Arctic

Recent Arctic warming and ice melt are ‘unprecedented’ in human history. #StopAdani

By Andrew Freedman

Sea ice near Svalbard, Norway.

Image: Shutterstock / Avatar_023

Each year for the past 12 years, an international team of scientists have issued a “report card” on the Arctic climate system. The report amounts to a physical exam of the vast, rapidly changing region, including details on everything from surface air temperatures to sea ice melt and permafrost loss.

With each passing year, the report cards have become more dire, depicting a region that is moving into a totally new regime as sea ice melts, air temperatures warm, and the once permanently frozen ground gives way. The report is the product of 85 scientists from 12 different countries.

The 2017 Arctic Report Card, released Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans, is no exception, with scientists warning that the magnitude and the pace of the 21st Century plunge in sea ice extent as well as the amount of ocean surface warming is unprecedented in at least the past 1,500 years.

SEE ALSO: Crucial Arctic monitoring satellites are blinking out just when we need them most

High-resolution Arctic paleo-reconstructions, based on 45 different “proxy” indicators, such as tree rings, sediment cores, and ancient air bubbles trapped in ice cores, permit scientists to trace sea ice extent back well before there were satellites monitoring the region.

“The Arctic shows no signs of returning to the reliably frozen state it was in just a few decades ago,” said Jeremy Mathis, who leads the Arctic program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Image: Shutterstock / Nightman1965

“The Arctic is going through the most unprecedented transition in human history,” Mathis said. He explained that everyone in the U.S. and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere has a stake in what happens in the far north.

“We want every single American to know… these changes will impact all of our lives,” he added, citing climate refugees, extreme weather events, and higher food prices that have potential links to rapid Arctic climate change. Mathis said modeling studies increasingly show that there are links between sea ice loss in the Arctic, which changes the amount of heat and moisture in the air there, and extreme weather events that affect the U.S. and Europe, though he cautioned this research is not yet definitive.

According to the report, the Arctic had its second-warmest year on record in 2017, with an average annual air temperatures of 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1981 to 2010 average. Temperature data for the region dates back to 1900.

Surface air temperature anomalies in the Arctic during 2017.

Sea ice extent, which peaks in late winter, didn’t have much of a recovery after summer melting. The winter ice maximum was the lowest on record since satellite measurements began in 1979, the report says.

However, even with the sea ice entering the melt season in a precarious position, a relatively cool summer prevented Arctic sea ice from setting another record summer minimum, and also slowed Greenland melting, at least for a short time.

According to Emily Osborne, a report coauthor with the NOAA Arctic Research Program, 10 of the lowest sea ice minimums have occurred in the past 11 years.

Many scientists think the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free during the summer months within the next few decades, likely before 2050. One sign of this is that one-year-old ice, which melts easily, made up 79 percent of the Arctic sea ice in 2017, the report found. Older, thicker, multiyear ice comprised just 21 percent of the 2017 sea ice cover, compared to more than twice that in 1985.

Osborne cited data from 45 different indicators of sea ice extent dating back 1,500 years, such as tree rings and other so-called “proxy data,” showing that the recent plunge in sea ice extent is “unprecedented in the last 1500 years and likely longer.”

The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the globe, largely because of a process known as Arctic amplification. Through this process, warming air and sea temperatures melt sea ice, which exposes darker ocean waters to incoming sunlight. Since the ocean waters are less reflective than the ice, they absorb more heat, thereby warming the sea and air, and then, well, melting more ice.

In addition to this inherent feedback process in the region, there has been an increase in the amount of heat being transported into the Arctic Ocean from both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans, scientists said.

Arctic sea ice extent in the past 1,500 years.

Image: NOAA Climate.gov; Kinnard et al., 2011

The loss of sea ice cover and increased exposure to sunlight has led to a boost in algae blooms and other biological activity in the marine food web, which could have profound implications for marine species.

There is also a growing concern regarding the melting of permanently frozen soil ringing the Arctic, known as permafrost.

As this melting occurs, more greenhouse gases are emitted, including methane, which is a shorter-lived but more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This represents a positive feedback loop that could yield substantially more global warming, depending how much and how quickly permafrost melts.

For now, Vladimir Romanovsky, a researcher at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, said that in 2016, the majority of Arctic observing sites reported their highest permafrost temperatures on record, with the highest readings in Svalbard, Norway, as well as the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic.

One of the more remarkable aspects about the 2017 Arctic Report Card is that it came out at all. The Trump administration has been deleting climate change references from federal websites, reassigning climate scientists at some government agencies, and preventing scientists from speaking about climate change in public forums.

However, so far at least, NOAA has been relatively sheltered from this interference.  “The public should have high confidence in us,” said acting NOAA director Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet, who pointed out that NOAA continues to research and report on climate science, including with this comprehensive Arctic summary.

Gallaudet said he has briefed the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on the findings of the report.

“The White House is addressing it, acknowledging it, and factoring it into its agenda,” he said.

President Donald Trump is the first president in decades to go this long without a science advisor, who would head up OSTP and brief the president on the report’s findings.

Press link for more: Mashable.com

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#ClimateChange link to #CoralBleaching #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

According to a new research report published today in a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, the 2016 global average temperature and extreme heat wave over Asia occurred due to continued long-term climate change.

The report included research from NOAA scientists.

Additionally, climate change was found to have influenced other heat events in 2016, including the extreme heat in the Arctic, development of marine heat waves off Alaska and Australia, as well as the severity of the 2015-2016 El Nino, and the duration of coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef.

The sixth edition of Explaining Extreme Events from a Climate Perspective presents 27 peer-reviewed research papers that examine episodes of extreme weather across six continents and two oceans during 2016.

It features the research of 116 scientists from 18 countries — including five reports co-led by NOAA scientists — who analyzed historical observations and changing trends along with model results to determine whether and how climate change might have influenced an extreme event or shifted the odds of it occurring.

The findings

The new research found climate change increased the risk of wildfires in the western U.S., and the extreme rainfall experienced in China, along with South Africa’s drought and resultant food shortages.

Researchers found that climate change had reduced the likelihood of the cold outbreaks experienced in China and western Australia in 2016.

No conclusive link to climate change was found by scientists examining severe drought in Brazil, record rains in Australia, or stagnant conditions creating poor air quality in Europe.

In the report, 21 of the 27 papers in this edition identified climate change as a significant driver of an event, while six did not.

Of the 131 papers now examined in this report over the last six years, approximately 65 percent have identified a role for climate change, while about 35 percent have not found an appreciable effect.

There could be several reasons no climate signal was found by some papers; it might be that there were no changes in the frequency or severity for that type of event over time or that researchers weren’t able to detect changes using the available observational record or scientific tools and models available today.

Future studies could yield new insights on the climate’s influence on extreme weather.

More about the report

The BAMS annual report is designed to improve the scientific understanding of the drivers of extreme weather, provide insight into how the various weather extremes may be changing over time, and help community and business leaders better prepare for a rapidly changing world.

Press link for more: NOAA.GOV

Worst-case global warming predictions are most accurate. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Worst-case global warming predictions are the most accurate, say climate experts

Josh Gabbatiss Science Correspondent

Thursday 7 December 2017 13:39 GMT

Current predictions of climate change may significantly underestimate the speed and severity of global warming, according to a new study.

Reappraisal of the models climate scientists use to determine future warming has revealed that less optimistic estimates are more realistic.

The results suggest that the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to keep global average temperatures from rising by 2C, may be overly ambitious.

Climate change might be worse than thought after scientists find major mistake in water temperature readings

“Our study indicates that if emissions follow a commonly used business-as-usual scenario, there is a 93 per cent chance that global warming will exceed 4C by the end of this century,” said Dr Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, who co-authored the new study.

This likelihood is an increase on past estimates, which placed it at 62 per cent.

Climate models are vital tools for scientists attempting to understand the impacts of greenhouse-gas emissions. They are constructed using fundamental knowledge of physics and the world’s climate.

But the climate system is incredibly complex, and as a result there is disagreement about how best to model key aspects of it.

This means scientists have produced dozens of climate models predicting a range of different global warming outcomes resulting from greenhouse-gas emissions.

Based on a “business-as-usual” scenario in which emissions continue at the same rate, climate models range in their predictions from a 3.2C increase in global temperatures to a 5.9C increase.

The new study, published in the journal Nature, sought to resolve this situation and establish whether the upper or lower estimates are more accurate.

To do this, Dr Caldeira and his collaborator Dr Patrick Brown reasoned that the most accurate models would be the ones that were best at simulating climate patterns in the recent past.

“It makes sense that the models that do the best job at simulating today’s observations might be the models with the most reliable predictions,” said Dr Caldeira.

Their conclusion was that models with higher estimates were more likely to be accurate, with the most likely degree of warming 0.5C higher than previous best estimates.

Other climate scientists have responded favourably to the new research.

“There have been many previous studies trying to compare climate models with measurements of past surface-temperature, but these have not proved very conclusive in reducing the uncertainty in the range of future temperature projections,” said Professor William Collins, a meteorologist at the University of Reading who was not involved in the study.

According to Professor Collins, this work “breaks the issue down into the fundamental building blocks of climate change”.

The research by Dr Brown and Dr Caldeira focuses specifically on models of energy flow from Earth to space, as measured by satellites.

They suggest that the amount of sunlight reflected away from the planet by clouds will decrease as the world gets warmer, increasing the magnitude of climate change.

“So we are now more certain about the future climate, but the bad news is that it will be warmer than we thought,” said Professor Collins.

According to Professor Mark Maslin, a climatologist at University College London who was not involved in the study, these results could mean “cutting carbon emissions deeper and faster than previously thought”.

“To achieve these targets the climate negotiations must ensure that the global emissions-cuts start as planned in 2020 and continue every single year thereafter,” said Professor Maslin.

Press link for more: Independent.co.uk

Issues of climate displacement ignored. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

by Aisha Binte Abdur Rob

WITH the conclusion of COP23, a sense of fearful apprehension has settled among researchers and activists of the climate change crisis.

At the 2017 conference, political leaders and activists convened from around the globe to deliberate on the urgent threat of climate change.

However, the agenda was dominated by matters of climate finance and climate risk insurance.

Discussions revolved around issues that are characteristic of the classic economical and developmental approach to climate change.

The continued neglect of climate displacement is indicative of a fundamental disconnect between the global politics of climate change and local realities lived by those whose lives are upended by the changing climate.

In spite of the 1990 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that identified climate migration to be the gravest effect of climate change, the issue remained ignored.

The prediction presented in the reported since been consistently substantiated.

The magnitude of the crisis

GLOBAL negotiations over climate change continue to sideline, if not subverted entirely, the recognition of climate-induced forced migration.

While the resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in June this year marked a progress, COP23 signifies a relapse.

Meanwhile, climate displacement has been widely evidenced.

A recent Oxfam report shows that due to extreme climate change over 20 million people are displace in the period of 2008 to 2016.

As stated by the UNHCR, ‘displacement linked to climate change is not a future hypothetical — it’s a current reality.’

Its data indicates that since 2008, 21.5 million are displaced due to climate change annually.

Even the most conservative predictions suggest that climate change will displace about 250 million people by 2050.

The crisis is most dire in Bangladesh where climate displacement has begun taking its toll on the most vulnerable and marginalised factions of society.

Internal displacement within Bangladesh is now an exponentially growing phenomenon.

According to a slum census conducted in 2014, those living in the peripheries of cities have increased by 2.2 million since 1997.

Figures from the International Organisation for Migration show that about 70 per cent of Dhaka’s slum-dwellers have taken refuge in the capital in order to escape natural disasters. And the status quo will only aggravate over time.

It is generally understood that even a 3-foot rise in sea level would immerse 20 per cent of the country and compel some 30 million people to migrate elsewhere.

Despite the immediacy of the threat and its potential for catastrophic damage, climate-induced migrants seldom feature on the international agendas or national development plans.

The advancements made in climate adaptation process cannot match the magnitude and pace of the crisis at hand.

Moreover, there are limits to the capacity for adaptation.

It is, therefore, essential to focus on climate-driven migration.

There is a legal lacuna in that climate migrants have no recognised status in international law.

As far as refugee law is concerned, the 1951 Refugee Convention protects those with well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group.

This definition is clearly a product of its times and the phenomenon of climate-induced migration cannot coherently be accommodated in this paradigm.

International human rights law is considerably better suited to protect the climate migrant, given that it protects against forcible return to life-threatening circumstances, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and also imposes positive duties on states to realise the right to life, right to food and so on.

However, the slow onset of climate change adversities, such as land infertility and rise in sea levels is another limitation of international protection in this regard, since the law requires some degree of imminent danger.

Future prospects: COP24 and PDD

MOST policymakers anticipate that COP24 in 2018 will produce a binding instrument of international law for climate displacement, filling the lacuna in the present framework.

The Nansen Initiative was succeeded by the Platform on Disaster Displacement in 2016 for follow-up and implementation of the recommendations of the Protection Agenda. It is also expected to make substantial contribution to the protection of climate refugees by furthering understanding of the challenges of climate change in at risk communities around the world. It will be a way of formulating a global framework for meeting these challenges. For the most part, it serves as a tool for political consensus-building.

Protecting the climate migrant

AN INTERNATIONALLY binding convention akin to the Refugee Convention is often viewed as a panacea for climate-induced migration. However, such a right-based framework at the international level is ill-suited to present needs. The linear causality between climate change and forced migration presumed by such proposals is not empirically substantiated. There is an intricate web of causes that drive human movement. Moreover, the gradual onset of climate change means that displacement will usually and predominantly be internal, not cross-border. Perhaps most significantly, the political obstacles to the creation of a new treaty cannot be easily surmounted. Therefore, a treaty which would then not be widely ratified, implemented or enforced would be of little benefit.

At the international level, an incremental evolution is more likely to succeed, where initially voluntary guidelines develop to become clustered bilateral or multilateral treaties that could eventually metamorphose into an overarching international regime for protecting climate refugees. Presently, the scopes of humanitarian migration avenues must be expanded. There should be greater options for voluntary migration, facilitated by regional free movement treaties. Such treaties must have training facilities for working abroad and create special visa categories for individuals from regions identified to be at high risk from the impact of climate change.

While a right-based framework is currently unsuitable for the international arena, on the national front, it is precisely what is needed. Adaptation to climate change must be designed with a comprehensive view of its intimate connections to human rights and particular emphasis should be given to socio-economic and cultural rights. This is especially so given that the harshness of climate change manifests on preexisting socio-economic vulnerabilities.

A human rights’ based approach should be integrated into the adaptation framework of Bangladesh Climate Strategy and Action Plan and National Adaptation Programme of Action, with appropriate monitoring and review mechanisms. A comprehensive institutional framework is needed to identify specific duties for relevant state organs. Greater awareness of rights and duties in relation to climate displacement must be promoted and key bodies for enforcement must be accessible and fully resourced to address the concerns of the displaced.

Furthermore, there must be ‘just transition’ for the displaced, which is the crux of the rights-based approach. It is often the case that climate initiatives seek to overhaul current systems without being mindful of the impact these changes have on individuals’ lives. From basic necessities to material, cultural and spiritual dimensions of life, displacement must be addressed comprehensively.

In this new epoch in the history of human civilisation, the continued survival of our species depends on our ability to meet the novel challenges posed by climate change. It also depends, more fundamentally, on the realisation that human-made borders cannot be understood as the limits of our humanity.

Aisha Binte Abdur Rob studies human rights and transitional justice at the Transitional Justice Institute, Ulster University, UK.

Press link for more: New Age BD

What will it take to get our leaders to act? #ClimateChange #StopAdani #Auspol #Qldpol

Bill McKibben: Winning Slowly Is the Same as Losing

The technology exists to combat climate change – what will it take to get our leaders to act?

A Houston interstate after Hurricane Harvey in August. Richard Carson/Reuters

If we don’t win very quickly on climate change, then we will never win.

That’s the core truth about global warming.

It’s what makes it different from every other problem our political systems have faced.

I wrote the first book for a general audience about climate change in 1989 – back when one had to search for examples to help people understand what the “greenhouse effect” would feel like. We knew it was coming, but not how fast or how hard. And because no one wanted to overestimate – because scientists by their nature are conservative – each of the changes we’ve observed has taken us somewhat by surprise.

The surreal keeps becoming the commonplace: For instance, after Hurricane Harvey set a record for American rainstorms, and Hurricane Irma set a record for sustained wind speeds, and Hurricane Maria knocked Puerto Rico back a quarter-century, something even weirder happened. Hurricane Ophelia formed much farther to the east than any hurricane on record, and proceeded to blow past Southern Europe (whipping up winds that fanned record forest fires in Portugal) before crashing into Ireland. Along the way, it produced an artifact for our age: The warning chart that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency issued shows Ophelia ending in a straight line at 60 degrees north latitude, because the computer program never imagined you’d see a hurricane up there. “When you set up a grid, you define boundaries of that grid,” a slightly red-faced NOAA programmer explained. “That’s a pretty unusual place to have a tropical cyclone.” The agency, he added, might have to “revisit” its mapping software.

In fact, that’s the problem with climate change.

It won’t stand still.

Health care is a grave problem in the U.S. right now too, one that Donald Trump seems set on making steadily worse.

If his administration manages to defund Obamacare, millions of people will suffer. But if, in three years’ time, some new administration takes over with a different resolve, it won’t have become exponentially harder to deal with our health care issues.

That suffering in the interim wouldn’t have changed the fundamental equation.

But with global warming, the fundamental equation is precisely what’s shifting. And the remarkable changes we’ve seen so far – the thawed Arctic that makes the Earth look profoundly different from outer space; the planet’s seawater turning 30 percent more acidic – are just the beginning. “We’re inching ever closer to committing to the melting of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, which will guarantee 20 feet of sea-level rise,” says Penn State’s Michael Mann, one of the planet’s foremost climatologists. “We don’t know where the ice-sheet collapse tipping point is, but we are dangerously close.” The latest models show that with very rapid cuts in emissions, Antarctic ice might remain largely intact for centuries; without them, we might see 11 feet of sea-level rise by century’s end, enough to wipe cities like Shanghai and Mumbai “off the map.”

The warning chart that NOAA issued shows Hurricane Ophelia ending in a straight line at 60 degrees north latitude, because the computer program never anticipated a hurricane so far north.

There are plenty of tipping points like this: The Amazon, for instance, appears to be drying out and starting to burn as temperatures rise and drought deepens, and without a giant rainforest in South America, the world would function very differently.

In the North Atlantic, says Mann, “we’re ahead of schedule with the slowdown and potential collapse” of the giant conveyor belt that circulates warm water toward the North Pole, keeping Western Europe temperate.

It’s tipping points like these that make climate change such a distinct problem: If we don’t act quickly, and on a global scale, then the problem will literally become insoluble.

We’ll simply move into a dramatically different climate regime, and on to a planet abruptly and disastrously altered from the one that underwrote the rise of human civilization. “Every bit of additional warming at this point is perilous,” says Mann.

Another way of saying this: By 2075 the world will be powered by solar panels and windmills – free energy is a hard business proposition to beat. But on current trajectories, they’ll light up a busted planet. The decisions we make in 2075 won’t matter; indeed, the decisions we make in 2025 will matter much less than the ones we make in the next few years.

The leverage is now.

Trump, oddly, is not the central problem here, or at least not the only problem. Yes, he’s abrogated the Paris agreements; true, he’s doing his best to revive the coal mines of Kentucky; of course it’s insane that he thinks climate change is a Chinese hoax.

But we weren’t moving fast enough to catch up with physics before Trump.

In fact, it’s even possible that Trump – by jumping the climate shark so spectacularly – may run some small risk of disrupting the fossil-fuel industry’s careful strategy.

That strategy, we now know, began in the late 1970s. The oil giants, led by Exxon, knew about climate change before almost anyone else. One of Exxon’s chief scientists told senior management in 1978 that the temperature would rise at least four degrees Fahrenheit and that it would be a disaster.

Management believed the findings – as the Los Angeles Times reported, companies like Exxon and Shell began redesigning drill rigs and pipelines to cope with the sea-level rise and tundra thaw.

Yet, year after year, the industry used the review process of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to stress “uncertainty,” which became Big Oil’s byword. In 1997, just as the Kyoto climate treaty was being negotiated, Exxon CEO Lee Raymond told the World Petroleum Congress meeting in Beijing, “It is highly unlikely that the temperature in the middle of the next century will be significantly affected whether policies are enacted now or 20 years from now.”

In other words: Delay. Go slowly. Do nothing dramatic. As the company put it in a secret 1998 memo helping establish one of the innumerable front groups that spread climate disinformation, “Victory will be achieved when average citizens ‘understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science,” and when “recognition of uncertainty becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’ ”

And it’s not just the oil companies.

As America’s electric utilities began to understand that solar and wind power could undercut their traditional business, they began engaging in the same kind of behavior. In Arizona, whose sole reason for existence is the sun, the local utility helped rig elections for the state’s public-utility commission, which in turn allowed utilities to impose ruinous costs on homeowners who wanted to put solar panels on their roofs. As The New York Times reported in July, the booming U.S. market for new residential solar has come to “a shuddering stop” after “a concerted and well-funded lobbying campaign by traditional utilities, which have been working in state capitals across the country to reverse incentives for homeowners to install solar panels.” It’s not that they think they can keep solar panels at bay forever – every utility website, like every fossil-fuel industry annual report, has pictures of solar panels and spinning windmills.

But as industry analyst Nancy LaPlaca says, “Keeping the current business model just another year is always key for utilities that have a monopoly and want to keep that going.”

The planetary futurist Alex Steffen calls this tactic “predatory delay, the deliberate slowing of needed change to prolong a profitable but unsustainable status quo that will be paid by other people eventually.”

It’s not confined to the moneybags at the oil companies and the utilities – he’s written extensively about the otherwise-liberal urbanites in his home state of California. “A lot of cities are happy to talk about providing their power cleanly, but reducing cars, densifying, spending on bike paths, raising building standards – those things are all so contentious they’re not even discussed.” Ditto the folks who block windmills out of fear of chopping birds, thus helping lock in the next great mass extinction.

Much of the labor movement has grown more outspoken on climate change. They know that a dollar invested in renewable energy generates three times as many jobs as one wasted on fossil fuel, but the union that builds pipelines has fought so tenaciously to avoid change that the AFL-CIO came out for building the Dakota Access Pipeline, even after guards sicced German shepherds on native protesters.

In careful language that might have been written by a team at Exxon, the union said it supported new pipelines “as part of a comprehensive energy policy that creates jobs, makes the United States more competitive and addresses the threat of climate change.” “Comprehensive,” “balanced,” “measured” are the high cards in this rhetorical deck. “Realistic” is the ace in the hole.

There’s a reason this kind of appeal is so persuasive.

In almost every other political fight, a balanced and measured and “realistic” answer makes sense. I think billionaires should be taxed at 90 percent, and you think they contribute so much to society that they should pay no tax at all.

We meet somewhere in the middle, and come back each election cycle to argue it again, depending on how the economy is doing or Where the deficit lies.

Humans and their societies do work best with gradual transitions – it gives everyone some time to adapt. But climate change, sadly, isn’t a classic contest between two groups of people. It’s a negotiation between people on the one hand and physics on the other. And physics doesn’t do compromise.

Precisely because we’ve waited so long to take any significant action, physics now demands we move much faster than we want to.

Political realism and what you might call “reality realism” are in stark opposition. That’s our dilemma.
You could draw it on a graph. The planet’s greenhouse-gas emissions are still rising, though more slowly – let’s say we manage to top out by 2020.

In that case, to meet the planet’s goal of holding temperature increases under two degrees Celsius, we have to cut emissions 4.6 percent annually till they go to zero. If we wait till 2025, we have to cut them seven percent annually. If we wait till 2030 – well, it’s not even worth putting on the chart.

I have to sometimes restrain myself from pointing out how easy it would have been if we’d acted back in the late 1980s, when I was first writing about this – a gradual half a percent a year.

A glide path, not a desperate rappel down a deadly cliff.

The rate at which the world would have to move to zero emissions to keep global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius.

Yes, we’ve waited too long.

But maybe, just maybe, our task is not yet an impossible one.

That’s because the engineers have been doing their jobs much more vigorously than the politicians.

Over the past decade, the price of a solar panel has fallen 80 percent; across most of the U.S., wind is now the least expensive form of power.

In early October, an auction in Saudi Arabia for new electric generation was won by a solar farm pledging to deliver electrons for less than three cents a kilowatt hour, the cheapest price ever paid for electricity from any source in any place.

Danny Kennedy, a longtime solar pioneer who runs California’s Clean Energy Fund, a nonprofit connecting investors and startups, says every day brings some new project: “Just this week I’ve had entrepreneurs in here doing crowdfunding by Bitcoin to build microgrids in Southern Africa, and someone using lasers to cut silicon wafers to reduce the cost of solar cells by half.” He’d just come back from a conference in Shanghai – “You should feel the buzz; the Chinese have really realized their self-interest lies in dominating the disruptive technologies.”

That is to say, if we wanted to power the planet on sun and wind and water, we could.

It would be extremely hard, at the outer edge of the possible, but it’s mathematically achievable.

Mark Jacobson, who heads Stanford’s Atmosphere/Energy program, has worked to show precisely how it could happen in all 50 U.S. states and 139 foreign countries – how much wind, how much sun, how much hydro it would take to produce 80 percent of our power renewably by 2030. If we did, he notes, we’d not only dramatically slow global warming, we’d also eliminate most of the air pollution that kills 7 million people a year and sickens hundreds of millions more, almost all of them in the poorest places on the planet (pollution now outweighs tuberculosis, malaria, AIDS, hunger and war as a killer). “There’s no way you can be in Houston or Flint or Puerto Rico right now and not feel the urgency,” says Elizabeth Yeampierre, one of America’s leading climate-justice advocates. “Moving quickly can happen, but only if you uplift the work that’s really innovative, that’s already happening on the ground.”

Even much of the money is in place. For $50,000 in insulation, panels and appliances, Mosaic, the biggest solar lender in the country, can make a home run on 100 percent clean energy. “And we can make a zero-down loan, where people save money from Day One,” says the company’s CEO, Billy Parrish. Mosaic raised $300 million for its last round of bond financing, but it was nearly six times oversubscribed – that is, investors were ready to pony up about $1.8 billion. But even that amounts to small change: 36,000 homes in a nation of more than a hundred million dwellings. To go to scale, government is going to have to lead: loan guarantees for poor people, taking subsidies away from fossil fuels, making sure that when homeowners feed lowcarbon energy into the grid they get a good price from utilities. Even in California that kind of change comes hard: As Kennedy says, “The state legislature did not pass key legislation on clean energy this year despite a lot of hot air expended on it, and despite the fact that the Dems have a supermajority. I’m told to be patient and ‘we’ll get it done next year,’ but I find it frightening that folks think we have another year to wait.”

And so the only real question is, how do we suddenly make it happen fast?

That’s where politics comes in.

I said earlier that Trump wasn’t the whole problem – in fact, it’s just possible that in his know-nothing recklessness, he has upset the ever-so-patient apple cart.

You could almost see the oil companies wincing when Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement – for them, the agreement was a pathway to slow and managed change.

The promises it contained didn’t keep the planet from overheating – indeed, even if everyone had kept them, the Earth would still have gotten 3.5 degrees Celsius hotter, enough to collapse every ecosystem you’d like to name.

The accords did ensure that we’d still be burning significant amounts of hydrocarbons by 2050, and that the Exxons of the world would be able to recover most of the reserves they’ve so carefully mapped and explored.

But now some of those bets are off.

Around the rest of the world, most nations rejected Trump’s pullout with diplomatically expressed rage. “To everyone for whom the future of our planet is important, I say let’s continue going down this path,” said Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. (The exception: petro baron Vladimir Putin, whose official remarks concluded, “Don’t worry, be happy.”) In this country, the polling showed that almost nothing Trump had done was less popular. Perhaps, if Trump continues to sink, this particular piece of nonsense will sink with him.

And with Washington effectively gridlocked, the fight has moved elsewhere. When Trump pulled out of the climate accords, for instance, he explained that he’d been elected to govern “Pittsburgh, not Paris.” The next day the mayor of Pittsburgh said his town was now planning on 100 percent renewable energy, a pledge that’s been made by places as diverse as Atlanta, San Diego and Salt Lake City. Next year, representatives of thousands of regions, provinces, cities, parishes, arrondissements, districts and counties will descend on San Francisco for a Paris-like gathering of subnational actors, summoned by California Gov. Jerry Brown. According to Brown (who is as sadly compromised as most other leaders – he continues to allow wide-scale fracking and oil production across the state), Trump’s decision to leave the path of gradualism “is a stimulus … In a way, it’s a rising of … awareness.”

The pressure has also increased on banks and corporations.

In Australia, campaigners have forced the four major banks to refuse financing for what would have been one of the world’s biggest coal mines; BNP Paribas, the world’s eighth-largest lender, just announced it was out of the tar-sands and coal business. Several big California cities just announced they were suing the big oil companies for the damages caused by sea-level rise. The attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts have Exxon under investigation for pretending to take climate change seriously. All of that adds up to weaken the spreadsheet and the corporate resolve: “We’re trying to persuade a dying industry to get out of the way,” says Mark Campanale, the head of the NGO Carbon Tracker.

The best chance of forcing the future, of course, lies with movements – with people gathering in large enough numbers to concentrate the minds of CEOs and presidential candidates. Here, too, Trump seems to be upping the ante – nearly a quarter million Americans marched on D.C. for climate action in April, the largest such demonstration in Washington’s history. That activism keeps ramping up: At 350.org, we’re rolling out a vast Fossil Free campaign across the globe this winter, joining organizations like the Sierra Club to pressure governments to sign up for 100 percent renewable energy, blocking new pipelines and frack wells as fast as the industry can propose them, and calling out the banks and hedge funds that underwrite the past. It’s working – just in the last few weeks Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the largest in the world, announced plans to divest from fossil fuels, and the Nebraska Public Service Commission threw yet more roadblocks in front of the Keystone pipeline.

But the question is, is it working fast enough?

Paraphrasing the great abolitionist leader Theodore Parker, Martin Luther King Jr. used to regularly end his speeches with the phrase “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” The line was a favorite of Obama’s too, and for all three men it meant the same thing: “This may take a while, but we’re going to win.” For most political fights, it is the simultaneously frustrating and inspiring truth. But not for climate change. The arc of the physical universe appears to be short, and it bends toward heat.

Win soon or suffer the consequences.

Press link for more: Rolling Stone

Ice Apocalypse Coastal Cities flooded by 2100 #StopAdani

Ice Apocalypse: How the rapid collapse of Antarctic glaciers could flood coastal cities by the end of this century

by Eric Holthaus, Grist

Pine Island Glacier shelf edge. Jeremy Harbeck

In a remote region of Antarctica known as Pine Island Bay, 2,500 miles from the tip of South America, two glaciers hold human civilization hostage.

Stretching across a frozen plain more than 150 miles long, these glaciers, named Pine Island and Thwaites, have marched steadily for millennia toward the Amundsen Sea, part of the vast Southern Ocean. Further inland, the glaciers widen into a two-mile-thick reserve of ice covering an area the size of Texas.

There’s no doubt this ice will melt as the world warms. The vital question is when.

The glaciers of Pine Island Bay are two of the largest and fastest-melting in Antarctica. (A Rolling Stone feature earlier this year dubbed Thwaites “The Doomsday Glacier.”) Together, they act as a plug holding back enough ice to pour 11 feet of sea-level rise into the world’s oceans — an amount that would submerge every coastal city on the planet. For that reason, finding out how fast these glaciers will collapse is one of the most important scientific questions in the world today.

To figure that out, scientists have been looking back to the end of the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago, when global temperatures stood at roughly their current levels. The bad news? There’s growing evidence that the Pine Island Bay glaciers collapsed rapidly back then, flooding the world’s coastlines — partially the result of something called “marine ice-cliff instability.”

The ocean floor gets deeper toward the center of this part of Antarctica, so each new iceberg that breaks away exposes taller and taller cliffs. Ice gets so heavy that these taller cliffs can’t support their own weight. Once they start to crumble, the destruction would be unstoppable.

“Ice is only so strong, so it will collapse if these cliffs reach a certain height,” explains Kristin Poinar, a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “We need to know how fast it’s going to happen.”

In the past few years, scientists have identified marine ice-cliff instability as a feedback loop that could kickstart the disintegration of the entire West Antarctic ice sheet this century — much more quickly than previously thought.

Minute-by-minute, huge skyscraper-sized shards of ice cliffs would crumble into the sea, as tall as the Statue of Liberty and as deep underwater as the height of the Empire State Building. The result: a global catastrophe the likes of which we’ve never seen.

Ice comes in many forms, with different consequences when it melts. Floating ice, like the kind that covers the Arctic Ocean in wintertime and comprises ice shelves, doesn’t raise sea levels. (Think of a melting ice cube, which won’t cause a drink to spill over.)

Land-based ice, on the other hand, is much more troublesome. When it falls into the ocean, it adds to the overall volume of liquid in the seas. Thus, sea-level rise.

Antarctica is a giant landmass — about half the size of Africa — and the ice that covers it averages more than a mile thick. Before human burning of fossil fuels triggered global warming, the continent’s ice was in relative balance: The snows in the interior of the continent roughly matched the icebergs that broke away from glaciers at its edges.

Now, as carbon dioxide traps more heat in the atmosphere and warms the planet, the scales have tipped.

A wholesale collapse of Pine Island and Thwaites would set off a catastrophe. Giant icebergs would stream away from Antarctica like a parade of frozen soldiers. All over the world, high tides would creep higher, slowly burying every shoreline on the planet, flooding coastal cities and creating hundreds of millions of climate refugees.

Pine Island Glacier calving front. NASA ICE

All this could play out in a mere 20 to 50 years — much too quickly for humanity to adapt.

“With marine ice cliff instability, sea-level rise for the next century is potentially much larger than we thought it might be five or 10 years ago,” Poinar says.

A lot of this newfound concern is driven by the research of two climatologists: Rob DeConto at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and David Pollard at Penn State University. A study they published last year was the first to incorporate the latest understanding of marine ice-cliff instability into a continent-scale model of Antarctica.

Their results drove estimates for how high the seas could rise this century sharply higher. “Antarctic model raises prospect of unstoppable ice collapse,” read the headline in the scientific journal Nature, a publication not known for hyperbole.

Instead of a three-foot increase in ocean levels by the end of the century, six feet was more likely, according to DeConto and Pollard’s findings. But if carbon emissions continue to track on something resembling a worst-case scenario, the full 11 feet of ice locked in West Antarctica might be freed up, their study showed.

Three feet of sea-level rise would be bad, leading to more frequent flooding of U.S. cities such as New Orleans, Houston, New York, and Miami. Pacific Island nations, like the Marshall Islands, would lose most of their territory. Unfortunately, it now seems like three feet is possible only under the rosiest of scenarios.

At six feet, though, around 12 million people in the United States would be displaced, and the world’s most vulnerable megacities, like Shanghai, Mumbai, and Ho Chi Minh City, could be wiped off the map.

At 11 feet, land currently inhabited by hundreds of millions of people worldwide would wind up underwater. South Florida would be largely uninhabitable; floods on the scale of Hurricane Sandy would strike twice a month in New York and New Jersey, as the tug of the moon alone would be enough to send tidewaters into homes and buildings.

DeConto and Pollard’s breakthrough came from trying to match observations of ancient sea levels at shorelines around the world with current ice sheet behavior.

Around 3 million years ago, when global temperatures were about as warm as they’re expected to be later this century, oceans were dozens of feet higher than today.

Previous models suggested that it would take hundreds or thousands of years for sea-level rise of that magnitude to occur. But once they accounted for marine ice-cliff instability, DeConto and Pollard’s model pointed toward a catastrophe if the world maintains a “business as usual” path — meaning we don’t dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

Rapid cuts in greenhouse gases, however, showed Antarctica remaining almost completely intact for hundreds of years.

Pollard and DeConto are the first to admit that their model is still crude, but its results have pushed the entire scientific community into emergency mode.

“It could happen faster or slower, I don’t think we really know yet,” says Jeremy Bassis, a leading ice sheet scientist at the University of Michigan. “But it’s within the realm of possibility, and that’s kind of a scary thing.”

Scientists used to think that ice sheets could take millennia to respond to changing climates. These are, after all, mile-thick chunks of ice.

The new evidence, though, says that once a certain temperature threshold is reached, ice shelves of glaciers that extend into the sea, like those near Pine Island Bay, will begin to melt from both above and below, weakening their structure and hastening their demise, and paving the way for ice-cliff instability to kick in.

In a new study out last month in the journal Nature, a team of scientists from Cambridge and Sweden point to evidence from thousands of scratches left by ancient icebergs on the ocean floor, indicating that Pine Island’s glaciers shattered in a relatively short amount of time at the end of the last ice age.

The only place in the world where you can see ice-cliff instability in action today is at Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland, one of the fastest-collapsing glaciers in the world. DeConto says that to construct their model, they took the collapse rate of Jakobshavn, cut it in half to be extra conservative, then applied it to Thwaites and Pine Island.

But there’s reason to think Thwaites and Pine Island could go even faster than Jakobshavn.

Right now, there’s a floating ice shelf protecting the two glaciers, helping to hold back the flow of ice into the sea. But recent examples from other regions, like the rapidly collapsing Larsen B ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula, show that once ice shelves break apart as a result of warming, their parent glaciers start to flow faster toward the sea, an effect that can weaken the stability of ice further inland, too.

“If you remove the ice shelf, there’s a potential that not just ice-cliff instabilities will start occurring, but a process called marine ice-sheet instabilities,” says Matthew Wise, a polar scientist at the University of Cambridge.

This signals the possible rapid destabilization of the entire West Antarctic ice sheet in this century. “Once the stresses exceed the strength of the ice,” Wise says, “it just falls off.”

And, it’s not just Pine Island Bay. On our current course, other glaciers around Antarctica will be similarly vulnerable. And then there’s Greenland, which could contribute as much as 20 feet of sea-level rise if it melts.

Next to a meteor strike, rapid sea-level rise from collapsing ice cliffs is one of the quickest ways our world can remake itself. This is about as fast as climate change gets.

Still, some scientists aren’t fully convinced the alarm is warranted. Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado, says the new research by Wise and his colleagues, which identified ice-cliff instabilities in Pine Island Bay 11,000 years ago, is “tantalizing evidence.” But he says that research doesn’t establish how quickly it happened.

“There’s a whole lot more to understand if we’re going to use this mechanism to predict how far Thwaites glacier and the other glaciers are going to retreat,” he says. “The question boils down to, what are the brakes on this process?”

Scambos thinks it is unlikely that Thwaites or Pine Island would collapse all at once. For one thing, if rapid collapse did happen, it would produce a pile of icebergs that could act like a temporary ice shelf, slowing down the rate of retreat.

Despite the differences of opinion, however, there’s growing agreement within the scientific community that we need to do much more to determine the risk of rapid sea-level rise. In 2015, the U.S. and U.K. governments began to plan a rare and urgent joint research program to study Thwaites glacier. Called “How much, how fast?,” the effort is set to begin early next year and run for five years.

Seeing the two governments pooling their resources is “really a sign of the importance of research like this,” NASA’s Poinar says.

Given what’s at stake, the research program at Thwaites isn’t enough, but it might be the most researchers can get. “Realistically, it’s probably all that can be done in the next five years in the current funding environment,” says Pollard.

He’s referring, of course, to the Trump administration’s disregard for science and adequate scientific funding; the White House’s 2018 budget proposal includes the first-ever cut to the National Science Foundation, which typically funds research in Antarctica.

“It would be sensible to put a huge effort into this, from my perspective,” Pollard says. Structural engineers need to study Antarctica’s key glaciers as though they were analyzing a building, he says, probing for weak spots and understanding how exactly they might fail. “If you vastly increase the research now, [the cost] would still be trivial compared to the losses that might happen.”

Bassis, the ice sheet scientist at the University of Michigan, first described the theoretical process of marine ice-cliff instability in research published only a few years ago.

He’s 40 years old, but his field has already changed enormously over the course of his career. In 2002, when Bassis was conducting his PhD research in a different region of Antarctica, he was shocked to return to his base camp and learn that the Larsen B ice shelf had vanished practically overnight.

“Every revision to our understanding has said that ice sheets can change faster than we thought,” he says. “We didn’t predict that Pine Island was going to retreat, we didn’t predict that Larsen B was going to disintegrate. We tend to look at these things after they’ve happened.”

There’s a recurring theme throughout these scientists’ findings in Antarctica: What we do now will determine how quickly Pine Island and Thwaites collapse. A fast transition away from fossil fuels in the next few decades could be enough to put off rapid sea-level rise for centuries. That’s a decision worth countless trillions of dollars and millions of lives.

“The range of outcomes,” Bassis says, “is really going to depend on choices that people make.”

Press link for more: Climate Code Red

Listening to the voices we don’t want to hear #Science #ClimateChange #StopAdani

Climate change: We were warned in 1992

By Anthony Doerr:

November 20, 2017

Twenty-five years ago this month, more than 1,500 prominent scientists, including over half of the living Nobel laureates, issued a manifesto titled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” in which they admonished, “A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”

They cited stresses on the planet’s atmosphere, forests, oceans and soils, and called on everybody to act decisively.

“No more than one or a few decades remain,” the scientists wrote, “before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost.”

I was 19 years old when their warning was published and though I understood, in a teenager-y, “Rainforest Rap” sort of way, that humans were messing with the planet, the document freaked me out.

It was so urgent, so dire. E.O. Wilson had signed it.

Carl Sagan had signed it!

So did I act immediately and decisively?

Um, I did not.

In the ensuing years I wrote cheques to some conservation organisations, replaced some incandescent bulbs and rode my bike to work.

I hammered together a composting bin that promptly fell apart.

I gave a self-important lecture to a neighbour on the importance of using his recycling can.

I also hurtled through the troposphere on hundreds of airplanes (each round trip from New York to London costs the Arctic another three square metres of ice), bought and sold multiple automobiles and helped my wife put two more Americans onto the planet.

Our air-conditioning compressor is at least a decade old, my truck averages 15 miles to the gallon and I routinely walk up to a podium, open a brand new plastic bottle of water, take a sip and promptly forget that it exists.

Sometimes I wake at 2am worrying that my great-granddaughter will have to march through her distant, broiling future gathering all the plastic I ever disposed of.

“You mean he knew,” she’ll ask her mum, as she pulls the plastic clamshell I ate a Chinese chicken salad out of back in November 2017, “and he still did this?”

 If our biological imperative is to pass our genes to the next generation, our moral imperative has to be to try, before we become corpses, to leave them a planet they can survive on.

“I told you,” her mother will say. “He was the absolute worst.”

This autumn, as smoke from dozens of wildfires made the air outside our windows in Boise, Idaho, about as healthy as a casino smoking lounge, as Harvey flooded parts of Texas and Maria smashed Puerto Rico, as 210,000 gallons of oil leaked from the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota, I was tempted to imagine US President Donald Trump cruising in his jumbo jet above the various cataclysms with some coal-friendly legislation in his lap and his fingers in his ears.

This is a man, after all, who in a single month in 2007 poured 2 million gallons of fresh water through the lawns, pool and 22 bathrooms of his Palm Beach, Florida, residence.

But sometimes making villains out of other people can distract us from our own complicities. If Trump were never elected, Harvey still would have flooded Houston, October still would have been the 394th consecutive month that global average temperatures were above the 20th century average, and New Delhi would still be choking on air so foul that just breathing for a day is roughly equivalent to smoking 44 cigarettes.

In a season when the silencing of voices is so rightfully in the public discussion, maybe the 25th anniversary of the “Scientists’ Warning” offers an opportunity to reflect on just how well each of us is listening to the voices we don’t want to hear.

Here’s what I think happens with me.

Maybe I wake up, turn on my phone, read something like, “On average, populations of vertebrate species declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012,” and I feel queasy — as though I’m living in a world that’s a shadow of the world I was born into — and at the same time I probably also get a little less sensitive to the insanity of our trajectory, and then I put down my phone and get swamped by the tsunami of the day: One kid has strep throat, another needs to go to the dentist, I’ve forgotten six or seven internet passwords, the dog just pooped on the rug.

Hour by hour, minute by minute, I make decisions that seem like the right things to do at the time, but which prevent me from reflecting on the most significant, most critical fact in my life: Every day I participate in a system that is womanising our big, gorgeous planet against our kids.

“Death,” Zadie Smith wrote in 2013, “is what happens to everyone else; If I truly believed that being a corpse was not only a possible future but my only guaranteed future — I’d do all kinds of things differently.”

If our biological imperative is to pass our genes to the next generation, our moral imperative has to be to try, before we become corpses, to leave them a planet they can survive on.

Since the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” humans have done extraordinary things. We stabilised the stratospheric ozone layer; we connected people in instantaneous and previously unimaginable ways; we landed a golf cart on Mars and drove it around.

We even got every nation-state on earth (except ours, apparently) to agree to try to achieve net zero greenhouse-gas emissions by midcentury.

But we’ve also removed enough forests to cover Texas nearly twice, pumped almost half of the carbon emitted in human history into the atmosphere, grown the population by over two billion and cut the number of wild animals on earth by something close to half.

This month a new coalition of scientists, led by researchers at Oregon State University, published a new warning: “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice.”

It’s not as poetic as the first, unfortunately, but it’s just as grim. “Soon,” they write, “it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out.” Over 15,000 scientists have signed the new call to action; according to the Alliance of World Scientists, that’s the most people to ever co-sign and formally support a published journal article.

For decades science has been warning us that we are compromising earth’s systems, and that none of us will be immune to the consequences.

Everywhere you look, people are trying: adopting renewable energy, working to guarantee women control over their reproductive decisions, fighting food waste, shifting to plant-based diets.

Maybe the most important thing the rest of us can do is take our fingers out of our ears and join them.

— New York Times News Service

Anthony Doerr is the author, most recently, of the novel All the Light We Cannot See.

Press link for more: Gulf News.com

Pollution Kills More People Than Anything Else! #StopAdani #COP23 #Qldvotes 

Dying from war, smoking, hunger & natural disasters turns out to be nothing compared to deaths from pollution, which kills nine million people a year.
The most comprehensive report to date on the health effects of environmental pollution shows that filthy air, contaminated water and other polluted parts of our environment kill more people worldwide each year than almost everything else combined – smoking, hunger, natural disasters, war, murder, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
It’s no wonder then that the number of contaminated water-related deaths in Puerto Rico is expected to climb into the thousands.
In addition to the human tragedy, this pollution costs us well over $4 trillion in annual losses, or 6% of global GDP.


According to the study, 9 million people every year, one in every six premature deaths, are caused by diseases from toxic exposures in the environment. 

That’s 20 times more than all wars. 

Dr. Philip Landrigan, Dean of Global Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the lead author of the report, noted, ‘There’s been a lot of study of pollution, but it’s never received the resources or level of attention as, say, AIDS or climate change’.

China knows this better than any other country. 

Over 300,000 people die each year from toxic emissions coming out of coal-fired power plants alone. 

And silica manufacturing and waste from computer chip and solar array manufacturing is a growing health problem.

In fact, poor countries in south Asia and in Africa sustain the majority of these pollution deaths. 

In many of these countries, especially India, pollution causes a fourth of all deaths, putting a huge burden on their developing economies. 

Even indoor burning of biomass in poor countries has become a global health epidemic.


But these same poor countries will never get out of poverty without increasing the very industries that cause this pollution – energy, manufacturing, mining, etc. 

Since it takes about 3,000 kWhs per person per year to have what we consider a good like – to get into the middle class – the only way to eradicate global poverty is to get these poor countries a lot more energy.
This concept is embodied in the United Nations Human Development Index, or HDI, that states the most important requirement for a good life is access to energy. 

HDI is the reason that China decided in 1992 to build about 600 coal-fired power plants, along with a lot of hydro and other energy sources. 


It lifted 500 million Chinese into the middle class. 

But it also ended up killing over 300,000 people a year and harming millions, leading to a huge unforeseen burden on their health care system.
China is trying to change their energy mix to get rid of dirty coal, but there remains about 800 million Chinese that still need over 2 trillion more kWhs per year to get them into the middle class as well.

 And 2 billion more people outside of China need another 6 trillion kWhs per year. And another 3 billion people will be born between now and 2040, requiring still another 9 trillion kWhs per year.
Since this is the only way to eradicate global poverty, any decision to not give them this energy is itself unethical.

 And to give them that much energy cleanly, along with cleaning up manufacturing and other industries to reduce pollution, will take even more energy.
This dependence of a good life on energy is not a secret. 

The 2015 COP21 climate meeting in Paris was mainly about how to give these people that much energy without giving them coal. 

Not only to save more lives, but to save the planet.

In fact, air pollution and climate change are closely linked and share common solutions. 

Fossil fuel combustion in higher-income countries and the burning of biomass in lower-income countries accounts for 85 percent of airborne particulate pollution.

 Reducing fossil fuel burning in higher-income countries and giving lower-income countries non-fossil and non-biomass energy sources is key to slowing global warming and cleaning up the environment.
And it will take all non-fossil sources, not just renewables.

 Along with millions of wind turbines and thousands of square miles of solar arrays, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the International Energy Agency, the United Nations Sustainable Solutions Network and the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate all argue for a tripling of nuclear energy, requiring over a thousand new reactors, or many times that of small modulars, to stabilize carbon emissions.

According to all studies on the subject, coal kills over ten times more people than any other energy source per kWh produced, mainly from fine toxic particulates emitted from coal plants. And coal kills ten times more people in the developing world than in America, simply because they lack regulations like our Clean Air Act.


In fact, our Clean Air Act is the single piece of legislation that has saved the most American lives in history. 

It is why coal kills over 300,000 people in China each year, but only about 15,000 Americans per year. 

The two other significant life-saving pieces of legislation include Medicare in 1965 and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which established the 40 hour work week and reigned in child labor.
However, there are a lot more pollution health effects beyond actual death, and several studies have attempted to quantify those costs – costs that include lost work days, hospital visits, disability, prescription drugs and all the costs associated with illness in addition to death (1,2,3,4).
Eliminating the health effects of coal is the low-hanging fruit of pollution. 

A study by EPA’s Ben Machol and Sarah Rizk found that the use of coal in America costs us anywhere from $350 billion to $880 billion per year.

 That’s up to 6% of our GDP, and well over 10% of our total health care costs.

In contrast, there are costs associated with coal itself – mining coal from the ground, transporting it across the country, producing electricity from it, and paying people to do all these things. 

Even though natural gas is replacing coal and our coal use is significantly down compared to ten years ago, we still consume over 700 million tons of coal a year, and we pay about $200 billion for that privilege.
What? 

We pay $200 billion to make and deliver the electricity from coal, and then we pay $300 to $800 billion trying to recover from it?

 This does not make economic sense.
So why not end coal, and use that money and lives saved to replace coal with gas, nuclear and renewables that do not impact health anywhere near as badly. 

The savings in health care alone would more than pay for it.

 It would even be cost-effective to pay the coal folks not to work, just like we’ve done for almost a hundred years for some farmers.


This thinking can be applied to a host of polluting issues, all with the idea that saving lives and health care costs would save enough money to prevent the pollution in the first place. 

Yes, it might require some type of tax but that would be offset by much lower health care costs.
And you can do quite a lot with $4 trillion every year. 

That’s equivalent to building, fueling and operating ninety 1,200-MW hydroelectric dams plus sixty 1,000-MW nuclear plants (or several hundred small modular reactors) plus 200,000 MW wind turbines plus three hundred solar arrays about the size of Ivanpah (600-MW) plus two hundred 500-MW natural gas plants, in total producing over 3 trillion kWhs per year split almost evenly among each energy source.
In only 15 years, we could replace all coal in the world, bring the global energy production up to well over 40 trillion kWhs per year – enough to eradicate global poverty – and still have enough money to reduce other global pollution to a fraction of what it is now. All with existing technologies.
Further technological breakthroughs and gains in efficiency will save even more money, save even more species, and raise the quality of life even higher for everyone in the world. Of course, the rate of building these plants required to accomplish this goal surpasses most build rates we’ve ever achieved, but it is doable with serious coordination among the nations of the world.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to convince people that money saved is the same as money earned.

 And no one likes the idea of a tax, even if it saves lives, property and the planet.
But we can do this faster than anyone thinks is possible, certainly before the last climate tipping points of 2040 – without destroying the planet and without bankrupting anyone.
We just need to do it.

Press link for more: Forbes.Com

CO2 Emissions Rising Faster Than Ever! #StopAdani #Qldvotes #Auspol 

A record surge in atmospheric CO2. Emissions rise faster than ever!
Yesterday (30/10), both the BBC and the Guardian posted an article proving the state of the world is atrocious.

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), concentrations of atmospheric CO2 surged to a record high in 2016. 

What is more, the pace with which this process is taking place is accelerating. 

The year 2016 saw average concentrations of CO2 hit 403.3 ppm, up from 400 ppm in 2015.

 This is the largest increase the WMO watch programme has ever witnessed. 

Before 2016, the largest increase – 2.7 ppm – occurred in 1997-1998 when an El Niño was active (every El Niño impacts the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by causing droughts that limit the uptake of CO2 by plants and trees). 

Now the figure is 3.3ppm. It is also 50% higher than the average of the last 10 years, which is extreme.

 The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was three to five million years ago, in the mid-Pliocene Epoch.

While emissions from human sources have slowed down somewhat in the last couple of years, the cumulative total of atmospheric CO2 continues to spike. 

Since 1990 alone, there has been a 40% increase in total radiative forcing. 

The rise in CO2 and CO2e (equivalent) is due the Earth’s response to human warming. 

This means that, at one unknown point, climate change will be out of our hands: total emissions will continue to increase even if we decrease CO2 emissions from human sources (not that we significantly succeed in this or that there is a plan for achieving it). 

The problem is not only that human activity creates climate change, but that climate change destroys sinks, such as forests, that it warms oceans and seas and destroys the permafrost.

 This explains the spike of methane levels over the last 10 years.

Incredibly, there is still doubt.

 As professor Nisbet from Royal Halloway says:
“The rapid increase in methane since 2007, especially in 2014, 2015, and 2016 (…) was not expected in the Paris agreement. 

Methane growth is strongest in the tropics and sub-tropics. 

The carbon isotopes in the methane show that growth is not being driven by fossil fuels. 

We do not understand why methane is rising. 

It may be a climate change feedback. It is very worrying” 
And Erik Solhein, the head of UN Environment added that “The numbers don’t lie. 

We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed” 

The numbers do not lie, but one has to use the right ones. 

The global CO2 measure tells far from the whole story.

 Atmospheric levels of gasses like methane, nitrous oxide, and a host of less common industrial chemicals are also all on the rise in the Earth’s atmosphere due to human emissions. 

According to research by the Advanced Global Atmosphere Gases Center at MIT, the total heat forcing equal to CO2 (this is the CO2 equivalent measure which adds all the other gases) was about 478 ppm during the spring of 2013 – almost two years before the Paris Agreement was signed (December 2015) (see here and here). 

The Paris Agreement does not contain the word “methane” 
Needless to say, in 2013, the situation – ca. 480 ppm CO2e – was already nothing short of fearsome. 

The last time the world saw such a measure of comparable atmospheric greenhouse gas heat forcing was during the Miocene around 15-20 million years ago. 

At that time, global temperatures were 3-4 C warmer. 

Today, CO2e stands at ca. 492 ppm. 

It is impossible that the IPCC was unaware of it. 

For one, Natalia Sakhova and her colleagues have been publishing papers on methane venting into the atmosphere from sediments of the East Siberian Ice Arctic Shelf since the 1990s.

That tropical forests could transform from a sink to a source due to rising temperatures has also been documented in the literature since the 1990s.

 According to an OECD study of 2011, GHG could reach 685 ppm of CO2e by 2050.

 In 2013, Michael Mann wrote that we will likely lock in a 2 C short term warming this century and a probable 4 C warming long-term. 


According to Mann in 2013, if the current, high-velocity pace of emission continues, we will likely hit 2C warming by 2036, setting off extraordinary, severe and irreversible global changes over a very short period. 

Since then, nothing has happened to change this gloomy picture.
It is absolutely necessary to understand the problem of the Earth’s response to human induced climate change. 

Natural carbon sinks on land and ocean buffer us from the full impact of carbon emissions.

 But we cannot assume this will continue indefinitely. 

The warmer the world becomes, the more difficult it will become to prevent further warming: even less emissions can lead to proportionally larger impacts. 

Natural carbon sinks become less effective and even become sources.


This is happening right now. 

The Earth’s tropical forests are now so degraded that they are emitting more carbon than all of the traffic in the United States.

 A healthy forest sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, whereas forests that are degraded by drought, wildfires and deforestation release previously sequestered carbon.

 In short, land ecosystems, mainly forests, have been mitigating part of the fossil fuel problem – they sucked CO2 out of the atmosphere, about 25% of our fossil fuel emissions. 

Not any longer. 

Another study showed that warming soils are now releasing much more carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought.

 This means another disastrous feedback loop exists that will trigger giant carbon releases in a cycle that will be (practically) impossible to stop.

It is true that emissions from energy decreased in the last three years. 

Emissions from land use, agriculture, aviation and shipping have not stalled.

 Increased use of biomass is still often calculated as zero-emission, which is nonsensical. 

CO2e is now already above what was considered the limit for a 2 degrees C rise – this limit was 450 ppm CO2e. 

We are now over 490 ppm CO2e and the concentrations are rising.

 It is not possible otherwise, also because the earth itself contributes to the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mainly because of increasing emissions of CO2 and methane from wetlands, permafrost areas and sea beds. 

The IPCC, in its wisdom, does (or did) not count these contributions and so they do (or did) not exist. 

The world will pay a heavy prize for this ostrich policy.

The permafrost thaw caused by fossil fuel emissions already releases relatively large amounts of CO2, NH4 and NO2. 

Any reasonable discussion of our global situation therefore has to stop limiting the discussion to fossil fuel CO2 emissions and start evaluating the true global situation with regard to the planetary carbon cycle and the global warming of all the greenhouse gases.
The estimate is that about 50% of total global fossil fuel emissions over the past 100 years have been absorbed by land and oceans. 

If the sinks are exhausted or overwhelmed by permafrost or shallow marine sediment outgassing, it is possible that, in the worst case, a 50% reduction in the use of fossil fuels (again: not that there is a viable strategy to achieve this) would have no effect on the growth rate of atmospheric CO2.

It can be realistically expected that, IF every country meets its self-determined emissions goals, global temperature will increase by 3.7 degrees C at 2100 – and that is being optimistic!

 According to Friedrich et al. (see my article on this here and here for Friedrich et al.) a rise of 4.8 and 7.4 degrees can be in the making by 2100.
For CO2 emissions to fall, the use of fossil fuels has to decrease and brought to zero. 


This can only happen if they become so expensive that any other source is cheaper.

 It also means major changes in manufacturing, agriculture, transport and energy efficiency. 

It means changing and re-scaling the macroeconomic architecture.

We all know this, but it does not square with any reasonable projections of oil, natural gas and coal production.

 For example, the American EIA estimated future consumption of liquids and natural gas give annual rates of increase of 1.1 and 1.9 percent through 2040. 

Coal production also increases, albeit more slowly at 0.6 percent per year.

The idea that in such a world emissions will drop is magical thinking. 

The idea that climate change can be addressed in a technological way, leaving existing power relations intact is magical thinking – not only a myth, but a pertinent lie.

What is actually the “effort” that the “landmark” Paris Agreement expects countries to make?

 In 2015, the US budget was $3.800 billion.

 In 2016, the Department of Energy (DoE) budget request for all of energy efficiency, renewable energy and nuclear energy was $4 billion. 

This is a mere 0.1%. 

Where does most of this money end up?

 It goes to big multinationals in order to strengthen “competitiveness,” “create jobs” and “markets and growth” and to “reduce business risks,” as 360 big corporations wrote to Trump in an open letter, asking him to not quit the Paris Agreement.
Trump quit Paris and it is inherently stupid and regressive. 

But the Paris Agreement is also regressive.

At the end of 2017, CO2 and other GHGs are rising, they are rising faster than ever, temperatures are rising, new feedbacks and potential horrors are being discovered almost every day. 

As I wrote before, ‘this historical milestone that will safeguard the future of humanity’ (Cameron) contains no reference to “coal,” “oil,” “fracking,” “shale oil,” “fossil fuel” or “carbon dioxide.” 

The words “zero,” “ban,” “prohibit” or “stop” do not occur in it.

 The word “adaptation” occurs 85 times, although the responsibility to adapt is nowhere mentioned. 

Liability and compensation are explicitly excluded. 

There is no action plan.

 The proposed emission cuts by the nations are voluntary.

 There is no enforceable compliance mechanism.
Meanwhile, warming atmospheric temperatures coupled with warmer ocean waters have combined to cause Antarctic sea ice to shrink by two millions kilometres in just the last three years.


At the other pole, recently released data showed that the Arctic ice cap melted down to hundreds of thousands of square miles below its average this past summer. 

The ice minimum for this year was 610.000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average, in addition to its being the eighth-lowest year in the 38-year satellite record (to compare: Germany’s surface is 137.983.6 square miles) 
Some time ago, I would have ended this article by writing that ‘if the world’s nations are serious about addressing climate change, the rise in CO2 concentrations needs to cease. 

The sinks need to balance the sources. 

If the sinks degrade and become a source, the game is up.’ But I do not believe that the world’s nations are serious about addressing global climate change.

 There is nothing concrete that points in that direction. 

And so the problem becomes unsolvable.

Press link for more: Flassbeck Economics

Everything we love is at risk! #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol 

The Last Decade and You
Everything we love is at risk, unless we build a faster, more disruptive and more visionary climate movement, now.
Alex Steffen

Jun 6

The Last Decade is a manifesto about the need to see farther ahead, fight smarter and dream bigger — if we’re going to make it through this climate emergency.

— — —


The Last Decade: An Introduction.

 

Even before Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement — the first essentially universal commitment by the peoples of the Earth to pursue the same goal of an ecological future — we all knew our planet was in crisis.

 

We all know that at the very center of that crisis is growing climate chaos. 

Most people living on Earth know this now. 

What fewer of us know — and even fewer have deeply explored — is the spring driving the mechanism of our greenhouse disaster.

 

That tight-wound spring is time; specifically, how little of it we have left.

 

When we think of the climate crisis, we think of the causes and the consequences: belching smokestacks, roads packed with cars. cracking ice sheets, burning forests. 

What few of us think enough about are the curves.

 

We all know about climate budgets — estimates of how much carbon pollution we can release and still keep the planet within a given temperature range.

 Most of us understand that when you have a budget, and you’re depleting it at a steady rate, it becomes a deadline. 

The only way to extend that deadline is to curve downwards the rate at which you are exhausting your budget. 

With climate emissions, that curve arches inexorably towards zero, and quite possibly beyond, into a world where we commit serious resources to restoring the atmosphere to a saner chemistry.


 

Every day that we continue filling the sky with greenhouse pollution, the curve back towards sanity grows steeper. 

At a certain point, that curve grows so steep that the actions we need to take are no longer connected to the actions we might have taken before.

 We are compelled to attempt large, headlong changes. 

We are forced to spring forward at a tempo we wouldn’t previously have considered.

 

To cut to the chase, I believe we have passed that point, and everything is moving rapidly now, except for our thinking.

 

It’s no big mystery why our thinking is so outdated. 

For more than two decades, many people tried to sell climate action — especially here in America — by arguing that it wouldn’t really demand much change, at all. 

Small steps, we were told, could add up to big impacts. 

Innovation would whisk away the most polluting parts of our lives, leaving us with green SUVs, McMansions and big box stores. 

Abstract and distant mechanisms — like cap-and-trade schemes — could do the remaining heavy lifting, and we’d barely even know they were working. 

Saving the planet might not be exactly easy — this argument went — but it could be slow, gradual, a barely noticeable transition.

 

It was a nice idea. 

The problem is, it wasn’t true, even then.

 There once was a time when steady incremental actions could have staved off planetary catastrophe.

 That hasn’t been the case, though, since at least the mid-1990s. 

As the years have passed this vision of slow climate action without large scale transformation has gone from unworkable to a downright dangerous delusion, part of the crisis itself.

 

The destruction of planetary stability is not some ancient curse. 

Instead, it’s the momentum of choices made by people who are largely still alive. 

The world we were born into was made unsustainably. 

Between roughly 1990 and now, half of all greenhouse gasses humanity has ever emitted were poured into the sky.

 Go back to the end of World War Two, and the percentage rises past 85%. 

Now, even as the natural world is spiraling into wider (and wilder) chaos, the energy, transportation, manufacturing and agricultural systems we built in the years since World War Two are still revving at doomsday machine velocities.

 There’s some evidence climate emissions have leveled off, but they’re still so dire that every year that goes by forecloses some of humanity’s options. 

Business as usual leads directly, quickly, inexorably to total catastrophe. 

It cannot go on, and what cannot go on, comes to an end.

To stay within two degrees, we need to cut greenhouse gas emissions 50% a decade, while launching a massive commitment to ecological conservation and reforestation.

The world we were born into is coming to an end. That’s the good news. 

The bad news is, it’s not coming to an end fast enough.

 

Remember those curves? 

We are coming to the moment where smart actions delayed become smart actions made impossible. 

If we miss the next decade, the 2020s, those curves become steep enough that the options we have left will be tragic and desperate, even forlorn hopes.

 

 All good work now keeps in mind when we are. 

It also acknowledges that the kind of action now called for are different than the ones from earlier, gentler curves — and that the ways they’re different require us to embrace new thinking.

 

 Real sustainability only comes in one variety, now: Disruptive.

 

 All sensible people are rightly appalled at the climate denialism and carbon cronyism we see in Congress and the White House. 

Having been forced to turn from the national stage to other approaches, though, we will now discover that the greatest barrier to bold climate action is no longer denialism, but delay.

 

 Predatory delay is everywhere. 

Corruption erodes the very foundations of our democracy. 

Disinformation floods our media. 

Civic sabotage and broken governments slow progress to a crawl. 

Outdated thinking clouds our sense of what’s truly possible. 

The Carbon Bubble looms. 

Many who claim to also desire climate action throw up fierce hostility in defense of a destructive status quo. 

In Blue America, anti-climate politics isn’t about disputing science, it’s about denying what science tells us about the need to act quickly. 

Delay is doom, but delay has many champions.

 

 The curve we’ve been forced onto bends so steeply, that the pace of victory is part of victory itself. 

Winning slowly is basically the same thing as losing outright. 

We cannot afford to pursue past strategies, aimed at limited gains towards distant goals. 

In the face of both triumphant denialism and predatory delay, trying to achieve climate action by doing the same things, the same old ways, means defeat. 

It guarantees defeat. 

 

 Want to win fast? 

What we need now is a movement to unmake and rebuild the world we were born into. 

That work must be disruptive to the dirty systems around us. 

It must be achieved in the face of direct political opposition. 

It must accelerate itself through cascading successes. 

If climate action doesn’t aggressively out-compete and replace fossil fuel production, fossil-fuel-dependent industries and high-carbon practices, it’ll fail.


 

 We need strategies for working together that can actually win. 

This is why I’m kicking off this newsletter with a short, raw manifesto, The Last Decade.

 I’ll be publishing that over the next three weeks or so.

 

 We need a movement built to win.

 I think such a movement is within our grasp. 

Fighting to win, and win fast, can open up new opportunities for millions of people — especially young people — that cannot exist where change is slow and timid. 

Those opportunities, in turn, give us a shot at not only solving longstanding problems — housing, jobs, health, food — but gaining the political power to win bigger changes on wider scales. 

Remaking the world can give us the power to go on remaking it, despite the powerful enemies we face.

 

 Millions and millions of us are ready. 

We want to not only build carbon-zero cities and regions but to live the lives that will make them thrive. 

We want clean energy, sure; indeed, we demand all energy be clean energy. But generating more clean energy — vital as it is — is only one part of making the world we need. 

We also need to imagine, design and rapidly build cities where prosperity demands much less energy to begin with and ends up shared with far more of our neighbors: cities of abundant housing in super-insulated green buildings; of walkable neighborhoods, effective transit, shared vehicles and abundant bike lanes; of circular flows of resources and frugal excellence; of breakthrough technologies and worldchanging designs; of lived innovation and community creativity — of more adventure, more fun, and, for fuck’s sake, more beauty.


 

 Beauty matters.

 The sheer ugliness of the old industrial way of life all around us is something we’re taught not to see. 

We’re taught not too see its aesthetic ugliness, sure, but even more we are taught to ignore its ugliness of soul, it’s ugliness of purpose, its ugliness of effect. Look away, numb yourself, never speak of it again.

 

 Millions of us do not want to spend our brief spans on Earth contributing to these systems of catastrophic ugliness. 

We want to live in systems that are beautiful to be a part of, beautiful in their workings, and beautiful for future generations.

 

 We need to demand the freedom build the beautiful. 

If a new movement today is going to be about anything meaningful, it must be at its very core a fight to build the beautiful, at the scale of the necessary, in the very short time we have left.

 

 Which brings me to the last part, the critical power of positive and practiced imagination. We can’t launch a movement we can’t imagine.

 

As I’ve said for years, protesting the things we oppose may slow disaster but it doesn’t build a new world. 

We must also imagine the future we want, and in times when only heroic actions will do, we’re called on to imagine a heroic future.

 

This is why I’m telling future stories now, here in this newsletter. My anticipatory journalism of life in the fictional city of San Patricio, California in 2025 is meant to offer paths into the interior lives of people working to create the kinds of changes we need. I have strong intuitions about what the transformation we’re going through means, how it might work, how it will feel. I may not be right, but if I spur you as a reader into developing your own new intuitions about the future, we’ve both won.

 

See, I feel a powerful certainty that we need an explosion of creativity in the next couple years. We must see ahead with fresh eyes. That kind of seeing demands creative exploration, prototypes and experiments, cultural events and experiences, tinkering and invention, trying new things at scale, I want to be part of a movement that embraces the wild permission to do extraordinary things that comes from living in a collapsing society.
My contribution, I hope, will be my words.

 

Of course, we need to not only see, but act. Everywhere in the world, we desperately need to re-imagine radically better lives but the advocacy and enterprises that can make them possible. We not only we need to imagine them fast, we need to imagine them as fast. We need to imagine undertakings that can out-compete the world we were born into through political uprising, economic disruption, risk-taking innovation and above all else, speed.

 

Headlong speed, my friends, is the only way left to say yes to the world.

 

Speed, you see, means everything. Speed means planetary sanity. Speed means justice. Speed means prosperity. Speed means a future for our kids. For potentially hundreds of millions of people, speed means survival itself. Speed is beauty.

 

 We are about to begin the last decade. The time has come to become the people who can first re-imagine and then remake the world in the time we have left. The time is now to seize the future.

Press link for more: The Nearly Now