The temperature is rising … and so is the death toll #bushfire #auspol #nswpol #springst #StopAdani

I’ve investigated the impact of climate change driven extreme weather on public health for 20 years.

The research shows the links between the two couldn’t be clearer – extreme weather events such as severe heatwaves, bushfires and supercharged storms are placing Australian lives at risk.

The threats to our lives from extreme weather isn’t limited to heatwaves, but extends to more severe storms and floods and more intense and ‘out of season’ bushfires. Photo: AFP

As we continue to burn fossil fuels such as coal and gas, more carbon pollution is released into our climate system, causing more intense, more severe and more frequent extreme weather events, which in turn, will continue to place increasing pressure on health systems, emergency services and our communities.

Globally, we’ve just experienced the hottest five year period ever recorded, stretching from 2013 to 2017, and this month parts of Queensland were hit with a severe heatwave, breaking February averages by more than  10 degrees.

The reality is that Australia will become warmer and drier as a direct result of intensifying climate change as heatwaves continue to become hotter, longer, and more frequent.

Severe heatwaves are silent killers, causing more deaths since the 1890s than all of Australia’s bushfires, cyclones, earthquakes, floods and severe storms combined.

Over the past decade, severe heatwaves around Australia have resulted in deaths and an increased number of hospital admissions for heart attack, stroke, respiratory illness, diabetes and kidney disease.

Older people, young children, and those with chronic health conditions are at high risk, but so are outdoor workers and our emergency responders.

In January 2009, Melbourne suffered three consecutive days of above 43 degrees, while elsewhere in Victoria it came within a whisker of 49.

There were 980 heat-related deaths during this time, which was around 60% more than would normally occur at that time of year.

Morgues were over capacity and bodies had to be stored in refrigerated trucks.

A few years earlier in 2004, Brisbane experienced a prolonged heatwave with temperatures reaching up to 42 degrees in February, which increased overall deaths by 23%.

The threats to our lives and livelihoods from extreme weather isn’t limited to heatwaves, but extends to more frequent and more severe storms and floods, more intense and ‘out of season’ bushfires, and widespread and prolonged drought.

Of course, we’re used to extreme weather in Australia, so much so that it is embedded in our cultural identity.

From ancient Indigenous understandings of complex seasons and use of fire to manage landscapes, to Dorothea McKeller’s 1908 poem My Country, to Gang Gajang’s 1985 anthem Sounds of Then (This is Australia), we sure like to talk about the weather.

But climate change is making these events more and more deadly, and we can’t afford to be complacent.

So what do we do to protect ourselves and our loved ones from extreme heat and other events?

We can check in with our friends, family and neighbours on extreme heat days and we can strive to make our health services more resilient and responsive, but this doesn’t deal with the cause.

Without rapid effective action to reduce carbon emissions we’re locking ourselves into a future of worsening, out of control extremes.

Ultimately, to protect Australians from worsening extreme weather events and to do our fair share in the global effort to tackle climate change, we have to cut our greenhouse gas pollution levels quickly and deeply.

Reducing our carbon pollution means a healthier Australia, now and in the future, with fewer deaths, fewer ambulance call-outs, fewer trips to the hospital, and reduced costs to the health system.

The only thing standing in the way of Australia tackling climate change is political will.

Professor Hilary Bambrick is a member of the Climate Council and heads the School of Public Health and Social Work at QUT.

Press link for more: Canberra Times


Battle against climate change can still be won #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Image Credit: Niño Jose Heredia/©Gulf News

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) closed its 30th anniversary meeting on Friday with darkening storm clouds gathering around international efforts to tackle global warming.

Not only did last week see United States President Donald Trump install climate sceptic Mike Pompeo as US Secretary of State, but the IPCC moved closer to producing what is likely to be the single biggest agenda-setting, climate science report of the year with bad tidings.

The pending report, due for release this September, comes in the context of Trump’s continuing scepticism about global warming and his decision to sack Rex Tillerson who favoured Washington staying in the Paris treaty.

His replacement by Pompeo underlines how the US president continues to fill the upper ranks of his administration with officials who are fellow climate change sceptics.

In this context, an early draft of the IPCC report for release this Autumn asserts “there is a very high risk that, under current emissions trajectories and current national pledges, global warming will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”.

This 1.5 degree Celsius mark, which was the target set by Paris, was made to avoid the worst impacts of so called ‘runaway’ climate change.

This is not the first time this claim has been made — for instance a group of senior climatologists warned in September 2016 that the planet could as soon as 2050 see global average temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Yet, the IPCC enjoys special credibility in this debate, hence the importance of its findings.

In these circumstances, pessimism may grow in coming months about the future of global efforts to combat climate change.

Yet, while the scale of the challenge remains huge, the Paris deal does allow for countries to ratchet up their emissions cuts in future.

This underlines that while the deal — reached in 2015 by more than 190 countries as the successor treaty to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol — is a welcome shot in the arm for attempts to tackle global warming, even more ambition is very likely to be needed in the future.

Indeed, rather than viewing the agreement as the end of the process, it is only the beginning of a longer journey that governments and legislators must now make in 2018 and beyond, with or without Trump.

The roadmap for moving forward after the IPCC meeting is already clear.

Firstly, implementation of the Paris deal will be most effective through national laws where politically feasible.

The country ‘commitments’ put forward in 2015 will be most credible — and durable beyond the next set of national elections — if they are backed up by national legislation where this is possible.

In the US, part of the reason Trump can potentially unravel Paris ratification so relatively straightforwardly is that it was, politically, impossible to get the treaty approved in the US Congress.

Former US president Barack Obama therefore embedded the agreement through executive order which was also being challenged in the US courts before Trump set his own counterpart executive actions reversing his predecessor’s order.

Legislation is more difficult to roll back. And this is especially when supported — as in many countries — by well informed, cross-party lawmakers from across the political spectrum who can put in place a credible set of policies and measures to ensure effective implementation, and hold governments to account so Paris delivers.

While the pledges made in Paris may not be enough yet, the treaty has crucially put in place the domestic legal frameworks which are crucial building blocks to measure, report, verify and manage greenhouse gas emissions.

Specifically, countries are required under the agreement to openly and clearly report on emissions and their progress in reaching the goals in their national climate plans submitted to the UN.

States must also update these every five years to highlight measures being pursued to implement the goals.

“Improving resilience to the impacts of global warming also makes economic sense. And domestic laws also give clear signals about direction of policy.”

In the future, the ambition must be that these frameworks are replicated in even more countries, and progressively ratcheted up. And there are clear signs of this happening already in numerous states, from Asia-Pacific to the Americas, as countries seek to toughen their response to global warming.

What this movement towards a more robust stance on climate change shows is the scale of the transformation in attitudes already taking place amongst many governments and wider societies across the globe. As has been shown yet again last week at the IPCC, many countries now view tackling global warming as in the national self-interest and see, for instance, that expanding domestic sources of renewable energy not only reduces emissions, but also increases energy security by reducing reliance on imported fossil fuels.

Reducing energy demand through greater efficiency reduces costs and increases competitiveness. Improving resilience to the impacts of global warming also makes economic sense. And domestic laws also give clear signals about direction of policy, reducing uncertainty, particularly for the private sector.

Going forward, all of this underlines why legislators must be at the centre of international negotiations and policy processes not just on climate change, but also other sustainability issues, including the 2030 development goals. With or without Trump, lawmakers can now help co-create, and implement, what could be a foundation for global sustainable development for billions across the world, starting with implementation of Paris from 2018 onwards.

Andrew Hammond is an Associate at LSE IDEAS at the London School of Economics.

Press link for more: Gulf News

50 years since climate change was first seen. Now time is running out #auspol #qldpol #sapol #StopAdani

It’s 50 years since climate change was first seen.

Now time is running out |

Richard WilesFri 16 Mar 2018 01.47 AEDT

Making up for years of delay and denial will not be easy, nor will it be cheap. Climate polluters must be held accountable

Scientists attribute 15-40% of the epic rain of Hurricane Harvey to climate change.’ Photograph: Marcus Yam/LA Times via Getty Images

Fifty years ago, the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) delivered a report titled Sources, Abundance, and Fate of Gaseous Atmospheric Polluters to the American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association for the fossil fuel industry.

The report, unearthed by researchers at the Center for International Environmental Law, is one of the earliest attempts by the industry to grapple with the impacts of rising CO2 levels, which Stanford’s researchers warned if left unabated “could bring about climatic changes” like temperature increases, melting of ice caps and sea level rise.

The year was 1968, and the term “global warming” would not appear in a peer-reviewed academic journal until 1975. Famed Nasa scientist James Hansen would not testify before Congress that “global warming has begun” for another 20 years. And the US would not enter into – only to later pull out of – the Paris climate accord for nearly half a century.

The anniversary of SRI’s report to the API on climate change represents not just a damning piece of evidence of what the fossil fuel industry knew and when, but a signal of all that we have lost over the decades of policy inaction and interference. It should also serve as a potent motivator in the fight for climate accountability and justice.

At the time, CO2 levels in the atmosphere stood about 323ppm. The planet was warming but was still well within the historical norm. Sea levels had risen by about 4in compared with 1880 levels. The report, however, cautioned that “man is now engaged in a vast geophysical experiment with his environment, the Earth” and that “significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000”.

Those predictions proved to be correct: by the turn of the century, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had risen to 369ppm, causing a temperature increase of nearly half a degree over pre-industrial averages. Today, virtually all climate scientists agree there is little or no chance the world can stay within the goal of 1.5C, the limit of what scientists believe to be safe.

With each decade of delay and denial the impacts and costs of climate change have continued to mount

Over the next 20 years, the scientific community and policymakers around the world began to reach a consensus on the threat posed by rising CO2 levels. Scientists at least one major oil company, Exxon, did their own climate modeling, which agreed with the scientific consensus. During this period a budding movement to cut emissions began.

To counter and slow down that effort to address climate change, the fossil fuel industry began its long and powerful strategy of climate denial and obstructionism. Even though they knew the science, they also realized that attempts to control emissions could seriously damage their bottom lines.

In 1998, as the first global attempt to rein in climate pollution, the Kyoto protocol, was headed to the Senate for ratification, API circulated what has come to be known as the Victory Memo, a detailed road map to undermining science and promoting denial of climate change. According to API’s top strategists: “Victory will be achieved when: those promoting the Kyoto treaty on the basis of extant science appear to be out of touch with reality.”

California’s deadly wildfires which were set up by five years of drought.’ Photograph: Kurod/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

The memo’s end goal was clear: create doubt about science where none existed, deceive the media and Congress about the risks of climate change, and block the momentum that was building to address rising emissions through the Kyoto protocol, a precursor to the Paris accord. ExxonMobil alone would go on to spend upwards of $30m on ads, front groups, and pseudoscience intended to carry out the plan. That’s in addition to the cash that flooded the coffers of climate deniers in Congress who are rewarded amply for willful ignorance.

API’s strategic deception campaign was a success, which is why we now stand at the brink of the highest global temperature considered safe. Just what it will mean to cross that line remains an ongoing question for atmospheric scientists, but we’ve already started to get a glimpse and it doesn’t look good.

The damage is all around us, from hurricanes on steroids – scientists attribute 15-40% (8in-24in) of the epic rain of Hurricane Harvey to climate change – to California’s deadly wildfires which were set up by five years of drought, followed by record snowfall, then record heat that turned huge areas of the state into tinderboxes. In 2017 there were 16 separate billion-dollar disasters in the US, resulting in a total of $306bn of damages, nearly $100bn more than the second highest year 2005 (Katrina). While technically climate change did not “cause” these disasters, most of the carnage was aggravated in some way by climate change and the fossil fuel emissions that cause it in the first place.

Other impacts are more long-term and irreparable. Anyone born after 1985 has never experienced a month with average temperatures that fall below the historical norm and, without action, probably never will. Mass coral bleaching events due to warming waters and ocean acidification have rendered large swaths of some of the ocean’s most diverse ecosystems lifeless. The vanishing Arctic ice cap appears already to be affecting global weather patterns, and the loss of ice in Antarctica may have reached a tipping point that many now view as irreversible, a development that will require tough and costly decisions for coastal cities.

It never had to be this way. But with each decade of delay and denial the impacts and costs of climate change have continued to mount. Now taxpayers are left holding the bill for a literal rising tide of impacts that pose the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. Meeting that challenge must begin with accountability on the part of climate polluters, and justice for citizens who did nothing to cause the problem other than drive to work and heat their homes when they had no other alternatives.

We can’t turn back the clock, but we can turn off the fossil fuel firehose that’s been pumping CO2 into our atmosphere and demand that those who left it running help foot the bill for the cleanup. Already we’ve seen cities like New York, San Francisco, and other coastal cities file lawsuits against climate polluters, seeking to recover costs associated with planning for and adapting to a warming world. With massive costs facing hundreds more cities and no remedy in sight, more litigation will follow.

Making up for 50 years of delay and denial will not be easy, nor will it be cheap. But taxpayers should not have to shoulder the burden alone. The API and its climate polluters knowingly and deliberately caused this mess. They must help pay to clean it up.

Richard Wiles is the executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity

Press link for more: The Guardian

The “Adani Curse” #auspol #sapol #qldpol #BatmanVotes #StopAdani

THE “Adani curse” has hit Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with a poll finding most of his constituents want a review of the Queensland coal mine.

By Malcolm Farr

Malcolm is national political editor of news.com.au.

His 40 years in journalism include the past 22 years in Canberra.

He has also worked for newspapers in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Rome for The Australian, The Daily Mirror, the Brisbane Sun, The Daily Telegraph, and the International Daily News. Rides a motorbike without falling off…so far.

Adani has been a huge political problem for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and now Mr Turnbull could be asked to explain himself.

Mr Turnbull has consistently attacked Mr Shorten with the claim he is supporting the mine when in Queensland but opposing it when in the Melbourne seat of Batman which goes to a by-election on Saturday.

It now has been revealed that two-thirds of voters in Mr Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth and 60 per cent in Brisbane want a review of the environmental approval given the project, according to a survey released today by the Australia Institute.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has said the Labor Party would back the Adani mine if it proved financially and environmentally viable. Picture: David Mariuz / AAPSource:AAP

The ReachTEL survey could indicate the Prime Minister will have a conflict with his own voters.

“Adani isn’t just a potent issue in Batman.

It’s an issue on the government and the Prime Minister’s plate, right now,” said Ebony Bennett, Deputy Director at The Australia Institute.

Ms Bennett said a majority of voters in the Liberal-held seats of Wentworth and Brisbane Aldo opposed using taxpayer’s money subsidising coal projects like Adani.

“Most agree that Australia must halt the expansion of coal mining and fast-track building renewables and storage to reduce the worsening impacts of climate change,” she said.

Last week the Prime Minister gave the project by the Indian company his personal backing.

“All of that permitting has been done. They are entitled to develop it in accordance with those permits,’’ he said.

“As to whether it is commercially or financially viable, that is a matter for the company. They have got to decide.”

But he accused Mr Shorten of being two-faced on the issue.

Alice Henderson, with her daughter Josie, opposes the Adani mine proposal and will itake the issue to the ballot box when she votes in Batman’s by-election on Saturday. Picture: Ian CurrieSource:Supplied

“So when Bill Shorten is in Queensland and says: ‘Oh, I am in favour of the mines’, and then goes down to Melbourne and says: ‘I am against it’, you can see what a risk that is to jobs, to investment to the economic future and security of Australia, because it is completely two-faced,” Mr Turnbull said.

Labor has argued it would back the mine if it proved financially and environmentally viable.

However, it has been wary of angering Queensland voters who see the project as a source of many jobs, and doesn’t want to clash with Batman voters deciding whether to vote Labor or Greens.

Last week Mr Shorten said he now opposed the mine and yesterday was backed by Opposition finance spokesman Jim Chalmers.

“It hasn’t passed all the environmental tests yet, that is just a statement of fact and you can try all you like to pretend this is something other than a factual realisation that it hasn’t yet passed all the environmental tests and it hasn’t passed all of the commercial tests,” Mr Chalmers told Sky News.

Protesters opposing the Adani mine held a rally on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra on February 5. Picture: Kym Smith Is the Adani coal mine dead?Source:News Corp Australia

Press link for more: News.com.au

Lessons We Can Learn From Cape Town’s Water Crisis. #auspol #sapol #StopAdani

Lessons We Can Learn From Cape Town’s Water Crisis

By David Suzuki

Canada has more freshwater per capita than most countries, but not as much as we might think, and that’s a problem.

Many of us in Canada take water for granted, despite drinking water problems in First Nations communities. World Water Day, on March 22, reminds us that as the human population continues to grow, putting greater demand on all resources, and as climate change exacerbates drought in many places, we can’t be complacent.

Our cities may not be running out of water yet, but people in Cape Town didn’t expect their water supply to go dry.

The four-million residents of South Africa’s second-largest city could see their taps turned off by May 11, called “Day Zero” — or sooner, if people don’t obey severe water restrictions.

“People didn’t believe anything like this could happen, but I think the reality has dawned on everyone and it is pretty tense,” University of Cape Town hydrologist Piotr Wolski told Smithsonian magazine.

piyaset via Getty Images

Cape Town is entering its fourth year of drought — the worst in 100 years, with an average of 234 millimetres of rainfall a year for the past three years, less than half the average since 1977.

Wolski says climate change is a big part of the problem, but so is city mismanagement.

Cape Town isn’t the only city with these problems.

Others, including São Paulo, Beijing, Cairo, Jakarta, Indonesia, Moscow, Istanbul, Mexico City, London, Tokyo and Miami, all face water shortages related to climate change, population growth, waste and mismanagement.

Depleted supply is only one result.

As more water is drawn from underground aquifers, land is sinking, disrupting road and transit infrastructure and building foundations.

As water for agriculture becomes increasingly scarce, food prices rise, which can lead to conflict and human migration.

Canada has more freshwater per capita than most countries, but not as much as we might think. Although water covers 70 per cent of Earth’s surface, only 3 per cent is fresh. Canada has about 20 per cent of the world’s freshwater, but only 7 per cent of renewable freshwater. (A lot is stored in glaciers, lakes and aquifers that aren’t being replenished, or at least not fast enough to replace usage.) As our agricultural and industrial activity expand and population grows, water demands grow and more sources become polluted.

Cape Town introduced a number of measures to combat its crisis.

People are restricted to 50 litres of freshwater a day, going down to 25 after Day Zero — although average consumption is still about 95 litres a day.

Europeans average 100 litres a day, and Canadians each used about 250 litres a day in 2013, down from 330 in 2005, not including industrial, commercial and other uses. Consumption has been declining as more people install low-flow shower heads, faucets and toilets.

Cape Town’s government is also trying to diversify its water supply by drilling for groundwater and building desalinization and water recycling plants, and has imposed higher fees on those who use more than a certain limit.

With freshwater shortages looming, it’s wasteful to use drinking water to flush toilets and water lawns. Although recycling or re-using toilet water, or “black water” — about one-third of water use in the average household — is difficult, although not impossible, because of bacterial contamination, grey water from baths, showers, sinks, dishwashers and laundry machines can be treated and used to flush toilets, water plants and gardens, even wash clothes. That can save as much as 70 litres of water a day per person.

It also bewilders me that in Canada, where most people can get clean drinking water from the tap, so many pay more for bottled water than gasoline, which creates more plastic and raises issues around corporations profiting from water supplies.

One lesson from places like Cape Town is that we should start tackling the issue now rather than waiting until it becomes a crisis. We must get better at conserving water, preventing water pollution and protecting natural ecosystems like forests and wetlands that filter and store water while also preventing flooding. Beyond the obvious ways to conserve household water, we should also rethink our obsession with lawns that need constant watering, and discourage luxuries like private swimming pools.

Some say our next major wars could be about water rather than resources like oil. If we in Canada and elsewhere plan properly, that needn’t be the case.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

World scientists’ warning to humanity #auspol #sapol #StopAdani

World scientists’ warning to humanity

By Rex Weyler

Rex Weyler was a director of the original Greenpeace Foundation, the editor of the organisation’s first newsletter, and a co-founder of Greenpeace International in 1979.

Environmental activists and organisations typically try and stay positive, to give people hope that we can change.

Positive signs exist, going back to the historic whaling and toxic dumping bans of the 1980s.

The 1987 Montreal Protocol, reducing CFC gas emissions, led to a partial recovery of the ozone hole.

Birth rates have declined in some regions, and forests and freshwater have been restored in some regions.

The world’s nations have, at least, made promises to reduce carbon emissions, even if action has been slow.

A challenge we face as ecologists and environmentalists, however, is that when we step back from our victories and assess the big picture – the global pace of climate change, forest loss, biodiversity decline – we must admit: our achievements have not been enough.

Children playing near a coal plant in Central Java

25 years ago, in 1992, the Union of Concerned Scientists issued the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” signed by 1,700 scientists, including most living Nobel laureates.

They presented disturbing data regarding freshwater, marine fisheries, climate, population, forests, soil, and biodiversity.

They warned that “a great change” was necessary to avoid “vast human misery.”

This year, on the 25th anniversary of that warning, the Alliance of World Scientists published a second warning – an evaluation of our collective progress.

With the exception of stabilising ozone depletion, they report that “humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse.”

A short history of warnings

Environmental awareness is not new.

Over 2,500 years ago, Chinese Taoists articulated the disconnect between human civilisation and ecological values.

Later Taoist Bao Jingyan warned that “fashionable society goes against the true nature of things… harming creatures to supply frivolous adornments.”

Modern warnings began in the 18th century, at the dawn of the industrial age, particularly from Thomas Malthus, who warned that an exponentially growing population on a finite planet would reach ecological limits.

Modern growth advocates have ridiculed Malthus for being wrong, but his logic and maths are impeccable.

He did not foresee the discovery of petroleum, which allowed economists to ignore Malthus for two centuries, aggravating the crisis that Malthus correctly identified.

Rachel Carson ignited the modern environmental movement in 1962 with Silent Spring, warning of eminent biodiversity collapse.

A decade later, in the early days of Greenpeace, the Club of Rome published The Limits To Growth, using data to describe what we could see with our eyes: declining forests and biodiversity, and resources, clashing head-on with growing human population and consumption demands.

Conventional economists mocked the idea of limits, but The Limits to Growth projections have proven accurate.

In 2009, in Nature journal, a group of scientists lead by Johan Rockström published Planetary Boundaries, warning humanity that essential ecological systems – biodiversity, climate, nutrient cycles, and others – had moved beyond ecological limits to critical tipping points.

Melting iceberg in the Southern Ocean

Three years later, 22 international scientists published a paper called ‘Approaching a State Shift in Earth’s Biosphere’ which warned that human growth had “the potential to transform Earth…  into a state unknown in human experience.” Canadian co-author, biologist Arne Mooers lamented, “humans have not done anything really important to stave off the worst. My colleagues… are terrified.”

In 2014 Michael Gerst, Paul Raskin, and Johan Rockström published ‘Contours of a Resilient Global Future’ in Sustainability 6, searching for viable future scenarios that considered both the natural limits to growth and realistic targets for human development. They warned that the challenge is “daunting” and that “marginal changes” are insufficient.

Last year, the UN International Resource Panel (IRP), published ‘Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity’ warning nations that global resources are limited, human consumption trends are unsustainable, and that resource depletion will have unpleasant impacts on human health, quality of life, and future development.

This year, the second “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” alerted us again that marginal changes appear insignificant and that we are surpassing “the limits of what the biosphere can tolerate without substantial and irreversible harm.”

The data speaks

The Alliance of World Scientists researchers tracked data over the last 25 years, since the 1992 warning. They cite some hopeful signs, such as the decline in ozone-depleting CFC gases, but report that, from a global perspective, our “changes in environmental policy, human behavior, and global inequities… are far from sufficient.”

Here’s what the data shows:

Ozone: CFC (chlorofluorocarbons) emissions are down by 68% since 1992, due to the 1987 UN Montreal Protocol. The ozone layer is expected to reach 1980 levels by mid-century. This is the good news.

Freshwater: Water resources per capita have declined by 26% since 1992. Today, about one billion people suffer from a lack of fresh, clean water, “nearly all due to the accelerated pace of human population growth” exacerbated by rising temperatures.

Fisheries: The global marine catch is down by 6.4% since 1992, despite advances in industrial fishing technology. Larger ships with bigger nets and better sonar cannot catch fish that are not there.

Ocean dead zones: Oxygen-depleted zones have increased by 75 %, caused by fertilizer runoff and fossil-fuel use. Acidification due to carbon emissions kills coral reefs that act as marine breeding grounds.

Forests: By area, forests have declined by 2.8% since 1992, but with a simultaneous decline in forest health, timber volume, and quality. Forest loss has been greatest where forests are converted to agricultural land. Forest decline feeds back through the ecosystem as reduced carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and freshwater.

Biodiversity: Vertebrate abundance has declined 28.9 %. Collectively, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals have declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012. This is harrowing.

CO2 emissions: Regardless of international promises, CO2 emissions have increased by 62% since 1960.

Temperature change: The global average surface temperature is increasing in parallel to CO2 emissions. The 10 warmest years in the 136-year record have occurred since 1998. Scientists warn that heating will likely cause a decline in the world’s major food crops, an increase in storm intensity, and a substantial sea level rise, inundating coastal cities.

Population: We’ve put 2 billion more humans on this planet since 1992 – that’s a 35 % increase. To feed ourselves, we’ve increased livestock by 20.5 %. Humans and livestock now comprise 98.5% of mammal biomass on Earth. The scientists stress that we need to find ways to stabilise or reverse human population growth. “Our large numbers,” they warn, “exert stresses on Earth that can overwhelm other efforts to realise a sustainable future”

Soil: The scientists report a lack of global data, but from national data we can see that soil productivity has declined around the world (by up to 50% in some regions), due to nutrient depletion, erosion, and desertification. The EU reports losing 970 million tonnes of topsoil annually to erosion. The US Department of Agriculture estimates 75 billion tons of soil lost annually worldwide, costing nations $400 billion (€340 billion) in lost crop yields.

The pending question

“We are jeopardising our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption,” the scientists warn, “and by not perceiving … population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and societal threats.”

The Alliance of World Scientists report offers some hope, in the form of steps that we can take to begin a more serious transition to sustainability:

• Expand well-managed reserves – terrestrial, marine, freshwater, and aerial – to preserve biodiversity and ecosystem services.

• Restore native plant communities, particularly forests, and native fauna species, especially apex predators, to restore ecosystem integrity.

• End poaching, exploitation, and trade of threatened species.

• Reduce food waste and promote dietary shifts towards plant-based foods.

•  Increase outdoor nature education and appreciation for children and adults.

• Divest from destructive industries and invest in genuine sustainability. That means phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels, and adopting renewable energy sources on a large scale.

• Revise economic systems to reduce wealth inequality and account for the real costs that consumption patterns impose on our environment.

• Reduce the human birth-rate with gender-equal access to education and family-planning.

These proposed solutions are not new, but the emphasis on population is important, and often overlooked. Some environmentalists avoid discussing human population, since it raises concerns about human rights. We know that massive consumption by the wealthiest 15% of us is a fundamental cause of the ecological crisis. Meanwhile, the poorest individuals consume far less than their fair share of available resources.

Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

As an ecologist, I feel compelled to ask myself: if the last 50 years of environmental action, research, warnings, meetings, legislation, regulation, and public awareness has proven insufficient, despite our victories, then what else do we need to do?

That question, and an integrated, rigorous, serious answer, needs to be a central theme of the next decade of environmentalism.

Rex Weyler is an author, journalist and co-founder of Greenpeace International.

Resources and Links:

World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice; eight authors and 15,364 scientist signatories from 184 countries; BioScience, W.J. Ripple, et. al., 13 November 2017

List of 15,364 signatories from 184 Countries: Oregon State University

Alliance of World Scientists:  Oregon State University

Recovery of Ozone depletion after Montreal Protocol: B. Ewenfeldt, “Ozonlagret mår bättre”, Arbetarbladet 12 September, 2014.

Fertility rate reduction in some regions: UN

Accuracy of Limits to Growth Study: “Is Global Collapse Imminent? An Update to Limits to Growth with Historical Data,” Graham Turner, 2014): Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute

“Contours of a Resilient Global Future,” Michael Gerst, Paul Raskin, and Johan Rockström,  Sustainability 6, 2014.

Arithmetic, Population, and Energy: Albert Bartlett video lecture on exponential growth

William Rees, The Way Forward: Survival 2100, Solutions Journal, human overshoot and genuine solutions.

Johan Rockström, et. al., “Planetary Boundaries,” Nature, September 23, 2009.

Anthony D. Barnosky, et. al., “Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere,” Nature, June 7, 2012.

Press link for more: Greenpeace

We’re not building clean energy fast enough to avoid catastrophic #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol

At this rate, it’s going to take nearly 400 years to transform the energy system

Here are the real reasons we’re not building clean energy anywhere near fast enough.

James Temple

Fifteen years ago, Ken Caldeira, a senior scientist at the Carnegie Institution, calculated that the world would need to add about a nuclear power plant’s worth of clean-energy capacity every day between 2000 and 2050 to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Recently, he did a quick calculation to see how we’re doing.

Not well.

Instead of the roughly 1,100 megawatts of carbon-free energy per day likely needed to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 ˚C, as the 2003 Science paper by Caldeira and his colleagues found, we are adding around 151 megawatts.

That’s only enough to power roughly 125,000 homes.

At that rate, substantially transforming the energy system would take, not the next three decades, but nearly the next four centuries.

In the meantime, temperatures would soar, melting ice caps, sinking cities, and unleashing devastating heat waves around the globe (see “The year climate change began to spin out of control”).

Caldeira stresses that other factors are likely to significantly shorten that time frame (in particular, electrifying heat production, which accounts for a more than half of global energy consumption, will significantly alter demand). But he says it’s clear we’re overhauling the energy system about an order of magnitude too slowly, underscoring a point that few truly appreciate: It’s not that we aren’t building clean energy fast enough to address the challenge of climate change.

It’s that—even after decades of warnings, policy debates, and clean-energy campaigns—the world has barely even begun to confront the problem.

The UN’s climate change body asserts that the world needs to cut as much as 70 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions by midcentury to have any chance of avoiding 2 ˚C of warming. But carbon pollution has continued to rise, ticking up 2 percent last year.

So what’s the holdup?

Beyond the vexing combination of economic, political, and technical challenges is the basic problem of overwhelming scale. There is a massive amount that needs to be built, which will suck up an immense quantity of manpower, money, and materials.

For starters, global energy consumption is likely to soar by around 30 percent in the next few decades as developing economies expand. (China alone needs to add the equivalent of the entire US power sector by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency.) To cut emissions fast enough and keep up with growth, the world will need to develop 10 to 30 terawatts of clean-energy capacity by 2050.

On the high end that would mean constructing the equivalent of around 30,000 nuclear power plants—or producing and installing 120 billion 250-watt solar panels.

Energy overhaul

There’s simply little financial incentive for the energy industry to build at that scale and speed while it has tens of trillions of dollars of sunk costs in the existing system.

“If you pay a billion dollars for a gigawatt of coal, you’re not going to be happy if you have to retire it in 10 years,” says Steven Davis, an associate professor in the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine.

It’s somewhere between difficult and impossible to see how any of that will change until there are strong enough government policies or big enough technology breakthroughs to override the economics.

A quantum leap

In late February, I sat in Daniel Schrag’s office at the Harvard University Center for the Environment. His big yellow Chinook, Mickey, lay down next to my feet.

Schrag was one of President Barack Obama’s top climate advisors. As a geologist who has closely studied climate variability and warming periods in the ancient past, he has a special appreciation for how dramatically things can change.

Sitting next to me with his laptop, he opened a report he had recently coauthored assessing the risks of climate change.

It highlights the many technical strides that will be required to overhaul the energy system, including better carbon capture, biofuels, and storage.

The study also notes that the United States adds roughly 10 gigawatts of new energy generation capacity per year.

That includes all types, natural gas as well as solar and wind. But even at that rate, it would take more than 100 years to rebuild the existing electricity grid, to say nothing of the far larger one required in the decades to come.

“Is it possible to accelerate by a factor of 20?” he asks. “Yeah, but I don’t think people understand what that is, in terms of steel and glass and cement.”

Climate observers and commentators have used various historical parallels to illustrate the scale of the task, including the Manhattan Project and the moon mission. But for Schrag, the analogy that really speaks to the dimensions and urgency of the problem is World War II, when the United States nationalized parts of the steel, coal, and railroad industries.

The government forced automakers to halt car production in order to churn out airplanes, tanks, and jeeps.

The good news here is that if you direct an entire economy at a task, big things can happen fast. But how do you inspire a war mentality in peacetime, when the enemy is invisible and moving in slow motion?

“It’s a quantum leap from where we are today,” Schrag says.

The time delay

The fact that the really devastating consequences of climate change won’t come for decades complicates the issue in important ways. Even for people who care about the problem in the abstract, it doesn’t rate high among their immediate concerns.

As a consequence, they aren’t inclined to pay much, or change their lifestyle, to actually address it. In recent years, Americans were willing to increase their electricity bill by a median amount of only $5 a month even if that “solved,” not eased, global warming, down from $10 15 years earlier, according to a series of surveys by MIT and Harvard.

It’s conceivable that climate change will someday alter that mind-set as the mounting toll of wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, extinctions, and sea-level rise finally forces the world to grapple with the problem.

But that will be too late.

Carbon dioxide works on a time delay.

It takes about 10 years to achieve its full warming effect, and it stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

After we’ve tipped into the danger zone, eliminating carbon dioxide emissions doesn’t decrease the effects; it can only prevent them from getting worse.

Whatever level of climate change we allow to unfold is locked in for millennia, unless we develop technologies to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere on a massive scale (or try our luck with geoengineering).

This also means there’s likely to be a huge trade-off between what we would have to pay to fix the energy system and what it would cost to deal with the resulting disasters if we don’t. Various estimates find that cutting emissions will shrink the global economy by a few percentage points a year, but unmitigated warming could slash worldwide GDP more than 20 percent by the end of the century, if not far more.

In the money

Arguably the most crucial step to accelerate energy development is enacting strong government policies.

Many economists believe the most powerful tool would be a price on carbon, imposed through either a direct tax or a cap-and-trade program. As the price of producing energy from fossil fuels grows, this would create bigger incentives to replace those plants with clean energy (see “Surge of carbon pricing proposals coming in the new year”).

“If we’re going to make any progress on greenhouse gases, we’ll have to either pay the implicit or explicit costs of carbon,” says Severin Borenstein, an energy economist at the University of California, Berkeley.

But it has to be a big price, far higher than the $15 per ton it cost to acquire allowances in California’s cap-and-trade program late last year. Borenstein says a carbon fee approaching $40 a ton “just blows coal out of the market entirely and starts to put wind and solar very much into the money,” at least when you average costs across the lifetime of the plants.

Others think the price should be higher still. But it’s very hard to see how any tax even approaching that figure could pass in the United States, or many other nations, anytime soon.

The other major policy option would be caps that force utilities and companies to keep greenhouse emissions below a certain level, ideally one that decreases over time. This regulations-based approach is not considered as economically efficient as a carbon price, but it has the benefit of being much more politically palatable. American voters hate taxes but are perfectly comfortable with air pollution rules, says Stephen Ansolabehere, a professor of government at Harvard University.

Fundamental technical limitations will also increase the cost and complexity of shifting to clean energy. Our fastest-growing carbon-free sources, solar and wind farms, don’t supply power when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. So as they provide a larger portion of the grid’s electricity, we’ll also need long-range transmission lines that can balance out peaks and valleys across states, or massive amounts of very expensive energy storage, or both (see “Relying on renewables alone significantly inflates the cost of overhauling energy”).

The upshot is that we’re eventually going to need to either supplement wind and solar with many more nuclear reactors, fossil-fuel plants with carbon capture and other low-emissions sources, or pay far more to build out a much larger system of transmission, storage and renewable generation, says Jesse Jenkins, a researcher with the MIT Energy Initiative. In all cases, we’re still likely to need significant technical advances that drive down costs.

All of this, by the way, only addresses the challenge of overhauling the electricity sector, which currently represents less than 20 percent of total energy consumption. It will provide a far greater portion as we electrify things like vehicles and heating, which means we’ll eventually need to develop an electrical system several times larger than today’s.

But that still leaves the “really difficult parts of the global energy system” to deal with, says Davis of UC Irvine. That includes aviation, long-distance hauling, and the cement and steel industries, which produce carbon dioxide in the manufacturing process itself. To clean up these huge sectors of the economy, we’re going to need better carbon capture and storage tools, as well as cheaper biofuels or energy storage, he says.

These kinds of big technical achievements tend to require significant and sustained government support. But much like carbon taxes or emissions caps, a huge increase in federal research and development funding is highly unlikely in the current political climate.

Give up?

So should we just give up?

There is no magic bullet or obvious path here. All we can do is pull hard on the levers that seem to work best.

Environmental and clean-energy interest groups need to make climate change a higher priority, tying it to practical issues that citizens and politicians do care about, like clean air, security, and jobs. Investors or philanthropists need to be willing to make longer-term bets on early-stage energy technologies. Scientists and technologists need to focus their efforts on the most badly needed tools. And lawmakers need to push through policy changes to provide incentives, or mandates, for energy companies to change.

The hard reality, however, is that the world very likely won’t be able to accomplish what’s called for by midcentury. Schrag says that keeping temperature increases below 2 ˚C is already “a pipe dream,” adding that we’ll be lucky to prevent 4 ˚C of warming this century.

That means we’re likely to pay a very steep toll in lost lives, suffering, and environmental devastation (see “Hot and violent”).

But the imperative doesn’t end if warming tips past 2 ˚C. It only makes it more urgent to do everything we can to contain the looming threats, limit the damage, and shift to a sustainable system as fast as possible.

“If you miss 2050,” Schrag says, “you still have 2060, 2070, and 2080.”

Press link for more: Technology Review

The World’s Largest Mass Extinction May Have Been Caused by Burning Coal #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

The World’s Largest Mass Extinction May Have Been Caused by Burning Coal.

The Permian Extinction saw over 90 percent of marine species die. New evidence has been discovered that suggests a cause.

By Avery Thompson

Mar 14, 2018

The Permian Extinction, 200 million years ago, was the single greatest species die-off in the history of the world.

Over 90 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land species died.

Despite being such a large event, its direct cause has eluded scientists so far.

Theories range from asteroid impacts to volcanic eruptions to increased ocean acidification.

A new study submitted to the journal Global and Planetary Change provides new evidence for a different option: too much burning coal.

The research was conducted by Benjamin Burger, a professor at Utah State University. Burger was studying rock layers in Sheep Creek Valley in Utah when he found some surprising elements in one of the layers.

According to the analysis, the rocks contain high levels of lead, mercury, carbon, and zinc.

Together, these point to extreme levels of coal burning as a cause of the extinction.

Burning coal produces mercury, lead, zinc, and other metals, and as we all know releases large quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

This can lead to high levels of carbon in the rock layer.

Trace amounts of other elements also found in the rocks reinforce the hypothesis.

Burning coal has been one possible explanation for the Permian Extinction for several years, but until now there was never a whole lot of evidence for it.

The idea is that volcanic eruptions released lava that found their way into underground coal deposits built up over previous eons and ignited them.

The fallout released tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, increased the acidification of the oceans, and triggered global warming and other forms of climate change.

This study is still awaiting publication, so the finding has yet to be confirmed by peer review. But if the study holds up, it could show us what’s in store for our planet in the present.

It’s no coincidence that coal burning led to the largest mass extinction in the Earth’s history: it’s very bad for life and for the planet.

Right now, we’re in the middle of another mass extinction caused by our insatiable appetite for fossil fuels, and there’s a good chance that our own species could be one of the casualties.

Source: EarthArXiv via The Guardian

Third Industrial Revolution Will Create a Green Economy Jeremy Rifkin #StopAdani #auspol

This essay is the first in a four-part series on the theme, “The Third Industrial Revolution.” An introduction by Arianna Huffington is available here. Part two is available here. Part three is here. Part four is here. Stay tuned for responses from leading global figures and technologists.

The global economy is slowing, productivity is waning in every region of the world and unemployment remains stubbornly high in every country.

At the same time, economic inequality between the rich and the poor is at the highest point in human history.

In 2010 the combined wealth of the 388 richest people in the world equaled the combined wealth of the poorest half of the human race.

By 2014 the wealth of the 80 richest individuals in the world equaled the combined wealth of the poorest half of the human race.

This dire economic reality is now compounded by the rapid acceleration of climate change brought on by the increasing emissions of industry-induced global warming gases.

Climate scientists report that the global atmospheric concentration of carbon, which ranged from about 180 to 300 parts per million for the past 650,000 years, has risen from 280 ppm just before the outset of the industrial era to 400 ppm in 2013.

The atmospheric concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide, the other two powerful global warming gases, are showing similar steep trajectories.

At the Copenhagen global climate summit in December 2009, the European Union proposed that the nations of the world limit the rise in Earth’s temperature to 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius).

Even a 3.5 degree rise, however, would take us back to the temperature on Earth several million years ago, in the Pliocene epoch, with devastating consequences to ecosystems and human life.

The EU proposal went ignored.

Now, six years later, the sharp rise in the use of carbon-based fuels has pushed up the atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide far more quickly than earlier models had projected, making it likely that the temperature on Earth will rush past the 3.5 degree target and could top off at 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit (4.8 degrees Celsius) by 2100 — temperatures not seen on Earth for millions of years. (Remember, anatomically modern human beings — the youngest species — have only inhabited the planet for 195,000 years or so.)

What makes these dramatic spikes in the Earth’s temperature so terrifying is that the increase in heat radically shifts the planet’s hydrological cycle.

Ours is a watery planet.

The Earth’s diverse ecosystems have evolved over geological time in direct relationship to precipitation patterns. Each rise in temperature of 1 degree Celsius results in a 7 percent increase in the moisture-holding capacity of the atmosphere. This causes a radical change in the way water is distributed, with more intense precipitation but a reduction in duration and frequency.

The consequences are already being felt in ecosystems around the world.

We are experiencing more bitter winter snows, more dramatic spring storms and floods, more prolonged summer droughts, more wildfires, more intense hurricanes (category 3, 4 and 5), a melting of the ice caps on the great mountain ranges and a rise in sea levels.

The Earth’s ecosystems cannot readjust to a disruptive change in the planet’s water cycle in such a brief moment in time and are under increasing stress, with some on the verge of collapse. The destabilization of ecosystem dynamics around the world has now pushed the biosphere into the sixth extinction event of the past 450 million years of life on Earth. In each of the five previous extinctions, Earth’s climate reached a critical tipping point, throwing the ecosystems into a positive feedback loop, leading to a quick wipeout of the planet’s biodiversity.

On average, it took upward of 10 million years to recover the lost biodiversity.

Biologists tell us that we could see the extinction of half the Earth’s species by the end of the current century, resulting in a barren new era that could last for millions of years. James Hansen, the former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, forecasts a rise in the Earth’s temperature of 4 degrees Celsius between now and the turn of the century — and with it, the end of human civilization as we’ve come to know it. The only hope, according to Hansen, is to reduce the current concentration of carbon in the atmosphere from 400 ppm to 350 ppm or less.

Typhoon Haiyan survivors make camp in the ruins of their neighborhood on the outskirts of Tacloban, central Philippines. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, File)

Now, a new economic paradigm is emerging that is going to dramatically change the way we organize economic life on the planet.

The European Union is embarking on a bold new course to create a high-tech 21st century smart green digital economy, making Europe potentially the most productive commercial space in the world and the most ecologically sustainable society on Earth.

The plan is called Digital Europe.

The EU vision of a green digital economy is now being embraced by China and other developing nations around the world.

The digitalization of Europe involves much more than providing universal broadband, free Wi-Fi and a flow of big data.

The digital economy will revolutionize every commercial sector, disrupt the workings of virtually every industry, bring with it unprecedented new economic opportunities, put millions of people back to work, democratize economic life and create a more sustainable low-carbon society to mitigate climate change.

Equally important, this new economic narrative is being accompanied by a new biosphere consciousness, as the human race begins to perceive the Earth as its indivisible community.

We are each beginning to take on our responsibilities as stewards of the planetary ecosystems that sustain all of life.

To grasp the enormity of the economic change taking place, we need to understand the technological forces that have given rise to new economic systems throughout history. Every great economic paradigm requires three elements, each of which interacts with the other to enable the system to operate as a whole: new communication technologies to more efficiently manage economic activity; new sources of energy to more efficiently power economic activity; and new modes of transportation to more efficiently move economic activity.

In the 19th century, steam-powered printing and the telegraph, abundant coal and locomotives on national rail systems gave rise to the First Industrial Revolution. In the 20th century, centralized electricity, the telephone, radio and television, cheap oil and internal combustion vehicles on national road systems converged to create an infrastructure for the Second Industrial Revolution.

The Third Industrial Revolution

Today, Europe is laying the ground work for the Third Industrial Revolution. The digitalized communication Internet is converging with a digitalized, renewable “Energy Internet” and a digitalized, automated “Transportation and Logistics Internet” to create a super “Internet of Things” infrastructure. In the Internet of Things era, sensors will be embedded into every device and appliance, allowing them to communicate with each other and Internet users, providing up-to-the-moment data on the managing, powering and moving of economic activity in a smart Digital Europe. Currently, billions of sensors are attached to resource flows, warehouses, road systems, factory production lines, the electricity transmission grid, offices, homes, stores and vehicles, continually monitoring their status and performance and feeding big data back to the Communication Internet, Energy Internet and Transportation and Logistics Internet. By 2030, it is estimated there will be more than 100 trillion sensors connecting the human and natural environment in a global distributed intelligent network. For the first time in history, the entire human race can collaborate directly with one another, democratizing economic life.

The EMC earth station at Raisting in Germany provides satellite-based communications for aid organizations, the United Nations and emerging markets. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The digitalization of communication, energy and transportation also raises risks and challenges, not the least of which are guaranteeing network neutrality, preventing the creation of new corporate monopolies, protecting personal privacy, ensuring data security and thwarting cybercrime and cyber terrorism. The European Commission has already begun to address these issues by establishing the broad principle that “privacy, data protection, and information security are complementary requirements for Internet of Things services.”

In this expanded digital economy, private enterprises connected to the Internet of Things can use Big Data and analytics to develop algorithms that speed efficiency, increase productivity and dramatically lower the marginal cost of producing and distributing goods and services, making European businesses more competitive in an emerging post-carbon global marketplace. (Marginal cost is the cost of producing an additional unit of a good or service, after fixed costs have been absorbed.)

The marginal cost of some goods and services in a Digital Europe will even approach zero, allowing millions of prosumers connected to the Internet of Things to produce and exchange things with one another for nearly free in the growing Sharing Economy. Already, a digital generation is producing and sharing music, videos, news blogs, social media, free e-books, massive open online college courses and other virtual goods at near zero marginal cost. The near zero marginal cost phenomenon brought the music industry to its knees, shook the television industry, forced newspapers and magazines out of business and crippled the book publishing market.

While many traditional industries suffered, the zero marginal cost phenomenon also gave rise to a spate of new entrepreneurial enterprises including Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and thousands of other Internet companies, which reaped profits by creating new applications and establishing the networks that allow the Sharing Economy to flourish.

Economists acknowledge the powerful impact the near zero marginal cost has had on the information goods industries. But, until recently, they have argued that the productivity advances of the digital economy would not pass across the firewall from the virtual world to the brick-and-mortar economy of energy, and physical goods and services. That firewall has now been breached. The evolving Internet of Things will allow conventional businesses enterprises, as well as millions of prosumers, to make and distribute their own renewable energy, use driverless electric and fuel-cell vehicles in automated car-sharing services and manufacture an increasing array of 3-D-printed physical products and other goods at very low marginal cost in the market exchange economy, or at near zero marginal cost in the Sharing Economy, just as they now do with information goods.

Jeremy Rifkin is the author of “The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism.” Rifkin is an advisor to the European Union and to heads of state around the world, and is the president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, D.C..

For more information, please visit The Zero Marginal Cost Society.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

The third industrial revolution. #StopAdani #auspol

The third industrial revolution

The digitisation of manufacturing will transform the way goods are made—and change the politics of jobs too

THE first industrial revolution began in Britain in the late 18th century, with the mechanisation of the textile industry. Tasks previously done laboriously by hand in hundreds of weavers’ cottages were brought together in a single cotton mill, and the factory was born.

The second industrial revolution came in the early 20th century, when Henry Ford mastered the moving assembly line and ushered in the age of mass production.

The first two industrial revolutions made people richer and more urban.

Now a third revolution is under way. Manufacturing is going digital.

As this week’s special report argues, this could change not just business, but much else besides.

A number of remarkable technologies are converging: clever software, novel materials, more dexterous robots, new processes (notably three-dimensional printing) and a whole range of web-based services.

The factory of the past was based on cranking out zillions of identical products: Ford famously said that car-buyers could have any colour they liked, as long as it was black.

But the cost of producing much smaller batches of a wider variety, with each product tailored precisely to each customer’s whims, is falling.

The factory of the future will focus on mass customisation—and may look more like those weavers’ cottages than Ford’s assembly line

Towards a third dimension

The old way of making things involved taking lots of parts and screwing or welding them together.

Now a product can be designed on a computer and “printed” on a 3D printer, which creates a solid object by building up successive layers of material.

The digital design can be tweaked with a few mouseclicks.

The 3D printer can run unattended, and can make many things which are too complex for a traditional factory to handle.

In time, these amazing machines may be able to make almost anything, anywhere—from your garage to an African village.

The applications of 3D printing are especially mind-boggling.

Already, hearing aids and high-tech parts of military jets are being printed in customised shapes.

The geography of supply chains will change.

An engineer working in the middle of a desert who finds he lacks a certain tool no longer has to have it delivered from the nearest city.

He can simply download the design and print it.

The days when projects ground to a halt for want of a piece of kit, or when customers complained that they could no longer find spare parts for things they had bought, will one day seem quaint.

Other changes are nearly as momentous.

New materials are lighter, stronger and more durable than the old ones.

Carbon fibre is replacing steel and aluminium in products ranging from aeroplanes to mountain bikes.

New techniques let engineers shape objects at a tiny scale.

Nanotechnology is giving products enhanced features, such as bandages that help heal cuts, engines that run more efficiently and crockery that cleans more easily. Genetically engineered viruses are being developed to make items such as batteries. And with the internet allowing ever more designers to collaborate on new products, the barriers to entry are falling. Ford needed heaps of capital to build his colossal River Rouge factory; his modern equivalent can start with little besides a laptop and a hunger to invent.

Like all revolutions, this one will be disruptive.

Digital technology has already rocked the media and retailing industries, just as cotton mills crushed hand looms and the Model T put farriers out of work. Many people will look at the factories of the future and shudder.

They will not be full of grimy machines manned by men in oily overalls. Many will be squeaky clean—and almost deserted.

Some carmakers already produce twice as many vehicles per employee as they did only a decade or so ago.

Most jobs will not be on the factory floor but in the offices nearby, which will be full of designers, engineers, IT specialists, logistics experts, marketing staff and other professionals. The manufacturing jobs of the future will require more skills.

Many dull, repetitive tasks will become obsolete: you no longer need riveters when a product has no rivets.

The revolution will affect not only how things are made, but where. Factories used to move to low-wage countries to curb labour costs. But labour costs are growing less and less important: a $499 first-generation iPad included only about $33 of manufacturing labour, of which the final assembly in China accounted for just $8. Offshore production is increasingly moving back to rich countries not because Chinese wages are rising, but because companies now want to be closer to their customers so that they can respond more quickly to changes in demand. And some products are so sophisticated that it helps to have the people who design them and the people who make them in the same place.

The Boston Consulting Group reckons that in areas such as transport, computers, fabricated metals and machinery, 10-30% of the goods that America now imports from China could be made at home by 2020, boosting American output by $20 billion-55 billion a year.

The shock of the new

Consumers will have little difficulty adapting to the new age of better products, swiftly delivered.

Governments, however, may find it harder.

Their instinct is to protect industries and companies that already exist, not the upstarts that would destroy them.

They shower old factories with subsidies and bully bosses who want to move production abroad.

They spend billions backing the new technologies which they, in their wisdom, think will prevail. And they cling to a romantic belief that manufacturing is superior to services, let alone finance.

None of this makes sense.

The lines between manufacturing and services are blurring.

Rolls-Royce no longer sells jet engines; it sells the hours that each engine is actually thrusting an aeroplane through the sky.

Governments have always been lousy at picking winners, and they are likely to become more so, as legions of entrepreneurs and tinkerers swap designs online, turn them into products at home and market them globally from a garage.

As the revolution rages, governments should stick to the basics: better schools for a skilled workforce, clear rules and a level playing field for enterprises of all kinds.

Leave the rest to the revolutionaries.

Press link for more: Economist.com