Month: September 2018

Tackling #climatechange is ‘global responsibility of our time,’ #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #EndCoal Demand #ClimateAction

Tackling climate change is ‘global responsibility of our time,’ Dominica Foreign Minister tells UN Assembly

UN Photo/Cia Pak
Foreign Minister Francine Baron of the Commonwealth of Dominica addresses the seventy-third session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Climate change results from “an economic calculus” that pushes global destruction, Francine Baron, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Dominica told the United Nations Assembly on Saturday, stressing that “it must be accepted as the responsibility of our time.”
Noting that poverty, inequality and violence are also shared responsibilities, she maintained that “their modem-day manifestations are wrapped up in climate change.”
Saying that it arises from activities that support and reflect inequalities, she emphasized that “it is the poor who suffer most.”
“Much violence stems directly from climate-change-induced scarcity of things, like water, or productive lands,” she elaborated, citing climate change as “the main symptom of our world’s broken economy, society and humanity.”
Ms. Baron noted that the global community has neither agreed on an implementation plan for the commitments made in Paris in 2015, nor mobilized the agreed-upon $100 billion annually to assist the most vulnerable in adapting and mitigating against harmful climate change effects.
“While we have failed to live up to these commitments, arctic ice shelves continue to melt at an alarming rate,” she explained. “The oceans continue to get warmer; hurricanes and storms continue to develop and threaten our countries, drought becomes more severe and flooding more pronounced.”
The Foreign Minister warned against perpetual pontification on the subject while punishing rains wreck lives and livelihoods – but urged instead to use our collective efforts to arrest it.
“It is no secret that the lack of motivation by some countries to take the required actions, is rooted in this economic truth: that those who gain most from the activities that create climate change, remain the most removed from its dire consequences,” Ms. Baron underscored.
Last year, she said that Hurricane Maria unleashed 180 miles per-hour winds that brought Dominica to its knees. Immediately afterwards, “our people, raised their battered and wounded selves and began the daunting task of search and rescue, clearing roadways and quickly moved thereafter into a rebuilding mode.”
After international experts completed Dominica’s post-disaster needs assessment, they concluded that in a few hours, a single hurricane “caused loss and damage equivalent to 226 per cent of our country s GDP [gross domestic product],” while “a mere two years prior, a tropical storm, had wiped out the equivalent of 90 per cent” of it.
The cost of building a resilient nation, “comes with a price tag far in excess of what small developing States, like Dominica, are able to meet singlehandedly,” she flagged.
“As I speak to you this minute, dangerous storms are gathering in the western Atlantic,” she said. “As climate change warms the seas and feeds the rainstorms, the risk of future loss and damage grow.”
Arguing that climate change is not “a freak of nature,” but man-made, she encouraged the global leader to let history record what was done, not was said; what efforts were made to globally end climate change and to reduce local vulnerabilities.
“We, together, must grasp this moment,” concluded the Foreign Minister.

World ‘nowhere near on track’ to meet key #climatechange goal #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #EndCoal #Insiders #QandA #Divest @scheerlinckeva @aistbuzz Don’t steal our children’s future!

Governments across the globe are “nowhere near on track” to meet their goal of preventing global warming of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than the pre-industrial period, according to a co-author of a United Nations report.

“It’s extraordinarily challenging to get to the 1.5C target and we are nowhere near on track to doing that,” Drew Shindell co-author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which is set to be unveiled in South Korea in October, told the Guardian in a report published on Thursday.

“While it’s technically possible, it’s extremely improbable, absent a real sea change in the way we evaluate risk,” he continued. “We are nowhere near that.”

In Australia emissions have soared since we stopped the price on carbon pollution.

To prevent the global temperature from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius, the world’s leading nations would need to undergo a massive transformation in the way their populations use transportation and grow food.

In the 2015 Paris climate pact, international leaders agreed to curb the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above the era prior to mass industrialization, with an aspiration to limit this to 1.5 degrees.

Australia has the second highest CO2 emissions per capita

Trump formally withdrew the U.S. from the pact last year, an act that separated the U.S. from most of the world on climate change. Trump said then that the climate change agreement “unfair at the highest level to the United States.”

“It’s a lot more difficult without the U.S. as a leader in climate change negotiations,” Norway’s environment minister, Ola Elvestuen, told the Guardian. “We have to find solutions even though the U.S. isn’t there.”

“We are moving way too slowly,” Elvestuen said. “We have to do more of everything, faster. We need to deliver on policies at every level. Governments normally move slowly but we don’t have the time.”

“The 1.5C target is difficult, but it’s possible.

The next four to 12 years are crucial ones, where we will set the path to how the world will develop in the decades ahead.

The responsibility in doing this is impossible to overestimate,” he added. “To reach the goals of the Paris agreement we need large structural changes.”

The report comes weeks after António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, said in an address to global leaders the world has less than two years to avoid “runaway climate change.”

During his address, Guterres commended the Paris Climate Accord but also called for more efforts to reduce emissions that many scientists have found to be warming the planet over the past century.

Press link for more: The Hill

When It Comes to #ClimateChange, the Rich Are the Culprit – but They Won’t Pay the Price #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #EndCoal #TheDrum #Insiders #QandA #Neoliberalism is a suicide cult.l

An oligarch does as much damage to the climate in a day as an average person does in five years, according to a leading anthropologist and environmental researcher. Nevertheless, he remains hopeful

Ayelett Shani20.09.2018 | 20:44

Prof. Dan Rabinowitz. Tomer Appelbaum

By chance, the timing of my call was good.

Indeed. I’ve just returned from a sabbatical in New York. I taught at Columbia and took part in a research group on inequality – specifically, in my case, carbon inequality.

Actually, what most interests me is mapping carbon dioxide emissions for different strata of the population.

Within the framework of my research, I focused on the wealthiest people, in the very highest percentile.

What did you discover?

The bit of information that I like most came from a woman who manages an agency in Monaco harbor. Her agency prepares the yachts that belong to world’s richest people, which anchor there ahead of their cruises – from maintenance of the engine to whatever capricious thing the owners may want.

What did she tell you?

One evening this woman gets a phone call from the personal secretary of an oligarch’s daughter. It turns out that the family had landed just a few minutes earlier, and when they got to the yacht the oligarch’s daughter discovered she’d forgotten her baby intercom at home in Moscow. No problem, the woman tells the secretary, I’ll send someone to buy a new intercom; in a quarter of an hour it’ll be with you on the yacht. No, the secretary replies, the lady doesn’t want a replacement, she wants the original from Moscow.

The poor baby.

So what do you think happened?

The private plane that had just landed flew back to Moscow. Three-and-a-half hours each way.

An emission of 49 tons of carbon dioxide just to bring the intercom.

What are the implications of that story?

Can you rate it according to some sort of scale?

The average Israeli citizen is responsible for the emission of 11 tons a year. That includes everything.

His flights.

His home.

His car.


Syria underwent the worst drought in its history before the civil war broke out in 2011 – a similar fate befell Darfur in the 1980s and 1990s. Tomer Appelbaum

Is that considered high or low, relative to the rest of the world?

It falls on the average-high side for an industrialized country.

Higher than most countries in Europe, where public transportation and energy conservation are more developed.

In short, in one night, the oligarch’s daughter had the impact that the average Israeli generates over five years.

That’s actually the whole story in a nutshell.

We started from the end.

Now it’s almost superfluous to ask what climatic injustice is.

Climatic injustice takes two forms.

First there is the exposure side – namely, how vulnerable we are to the effects of climate change.

Of course people who live in undeveloped and desert countries are far more vulnerable to temperature increases, water distress, rising food prices, etc., than affluent people living in developed countries.

I deal with the second half of the equation: Who contributes most to climate change.

The equation is clear from that perspective: Rich people contribute more, the poor less.


By rough estimate, about half the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stem from the electricty production by power stations.

Another one-quarter comes from transportation and the rest from industry.

Since Third World countries are obviously less industrialized, they also cause less pollution.

Moreover, their industrialization process got underway much later than in the countries in northern and western Europe and in North America, which have been industrialized for 200 years.

And at the same time the stronger countries have relocated most of their production to the undeveloped countries.

The contribution of China to the level of greenhouse gases around the globe, which is more than Europe and North America combined, doesn’t stem only from consumption by the Chinese themselves.

China today produces the largest quantity of greenhouse gases.

A considerable proportion of that is due to the fact that the whole [developed] world is exporting its industries to China.

Most of the studies that deal with the subject draw a comparison between countries, but because I come from the fields of sociology and anthropology, my research deals with a comparison within countries. I actually want to show that the rich contribute a great deal more to the climate crisis, yet the likelihood they will survive it and not have to pay a price for their actions, is far greater.

That’s true both within states and between states.

Cancer from someone else’s cigarettes

Prof. Dan Rabinowitz. Tomer Appelbaum

I recently happened across a good illustration of that principle: metaphorically, it’s like someone who stands next to a heavy smoker and gets lung cancer.

I would add – he’s also the one who paid for the cigarettes.

One of the Indian representatives at a climate conference a few years ago said that the “cake” of industrialization is being eaten in the Northern Hemisphere, but the stomachaches remain in the South.

Perhaps you can elaborate.

We’re all familiar with the term “carbon footprint.” The more we consume, the larger our carbon footprint.

So that even if we said that in Israel the average is 11 tons a year, that’s actually the result of an averaging of the people belonging to the lower percentiles – who consume less, who don’t own a car and whose annual emission ranges between three and four tons – and the wealthy populations, who live in spacious homes and maintain fleets of vehicles and private planes, etc.

A few years ago, we checked the disparity between the lowest and highest percentiles in Israel in three realms: automobile travel, electricity usage and food consumption. In regard to vehicles and electricity, the rich contribute 27 times as much as the poor to the greenhouse effect. In food it’s only twice as much, simply because there’s a limit to how much food one can consume.

But that’s obvious, isn’t it?

Carbon inequality is simply another derivative of socioeconomic inequality, disparity and polarization.

That’s the system.

The system also encourages those who can afford it to consume ever more without placing obstacles in their way.

For example, Israel does not levy a carbon tax, which in the view of some is the only thing that might save us.

Technologically, it’s possible to keep track of how much carbon dioxide each of us emits.

To illustrate: Our car can be linked to a mechanism that monitors the amounts of fuel and frequency of use, and we can be asked to pay more if we deviate from the average. But that won’t happen, because it conflicts with the neoliberal rationale, whereby people are encouraged to consume as much as they can.

Have you ever stopped to think why politicians don’t like to be identified with economizing?

Why they prefer to have a dancer serve as the face of a campaign to save water [a reference to an Israel Water Authority commercial], even though it’s an excellent opportunity for a public figure to get personal exposure?

In a neoliberal regime, where over-consumption is the ideal, no one gets elected because he introduced a regimen of austerity, rationing or taxation.

Just the opposite.

The pattern of usage of public resources also conforms to that approach.

That’s privatization.

When you transfer a natural resource to private hands, any prospect of restraint ends, because from the outset the interest of the private body – to make as much money as possible in as short a time as possible – conflicts with environmental thinking and a desire to conserve the resource.

Neoliberal logic opts for money, and to hell with the resource.

Did someone mention the Dead Sea?

We could mention many other things.

Among them the ability of the atmosphere to retain carbon dioxide.

What is actually happening in terms of climate change?

We are compressing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than it can break down, so its only recourse is to store it – like the body stores fat.

A Shell plant in Texas. A U.S. president who intends to spearhead change will have to find alternative ways to take big energy corporations’ vast profits and invest them in alternative energy. Andrees Latif/REUTERS

The point is that countries themselves lack the ability – and also, in fact, the desire – to change the situation.

James Hansen, a former NASA climate scientist, maintains that the whole political system around the world is tainted by bribery and that the only way to effect change is through the courts.

I think that the American legal system is more reliable in this respect than that in other countries.

Hansen is indeed one of the pioneers in the field.

His Senate testimony about global warming, in June 1988, was the trigger for the debate about the climate.

Until then the subject wasn’t even on the table. But 30 years ago, Hansen both asserted that there is such a thing [as climate change] and also predicted many of the phenomena we’re seeing today.

He started out as a climate scientist, and went through a process that I’ve seen among many such scientists in the past few years. They understand that, however brilliant and comprehensive and deep they are in their research, the real problem, ultimately, is political. And that, by the way, is what also encouraged me to deal with this subject.

What is actually the connection between anthropology and sociology, on the one hand, and climate?

We are simply being drawn into this discussion by the scientists themselves, because they understand that their knowledge in engineering, technology or physics isn’t enough.

They need to know how to cope with such rigid and self-interested structures.

‘Worrisome prognoses’

That’s exactly Hansen’s argument: that only a judicial system can allow itself to be untainted. Because various states, in his formulation, are caught in the pincers of capital and vested interests.

Does anyone believe that U.S. President Donald Trump, say, will tell Shell Oil that they need to earn less, for the sake of our children?

Let’s look at it briefly from the point of view of the big energy corporations.

It’s a very complex story for them. They invest trillions in acquiring franchises, in production, transportation, storage and in marketing types of energy, particularly petroleum, gas and coal, and we know that coal is harmful. If we take the revolution to them, we are effectively saying: Bury all your business plans. That’s a result that is absolutely untenable for them.

So the smart American president who intends to spearhead change will have to find other ways – which do exist – such as taxation and various incentives, to help them make the transition.

To take their vast profits and invest them in alternative energy.

Fine, we’ll wait for a smart American president and we’ll see.

Take George W. Bush, for example.

He will always be remembered for the first five years of his presidency, during which he was a declared climate-change denier.

Officials in the administration were instructed regularly to censor scientific reports published by NASA and others, in order to moderate the worrisome prognoses about global warming, and especially the effect of emissions whose source was the energy and automobile industries, among others. But in his last years in office, the messages that came from him were toned down.

Some people attribute this to the insurance lobby, which at that time started to show signs of anxiety because of the anticipated damage, mainly from agriculture and the food industry, and because of the greater frequency and intensity of tropical storms. The situation was aggravated after Hurricane Katrina and the tremendous damage in New Orleans.

So you say that what can actually tip the scales is a powerful interest in the other direction?

That too.

In Europe, for example, the thrust toward [addressing climate] change didn’t happen because of vested interests, but because of decency and because they listen to scientists.

In China, too, this change is starting for completely different reasons – because the Chinese public, which is seeing with its own eyes the effect of air pollution, is pushing for change.

I’m optimistic, and not necessarily because I know the exact route by which salvation will come in every place.

It comes for different reasons in different countries, but it can come.

Let’s return for a moment to the social gaps and to the way they were manifested in New Orleans after the disaster there in 2005.

Wealthy people fled ahead of time, and the poor were left to wave at rescue teams from the rooftops.

There are a number of countries that particularly excel in this matter of inequality.

Israel is always high up in the charts, especially during the past two decades.

But in the case of Israel, the state itself is strong.

Let’s say that tomorrow 30 percent of its territory turns into an arid desert.

The state could cover for that, and assist its citizenry; whereas the same development could cause the total collapse of, say, the Central African Republic.

A nondeveloped country has no capacity to cope with natural disasters.

That already raises more complex questions, concrete moral ones, about the scope of the solidarity and mutual surety that the human race owes itself, and about whether the stronger countries need to be guarantors of the weaker countries – or whether, as the right wing claimed long before Trump, not only are we not required to help the weak and the poor, but we absolutely must not help them, because that creates more and more of the weak.

This relates to another phenomenon that’s connected to climate inequality: climate migrants.

It’s estimated that there will be millions of these migrants in the coming decades.

If we take as an example the Syrian refugee crisis, which is on a far lesser scale quantitatively, it’s likely that the strong countries will shut their gates.

Of course. Not everyone is [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel.

How do we know that we’ve reached the point at which a certain place becomes unfit for human habitation?

The inhabitants themselves know.

In southern Bangladesh, for example, tens of millions of people live in a region below sea level that is very vulnerable, obviously, to a rise in the water level. Groundwater salinization along the coast has already begun, but the farmers who live there obviously will know precisely when their wells have become unusable, when they no longer have water for irrigation.

Similarly, we can look at the situation in Syria.

The civil war in Syria began in 2011, but during the five years preceding that, beginning in 2006, Syria underwent the worst drought in its history.

In Europe, the thrust toward addressing climate change didn’t happen because of vested interests, but because of decency. Explora_2005 / Getty Images IL

Yes, I know the hypothesis that draws a connection between the drought and the war.

What’s happened in Syria is that, in the wake of the drought, farmers started to migrate to urban centers.

Even before that, there was already tremendous domestic tension in the country between different communities, and in the wake of the migration, which forced different groups to live together, there were clashes and great unrest that effectively constituted the trigger for the civil war.

The demographic balances and the balance of power changed, the government couldn’t cope, and a civil war began.

That’s an especially interesting aspect of climate change, the way it exacerbates the war of existence.

What happens in an undeveloped country where tremendous internal tension exists – such as, let’s say, in most of the countries in Africa – when the “pie” of resources, which is small from the start, becomes even smaller?

What happens is, you get Darfurians in Tel Aviv.


We started hearing about the Horn of Africa only at the end of the 1990s. But if we look back earlier, the region underwent accelerated desertification in the 1980s, and the ability to sustain agriculture decreased dramatically. Because of climate change, naturally, production constantly fell. That by itself didn’t yet prompt the Darfurians to undertake their biblical journeys by foot to Tel Aviv. But the greater the distress became, the more ethnic identity played a role in subsistence and survival. What actually aggravated and heightened the internal tensions in Darfur was the generous aid that came from Europe.


Because that aid arrived in the form of food dropped from planes.

Of course, it’s a lot easier to seize by force a food shipment that’s been airlifted in, than it is to try to grow crops in parched fields. The friction between ethnic groups constantly increased, until civil war erupted and drove tens and hundreds of thousands to flee the country.

Naturally, I don’t contend that there was some sort of clear, unidirectional trend here, that started with climate change and ended with Sudanese and Darfurians in Tel Aviv. There is a certain butterfly-effect element here. But there’s no doubt that these processes nourish each other: warming, desertification, distress, hunger, ethnic rifts, civil wars, waves of refugees.

The refugees who arrived in Israel don’t term themselves climate migrants or environmental migrants, but rather political refugees, and that’s correct, but there’s no doubt that amid all this tumult there is also a significant and even decisive environmental element, in the wake of which they were compelled to leave their country. If we think in depth about climate change, we have to take into account all the catastrophes that are on the way. Whole populations that will be uprooted and become nomadic, possibly even becoming extinct.

This is all very depressing.

I know.

How do you live with it?

I am a generally optimistic and positive person, and I somehow manage to make the separation. In the first 20 years of my academic career, I dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And then you came to the conclusion that that was not depressing enough?

And then I switched to an even more depressing topic. I can’t really understand why I did it.

Maybe you enjoy problems that no one else is really interested in solving.

I think that we don’t need to think about a [single] solution. If we think about a solution [that succeeds or fails, one or the other], it will become binary: solution-no solution.

There is a solution, but it runs contrary to every immediate interest.

True, but even so, some countries are aiming for it. Britain and Germany, for example, are doing amazing things, even though the problem is vast and supposedly insoluble. They reduced the amount of their carbon dioxide emissions by dozens of percentage points compared to the 1990s.

So apparently it is possible.

It’s possible, but will it happen?

The bottom line is that the quantity of emissions is only increasing.

I can’t say that’s what will happen.

The fact is that in certain countries things are happening.

The more significant thing is the rate of improvement versus the inertia of destruction. There are two poles here that are behaving differently.

Globally, the amount of carbon dioxide that continues to be compressed into the atmosphere is still increasing.

On the other hand, in some countries it’s on a decline.

Let me guess – in Scandinavia.

Right. But that’s not to say that in other countries the situation is fixed, and can’t change. There’s already a group of 30 countries that are cutting down.

That’s cause for great hope and it also gives rise to working models. By means of legislation, regulation, through what people know how to do – for the same reasons that the human species is so successful and is able at certain moments to join forces, cooperate, invent and renew.

Our struggle is not over “all or nothing,” it’s about saving as much as possible. After all, the [entire] human race isn’t about to become extinct, but certain groups within it are going to suffer a great deal and perhaps also become extinct.

The fate of some of the flat islands in the Indian Ocean, for example, is already sealed.

Other places, undeveloped areas and desert regions, might experience a steep plunge in population size.

This has happened before in human history.

Mass starvation, epidemics, etc., which led to a dramatic reduction in the size of the population.

So I prefer to define the question not in terms of whether there is a solution or not, but to what extent the solutions will wield influence and trickle down, in order to reverse the trend.

There’s no doubt that overall, this is a very worrisome trend, especially with regard to weak populations.

Yes. In one of your articles you write: One day we will look back and simply not believe.

As the cliché goes, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

I think that if we were to live in some future world, where the temperature outside is unbearable for many months of the year, when the ability simply to walk around outside will be constantly diminishing, where we will use resources, including fuel and energy, in a way completely different from today, where everything will be controlled and measured and limited – when we look back on the wild way in which we are living today, to a world where most people are completely unaware of the significance of carbon to their way of life, we simply wouldn’t believe that we ever lived like that.

After all, if we’d been told 70 years ago that the street corner where we’re sitting – Rothschild and Ahad Ha’am [in Tel Aviv] – would have cafes and be a busy thoroughfare, and not a drowsy road along which a camel convoy occasionally passes by, we wouldn’t have believed it.

Press link for more:

Solar & Pumped hydro make a great combination. FNQ Renewable Energy Hub fast tracked. @TheCairnsPost #StopAdani #EndCoal #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange means we need more #ClimateAction

Kidston Renewable Energy Hub

Genex Power’s Kidston Renewable Energy Hub has been fast tracked with the $330 million Kidston Pumped Hydro Storage project declared a coordinated project.

The project at the decommissioned Kidston Gold Mine near Einasleigh in Etheridge Shire, proposes an innovative use of two water-filled mine pits to generate hydroelectricity.

Minister for State Development Cameron Dick said the project could employ 370 people during the two-year construction and have a minimum lifespan of 50 years.

“When complete, Stages 1 and 2 of the Kidston Renewable Energy Hub will provide enough energy to power around 160,000 Australian homes,” Mr Dick said.

“Stage 1 alone will produce enough power to supply more than 26,000 Australian homes, offsetting 120,000 tonnes of CO2 per year and remove 33,000 cars off Australian roads .

Last week, Genex was given development approval by Etheridge Shire Council.’

The Minister said this declaration was the final push through the fast lane to get this important job creating project up and running.

Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Anthony Lynham said the project could act as a large-scale battery storage, allowing solar energy from the adjoining solar project to be stored and harnessed as peak-load power on demand.

“The addition of hydroelectric generation in Far North Queensland will add stability to the network in the region reducing the necessity for importing excess electricity from neighbouring areas, providing a benefit to the entire network,” Dr Lynham said.

Stage 1 of Kidston is a solar power project (50 MW) which has been constructed.

Stage 2 is a proposed new solar project (270 MW) to integrate with the K2H project (250 MW) undergoing assessment.

Stage 3 is a wind farm project (150 MW) which is in the feasibility stage.

Energy generated by Stage 2 (combined solar and hydro) will be via a new transmission line connecting the Kidston site to Mount Fox, near Ingham.

CEO of Genex James Harding said he welcomed the declaration.

“Coming on the heels of the development approval announced last week, it provides further support from the Office of the Coordinator General as we finalise outstanding environmental approvals ahead of closing the financing and commencing construction in 2019,” Mr Harding said.

If approved construction is due to commence in 2019 and expected to be completed by 2021.

READ ALSO: Genex Kidston applies for NAIF loan

Press link for more: The North West Star

How deadly is 50-degree heat? Australia’s cities face the new reality of #climatechange #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #EndCoal

How deadly is 50-degree heat? Australia’s cities face the new reality of climate change

By Mira Adler-Gillies

Photo: Sydney and Melbourne could see 50-degree days within the next few decades. (ABC News: Mary Lloyd)

Buckled train tracks, grounded planes, melting bitumen and massive blackouts: the dystopian vision of the 50-degree city is closer to reality every day.

With wildfires raging around the Arctic Circle, unprecedented heatwaves in the Northern Hemisphere and record temperatures being set from Algeria to Canada, the world is getting inexorably hotter.

And the combination of rising global temperatures with increasing urban density is proving deadly.

Now, 50 degrees Celsius, once only associated with places like California’s Death Valley or the desert wilderness of Oman and Iraq, is an increasingly frequent occurrence.

A recent study, led by Australian National University climate scientist Dr Sophie Lewis, speculated that 50C days could occur in Sydney and Melbourne within the next few decades.

Heading into ‘unknown territory’

So, what happens to urban populations when our cities get halfway to boiling? Are they equipped for the impeding heat or are we heading toward urban catastrophe?

Audio: Coping with the 50 degree city (Blueprint for Living)

It’s an urgent question as we enter “unknown territory”, according to Marco Amati from RMIT University.

“One image that stuck out for me was, toward the end of the Millennium drought, the picture of railway workers, in Melbourne, spraying railway tracks to try to keep them cool because they were bending out of shape from the heat,” Professor Amati said.

“We have a number of systems within cities that we rely on — things like air conditioning, transport, even the asphalt is changed by extreme heat — and we don’t actually know how we can cope with that in large cities.

“The way we are building cities, as higher density, highly engineered areas — you have to wonder at what point are we going to exceed those engineering constraints?”

That question is now a matter of life and death as heatwaves become increasingly common.

Video: Heatwaves in Australia explained (ABC News)

Associate Professor Camilo Mora, from the University of Hawaii, says the threshold at which heat becomes deadly can vary, but a growing percentage of the world’s population is now exposed to conditions exceeding that limit.

“Extreme heat is an abnormal condition for the body,” he says.

“We have an optimum temperature that is around 37 degrees so every time that it’s hot the body wants to activate mechanisms to cool down.”

One of those mechanisms, he says, sends blood to the skin so that through the process of sweat evaporation, the blood can cool down.

“When hot conditions last for too long you deprive certain organs of blood, specifically the gut and the lining of the gut breaks… [causing] a condition called blood poisoning,” he says.

“The cells start attacking these particles inside your body, creating coagulations that eventually clog the kidneys and parts of the lungs.”

Health, infrastructure and economic consequences

Professor Mora says his research shows that by the end of the century over half the world’s population will be exposed to this kind of deadly heat for at least 20 days a year.

Heatwaves kill far more people than other natural disasters. ABC Emergency has a checklist of things you can do to be ready.

In July this year a heatwave that swept across Quebec in Canada killed over 90 people in just over a week.

A devastating mortality rate, according to Professor Mora, that pales in comparison to the more than 60,000 heat-related deaths during Europe’s 2003 heatwave.

But, he says, the health impact is only one of many consequences including crippling infrastructure and economic paralysis.

“We see not only damage to the railroads but concrete also cracks so then you have roads that need to be fixed,” he says.

“In some places the wires start melting because it just gets too hot at the moment when everybody is turning on their air conditioners — as a result they touch each other and create these massive blackouts.

“In the US, for example, in any temperature that is above 110F, planes cannot fly because … the density of the air is not sufficient for these planes to take off.”

Adapting our cities to these new extremes is a costly exercise, particularly in places like Europe with very old infrastructure, Professor Amati believes.

“But even then when you retrofit a warmer climate, the air conditioning that they use in places like Dubai and Abu Dhabi is different to the air conditioning that [we] use in Australia,” he says.

“They use different coolants in those places to adapt to those circumstances; but it still becomes an issue of cost, of retrofitting those areas and it is still a very practical issue.”

The effects of severe weather of course are not evenly distributed; developing countries are particularly vulnerable to rising temperatures.

Studies have shown that race and class are key factors in susceptibility to the worst effects of climate change, from the proximity to green spaces to exposure to air pollution.

But even in developed nations, extreme heat reveals in the starkest terms some of our cities’ deep inequalities.

Wealthy nations, Professor Mora says, are far from immune.

“For instance, in Miami right now, to deal with the … sea level rise that is damaging the roads they have to invest [billions of] dollars,” he says.

“[That] money that could have gone towards education or health now has to be spent on raising the levels of the highways.

“The same goes for electricity; I know that places in Australia are dealing with a high demand of electricity during these heatwaves because everyone turns on their air conditioning, so now you have to make massive investments in improving the electrical grids.”

Paint the houses’ roofs white

Mitigating against the worst effects of urban heat, however, does not always need to be costly or involve massive infrastructure investments, Professor Amati says.

“In Ahmedabad, in India, they have a wonderful program to simply paint the roofs of informal houses white; there’s no engineering required, there’s no air conditioning required,” he says.

Likewise, greening cities is crucial in limiting harm from heat exposure.

“Places like New York, for example, are putting a lot of money into the restoration of gardens,” Professor Mora says.

So there are other environmental solutions that are good not only to reduce the heat but also help to mitigate greenhouse gases as well.”

The question of whether we are equipped to cope or not is a matter of planning as much as anything else, according to Professor Amati.

“I think it’s really a question more … about the building regulations and about the way in which we array our suburbs and the density we live at,” he says.

“But [it’s] also the timing and the way we do things. We might have to adapt our work/life schedules more towards taking siestas in the afternoon, for example.

“As it is, at the moment, a heatwave strikes, everyone downs tools — people don’t go to work and there’s a kind of a catastrophe.

“I wonder whether we shouldn’t be adapting the way we work to fit this new reality better.”

‘It’s going to be a nightmare’

But Professor Mora warns against adaptation as a substitute for real action on climate change.

“Let’s try to prevent those heatwaves from happening in the first place rather than trying to live with those things,” he says.

“It’s going to be a nightmare. Every single summer we are going to be paralysed because these heatwaves can pose a danger to us.

“[But] it’s not too late for us to fix this problem.”

Dr Lewis agrees that despite the dire outlook, the nightmare is not yet inevitable.

“We found that there are huge benefits to limiting global warming for reducing the severity of future extremes in Australia,” she says.

“We are currently on track to exceed 3 degrees of global warming, which would correspond to even more severe extremes.

“That means we have to be acting now to reduce this possibility and to prepare cities for high magnitude future extremes.”

Press link for more:

Terrible’: Rising gas output lifts Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #wapol #StopAdani #EndCoal #ClimateChange

Terrible’: Rising gas output lifts Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions

28 September 2018 —

By Peter Hannam

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have continued to climb, reaching the highest levels on a quarterly basis since 2010, led by a surge in gas production.

For the 12 months to March 31 2018, emissions totalled 529.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent, up 1.3 per cent from a year earlier, the Environment Department said in the report released on Friday afternoon.

Fugitive emissions, mostly from the gas sector, jumped 13.7 per cent.

Big jump in gas production has propelled Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions higher.

Photo: Glenn Campbell

The overall figure included a drop of 4.3 per cent in emissions from the electricity sector, which accounts for the biggest share of pollution.

Another sector reporting a decline was land use change, with emissions down 5.2 per cent although the government qualified the figure as preliminary, subject to satellite imagery analysis.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, emissions were 134.7 million tonnes, or the highest quarterly figure since September 2010.

Adam Bandt, the Greens climate spokesman, said the timing of the data release was aimed at minimising attention.

“Dumping this terrible news on Grand Final eve is a disgrace,” Mr Bandt said. “Pollution is going up, the government boasts it has no renewables policy and global warming is getting worse.”

Per-capita drop

Melissa Price, the federal environment minister, focused on the per-capita emission levels, which were now 36 per cent below 1990 levels. Per unit of economic activity, they were down 59 per cent.

“The latest report on Australia’s national greenhouse gas inventory released today clearly shows Australia is on track to beat its 2020 emissions target,” Minister Price said in a statement.

National emissions were 1.9 per cent below 2000 levels – the 2020 target is to be 5 per cent lower – and 11.2 per cent below 2005 levels in the year to March 2018.

The Morrison government has few policy levers to pull to reduce emissions, especially after it dropped the National Energy Guarantee.

The electricity sector, which accounts for 35 per cent of Australia’s emissions, has been trending lower without additional policies.

The Renewable Energy Target, which runs until 2020, has helped increase the share of renewable energy to record levels, reducing the pollution from coal-fired and gas-fired power stations.


Kelly O’Shanassy, Australian Conservation Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer, said it was “frankly embarrassing that climate pollution continues to rise in a wealthy country like Australia”.

“This latest pollution scorecard casts extreme doubt over the Morrison Government’s claim that Australia will meet our 2030 emissions reduction target ‘in a canter’ without strong new action.”

Australia’s Paris climate commitment is to reduce 2005 level pollution by 26-28 per cent by 2030.

Emissions have been trending higher for about four years.

Press link for more: SMH.COM

National Doorknock to #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateChange @TheCairnsPost

National Doorknock to #StopAdani

Carole SampsonSeptember 28 2018 – 9:31AM

Town group – Fiona Morgan, Marg Hopper and son, Dorin Hart, Tony Gluck, Robin Hesketh

Local community groups determined to Stop Adani will be going ‘street by street’ on Saturday October 6, knocking on doors to inform people about the reasons we need the mine to be halted.

The Adani mine would be the largest coal mine in Australia’s history and if constructed would destroy any chance of a safe climate future.

Adani has already started illegal work, cut the cost of their rail line in half and say they have locked in finance to start digging. Meanwhile, our new Prime Minister is a big supporter of coal billionaires.

Australians are outraged.

We don’t support Adani, yet our politicians do.

They could #StopAdani tomorrow, but they won’t unless they can see, feel and hear our movement everywhere.

That’s why from October 6-7, people across the country are going to hit the streets in the National Doorknock to #StopAdani. We will let our communities know what is at stake with Adani, invite them to join our movement and put up signs on every street!

Bellingen Town and Bellingen Rural Street by Street groups are coming together to let everyone in the community know that we want a stop to this mine.  We will be holding a ‘street by street’ door knocking event on the morning of October 6, where small groups of people will be out and about informing people of the reasons we need this to stop.

From 10am – 1pm, you can also catch members of these groups outside Bellingen IGA where we will be talking to people about the issues, handing out leaflets and yard signs for anyone who wants to support us in this action.

Are you in?

Sign up to join with others in our community for the National Doorknock to #StopAdani.

WHEN: Saturday 6th October 10am-1pm

WHERE: Lavender Bridge car park (meeting place for door knocking event)

FB event

FB page is @coffscoastclimateaction

email sign up:

Don’t worry if this is your first time doorknocking. There will be a full briefing before we head out and we will all go in pairs.

Rural group – Steve Rae, Trish Rae, Wendy Robson, Gabi Curwood, Jo Turner, Janet Lee, Dianne Rae, Carole Sampson (kneeling).

Press link for more: Bellingen Courier

It’s amazing the difference a positive press makes, thank you Bellingen.

Trump administration sees a 7-degree rise in global temperatures by 2100 #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #EndCoal

Trump administration sees a 7-degree rise in global temperatures by 2100

By Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis, Chris Mooney

September 28, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Firefighters from Brea, Calif., inspect and cut fireline on Aug. 1, 2018, as the Ranch Fire burns near Upper Lake, Calif. A day earlier, it and the River Fire totaled more than 74,000 acres. (Stuart W. Palley/For The Washington Post)

Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement, the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous 7 degrees by the end of this century.

A rise of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 4 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels would be catastrophic, according to scientists.

Many coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans.

Parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defenses.

Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe.

But the administration did not offer this dire forecast as part of an argument to combat climate change.

Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.

The draft statement, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), was written to justify President Trump’s decision to freeze federal fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020.

While the proposal would increase greenhouse gas emissions, the impact statement says, that policy would add just a very small drop to a very big, hot bucket.

“The amazing thing they’re saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it,” said Michael MacCracken, who served as a senior scientist at the U.S. Global Change Research Program from 1993 to 2002.

The document projects that global temperature will rise by nearly 3.5 degrees Celsius above the average temperature between 1986 and 2005 regardless of whether Obama-era tailpipe standards take effect or are frozen for six years, as the Trump administration has proposed.

The global average temperature rose more than 0.5 degrees Celsius between 1880, the start of industrialization, and 1986, so the analysis assumes a roughly 4 degree Celsius or 7 degree Fahrenheit increase from preindustrial levels.

The world would have to make deep cuts in carbon emissions to avoid this drastic warming,the analysis states. And that “would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today’s levels and would require the economy and the vehicle fleet to move away from the use of fossil fuels, which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible.”

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

World leaders have pledged to keep the world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels, and agreed to try to keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But the current greenhouse gas cuts pledged under the 2015 Paris climate agreement are not steep enough to meet either goal.

Scientists predict a 4 degree Celsius rise by the century’s end if countries take no meaningful actions to curb their carbon output.

Australia’s Greenhouse gas Emissions soar since Abbott axed the Carbon Price.

Trump has vowed to exit the Paris accord and called climate change a hoax.

In the past two months, the White House has pushed to dismantle nearly half a dozen major rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, deregulatory moves intended to save companies hundreds of millions of dollars.

If enacted, the administration’s proposals would give new life to aging coal plants; allow oil and gas operations to release more methane into the atmosphere; and prevent new curbs on greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air-conditioning units. The vehicle rule alone would put 8 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere this century, more than a year’s worth of total U.S. emissions, according to the government’s own analysis.

Australia’s Prime Minister Loves Coal.

Administration estimates acknowledge that the policies would release far more greenhouse gas emissions from America’s energy and transportation sectors than otherwise would have been allowed.

David Pettit, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council who testified against Trump’s freeze of fuel efficiency standards this week in Fresno, Calif., said his organization is prepared to use the administration’s own numbers to challenge their regulatory rollbacks.

He noted that the NHTSA document projects that if the world takes no action to curb emissions, current atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide would rise from 410 parts per million to 789 ppm by 2100.

“I was shocked when I saw it,” Pettit said in a phone interview. “These are their numbers.

They aren’t our numbers.”

Conservatives who condemned Obama’s climate initiatives as regulatory overreach have defended the Trump administration’s approach, calling it a more reasonable course.

Obama’s climate policies were costly to industry and yet “mostly symbolic,” because they would have made barely a dent in global carbon dioxide emissions, said Heritage Foundation research fellow Nick Loris, adding: “Frivolous is a good way to describe it.”

NHTSA commissioned ICF International Inc., a consulting firm based in Fairfax, Va., to help prepare the impact statement. An agency spokeswoman said the Environmental Protection Agency “and NHTSA welcome comments on all aspects of the environmental analysis” but declined to provide additional information about the agency’s long-term temperature forecast.

Federal agencies typically do not include century-long climate projections in their environmental impact statements.

Instead, they tend to assess a regulation’s impact during the life of the program — the years a coal plant would run, for example, or the amount of time certain vehicles would be on the road.

Using the no-action scenario “is a textbook example of how to lie with statistics,” said MIT Sloan School of Management professor John Sterman. “First, the administration proposes vehicle efficiency policies that would do almost nothing [to fight climate change].

Then [the administration] makes their impact seem even smaller by comparing their proposals to what would happen if the entire world does nothing.”

This week, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned leaders gathered in New York, “If we do not change course in the next two years, we risk runaway climate change. . . . Our future is at stake.”

Federal and independent research — including projections included in last month’s analysis of the revised fuel-efficiency standards — echoes that theme. The environmental impact statement cites “evidence of climate-induced changes,” such as more frequent droughts, floods, severe storms and heat waves, and estimates that seas could rise nearly three feet globally by 2100 if the world does not decrease its carbon output.

Two articles published in the journal Science since late July — both co-authored by federal scientists — predicted that the global landscape could be transformed “without major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” and declared that soaring temperatures worldwide bore humans’ “fingerprint.”

“With this administration, it’s almost as if this science is happening in another galaxy,” said Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ climate and energy program. “That feedback isn’t informing the policy.”

Administration officials say they take federal scientific findings into account when crafting energy policy — along with their interpretation of the law and President Trump’s agenda. The EPA’s acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, has been among the Trump officials who have noted that U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants have fallen over time.

But the debate comes after a troubling summer of devastating wildfires, record-breaking heat and a catastrophic hurricane — each of which, federal scientists say, signals a warming world.

Some Democratic elected officials, such as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, said Americans are starting to recognize these events as evidence of climate change. On Feb. 25, Inslee met privately with several Cabinet officials, including then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt, and Western state governors. Inslee accused them of engaging in “morally reprehensible” behavior that threatened his children and grandchildren, according to four meeting participants, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide details of the private conversation.

In an interview, Inslee said that the ash from wildfires that covered Washington residents’ car hoods this summer, and the acrid smoke that filled their air, has made more voters of both parties grasp the real-world implications of climate change.

“There is anger in my state about the administration’s failure to protect us,” he said. “When you taste it on your tongue, it’s a reality.”

A woman looks at rising floodwaters from the garage of a home in Soddy-Daisy, Tenn., on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. (Doug Strickland/Chattanooga Times Free Pass/Associated Press)

Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post’s senior national affairs correspondent, covering how the new administration is transforming a range of U.S. policies and the federal government itself. She is the author of two books — one on sharks and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other — and has worked for The Post since 1998.

Brady Dennis is a national reporter for The Washington Post, focusing on the environment and public health issues. He previously spent years covering the nation’s economy. Dennis was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for a series of explanatory stories about the global financial crisis.

Chris Mooney covers climate change, energy, and the environment. He has reported from the 2015 Paris climate negotiations, the Northwest Passage, and the Greenland ice sheet, among other locations, and has written four books about science, politics and climate change.

Press link for more: Washington Post

If we ignore global warming it’s our children and future generations that will pay the price.

Is humanity going to go down without a fight?

We need real political leadership urgently.

We can protect our children from catastrophic climate change but we are running out of time.

The time to act is now.

OECD: Government’s failing on #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #WentworthVotes @RNBreakfast #ClimateRisk @scheerlinckeva @aistbuzz #ASIC #ICAC Criminal Negligence

OECD report: government’s failing on climate change

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Friday 28 September 2018 8:37AM (view full episode)



A new report by the OECD and the World Bank has found the vast majority of nations have failed to take the necessary action to meet their Paris Agreement climate targets.

The preliminary report calls for a rethink on how governments plan new infrastructure in the battle against climate change — that includes harnessing the power of the private sector to finance that infrastructure.

It says a greater commitment is needed to putting a price on carbon and reducing governments’ reliance on revenue from fossil fuels.

It also highlights the need for companies to disclose the financial risks climate change poses to their profits.

Trial will test new weapon against #climatechange The necessity defense #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #EndCoal Preventing a greater harm.

By Seamus McGraw

No one—least of all the defendants—disputes the facts of the case against four people known as valve-turners: activists who trespassed on private property to shut down an oil pipeline in 2016.

As their otherwise straightforward case goes to trial in October, it’s their defense that has everyone’s attention.

Valve turners Annette Klapstein, left, and Emily Johnston won the right to use the necessity defense in their trial for threatening an Enbridge oil pipeline. Photo credit:

It was a cool, gray and wet October morning two years ago, when four people armed with a bolt cutter, cell phones, a video recorder and a mission, slipped onto a piece of property in the sleepy, conservative western Minnesota community of Leonard. Through it ran a pipeline owned by the Canadian company Enbridge Energy, which carries tar sands oil from Alberta.

Part of a multi-state protest in 2016 dubbed #Shutitdown, their goal was straightforward: to force Enbridge to shut down the pipeline, which the activists viewed as a serious and imminent threat to the global environment.

If the company refused to do so, the activists would turn the valves themselves. Enbridge did stop the flow safely, until the trespassers were arrested.

Brave Protestors in Germany

Annette Klapstein and Emily Johnson were both charged with multiple felonies and could face up to 10 years in prison.

Videographer Steve Liptay and Benjamin Joldersma, who was on hand to lend support, are both facing misdemeanor charges.

Their defense is that their crime was part of preventing a greater harm: climate change.

It’s called the necessity defense and when the judge in archly conservative and rural Clearwater County ruled last year (and was upheld by an appeals court in August) that the defendants could use it in this trial, it threw an entirely new wrinkle into the battle to force climate action through the courts.

That battle has gathered steam in the past two years on multiple fronts, with a landmark youth-led suit, Juliana v. United States, also headed to trial in October, with 21 young people arguing the federal government is robbing them of a safe climate and livable future.

A wave of communities and one state attorney general have begun to sue the fossil fuel industry to pay for the spiraling costs of climate impacts.

And two states, New York and Massachusetts, are using consumer and investor protection statutes to investigate whether the biggest of the U.S. oil giants, Exxon, is guilty of fraud.

Protestors locked on in Newcastle Australia

The Minnesota trial could add another weapon in that arsenal if 12 jurors rule that the tar sands oil flowing through that pipeline posed such a critical and immediate threat to the climate that the activists were justified in their dramatic action to shut it down.

This would be no small feat. The 12 jurors are from a county that in 2016 voted 69.2 percent for a presidential candidate who claims climate change is a hoax.

But the very fact that the appeals court has allowed the defense to be used at all is a victory, according to the valve turners’ defenders.

Ever since six Greenpeace activists, charged with shutting down a coal-fired power plant in Great Britain, successfully used a version of it and were acquitted in 2008,  activists in the United States and elsewhere have been looking for opportunities to use the defense in related cases.

It takes courage to protest.

In Minnesota, they’re getting their chance.

The idea is to turn the courtroom into a classroom, said William Quigley, a Loyola University law professor who has written extensively on the necessity defense and who filed an amicus brief in support of the Civil Liberties Defense Center’s bid to use it in Clearwater County. Quigley said in the brief that lawyers will place every bit as much emphasis on hashing out the critical issue as they do on winning acquittal.

“Nonviolent civil disobedience is part of the American democratic tradition,” he wrote in the brief. “The four individuals named above stand in the shoes of the American freedom fighters, the abolitionists, the suffragettes, the civil rights campaigners of the 1960s, and the antiwar protesters that followed. Criminal trials in which protesters have explained and argued their views are an integral part of that tradition. The use of the necessity defense in this case is not only doctrinally appropriate but strengthens the constitutional bedrock on which our legal system rests. That bedrock includes the right to trial by jury, freedom of expression and debate, and a natural environment capable of providing for human needs.”

Sometimes we have to make a stand.

Quigley argues that even if the defendants are convicted, there is triumph in having put climate change itself on trial.

Carroll Muffett, president and chief executive of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for International Environmental Law agrees.

“In the face of inertia in policy making—particularly at the U.S. national level— we are failing to respond to the climate threat at anything approaching the speed and scale that we have to do that.

“This is what is pushing individuals toward ever stronger action, including putting themselves on the line, to  try to stop climate change,” he said. “If you have tried to change the law, if you’ve tried to prevent harm through every legal means— opposing permits, filing suits, intervening in the political process— and harm is still occurring or imminent, then that is precisely when the necessity defense is relevant: when taking action to avoid a larger harm violates a law.”

War Veterans & Grandmothers are protesting.

“People are showing that if policy makers won’t stop it then we will put ourselves in harm’s way to do so; it is a natural evolution in the face of a pressing crisis,” Muffett said. “Courts are grappling with this increasingly, and in a number of cases, judges have recognized that these realities may be sufficiently pressing that the necessity defense has a legal role to play.”

Expert witnesses expected to testify in Minnesota include Dr. James Hansen, the former NASA scientist whose landmark Congressional testimony about climate change in 1988 brought the issue to the American public, and climate activist and co-founder Bill McKibben.

The defendants and their supporters lauded the appeals court ruling that cleared the way for this defense in court.

“The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld our right to present a full defense to a Minnesota jury, including the facts of the ongoing climate catastrophe caused largely by the fossil fuel industry,” said Klapstein, herself a retired attorney. “I believe that many judges are aware that our political system has proven itself disastrously unwilling to deal with the catastrophic crisis of climate change, which leaves as our only recourse the actions of ordinary citizens like ourselves and the courts and juries of our peers that stand in judgments of those actions.”

The valve turners are being represented by lawyers from the the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC), a Seattle-based legal advocacy group.  Lauren Regan, the group’s lead attorney, said it tried to use the necessity defense in similar cases over the last few years in the states of Washington, North Dakota and Montana, but the courts blocked it. In each of those cases, however, the CDLC—working pro bono in rural counties every bit as conservative as Clearwater—was able to work in enough evidence about the threat of climate change and its clients’ motives to win the sympathy of the juries, if not outright acquittals.

In one of those cases—against Ken Ward, who was charged with sabotage in Washington in a #shutitdown action on the same day— the first trial ended in a hung jury and the second ended with an acquittal on the most serious offense and a conviction, instead, of second-degree burglary. Ward was sentenced in June 2017 to two days in jail—which he had already served while awaiting trial—and 240 hours of community service.

“All of those are on appeal right now,” Regan said of that case and the others.

More important, she said, in the cases, jurors expressed a certain respect for the defendants’ principles.  “In all three other valve-turner trials, in rural Washington and rural Montana and rural North Dakota, every single jury pool started off with jurors who would literally say…climate change is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese. But at the end of the trials, when the judges gave us permission to go talk with the jurors, they were shaking our clients’ hands and thanking us for educating them about climate change.

“I think the courtroom is a fairly intimate setting and I think having our clients take the stand and having a fairly direct conversation with 12 strangers…and especially in this case being able to present expert testimony and have some of the top brains working on these issues being able to sit down and explain things to jurors, I think is an incredibly effective way to reach into audiences and communities that we might not otherwise have access to.”

Using the courtroom as a forum for educating the public on the risks of climate change is certainly one of the principal objectives of the strategy, said Quigley. “These are arguments that the prosecutor always wants to exclude because the people who have the chance to make these arguments often win their cases,” Quigley said,  “If it’s just, ‘did you trespass onto somebody else’s property and use a wrench on their stuff?’ well, a jury’s gonna say, ‘yeah, that’s a crime.’

“But if the defendants can put on somebody from the local university to say, ‘look, let me tell you what this pipeline is doing to our environment,’ then this is a chance to send a message that there are some things that are legal but they’re not right.”

Still, Quigley and other supporters acknowledged that the defendants would have a tough row to hoe to convince a jury that the peril of climate change—which plays out over decades—meets the law’s definition of imminent danger. As Jordan Kushner, the Minnesota attorney who co-authored the amicus brief with Quigley, put it, “You can’t say ‘the world is going to be destroyed in 100 years.’ That’s not going to cut it.’

But others say there is enough flexibility in the language of the Minnesota law for the valve turners to work with. Michael Noble, who heads Fresh Energy, a Minnesota organization that advocates for renewable energy policy, and has been monitoring the case closely, said the word imminent “doesn’t necessarily mean that the ax murderer is chopping down your door with an ax and you’re on the other side of the door. That’s not the only definition of the word imminent.”

Indeed, Regan said she was confident that she could provide evidence not just that the climate peril posed by the tar sands oil in the Enbridge pipeline was immediate, but that the specific actions taken by the valve turners—not just in Minnesota but in all the states where the activists acted—would have been a reasonable and effective response. “I’m sure you’re aware that the five pipelines that were shut down were all pipelines carrying tar sands into the United States,” she said. “If all of that tar sands flow had actually stopped and the pipeline companies had not been permitted to restart those pipelines, then the action would have achieved the 15 percent reduction in carbon emissions that is required according to scientists in order to regain control of the out-of-control spiral that’s currently going on in regards to carbon emissions.”

Whether that argument is compelling enough to persuade a jury in a conservative county remains an open question. Regan said she is optimistic. So is Kushner. Moderately. While the necessity defense might find a more receptive audience in Hennepin or Ramsey counties in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, it could still work in Clearwater.  “Sometimes,” Kushner said, “you get receptive views from people that you wouldn’t expect.”

Press link for more: Climate Liability News