Climate change: Australian students skip school for mass protest #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #TheDrum #COP24 #TakeYourSeat

Protests were organised in 27 places across Australia

Thousands of Australian school students have urged greater action on climate change in protests across the country.

The students skipped school on Friday to highlight what they say are inadequate climate policies by the Australian government.

On Monday, Australian PM Scott Morrison rebuked their plans for “activism” during school hours and insisted his government was tackling climate change.

Many students said his remarks had bolstered their resolve to protest.

“We will be the ones suffering the consequences of the decisions they [politicians] make today,” protester Jagveer Singh, 17, told the BBC.

Organisers say they were inspired by Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old girl in Sweden who has undertaken similar protests .

Students protest in central Sydney on Friday

Australia has committed to reducing its emissions by 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030, under the Paris climate agreement.

Mr Morrison most recently cited a renewable energy target, a clean energy purchasing fund, and a hydropower project as evidence of Australia’s progress.

He told parliament on Monday: “What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools.”

Resources Minister Matt Canavan, meanwhile, angered protesters by saying students would not learn anything from “walking off school and protesting”.

“The best thing you learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole [welfare] queue because that’s what your future life will look like,” he told a radio interviewer.

Many students held placards criticising the government, and PM Morrison specifically. “I hate ScoMo [Scott Morrison] more than I hate school,” one said.

Earlier this week, the UN said Australia and many nations were falling short of their emission commitments .

Australia had made “no improvement” in its climate policy since last year, according to the emissions gap report .

School Strike 4 Climate Action protests have been held in every state capital and 20 regional towns.

The BBC asked several students why they were taking part.

‘Education is our only power’

Milou Albrect (l) and Harriet O’Shea Carre organised the protest

The idea started with Milou Albrect and Harriet O’Shea Carre, both 14, in the state of Victoria.

“The climate change emergency is something we have been thinking about for a long time,” Harriet said.

“We wrote letters and did different things but they never seemed to make a difference. Really, education, is our only power. By sacrificing that [on Friday], it’s making a big point.”

Milou said: “We want our government to acknowledge publicly that climate change is a crisis. Stop digging coal, stop making new coal mines, switch to renewable energy.”

‘It’s really scary for us’

Jean Hinchcliffe, 14, organised a rally in Sydney

Jean Hinchcliffe, 14, saw the idea to protest grow in Victoria and decided to start one in her home city, Sydney.

“I can’t just sit around until I’m old enough to vote,” she said.

“Everyone, all young people, we can see that climate change is a real issue and we’re completely sick of politicians’ inaction. 

“It’s really scary for us, to see how it’s going to impact our future,” she said, citing fears about rising sea levels and extreme weather events.

‘It’s been an issue our whole life’

Ruby Walker says her generation has grown up thinking about climate change

Ruby Walker, 16, organised a protest in her town of Inverell, about 570km (350 miles) north of Sydney, after seeing others’ plans on Facebook.

She had also been inspired by the activism of high school students in the US during environment and gun control debates, she said.

“I think social media is a big part of it. You’re constantly seeing these issues happening around the world and seeing other students stick up for things you believe in,” she said.

“I feel like Australia is an embarrassment when it comes to climate change.”

Press link for more: BBC News

More photos of Australia’s Climate Strike

Children outside Warren Entsch’s Office in Cairns Queensland

Adani locks in long-awaited funding for Carmichael mine. #auspol #qldpol Ignores #ClimateEmergency in Queensland #StopAdani #COP24 #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #Heatwave #Bushfire #TheDrum

By Luke Mortimer

Adani Mining chief executive Lucas Dow made the announcement in Mackay this afternoon. 

CONSTRUCTION is due to start imminently on the controversial Carmichael coal mine and rail project, which will be “100 per cent financed through the Adani Group’s resources”.

Adani Mining chief executive officer Lucas Dow announced the long-awaited funding milestone in Mackay this afternoon at a Bowen Basin Mining Club luncheon.

Adani completely ignores Queensland’s climate emergency.

The announcement to community leaders, mining industry contractors and suppliers follows recent changes to simplify construction and reduce the initial capital requirements for the Carmichael Project, Adani said in a statement. 

Mr Dow said construction of the mine in the Bowen Basin “will now begin”.

“Our work in recent months has culminated in Adani Group’s approval of the revised project plan that de-risks the initial stage of the Carmichael mine and rail project by adopting a narrow gauge rail solution combined with a reduced ramp-up volume for the mine,” he said.

“This means we’ve minimised our execution risk and initial capital outlay. The sharpening of the mine plan has kept operating costs to a minimum and ensures the project remains within the first quartile of the global cost curve.

Adani ignores the cost to the global economy of climate change.

Adani said the coal produced in the “initial ramp up phase will be “consumed by the Adani Group’s captive requirements”.

“We will now begin developing a smaller open cut mine comparable to many other Queensland coal mines and will ramp up production over time to 27.5mtpa,” Mr Dow said. 

“The construction for the shorter narrow gauge rail line will also begin to match the production schedule. 

Announcement of a new coal mine during a catastrophic fire emergency.

“We have already invested $3.3 billion in Adani’s Australian businesses, which is a clear demonstration of our capacity to deliver a financing solution for the revised scope of the mine and rail project.”

Mr Dow described the project as stacking up “both environmentally and financially”.

“Today’s announcement removes any doubt as to the project stacking up financially,” he added.

“We will now deliver the jobs and business opportunities we have promised for North Queensland and Central Queensland, all without requiring a cent of Australian taxpayer dollars. 

Queenslanders suffer heat wave that will kill the Great Barrier Reef it’s no time to open new coal mines.

“In addition to providing these jobs in regional Queensland, our Carmichael coal will also provide a power source to improve living standards in developing countries.” 

Adani asserts the Carmichael project will deliver more than 1500 direct jobs on the mine and rail projects during the initial ramp-up and construction phase”, and “thousands more indirect jobs”.

What about the jobs we will loose in tourism?

The company said preparatory works at the site were “imminent” and it was working with regulators to finalise “the remaining required management plans ahead of coal production”.

Adani added some of the management plans have been subject to two years of state and federal government review.

This process is expected to be complete and provided by the Governments in the next few weeks, it was stated.

Today’s announcement follows eight years of planning, securing approvals and successfully contesting legal challenges.

“We have worked tirelessly to clear the required hurdles,” Mr Dow said. 

“Given we meet the same environmental standards and operate under the same regulations as other miners, we expect that Adani Mining will be treated no differently than any other Queensland mining company.” 

Mr Dow described the people of north and central Queensland as being steadfast in their support of the project from the beginning.

“We want to thank them for sticking with us,” Mr Dow said. 

“Thanks to the people of Rockhampton, Townsville, Mackay, Bowen, the Isaac and Central Highlands regions. We look forward to delivering on our promise of creating jobs and helping local businesses and the communities thrive for many years to come.” 

“We’re ready to start mining and deliver on our promises to Queensland.” 

Adani said the milestone will “help create new opportunities for trade and investment between Australia and India”.

Press link for more: Daily Mercury

Great Barrier Reef: record heatwave may cause another coral bleaching event #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion we urgently need a #GreenNewDeal #StopAdani

42.6C temperature in Cairns broke a November record that has stood since 1900 by 5.4C

By Ben Smee

A record-breaking heatwave in north Queensland will further increase above-average marine temperatures, heightening the risk of another coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef next year, scientists say.

Dozens of record November temperatures have been recorded in the region, most along the reef coastline, this week.

The most remarkable was at Cairns, where consecutive days reached temperatures of 42.6C and 40.9C. The maximum temperature on Tuesday broke a November record that has stood since 1900 by 5.4C.

Extreme weather fuelled more than 130 bushfires, which the premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Twitter was “not the kind of fire we have seen in Queensland before”.

“Heatwave records and fire weather is unprecedented,” Palaszczuk said.

A dust storm, brought by strong westerly winds, covered the southern inland parts of the state. In the north, thousands of native flying foxes died due to the high temperatures.

Reef scientist Terry Hughes, from the coral centre of excellence at James Cook University, said the summer heatwave was “terrifying” and lifted the chances of coral death on the Great Barrier Reef early next year.

The reef sustained successive marine heatwaves, in the early part of 2016 and 2017, which killed corals and badly damaged the northern and central sections.

Hughes said the bleaching forecasts were “trending upwards” but scientists would not have a clear picture until the end of January.

Coral ecophysiologist Dr Neal Cantin, from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said ocean temperatures remained below those recorded at the same time in 2015 and 2016, but warmer than historical averages.

Cantin said the current heatwave would “add heat and warm up the ocean. It certainly adds heat to the system. We’ve seen record breaking land temperatures this week, which we expect to see into the future with climate change and everything heating up.

“We’re in a watch phase. There’s definitely the potential and how the local weather patterns pan out in January and February will really determine whether we get a large scale bleaching event or not.

“There are some signs we may avoid [bleaching] this summer. At this stage it’s less likely to be as bad as 2016, but we’ll be ready to respond [if bleaching occurs].”

Reality of climate change sinking in

“The hazard I worry most about is heatwaves,” Andrew Gissing, a disaster management expert from the firm Risk Frontiers, said.

“Australia needs to be better prepared for heatwaves, with climate change we are already predicting they will get more severe.”

Gissing told Guardian Australia people often respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters based on their previous experiences. But he said governments, businesses and individuals were often not prepared for the increasing severity and frequency of such events.

“We did a lot of work in Lismore after Cyclone Debbie. So many people sheltered in their homes because that’s what they always did when it flooded. They just didn’t realise this flood was that much bigger

“People really need to be attuned to what’s actually happening … how the nature of climactic hazards is changing.”

Gissing said businesses needed to start investing in climate change mitigation and adaption measures.

“It’s going to be very hard to mitigate a lot of the [predicted climate] impacts, so adaptation for the future is going to be really important. Especially when you overlay climate change on a growing population base.

“The [number of people living on the Queensland coast] is likely to double by about 2030.

Because of climate change, we’re looking at there being more exposure [to disaster risks] there as well.”

Press link for more: The Guardian

Game-Changing Promise of a #GreenNewDeal #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum #StopAdani

By Naomi Klein

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks to activists with the Sunrise Movement protesting in the offices of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in Washington D.C., on Nov. 13, 2018.

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times via Redux

Like so many others, I’ve been energized by the bold moral leadership coming from newly elected members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley in the face of the spiraling climate crisis and the outrageous attacks on unarmed migrants at the border. It has me thinking about the crucial difference between leadership that acts and leadership that talks about acting.

I’ll get to the Green New Deal and why we need to hold tight to that lifeline for all we’re worth. But before that, bear with me for a visit to the grandstanding of climate politics past.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

It was March 2009 and capes were still fluttering in the White House after Barack Obama’s historic hope-and-change electoral victory. Todd Stern, the newly appointed chief climate envoy, told a gathering on Capitol Hill that he and his fellow negotiators needed to embrace their inner superheroes, saving the planet from existential danger in the nick of time.

Climate change, he said, called for some of “that old comic book sensibility of uniting in the face of a common danger threatening the earth. Because that’s what we have here. It’s not a meteor or a space invader, but the damage to our planet, to our community, to our children, and their children will be just as great. There is no time to lose.”

Eight months later, at the fateful United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, all pretense to superheroism from the Obama Administration had been unceremoniously abandoned. Stern stalked the hallways of the convention center like the Grim Reaper, pulling his scythe through every proposal that would have resulted in a transformative agreement. The U.S. insisted on a target that would allow temperatures to rise by 2 degrees Celsius, despite passionate objections from many African and Pacific islander delegates who said the goal amounted to a “genocide” and would lead millions to die on land or in leaky boats. It shot down all attempts to make the deal legally binding, opting for unenforceable voluntary targets instead (as it would in Paris five years later).

Stern categorically rejected the argument that wealthy developed countries owe compensation to poor ones for knowingly pumping earth-warming carbon into the atmosphere, instead using much-needed funds for climate change protection as a bludgeon to force those countries to fall in line.

As I wrote at the time, the Copenhagen deal — cooked up behind closed doors with the most vulnerable countries locked out — amounted to a “grubby pact between the world’s biggest emitters: I’ll pretend that you are doing something about climate change if you pretend that I am too. Deal? Deal.”

Almost exactly nine years later, global emissions continue to rise, alongside average temperatures, with large swathes of the planet buffeted by record-breaking storms and scorched by unprecedented fires. The scientists convened in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have confirmed precisely what African and low-lying island states have long-since warned: that allowing temperatures to rise by 2 degrees is a death sentence, and that only a 1.5-degree target gives us a fighting chance. Indeed, at least eight Pacific islands have already disappeared beneath the rising seas.

Not only have wealthy countries failed to provide meaningful aid to poorer nations to protect themselves from weather extremes and leapfrog to clean tech, but Europe, Australia, and the United States have all responded to the increase in mass migration — intensified if not directly caused by climate stresses — with brutal force, ranging from Italy’s de facto “let them drown” policy to Trump’s increasingly real war on an unarmed caravan from Central America. Let there be no mistake: this barbarism is the way the wealthy world plans to adapt to climate change.

The only thing resembling a cape at the White House these days are all those coats Melania drapes over her shoulders, mysteriously refusing to use the arm holes for their designed purpose. Her husband, meanwhile, is busily embracing his role as a climate supervillain, gleefully approving new fossil fuel projects, shredding the Paris agreement (it’s not legally binding after all, so why not?), and pronouncing that a Thanksgiving cold snap is proof positive that the planet isn’t warming after all.

In short, the metaphorical meteor that Stern evoked in 2009 is not just hurtling closer to our fragile planet — it’s grazing the (burning) treetops.

And yet here’s the truly strange thing: I feel more optimistic about our collective chances of averting climate breakdown than I have in years. For the first time, I see a clear and credible political pathway that could get us to safety, a place in which the worst climate outcomes are avoided and a new social compact is forged that is radically more humane than anything currently on offer.

We are not on that pathway yet — very far from it. But unlike even one month ago, the pathway is clear. It begins with the galloping momentum calling on the Democratic Party to use its majority in the House to create the Select Committee for a Green New Deal, a plan advanced by Ocasio-Cortez and now backed by more than 14 representatives.

The draft text calls for the committee, which would be fully funded and empowered to draft legislation, to spend the next year consulting with a range of experts — from scientists to local lawmakers to labor unions to business leaders — to map out a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” capable of making the U.S. economy “carbon neutral” while promoting “economic and environmental justice and equality.” By January 2020, the plan would be released, and two months later would come draft legislation designed to turn it into a reality.

That early 2020 deadline is important — it means that the contours of the Green New Deal would be complete by the next U.S. election cycle, and any politician wanting to be taken seriously as a progressive champion would need to adopt it as the centerpiece of their platform. If that happened, and the party running on a sweeping Green New Deal retook the White House and the Senate in November 2020, then there would actually be time left on the climate clock to meet the harsh targets laid out in the recent IPCC report, which told us that we have a mere 12 years to cut fossil fuel emissions by a head-spinning 45 percent.

Pulling that off, the report’s summary states in its first sentence, is not possible with singular policies like carbon taxes. Rather, what is needed is “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” By giving the committee a mandate that connects the dots between energy, transportation, housing and construction, as well as health care, living wages, a jobs guarantee, and the urgent imperative to battle racial and gender injustice, the Green New Deal plan would be mapping precisely that kind of far-reaching change. This is not a piecemeal approach that trains a water gun on a blazing fire, but a comprehensive and holistic plan to actually put the fire out.

If the world’s largest economy looked poised to show that kind of visionary leadership, other major emitters — like the European Union, China, and India — would almost certainly find themselves under intense pressure from their own populations to follow suit.

Now, nothing about the pathway I have just outlined is certain or even likely: The Democratic Party establishment under Nancy Pelosi will probably squash the Green New Deal proposal, much as the party stomped on hopes for more ambitious climate deals under Obama. Smart money would bet on the party doing little more than resuscitating the climate committee that helped produce cap-and-trade legislation in Obama’s first term, an ill-fated and convoluted market-based scheme that would have treated greenhouse gases as late-capitalist abstractions to be traded, bundled, and speculated upon like currency or subprime debt (which is why Ocasio-Cortez is insisting that lawmakers who take fossil fuel money should not be on the Green New Deal select committee).

And of course, even if pressure on lawmakers continues to mount and those calling for the select committee carry the day, there is no guarantee that the party will win back the Senate and White House in 2020.

And yet, despite all of these caveats, we now have a something that has been sorely missing: a concrete plan on the table, complete with a science-based timeline, that is not only coming from social movements on the outside of government, but which also has a sizable (and growing) bloc of committed champions inside the House of Representatives.

Decades from now, if we are exquisitely lucky enough to tell a thrilling story about how humanity came together in the nick of time to intercept the metaphorical meteor, the pivotal chapter will not be the highly produced cinematic moment when Barack Obama won the Democratic primary and told an adoring throng of supporters that this would be “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” No, it will be the far less scripted and markedly more scrappy moment when a group of fed-up young people from the Sunrise Movement occupied the offices of Pelosi after the midterm elections, calling on her to get behind the plan for a Green New Deal — with Ocasio-Cortez dropping by the sit-in to cheer them on.

Sunrise Movement activists outside Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington D.C. on Nov. 13, 2018.

Photo: Briahna Gray/The Intercept

I realize that it may seem unreasonably optimistic to invest so much in a House committee, but it is not the committee itself that is my main source of hope. It is the vast infrastructure of scientific, technical, political, and movement expertise poised to spring into action should we take the first few steps down this path. It is a network of extraordinary groups and individuals who have held fast to their climate focus and commitments even when no media wanted to cover the crisis and no major political party wanted to do anything more than perform concern.

It’s a network that has been waiting a very long time for there to finally be a critical mass of politicians in power who understand not only the existential urgency of the climate crisis, but also the once-in-a-century opportunity it represents, as the draft resolution states, “to virtually eliminate poverty in the United States and to make prosperity, wealth and economic security available to everyone participating in the transformation.”

The ground for this moment has been prepared for decades, with models for community-owned and community-controlled renewable energy; with justice-based transitions that make sure no worker is left behind; with a deepening analysis of the intersections between systemic racism, armed conflict, and climate disruption; with improved green tech and breakthroughs in clean public transit; with the thriving fossil fuel divestment movement; with model legislation driven by the climate justice movement that shows how carbon taxes can fight racial and gender exclusion; and much more.

What has been missing is only the top-level political power to roll out the best of these models all at once, with the focus and velocity that both science and justice demand. That is the great promise of a comprehensive Green New Deal in the largest economy on earth. And as the Sunrise Movement turns up the heat on legislators who have yet to sign onto the plan, it deserves all of our support.

Of course there is no shortage of Beltway pundits ready to dismiss all of this as hopelessly naive and unrealistic, the work of political neophytes who don’t understand the art of the possible or the finer points of policy. What those pundits are failing to account for is the fact that, unlike previous attempts to introduce climate legislation, the Green New Deal has the capacity to mobilize a truly intersectional mass movement behind it — not despite its sweeping ambition, but precisely because of it.

This is the game-changer of having representatives in Congress rooted in working-class struggles for living-wage jobs and for nontoxic air and water — women like Tlaib, who helped fight a successful battle against Koch Industries’ noxious petroleum coke mountain in Detroit.

If you are part of the economy’s winning class and funded by even bigger winners, as so many politicians are, then your attempts to craft climate legislation will likely be guided by the idea that change should be as minimal and unchallenging to the status quo as possible.

After all, the status quo is working just fine for you and your donors.

Leaders who are rooted in communities that are being egregiously failed by the current system, on the other hand, are liberated to take a very different approach. Their climate policies can embrace deep and systemic change — including the need for massive investments in public transit, affordable housing, and health care — because that kind of change is precisely what their bases need to thrive.

As climate justice organizations have been arguing for many years now, when the people with the most to gain lead the movement, they fight to win.

Press link for more: The Intercept

WE NEED AN APOLLO PROGRAMME FOR #CLIMATECHANGE #auspol #qldpol #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #StopAdani #GreenNewDeal #TheDrum #QandA

By Bill McGuire

A recent visit to the cinema to see the excellent First Man, which follows astronaut Neil Armstrong on his path to immortality, reminded me of the big anniversary coming up next year.

I find it hard to believe, but 2019 will see the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, way back in July 1969. I was a schoolboy at the time and remember it vividly. In many ways, this seminal event was the beginning of the end for the hugely ambitious US space programme. Despite another five landings following, and all the drama of the Apollo 13 emergency, the final two moon missions were scrapped, along with plans for a moon base and manned mission to Mars in the 1980s. There has been no return to the Moon and – notwithstanding wildly optimistic ravings from Elon Musk and other internet billionaires with more money than sense – a human presence on the red planet seems as far away as ever.

      It is probably not entirely a coincidence that interest in space and reaching out to other worlds began to fade at a time when concerns over our own was growing. Today, few in their right mind would prioritise space exploration over putting our house in order down here on Earth.

A house that is in severe danger of being trashed beyond repair by a conspiracy of climate breakdown, environmental degradation and mass extinction. Notwithstanding this, space still has a major role to play down here on the surface. Specialist satellites play a key part in observing and tracking many of the features that flag up how quickly our world is falling apart, including ice cover, sea-surface temperatures and land use. The Apollo programme, in particular, also taught us a vital lesson; just how quickly something can be accomplished if it is wanted badly enough. This is encapsulated in a short clip from the now famous speech President Kennedy made in 1962, during which he announced the intention to put a man on the Moon. 

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.

      Swap ‘stop climate breakdown’  for ‘go to the Moon’ and these few sentences describe perfectly the can-do thinking that a war on climate change requires.

It may be Kismet, but Kennedy’s speech was made seven years before the first moon landing; the same length of time over which Extinction Rebellion demands that UK carbon emissions reach net zero.

So, it seems obvious.

What we need is an Apollo Programme for climate change.

An all-embracing crusade that strives to cut emissions to the bone within seven years.

To do this will require retooling the economy and rebooting our wasteful lifestyles to make falling carbon output the measure of the success of our society; not rising GDP, the number of families with two cars, or how many fighter jets we have sold to Saudi Arabia.

      The driver for the Apollo programme was simple and straightforward – get to the Moon before the ‘Russkies’ do.

When the alternative is global catastrophe, an Apollo Programme for climate change shouldn’t really need to be incentivised.

Knowing that we will bequeath to our children and their children a world that is not desecrated beyond redemption should be sufficient.

Nonetheless, there are welcome incentives too.

A zero carbon world will be a cleaner, safer and – almost certainly – a happier one.

So what’s not to like.

The sooner we start the better.

Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and author of Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was a contributor to the IPCC 2012 report on Climate Change & Extreme Events and Disasters.

Press link for more: XR Blog

Mass deaths & mayhem: National Climate Assessment’s shocking warnings #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange now #ClimateEmergency #COP24 #TheDrum #QandA #StopAdani #ExtinctionRebellion

By Jason Silverstein CBS News

Jason Silverstein

Billions of hours in productivity will be lost.

Hundreds of billions of dollars will be wiped from the economy.

Tens of thousands of people will die each year.

These are just some of the most grim predictions in the latest National Climate Assessment, a nearly 1,700-page report released Friday warns about a world heading into complete chaos by the end of the 21st century.

The scientific report, which was produced by 13 federal agencies, describes an American future nothing short of apocalyptic due to rising threats from climate change. It suggests no facet of life — whether it’s global trade, national security or personal health — will be safe. And it says every nightmare scenario will feed into another: The disasters from climate change will start to compound each other, as will the consequences.

An updated report is released every four years, and this latest version notes human-made climate change isn’t the only factor expected to drive these dangers. Population growth, for example, will play a part in the tragedies predicted to happen by 2100.

But the new National Climate Assessment notes some specific warnings from the previous assessment in 2014 — such as rising sea levels, disruptions in food productions and the spread of wildfires — have all come true today. And it warns, without swift and immediate action, this is what Americans can expect in the coming decades:

Mass deaths every year

There are warnings throughout the report of health risks from climate change that, taken together, will total tens of thousands of additional premature deaths every year. Several cities, mostly in the Northeast and Southeast, are forecast to face new extremes in hot and cold days that could bring 3,900 to 9,300 deaths per year from 2080 to 2099.

The Midwest, the region projected to have the largest increase in deaths from extreme temperatures, could see 2,000 additional deaths per year by 2090, the report says.

Searching for human remains in recent Californian fires

Global food shortages

New temperature extremes, more frequent droughts and increased CO2 emissions have already been connected to shortages in crops like wheat, which then lead to higher prices for consumers.

As these changes continue, it will be harder to produce wheat, corn, soybean, rice and other crops at the rates needed for a rising population.

The report notes higher temperatures and more precipitation could also lead to an increase in wheat, hay and barley in some regions. But overall, the yields from major U.S. commodity crops are expected to decline nationwide.

Record breaking temperature in Cairns today 4C hotter than previous record 37.2 set in 1971.

Economic devastation

The Trump administration says it is scaling back environmental regulations that are stunting economic growth. But the report says the eventual fallout from climate change will damage nearly every facet of the economy. Prices will soar and international trade will be disrupted. Up to two billion labor hours could be lost every year by 2090 due to temperature extremes alone, leading to an estimated $160 billion in lost wages, the report says.

The final result: An estimated loss of up to 10 percent gross domestic product by 2100. By comparison, that would be more than twice the 4.3 percent GDP loss of the Great Recession.

Crumbling infrastructure – and millions of hours waiting in cars

The destruction climate change can bring to buildings, bridges, dams and transit systems racks up costs billions of dollars and usually takes years to repair.

But the report says in parts of the U.S., including much of the Northeast and Southeast, the infrastructure for managing storms is already nearing the end of its life expectancy. Even new facilities are often not built to withstand climate changes that are decades away. That means that as floods, wildfires and hurricanes become more frequent, they will also become more devastating, causing greater property damage and more deaths when they strike, according to the report. These extreme weather events also make water and agriculture systems more vulnerable to toxins and bacteria.

And these problems won’t be easy to escape. One chart in the study predicts by 2100, drivers in parts of the country could spend more than 625 million hours a year in their vehicle, delayed on roads flooded by high tides.

More mental health problems – and murders

Much of the report focuses of havoc climate change will wreak on systems and institutions. But it also makes clear all of this takes a toll on mental health. People who survive extreme weather events and see their communities destroyed often suffer from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and post-traumatic stress disorder. And those problems linger long after the destruction passes.

The report notes droughts have led to a documented increase in alcohol and tobacco use, while higher temperatures bring out more aggressive behaviors, including an increase in homicides.

Press link for more: CBS.NEWS

Bernie Sanders Amplifying Progressive Calls To Cut Emissions #GreenNewDeal #auspol #qldpol #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #StopAdani #ClimateChange is now a #ClimateCrisis #COP24

The likely 2020 presidential candidate is daring TV networks to finally cover climate change.

By Alexander C. Kaufman

Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is hosting a livestreamed summit on climate change next month, intensifying pressure on the new Congress and TV networks to devote attention to the crisis.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will host a livestreamed town hall summit on climate change next month, a move that may intensify pressure on the next Congress to curb planet-warming emissions and challenge TV networks to cover a rapidly worsening crisis they’ve long ignored.

The 90-minute event ― scheduled from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 3 ― will be held at the Capitol Visitor Center Auditorium in Washington and broadcast over Facebook, YouTube and Twitter by seven progressive media outlets.

“We need millions of people all over this country to stand up and demand fundamental changes in our energy policy in order to protect our kids and our grandchildren and the planet,” Sanders told HuffPost by phone. “The good news is the American people are beginning to stand up and fight back.”

Speakers include founder Bill McKibben, activist and “Big Little Lies” star Shailene Woodley, climate scientist Brenda Ekwurzel, activist and musician Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, and Mayor Dale Ross of deep-red Georgetown, Texas, whose avowedly pragmatic embrace of newly cheap renewable energy has made him a poster boy for how Republicans could quit climate change denialism. 

It’s the fifth live-broadcast town hall Sanders has hosted. Past programs examined the universal health care proposal Medicare for All, inequality, the Iran nuclear deal, and workers vs. chief executives. 

The event bolsters Sanders, a likely contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, as the most serious candidate on climate change, offering a far more comprehensive response than rival progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who staked out a climate policy based on a bill to force public companies to disclose financial risk from warming or regulations to curb emissions. 

The summit, which took months to plan, will take place less than a month after Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) propelled talk of a so-called Green New Deal into the Democratic mainstream, giving play for the first time to the sort of federal response to climate change scientists say is necessary to fully meet the scale of the crisis.

In October, the United Nations concluded world governments must halve emissions over the next 12 years or risk catastrophic warming with $54 trillion in damage. 

The historic wildfire that left 63 dead and 631 missing in Northern California this month, in what was once the Golden State’s rainy season, offers a glimpse of that future, Sanders warned.

Search and rescue workers search for human remains at a trailer park burned by the Camp Fire in Northern California. 

“What we are seeing is a growing consciousness,” Sanders said. “The horrors that we’ve seen in California in the largest forest fire that that state has ever experienced ― this is not going to be an anomaly unless we begin the long, hard struggle to transform our energy system.”

Climate remains a low priority for most voters. Just 38 percent of registered voters said candidates’ positions on global warming would be “very important” to their voting decisions, according to a Yale Program On Climate Change Communication survey published in May. Rising temperatures ranked 15th of 28 issues voters ranked in the questionnaire. 

But among liberal Democrats in that poll, the issue ranked fourth, behind health care, gun policies and general environmental protections.

A YouGov survey of 2018 voters found 75 percent of Democrats strongly supported charging companies with big carbon dioxide footprints a polluter fee, and 56 percent favored giving unemployed Americans federally backed jobs in energy efficiency and weatherization. 

In the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections, the fossil fuel industry spent $100 million to crush pro-climate ballot measures across the West, and to prop up candidates who supported increased oil and gas extraction. Yet that base of climate hawks helped elect a cadre of Democrats whose urgent visions for climate action earned plaudits from a spectrum ranging from mainstream environmental groups to so-called eco-socialists. And a new majority of Democratic state attorneys general are facing growing pressure to file lawsuits over climate damages. 

Activists, freshly galvanized by the hellscape images of California’s deadliest wildfire, seem primed for action, and the party’s progressive wing has signaled a new willingness to force a more serious debate over an issue that’s remained stagnant in the House for much of the past decade. 

“The fact that [climate change] is that high among the base of one of our two major political parties is remarkable, because that was not the case even five years ago,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, a senior research scientist and Yale’s climate program director. “If you think of Bernie, you’d think he’d be talking about inequality or civil rights. There’s a whole host of progressive issues, yet this is the one he’s leading with. It may suggest there’s been an alignment of the stars.”

Last week, youth activists with the grassroots climate group Sunrise Movement staged sit-ins in the offices of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the likely next chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, who opposed the creation of a select committee on a Green New Deal. 

At least three sitting members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus agreed to back a resolution Ocasio-Cortez proposed to establish a 15-member Green New Deal panel. Activists are hoping Sanders’ event will add the 2016 presidential contender’s star power to their movement.  

The horrors that we’ve seen in California in the largest forest fire that that state has ever experienced ― this is not going to be an anomaly unless we begin the long hard struggle to transform our energy system. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

“He helped popularize things like Medicare for All, a living wage and a lot of other fights he’s taken up,” said Varshini Prakash, the co-founder of Sunrise Movement. “I hope he pushes for a Green New Deal and helps really add fuel to the fire that’s been lit under politicians and the public over the past week.” 

Sanders stopped short of endorsing the Green New Deal. But in April 2017, he co-sponsored legislation to move the United States to 100-percent clean energy by 2050. The bill included $7 billion in targeted infrastructure and environmental investments in fossil-fuel communities, and called for union labor protections for workers on federally backed green jobs. In November 2017, Sanders introduced a bill to spend $146 billion rebuilding storm-ravaged Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with renewable energy.

“What we need is extremely bold legislation,” Sanders said. “If there are Democrats who cannot support it, well, we’ve got to push pressure on them.” 

The relative absence of climate science from TV broadcasts that dominate American political discourse makes it hard to raise awareness of the near-term threats warming poses.

Seventy-one percent of major, televised debates in the 2018 midterm elections ignored the issue completely. Only four of the 107 segments ABC, CBS and NBC aired from Nov. 8 to Nov. 13 on the deadly wildfires scorching California this month discussed climate change. In 2017, the influential Sunday morning talk shows on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox News aired a combined 260 minutes of climate coverage, 79 percent of which focused exclusively on President Donald Trump’s personal beliefs on science and his decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement. 

“This is an issue of huge consequence and you would think that ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox would be talking about this every day, having the debate, ‘What do we do? Where do we go?’” Sanders said. “Clearly you aren’t seeing that debate.” 

Sanders’ inequality town hall in March drew 1.7 million viewers. Similar numbers might show cable news producers that climate change is not, as MSNBC host Chris Hayes revealingly described it in July, a “ratings killer.” 

“These are a big deal,” Sanders said. “We hope this can be part of the revolution that we need in thinking on climate change.”

Press link for more: Huffington Post

HopeLess Realism #GreenNewDeal @Ocasio2018 #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #TheDrum #QandA #ClimateChange

No effective means of stopping climate breakdown is deemed “politically realistic”. So we must change political realities.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 14 November 2018

It was a moment of the kind that changes lives.

At a press conference held by Extinction Rebellion last week, two of us journalists pressed the activists on whether their aims were realistic.

They have called, for example, for carbon emissions in the UK to be reduced to net zero by 2025.

Wouldn’t it be better, we asked, to pursue some intermediate aims?

A young woman called Lizia Woolf stepped forward.

She hadn’t spoken before, and I hadn’t really noticed her, but the passion, grief and fury of her response was utterly compelling. “What is it that you are asking me as a 20-year-old to face and to accept about my future and my life? … this is an emergency – we are facing extinction.

When you ask questions like that, what is it you want me to feel?”.

We had no answer.

Softer aims might be politically realistic, but they are physically unrealistic.

Only shifts commensurate with the scale of our existential crises have any prospect of averting them.

Hopeless realism, tinkering at the edges of the problem, got us into this mess.

It will not get us out.

Public figures talk and act as if environmental change will be linear and gradual. But the Earth’s systems are highly complex, and complex systems do not respond to pressure in linear ways.

When these systems interact (because the world’s atmosphere, oceans, land surface and lifeforms do not sit placidly within the boxes that make study more convenient) their reactions to change become highly unpredictable. Small perturbations can ramify wildly.

Tipping points are likely to remain invisible until we have passed them.

We could see changes of state so abrupt and profound that no continuity can be safely assumed.

Only one of the many life support systems on which we depend – soils, aquifers, rainfall, ice, the pattern of winds and currents, pollinators, biological abundance and diversity – need fail for everything to slide.

For example, when Arctic sea ice melts beyond a certain point, the positive feedbacks this triggers (such as darker water absorbing more heat, melting permafrost releasing methane, shifts in the polar vortex) could render runaway climate breakdown unstoppable.

When the Younger Dryas period ended 11,600 years ago, Greenland ice cores reveal temperatures rising 10°C within a decade.

I don’t believe that such a collapse is yet inevitable, or that a commensurate response is either technically or economically impossible.

When the US joined the Second World War in 1941, it replaced a civilian economy with a military economy within months. As Jack Doyle records in his book Taken for a Ride, “In one year, General Motors developed, tooled, and completely built from scratch 1000 Avenger and 1000 Wildcat aircraft … Barely a year after Pontiac received a Navy contract to build antishipping missiles, the company began delivering the completed product to carrier squadrons around the world.” And this was before advanced information technology made everything faster.

The problem is political.

A fascinating analysis by the social science professor Kevin Mackay contends that oligarchy has been a more fundamental cause of the collapse of civilisations than social complexity or energy demand.

Oligarchic control, he argues, thwarts rational decision-making, because the short-term interests of the elite are radically different to the long-term interests of society. This explains why past civilizations have collapsed “despite possessing the cultural and technological know-how needed to resolve their crises.” Economic elites, that benefit from social dysfunction, block the necessary solutions.

The oligarchic control of wealth, politics, media and public discourse explains the comprehensive institutional failure now pushing us towards disaster.

Think of Trump and his cabinet of multi-millionaires, the influence of the Koch brothers, the Murdoch empire and its massive contribution to climate science denial, the oil and motor companies whose lobbying prevents a faster shift to new technologies.

It is not just governments that have failed to respond, though they have failed spectacularly. Public sector broadcasters have deliberately and systematically shut down environmental coverage, while allowing the opaquely-funded lobbyists that masquerade as thinktanks to shape public discourse and deny what we face. Academics, afraid to upset their funders and colleagues, have bitten their lips. Even the bodies that claim to be addressing our predicament remain locked within destructive frameworks.

For example, last Wednesday I attended a meeting about environmental breakdown at the Institute for Public Policy Research. Many of the people in the room seemed to understand that continued economic growth is incompatible with sustaining the Earth’s systems. As the author Jason Hickel points out, a decoupling of rising GDP from global resource use has not happened and will not happen. While 50 billion tonnes of resources used per year is roughly the limit the Earth’s systems can tolerate, the world is already consuming 70 billion tonnes. Business as usual, at current rates of economic growth, will ensure that this rises to 180 billion tonnes by 2050. Maximum resource efficiency, coupled with massive carbon taxes and some pretty optimistic assumptions, would reduce this to 95 billion tonnes: still way beyond environmental limits. A study taking account of the rebound effect (efficiency leads to further resource use) raises the estimate to 132 billion tonnes. Green growth, as members of the Institute appear to accept, is physically impossible.

On the same day, the same Institute announced a major new economics prize for “ambitious proposals to achieve a step-change improvement in the growth rate.” It wants ideas that will enable economic growth rates in the UK at least to double. The announcement was accompanied by the usual blah about sustainability, but none of the judges of the prize has a discernible record of environmental interest.

Those to whom we look for solutions trundle on as if nothing has changed. They continue to behave as if the accumulating evidence has no purchase on their minds. Decades of institutional failure ensures that only “unrealistic” proposals – the repurposing of economic life, with immediate effect – now have a realistic chance of stopping the planetary death spiral. And only those who stand outside the failed institutions can lead this effort.

Two tasks need to be performed simultaneously: throwing ourselves at the possibility of averting collapse, as Extinction Rebellion is doing, slight though this possibility may appear. And preparing ourselves for the likely failure of these efforts, terrifying as this prospect is. Both tasks require a complete revision of our relationship with the living planet. Because we cannot save ourselves without contesting oligarchic control, the fight for democracy and justice and the fight against environmental breakdown are one and the same. Do not allow those who have caused this crisis to define the limits of political action. Do not allow those whose magical thinking got us into this mess to tell us what can and cannot be done.

Press link for more:

Mind-blowing’: Hazards to multiply and accumulate with #climatechange Join #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #StopAdani demand #ClimateAction #TheDrum #QandA j

By Peter Hannam

Humanity is already enduring cumulative effects from climate change and damages will continue to mount along with carbon emissions, a new study has found. Tropical coastal regions will be the most exposed to multiple hazards.

The research – which involved analysis of 3280 research papers and was published on Tuesday by Nature Climate Change – identified 467 pathways that populations were already being hit by a warmer climate. Those impacts will likely increase and intensify unless aggressive efforts are taken to curb greenhouse gas pollution.

California burning: Tim Billow, 62, tries to save his plantings in his backyard as the Woolsey Fire burns in Malibu earlier this month.

Photo: Ringo H.W. Chiu

“We never stopped being surprised by how many impacts had already happened to us,” said Camilo Mora, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii and lead author of the paper. (An interactive can be seen here.)

“It was also mind-blowing that we just refuse to wake up about how serious this is,” he said.

Examples of impacts cited ranged from famine deaths triggered by droughts and the increased spread of diseases in a warming world, to worsening heavy metal contamination in lakes after wild fires and a poor Russian wheat harvest amid heatwaves in 2010 that led to a doubling of world prices for the commodity.

The tendency towards more extreme weather includes accelerated evaporation rates as temperatures rise, worsening droughts and contributing to more severe wildfires – a combination currently being played out in California, Professor Mora said.

Similarly, with the atmosphere holding about 7 per cent more moisture for each degree of warming, the potential for more intense rain events increases.

About 20-40 per cent of the rainfall from the record wet Hurricane Harvey that soaked Houston in 2017 has been attributed to climate change, Professor Mora said.

Coastal regions were already being exposed to overlapping hazards from both the land and the ocean, making them particularly vulnerable locations now and in the future.

If carbon emissions continued to rise unabated at their current rate, tropical coastal areas such as in Southeast Asia could face as many as six climate hazards concurrently, the paper said.

These included rising sea level and the increased acidity of oceans as they absorb more carbon from the atmosphere.

Top-down limitations

While societies often relied on top-down approaches to dealing with emissions, the result was often a fragile policy set-up.

Climate change and rising sea levels are affecting the Kiribati Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Photo: Justin McManus

“One person can come along and reverse the whole thing,” Professor Mora said.

“We need to build the solution for climate change from the bottom up,” he said, citing a project currently being tested in Hawaii to make the US state fully carbon neutral by tree planting and other efforts.

Press link for more: SMH

The Extinction Rebellion

Day One

Climate change policy can be overwhelming. Here’s a guide to the policies that work. #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol Climate Solutions.

A new book from veteran energy analyst Hal Harvey simplifies decarbonization.

That is the question Hal Harvey, long-time energy analyst and CEO of the energy policy firm Energy Innovation, set out to answer with a new tool.

The tool is the Energy Policy Simulator, which allows anyone to choose a package of energy policies and immediately see the impact on carbon emissions and other pollutants. (It’s like a video game for energy nerds.) It’s based on a model that attempts to replicate the physical economy, with detailed information about real-world assets.

Using that tool, Harvey and his team narrowed in on the policies that work, the places they work best, and the best way to design them.

Their conclusions are summarized in a new book, Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy. It’s a compact but detailed how-to guide for developing energy policies that have real impact. (A fairly extensive miniature version of the book is online here, if you want to flip through.)

The results are oddly heartening, or at least clarifying.

For instance: The top 20 carbon emitting countries in the world are responsible for 80 percent of global emissions. Just seven countries emit more than a gigaton annually.

It’s daunting to lure the world’s nearly 200 countries into a globally unanimous agreement, like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is forever attempting to do. (Witness the heroic work necessary to secure the Paris climate agreement, which isn’t even legally binding.) But 20 countries? Surely the world can get decent policies in place in 20 countries.

Just as they are geographically clustered, emissions are also clustered in a relatively small number of sectors.

Here is a graph from the book showing, in light blue, the total emissions currently projected for 2050 (it includes the effects of current policies). The colored squares are the sectors where additional policy-driven efforts can reduce emissions enough through 2050 to offer a 50 percent chance of avoiding more than 2 degrees Celsius of global temperature rise. (That is, you will recall, the commonly agreed international target, though many advocate shooting lower, for 1.5 degrees.)

Putting land use aside (it’s important, but the book focuses on energy policy), that’s five sectors.

Well, technically it’s four sectors and one cross-sectoral policy, namely carbon pricing.

Four sectors + carbon pricing. That’s manageable! And it turns out, within those four sectors (+ carbon pricing), a total of just 10 types of policies can do the job.

The overall message is that climate policy doesn’t have to mean doing everything possible, everywhere possible.

It’s mainly about applying a toolbox of 10 energy policies to four economic sectors in the 20 top-emitting countries, plus a bunch of carbon pricing and land-use reform. That will get us most of the way there, and it’s a tractable task. (Not easy. But tractable.)

Policymakers at every level — perhaps even some of those newly elected Democratic governors — will find the book a practical help. It tailors recommendations to different geographies and levels of economic development and gets into nitty-gritty design issues for each policy.

And it reminds them again and again: focus. There are about a dozen policies that work, but “there’s a fast fall-off after that dozen,” Harvey says. “There’s tons of things that sound good but just don’t make much of a difference.”

I chatted with Harvey by phone about policy design, the role of carbon pricing, and the kind of R&D America really needs, among other things.

Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Hal Harvey

Energy Innovation

David Roberts

Tell us a little bit about the tool you created to compare policies.

Hal Harvey

We’ve developed this [Energy Policy Simulator] now for eight countries, which together represent more than half the world’s carbon emissions.

The model is essentially a replica of the physical economy. For example, it knows how many cars there are in the United States. It knows how many miles they drive and what kind of fuel they use, and therefore the carbon emissions they emit. It knows how many retire each year, and what they’re replaced with.

By keeping track of all those cars over all those years, we can determine quite precisely what effect an incremental fuel efficiency standard will have. That’s just one of many options in the transportation sphere. You could have a gas tax, congestion pricing, feebates, or a carbon tax with an EV rebate. We measure well over 50 different policies.

The model also handles interactions among policies. It knows which policy is controlling at any given time. (You can’t just add them all up; it doesn’t work that way.)

The upshot is, the user can take any one of these policies and slide it up and down from zero to very strong and instantly see the effects on CO2, on a dozen other pollutants, and on cash flow.

A snapshot from the Energy Policy Simulator.

David Roberts

One thing you stress in the book is timing. It’s important to get policies in place early, so technologies have time to develop.

Hal Harvey

There’s this naïve idea that the way technology works is, people sit in labs and think and worry and work on an idea, and then it pops into the world and becomes ubiquitous. The reality is, a very large fraction of progress on technologies happens through deployment.

One of the things we try to do is unpack the learning curves.

So there’s stuff that’s crazy out there and requires science — that might be algae, or carbon sequestration, or advanced nuclear power.

Then there’s stuff that’s pretty cool, seems to work, but requires a lot of engineering to get there — the solar field went through this phase during the late ’70s to the mid ’80s.

And then there’s the last stage on that learning curve, which comes from deployment, learning by doing. For that, you need very large volumes of sales, continued over time. The dramatic price reductions in wind and solar — and more recently in offshore wind — reflect this last part of the learning curve.

Technology learning curves and policy — a representative chart.

But this, somewhat ironically, is what Bill Gates doesn’t get.

He thinks we need breakthroughs, when in fact the biggest breakthroughs we’ve had have been by incrementally making, e.g., batteries cheaper, cheaper, cheaper. We’re doing it with LEDs, by increasing scale, by deploying and deploying.

David Roberts

Throughout the book, you focus on policy design. It’s not enough to pass these policies, they have to work right. You extract a few design principles. Give me an example of one of those principles.

Hal Harvey

I’ll start with performance standards.

Performance standards — by that I mean C02-per-kWh, or fractions of renewables on the grid, or miles per gallon per car, or minimum energy standards for your building codes — have been the killer app in energy policy.

Performance standards have completely transformed refrigerators.

They have a bad rep from an age-old and completely upside-down debate about “command-and-control” policy. But we use performance standards all the time, and they work really well. Our buildings don’t burn down very much; they used to burn down all the time. Our meat’s not poisoned; it used to be poisoned, or you couldn’t tell. And so forth. If you just tell somebody, this is the minimum performance required, guess what? Engineers are really good at meeting it cost-effectively.

When you design performance standards, there are a few characteristics that make them work really well. The first, which I emphasize again and again, is continuous improvement. Don’t set a quantitative target, set a rate of improvement.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving. It tells manufacturers, you gotta get better and better and better. It helps them structure their R&D. Maybe most importantly, it uses political bandwidth once and delivers the goods forever.

California’s building code gets tighter every three years. It only took one law, in the 1970s, to make that happen. That bill, Title 24, was signed when Jerry Brown was the youngest governor in California’s history. He’s now the oldest governor in California’s history. In between, Republicans and Democrats alike saw the building code get stronger and stronger. It didn’t require cashing in political capital, going back to the legislature, debating it — it just happens.

I’ll give a counter-example. [President] Gerald Ford doubled fuel efficiency in cars between 1975 and 1985 with a fuel efficiency standard. And then we went to sleep for 25 years. For 25 years, we didn’t increase fuel efficiency. We took all the technological improvement that was coming down the pike and devoted it to mass and power — cars doubled power and increased weight by 40 percent.

We pay two kinds of tax for that: first, enormous amounts of carbon dioxide; second, if we had had continuous improvement, we would have saved a trillion dollars that we sent to countries that hate us.

And we let our auto companies become uncompetitive, because the Germans and the Japanese were improving all the while. So we have the auto companies go bankrupt — two out of the three.

Again, if Gerald Ford had simply said “4 percent a year” instead of “26 miles per gallon,” we would have avoided all that.

David Roberts

These days, people across the political spectrum are talking about carbon pricing. How does it fit into the larger effort?

Hal Harvey

The thing about carbon pricing is, it’s helpful, but it’s not dispositive.

There are a number of sectors that are impervious to a carbon price, or close to impervious.

A carbon price works when it’s part of a package that includes R&D and performance standards. It does not work in isolation. It helps, but it doesn’t do nearly as much as is required.

Australia’s Carbon Price worked until the current government axed it.

Also, it has to be a real number.

Twenty bucks a ton doesn’t affect much at all.

David Roberts

What is the lowest real number?

Hal Harvey

First of all, it’s okay to start at a low number, as long as you have a steady ramp — it’s back to continuous improvement.

That’s actually a smart way to do it, so you don’t shock the system.

I think you need to push it to 50 bucks a ton — which is what’s going to happen in Canada over the next four years — in order to have a meaningful impact on carbon emissions.

A carbon price is good at reaching (this is just gonna roll off the tongue, ready?) price-sensitive, heterogeneous industries. What I mean by that is, it’s hard to set a performance standard that works for glass, pulp and paper, steel, chemicals, and so forth. So in those realms, setting a price is a nice way to handle it. Then businesses can simply internalize the costs and make better decisions.

Here’s where [a price on carbon] doesn’t work.

It doesn’t work in buildings, at all. The people who design and build buildings never pay the utility bills, and in much of America, people who own the buildings don’t pay the bills either. So the poor renter is stuck with a leaky building, but has no ability to put capital into the building and fix it, or to get it right in the first place. The only policy that’s ever worked at scale in buildings is a strong building code.

It doesn’t do much in transportation, because fuel is a relatively small part of driving a vehicle, and the more efficient the vehicle, the less the fuel price matters. For proof of this, look at the European Union, where [fuel] taxes are [the equivalent of] over 400 dollars a ton [of carbon]. They still need a fuel efficiency standard to get fuel efficiency where it needs to go — even at 400 bucks a ton, which I don’t think we’re talking about on the US Senate floor these days.

The policies that work and how much they contribute.

David Roberts

Tell me about the hybrid carbon pricing system you describe in the book. You try to capture the best parts of a cap-and-trade system and a tax.

Hal Harvey

The debate between a carbon tax and a carbon cap has to be one of the sillier ways to waste electrical energy.

David Roberts

Years of my life.

Hal Harvey

Dude, you got off easy. There are some poor souls at RFF who are still wracking their brains against this one.

For most reasonable ranges of either, they’re the same.

What you’re worried about with the carbon cap is the price might be really high or really low. If it’s really high, it’ll cause economic shock, if it’s really low, it won’t do anything.

But the answer to that is to put a price floor and a price ceiling on those permits, as we do in California. If the price is too low, you just don’t auction off as many. And if it’s too high, you just release more permits, because you really don’t want to tank the economy as part of your climate solution.

Same with the carbon tax. You can adjust it too, if you want. If you put in a 10-dollar carbon tax and you discover it has no effect on anything except cement production, then you can raise it up a little bit. Then it’s looking more and more like a cap.

By putting reasonable boundaries on either of these systems, they start to look a lot alike; they start to behave a lot alike.

A hybrid carbon-pricing system.

David Roberts

I was a little surprised by the prominent role of the industrial sector in emission reductions.

Hal Harvey

There are about 10 industries that dominate energy consumption in industry. They’re the ones you’d expect: steel, concrete, pulp and paper, chemicals, non-ferrous metals, fertilizers, and so forth.

What you have to do is think hard about how to get each of these quite different businesses, with different constraints and opportunities, on to a decarbonizing path.

As I said, the best policy with them is a significant, steadily rising, long-term carbon price — whether it’s a cap or a tax. That will induce them to see what they can electrify. There are cements, for example, that are half the carbon or less of normal cement. And cement is 5 percent of global carbon — it’s a big number.

But it’s not easy to break into that business. It’s very low-margin and it’s got a lot of sunk capital costs. So without a pretty serious price signal, you’re not going to get there. There are some things you can do with performance standards, but fundamentally pricing is what matters — plus serious R&D.

It’s a different kind of R&D than America likes to do. Our R&D ever since World War II has focused on fundamental truths: the meaning of life; what’s inside a quark; stuff like that. We don’t really have that many institutions that focus on new ways to run a mini-mill for steel. Or new chemical reactions that require a lot less energy and have a lot less waste. Or ways to use waste heat from industry.

The Germans have a really interesting set of institutions called the Fraunhofer Institutes. There are 70 of them — one for every problem you can think about. Their job is exactly to figure out this kind of thing. I think it would behoove America to think more about that part of learning, which I call the engineering part of the learning curve. You’re doing really gritty work. It’s not theoretical stuff. It’s not breakthrough stuff either, but it’s where we have to go with industry.

Cement production is no joke!

David Roberts

Your modeling does not include any carbon sequestration through 2050.

You frame it as a post-2050 technology.

How did you come to that conclusion?

What’s the role of negative emissions in the big picture?

Hal Harvey

This gets back to an absolutely fundamental strategic question that everybody who cares about this stuff needs to ask at the beginning, which is: What policies or technologies are going to get the most tons [of carbon reductions] the fastest?

That’s the carbon imperative.

If you delay, if you don’t do the really big stuff now, then your future has to be unfathomably heroic.

In fact, even if you had free negative emissions that were infinite, you might not solve the problem, because we’re going to spin some natural systems into an unrecoverable runaway. We defrost the tundra and it releases soil carbon and methane. Or the melting lubricates more melting, and so forth.

If you start with this fundamental strategic question — most tons fastest — then you realize that carbon sequestration is perhaps something you should think about [with regard to] path dependency, but as a major focus today, while we’re not rapidly shutting down every coal plant and every natural gas facility, not converting the auto fleet, not launching building codes … it’s crazy. It really is an abnegation of responsibility to focus on the last five percent while you ignore the first 95 percent.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do R&D.

We argue for R&D.

We need more options in the future. But the logic — that, well, all the IPCC scenarios show that we have to go negative, therefore that’s where we’re gonna put our attention — completely misapprehends the nature of carbon math.

Let me add one more thing to that. Right now, solar is coming in at negative dollars per ton, because it’s cheaper than what it is replacing, and it offers benefits, in the form of electricity. Then you contrast it with carbon capture, which is coming in at hundreds of dollars per ton and offers no benefits. It’s a pure tax on society to build these direct-air capture machines, or grow a bunch of biomass and build a bunch of gas pipelines and pump everything underground.

If you have one technology that is always gonna be dead weight on the economy, and the other one levitates the economy, and one’s not available, and one is available … what the hell.

Carbon sucking machines: maybe not the top priority?

David Roberts

The book also has nothing about behavior change — no turning off lights or going vegetarian. Do you find that lever unrealistic?

Hal Harvey

It’s a policy design book, and there aren’t many policies that have people change their diet. Michael Bloomberg taxed sugar, so there’s one. But we’re not gonna have the tons-of-barbecue-per-capita tax in North Carolina. (I probably shouldn’t use the word “tons” there, but you get the point.)

We have limited political bandwidth. If you’re serious about change, you have to identify the decision makers that can innovate the most tons the fastest. Then you have to a develop a strategy to influence them. There are 7.5 billion decision makers on diet. There are 250 utility commissioners in America — and utility commissioners control half the carbon in America.

If you made everybody do meatless Mondays or taco-free Tuesdays or whatever’s next, you’re still nibbling away at less than 1 percent, unless you can get billions of people to do it.

Trying to invoke behavior change on something as personal as eating en masse is morally sound, it’s ecologically a good idea, but as a carbon strategy, it doesn’t scratch the surface.

David Roberts

What can cities do on carbon?

Hal Harvey

This is gonna make me more enemies, but … cities have almost no power over carbon. Some cities have building codes tougher than the state’s, but that’s rare. They control traffic patterns, kinda, but since we have so many municipalities, it tends to be a metropolitan planning organization within the state agency that does that.

David Roberts

What about zoning?

Hal Harvey

Well … what about zoning? You can do an urban growth boundary, but that’s a state policy. You could do mixed-use zoning. That’s a great idea.

David Roberts

I gotta say, the urban mobility piece of your little dot graph seems sadly small to me.

Hal Harvey

That’s a huge element in an aborning country, like China, or the big cities in Africa, or the Middle East. In a mature economy, with all the infrastructure in place, the time constants are just slower. I’m still completely in favor of it: urban growth boundaries, really functional mass transit, bike lanes, mixed use. And that is emphatically city or regional policy.

David Roberts

Paul Hawken’s Drawdown Project looked at options for reducing greenhouse gases and found that educating girls and family planning were the two most potent.

Hal Harvey

When I was at the Hewlett Foundation, we sponsored a study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research that asked the question: Globally, if you met unmet need for contraceptives — that is to say, no coercion whatsoever — what would it cost and what would the carbon impact be?

We found large-scale abatement at less than a dollar a ton. So I’m completely in favor of that.

Carbon abatement in action.

Here’s the thing about the Drawdown book: It’s a technology book, not a policy book. And it’s geographically indifferent — it doesn’t say you have to do this in the top 20 countries, or anywhere. It doesn’t mention policy, it doesn’t mention geography — and without those two things, it’s not a plan. I think it’s a good contribution to the world, but it doesn’t tell anyone what to do on Monday morning.

David Roberts

And that’s your book. The Monday-morning book.

Hal Harvey

If you’re an energy person — if you’re the aide to the governor of Wyoming, say, or Georgia or Colorado — this book tells you very clearly not only what to do, but how to do it.

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