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The Hidden Coral Crisis: Loss of Fish Diversity. #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange

The Hidden Coral Crisis: Loss of Fish Diversity After Bleaching Strikes

Scientists in Australia have documented how the composition of coral species affects the survival of fish populations following bleaching events.

As small fish key to coral health disappear, reefs’ resilience to future catastrophes could decline.

By Todd Woody

April 10, 2018

Todd Woody is executive editor for environment at News Deeply.

A veteran environmental journalist based in California, Todd previously served as editorial director for environment at TakePart, a digital magazine owned by Participant Media.

He formerly was the environment editor at Forbes magazine, a senior editor at Fortune magazine, an assistant managing editor at Business 2.0 magazine and the business editor of the San Jose Mercury News.

He has been a frequent contributor on environmental issues to The New York Times, The Atlantic, Quartz and other publications.

Clown fish at Lizard Island during the 2016 coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef.ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies/Laura Richardson

When coral reefs turn deathly white as ocean temperatures spike, the kaleidoscope of marine life surrounding them dims, as well, becoming more functionally monochromatic and less ecologically diverse, according to researchers who studied a section of the Great Barrier Reef before, during and after a catastrophic coral bleaching event in 2016.

This “biotic homogenization” of fish populations could make coral reefs even less resilient as the frequency of climate change-induced coral bleaching accelerates, said Laura Richardson, lead author of the study published Thursday in the journal Global Change Biology.

Phd Students James Cook University Laura Richardson & Edmond Sacre

“In the case of our study, what we found was that prior to bleaching the fish communities among these different coral habitats varied quite substantially,” said Richardson, who conducted the research as a PhD student at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. “But by six months after the bleaching, the variation among these communities was almost entirely lost. If the abundance of particular species declines, you have less of these fishes carrying out important ecosystem functions.”

For instance, Richardson – now a postdoc at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom – and her colleagues documented declines in populations of damselfish and other small herbivorous fish following a bleaching event in February 2016. Water temperatures rose to 32.8 C (91 F) that month and the marine heat wave persisted for more than eight weeks. Damselfish and similar species are coral cleaners, removing algae and seaweed so that corals can thrive and then revive after a bleaching event.

“If a reef has fewer fishes carrying out particular functional roles or particular tasks in the ecosystem, then when there is ongoing disturbances such as bleaching events or storms, the ecosystem as a whole will be less resilient as they have less insurance to play with,” noted Richardson.

The study is the first to document biotic homogenization on coral reefs. Previous studies have shown that the apparent richness of wildlife in any given ecological community can mask a loss of diversity among ecosystems as species are shuffled due to various pressures, including climate change; this is sometimes called a hidden biodiversity crisis. In research published in 2015, scientists analyzed 29 years of surveys for North Atlantic groundfish that had begun in 1985. The researchers discovered that, off Scotland, “the species identity of colder northern localities increasingly resembles that of warmer southern localities.” The changing composition of fish communities tracked rising ocean temperatures, they noted.

Branching corals and small‐bodied reef fish are often more affected by coral bleaching. Pictured here, a bleached branching acroporid colony with associated reef fish, right next to a healthy (or yet to bleached) Porites colony, on Lizard Island, northern Great Barrier Reef, in January 2016. (ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies/ Laura Richardson)

“As long as species are not globally extinct this homogenization is potentially reversible,” the researchers wrote. “However, this crisis is largely unrecognized, and adds to the challenges already facing marine biodiversity.”

So to the casual snorkeler, even a bleached coral reef might look alive with an abundance of fish. But the numbers hide a uniformity. It’s like walking into a crowded cafe in San Francisco once patronized by artists, activists and surfers. It’s still packed but now everyone works for Twitter and is staring at a MacBook Air.

Richardson and her colleagues’ research has also has broken new ground on how the bleaching of specific species of coral affects the composition of fish populations.

She did not set out to study coral bleaching impacts when she began surveying fish populations or “assemblages” in September 2015 at 16 reef sites surrounding Lizard Island off Australia’s far northeast coast. “I went out to the island to look at how the different communities of coral influence the structure of different habitats,” Richardson said.

She and a colleague would jump in the water and establish survey transacts by attaching yellow tape at one end of a reef. “As the tape rolls out, the person who counts the fish goes first and counts all the fish within a 5m [16ft] belt along that transact,” Richardson said. “And the second person follows and counts the corals along the tape.”

Shortly after the team completed the surveys, scientists issued a warning of a coming bleaching event at the Great Barrier Reef. Richardson returned to Lizard Island in April 2016 to survey the same sites as the bleaching was in full swing.

As waters warm, corals expel their zooxanthellae, the symbiotic single-cell algae that provide them with nutrition and their eye-popping color in exchange for shelter in the coral polyp. Zooxanthellae can turn toxic to corals when water temperatures rise by as little as 1 C (1.8 F).

Bleaching at Lizard Island in 2016. Some species decline and others survive severe bleaching events. (ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies/ Laura Richardson)

Six months after the bleaching episode ended, Richardson made a third trip to Lizard Island in October 2016 for another round of surveys at the 16 sites.

The scientists’ analysis concluded that the types of corals affected by bleaching had more consequence for certain fish species than the percentage of coral cover lost. The surveys from April 2016 showed that bleaching affected 51 percent of coral cover, but that branching corals were particularly hit hard.

“The fishes that we specifically noted that declined were the small-bodied reef fishes like the damselfishes and cardinal fishes that are really dependent on live branching coral for habitat – and they use those live branching coral as refuge from predation by larger reef fishes and also from environmental stresses like sunlight and strong currents,” said Richardson. “The loss of these live branching specialists meant that other fishes were able to take their place and use the reef space.”

The fish that disappeared tended to be small specialist species that filled a specific ecological niche. They were replaced by generalist species that could tolerate the coral ruin left by bleaching.

Richardson cautioned that the Lizard Island surveys offer a “short-term snapshot” of the impact of coral bleaching on fish populations. “Corals are highly dynamic systems and they can change a lot.” Still, she said, “In the paper we advise that managers will benefit by taking note of coral species composition as that’s likely to affect the fishes that you find there and that’s likely to affect the overall resilience of those coral reef ecosystems.”

Press link for more: News Deeply

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Time to abandon economic growth #auspol #qldpol

It’s Time To Abandon Economic Growth As The Only Indicator Of Success

Instead, we need systems that focus on regenerating our planet, and equitably distributing its resources.

The story of mankind that we most like to tell ourselves is one of growth, says economist Kate Raworth at TED 2018 in Vancouver.

We’re all used to that image of the silhouettes, marching forward from ape to fully-upright human. “

“We readily believe that economic progress will take the same shape–an ever-rising line of growth,” Raworth says.

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That, she says, will be a difficult shift to bring about. “We’re financially, politically, and socially addicted to growth,” Raworth says.

Perhaps no one better enshrined our dependence on GDP than the economist Walter Rostow, whose 1960 book, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto outlined the “ideal” trajectory for a country’s development, using a rather blunt airplane metaphor.

Countries prepare for takeoff by building up institutions and banks, which continue to grow until the country truly takes off and reaches peak prosperity and mass consumption. “But this plane is never allowed to land,” Raworth says. “Rostow left us flying into the sunset of mass consumerism.”

In other words, Rostow left no space to imagine a country driven to succeed by any metric other than that of continual growth.

That, Raworth says, has created a system that prioritizes GDP over the health of the planet and the well-being of the people who inhabit it, and that, she says, is fundamentally unsustainable.

“Humanity’s 21st-century challenge is clear: To meet the needs of all people,” Raworth says. “Progress on this goal is not going to be measured by money–we need a dashboard of indicators.”

When Raworth drew up a diagram of how those indicators might interact, it ended up looking like a donut (she wrote a book last year called Donut Economics, explaining her theory).

On the inner ring of this donut are things that are crucial to our survival and our societies: water, energy, food, health, housing, social equity, education, income, and work.

At the outer edge are the potential consequences of achieving these things: climate change, freshwater withdrawals, biodiversity loss, air pollution, ocean acidification, land conversion, nitrogen and phosphorous loading.

Between the two border rings, though, Raworth draws a middle ground she calls “the safe and just space for humanity.”

That safe space falls right between our social foundation (the base layer of resources we need to survive) and our ecological ceiling (the amount of resources we can extract from the world while still allowing it to regenerate).

Currently, we’re overtaxing the Earth’s resources: We’re already seeing the effects of climate change, nitrogen and phosphorous loading, land conversion, and biodiversity loss. Yet at the same time, we’re failing to meet the needs that keep our foundation strong, because our economy is structured in such a way as to funnel resources and wealth toward people who already possess it. Our current growth-driven strategy will only exacerbate this dynamic.

What Raworth is calling for is an “economy that tackles this shortfall and overshoot together, by design.” She imagines implementing regenerative systems at scale–things like universal basic income and renewable energy–while ensuring that our systems and governments prioritizing distributing resources, rather than hoarding them in the name of growth. “If we can harness today’s technology in service of distributive design, we can ensure that healthcare, political voice, financial resources reach and empower people,” she says.

Why is it, Raworth wonders, that we understand that when another human tells us, “I have a growth,” we know that indicates a health failure? “When something tries to grow forever within a healthy, thriving system, it’s a threat to the whole,” she says. “Why do we imagine our economies can buck this trend and grow forever?”

Press link for more Fast Company.com

Sometimes Fighting Climate Change Means Breaking the Law #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Sometimes Fighting Climate Change Means Breaking the Law

By Carolyn KormannApril 3, 2018

Sometimes Fighting Climate Change Means Breaking the Law

Carolyn Kormann

A group of pipeline protesters in Boston’s West Roxbury neighborhood gave new life to an old legal strategy.Photograph by John Tlumack i/ The Boston Globe / Getty

A woman sees a child fall down a well, so she climbs a fence onto private property to save the child’s life. In the unlikely event that the woman were charged with criminal trespassing, her attorney would use a choice-of-evils defense, also known as a necessity defense, to get her acquitted.

He would argue that the child faced an immediate physical threat, and that it was necessary for his client to break the law in order to prevent the child from dying. But what if the threat were something less discrete than a well—the air, the water, the very ground beneath our feet?

What if it imperilled every child in a neighborhood, or on the planet?

Would the necessity defense still hold?

Last week, in a Boston municipal courthouse, thirteen defendants brought that question before Judge Mary Ann Driscoll.

They had been arrested, in 2016, while protesting the construction of a high-pressure natural-gas pipeline in the neighborhood of West Roxbury, and claimed that their acts of civil disobedience—trespassing, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest—were necessary to forestall both local and global threats. In their testimony to Driscoll, some of the defendants focussed on community safety. The pipeline route, they noted, went through densely populated streets, past an active quarry where bedrock is regularly blasted.

According to calculations made for comparable pipelines, an explosion could incinerate an area of at least thirty city blocks.

Others discussed rising greenhouse-gas emissions and the harm that climate change is inflicting on people around the world. Driscoll listened to the defendants silently and, after the last one testified, announced that she found them not guilty—that their actions were justified by reason of necessity.

She acquitted them without so much as an administrative fee.

Traditionally, in the law, necessity has been a narrow defense.

It can be difficult to prove, and is usually limited to cases in which the threat is clear and concrete.

Mark Silverstein, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, told me that, at the start of a civil-disobedience trial, prosecutors often file a motion to bar their opponents from presenting a necessity defense. “They say, ‘Don’t give us any funny business about why you sat in the road; the issue is whether you sat in the road,’ ” Silverstein explained. But that hasn’t stopped protesters from trying anyway.

One common strategy, Silverstein said, is to pursue a jury nullification, in which a jury returns a not-guilty verdict, despite clear and indisputable evidence to the contrary, because the jurors find the charges unjust. In such cases, Silverstein said, “they are putting the law on trial.” Even when a necessity defense fails, he continued, it can give protesters a chance to appeal to the public. “It’s sometimes considered a victory if they got to present the evidence—why nuclear weapons, or the Vietnam war, or climate change are bad,” Silverstein said. “It’s a way to bring attention to the issue.”

West Roxbury’s anti-pipeline movement began in 2015, when Spectra Energy, a Houston-based company, broke ground on a five-mile-long extension of the Algonquin Gas Transmission Pipeline, which carries fracked natural gas from Lambertville, New Jersey, to Boston. (Last February, Spectra was bought by the Canadian multinational Enbridge, which the Obama Administration fined more than sixty million dollars, in 2010, after hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil from one of the company’s pipelines spilled into the Kalamazoo River, in Michigan.) City leaders opposed the extension, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had issued Spectra a permit, so the company proceeded to dig up the roads. When it became clear that legal means of protest weren’t working—petitions, public comments, an ongoing challenge against the F.E.R.C. permit in federal court—an organization called the Climate Disobedience Center started training hundreds of protesters. Veterans of the antiwar and anti-nuclear demonstrations of the nineteen-seventies joined in.

Over the course of about thirty actions, the protesters sat down in front of backhoes, chained themselves to fences, and dropped into the pipeline’s construction trench, decorating it with flowers. They prayed, sang songs, and chanted, “No gasification without representation!” On June 29, 2016, twenty-three of the boldest activists lay down in the trench and refused to move. In Pakistan that summer, people had dug mass graves in advance of a predicted heat wave. “We recognized that trenches like the ones being dug in Pakistan were caused by trenches like the one we were resisting in West Roxbury,” Marla Marcum, a Methodist pastor and a co-founder of the Climate Disobedience Center, told me. The Boston Fire Department’s technical-rescue squad had to lift or roll the protesters onto stretchers and haul them out of the trench with ropes. By September 29th, the day of the final action, a hundred and ninety-eight people had been arrested. Many pleaded guilty to trespassing or disturbing the peace and were put on a six-month pretrial probation, after which the charges were dropped.

The pipeline entered service on January 5, 2017, but the activists still hoped to bring attention to their fight, this time in the courtroom. From the beginning, the thirteen defendants who appeared before Driscoll planned to present a necessity defense, including testimony from expert witnesses such as James Hansen, the climate scientist who alerted Congress to global warming, in 1988. During the discovery process, which dragged on for more than a year, the defendants and the judge pressed Spectra on a range of issues, including its safety plan for the pipeline. In November, after months of delay, the company’s lawyer submitted an affidavit admitting that no such plan existed. Revelations like that, Marcum said, have made the process worthwhile. Last Tuesday, perhaps recognizing that the case had become a boondoggle, the prosecution downgraded the charges from criminal to civil, making the defendants’ infractions the equivalent of parking tickets. The case could have been over then, but, in an unusual move, Driscoll allowed the protesters to make their final statements. According to Alice Cherry, a co-founder of the Climate Defense Project, which helped represent the West Roxbury activists, Driscoll’s ruling was the first of its kind in a civil case involving climate protesters.

The night after the ruling, the defendants held a public forum in the basement of a church in Jamaica Plain, near West Roxbury. “Communities like this one are fighting these kinds of fights all over the country,” the climate activist Tim DeChristopher said. “There is a sustained resistance, and it’s shifting the way these companies are doing business.” Prior to his involvement in the West Roxbury case, DeChristopher spent almost two years in prison for disrupting a government auction of oil and gas leases on sensitive public lands in Utah. Although his lawyer in that case, Patrick Shea, doesn’t anticipate that the necessity defense will become more common in civil-disobedience trials anytime soon, he noted that Driscoll’s ruling is consistent with “the drift of the judiciary.” Shea cited an ongoing federal lawsuit brought by a group of teen-agers, who argue that the government’s actions and inactions on climate change have, in the words of U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken, “so profoundly damaged our home planet that they threaten plaintiffs’ fundamental constitutional rights to life and liberty.” The suit recently made it through the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, over the Trump Administration’s objections. Meanwhile, climate-change activists in Minnesota and Washington State are preparing necessity defenses of their own. “In the beginning, you really didn’t have legal standing to challenge environmental matters,” Shea said. “But the wonderful thing about common law is that judges can begin to architect changes in it that reflect increasing scientific knowledge.”

At one point during the Jamaica Plain forum, Marcum called for a moment of silence, in recognition of the fact that “interactions with the criminal-justice system in this country are not all the same.” She noted that Driscoll’s ruling had come in the same week that Louisiana’s attorney general declined to prosecute a pair of white police officers who fatally shot Alton Sterling, a black man, in 2016. Boston is among the most segregated cities in the country; residents of West Roxbury, which is three-quarters white, tend to emphasize the “West,” to distinguish their neighborhood from nearby Roxbury, which is majority black. One of the only African-Americans arrested in West Roxbury was the Reverend Mariama White-Hammond, a climate-justice activist who has been working to bridge Boston’s racial divide through environmentalism. At the mass-graves protest, in 2016, she spoke to the crowd. “I debated whether or not it’s good to be here today, because all of these officers have to be here, and if I had my choice, I’d rather them be figuring out the sources of violence in our neighborhood and working to stop it,” she said. “But I’m here today because I believe we can lay to rest the spirit of exploitation and extraction that has brought us to such a terrible place.”

Press link for more: New Yorker

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

The Water Is Coming, Cities Are Sinking.

When Are We Going To Stop The Fossil Fuel Party?

By Jeff Goodell

WARREN FAIDLEY VIA GETTY IMAGES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KEVIN DIETSCH/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press link for more: Huffington Post

The Climate Is Changing For Climate Skeptics #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

The Climate Is Changing For Climate Skeptics

As climate litigation heats up, a judge’s climate science tutorial puts the fossil fuel industry in an awkward position with the science deniers it once funded.

Amy Westervelt

SAN FRANCISCO ― Climate change skeptics may have outlived their usefulness to the fossil fuel industry.

That was one of the key takeaways from a five-hour climate tutorial held Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Judge William Alsup, who has a history of digging into the scientific and technical details of the cases before him, ordered the tutorial to better understand climate science before presiding over a case in which the cities of San Francisco and Oakland are suing the five largest fossil fuel companies ― ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips and Shell ― over the damages of climate change.

Although both sides presented the science that would seem to most help their cases, it was clear that the age of discrediting climate science in general is over. Faced with media investigations, fraud probes and at least a dozen climate liability suits from coastal cities facing large bills as they attempt to adapt to climate change-induced sea level rise, fossil fuel companies have been forced to move away from the position that climate science is invalid or that human-caused emissions don’t contribute to climate change. Instead, they’re focused on emphasizing a history of uncertainty in climate science, downplaying the severity of climate change and minimizing their role in it.

In this California case, the oil companies are being accused of promoting doubt about climate science, which has delayed regulatory action and left coastal cities to deal with eroding coastlines, property loss and infrastructure damage. The state sees a precedent in its lead paint cases, “where we had to pay out a lot of money to address a damage created by a company, and so to hold those companies responsible we set up an account that they all paid into to cover those costs,” explained San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

The writing has been on the wall for outright climate denial ever since documents unearthed by the attorneys general of Massachusetts and New York in an ExxonMobile fraud probe revealed it publicly promoted doubt about climate science even as its own scientists’ research showed otherwise.

Fossil fuel companies are in a tight spot. No company wants to be subjected to the multiple investigations Exxon is facing, so it’s no longer safe to push the narrative ― or pay others to ― that man-made climate change doesn’t exist. (Although the persistence of those narratives does make the industry’s recent embrace of climate science seem more reasonable and forward-thinking than it actually is.) At the same time, they don’t want new emission-constraining regulations that will leave their assets stranded or margins reduced.

Now the industry largely accepts the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s summary reports on climate science, which pull together thousands of experts from around the world to synthesize the science every five to seven years. Each of the defendants named in the California case has made public statements accepting that human emissions contribute to climate change, and that climate change poses various risks, including to their businesses ― most recently Exxon.

At Judge Alsup’s climate tutorial, Chevron was the only defendant that chose to present. Its lawyer, Ted Boutrous, pointed to areas of the most recent IPCC report in which there was a low degree of consensus, or of confidence, in the available data.

“With the Antarctic ice sheet, we can see that there is a high confidence that it is losing mass but low confidence that the rate of loss is increasing,” he told Alsup. “Now we know that anthropogenic warming is having a substantial impact on all of the other ice sheets, but in Antarctica there are modeling uncertainties and disagreement between studies.”

Boutrous spent a large portion of his presentation pointing to graphs and charts on sea-level rise that contained nearly six-year-old data, arguing that there’s only a 1 percent chance of the 10-foot rise the plaintiffs’ expert had described as “certainly possible.”

Boutrous reiterated multiple times that there was “a great deal of uncertainty in the science until about 2000.”

“It’s the new form of denialism: First it was that climate change isn’t happening, then it was that humans weren’t contributing, then it was pointing out the other sources — what about the sun, what about volcanoes? ― and now it’s going with the most moderate projections and playing up the uncertainty of the science,” said Naomi Ages, Climate Liability Project lead for Greenpeace, who was watching the hearing closely to gain insight for her organization’s approach to climate liability claims.

Several in the courtroom pointed out that Boutrous seemed to be cherry-picking data points, said Julia Olson, the executive director and lead counsel for Our Children’s Trust, a nonprofit that represents youth in climate cases. Olson is not involved in this case but is the lead counsel in another climate rights suit against the U.S. government that will head to trial later this year. She noted that the modeling in the most recent IPCC report that Boutrous used estimates a 20- to 38-inch rise in sea levels by 2100 if emissions continue to grow, or 11 to 24 inches if they are curbed. The problem, Olson said, is that “assumes a linear rate of sea level rise, and the seas don’t rise in a linear fashion.”

A 10-year flood that would have come once every 10 years is now coming 10 times a year. Gary Griggs, professor of Earth and planetary sciences, UC Santa Cruz

The most recent science, which Gary Griggs, professor of Earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, presented in this week’s tutorial, estimates that it is entirely possible we’ll see an increase from a historic average of 13 inches of sea-level rise per century to an average of 39 inches ― potentially much more if the Antarctic ice sheet melts, which it is doing more rapidly than IPCC projections anticipated. That amount of sea-level rise coupled with more extreme storms results in more flooding and damage, Griggs explained. “A 10-year flood that would have come once every 10 years is now coming 10 times a year,” he said.

Don Wuebbles, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois and a lead IPCC author, emphasized the discrepancy between the latest IPCC projections and the most current science in his own presentation before the judge: “To pull together the 2013 report, we had to stop looking at any science done after 2012, but that doesn’t mean the science stopped. It has moved on considerably since then.”

While Chevron’s lawyers avoided the more ridiculous denier talking points, several high-profile climate science skeptics submitted a friend-of-the-court brief that argued there is no scientific consensus that human-caused emissions contribute to climate change and that, in fact, a warming climate is good for people and the planet. The brief was signed by a half dozen vocal skeptics (and promoted by the conservative Heartland Institute, which funds much of their work), including former British Independence Party politician Viscount Christopher Monckton, former Delaware state climatologist David Legates (who was asked to resign from the position and then was fired when he refused) and Harvard astrophysicist Willie Soon, who has claimed that “too much ice is really bad for polar bears.”

Alsup almost immediately asked the brief’s authors who had funded their research, and the responses included Peabody Coal and ExxonMobil. But the brief only served to highlight the tightrope that fossil fuel companies need to walk between the positions they promoted not too long ago and those they embrace now.

“I was surprised to see that amicus brief get filed and would have liked to know if the fossil fuel companies knew that was coming or not,” Ages said. “It doesn’t really help them at this point.”

But for decades it did. Skepticism of climate science helped to minimize concern about climate change both in the general public and among politicians. It’s not clear whether shifting their talking points now will help fossil fuel companies in court.

“It’s too late. They don’t  get credit for suddenly saying that IPCC science is good and real and they accept it,” Ages said. “We’re still in a position where we have no federal regulation, and we have an entire administration full of climate deniers. They sowed the doubt that created an environment in which that could happen.”

Still, the current narrative is a fairly large leap from what fossil fuel companies were saying even recently. “This has been the story they’ve been telling lately, but if they had been asked to tell the history of climate science 10 years ago, it would have looked a lot different,” said Alyssa Johl, a climate lawyer and consultant on climate litigation.

Meanwhile, activists and climate litigators have also moved on in the past decade. Just as fossil fuel companies have come to embrace the IPCC, advocates now often refer to the IPCC synthesis reports issued every five to seven years as outdated and not necessarily representative of the best, most current science.

“Experts we’re working with, many of which are also lead IPCC authors, all tell us that the IPCC needs to be taken for what it is: Some of the scientific papers used and condensed for that report are high-quality research and others are less so,” Olson said. “This is science from around globe, so there’s a wide variety of quality.”

As the fossil fuel industry begins to shun the skeptics it once propped up, it remains to be seen whether conservative groups like the Heartland Institute, and the politicians they support, will continue to promote the idea that climate change isn’t happening.

While Chevron, Exxon and the rest have put up pages on their website clearly stating that climate change is happening, that humans contribute to it and that it poses multiple risks, their legacy of undermining climate science speaks louder. It’s what helped give the country a president and an Environmental Protection Agency administrator who deny the reality of climate change and regularly promote denier talking points.

The fossil fuel industry may have turned its back on that stance now, but the last three decades have ensured that there are plenty of others willing to pick up the flag of denialism and wave it proudly.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

Project Drawdown 100 Solutions to Reverse Global Warming #auspol #qldpol #StopAdaniu

Project Drawdown is the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming.

Our organization did not make or devise the plan—we found the plan because it already exists.

We gathered a qualified and diverse group of researchers from around the world to identify, research, and model the 100 most substantive, existing solutions to address climate change.

What was uncovered is a path forward that can roll back global warming within thirty years.

It shows that humanity has the means at hand.

Nothing new needs to be invented.

The solutions are in place and in action.

Our work is to accelerate the knowledge and growth of what is possible.

We chose the name Drawdown because if we do not name the goal, we are unlikely to achieve it.

Drawdown is that point in time when the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere begins to decline on a year-to-year basis.

The Mission

Project Drawdown is facilitating a broad coalition of researchers, scientists, graduate students, PhDs, post-docs, policy makers, business leaders and activists to assemble and present the best available information on climate solutions in order to describe their beneficial financial, social and environmental impact over the next thirty years.

The Vision

To date, the full range and impact of climate solutions have not been explained in a way that bridges the divide between urgency and agency.

Thus the aspirations of people who want to enact meaningful solutions remain largely untapped.

Dr. Leon Clark, one of the lead authors of the IPCC 5th Assessment, wrote, ”

“We have the technologies, but we really have no sense of what it would take to deploy them at scale.”

Together, let’s figure it out.

For a summary of solutions by rank click here: 100 Solutions

Press link for more: Drawdown.org

Australian Academy of Science on #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Earth’s climate has changed over the past century.

The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, sea levels have risen, and glaciers and ice sheets have decreased in size.

The best available evidence indicates that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are the main cause.

Continuing increases in greenhouse gases will produce further warming and other changes in Earth’s physical environment and ecosystems.

The science behind these statements is supported by extensive studies based on four main lines of evidence:

• Physical principles established more than a century ago tell us that certain trace gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapour, restrict the radiant flow of heat from Earth to space. This mechanism, known as the ‘greenhouse effect’, keeps Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere considerably warmer than they would otherwise be. The gases involved are called ‘greenhouse gases’. An increase in greenhouse gas concentrations raises the temperature of the surface.

• The record of the distant past(millions of years) tells us that climate has varied greatly through Earth’s history. It has, for example, gone through ten major ice age cycles over approximately the past million years. Over the last few thousand years of this period, during which civilisations developed, climate was unusually stable. Evidence from the past confirms that climate can be sensitive to small persistent changes, such as variations in Earth’s orbit.

• Measurements from the recent past (the last 150 years) tell us that Earth’s surface has warmed as atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases increased through human activities, and that this warming has led to other environmental changes. Although climate varies from decade to decade, the overall upward trend of average global surface temperature over the last century is clear.

• Climate models allow us to understand the causes of past climate changes, and to project climate change into the future. Together with physical principles and knowledge of past variations, models provide compelling evidence that recent changes are due to increased greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. They tell us that, unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced greatly and greenhouse gas concentrations are stabilised, greenhouse warming will continue to increase.

This document aims to summarise and clarify the current scientific understanding of climate change by answering nine key questions.

1 What is climate change?

The term ‘climate’, in its broadest sense, refers to a statistical description of weather and of the related conditions of oceans, land surfaces and ice sheets. This includes consideration of averages, variability and extremes. Climate change is an alteration in the pattern of climate over a long period of time, and may be due to a combination of natural and humaninduced causes.

2 How has climate changed?

Global climate has varied greatly throughout Earth’s history. In the final decades of the 20th century, the world experienced a rate of warming that is unprecedented for thousands of years, as far as we can tell from the available evidence. Global average temperature rise has been accompanied by ongoing rises in ocean temperatures, ocean heat storage, sea levels and atmospheric water vapour. There has also been shrinkage in the size of ice sheets and most glaciers. The recent slowdown in the rate of surface warming is mainly due to climate variability that has redistributed heat in the ocean, causing warming at depth and cooling of surface waters. Australia’s climate has warmed along with the global average warming.

3 Are human activities causing climate change?

Human activities are increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. This increase is extremely likely to have caused most of the recent observed global warming, with CO2 being the largest contributor. Some observed changes in Australia’s climate, including warming throughout the continent and drying trends in the southwest, have been linked to rising greenhouse gas concentrations.

4 How do we expect climate to evolve in the future?

If greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow rapidly, it is expected that, by 2100, the global average air temperature over the Earth’s surface will warm by around 4°C above mid-19th century temperatures. There are many likely ramifications of this warming. However, if emissions are reduced sufficiently rapidly, there is a chance that global average warming will not exceed 2°C and other impacts will be limited.

5 How are extreme events changing?

Since the mid-20th century, climate change has resulted in increases in the frequency and intensity of very hot days and decreases in very cold days. These trends will continue with further global warming. Heavy rainfall events have intensified over most land areas and will likely continue to do so, but changes are expected to vary by region.

6 How are sea levels changing?

Sea levels have risen during the 20th century. The two major contributing factors are the expansion of sea water as it warms, and the loss of ice from glaciers. Sea levels are very likely to rise more quickly during the 21st century than the 20th century, and will continue to rise for many centuries.

7 What are the impacts of climate change?

Climate change has impacts on ecosystems, coastal systems, fire regimes, food and water security, health, infrastructure and human security. Impacts on ecosystems and societies are already occurring around the world, including in Australia. The impacts will vary from one region to another and, in the short term, can be both positive and negative. In the future, the impacts of climate change will intensify and interact with other stresses. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to be high, it is likely that the human-induced component of climate change will exceed the capacity of some countries to adapt.

8 What are the uncertainties and their implications?

There is near-unanimous agreement among climate scientists that human-caused global warming is real. However, future climate change and its effects are hard to predict accurately or in detail, especially at regional and local levels. Many factors prevent more accurate predictions, and some uncertainty is likely to remain for considerable time. Uncertainty in climate science is no greater than in other areas where policy decisions are routinely taken to minimise risk. Also, the uncertainty means that the magnitude of future climate change could be either greater or less than present-day best estimates.

9 What does science say about options to address climate change?

Societies, including Australia, face choices about how to respond to the consequences of future climate change. Available strategies include reducing emissions, capturing CO2, adaptation and ‘geoengineering’. These strategies, which can be combined to some extent, carry different levels of environmental risk and different societal consequences. The role of climate science is to inform decisions by providing the best possible knowledge of climate outcomes and the consequences of alternative courses of action.

Press link for more: Science.Org.Au

20,000 scientists give dire warning about the future of humanity! #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

20,000 scientists give dire warning about the future in ‘letter to humanity’ – and the world is listening

Andrew GriffinWednesday 7 March 2018 13:00 GMT

A dire warning to the world about its future, which predicts catastrophe for humanity, is continuing to gain momentum.

The letter – which was first released in November – has now been signed by around 20,000 scientists. And the world seems to be listening: it is now one of the most discussed pieces of scientific research ever, and its publishers claim it is now influencing policy.

The new letter was actually an update to a an original warning sent from the Union of Concerned Scientists that was backed by 1,700 signatures 25 years ago.

It said that the world had changed dramatically since that warning was issued – and almost entirely for the worse.

Mankind is still facing the existential threat of runaway consumption of limited resources by a rapidly growing population, they warned. And “scientists, media influencers and lay citizens” aren’t doing enough to fight against it, the letter read.

If the world doesn’t act soon, there will be catastrophic biodiversity loss and untold amounts of human misery, they wrote.

Now scientists have written a follow-up piece in which they argue scientists and economists need to switch their focus from encouraging growth to conserving the planet. “There are critical environmental limits to resource-dependent economic growth,” the authors state.

The original letter was signed by more than 15,000 scientists. But it has since been endorsed by a further 4,500 – taking the total to around 20,000 and giving further encouragement to scientists working to counteract the dangers highlighted in the letter.

The lead author of the warning letter and new response paper, ecology Professor William Ripple, from Oregon State University, said: “Our scientists’ warning to humanity has clearly struck a chord with both the global scientific community and the public.”

The publishers of the letter now say that the letter is the sixth most-discussed piece of research since Altmetric records, which track publications’ impact, began. It has prompted speeches in the Israeli Knesset and Canada’s BC Legislature.

Press link for more: Independent.co.uk

More than 100 cities produce more than 70% of electricity from renewables. #auspol #StopAdani

100+ cities Produce More than 70% of Electricity from Renewables – CDP | UNFCCC

The transition to clean, renewable energy is a critical component of meeting Paris Climate Change Agreement goals, and cities around the world are increasingly taking up the challenge.

According to data published by the CDP, more cities than ever are reporting that they are powered by renewable electricity.

The global environmental impact non-profit CDP holds information from over 570 of the world’s cities and names over 100 now getting at least 70% of their electricity from renewable sources such as hydro, geothermal, solar and wind.

The list includes large cities such as Auckland (New Zealand); Nairobi (Kenya); Oslo (Norway); Seattle (USA) and Vancouver (Canada), and is more than double the 40 cities who reported that they were powered by at least 70% clean energy in 2015.

CDP’s analysis comes on the same day the UK100 network of local government leaders announce that over 80 UK towns and cities have committed to 100% clean energy by 2050, including Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow and 16 London boroughs.

According to the World Economic Forum, unsubsidized renewables were the cheapest source of electricity in 30 countries in 2017, with renewables predicted to be consistently more cost effective than fossil fuels globally by 2020.

The new data has been released ahead of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) conference in Edmonton, Canada on 5th March, when city government and science leaders will meet on the role of cities in tackling climate change.

Cities named by CDP as already powered by 100% renewable electricity include:

Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, now obtains 100% of its electricity from wind, solar, hydro, and biomass. The city has its own utility and citywide grid. In September 2014 the local community approved the city’s purchase of its ‘Winooski One’ Hydroelectric Facility.

“Burlington, Vermont is proud to have been the first city in the United States to source 100 percent of our power from renewable generation. Through our diverse mix of biomass, hydro, wind, and solar, we have seen first-hand that renewable energy boosts our local economy and creates a healthier place to work, live, and raise a family. We encourage other cities around the globe to follow our innovative path as we all work toward a more sustainable energy future,” added Mayor Miro Weinberger of Burlington.

Reykjavik, Iceland sources all electricity from hydropower and geothermal, and is now working to make all cars and public transit fossil-free by 2040. Iceland has almost entirely transitioned to clean energy for power and household heating.

Basel, Switzerland is 100% renewable powered by its own energy supply company. Most electricity comes from hydropower and 10% from wind. Advocating clear political vision and will, in May 2017 Switzerland voted to phase out nuclear power in favor of renewable energy.

CDP’s 2017 data highlights how cities are stepping up action on climate change with a sharp rise in environmental reporting, emissions reduction targets and climate action plans since 2015, following the ground-breaking Paris Agreement to limit global warming to below 2 degrees.

There is a growing momentum of the renewable energy cities movement beyond the UK, with cities around the world now aiming to switch from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

In the United States, 58 cities and towns have now committed to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy, including big cities like Atlanta (Georgia) and San Diego (California). Earlier this month, U.S. municipalities Denton (Texas) and St. Louis Park (Minnesota), became the latest communities to establish 100% renewable energy targets. In addition to these recent pledges, CDP data shows a further 23 global cities targeting 100% renewable energy.

Much of the drive behind city climate action and reporting comes from the 7,000+ mayors signed up to The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy who have pledged to act on climate change.

Kyra Appleby, Director of Cities, CDP said: “Cities are responsible for 70% of energy-related CO2 emissions and there is immense potential for them to lead on building a sustainable economy. Reassuringly, our data shows much commitment and ambition. Cities not only want to shift to renewable energy but, most importantly – they can. We urge all cities to disclose to us, work together to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and prioritize the development of ambitious renewable energy procurement strategies. The time to act is now.”

Showing a diverse mix of energy sources, 275 cities are now reporting the use of hydropower, with 189 generating electricity from wind and 184 using solar photovoltaics. An additional 164 use biomass and 65 geothermal.

CDP reports that cities are currently instigating renewable energy developments valued at US$2.3 billion, across nearly 150 projects. This forms part of a wider shift by cities to develop 1,000 clean infrastructure projects, such as electric transport and energy efficiency, worth over US$52 billion.

Read the relevant CDP press release here

For a full view of cities generating electricity from renewables, visit the CDP’s list of world renewable energy cities

Press link for more: COP23.UNFCCC

These charts show how hot the US might be by 2090

These charts show how hot the US might be by 2090

These maps show how hot the U.S. could get in 2090. Image: REUTERS/Mike Blake

Adam Jezard, Formative Content

Climate change has been a burning political and social topic for a long time — and a set of maps showing how the United States could be affected by climate change between now and the end of the century are likely to make discussions even hotter.

The charts, produced by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), part of the US Department of Commerce, are based on a range of average temperature predictions that depend on whether man-made CO2 emissions are stabilized or not.

What the maps show is that, even if drastic action is taken to ensure CO2 emissions are reduced and the global temperature does not rise more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the world is still in for a hot old time.

On this basis, even if the world gets its act together, average maximum summer temperatures across most of the nation will rise from the low to mid-60s°F (17–20°C), to somewhere in the 80–90°F (27–32°C) range or above.

Meanwhile, if nothing is done to reduce emissions, the outlook is even hotter.

From the same mid-60s°F range now, the average maximum summer temperatures could rise to nearer 100°F-110°F.

Average predicted unstabilized maximum temperature 2090. Image: NOAA

Health, wealth and coffee

The maps highlight the impact that rising temperatures are likely to have on the US and beyond. For example, how agriculture and coastal habitats may be affected, and how the changes could affect global gross domestic product and health.

Coffee drinkers (as well as growers) could be one group who will suffer, as recent studies have suggested high quality and value coffee-growing areas, such as Ethiopia, could lose up to 60% of available farming land because of climate change.

And 2016 research by Coffee World has even suggested that, although demand for the beverage could have doubled by 2050, the amount of land required to grow it on could have halved.

Meanwhile, on the health front, the US Environmental Protection Agency has warned that increases in global temperature could lead to increased risks of heat stroke and dehydration, as well as rises in cardiovascular, respiratory and cerebrovascular diseases.

“Changes in the climate affect the air we breathe both indoors and outdoors,” the EPA says. “Warmer temperatures and shifting weather patterns can worsen air quality, which can lead to asthma attacks and other respiratory and cardiovascular health effects.

“Wildfires, which are expected to continue to increase in number and severity as the climate changes, create smoke and other unhealthy air pollutants. Rising carbon dioxide levels and warmer temperatures also affect airborne allergens.”

So can the world manage to achieve the target of keeping the global temperature from rising 2°C?

In 2016, 174 countries and the European Union adopted the Paris Agreement and agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C, and even strive for 1.5°C. But the US, one of the world’s biggest emitters, has since said it will withdraw from the deal under President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, many scientists feel achieving the 2°C target itself is a largely symbolic gesture and should be set lower, as even at this temperature sea levels are likely to rise and there is an increased risk of droughts and crop shortages.

Press link for more: Medium.com