Cairns

A Billion Climate Migrants by 2050 #ClimateChange #StopAdani #Auspol #Refugees 

Climate Migrants Might Reach One Billion by 2050
By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 21 2017 (IPS) – Imagine a world with as many as one billion people facing harsh climate change impacts resulting in devastating droughts and/or floods, extreme weather, destruction of natural resources, in particular lands, soils and water, and the consequence of severe livelihoods conditions, famine and starvation.


Although not yet based on definite scientific projections, the proven speed with which the process of climate change has been taking place, might lead to such a scenario by 2050. 

If so, 1 in 9 human beings would be on the move by then.
Currently, forecasts vary from 25 million to 1 billion environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis, with 200 million being the most widely cited estimate, according to a 2015 study carried out by the Institute for Environment and Human Security of the United Nations University.

“This figure equals the current estimate of international migrants worldwide.”
Other specialised sources estimate that “every second, one person is displaced by disaster.” 

On this, the Oslo-based Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reports that in 2015 only, more than 19.2 million people fled disasters in 113 countries. 

“Disasters displace three to ten times more people than conflict and war worldwide.”
One Person Displaced Every Second

As climate change continues, adds NRC, it will likely lead to more frequent and severe natural hazards; the impact will be heavy, warns this independent humanitarian organisation providing aid and assistance to people forced to flee.
“On average, 26 million people are displaced by disasters such as floods and storms every year. 

That’s one person forced to flee every second.” See: Climate Victims – Every Second, One Person Is Displaced by Disaster
For its part, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) also forecasts 200 million environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis. Many of them would be coastal population.

In an interview to IPS, the IOM Director General William Lacy Swing explained that political crises and natural disasters are the other major drivers of migration today.
“We have never had so many complex and protracted humanitarian emergencies now happening simultaneously from West Africa all the way to Asia, with very few spots in between which do not have some issue.”

The UN specialised body’s chief added “We have today 40 million forcibly displaced people and 20 million refugees, the greatest number of uprooted people since the Second World War.” See: Q&A: Crisis and Climate Change Driving Unprecedented Migration
Droughts, Desertification
Another warning comes from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which estimates that some 135 million people may be displaced by 2045 as a result of desertification.
Up to 12 million hectares of productive land become barren every year due to desertification and drought alone, which is a lost opportunity to produce 20 million tons of grain, adds the Bonn-based Convention secretariat.
Meantime, the increase in droughts and flash floods that are stronger, more frequent and widespread is destroying the land – the Earth’s main fresh water store, according to UNCCD.
“Droughts kill more people than any other single weather-related catastrophe and conflicts among communities over water scarcity are gathering pace. Over 1 billion people today have no access to water, and demand will increase by 30 per cent by 2030.”
On the other hand, getting sustainable energy to all represents one of the biggest development challenges of the 21st century, it continues.
“Research suggests that 1.4 billion people — over 20 per cent of the global population — lack access to electricity, and that at least 2.7 billion people — some 40 cent of the global population — rely on the traditional use of biomass for cooking.”
In short, land, water and energy as resources are all pillars of our survival and of sustainable development.
“They stand or fall together. To be sustainable and in particular to reach poor rural populations, we need to enhance supply, access and security across all three pillars, at the same time, while supporting global climate ambitions.”
National Security, Migration
On this, based on the UN Environment Programme’s 2009 study “From Conflict to Peace-building. The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment,” UNCCD reminds that 40 per cent of all intrastate conflicts in the past 60 years are linked to the control and allocation of natural resources.
“The exposure of more and more poor people to water scarcity and hunger opens the door to the failure of fragile states and regional conflicts. Non-state actor groups are increasingly taking advantage of large cross-border migration flows and abandoned lands.”
Where natural assets including land are poorly managed, warns the Convention, violence might become the dominant means of resource control, forcing natural resource assets out of the hands of legitimate government.
Meanwhile, the number of international migrants worldwide has been on the rise. According to the International migration report (2015), their number has continued to grow rapidly over the past fifteen years reaching 244 million in 2015, up from 222 million in 2010 and 173 million in 2000.
Losing productive land is driving people to make risky life choices, says UNCCD, adding that in rural areas where people depend on scarce productive land resources, land degradation is a driver of forced migration.
Africa is particularly susceptible since more than 90 per cent of economy depends on a climate-sensitive natural resource base like rain-fed, subsistence agriculture.
“Unless we change the way we manage our land, in the next 30 years we may leave a billion or more vulnerable poor people with little choice but to fight or flee.”

Press link for more: Relief web

Climate Change sets the world on fire! #StopAdani #auspol 

Climate change sets the world on fire

Screenshot NASA FIRMS web fire mapper (NASA/FIRMS)

There have been many wildfires aound the world this summer. Canada has seen the worst season for fires since records began, with 894,941 hectares burned, the British Columbia Wildfire Service has confirmed. Large areas of the Western United States have also been affected. 
Meanwhile in Portugal, 2,000 people were recently cut off by flames and smoke encircling the town of Macao. And earlier this summer, 64 people were killed by a blaze in the country.
Like Canada, southern Europe has seen a record heatwave this year, creating hot, dry conditions that saw Italy, France, Croatia, Spain and Greece all swept by wildfires. As a result, Europe has reportedly seen three times the average number of wildfires this summer.
But it’s not just Canada and southern Europe that have been affected. In Siberia, wildfire destroyed hundreds of homes, and around 700 hectares of Armenian forest have also been destroyed by fire. Earlier this year, Chile saw wildfires that were unparalleled in the country’s history, according to the President.
Even Greenland, not known for its hot dry conditions, suffered an unprecedented blaze this summer.


Portugal Waldbrände (picture alliance/dpa/AP/A. Franca)

Central Portugal has been one of the areas hardest hit by fires this summer
The big picture
“A lot of these things are happening locally, but people don’t always connect them to climate change,” said Kevin Trenberth, a scientist at the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the US. “But there is a real climate change component to this and the risk is going up because of climate change.”
With global temperatures rising, scientists say wildfires are likely to become increasingly frequent and widespread. “What’s really happening is that there is extra heat available,” Trenberth told DW. “That heat has to go somewhere and some of it goes into raising temperatures. But the first thing that happens is that it goes into drying – it dries out plants and increases the risk of wildfires.”
The map above, compiling NASA satellite data on fires from the beginning of 2017 until mid-August makes it looks as if the whole world is on fire.  
So is 2017 a record year of wildfires?

 Kanada Cache Creek Waldbrand (picture-alliance/empics/D. Dyck)

Wildfire rages in British Colombia, on July 8. It has now been confirmed the state’s biggest in more than 50 years
Tough competition
It certainly looks like it’s been a big year for fires in southern Europe and North America. But Martin Wooster, professor of earth observation science at King’s College London, says other parts of the world have seen worse in recent years.
“For example, this year, fires across Southeast Asia are extremely unlikely to be anything like as severe as they were in 2015,” he told DW.
Two years ago, drought caused by El Nino created lethal conditions for Indonesian forests and peatlands that were already degraded by draining and logging. The smoldering peat – ancient, decayed vegetable matter condensed into a carbon-heavy fuel – kept fires burning for months on end.
“This led to huge fires, far bigger than any seen in Europe, and some of the worst air pollution ever experienced,” Wooster said.


 Satellite wildfire photo (NASA)

NASA imagery shows a large wildfire burning in Sweden in early August
Longer fire seasons – longer recovery
But there does appear to be a distinct trend for fire seasons to be longer and more harsh. “In the western United States, the general perception is that there is no wildfire season any more, but that it’s continuous all year round,” Trenberth told DW.
In many parts of the world, wildfires are part of a natural cycle. Savannahs, for example, are maintained by fire. Some trees not only survive fires, but need them to release their seeds. Human intervention can disrupt these cycles, the scientific discipline of fire ecology has found. Putting out small fires can allow flammable debris to accumulate until a colossal fire starts that cannot be controlled.
But global warming is resulting in hotter, drier conditions that mean such infernos are becoming more common, even with careful forest management. And the changed climatic conditions can mean forests take far longer to recover. Meanwhile, fires are also starting in habitats in areas like the tropics that have no natural fire ecology.


Frankreich Waldbrände (picture-alliance/MAXPPP/F. Fernandes)

A wildfire smolders near Nice in the south of France in July
Human fingerprints
Climate change isn’t the only manmade factor. Fires can also be started by careless humans dropping cigarettes or letting campfires get out of control.
And in regions like the Amazon, where the annual fire season increased by 19 percent between 1979 and 2013, fire is deliberately used to clear forest to make way for agriculture. “Farmers light fires to clear an area and what happens in drought conditions is that these fires become wild because the vegetation is so dry, it gets out of control,” Trenberth said.
And all this can have a feedback effect – more fires mean more carbon released into the atmosphere, which in turn drives climate change.

Wildfires in Croatia (Reuters/A. Bronic)

Wildfires rage through Southeast Europe

Hope for the best
While there were no reports of casualties and the fires only reached a few homes, some people could only stand by and watch as the flames razed everything in their path, especially nature. Fires between the Croatian town of Omis and Split have reportedly destroyed 4,500 hectares of forest.

Press link for more: DW.COM

How will rural health services survive? #ClimateChange #auspol #StopAdani 

How will health services survive climate change impacts on rural and remote populations?
Sheshtyn Paola

Climate change threatens to impact the lives of Australians living in rural and remote regions, through increased intensity of rainfall and tropical cyclones, high-fire danger days, drought and heat wave.


Scientists also predict agricultural viability will be compromised by drier soils and the unpredictability of extreme weather events, and exposure to air pollutants will increasingly impact population health, according to research published in the Australian Journal of Rural Health.
It is predicted that climate change effects will lead to increases in:
 

Physical injury;

Heat-related illness;

Nutritional disorders;

Infectious diseases;

Mental health issues;

Cardiorespiratory illnesses;

Skin cancer;

Food security;

Water security; and

Vector-borne diseases.


Medical practitioner researchers from the University of Notre Dame in Wagga Wagga, NSW, interviewed health service managers working in rural and remote areas, in order to determine their opinions of climate change impacts and strategies to strengthen the health service response.

There will be a need for pharmacists and other healthcare practitioners to adapt to climate change pressures.
The majority of respondents (90%) agreed that climate change would impact the health of rural populations in the future with regard to heat-related illnesses, mental health, skin cancer and water security.
And most participants identified the following population groups as being most vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change:
Farmers;

Homeless persons;

The elderly;

Children; and

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.
However many (72%) reported there is scepticism regarding climate change among both health professionals and community members – hampering their ability to strengthen health services in order to prepare for future climate challenges.
It was also discussed that there is a greater need for public health education about the impacts of climate change among staff and the community in local health districts.
“The role of health services in providing education about the health impacts of climage change is well recognised,” say authors Dr Rachel Purcell and Dr Joe McGirr.

“The need for health professionals to be aware of the health impacts of climate change has begun to be recognised in the policies and professional development activities of postgraduate training colleges and public health bodies.
“[Health service managers’] recommendations for strengthening the capacity of rural health services are integral to shaping the response of the rural health sector to climate change.”
There are several organisations including health practitioners with the collective goal of preparing for climate change and advocating for pro-environmental policies.

Most participants identified children and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People as being some of the most vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change.
Pharmacists for the Environment Australia (PEA), for example, is involved in climate change advocacy and late last year became a member of Climate and Health Alliance.

The Climate and Health Alliance is a coalition of healthcare stakeholders who wish to see the threat to human health from climate change and ecological degradation addressed through prompt policy action. 
As a member of the Climate and Health Alliance, Pharmacists for the Environment Australia says that it recognises “health care stakeholders have a particular responsibility to the community in advocating for public policy that will promote and protect human health.”
Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) is another active organisation that says one of their primary concerns is the health effects of climate change on humans and the biosphere on which humans depend.
“Global warming and climate change have serious implications for human health globally,” says the DEA in its May 2017 submission to the Federal Government’s discussion paper, Review of Australia’s Climate Change Policy.
“It is increasingly recognised that climate change is only one facet of a planetary health crisis; deforestation, air pollution, ocean acidification and biodiversity loss all pose grave threats to health,” they argue.
“Climate change threatens to further exacerbate problems in these domains. If the current trend continues, there is a real danger that efforts will be insufficient to prevent run-away global warming, which will have disastrous social, economic and health consequences.
“The mining and combustion of fossil-fuels, in particular coal, also have direct adverse effects from emission of toxic substances and pollution with particulates.
“The burden of repair of the environment is being passed to the next generations.”
Australian Journal of Rural Health 2017; online 17 August

Press link for more: AJP.COM

Wind & Solar get the thumbs-up. #auspol #StopAdani

One of the biggest criticisms against wind and solar energy has been quashed
Akshat Rathi

One of the biggest criticisms of the renewable-energy industry is that it has been propped up by government subsidies. 

There is no doubt that without government help, it would have been much harder for the nascent technology to mature. But what’s more important is whether there has been a decent return on taxpayers’ investment.

A new analysis in Nature Energy gives renewable-energy subsidies the thumbs-up.

 Dev Millstein of Lawerence Berkeley National Laboratory and his colleagues find that the fossil fuels not burnt because of wind and solar energy helped avoid between 3,000 and 12,700 premature deaths in the US between 2007 and 2015. 

Fossil fuels produce large amounts of pollutants like carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter, which are responsible for ill-health and negative climate effects.

The researchers found that the US saved between $35 billion and $220 billion in that period because of avoided deaths, fewer sick days, and climate-change mitigation.
How do these benefits compare to the US government’s outlays? “The monetary value of air quality and climate benefits are about equal or more than state and federal financial support to wind and solar industries,” says Millstein.
Between 2007 and 2015, Quartz’s own analysis* finds that the US government likely spent between $50 billion and $80 billion on subsidies for those two industries. Even on the lower end of the benefits and higher end of subsidies, just the health and climate benefits of renewable energy return about half of taxpayers’ money. If the US were to stop subsidies now, those benefits would continue to accrue for the lifetime of the already existing infrastructure, improving the long-term return of the investments.
What’s more, those benefits do not account for everything. Creation of a new industry spurs economic growth, creates new jobs, and leads to technology development. There isn’t yet an estimation of what sort of money that brings in, but it’s likely to be a tidy sum.
To be sure, the marginal benefits of additional renewable energy production will start to fall in the future. That is, for every new megawatt of renewable energy produced, an equal amount of pollution won’t be avoided, which means the number of lives saved, and monetary benefits generated, will fall. But Millstein thinks that we won’t reach that point for some time—at least in the US.
The debate whether subsidies to the renewable industry are worth it rages across the world. Though the results of this study are only directly applicable to the US, many rich countries have similar factors at play and are likely to produce similar cost-benefit analyses.

Press link for more: QZ.Com

Systemic Change our only hope. #StopAdani #auspol 

By Richard Heinberg.

Systemic Change Driven by Moral Awakening Is Our Only Hope
Our core ecological problem is not climate change.

It is overshoot, of which global warming is a symptom.

Overshoot is a systemic issue.

Over the past century-and-a-half, enormous amounts of cheap energy from fossil fuels enabled the rapid growth of resource extraction, manufacturing and consumption; and these in turn led to population increase, pollution and loss of natural habitat and hence biodiversity.

The human system expanded dramatically, overshooting Earth’s long-term carrying capacity for humans while upsetting the ecological systems we depend on for our survival.

Until we understand and address this systemic imbalance, symptomatic treatment (doing what we can to reverse pollution dilemmas like climate change, trying to save threatened species and hoping to feed a burgeoning population with genetically modified crops) will constitute an endlessly frustrating round of stopgap measures that are ultimately destined to fail.

The ecology movement in the 1970s benefitted from a strong infusion of systems thinking, which was in vogue at the time (ecology—the study of the relationships between organisms and their environments—is an inherently systemic discipline, as opposed to studies like chemistry that focus on reducing complex phenomena to their components).

As a result, many of the best environmental writers of the era framed the modern human predicament in terms that revealed the deep linkages between environmental symptoms and the way human society operates.

Limits to Growth (1972), an outgrowth of the systems research of Jay Forrester, investigated the interactions between population growth, industrial production, food production, resource depletion and pollution.

Overshoot (1982), by William Catton, named our systemic problem and described its origins and development in a style any literate person could appreciate.

Many more excellent books from the era could be cited.
However, in recent decades, as climate change has come to dominate environmental concerns, there has been a significant shift in the discussion.

Today, most environmental reporting is focused laser-like on climate change, and systemic links between it and other worsening ecological dilemmas (such as overpopulation, species extinctions, water and air pollution, and loss of topsoil and fresh water) are seldom highlighted.

It’s not that climate change isn’t a big deal. As a symptom, it’s a real doozy.

There’s never been anything quite like it, and climate scientists and climate-response advocacy groups are right to ring the loudest of alarm bells. But our failure to see climate change in context may be our undoing.

Why have environmental writers and advocacy organizations succumbed to tunnel vision?

Perhaps it’s simply that they assume systems thinking is beyond the capacity of policy makers. It’s true: If climate scientists were to approach world leaders with the message, “We have to change everything, including our entire economic system—and fast,” they might be shown the door rather rudely.

A more acceptable message is, “We have identified a serious pollution problem, for which there are technical solutions.”

Perhaps many of the scientists who did recognize the systemic nature of our ecological crisis concluded that if we can successfully address this one make-or-break environmental crisis, we’ll be able to buy time to deal with others waiting in the wings (overpopulation, species extinctions, resource depletion and on and on).
If climate change can be framed as an isolated problem for which there is a technological solution, the minds of economists and policy makers can continue to graze in familiar pastures.

Technology—in this case, solar, wind and nuclear power generators, as well as batteries, electric cars, heat pumps and, if all else fails, solar radiation management via atmospheric aerosols—centers our thinking on subjects like financial investment and industrial production.

Discussion participants don’t have to develop the ability to think systemically, nor do they need to understand the Earth system and how human systems fit into it.

All they need trouble themselves with is the prospect of shifting some investments, setting tasks for engineers and managing the resulting industrial-economic transformation so as to ensure that new jobs in green industries compensate for jobs lost in coal mines.
The strategy of buying time with a techno-fix presumes either that we will be able to institute systemic change at some unspecified point in the future even though we can’t do it just now (a weak argument on its face), or that climate change and all of our other symptomatic crises will in fact be amenable to technological fixes.

The latter thought-path is again a comfortable one for managers and investors.

After all, everybody loves technology.

It already does nearly everything for us. During the last century it solved a host of problems: it cured diseases, expanded food production, sped up transportation and provided us with information and entertainment in quantities and varieties no one could previously have imagined.

Why shouldn’t it be able to solve climate change and all the rest of our problems?

Of course, ignoring the systemic nature of our dilemma just means that as soon as we get one symptom corralled, another is likely to break loose.

But, crucially, is climate change, taken as an isolated problem, fully treatable with technology?

Color me doubtful.

I say this having spent many months poring over the relevant data with David Fridley of the energy analysis program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Our resulting book, Our Renewable Future, concluded that nuclear power is too expensive and risky; meanwhile, solar and wind power both suffer from intermittency, which (once these sources begin to provide a large percentage of total electrical power) will require a combination of three strategies on a grand scale: energy storage, redundant production capacity and demand adaptation.


At the same time, we in industrial nations will have to adapt most of our current energy usage (which occurs in industrial processes, building heating and transportation) to electricity.

Altogether, the energy transition promises to be an enormous undertaking, unprecedented in its requirements for investment and substitution.

When David and I stepped back to assess the enormity of the task, we could see no way to maintain current quantities of global energy production during the transition, much less to increase energy supplies so as to power ongoing economic growth.

The biggest transitional hurdle is scale: the world uses an enormous amount of energy currently; only if that quantity can be reduced significantly, especially in industrial nations, could we imagine a credible pathway toward a post-carbon future.

Downsizing the world’s energy supplies would, effectively, also downsize industrial processes of resource extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and waste management.

That’s a systemic intervention, of exactly the kind called for by the ecologists of the 1970s who coined the mantra, “Reduce, reuse and recycle.”

It gets to the heart of the overshoot dilemma—as does population stabilization and reduction, another necessary strategy.

But it’s also a notion to which technocrats, industrialists, and investors are virulently allergic.
The ecological argument is, at its core, a moral one—as I explain in more detail in a just-released manifesto replete with sidebars and graphics (“There’s No App for That: Technology and Morality in the Age of Climate Change, Overpopulation, and Biodiversity Loss”).

Any systems thinker who understands overshoot and prescribes powerdown as a treatment is effectively engaging in an intervention with an addictive behavior.

Society is addicted to growth, and that’s having terrible consequences for the planet and, increasingly, for us as well.

We have to change our collective and individual behavior and give up something we depend on—power over our environment.

We must restrain ourselves, like an alcoholic foreswearing booze. That requires honesty and soul-searching.
In its early years the environmental movement made that moral argument, and it worked up to a point.

Concern over rapid population growth led to family planning efforts around the world. Concern over biodiversity declines led to habitat protection. Concern over air and water pollution led to a slew of regulations.

These efforts weren’t sufficient, but they showed that framing our systemic problem in moral terms could get at least some traction.
Why didn’t the environmental movement fully succeed?

Some theorists now calling themselves “bright greens” or “eco-modernists” have abandoned the moral fight altogether.

Their justification for doing so is that people want a vision of the future that’s cheery and that doesn’t require sacrifice.

Now, they say, only a technological fix offers any hope.

The essential point of this essay (and my manifesto) is simply that, even if the moral argument fails, a techno-fix won’t work either.

A gargantuan investment in technology (whether next-generation nuclear power or solar radiation geo-engineering) is being billed as our last hope. But in reality it’s no hope at all.
The reason for the failure thus far of the environmental movement wasn’t that it appealed to humanity’s moral sentiments—that was in fact the movement’s great strength. The effort fell short because it wasn’t able to alter industrial society’s central organizing principle, which is also its fatal flaw: its dogged pursuit of growth at all cost. Now we’re at the point where we must finally either succeed in overcoming growthism or face the failure not just of the environmental movement, but of civilization itself.
The good news is that systemic change is fractal in nature: it implies, indeed it requires, action at every level of society.

We can start with our own individual choices and behavior; we can work within our communities.

We needn’t wait for a cathartic global or national sea change.

And even if our efforts cannot “save” consumerist industrial civilization, they could still succeed in planting the seeds of a regenerative human culture worthy of survival.
There’s more good news: Once we humans choose to restrain our numbers and our rates of consumption, technology can assist our efforts.

Machines can help us monitor our progress, and there are relatively simple technologies that can help deliver needed services with less energy usage and environmental damage.

Some ways of deploying technology could even help us clean up the atmosphere and restore ecosystems.
But machines can’t make the key choices that will set us on a sustainable path.

Systemic change driven by moral awakening: it’s not just our last hope; it’s the only real hope we’ve ever had.

Press link for more: Eco watch

Hope is essential to save the planet. #StopAdani #auspol 

We saved the whale. The same vision can save the planet | Susanna Rustin
Susanna RustinFriday 18 August 2017 16.00 AEST

 

Illustration by Mark Long

“Hope is essential – despair is just another form of denial,” Al Gore said last week, in an interview to promote the sequel to his 2006 climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth. 

As well as the very bad news of Donald Trump’s science-denying presidency, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, which opens in the UK today, brings good news: the plummeting cost of renewable electricity and the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

K

In 2017, denial of the facts of climate change – and myriad linked dangers including air and ocean pollution, famine and a refugee crisis the likes of which we can hardly imagine – is in retreat, with the Trump administration the malignant exception. 

Virtually all governments know that climate change is happening, and polls show most people do too – with those living in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa particularly worried.

 The question is not whether global warming is happening, but what we are going to do about it. 

There are, and need to be, many answers to this. 

Gore believes the solutions to climate change are within reach, if people can only find the political will to enact them.

 Even if how to whip up sufficient zeal to make this happen remains a puzzle, his essential message is one of optimism.


Others are less sanguine. 

A widely shared article by David Wallace-Wells in New York magazine last month sketching out some worst-case scenarios included an interview with pioneering climate scientist Wally Broecker, now 84, who no longer believes even the most drastic reductions in carbon emissions are sufficient to avert disaster. 

Instead, he puts his hopes in carbon capture and geoengineering. 

Others oppose anything that smacks of a techno-fix, believing the very idea that human ingenuity can get us out of this mess is yet another form of denial.
The human reaction – or lack of one – to climate change is a subject of interest in itself.

 The novelist Amitav Ghosh wrote The Great Derangement, a book about why fiction writers mostly ignore the subject, and argued that the profound alteration of Earth’s climate is difficult to think about. 

Wallace-Wells, in New York magazine, refers to “an incredible failure of imagination”. 

Politics, supposed to help us make sense of the world, has sometimes been more hindrance than help: is climate change really an inconvenient truth, because it means we have to give up eating beef and taking long-distance flights, or a too-convenient truth for anti-capitalists who want to bring down the financial system?
Such left-right binarism, and the relentlessly partisan nature of US politics, is surely why Gore now prefers to frame climate change more as a “moral” issue than as a political one. 

But the clearest and simplest message from his decade of advocacy is the need for action at every level. 

Such action takes many forms, ranging from protests against the Dakota Access pipeline in the US to anti-fracking demonstrations in Lancashire. 

This year the Guardian in conjunction with Global Witness is documenting the deaths of people all over the world who are killed while attempting to defend the environment from damage or destruction.

In a similar vein, the Natural History Museum has chosen its revamped central hall to showcase a key moment for environmental activism. 

When it was first announced that Dippy the dinosaur would be replaced with a blue whale skeleton that had previously hung quietly among the mammals, there were grumbles.

 But a month after its grand reopening in the presence of royalty and Sir David Attenborough, the revamped museum is a smash hit with more than 115,000 visitors a week.
Partly this is because the installation of the skeleton brings Alfred Waterhouse’s 1870s terracotta building, with its marvellous moulded monkeys, back to life in the most magnificent way. 

Whereas visitors once mostly stuck to the ground floor until they joined the procession to the dinosaurs, the aerial position of the whale bones now draws people upstairs. From an overcrowded lobby, Hintze Hall has been raised into a wondrous public space.
But the whale, which died as a result of being stranded off the coast of Ireland in 1891, is more than a 19th-century relic. 

What the museum has done by giving this vast, dead creature such prominence is to issue a warning and a call to action. 

And it makes no bones about this: “Rescued from the brink of extinction in the 1960s, the blue whale is a symbol of hope for the future of the natural world,” says the information panel. 

“Threats such as marine pollution and climate change linger – the blue whale remains a vulnerable and endangered species.”


Like the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, which stopped growing after a 1987 treaty phased out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), whale conservation is one of the global environmental movement’s greatest success stories. 

Blue whales were critically endangered, until activists persuaded governments to legislate to save them, and the museum’s new exhibit is called Hope.
Optimism alone won’t halt climate change, or prevent further extinctions. 

But like Gore, the director of the Natural History Museum, Michael Dixon, and his colleagues understand that the most vital currency of the environmental movement is hope.

 With the knowledge we now have of climate change’s likely consequences, the alternative is nihilism.
• Susanna Rustin is a Guardian columnist

Press link for more: The Guardian

South Australia to build World’s biggest Solar Thermal Plant. #auspol 

South Australia Will Be Home to the World’s Biggest Single-Tower Solar Thermal Power Plant
South Australia has approved the biggest solar thermal power plant of its kind in the world. The 150-megawatt structure received the green light from government officials this week. The plant will be constructed in Port Augusta. 

The project will provide employment for over 600 construction workers and will provide more than enough energy for the state’s requirements.

[Image Source: Solar Reserve]
Project expects to be running by 2020
The renewable energy project will kick off next year and be completed by 2020. 

The US$510 million project is the latest in a long line of renewable energy projects the state is tackling.

 Wasim Saman, from the University of South Australia, explains “The significance of solar thermal generation lies in its ability to provide energy virtually on demand through the use of thermal energy storage to store heat for running the power turbines.”

 He adds, “This is a substantially more economical way of storing energy than using batteries.”

The most common form of solar power uses solar photovoltaic panels to convert sunlight directly into electricity. 

This method of energy production then requires batteries to store the excess power.

 Solar thermal plants on the other hand use mirrors to concentrate the sunlight into a heating system. 

The method of heating can vary but for the South Australian plant, molten salt will be heated up.
This is a much more economical method than using regular batteries.

 The hot salt is then used to boil water, spin a steam turbine, and generate electricity when required.
Designers of the Port Augusta project say that the plant will have the ability to generate power at full load for up to 8 hours after the sun’s gone down.

 The South Australian project will be modeling itself off another big solar thermal power plant. 

The 110-megawatt capacity Crescent Dunes plant in Nevada was built by the same contractor who will use the US model as the base.

[Image Source: Solar Reserve]

South Australia leading the way in renewables.
South Australia is a world leader in renewable energy. 

This latest project now means that around 40 percent of the state’s entire electricity needs are generated by renewable sources. 

It is hoped that the conversion to solar will also mean a cut in residential electricity costs. 

The new plant costs less than building a new coal-fired power station and works out to a similar cost per megawatt as other renewable sources such as solar and wind power.

Challenges still lie ahead
It isn’t all happy news though. 

South Australia was plagued by electricity blackouts last year and the unreliable renewable sources were blamed. 

Engineering researcher Fellow Matthew Stocks, from the Australian National University, says we still have “lots to learn” about how solar thermal technologies can fit into an electric grid system. 

He explains, “One of the big challenges for solar thermal as a storage tool is that it can only store heat. 

If there is an excess of electricity in the system because the wind is blowing strong, it cannot efficiently use it to store electrical power to shift the energy to times of shortage, unlike batteries and pumped hydro.”

Press link for more: Interesting Engineering

Eat salmon to ward off air pollution. #StopAdani #auspol 

Eat salmon to ward off air pollution
Time to hit the omega-3 … Beijing citizens wearing respiratory masks during a smog alert, December 2016.

A healthy diet can reverse the effects of fine-particulate matter, say experts


Image: REUTERS/Jason Lee

More than 90% of people worldwide have to breathe polluted air.

 Fossil fuels are the primary cause. 


The people most likely to suffer are those who live in crowded places where the shift to cleaner forms of transportation and energy has not happened or is happening too slowly. 

This is particularly evident in some areas of Asia, where smog hangs over cities and seeps into the countryside, and even into people’s homes.
Air pollution contains fine particulate matter that can enter the body and get into the lungs, causing respiratory and cardiovascular issues such as asthma attacks and irregular heartbeat, increased oxidative stress and inflammation, and chronic disease like diabetes and cancer.

 In fact, air pollution is responsible for more 7 million premature deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization: the single largest environmental health risk.


   

The only viable long-term solutions are accelerating the transition to a low fossil carbon economy and reversing climate change.

 But what can people do in the meantime to protect their health?
According to recent studies, your nutritional intake might come to the rescue. 

Researchers have found that good nutrition can fend off air-related illness and may even reverse the negative effects of fine particulate matter. If you’re one of the billions of people waiting for a breath of fresh air, that means you may want to up your vitamin intake.
Professor Jinzhuo Zhao, from Fudan University School of Public Health, China, who studies the impact of a particulate matter called PM 2.5 and explores nutritional solutions, says: “The findings of a number of human studies are encouraging and a good basis for further work to determine optimal combinations of nutrients to prevent or reduce the impact of particulate matter on different aspects of health.”
Some of the top nutrients thought to make a difference are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids like omega-3, as well as vitamins C and E. Oily fish like salmon is a great source of omega-3, which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Vitamins C and E, which are found in many fruits and vegetables, nuts and vegetable oil, are powerful antioxidants that help the body fight free radicals and restore its regular inflammatory response. For people who don’t get enough vitamins through food (and many of us don’t), supplements are a good source of health-boosting nutrients.
Of course, vitamins and omega-3 are only part of a solution. 

This does not reduce the responsibility of polluters, nor of law-makers and authorities who must legislate and enforce policies that stop pollution. 

It means that governments, scientists and the private sector should work together and continue research in this area because improving nutrition is easy and inexpensive, and it may be one way to help the billions of people who are waiting with bated breath, sometimes quite literally, for air pollution to stop.

Press link for more: World Economic Forum

5 Crucial skills to fight #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol 

Five Crucial Skills We’ll Need to Actually Fight Climate Change

A toolkit for saving the world.
This article has been sponsored by Griffith University for their new Bachelor of Social Science – find out more here.
Kevin Rudd described global warming as “the greatest moral challenge of our generation”, but this is too simple. It’s the greatest economic, political, social, cultural, environmental, and scientific challenge of our time.


A silver bullet won’t be found in a scientist’s laboratory, the halls of Parliament, nor a community activist’s meeting.
Nope, it’ll take a coordinated effort from researchers, corporations, politicians, innovators and communities to tackle climate change.
This is precisely why social scientists are poised to play such a crucial role. People with the breadth of understanding and skills to navigate and coordinate all of these moving parts will be absolutely crucial.
So with that in mind, here are five of the instruments in a social scientist’s toolkit that we’ll need to fight this real and present danger.
1. Research and innovation

Without technological transformation in some of the world’s biggest industries, we won’t stand a chance. 
Existing alternative energy sources such as solar and wind need to become more efficient, and fledgeling technologies like ocean, hybrid and bio energies need to develop to support ever-increasing energy demands.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has famously framed climate change as an issue of economic competitiveness and innovation.
The countries and businesses that are more successful at producing new energy technologies and practices will thrive.
The rest will fall behind.
2. Data Analysis

It sounds dry, but data analysis strikes at the very heart of the climate change debate. The interpretation of global temperature data is the major flashpoint for the conversation, and so understanding and communicating this information will only become more important over time.
On top of this, big data is proving to be crucial in the response to global warming.
Microsoft’s mind-boggling Madingley project is a real-time virtual biosphere – ie. a simulation of all life on earth.
It creates a simulation of the global carbon cycle and predicts how it will impact everything from pollution to animal migration to deforestation.
3. Political leadership

Leaders with a deep understanding of socio-political structures and forces will be needed to enact change on a legislative and global level. 
The recent failure of the Paris Accord shows just how important negotiation and diplomacy will be in order to get countries from around the world to work together.
This not only involves political guile, but also communication skills, cultural knowledge and courage to make difficult but necessary decisions.
4. Corporate leadership

With this in mind, leadership in the corporate sector naturally has a massive role to play. Far swifter and more meaningful change can come from within a business than when it’s mandated by government regulations.
Business models will need to be forward-thinking, not relying on traditional methods of production, and change company cultures in the process.
A recent example of this sort of industry leadership is Volvo who announced they will cease production of purely internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2019.
5. Communication skills

Andrew J. Hoffman from the University of Michigan perfectly articulated the state of the “toxic” climate change debate:
“On the one side, this is all a hoax, humans have no impact on the climate and nothing unusual is happening.
“On the other side, this is an imminent crisis, human activity explains all climate changes, and it will devastate life on Earth as we know it. Amidst this acrimonious din, scientists are trying to explain the complexity of the issue.”
As a society we’ll need to reach some sort of meaningful consensus on the issue. From the boardroom to Twitter, we’ll need opinion leaders who can navigate the clashing world views that dictate how we view the science.
It won’t be easy, but it is necessary.
Clearly, climate change and many other global concerns are multi-faceted issues that necessitate a range of approaches and perspectives.
It’s for this very reason that Griffith University researcher Ben Fenton-Smith believes “there is no question that social scientists are going to be in huge demand in the next 20–30 years.”
“As our use of data, technology and information increases, we are going to need social scientists to make sense of it.”
Complex problems have complex solutions.
Griffith University is introducing a brand new Bachelor of Social Sciences to develop the next generation of Aussie leaders keen to tackle the biggest issues facing the world today. Head over here to find out about this exciting new degree.

Press link for more: Science Alert

Coral Reefs Fighting Climate Change #StopAdani #Auspol 

Mike Bloomberg’s New Frontier For Fighting Climate Change: Coral Reefs
Aug 12, 2017 @ 08:00 AM
50 Reefs


Great Barrier Reef (2017), Photo Courtesy of 50 Reefs
50 Reefs, a $2 million initiative funded by Michael Bloomberg, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen and the Tiffany Co. Foundation, launched a platform on Thursday to take non-divers to the world’s biggest coral reefs — without getting them wet. 

Instead of a pleasant journey of the oceanic world, however, the initiative reveals a world through 360° images on Facebook where corals from the Great Barrier Reefs to Cook Islands die rapidly and the species that rely heavily on them disappear.


While coral reefs support 25% of all marine life worldwide, they are estimated to have a value of at least $1 trillion, generating $300 to 400 billion each year through food, tourism, fisheries, and medicines, according to the Word Wildlife Fund.

 50 Reefs says that 90% of coral reefs have been dying of overfishing, pollution and climate change, and will keep on dying in the next 30 years even with the Paris Climate Agreement in place. 

The initiative is now taking its fight to Washington, D.C. to push for immediate action, despite the fact that President Trump declared in June that the U.S. is pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
“I realized most of the issues underwater are big communication challenges,” says Richard Vevers, whose nonprofit Ocean Agency is now spearheading the 50 Reefs initiative together with the University of Queensland.

 “The fact that people can’t see what’s going on underwater is a major issue,” he adds. 

Having documented the biggest global coral bleaching (dying off) event in history in the past three years, Vevers came up with an ambitious but what he calls a “manageable” project that would allow him and his team to identify reefs that are least vulnerable to climate change and then get them to reseed.

 “Corals are brilliant at essentially recovery once the environment they’re in is stabilized,” he says, “We are buying time so they can bounce back as naturally as possible.”
Upon hearing the concept of 50 Reefs, Bloomberg’s foundation reached out to Vevers in late 2016, and he showed the organization footage from his award-winning Netflix documentary, Chasing Coral, which debuted on the streaming service on July 14.

 In a time lapse video, coral reefs faded from florescent pink to white, and then to dark brown. “Their flesh is becoming clear, and you’re seeing their skeleton,” Vevers describes. Bloomberg, who is the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, is one of the largest ocean donors and donated $53 million in 2014 to address overfishing, a catalyzer of coral bleaching.
Climate change hits the oceans harder than anywhere else and coral reefs are the “frontline of climate change,” according to Vevers. “Ninety three percent of the heat goes into the ocean,” the activist says: The Great Barrier Reef lost nearly half its corals in 2016 and 2017. Yet, he sees this environmental catastrophe as an opportunity for humanity to bounce back as well. “We’ve always portrayed climate change and climate action as something negative,” he says, “That’s the wrong way of communicating it. It’s about the business opportunities and it’s about improving lives.”

Press link for more: Forbes.com