Let’s have a debate about sea level rise. #auspol #qldpol #climatechange #StopAdani

Let’s have a worthy debate about sea level rise


While there is a worthy debate to be had about what we do to address the threat to our coastlines posed by global sea level rise, there is no longer a worthy debate about whether that threat exists, or what is causing it.

Global sea level rise is the direct result of human-driven global warming as planet-warming greenhouse gases build up in our atmosphere. And, yes — as much as all of us wish it were otherwise — our ongoing dependence on fossil fuels is a big part of the problem.

The basics are easy to understand.

As the oceans warm, seawater expands. As glaciers and ice sheets warm, they melt. To deny these facts is not just to deny climate change.

It is to deny basic physics.

This is precisely what Fred Singer did in his June 8 commentary in The Hill entitled “There’s no need to panic about the rising sea level.” (Tell that, by the way, to those in Miami Beach or Hampton Roads Virginia, in New York City, North Carolina’s Outer Banks, or yes, Washington, D.C., itself.)

Singer is arguably the granddaddy of modern-day climate change denialism.

His latest commentary echoes the same misinformation as his recent Wall Street Journal commentary, “The Sea Is Rising, but Not Because of Climate Change.” It presents a virtual laundry list of discredited climate change denier talking points. No, sea levels aren’t rising at a steady rate — they are in fact accelerating.

The rate of ice sheet melting in Greenland and Antarctica is also accelerating, in part due to warming oceans that erode the ice from beneath, destabilizing it.

These observations fly in the face of those who try to argue that sea level will continue to rise at the same rate, which is why legitimate scientific conclusions are reached not in op-ed pieces such as Singer’s, but through careful peer-reviewed research.

That research shows that sea levels are rising and human-caused climate change is the cause.

Don’t just take our word for it; help yourself to the mountain of scientific literature demonstrating these inescapable conclusions.

Singer indeed knows that he doesn’t have the facts on his side, so he engages in distortion and diversion. For example, he takes a swipe at one of us as an “alarmist,” attacking the “Hockey Stick” curve published more than two decades ago demonstrating that recent warming is unprecedented in at least a thousand years. That work has been overwhelmingly reaffirmed and extended by subsequent work by numerous independent scientific teams. But professional climate change deniers continue to attack the curve because it is an iconic reminder of the profound impact that we are now having on this planet.

Perhaps because of the images of flooding that now permeate news broadcasts around the world as the seas rise and invade our coastlines, we are seeing a renewed attack on climate science: this time to discredit the link between human-caused climate change and sea level rise. Yet, even wealthy stretches of coastal real estate are feeling the pain of increased coastal flooding, the incidence of which has doubled over the past 30 years.

It is time to pivot and confront this head on. Even Singer’s opinion pieces do not deny the fact that sea level is rising. This is an issue that we can all get behind. Ensuring a secure coastal economy will benefit Americans of every stripe. If in doubt, just take in the symbolism painted inside of the dome of the U.S. Capitol building next time you walk through and note Minerva (science), Neptune (marine), and Mercury (commerce).

It is high time for all of us to roll up our sleeves and address the gradual yet persistent attack that is bearing down on our coastlines, an attack that unquestionably threatens the safety and security of the United States. Without strong policy to quickly slow and eventually eliminate fossil fuel emissions, the seas will rise faster and faster, resulting in trillions of dollars of economic damages and displacement of hundreds of millions of refugees from every coastal city in the world. That may sound daunting — and the implications of scientific research sometimes are — but scientific knowledge also can be incredibly empowering. Allow us to empower you to have the courage to pivot and confront.

Michael E. Mann is distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center, and author of four books, including “The Hockey Stick and The Climate Wars” and most recently, “The Madhouse Effect” with Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles.

Andrea Dutton is an assistant professor of geological sciences at the University of Florida and a leading expert on rising seas. She was featured in a recent PBS NOVA documentary on climate change. Rolling Stone named her one of 25 People Shaping the Future in Tech, Science, Medicine, Activism and More.

Press link for more: The Hill


It’s cheaper to reduce global warming than to adapt to it. #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Nature study shows it’s cheaper to reduce global warming than to adapt to it.

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class stalls in Maryland flash flood

One of the main objections that critics of global warming mitigation measures often cite is that they cost too much.

A new study in the journal Nature takes issue with that conclusion.

Several studies since 1991 have concluded that it is cheaper to develop new technologies to mitigate climate change than it will be to adapt to it. What those studies weren’t able to do was estimate the amount of the savings.

CHECK OUT: Most-accurate climate-change models suggest worst effects on global weather

Now a new study in the journal Nature, published last month, has put a price tag on it. The study concludes that it will cost about $20 trillion less to work toward mitigating global warming ahead of time—for example, by providing incentives to sell electric cars and solar installations—than it will to adapt to the effects of global warming later.

Like other studies that came before it, the Nature study uses gross domestic product to measure both the costs of mitigating global warming and the cost of adapting to it.

The study modeled the impact of historical temperature changes on GDP in 165 countries from 1960 to 2010, and extrapolated the results out to 2100, and found that the more temperature changes can be limited, the greater the economic benefits will be.

Global carbon dioxide emissions, 1850-2030 [CO2 Information Analysis Center, World Energy Outlook]

The $20 trillion figure is the difference in cost between limiting global temperatures increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius instead of 2 degrees. The cost is a little more than one year of U.S. GDP, or a little more than a quarter of the world’s annual GDP.

The study estimates that 71 percent of countries—those which contain 90 percent of the world’s population—are likely to be better off economically by mitigating climate change than by having to adapt to it. Those countries generally are poorer than those that would have lower benefits.

At current projections of global warming, based on existing national commitments to mitigation efforts, the study’s authors find that GDP would fall 15 to 25 percent in real (2010) dollars by 2100, if global temperatures were allowed to rise 2 degrees Celsius.

DON’T MISS: Clean energy won’t happen, climate change will be bad: a contrarian perspective

“My gut feeling is that our numbers—as large as they are—could even be a lower bound on the overall damages,” said Marshall Burke, a climate scientist at Stanford, and the study’s main author.

GDP does not account for so-called “external” economic effects such as the health costs of air pollution from burning fossil fuels, so the savings from mitigating global warming could be even higher.

READ THIS: Is ‘Drawdown’ the climate-change action map the world needs?

Among the new assumptions in the study are that adverse weather effects from global warming, such as flooding, don’t just affect the economy in a given year. Their effects linger and push down GDP for years afterward. Storms such as Hurricanes Andrew, Irma, and Katrina exemplify how major weather events magnified by global warming can have long-lasting effects on the economy.

In a counterpoint to the article other researchers note that savings from increasing energy efficiency and expansion of renewables is also not baked into the GDP numbers. Whether those are attributable to mitigation or adaptation might be a question open to debate.

Press link for more: Green Car Report

The Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label: a new approach to protect the environment #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani Stop #ClimateChange

Finding 1000 solutions is not enough!

Now, we’ve created a label to bridge the gap between economy and ecology!

But how did we get there?

Well, the past few months have been quite restless…

Let’s take a quick look back: in November 2017, at the Bonn Climate Change Conference, we launched the World Alliance for Efficient Solutions to bring together the main actors involved in developing, financing or promoting products, services, processes and technologies that protect the environment in a profitable way.

This was the moment we unveiled our challenge to find 1000 clean, efficient and profitable solutions.

Since then, Bertrand Piccard and the entire Solar Impulse Foundation team have travelled the world in the search for solutions: India, Mexico, Denmark, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Morocco, UAE… We’ve visited universities, startup incubators, accelerators, research centers, innovation labs, and attended many conferences and events. We’ve found countless clean and profitable solutions.

But still, we wanted to go one step further.

We needed a clear symbol.

The Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label

Today, we’re proud to announce the launch of the Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label. For the first time, a label assesses the economic profitability of solutions that protect the environment. This label serves as a new and credible sign that can be applied to products, processes and services and serves as an indication of quality to those looking to implement clean solutions, and affords a competitive edge to the innovators behind them. Each solution goes through a strict assessment process performed by independent experts. To be labelled, solutions must reach high evaluation of the following criteria:

Imagine the impact that this will have on the world! 1000 clean and efficient solutions with a label proving their profitability. They have the potential to create jobs and boost clean economic growth, while also reducing CO2 emissions and preserving natural resources. This is much more than ecological, it is logical!

Dr Bertrand Piccard, Initiator and Chairman of the Solar Impulse Foundation

By launching the Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label, Bertrand Piccard speaks the language of politicians, investors, and business leaders: employment, profitability, and economic growth.

Each time I speak of protecting the environment to heads of state or government officials, they tell me that it is too expensive. This label is a strong message to them: solutions exist, and represent the biggest market opportunity of our century. An opportunity which cannot be missed.

The overall process, from the submission form of the solution to the attribution of the label, will take approximately 4 weeks, and is divided as such:

What’s next? We’ve now opened our submission platform for solutions and we’ve started assessing them. 356 companies have already submitted a solution and 17 have been granted the Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label! In 2019, Bertrand Piccard will undertake a new round the world journey to present the 1000 labelled solutions to decision-makers in businesses and governments. This aims at encouraging them to adopt more ambitious environmental targets and energy policies, which are necessary to unlock the full potential of labelled solutions.

Now you can join Solar Impulse Foundation’s new challenge. Submit your solution and get the chance to be part of the 1000 Solutions portfolio!

Press link for more: Solar Impulse

Litigation Is the weapon of choice for #ClimateChange warriors #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange

Climate Change Warriors’ Latest Weapon of Choice Is Litigation

By Jeremy Hodges, Lauren Leatherby and Kartikay Mehrotra

May 24, 2018

In the global fight against climate change, one tool is proving increasingly popular: litigation.

From California to the Philippines, activists, governments and concerned citizens are suing the biggest polluters and national governments over the effects of climate change at a break-neck pace.

“The courts are our last, best hope at this moment of irreversible harm to our planet and life on it,” said Julia Olson, an attorney for Our Children’s Trust, a legal challenge center in the U.S. that is involved in climate change litigation across 13 countries, including the U.S., Pakistan and Uganda.

The wave of activity is about channeling the fervor of a social movement to drive change via the legal system. The arguments vary based on both culture and the law. In the U.S., home to more cases than anywhere else in the world, many recent suits involve plaintiffs seeking to protect climate-change rules passed under former President Barack Obama. In Europe, it’s largely governments being hammered over pollution-reduction plans that fall short of EU targets.

“The political branches of government have had decades to stop destroying our climate system; now only court-ordered mandates will stop the destruction our governments are perpetuating, and increasingly supporting,” said Olson, whose primary dispute is on behalf of a group of American teenagers suing the federal government to end U.S. dependence on fossil fuels. Both the Obama and Trump administrations have sought to end the case and been rebuffed.

California is quickly becoming ground zero for climate cases in the U.S., where eight cities and counties are suing oil companies to recover the cost of infrastructure needed to protect against rising sea levels. Cases by San Francisco and Oakland face a motion to dismiss the lawsuit today in a California federal court, where Chevron Corp., BP Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhilips and Royal Dutch Shell Plc will argue that remedies and penalties for climate change are a matter for lawmakers, not a single judge.

The topic came up twice during BP’s annual meeting on Monday. Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley declined to disclose certain climate targets, or even answer some questions from activist investors, and cited the risk of legal action.

“You want to get us to make statements here in front of you that you can document that will lead to a class action,” Dudley said in response to one question from the Union of Concerned Scientists about pending U.S. litigation against energy companies. Such legal actions are “a business model in the United States,” he said.

The climate lawsuits aren’t all about cleaning up the environment. Last year, 27 percent of U.S. climate-related cases—largely those brought by companies—opposed protections, according to the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, which keeps a database on climate-change cases. Among those: a dispute filed by ExxonMobil against the states of Massachusetts and New York that called for the end of an investigation into Exxon’s knowledge and disclosure of climate change-related risks. The case was thrown out in March by a federal judge in New York.

City of New York v. BP

United States

New York City

The case: In January, New York City sued five of the world’s biggest oil companies, arguing the companies are financially liable for damage caused by climate change to the city and its population. New York followed eight California cities and counties who filed similar cases in the previous year.

Latest: The oil companies filed a motion to dismiss the suit, arguing that the case should be heard under federal law and that federal law doesn’t have the authority to rule on issues that focus on global economy and national security. A dismissal hearing will take place in June.

More cases are using human rights arguments, in which plaintiffs make the case that climate change has threatened or taken away populations’ basic rights to shelter, health, food, water and even life. From Ugandan children who sued their government for failing to protect them from climate change to hundreds of elderly Swiss women who sued the country for failure to shield them from climate change’s effects, human rights cases are a small but growing approach to this type of litigation.

Human rights suits

The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines


The case: While not technically a legal fight, The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines’ inquiry is probing whether 47 major fossil fuel companies can be held culpable for accelerating climate change and how climate change impacts have affected basic human rights of Filipinos.

Latest: In March, scientists and lawyers gave evidence in the first public hearings. Several more hearings in Europe and the U.S. are planned in the months ahead.

Some cases may not focus on climate change itself but center on factors that lead to climate change, like air pollution. These lawsuits often involve an NGO or an individual taking a city or district to court to claim that the air quality laws are being breached, forcing authorities to take action.

The strategy has paid off particularly well in the U.K. and Germany, where suits have forced significant government policy changes. Germany is leading the way. Currently 28 German cities are subject to cases over illegal levels of pollution. On May 17, The European Commission said it was taking six countries—Germany, France, U.K., Italy, Hungary and Romania—to the European Court of Justice over their failure to tackle air pollution.

Suits addressing causes of climate change

DUH v Land Baden-Württemberg


The case: The Deutsche Umwelthilfe, or DUH, an environmental group, sued municipalities across Germany, pressuring them to enforce EU air pollution limits they’ve exceeded for years. Regional courts in Stuttgart and Dusseldorf ruled in favor of banning diesel cars in 2017 as the best and quickest way to cut emissions in busy city centers.

Latest: In February, Germany’s top administrative court upheld the original decisions, paving the way for bans on diesel cars. The landmark ruling could speed up the process of removing the worst-polluting cars from the country’s roads.

Governments fighting climate change litigation reflect a power struggle. Courts could force adjustments to the political platforms that got some of these officials elected. In the U.S., the Trump administration has said a victory for those cities demanding damages would undermine the government’s “strong economic and national security interests in promoting the development of fossil fuels,” while possibly threatening its position on the Paris climate accord.

That’s the official argument to dismiss the cases. But for attorneys committed to defending the environment in court, that’s the very point.

“It’s a legitimate method of seeking to not only draw attention to the issue of climate change but really hold governments to account because it’s already causing harm to people around the world,” said Sophie Marjanac, a lawyer at the activist law firm ClientEarth, which is behind several European pollution suits. These cases “hold elected officials to account, especially when those officials are breaching fundamental human rights.”

Press link for more: Bloomberg

Hit Fossil Fuels Where It Hurts – the Bottom Line #Divest #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #StopPalmer

The divestment movement is having a big impact, and holdouts may be missing their one great chance to really change the world.

By Bill McKibben

Supporters of a bill to stop New York state from investing state pensions in fossil fuels, Albany, NY, 2017.

To date, endowments and portfolios worth more than $6 trillion have divested in part or in whole from fossil fuels. AP/REX Shutterstock

An envelope arrived from the New York State Comptroller’s office the other day, with a check inside for $108. Apparently I’d left it sitting in some bank account years ago, and now it was being returned. Free money is good fun, and where we live $108 buys you the best dinner in town, which my wife and I enjoyed, raising a small toast to the efficiency of the Empire State’s comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli.

But only a small toast. Because as smoothly as DiNapoli seems to perform the basic duties of his office, he has so far whiffed on the one great chance he’ll ever have to really affect the world. He’s continuing to invest billions of pension dollars in big oil, even as the industry refuses to grapple seriously with global warming. Because of his high-profile insistence on “engagement” with the industry, he’s become a stand-in for a thousand other political “leaders” who can’t quite summon the nerve necessary to break with the fossil-fuel industry, even when science and economics are making it clear where the future must lie. It’s so much easier to keep doing what you’ve always done – but at this point inertia is the planet’s most powerful enemy, and DiNapoli is threatening to become inertia’s avatar.

The movement for fossil-fuel divestment was partly born in the pages of this magazine six years ago, when an essay of mine went unexpectedly viral. That piece showed the new math of climate change: The big oil, gas and coal producers had reserves in the ground that contained five times the carbon any scientist said we could burn and stay below the catastrophic temperature rises that the planet’s governments had pledged to avoid. That is, the business plans of Exxon and Chevron and Shell and the rest committed them to wrecking the planet – simple math, simple physics and simple morality. If it’s wrong to wreck the planet, it’s wrong to profit from the wreckage.

That argument was enough to get the ball rolling. Students at hundreds of campuses around the world launched divestment campaigns that echoed the one against South African apartheid a generation ago. The first school to divest was tiny Unity College in Maine, which pulled its $13 million endowment in November 2012. By this winter, the University of California system, biggest in the hemisphere, had joined, along with a third of the universities in the U.K., and the World Council of Churches, and dozens of Christian denominations and Catholic diocese, as well as many of the biggest foundations on the planet. Even the Rockefeller heirs, who trace their fortune to the original oil baron, have sold their shares. By now endowments and portfolios worth more than $6 trillion have divested in part or in whole, and it’s become by far the biggest effort of its kind in history.

And intriguingly, most of the recent converts have been moved as much by self-interest as by moral fervor. As the years have gone by, the fossil-fuel sector has dramatically underperformed the rest of the economy. That’s because it’s under increasing and unrelenting pressure from new technology – the ever-cheaper solar and wind power that everyone can see will take a huge chunk of their business away. So now it’s also the largest insurance company in France that’s divested, and the sovereign wealth fund of Norway (the biggest pool of money on Earth, earned from North Sea oil wells). When New York City decided to divest in January, the press conference was held in a building flooded by Hurricane Sandy – clearly fear of climate change was the key reason for divestment, and they lit up the Empire State Building green that night to make the point. But the green, as Mayor Bill de Blasio was quick to point out, also stood for the money the city was saving its pensioners by ensuring that they weren’t stuck paying for the fossil-fuel decline.

There have been holdouts, of course – Harvard, run by a “board of overseers” drawn heavily from Wall Street, refused to participate officially. And then there’s DiNapoli, who’s played the most intriguing role. So far he’s failed to divest the state’s $200 billion in pension funds from fossil fuels despite a demand from New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo that he do so, and despite the example set by the state’s biggest city, whose own comptroller, Scott Stringer, has become an outspoken advocate for divestment. Though DiNapoli clearly has the political backing to divest the state’s holdings, he’s continued down a different path, promising to “engage” with the fossil-fuel companies instead, to somehow turn them green. In the meantime, it’s business as usual. In fact, the state continues to run up its investment in Exxon, filthiest of them all – it’s now the fifth-biggest investment in New York state’s portfolio.

Shareholder engagement with companies can be a powerful tool: Big investors routinely use their clout to argue for, say, more diverse representation on company boards of directors, or for modest changes in the way they do their business. But it’s an approach that’s never made much sense with the fossil-fuel industry, where the problem is not some flaw in the business plan. The flaw is the business plan. Exxon exists to dig up hydrocarbons and sell them so they can be burned. DiNapoli apparently thought he could force real change: For years he and others sponsored resolutions at Exxon annual meetings demanding reforms. Finally, a year ago, the company grudgingly agreed to prepare a “climate risk report” showing how the fight against global warming might stress their business model. It wasn’t much of a victory, but it seemed like something to show for all that work. DiNapoli, being a politician, issued a press release praising himself. “Exxon’s decision demonstrates that investors have the power to hold corporations accountable and to compel them to address our very real climate-related concerns,” he said.

But he and his like-minded colleagues were being played for fools. Exxon took just a few weeks to prepare the report, and when it came out it showed the company hadn’t changed one whit. Climate change posed essentially no risk to its future, Exxon insisted. It still planned on burning almost all its reserves, and indeed would go on exploring for new oil. It was Lucy with the football, and DiNapoli was Charlie Brown lying on his back. To add insult to injury, the industry arranged for the Trump administration to lift a block on offshore oil drilling along the Atlantic coast – including Long Island, where DiNapoli began his political career. As an environmentalist.

So the question is, what happens next. Exxon, for instance, has another shareholder meeting later this month. Big investors have already announced that they find Exxon’s climate-risk report “defective.” It’s possible that they’ll just ask for another one and the charade will carry on for a few more years, and a few more tenths of a degree, and a few more inches of sea-level rise. It’s a dance everyone has grown comfortable with. The Independent Petroleum Association of America recently wrote a letter to the Financial Times saying “active engagement will always be the practical choice for investors,” the operative word being “always.”

A flooded street in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria last year. Catastrophic climate events have been on the rise, and with carbon dioxide hitting levels not seen in 15 million years, DiNapoli and other leaders in a position to divest from fossil fuels need to act now. Thais Llorca/EPA-EFE/REX Shutterstock

If you wonder why the oil industry doesn’t mind the DiNapolis of the world using it as an occasional punching bag, it’s because the alternative – divestment – truly scares them. In the past six months, a pair of academic studies have demonstrated that the six-year campaign has had two powerful effects. One of those studies showed that divestment had dragged the issue of climate change, and the oil industry’s culpability for it, squarely into the political mainstream, “dramatically alter[ing] the climate change debate.” That was our aim as campaigners from the start – we wanted to help take away fossil fuel’s social license. But even we were surprised to read the other study, which demonstrated that divestment had actually begun to cost the industry real money. As the researchers put it, “We’ve concluded that investors, and the market as a whole, perceive divestment as integral to the long-term valuation of the fossil fuel industry. Lower share prices increase the costs of capital for the fossil fuel industry, which in turn decreases their ability to explore new resources.” Which is just what the physicist ordered.

The oil industry is slowly being cornered, like the tobacco industry before it. Just as they once promised to go “Smoke Free,” towns across the country are now pledging to go “Fossil Free,” banning new fossil-fuel projects and committing to 100 percent renewable energy for all. New York City is suing the five biggest oil companies for the damages that came with climate change; so are San Francisco and Seattle, where the county executive put the case plainly: “The companies that profited the most from fossil fuels should help bear the costs of managing these disasters,” he said, and it’s hard to disagree – or to add up the potential damages. Sea-level rise alone is likely to be costing the planet tens of trillions (with a T) of dollars by the end of the century – and even at their most profitable back in the dirty old days, oil companies didn’t make that kind of money. Cities are likely to be underwater, but so are investments.

So the moment has come when the steady stream of divestment announcements needs to turn into a flood. And Tom DiNapoli might still turn out to be a bit of a hero. After all, no one can claim to have tried longer and harder to make Exxon and its ilk see the light. And he’s still trying: Reached for comment, DiNapoli’s office told me, “Given Exxon Mobil’s disappointing 2 degree scenario report, we continue to push the company to adapt to the growing low carbon global economy.” But in March, DiNapoli and Cuomo announced the creation of the Decarbonization Advisory Panel, which will evaluate divestment and other strategies for dealing with climate change. Its first meeting was in early May, and when DiNapoli made a recent campaign stop in Manhattan’s West Village, journalists reported that divestment was his office’s “goal,” but that DiNapoli said it needed to be done carefully to avoid damaging pensioners: “We have to balance it. I’m going to approach it in a very deliberate way,” he said.

Which would be fine with the divestment movement, which from its start has asked only that leaders commit to selling stock, and take a maximum of five years to do it. But with carbon dioxide hitting levels not seen in 15 million years, DiNapoli and others need to get the ball rolling right this minute, standing up to the anti-science policy pouring out of Washington. What matters is the message that he and others decide to send, the level of courage these leaders muster. Because it’s not DiNapoli’s fault that Exxon won’t budge – it turns out that the tiger in the tank simply won’t change his stripes. It’s only DiNapoli’s fault if he won’t budge, he and the others like him who cling to the old normal. You wouldn’t have guessed the state comptroller of New York might make a palpable difference in how high the seas will eventually rise or how many species will persist into the next century. But he and a thousand others like him could – and it would be a gift worth far more than that $108.

Press link for more: Rollingstone

UN: Progress on Emission Reduction Too Slow #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateChange

Global Economy Improving, but Progress on Emission Reductions too Slow – UN | UNFCCC

UN Climate Change News, 18 May 2018 – A new UN report shows that whilst short-term prospects for the world economy are improving, with the world gross product expected to expand by 3.2 per cent in both 2018 and 2019, a lot more needs to be done to avert a major economic downturn linked to unchecked climate change.

The study by the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs points towards a 1.4 percent increase of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 due to a combination of accelerated economic growth, relatively cheap fossil fuels and weak energy efficiency efforts.

“While recent evidence points to progress in decoupling emissions growth from GDP growth in some developed economies, it is still manifestly insufficient. The rate of global energy efficiency gains has been slowing since 2015, reaching 1.7 percent in 2017—half the rate required to remain on track with the Paris Agreement”, say the authors of the report ‘World Economic Situation and Prospects as of mid-2018.’

Improving energy efficiency and a radical shift to low carbon for the world’s markets is integral to meeting the objectives set forth by the Paris Agreement, which aims to respond to climate change by keeping a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees C.

The authors of the report say that several steps can be taken to notably align the rate of energy efficiency gains with the goals of the Paris Agreement. These include the reform of fossil fuel subsidies and taxes, deploying renewable energy technology, and decreasing the cost of renewable energy generation.

Warnings of Climate Impacts Setting In

Man-made greenhouse gas emissions account for 2016 and 2017 being the two hottest years on record.

Evidence from the report states that a rising global average temperature could translate into a slower growth of per capita output in countries with a high average temperature, most of which are low-income countries.

The sectors of agricultural production, labor productivity, weather dependent industry, capital accumulation and human health are most at risk for disruption from an unpredictable climate.

Warmer climates create shifting rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, and an increased frequency of extreme weather events. Respectively, these events can move the locations of farmlands, endanger Small Island Developing States, and threaten large population centers.

Policy Reform Crucial to Meeting Paris Agreement Goals

The report says that a reform of fossil fuel policy could increase the rate of energy efficiency gains.

Additionally, the use of new technologies such as wind, solar, electric vehicles and battery storage is critical.

In 2017, renewables accounted for 61 percent of all newly installed net power capacity in 2017 with solar alone encompassing 38 percent.

Falling costs for solar and wind power supported the economic viability for several renewable energy projects.

But even with the newly-installed capacity, renewable energy today only accounts for 19 percent of power capacity and 12.1 percent of power generation around the globe.

At the current rate of change, the pace of power transition would take approximately 55 years for the share of renewables to reach 50 percent of earth’s total energy capacity – too late to ensure the Paris Agreement’s goals can be met.

Read the full report here

Earth Experiences 400th Consecutive Warmer-than-Average Month #auspol #ClimateChange #StopAdani

The last time the world saw a cooler-than-average month was in 1984, according to new reports from NOAA.

The Earth has now had 33 years of rising and above-average temperatures.

According to recent reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s monthly global climate report, this marks the 400th consecutive month of warmer-than-usual monthly averages.

The last time the Earth had a cooler-than-average month was in 1984 when US President Ronald Reagan was in office for his second term, and the Apple Macintosh personal computer had just gone on sale.

The NOAA report also said that the month of April had the third-highest temperatures of any April in NOAA’s recorded history. NOAA started gathering climate data in 1880.

Researchers from around the world have no problem with pointing to specific causes — namely that of human impact on global climate change.

“It’s mainly due to anthropogenic (human-caused) warming,” NOAA climatologist Ahira Sanchez told CNN. “Climate change is real, and we will continue to see global temperatures increase in the future.”

While there have been efforts to reduce overall CO2 emissions, there still remains pushback from supporters of fossil fuels. There’s also a growing reliance on fossil fuels coming from developing nations with rapidly expanding populations, economies, and technologies. However, those developing nations still don’t use as much fossil fuels when compared to global powers like the U.S.

“We live in and share a world that is unequivocally, appreciably and consequentially warmer than just a few decades ago, and our world continues to warm,” said NOAA climate scientist Deke Arndt. “Speeding by a ‘400’ sign only underscores that, but it does not prove anything new.”

Climatologists have used the 20th-century average as a benchmark for their measurements. That allows them to ‘goal post’ when they look through climate data. This type of benchmarking also gives them the opportunity to account for climate variability.

“The thing that really matters is that, by whatever metric, we’ve spent every month for several decades on the warm side of any reasonable baseline,” Arndt said.

These rising global temperatures have hit certain areas harder than others, the report detailed. The heat was most unusually concentrated in Europe. The continent had its warmest April in recorded history. The heat wave also affected Australia and gave it its second-warmest month ever recorded.

There were even particular portions of Asia that saw extreme heat. One particular case was in southern Pakistan. The town of Nawabshah hit an incredibly high 122.4 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly 50.5 Celsius) on April 30. Climatologists are currently trying to determine if this is the hottest April temperature on record for the entire planet.

There was also another milestone detailed in the NOAA monthly report. Carbon dioxide readings — the gas most closely linked to global warming — hit its highest levels in recorded history. Carbon dioxide now has over 410 parts per million. NOAA’s numbers aren’t the only ones being leveraged against this new data. According to Scripps Institute of Oceanography, this high amount of carbon dioxide is the highest amount its been in the past 800,000 years — comparing modern numbers with those found through extensive climatological research.

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There will be floods — and We’re not ready for them #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdanih

There will be floods — and Ontario’s not ready for them

How can we prepare for worst-case-scenario storms when climate change means we can’t accurately predict what the worst-case scenario is?

Flooding in downtown Toronto in July 2013. (Dominic Chan /CP)

The audience at the Provincial Flood Forecasting and Warning Workshop sat silently as the rug was pulled out from under them.

Municipal and provincial staff — many of them forecasters and emergency managers — were gathered at a Brampton conference centre to hear Gord Miller, Ontario’s former environmental commissioner, talk about climate change. What he had to say challenged many of the established practices and assumptions that had guided their careers.

His point was this: climate change has altered the fundamentals of the weather system. All of our old predictions — which were used to build thousands of kilometres of road, drainage pipe, and sewers — are inadequate. The changes to the weather system are so profound that old models and methods can’t accurately predict what’s going to happen; new models predict catastrophes so great that preparing for them could lead to bankruptcy.

“I don’t think here in Canada we understand what’s coming,” said Miller during the talk. “We have no predictability any more. One has to look from the perspective that all culverts are undersized.

All sewers are undersized.”

When the floor at the convention centre was opened for questions, it took a moment before the crowd was ready to ask any.

They trickled in slowly.

One man noted that Hurricane Hazel — the 1954 storm that ripped across southern Ontario, leading to 81 deaths and millions of dollars in property damage — has guided the development of Toronto’s floodplain maps and infrastructure decisions ever since. Surely that would prepare the city for what was to come.

Miller pointed to the example of Hurricane Harvey, a storm that devastated Houston in August 2017. Climate change almost certainly made it more intense. Severe storms will be more intense now than they were in 1954.

Paulin Coulibaly, scientific director of FloodNet, a research consortium tackling the problem of flooding, agrees: the storms we’re facing are unlike anything that’s come before in terms of intensity and duration.

“We were relying on the historical information. Now we cannot rely on the historical information, because it is not enough to tell us what will happen in the future,” says Coulibaly. “We have to rely on future information.”

Researchers rely on climate-change projections, which vary wildly because of the complexity of the science and the lack of certainty over how much the world will reduce its carbon emissions. Coulibaly and his team are tackling the difficult task of adapting those projections into data that can guide infrastructure decisions — a process where small variations can cost millions of dollars.

* * *

Carol Solis lost everything in the flood.

It started with six inches of sewage in her basement in May 2014. And that was just the start of her problems. After the mess was cleaned up, she went on vacation; while she was away, the August 2014 storm brought 24 inches of sewage into the basement of her Burlington home, ruining thousands of dollars in clothes and possessions.

She was able to recoup some of the value of her lost possessions, but the claims process was long and arduous: the insurance paperwork took nearly two years to complete.

A storm in August 2014 brought 24 inches of sewage into the basement of Carol Solis’s Burlington home.

“It’s bad enough to have a sewage flood, but the aftermath — people don’t realize unless they’ve gone through this. I’ve had a business for years in marketing and training, and I was taken away from my business to do this, because I had to do proof of loss for the insurance company, in the meantime just trying to wrap my head around the fact that I’ve lost 80 per cent of my whole life belongings,” says Solis.

More than 6,000 homes were damaged during the storm. The City of Burlington was forced to grapple with just how something like this could have happened.

“We use the same old infrastructure that our parents did — the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, we’re still on that infrastructure,” says Dave Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

The limits of flood plans, though, were also revealed. Many infrastructure designs, including those in Burlington, are based on a 100-year storm scenario that involves 99.8 millimetres of rain in 10 hours — but that August, 191 millimetres of rain fell in the course of 10 hours on just one area of the city. The storm was less like their worst-case scenario, and more like Hurricane Hazel — a weather event so devastating, the name was retired.

The 60-minute intensity of the cell, measured by radar, was 56 millimetres per hour — Hazel’s was 53 millimetres per hour. The 2014 event dumped 170 millimetres in seven hours over 25 square kilometres, according to a report from Conservation Halton; Hurricane Hazel brought 212 millimetres in 12 hours. Although its area and duration were much smaller, the 2014 Burlington event was, at its peak, more intense than Hazel.

Hazel, Miller says, was a major hydrologic event “from a period of time, from a climate that we no longer have.”

“The hurricanes are more severe than they’ve ever been before, and severe hurricanes are occurring more frequently. One of them will go up the Mississippi Valley and hit southern Ontario, and almost certainly, it’ll be worse than Hurricane Hazel.”

Radar data showing rainfall during the August 2014 storm in Burlington. Source: Conservation Halton.

* * *

There is a wide consensus that climate change is affecting extreme weather, but the connection is still being investigated, so it’s tricky to predict weather effects with accuracy. Global climate-change models provide the best information, says Coulibaly, but scaling them down to the local level introduces uncertainty.

“The predictions are not perfect — they’re not good enough,” says Coulibaly. “The changes in the precipitation for 2020, 2030, 2050 will not be the same depending on how we behave today. If we do nothing, what we see in 2030 will be different.”

In 2005, Coulibaly and Xiaogang Shi, a hydrology researcher, were asked to study highway drainage in Ontario and evaluate how it would be affected by the increased rainfall associated with climate change.

Using global climate models downscaled to the local level, the pair produced a report that recommended that the diameter of all drainage pipes and sewers be increased by 16 per cent (for reference, a toonie is about 17.5 per cent bigger in diameter than a quarter).

“They did the calculation internally about how much it would cost them. They didn’t tell me the number, but they were very, very concerned about the cost,” says Coulibaly. “If you look at the number of structures they have to replace or upgrade, it’s huge. In general, people see a change of 10 or 15 per cent. It’s not adding 10 or 15 per cent of the money — a 10 per cent change can cost you close to 40 to 45 per cent more money.”

In other words: increasing the capacity of our storm infrastructure will break budgets that are already broken. Coulibaly and Shi’s report recommended that all drainage infrastructure be increased across a province that already has an infrastructure deficit.

Much of the province’s infrastructure falls under the jurisdiction of municipalities. In 2008, municipalities across Ontario came together to evaluate the state of their infrastructure — things like drinking water, sewage and waste disposal, roads and bridges, and public transit. They estimated that the total infrastructure deficit, based on infrastructure at the end of its lifecycle, was roughly $60 billion. That number hasn’t been comprehensively updated, but while there has been some investment, Pat Vanini, executive director of the Association of Municipalities Ontario, says, it falls well short of what’s needed.

“There’s progress, but we’re not eroding enough of that gap,” says Vanini. “If you can’t do the maintenance, it’s like if you’re doing your roof — you know what the asset’s worth to replace it, but if you let it slip and you let the ice build up or the leaves gather in the gutters, all that makes the life expectancy of the roof less.” This past spring and summer were difficult for Ontario municipalities. Heavy rains flooded roads and bridges, damaging infrastructure and adding to that tally.

“I know when I was travelling the province, the number of roads and culverts that were washed out in rural Ontario was significant. That in itself would add even more burden, because those weren’t necessarily anticipated events,” says Vanini.

Miller argues that we need to assume that all predictions are inadequate if we’re serious about preparing for climate change.

What he’s arguing will mean a seismic shift for cities everywhere. Infrastructure decisions are based on forecasting years into the future, but dramatic weather changes mean those forecasts are based on assumptions that are no longer sound. But to accept this would mean acknowledging that the work done thus far has been inadequate, and that projects currently underway are based on flawed premises. Miller suggests that in addition to designing for bigger storms, we need to expect that infrastructure will fail: buy generators to cope with power outages, purchase boats to cross flooded roads, and use sandbags to keep out advancing waters.

* * *

Researchers are still investigating how climate change is affecting storms. Temperature plays a role — each degree of warming increases air’s water capacity by 7 per cent. And the jet stream — high-level currents that encircle the Earth and carry weather systems — is changing in ways that are still being studied. Jet streams are high-altitude currents that move weather systems across the map. Sometimes, they are straight and fast; other times, they are slow and wavy. During slow and wavy periods, weather systems tend to linger, bringing long droughts or periods of heavy rainfall.

“What is changing is we’re seeing those wavy patterns more often now. They’re not something new — it’s just that we’re seeing a change in the frequency of those kinds of patterns,” says Jennifer Francis, a researcher with the Rutgers University department of marine and coastal sciences.

“Most of our infrastructure has been built to accommodate the kind of conditions that we’ve been used to for the last several decades. That might be the size of pipes used to drain stormwater from the street. They’re just too small now, because we know that we’re getting heavier downpours. When it does rain, it tends to rain harder,” says Francis.

Another significant factor is the role played by human development, which has decimated wetlands in Ontario. For example, in Toronto, Ashbridge’s Bay — formerly a large wetland on Lake Ontario — was paved over in the early 20th century to make way for industrial development.

“We think prosperity is paving it over and cementing it,” says Phillips. “That raindrop that falls on a very dry Hamilton or a very dry Toronto becomes a flood drop because it falls on a hard surface.”

Hurricane Hazel caused so much damage largely because rivers overtopped banks, and homes were built on floodplains then, says Phillips. Today, storm damage is generally the result of overloaded infrastructure — drainage pipes that aren’t big enough, water treatment plants stretched to capacity, and sewers that overflow. Concentrated, slow-moving storms are more likely to overwhelm such systems.

That’s just what happened in Solis’s basement, when raw sewage backed up as a result of torrential rains. There are devices, like sump pumps and backflow valves, that can help alleviate flooding, but those were not typically installed in older homes like hers, Solis says.

“Inadequate funding has created a $6.8 billion stormwater infrastructure deficit in Ontario. This financial gap could get even bigger in the future as population growth leads to the creation of more impermeable surfaces and, consequently, worsens runoff,” reads a 2016 report from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.

Indeed, much of the infrastructure in the province has reached the end of its design life, Coulibaly says.

“In Canada, we’re on the crossroads because most of the infrastructure is outdated,” he says. “Most of them were designed a long time ago — more than 50 years. They’re up for replacement, and we’re at the time that replacement means we replace them with a different design number. That means bringing the cost up by 25, 30 — some people say up to 50 per cent more. It’s a tough decision to make, but it’s not a decision we can hide from.”

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My daughter is right: our generation is wrecking the world for hers | #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

My daughter is right: our generation is wrecking the world for hers | Paul Daley

Paul DaleyThu 17 May 2018 12.22 AEST

Those of us gen X-ers in our early to mid-50s inhabit a world that is vastly more dangerous and uncertain than the one we were bequeathed.’ Photograph: Dave Hunt/AAP

The car is where I’ve discovered most about my parenting.

There was that time when I, a very young father, oh-so-briefly and absentmindedly left Number One Daughter in her baby capsule on the roof of the clapped-out Morris.

It all turned out fine.

So much so that she is now about to have her own child.

And there was the time when Number One Son, aged about two, bellowed from the back of the car, “Ahh fuck – you idiot!” I’d just slammed on the brakes, inspiring him to speak with perfect intonation in precise mimicry of … words I may have previously uttered from behind the wheel in a similar situation.

Which brings me to something Number Two Daughter, a nearly-teen, said in the car a few months ago.

“Mum and Dad – I don’t want you to be upset at this or anything,” she began.

She had our attention. “Yes?” came our chorus.

She continued, “OK and when I talk about you in what I’m about to say I don’t actually mean you personally – I mean your generation. OK?”

“Yes … ”

“Well, you’re wrecking the world for my generation.

The world is more unsafe than when you were kids, more and more species are going extinct, there are more refugees and the world is meaner to them, there are more wars, there’s more terrorism and more racism and you haven’t stopped climate change. No offence – but it’s true.

You’re ruining the world.”

For good measure she also threw in something about being priced out of the housing market.

It’s impossible to overstate quite how devastating this was.

Devastating – because it’s mostly true.

Those of us gen Xers in our early to mid-50s inhabit a world that is vastly more dangerous and uncertain than the one we were bequeathed.

Us gen X men were the first generation since federation not to be forced or urged to go to war.

We all had free tertiary education, stable government, a strong national and global economy, reasonable job prospects and security and, despite ridiculous interest rates in the mid-1980s, every prospect of owning our own homes.

In the 1980s our chief global concern was nuclear Armageddon at the tail end of the cold war. Today the daily threat might be China, Iran or North Korea, with the constant, of course, given the bellicosity and unpredictability of Trump, always America. Many Australian conservatives let slip much about their fears of a Trump White House as the beast roared on its way up – his hatred of women and minorities, his temperamental unsuitability, in short all of the things our children so easily identified and empathetically condemned as they would the schoolyard bully. My daughter and her friends talk of Trump constantly as a present and future threat to their world.

Meanwhile, toxic nationalism, in Australia and elsewhere, is more potent than it has been since the world wars, manifesting here in even greater oppression and marginalisation of Indigenous people, and the political vilification of asylum seekers and their banishment to earthy hell. The militarisation of Australian history and culture continues apace at the expense of gentler, more thoughtful forms of patriotism.

Terrorism was frightening for us, though largely in the abstract – a thing that mostly happened elsewhere, and quite rarely, rather than the global and domestic threat it is for our kids. It did not cross our minds when we boarded a plane, attended a big public event – or walked through a mall in the city.

The early science was there for us on climate change and ozone depletion. Governments needed little convincing of their reality and had begun to act. The change was not deliberately contorted, like today, as a matter of belief (despite the science) that divides politics, media and society – and delivers a status quo of stalemate between enlightenment and darkness that bequeaths to our young bleaching reefs, vanishing species and rising sea levels.

Some parents go to great lengths to shield their children from the worst realities of the world – war, famine, the threat of global warming, toxic racism, terrorism. We’d never tried – or wanted – to do that. The days have always began and ended in our homes with radio news and current affairs. There have always (until recently) been daily newspapers, and family conversation has inevitably included a fair amount of domestic and geopolitics. We wanted to raise informed, socially and politically engaged, and caring, young people.

We have tried, as parents and as people engaged with the world, who want to make it and this country better, to argue our causes. Some days there are wins. Others, it feels like progress is stuck in a morass beyond our control, at the whim of those at the very top of the power tree.

I inherited a better world, indeed, a better Australia, than my mother and father. But were I gone tomorrow, I doubt my kids would say the same about their parents.

But I’m not done yet – and I heard everything Number Two Daughter said in the car that day. The one thing I did not hear was any hint of fear. She sounded defiant and courageous. But never afraid. Perhaps that’s one of the things we did get right.

• Paul Daley is a Guardian Australia columnist

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#ClimateChange ‘Global existential risk” Senate Report #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Extract from Senate Report released today.

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2.3 American climate security expert Ms Sherri Goodman described climate change as a ‘direct threat to the national security of Australia’, and a ‘global existential risk’.

Other submissions also recognised climate change as an existential risk, defined as ‘one that threatens the premature extinction of Earth-originating intelligent life or the permanent and drastic destruction of its potential for desirable future development’.

Mr Mark Crosweller, Director General of Emergency Management Australia (EMA), also referred to the ‘existential nature’ of climate change risks.

Climate change viewed as a current threat

2.4 The 2015 United States Department of Defense (US DoD) report mentioned in the terms of reference characterised ‘climate change as a present security threat, not strictly a long-term risk’.

Illustrating this immediacy, Ms Goodman described recent climate-related events:

…we know now that the hurricane train that has come through the United States this fall and the wildfires that we are experiencing are, in part, due to additional climate risks. And we know that the storms that you’ve been experiencing in your part of the world [Australia] now are also attributable, in part, to accelerated climate risks.

The problem also is not a distant one in the future but it’s now.

We are experiencing this in regular sunny-day flooding at military bases in the United States and in changes in the Arctic, forcing the first wave of displaced persons from villages in the Arctic.12

2.5 The Climate Council further stated the effects of climate change ‘are already contributing to increases in the forced migration of people within and between nations, as well as playing a role in heightening social and political tensions, flowing onto conflict and violence’.

2.6 A recent Australian Government report highlighted how Australia is ‘already experiencing the impacts of a changing climate, particularly changes associated with increases in temperature, the frequency and intensity of extreme heat events, extreme fire weather, and drought’.

For example, it noted ‘communities in the Torres Strait