Calafornia

Can we stop #ClimateChange? First we must #StopAdani #Auspol 

If we stopped emitting greenhouse gases right now, would we stop climate change?
Earth’s climate is changing rapidly. 

We know this from billions of observations, documented in thousands of journal papers and texts and summarized every few years by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


 The primary cause of that change is the release of carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and natural gas.
One of the goals of the international Paris Agreement on climate change is to limit the increase of the global surface average air temperature to 2 degrees Celsius, compared to preindustrial times. 

There is a further commitment to strive to limit the increase to 1.5℃.
Earth has already, essentially, reached the 1℃ threshold. 

Despite the avoidance of millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions through use of renewable energy, increased efficiency and conservation efforts, the rate of increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere remains high.


International plans on how to deal with climate change are painstakingly difficult to cobble together and take decades to work out. 

Most climate scientists and negotiators were dismayed by President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
But setting aside the politics, how much warming are we already locked into?

 If we stop emitting greenhouse gases right now, why would the temperature continue to rise?
Basics of carbon and climate
The carbon dioxide that accumulates in the atmosphere insulates the surface of the Earth.

 It’s like a warming blanket that holds in heat. 

This energy increases the average temperature of the Earth’s surface, heats the oceans and melts polar ice. 

As consequences, sea level rises and weather changes.

Global average temperature has increased. 

Anomalies are relative to the mean temperature of 1961-1990. 


Based on IPCC Assessment Report 5, Working Group 1. Finnish Meteorological Institute, the Finnish Ministry of the Environment, and Climateguide.fi, CC BY-ND

Since 1880, after carbon dioxide emissions took off with the Industrial Revolution, the average global temperature has increased. 

With the help of internal variations associated with the El Niño weather pattern, we’ve already experienced months more than 1.5℃ above the average.


 Sustained temperatures beyond the 1℃ threshold are imminent.

 Each of the last three decades has been warmer than the preceding decade, as well as warmer than the entire previous century.
The North and South poles are warming much faster than the average global temperature.

 Ice sheets in both the Arctic and Antarctic are melting. 

Ice in the Arctic Ocean is melting and the permafrost is thawing.

 In 2017, there’s been a stunning decrease in Antarctic sea ice, reminiscent of the 2007 decrease in the Arctic.
Ecosystems on both land and in the sea are changing. 

The observed changes are coherent and consistent with our theoretical understanding of the Earth’s energy balance and simulations from models that are used to understand past variability and to help us think about the future.


A massive iceberg – estimated to be 21 miles by 12 miles in size – breaks off from Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier. NASA, CC BY

Slam on the climate brakes
What would happen to the climate if we were to stop emitting carbon dioxide today, right now? 

Would we return to the climate of our elders?
The simple answer is no. 

Once we release the carbon dioxide stored in the fossil fuels we burn, it accumulates in and moves among the atmosphere, the oceans, the land and the plants and animals of the biosphere. 

The released carbon dioxide will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years. 

Only after many millennia will it return to rocks, for example, through the formation of calcium carbonate – limestone – as marine organisms’ shells settle to the bottom of the ocean.

 But on time spans relevant to humans, once released the carbon dioxide is in our environment essentially forever.

 It does not go away, unless we, ourselves, remove it.
In order to stop the accumulation of heat, we would have to eliminate not just carbon dioxide emissions, but all greenhouse gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide.

 We’d also need to reverse deforestation and other land uses that affect the Earth’s energy balance (the difference between incoming energy from the sun and what’s returned to space). 

We would have to radically change our agriculture. 

If we did this, it would eliminate additional planetary warming, and limit the rise of air temperature. 

Such a cessation of warming is not possible.
So if we stop emitting carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels today, it’s not the end of the story for global warming. 

There’s a delay in air-temperature increase as the atmosphere catches up with all the heat that the Earth has accumulated.

 After maybe 40 more years, scientists hypothesize the climate will stabilize at a temperature higher than what was normal for previous generations.
This decades-long lag between cause and effect is due to the long time it takes to heat the ocean’s huge mass. 

The energy that is held in the Earth by increased carbon dioxide does more than heat the air. 

It melts ice; it heats the ocean. 


Compared to air, it’s harder to raise the temperature of water; it takes time – decades.

 However, once the ocean temperature is elevated, it will release heat back to the air, and be measured as surface heating.
Scientists run thought experiments to help think through the complex processes of emissions reductions and limits to warming. 

One experiment held forcing, or the effect of greenhouse gases on the Earth’s energy balance, to year 2000 levels, which implies a very low rate of continued emissions. 

It found as the oceans’ heating catches up with the atmosphere, the Earth’s temperature would rise about another 0.6℃. Scientists refer to this as committed warming. 

Ice, also responding to increasing heat in the ocean, will continue to melt. 

There’s already convincing evidence that significant glaciers in the West Antarctic ice sheets are lost. 

Ice, water and air – the extra heat held on the Earth by carbon dioxide affects them all. That which has melted will stay melted – and more will melt.
Ecosystems are altered by natural and human-made occurrences. 

As they recover, it will be in a different climate from that in which they evolved. 

The climate in which they recover will not be stable; it will be continuing to warm. There will be no new normal, only more change.

Runaway glaciers in Antarctica.

Best of the worst-case scenarios
In any event, it’s not possible to stop emitting carbon dioxide right now.


 Despite significant advances in renewable energy sources, total demand for energy accelerates and carbon dioxide emissions increase. 

As a professor of climate and space sciences, I teach my students they need to plan for a world 4℃ warmer.

 A 2011 report from the International Energy Agency states that if we don’t get off our current path, then we’re looking at an Earth 6℃ warmer.

 Even now after the Paris Agreement, the trajectory is essentially the same. 

It’s hard to say we’re on a new path until we see a peak and then a downturn in carbon emissions.

 With the approximately 1℃ of warming we’ve already seen, the observed changes are already disturbing.
There are many reasons we need to eliminate our carbon dioxide emissions. 

The climate is changing rapidly; if that pace is slowed, the affairs of nature and human beings can adapt more readily. 

The total amount of change, including sea-level rise, can be limited. 

The further we get away from the climate that we’ve known, the more unreliable the guidance from our models and the less likely we will be able to prepare.

It’s possible that even as emissions decrease, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will continue to increase. 

The warmer the planet gets, the less carbon dioxide the ocean can absorb. 

Rising temperatures in the polar regions make it more likely that carbon dioxide and methane, another greenhouse gas that warms the planet, will be released from storage in the frozen land and ocean reservoirs, adding to the problem.
If we stop our emissions today, we won’t go back to the past. 

The Earth will warm. 

And since the response to warming is more warming through feedbacks associated with melting ice and increased atmospheric water vapor, our job becomes one of limiting the warming. 

If greenhouse gas emissions are eliminated quickly enough, within a small number of decades, it will keep the warming manageable and the Paris Agreement goals could be met. 

It will slow the change – and allow us to adapt. 

Rather than trying to recover the past, we need to be thinking about best possible futures.
This article was updated on July 7, 2017 to clarify the potential effects from stopping carbon dioxide emissions as well as other factors that affect global warming.

Press link for more: The Conversation

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The far right have hijacked Australia’s energy policy! #Auspol #StopAdani 

How the far Right have hijacked Australia’s energy policy

By Giles Parkinson

If you ever wondered just how comprehensively the Far Right has hijacked the Coalition’s energy policy, it’s worth reading the speech by NSW energy minister Don Harwin we reported on last week.
It’s a speech that might once have been made by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull – and in fact large parts of it, particularly the focus on energy efficiency and demand management, are exactly the sort of things Turnbull did talk about.
That was, however, before he was prime minister and became master of all he surveyed, apart from his own climate and energy policies.


The thrust of Harwin’s speech was this: the era of baseload coal is coming to an end, fossil fuel plants are not a guarantee of reliability, wind and solar offer the cheapest forms of new generation, we need to look at storage, and we must not lose sight of the long-term climate targets.
Turnbull is not allowed to say any of these things, for fear of upsetting the Far Right. 

The sight of the craven apology offered by front bencher and government whip Christopher Pyne last weekend for daring to suggest that the moderates had some influence over policy matters was testimony to that.

And so too have been the efforts of federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg to placate the Far Right by suggesting that each individual new wind and solar farm should carry an equal amount of storage for its rated capacity – megawatt-hour per megawatt – effectively trying to turn the new technology into the same monoliths that exist now in the current energy market model which is clearly past its use by date.


Frydenberg said this to the party room and then repeated it when addressing an energy conference in Melbourne a week later. 

He made clear it was not about energy security, but “levelling the playing field” between lower cost renewable and expensive and polluting coal.


It’s a classic case of overkill – of politics over policy, and of ideology over technology.
It is true that the Far Right in Australia have not had the same powers as their colleagues now have in the US, where climate science, environmental protections, renewable policies, and emission controls are being systematically trashed and dismantled by the Trump administration.
But they have given it a good shot. 

While in power, the Abbott government abolished the carbon price, slashed the renewable energy target and other institutions. 

Since losing power, they have still succeeded in freezing their policy, or politics, in time.

The whole debate around the potentially ground-breaking Finkel Review boiled down to whether it was good for coal generators or not.
The climate science was discarded, and then the fossil fuel industry and the conservatives began to question the very idea that wind and solar were cheaper than new coal.

 Fake news made front page headlines in the Murdoch media as the incumbents fought back.
Harwin’s speech puts a nonsense to this, and highlights the fact that to be a member of a conservative government does not necessarily equate to the need to deny basic facts.
It is worth repeating Harwin’s major themes, because like the $565 million investment in Nectar Farms, the creation of 1,300 jobs and the shift of one of Australia’s biggest vegetable growing operations to 100 per cent renewables, it did not get a single mention in the mainstream media.
It seems there are some things MsM doesn’t want you to know. (Although we should belatedly note that the Guardian did finally write a story on the Harwin speech on Tuesday, nearly a week after it was delivered).
The major themes of the speech were in direct opposition to the positions and beliefs held by the Far Right.
The era of baseload power is coming to an end: This is not a new concept – the head of the UK National Grid, the head of China State grid, even Australia’s AGL and the BNEF and goodness knows how many others have acknowledged it. 

“Our old paradigm was based upon a notion of a baseload of energy demand being supplied by large thermal generators, and then a peak. Over the coming decades, this will change.”


Wind and solar are cheaper than coal. 

Full stop. 

Harwin says wind and solar are even cheaper than modelled by the Finkel Review, and noted the history of underestimating cost reductions, particularly from the IEA. 

Not only are wind and solar cheaper than new coal, Harwin suggests they will soon be cheaper than existing coal plants. 

“We could see a situation in the 2030’s where existing coal plants struggle to compete during the day because new solar is cheaper.” 

This is in direct contrast to the Coalition view that somehow new coal is cheaper, an argument vigorously promoted by the Minerals Council of Australia and the Murdoch media.


Coal and gas plants do not equate to reliability: Harwin was appointed just a week before the heatwave in NSW, and describes the “white knuckle ride” as authorities tried to keep the lights on as coal and gas-fired power plants tripped across the state.

 In NSW, the grid lost more than 2GW of capacity as coal plants succumbed to the heat and gas generators failed. 

Renewables, and in particular solar, performed as expected and kept the lights on. 

“Clean energy performed as forecast. Thermal generation did not,” Harwin said.
Energy storage will fill in the gaps between renewables: Harwin came out in support of one of the few positives to have emerged from the federal Coalition government, when glimpses of the “old Malcolm” were briefly visible: Snowy Hydro 2.0, and the need for flexible rather than baseload generation, this time through pumped hydro. 

It is not yet clear if this is a go-er financially, but the implications are important if it is. 

Harwin says it will be a “game-changer” and support 5GW of new wind and solar in the state – which makes a nonsense of the Frydenberg push for each new wind and solar plant to match each megawatt of rated capacity with a megawatt-hour of storage.


New rules are needed: Harwin supported new rules and mechanisms to level the playing field for new technologies. 

It is not enough that wind, solar and storage offer cheaper alternatives to coal and gas if the rules are fixed in favour of the incumbents. 

The most important of these is the 30-minute settlement, which most people agree allows the big generators to manipulate prices, and does not encourage battery storage.

 “It (the 30-minute settlement) is a classic example of a rule made to suit existing technologies. 

I have supported change so we can benefit from new technologies such as batteries.” 

Without reform, Harwin noted, “the National Electricity Market could start to resemble Voltaire’s view on the Holy Roman Empire – which he quipped was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire.”
We have to take climate change seriously.


 “We must end the self-indulgent climate culture war,” Harwin says.


 The Paris climate deal has to be taken into its main target, not the initial down-payment made by Abbott. 

NSW has a goal of net zero emissions by 2050, and first off the rank will be electricity.

 The Finkel Review, prepared to mollify the Far Right, had a net zero emissions electricity sector target of 2070. 

“Investors know that emissions are expected to go down in the future” Harwin said. “And it’s not ideological. 

Whatever your view on the science, carbon is risk, that’s how investors see it, and this is an exercise of risk management.”
We have to be ambitious with renewables: Harwin spoke of a vision of having two renewable energy spines running across the state: the first running from west to east – South Australia to Snowy – unlocking Riverina solar and Western Division solar and wind, along with a huge balancing battery in Snowy. 

The second would run from the Hunter to Queensland, tapping wind in the tablelands and solar from the Central West, and use the Hunter’s existing infrastructure for a balancing battery and bioenergy hub.
Such vision is anathema to the Far Right, who are still pushing for new coal generators in Queensland and Victoria, with the loud support and editorials from conservative commentators, and the Murdoch media.
Harwin is not the only one to lament the influence of the far Right. 

Labor’s energy spokesman Mark Butler makes mention of it in his book Climate Wars, describing in detail how the Far Right has skewered climate policies and politics over the last decade.
Butler described the campaign against the “carbon tax” by media commentator Alan Jones, who was “joined by other right-wing commentators and News Limited papers in a campaign of vitriol, the likes of which none of us had ever seen in Australia.” 

But which continues to this day.
Ross Garnaut, the economist whose work was central to much of the policy designs, including the carbon price that was in place for two years, and the associated institutions that remain (such as the CEFC), said in a speech this week that it was only a small minority.
“(Some people) have ideological objections to modern atmospheric physics, or ideological or vested interests in old ways of supplying energy,” Garnaut said in a speech to the Melbourne Energy Institute this week.
“There is no way of building a bridge across to the ideological and vested interests. 


But people of such mind represent a small proportion of the Australian community, and it must be possible to establish effective policy stability without them.”
And Ian Hunter, the climate change minister in the South Australian Labor government, had this to say in a speech late last month in response to Finkel and the reaction to it from the federal Coalition:
Following the release of the Finkel review, the federal Liberals spent the whole week debating climate change science rather than seriously looking at the challenges facing our country in terms of energy policy.
“We are still struggling with federal Liberals like Tony Abbott, the former Liberal leader, who said that climate change was crap, who led his troops into battle once again in the party room, discrediting and debating the merits of climate science all over again.
“The science is very clear.

 To achieve the ambitious targets set out in the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to 2o or less means decarbonising the economy and it means more clean renewable energy. 

It is clear from across the country that there is a set of ageing energy infrastructure which has to be replaced.”
To be sure, the ideological interests are not just the province of the federal Coalition. 

At state level, we saw an unbelievable push-back against renewable energy by the Northern Territory government; the former WA LNP government vigorously opposed any new wind and solar development; the state opposition in Queensland promised to put the wagons in motion for a new coal generator within 100 days of winning election; and the Victoria and South Australia Coalition parties remained implacably opposed to their state government’s ambitious renewable energy and climate targets.
Several senior Coalition operators who might have guided the party to more science-based and economically realistic policies have lamented their impossible position. “You have no idea what we have to deal with (in the party room),” is a common refrain.
Oh, but we can imagine.

 At least now we know what might be said, assuming they had the courage of their convictions, as Harwin seems to do.

 And, the ideologues should note this point that Harwin made: “The coal sector should accept the Finkel framework as potentially the best deal that coal will get.”

Press link for more: Reneweconomy.com.au

Climate change is going to be very bad for the global economy #auspol 

Climate change is going to be very bad for the global economy

Extreme heat, it turns out, is very bad for the economy. Crops fail. People work less, and are less productive when they do work.
That’s why an increase in extremely hot days is one of the more worrisome prospects of climate change.
To predict just how various countries might suffer or benefit, a team of scientists at Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, have turned to historical records of how temperature affects key aspects of the economy.
When they use this data to estimate how various countries will fare with a warming planet, the news isn’t good.
The average global income is predicted to be 23% less by the end of the century than it would be without climate change. But the effects of a hotter world will be shared very unevenly, with a number of northern countries, including Russia and much of Europe, benefiting from the rising temperatures.
The uneven impact of the warming “could mean a massive restructuring of the global economy,” says Solomon Hsiang, a professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at Berkeley, one of the researchers who have painstakingly documented the historical impact of temperature. Even by 2050 (see map), the variation in the economic fates of countries is striking.
Because poorer countries, including those in much of South America and Africa, already tend to be far hotter than what’s ideal for economic growth, the effect of rising temperatures will be particularly damaging to them. Average income for the world’s poorest 60% of people by century’s end will be 70% below what it would have been without climate change, conclude Hsiang and his coauthors in a recent Nature paper. The result of the rising temperatures, he says, “will be a huge redistribution of wealth from the global poor to the wealthy.”
Change in gross domestic product per capita relative to a world without global warming
Hotter weather is just one of the effects of climate change; shifts in rainfall and an increase in severe weather like hurricanes are among the others.
But by analyzing temperatures alone, Hsiang and his coworkers have provided more precise estimates of how climate change could affect the economy. It turns out, Hsiang says, that temperature has a surprisingly consistent effect on different economic inputs: labor supply, labor productivity, and crop yields all drop off dramatically between 20 °C and 30 °C.
“Whether you’re looking at crops or people, hot days are bad,” he says. “Even in the richest and most technologically advanced nation in the world, you will see [the negative effects],” he says, citing data showing that a day over 30 °C in an average U.S. county costs each resident $20 in unearned income. “It’s real money.”
The number of days above 95 °F (35 °C) will rise dramatically in many parts of the United States if climate change continues unabated
Of course, the idea that hot temperatures affect agriculture and the way we work and feel is not new. Indeed, Hsiang points to studies done in the early 20th century on the optimum temperatures for factory workers and soldiers. But he and his colleagues have quantified how changes in temperature alter overall economic productivity for entire countries.
Hsiang and his coworkers examined both the annual economic performance in each country and the average yearly temperatures from 1960 to 2010. Then they used advanced statistical techniques to isolate temperature effects from other variables, such as changes in policies and financial cycles. Such analysis, he says, is possible because much more historical data is available, and computational power has increased enough to handle it. Then, by using climate models to project future temperatures, the researchers were able to estimate economic growth over the rest of the century if these historical patterns hold true.
Hsiang has also looked at how hot temperatures affect social behaviors and health, concluding that they increase violence and mortality (see charts). What he calls his “obsession” with the social effects of temperature can be traced to his training in the physical sciences. Temperature plays an essential and obvious role in chemistry and physics, but its effects on society and human behavior have been less appreciated.
And yet, as his recent work has confirmed, the climate “is fundamental to our economy,” says Hsiang. Now he’s hoping to provide new understanding of just how an increasingly hot world will affect our future prosperity.
Press link for more: Business insider.com

World War II mobilisation for climate action #auspol 

Drawing upon episodes of World War II mobilisations Dr. Delina lays out contingency climate action strategies based upon the relative optimism provided by rapid deployment of demonstrated and proven sustainable energy technologies.

In this assessment of accelerated sustainable energy transitions, Dr. Delina describes in a thought experiment how we could quickly mobilise the required technologies, finance, and labour resources, as well as how these processes can be coordinated by governments. 

Although wartime narratives can provide some lenses for getting us back to a safer climate, Dr. Delina acknowledges that this analogy is far from perfect.


Dr. Laurence Delina discusses his recent book, ‘Strategies for Rapid Climate Mitigation: wartime mobilisation as a model for action?’.

Press link for audio presentation: Breakthrough online