowed the taskforce would deliver a national resources policy statement for the first time since the 1990s and said it had the potential to end partisan debate and provide investment certainty.

In a move that is likely to anger some environmentalists, no environmental advocacy groups were chosen to sit on the taskforce.

The chair of the offshore oil and gas environmental and safety regulator, Erica Smyth, and the former CEO of Geoscience Australia, Chris Pigram, have also been appointed to the body.

The minister will tell the National Press Club in Canberra that Australia can not afford to be complacent, warning the biggest threat to competitiveness is the emergence of the United States as a net energy exporter for the first time through its coal and LNG industries.

“We have had a good run for the past 50 years as the only developed country supplying resources to the Asian region,” he said. “That is likely to change”

Senator Canavan said the view that the mining boom was over and that the mining sector is likely to recede in importance “is fundamentally wrong”.

“Australian mining has been booming for 50 years and it shows no signs of slowing down,” he said.

Indigenous community leader Marcia Langton has been appointed as a member of the review taskforce.

Photo: Maxine Chaplin

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the mining industry contracted across all key indicators in 2015-16, with sales and service income declining by 11.4 per cent.

The government’s own figures from the Department of Industry show export earnings hit a high of $214 billion this year, but they are expected to pull back to $200 billion next financial year, as the Reserve Bank warns the “mining investment story is drawing to a close”.

Senator Canavan said China, and the other advancing economies of India, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia would continue to drive demand for Australian resources.

“That includes increases in the demand for Australian coal.

Australian coal is some of the highest quality in the world and we produce it more efficiently than most too,” he said.

He accused the Labor party of “failing to defend coal miners” after it refused to guarantee support for the Adani coal mine for not stacking up economically and environmentally.

“It is disappointing that the Labor party, the party that purports to represent coal miners, is talking down a great and beautiful Australian industry,” he said.

He warned that automation posed a threat to workers and regional areas.

“Mine workers can now operate large equipment thousands of kilometres from the site potentially from the top floor of a high rise building,” he said.

“Many Australian towns all owe their past or the present to the mining sector, I want regional towns to continue to benefit from mining.”

Calling on the industry to make itself known beyond the successful campaign against Labor’s mining tax, Senator Canavan said the term “social licence” is overused but the industry must generate support in the local communities it operates in.

“We also must ensure that there is an ongoing campaign to inform people of the benefits of the Australian resources industry outside of high profile campaigns on tax policy,” he said.

“We should promote the strong environmental performance of our resources sector, it is pre-eminent among the world.”

Eryk Bagshaw is an economics reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in Parliament House

Press link for more: SMH.COM.AU

Marine heatwave recorded in Tasman Sea breaks records. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Marine heatwave recorded in Tasman Sea breaks records, prompts joint climate report

By Carla Howarth yesterday at 6:08pm

Photo: Warm water events have taken their toll on Tasmania’s kelp forests. (Mick Baron: Eaglehawk Dive Centre)

The Tasman Sea experienced a “marine heatwave” over summer that pushed the surface temperature to a record high, climate scientists say.

Following a particularly hot summer on both sides of the Tasman and in between, the Bureau of Meteorology and New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research teamed up to release a “special climate statement”.

New Zealand’s summer was the hottest ever recorded, while Tasmania had its hottest November-January on record.

“Tasmania had its warmest November on record and its second-warmest December and second-warmest January,” senior BOM climatologist Dr Blair Trewin said.

“In New Zealand, they had their hottest summer on record and January was their hottest month on record, so it was exceptionally warm on both sides of the Tasman.”

Dr Trewin said the water surface temperature in the southern Tasman Sea was also exceptionally high.

“They were more than two degrees above average in December and part of January,” he said.

Photo: Tasmania had its hottest November on record in 2017. (Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology)

“And for the November to January period, they were easily the highest on record — 0.6 of a degree on any other year.”

Dr Trewin said the record temperatures were caused by a “very persistent” belt of high pressure from Tasmania to New Zealand in November last year that remained stationary for three weeks.

“That allowed the ocean waters to heat up under very constant sunshine without being disturbed,” he said.

“Ocean waters take a long time to warm up or cool down, so they stayed persistently warm right through until the end of January before coming back a bit closer to average in February,” Dr Trewin said.

Tasmania’s waters have experienced a number of marine heatwaves in recent years, taking its toll on abalone stocks and kelp forests.

Urge to document ‘major climate event’

The collaboration was a first between the two organisations, who said the purpose of the report was to “document major events and act as a historical record”.

“Sea surface temperatures in the southern Tasman Sea rose to exceptionally high levels in late 2017 and early 2018,” the report begins.

“These temperatures were far above any others previously observed at that time of year in the region, and extended west from New Zealand to Tasmania and mainland southeast Australia.”

Dr Trewin said scientists had identified a long-term warming trend in the world’s oceans.

“You’re seeing these extremes emerge in different places in individual years but when you look at the overall number of significant marine heatwaves, it’s only going in one direction and that’s upwards,” he said.

Alarm over extreme weather events

Acting Climate Council CEO Dr Martin Rice said the weather patterns were alarming.

“For Australia to tackle climate change and curb current extreme weather trends, we need to quickly and deeply cut our greenhouse gas pollution by continuing our transition to clean, affordable and reliable renewable energy and storage technologies,” he said.

“Worsening climate change, driven by the burning of coal, oil and gas, is causing temperatures to rise at unprecedented rates and is making extreme weather events across Australia and elsewhere more intense, damaging and costly.

“As 2018 gets underway, we’ve already seen the country hit with a series of extreme weather events, including tropical cyclones, severe heatwaves, intense rainfall and bushfires.”

Press link for more: ABC.NET.AU

China meets 2020 carbon target ahead of schedule. Australia goes backwards. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

China meets 2020 carbon target ahead of schedule: Xinhua

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China met its 2020 carbon intensity target three years ahead of schedule last year, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday, citing the country’s top climate official Xie Zhenhua.

China, the world’s biggest energy consumer, cut its 2005 carbon intensity level, or the amount of climate-warming carbon dioxide it produces per unit of economic growth, by 46 percent in 2017, Xie told a forum in Shanghai on Tuesday.

Carbon intensity fell 5.1 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year, Xinhua said, suggesting that China’s war on pollution also helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

China originally promised to cut its 2005 carbon intensity by 40 percent to 45 percent. The pledge, first made in 2009, was included in the country’s commitments to the international community ahead of negotiations for a new global climate pact in Paris in 2015.

However, China struggled to honour another promise to establish a nationwide emissions cap and trade system by 2017, with the scheme delayed by technical problems, including the reliability of emissions data. The country eventually settled for a scaled-back scheme involving only the power sector, which was launched in December last year.

In his speech, Xie said the national market, though only at an embryonic stage, already covers about 1,700 power firms with total carbon dioxide emissions in excess of 3 billion tonnes, making it the world’s biggest. He said China would continue to work to expand coverage to other industries.

But the issue has been complicated by the decision, made at this year’s full session of parliament, to transfer responsibility for climate change and carbon emissions to an expanded Ministry of Ecology and Environment. It was previously under the remit of the state planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

Xie was formerly vice-chairman of the NDRC and is now a special envoy with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“It is a daunting task to launch China’s national carbon trading market,” said Peter Corne, managing partner at the legal firm Dorsey & Whitney in Shanghai, who follows China’s environmental policies.

“It is questionable whether in the short term (the new ministry) can be elevated in status and power to the extent that it will be able quickly to assume the influential role that the NDRC occupied in the area of climate change,” he added.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

Press link for more: Reuters

Meanwhile Australia is going backwards.

March on Parliament puts politicians on notice. #Time2Choose #auspol #nswpol #qldpol #StopAdani

March on Parliament House puts state politicians on notice.

Chris BathMarch 26 2018 – 1:58PM

Farmers on horseback joined over 5000 fellow protesters in Sydney’s CBD over the weekend taking the message of environmental sustainability to the door of the Berejiklian Government.

Among them was Armidale rider Francesca Andreoni.

The ‘Time to Choose’ protest not only marked one year until the next election, but also the two year anniversary of Bingara farmer Glenn Morris’ historic one man horse ride protest over the Harbour Bridge.

While the protest was led by a large group of First Nations people, including Gomeroi, Mr Morris led the horse brigade at the back as the march moved down Elizabeth Street to Parliament House.

Mr Morris called for a ban on coal seam gas and mining.

“There is devastation because of climate change all across NSW,” he said.

“We can’t afford to destroy any more healthy land.”

Georgina Woods from the Lock The Gate Alliance said that the protest was putting members of the NSW Government on notice.

“NSW is at a crossroads,” she said.

“We can have a future of productive land, clean and secure water and air, reliable clean and affordable energy, but that bright future is at risk from coal and coal seam gas mining that damages farmland – It’s time to choose.”

Nature Conservation Council Chief executive Kate Smolski said the Berejiklian Government is squandering a clean energy jobs and investment bonanza and, in doing so, failing to tackle climate change.

“We have one of the most coal dependent energy systems in the world, with 79% of our electricity coming from coal,” she said.

“The transition from coal and gas to solar, wind and storage will attract $25 billion of investment, the construction of about 2,500 wind turbines and installation of more 42 million solar panels across the state.”

“It’s a big job, but making the NSW electricity system 100% renewable is 100% doable.

“The only thing missing is strong political leadership.”

Press link for more: Armidale Express

Scientists to publish first-ever land health report Diagnosis likely to be dire. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Scientists to publish first-ever land health report

Mariëtte Le Roux

AFP News26 March 2018

This 2016 file photo shows a palm field suffering from desertification near Morocco’s southeastern oasis town of Erfoud

Scientists will publish the first-ever analysis Monday of the global state of land and its ability to sustain a fast-growing human population that relies on it for 95 percent of all food.

The diagnosis is likely to be dire, providing a comprehensive overview of what other reports have already warned: unsustainable farming, mining, factory production, and climate change is pushing Earth to breaking point, leading to human conflict and mass human migration.

“Land degradation… affects many parts of the world and it affects many people in the world today,” Robert Watson, chairman of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), told AFP.

“It has adverse effects on things such as food production, such as quality of water, livelihoods are affected by land degradation, people often have to migrate as lands degrade,” he said ahead of the report’s release in Medellin, Colombia.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, 95 percent of human food comes directly or indirectly from Earth’s soil.

“With a global population that is projected to exceed nine billion by 2050, compounded by competition for land and water resources and the impact of climate change, our current and future food security hinges on our ability to increase yields and food quality using the soils that are already under production today,” it said in a 2015 report.

According to Watson, land degradation is commonly caused when humans convert natural land for extractive purposes.

– ‘We can act’ –

“It could be the conversion of a forest into agricultural land… it could be converting a mangrove system into a shrimp farm, it could be converting natural grassland.”

In January, a study in Nature Climate Change warned that more than a quarter of Earth’s land surface will become “significantly” drier even if humanity manages to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) — the goal espoused in the Paris Agreement.

Aridification hastens land degradation and desertification, and the loss of plants and trees crucial for absorbing Earth-warming carbon dioxide.

The IPBES assessment took 100 volunteer scientists from around the globe three years to compile, analyzing all the available scientific data.

The end product covers the entirety of Earth’s land, as well as the lakes and rivers it supports.

IPBES executive secretary Anne Larigauderie told AFP the report was compiled at the request of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

“They needed rather urgently a report on land degradation because they have not had in the history of their convention… a scientific report as a basis for taking action and documenting the state of land degradation,” she said.

On Friday, the 129-member IPBES brought out four mammoth reports on the state of plant and animal species in all the world apart from Antarctica and the open oceans.

They concluded biodiversity was in decline in all regions, and warned human well-being was at risk as a result.

The land report, which cost about $1 million (810,000 euros) to prepare, was approved by government envoys at an IPBES meeting in Medellin this week.

Though not prescriptive, it contains recommendations for government policy-making.

“One of our goals will be to underline the fact that we can act, and that governments have a series of tools at their disposal to have an impact,” said Larigauderie.

Press link for more:

Meet the Human Faces of Climate Migration #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani


• A new World Bank report has found that by 2050 the worsening impacts of climate change in three densely populated regions of the world could see more than 140 million people move within their countries’ borders.

• With concerted action, however, including global efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and robust development planning at the country level – this worst-case scenario could be dramatically reduced, by as much as 80 percent, or 100 million people.

• The report identifies “hotspots” of climate in- and out-migration. These include climate-vulnerable areas from which people are expected to move, and locations into which people will try to move to build new lives and livelihoods

The newly released World Bank report, Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration, analyzes this recent phenomenon and projects forward to 2050. Focusing on three regions — Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America – the report warns that unless urgent climate and development action is taken, these three regions could be dealing with a combined total of over 140 million internal climate migrants by 2050. These people will be pushed out by droughts, failing crops, rising sea levels, and storm surges.

But there is still a way out: with concerted action – including global efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, combined with robust development planning at the country level –the number of people forced to move due to climate change could be reduced by as much as 80 percent – or 100 million people.

“We have a small window now, before the effects of climate change deepen, to prepare the ground for this new reality. Steps cities take to cope with the upward trend of arrivals from rural areas and to improve opportunities for education, training and jobs will pay long-term dividends. It’s also important to help people make good decisions about whether to stay where they are or move to new locations where they are less vulnerable.”

Kristalina Georgieva

World Bank Chief Executive Officer

Climate migrants: the human face of climate change

The report looks closely at three country examples: Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Mexico, all countries with very different climatic, livelihood, demographic, migration and development patterns.

It is worth taking a moment to remember that behind all trends there are real people with dreams, hopes, and aspirations. We met three people whose lives have been transformed in different ways as they have dealt with the impacts of climate change.

Monoara Khatun is a 23-year-old seamstress from Kurigram, Bangladesh. Her village has been flooded many times and this has led to increasing unemployment and food scarcity.

“Floods come every year, but this year the situation is worse,” says Monoara. “Because of the flooding, there are not a lot of opportunities for work, especially for women in our village. My house is badly affected by this year’s flood, and many rice paddies got washed away.” Monoara moved to the capital city, Dhaka where she was connected to the NARI project, a World Bank initiative designed to provide training, transitional housing, counseling and job placement services for poor and vulnerable women. Since then, she has been able to support her family back in Kurigram and has gained financial independence. Monoara’s story highlights the importance of good development planning through programs like NARI, helping countries be better prepared for increased migration.

According to the report’s “pessimistic” scenario, South Asia is projected to have 40 million internal climate migrants by 2050, with Bangladesh contributing a third of that number. Right now, close to half of Bangladesh’s population depends on agriculture, so changes in water availability and crop productivity could drive major shifts in population. Bangladesh has already undertaken initiatives in the water, health, forestry, agriculture, and infrastructure sectors to mainstream climate adaptation into its national development plans. Several adaptation programs are underway, including a program to enhance food security in the northwest of the country and another to encourage labor migration from the northwest during the dry season.

Watch Wolde’s story

Wolde Danse, a 28-year-old from Ethiopia, is also turning adversity into a chance to change the course of his life. The eighth of 16 children, he left his father’s small farm in a drought-stricken part of his country and moved to the city of Hawassa in search of new opportunities: “In the planting season, it wouldn’t rain, but when we didn’t want it, it would rain. This created drought, and because of this, I didn’t want to suffer anymore.” After some initial struggles, Wolde enrolled in Ethiopia’s extensive urban safety net program, and now he receives a small salary for supervising street cleaners. As part of the program, Wolde can attend Hawassa’s university without paying tuition, and he’s planning to finish his studies to benefit his country and his family.

Without concrete climate and development action, Sub-Saharan Africa could have 86 million internal climate migrants by 2050, with Ethiopia one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in Africa, due to its reliance on rain-fed agriculture. Ethiopia’s population is likely to grow by 60-85 percent by 2050, placing additional pressure on the country’s natural resources and institutions. Ethiopia is taking steps to diversify its economy and prepare for increased internal migration.

Sometimes, however, migration is not the answer

Watch Javier’s story

Some communities are finding ways to deal with climate change that don’t require migration. Javier Martinez, 26, and his brother have chosen to stay in their community in Oaxaca, Mexico and expand their carpentry business. They have been able to do so thanks to a sustainable forestry program that has helped to attract investors and enabled the community to adapt to a changing climate while building economic opportunities. Javier explains: “At the forest level there is employment, in businesses there is employment, so there is not a strong need to go away, because in the community there is a wide range of opportunities.” Efforts like these around the world to build more sustainable forestry programs are paying climate dividends globally and supporting economies like Javier’s locally.

According to the report’s worst-case scenario, Latin America is projected to have 17 million internal climate migrants by 2050. Mexico is a large and diverse country in terms of physical geography, climate, biodiversity, demographic and social composition, economic development, and culture. Rain-fed cropland areas are likely to experience the greatest “out-migration”, mainly as a result of declining crop productivity. There will also be increases in average and extreme temperatures, especially in low-lying (and therefore hotter) regions, such as coastal Mexico and especially the Yucatan. However, as an upper-middle-income country with a diversified and expanding economy, a predominantly urban population, and a large youth population entering the labor force, Mexico has the potential to adapt to climate change. Still, pockets of poverty will persist, given that climate-sensitive smallholders, self-employed farmers and independent farmers tend to have higher than average poverty rates.

Taking action

Monoara, Wolde and Javier’s stories tell us that, while internal climate migration is a growing reality in many countries, it doesn’t have to be a crisis. With improved policies, countries have the chance to reduce the number of people forced to move due to climate change by as much as 80 percent by 2050.

The report finds that countries can take action in three main areas:

1. Cut greenhouse gases now:

Strong global climate action is needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting future temperature increase to less than 2°C by the end of this century. However, even at this level of warming, countries will be locked into a certain level of internal climate migration. Still higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions could lead to the severe disruption of livelihoods and ecosystems, further exacerbating the conditions for increased climate migration.

2. Embed climate migration in development planning:

There is an urgent need for countries to integrate climate migration into national development plans. Most regions have laws, policies, and strategies that are poorly equipped to deal with people moving from areas of increasing climate risk into areas that may already be heavily populated. To secure resilience and development prospects for everyone affected, action is needed at every phase of migration (before, during and after moving).

3. Invest now to improve data on the scale and scope of local climate migration:

More investment is needed to better understand and contextualize the scale, nature, and magnitude of climate change-induced migration. Evidence-based research, complemented by country-level modeling, is vital. In support of this, new data sources, including from satellite imagery and mobile phones, combined with advances in climate information, can help countries improve the quality of information about likely internal migration.


Press link for more: World Bank

The Water Is Coming, Cities Are Sinking. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange

The Water Is Coming, Cities Are Sinking.

When Are We Going To Stop The Fossil Fuel Party?

By Jeff Goodell


Hurricanes have struck Miami before. They will likely do so again.

After the hurricane hit Miami in 2037, a foot of sand covered the famous bow-tie floor in the lobby of the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach.

A dead manatee floated in the pool where Elvis had once swum.

Most of the damage came not from the hurricane’s 175-mile-an-hour winds, but from the 20-foot storm surge that overwhelmed the low-lying city.

In South Beach, historic Art Deco buildings were swept off their foundations. Mansions on Star Island were flooded up to their cut-glass doorknobs.

A 17-mile stretch of Highway A1A that ran along the famous beaches up to Fort Lauderdale disappeared into the Atlantic.

The storm knocked out the wastewater treatment plant on Virginia Key, forcing the city to dump hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage into Biscayne Bay.

Tampons and condoms littered the beaches, and the stench of human excrement stoked fears of cholera.

More than 300 people died, many of them swept away by the surging waters that submerged much of Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale; 13 people were killed in traffic accidents as they scrambled to escape the city after the news spread — falsely, it turned out — that one of the nuclear reactors at Turkey Point, an aging power plant 24 miles south of Miami, had been heavily damaged by the surge and had sent a radioactive cloud floating over the city.

The president, of course, said that Americans did not give up, that the city would be rebuilt better and stronger than it had been before. But it was clear to those not fooling themselves that this storm was the beginning of the end of Miami as a booming 21st-century city.

This is, of course, merely one possible vision of the future. There are brighter ways to imagine it — and darker ways. But I am a journalist, not a Hollywood screenwriter. I want to tell a true story about the future we are creating for ourselves.

It begins with this: The climate is warming, the world’s great ice sheets are melting, and the water is rising.

This is not a speculative idea, or the hypothesis of a few wacky scientists, or a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Sea-level rise is one of the central facts of our time, as real as gravity. It will reshape our world in ways most of us can only dimly imagine.

My own interest in this story began with an actual hurricane. Shortly after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City in 2012, I visited the Lower East Side of Manhattan, one of the neighborhoods that had been hardest hit by flooding from the storm. The water had receded by the time I arrived, but the neighborhood already smelled of mold and rot. The power was out; the shops were closed. I saw broken trees, abandoned cars, debris scattered everywhere, people hauling ruined furniture out of basement apartments. I have been writing about climate change for more than a decade, but seeing the flooding on the Lower East Side made it visceral for me.


Workers load bottles of water into bags at Fine Fare in lower Manhattan, New York, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

In the 20th century, the oceans rose nearly 6 inches. But that was before the heat from burning fossil fuels had much impact on Greenland and Antarctica. Today, seas are rising at more than twice the rate they did in the last century. As warming of the Earth increases and the ice sheets begin to feel the heat, the rate of sea-level rise is likely to increase rapidly.

A 2017 report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the United States’ top climate science agency, says global sea-level rise could range from about 1 foot to more than 8 feet by 2100. Depending on how much we heat up the planet, it will continue rising for centuries after that.

Although there is still some uncertainty about these forecasts, many scientists I’ve talked to now believe that the high-end projections are likely to increase as they get a better understanding of ice dynamics. Temperature-wise, the trend lines are rising: 2016 was the hottest year on record, and as I’m writing this, the Arctic is more than 45 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal.

But if you live on the coast, what matters more than the height of sea rises is the rate at which they rise. If the water rises slowly, people will have time to elevate roads and buildings and build seawalls. Or move away. It is likely to be disruptive but manageable.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature is not always so docile. In the past, the seas have risen in dramatic pulses that coincide with the sudden collapse of ice sheets. After the end of the last ice age, there is evidence that the water rose about 13 feet in a single century. If that were to occur again, it would be a catastrophe for coastal cities around the world.

The best way to save coastal cities is to quit burning fossil fuels. But even if we ban coal, gas and oil tomorrow, we won’t be able to turn down the Earth’s thermostat immediately. For one thing, carbon dioxide is not like other kinds of air pollution, such as the chemicals that cause smog, which go away as soon as you stop dumping them into the sky. A good fraction of the carbon dioxide emitted today will stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

Even if we replaced every SUV on the planet with a skateboard and every coal plant with solar panels and could magically reduce global carbon pollution to zero by tomorrow, because of the heat that has already built up in the atmosphere and the oceans, the seas would not stop rising — at least until the Earth cooled off, which could take centuries.

This doesn’t mean that cutting carbon dioxide is pointless. On the contrary. If we can hold the warming to about 3 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial temperatures, we might only face 2 feet of sea-level rise this century, giving people more time to adapt. However, if we don’t end the fossil fuel party, we’re headed for more than 8 degrees Fahrenheit of warming — and with that, all bets are off.


Last year, President Donald Trump said he was lifting an Obama-era policy that curtailed the financing of coal-fired power plants overseas as he sought to reorient the U.S. government away from fighting climate change and toward American “energy dominance.”

We could get 4 feet of sea-level rise by the end of the century — or we could get 13 feet. If we burn all the known reserves of coal, oil and gas on the planet, seas will likely rise by more than 200 feet in the coming centuries, submerging virtually every major coastal city in the world.

The rise will make itself felt in higher storm surges, higher tides, and a gradual washing away of beaches, of roads, of coastal infrastructure. Even in the worst-case scenarios, the changes will occur over years, decades and centuries.

It’s exactly the kind of threat that we humans are genetically ill-equipped to deal with. We have evolved to defend ourselves from a guy with a knife or an animal with big teeth, but we are not wired to make decisions about barely perceptible threats that gradually accelerate over time.

One of the hard truths about sea-level rise is that rich cities and nations can afford to build seawalls, upgrade sewage systems and elevate critical infrastructure. Poor cities and nations cannot. But even for rich countries, the economic losses will be high. One recent study estimated that with 6 feet of sea-level rise, nearly $1 trillion worth of real estate in the U.S. will be underwater, including 1 in 8 homes in Florida.

But it is not just money that will be lost. Also gone will be the beach where you had your first kiss; the mangrove forests in Bangladesh where Bengali tigers thrive; St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy; NASA’s Kennedy Space Center; the slums of Jakarta, Indonesia; entire nations like the Maldives; and, in the not-so-distant future, Mar-a-Lago, the winter White House of President Donald Trump.

About 145 million people live 3 feet or less above the current sea level. As the waters rise, millions of these people will be displaced, many of them in poor countries, creating generations of climate refugees that will make today’s Syrian war refugee crisis look like a high school drama production.

The real issue here is the complexity of human psychology. At what point will we take dramatic action to cut carbon dioxide pollution? Will we spend billions on adaptive infrastructure to prepare cities for rising waters — or will we do nothing until it is too late? Will we welcome people who flee submerged coastlines and sinking islands — or will we imprison them? No one knows how our economic and political system will deal with these challenges.

The simple truth is, human beings have become a geological force on the planet, with the power to reshape the boundaries of the world in ways we didn’t intend and don’t entirely understand. Every day, little by little, the water is rising, washing away beaches, eroding coastlines, pushing into homes and shops and places of worship. As our world floods, it is likely to cause immense suffering and devastation. It is also likely to bring people together and inspire creativity and camaraderie in ways no one can foresee. Either way, the water is coming.

Press link for more: Huffington Post