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It’s More Than Just Climate Change #auspol 

It’s More than Just Climate Change
Study shows climate change is one of many inter-related threats to natural systems and human societies, with other interconnnected factors being economic inequality, consumption and population
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (PRWEB) February 24, 2017
A recent scientific paper by a University of Maryland-led international team of distinguished scientists, including five members of the National Academies, argues that there are critical two-way feedbacks missing from current climate models that are used to inform environmental, climate, and economic policies.

 The most important inadequately-modeled variables are inequality, consumption, and population.
In this research, the authors present extensive evidence of the need for a new paradigm of modeling that incorporates the feedbacks that the Earth system has on humans, and propose a framework for future modeling that would serve as a more realistic guide for policy making and sustainable development.

The large, interdisciplinary team of 20 coauthors are from a number of universities (University of Maryland, Northeastern University, Columbia University, George Mason University, Johns Hopkins University, and Brown University) and other institutions (Joint Global Change Research Institute, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, the Institute for Global Environment and Society, Japan’s RIKEN research institute, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center).
The study explains that the Earth System (e.g., atmosphere, ocean, land, and biosphere) provides the Human System (e.g., humans and their production, distribution, and consumption) not only the sources of its inputs (e.g., water, energy, biomass, and materials) but also the sinks (e.g., atmosphere, oceans, rivers, lakes, and lands) that absorb and process its outputs (e.g., emissions, pollution, and other wastes).
Titled “Modeling Sustainability: Population, Inequality, Consumption, and Bidirectional Coupling of the Earth and Human Systems”, the article describes how the recent rapid growth in resource use, land-use change, emissions, and pollution has made humanity the dominant driver of change in most of the Earth’s natural systems, and how these changes, in turn, have critical feedback effects on humans with costly and serious consequences, including on human health and well-being, economic growth and development, and even human migration and societal conflict. However, the paper argues that these two-way interactions (“bidirectional coupling”) are not included in the current models.

The Oxford University Press’s multidisciplinary journal National Science Review, which published the paper, also highlighted the paper in a separate “Research Highlight”, pointing out that “the rate of change of atmospheric concentrations of CO2, CH4, and N2O [the primary greenhouse gases] increased by over 700, 1000, and 300 times (respectively) in the period after the Green Revolution when compared to pre-industrial rates.” See attached figure.
“Many datasets, for example, the data for the total concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases, show that human population has been a strong driver of the total impact of humans on our planet Earth. This is seen particularly after the two major accelerating regime shifts: Industrial Revolution (~1750) and Green Revolution (~1950)” said Safa Motesharrei, UMD systems scientist and lead author of the paper. “For the most recent time, we show that the total impact has grown on average ~4 percent between 1950 and 2010, with almost equal contributions from population growth (~1.7 percent) and GDP per capita growth (~2.2 percent). This corresponds to a doubling of the total impact every ~17 years. This doubling of the impact is shockingly rapid.”
“However, these human impacts can only truly be understood within the context of economic inequality,” pointed out political scientist and co-author Jorge Rivas of the Institute for Global Environment and Society.

 “The average per capita resource use in wealthy countries is 5 to 10 times higher than in developing countries, and the developed countries are responsible for over three quarters of cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from 1850 to 2000.”
“The disparity is even greater when inequality within countries is included,” added University of Maryland geographer and coauthor Klaus Hubacek.

 “For example, about 50 percent of the world’s people live on less than $3 per day, 75 percent on less than $8.50, and 90 percent on less than $23. One effect of this inequality is that the top 10 percent produce almost as much total carbon emissions as the bottom 90 percent combined.”


The study explains that increases in economic inequality, consumption per capita, and total population are all driving this rapid growth in human impact, but that the major scientific models of Earth-Human System interaction do not bidirectionally couple Earth System Models with the primary Human System drivers of change such as demographics, inequality, economic growth, and migration.
Instead of two-way coupling with these primary human drivers of change, the researchers argue that current models usually use independent, external projections of those drivers. “This lack of two-way coupling makes current models likely to miss critical feedbacks in the combined Earth-Human system”, said National Academy of Engineering member and co-author Eugenia Kalnay, a Distinguished University Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at the University of Maryland.
“It would be like trying to predict El Niño with a sophisticated atmospheric model but with the Sea Surface Temperatures taken from external, independent projections by, for example, the United Nations. 

Without including the real feedbacks, predictions for coupled systems cannot work; the model will get away from reality very quickly,” said Kalnay
In this new scientific research, the authors present extensive evidence of the need for a new paradigm of modeling that incorporates the feedbacks that the Earth System has on humans, and propose a framework for future modeling that would serve as a more realistic guide for policymaking and sustainable development.


“Ignoring this bidirectional coupling of the Earth and Human Systems can lead to missing something important, even decisive, for the fate of our planet and our species,” said co-author Mark Cane, G. Unger Vetlesen Professor of Earth and Climate Sciences at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who recently won the Vetlesen Prize for creating the first coupled ocean–atmosphere model with feedbacks that successfully predicted El Niño.
“The result of not dynamically modeling these critical Human-Earth System feedbacks would be that the environmental challenges humanity faces may be significantly underestimated. Moreover, there’s no explicit role given to policies and investments to actively shape the course in which the dynamics unfold. Rather, as the models are designed now, any intervention — almost by definition — comes from the outside and is perceived as a cost,” said co-author Matthias Ruth, Director and Professor at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University. “Such modeling, and the mindset that goes with it, leaves no room for creativity in solving some of the most pressing challenges.”
”The paper correctly highlights that other human stressors, not only the climate ones, are very important for long-term sustainability, including the need to reduce inequality”, said Carlos Nobre (not a co-author), one of the world’s leading Earth System scientists, who recently won the prestigious Volvo Environment Prize in Sustainability for his role in understanding and protecting the Amazon. ”Social and economic equality empowers societies to engage in sustainable pathways, which includes, by the way, not only the sustainable use of natural resources but also slowing down population growth, to actively diminish the human footprint on the environment.”
Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, who is not a co-author of the paper, commented: “We cannot separate the issues of population growth, resource consumption, the burning of fossil fuels, and climate risk. 

They are part of a coupled dynamical system, and, as the authors show, this has dire potential consequences for societal collapse. 

The implications couldn’t be more profound.”
This work was supported by the University of Maryland Council on the Environment 2014 Seed Grant (1357928). The authors would like to acknowledge the following grants and institutions: SM, KF, and KH: National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)–US National Science Foundation (NSF) award DBI-1052875; JR: The Institute of Global Environment and Society (IGES); GRA: Laboratory Directed Research and Development award by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which is managed by the Battelle Memorial Institute for the US Department of Energy; MAC: Office of Naval Research, research grant MURI N00014-12-1-0911; FMW: NSF award CBET-1541642; VMY: The Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET).
“Modeling Sustainability: Population, Inequality, Consumption, and Bidirectional Coupling of the Earth and Human Systems” is available at: https://academic.oup.com/nsr/article/doi/10.1093/nsr/nww081/2669331/Modeling-Sustainability-Population-Inequality and https://doi.org/10.1093/nsr/nww081; or PDF https://academic.oup.com/nsr/article-pdf/3/4/470/10325470/nww081.pdf
UMD Web Release
For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2017/02/prweb14095379.htm

Press link for more: My Sanantonio.com

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The Walking Dead In Washington #USPolitics #auspol #climatechange 

THE WALKING DEAD IN WASHINGTON

By Paul Gilding 


We’re all focused on the drama and entertainment of Trump’s takeover of the world’s centre of military, security and economic power. For some it’s exciting and entertaining, for others terrifying and apocalyptic. I too have been glued to the news – at various times having each of those responses! But now I’ve come back to earth, recognising it all for what it is. Important, but a sideshow to a much bigger and more important game. And on reflection, I’m glad he got elected.
How can a Trump Presidency be positive? Surely this is a major setback – to action on climate change, to addressing inequality, to human rights and global security. Doesn’t it make the world a scarier and less stable place? In isolation, all true, but in context, not so much. The context is the key.
Trump’s election is not a trend. It should not be seen as evidence of a swing to the right, to nationalism and xenophobia etc. It is simply a symptom of the volatility inherent in the accelerating breakdown of our current economic approach and model.
What we are seeing is the last hurrah of a dying approach. A desperate attempt by the incumbents to rescue the now failing economic model that did deliver great progress for humanity but has come to the end of its road – and that road finishes at a cliff.
A cliff is the right analogy for a range of reasons. Perhaps most starkly it’s climate change and resource scarcity but also inequality and the failure of the old model to deliver further progress for most people in Western countries. There are many other issues we face, but these two – climate change (and with it food supply and geopolitical security risks) and inequality within countries – are the systemic risks. They define the cliff because neither can continue to worsen without the system responding – either transforming or breaking down. So the old approach is finished, along with the fossil fuel industry, and the walking dead taking over Washington won’t bring it back to life.
This leads to why, on reflection, I’m surprisingly pleased Trump was elected, rather than Hillary Clinton. I know it is hard to imagine how someone as appalling as Trump is better than the alternative, so let me expand.
We are now accelerating towards the cliff and we don’t have much time left to change course. If Clinton had been elected, we would have continued to suffer the delusion that we were addressing the systemic risks we face in an inadequate but still worthwhile way. There would have been the same debates about fossil fuel companies having too much influence on politics, the conservative wealthy elites (yes there are liberal wealthy elites!) manipulating the system to their benefit etc. But we would have seen some progress.
Meanwhile business people would have argued the need for less regulation and “freeing up” the economy. They would have argued we needed to run the country like business people run companies, that if only we had strong (i.e. autocratic) leadership, we could get things done. And the Tea Party style extremists would have had their favourite enemy – another Clinton – to rail against and blame for it all, as they mobilized their base.
Now there’s no debate – it’s all there to see. The fossil fuel industry dominates the administration, gaining unfettered access to more coal, oil and gas. The iconic symbol and long term funder of climate change denial, Exxon has seen their CEO put in charge of US foreign policy and climate negotiations. Trump is “the businessman in charge” and can slash regulation, free up the financial markets to unleash more mayhem and wind back those pesky environmental protections.
He will attack the media, mobilise extremists and unleash all the autocratic and nationalistic tendencies that the system has – but normally suppresses. His solution to inequality will be to give tax breaks to the rich (you can’t make this stuff up!) when we know only government intervention – or catastrophe– prevents inequality being the inevitable result of unfettered markets.
The critical result of all this? No change to the fundamental direction we are on. The rich will get richer, the middle class will stagnate, racism and conflict will worsen and we will be less secure – all while climate change destabilises civilisation. How is this good?
Because three big things will change.
First, there will no-one left to blame. Extreme capitalism will be unleashed and it will not deliver. The fraud of trickle-down economics will be exposed.
Secondly – US climate policy will no longer matter – fossil fuels will die on the same schedule they were dying on. As I argued in my 2015 article “Fossil fuels are finished, the rest is detail”, these are fundamental trends driven by technology and markets – and no government can stop them.
Thirdly – and most importantly – is “the resistance”. We are seeing a huge mobilisation of activism and social engagement among people who have long been passive – as this humorous post describes. This is like the 60’s – without the drugs but with a political strategy! Climate change will be our Vietnam, the fossil fuel industry our military industrial complex. It could trigger, as this Atlantic article explored, a Tea Party of the left – maybe even a Green Tea Party. Chaotic, aggressive and not always rational, but very impactful. And the liberal wealthy elites will get right behind it – because they too have a lot to lose from extreme capitalism and climate chaos.
Isn’t this all a bit scary? Don’t we now face a period of extreme upheaval and risk? Yes, but in case you hadn’t noticed, we already are. Ask a Syrian climate refugee trying to get into Europe. Observe the terrifying trends at our melting ice caps. Talk to a disaffected, scared, unemployed factory worker in middle America who sees no prospects for themselves and their kids. The system is breaking down.
We’re racing towards the cliff. Despite our desperate denial, we are going to face a global crisis, regardless of what we do. This will not be gentle.
So we need to face reality on how really dramatic change could actually occur. System change doesn’t happen incrementally and is not triggered by traditional political processes – it takes a crisis. With Clinton, we would have blundered our way closer to the cliff, deluded by small progress. With Trump, we may just wake up in time.
The Great Disruption is now in full swing. We face the most important choice in human history – economic decline and the descent into chaos – possibly collapse – or transformation into a very different economy and society. Having the walking dead in Washington may be just what we need.

Press link for more :Paul Gilding.com

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The Slow Confiscation of Everything #auspol 

The Slow Confiscation of Everything

By Laurie Penny 


A protest against EPA head Scott Pruitt. / Lorie Shaull
These days, the words of the prophets are written in whimsical chalk on the hoardings of hipster latte-mongers: “The end is nigh. Coffee helps.”

 In the days running up to the inauguration of Donald Trump, I saw this sort of message everywhere, and as panic-signals go, it’s oddly palliative. 

The idea that the Western world might soon be a smoking crater or a stinking swamp does, in fact, make me a little more relaxed about the prospect of spending five dollars on a hot drink.  
Fuck it. 

The planet, as we keep telling each other, is on fire. 

Might as well have a nice latte while we wait for the flames to slobber up our ankles. 

When you consider that some desperate barista boiled the entire philosophy of post-Fordist public relations down to its acrid essence, it would be ungrateful not to. 

What have you got to lose? 

Five dollars and your pride, in the short term, but what will those be worth next year? 

Next week? 

Have you looked at the Dow Jones lately? 

Have you turned on the news? 

On second thoughts, best not—just drink your coffee and calm down. 

Look, they’ve drawn a little mushroom cloud in the milk foam. 

It’s quite beautiful, when you think about it. 
The topic of apocalypse comes up a lot these days. 

It’s slipped into conversation as compulsively as you might mention any other potentially distressing disruption to your life plans, such as a family member’s illness, or a tax audit. 

And yet the substance of the conversation has shifted in recent weeks and months from an atmosphere of chronic to acute crisis. 

The end seems to be slightly more nigh than it was last year; we talk about the Trumpocalypse with less and less irony as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moves the Doomsday clock half a minute closer to midnight. 
Of all the despicable things the runaway ghost train of the Trump administration has done in its first ferocious weeks, the attempt to utterly destroy every instrument of environmental protection is perhaps the most permanent.

 The appointment of fossil fuel tycoons and fanatical climate change deniers to key positions in energy and foreign policy, the immediate reinstitution of the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines, the promise to pull out of the Paris Climate Pact—all moves crafted to please the oil magnates who helped put him in power—these are changes that will hasten the tick of the time bomb under civilization as we know it. 

Racist laws can eventually be overthrown, and even a cultural backslide toward bigotry and nationalism can be slowly, painfully reversed. 

We don’t get a do-over on climate change. 

The vested interests agitating to strip the planet for parts know that, too—and they plan to profit from this particular apocalypse as hard as they can.
They’re not the only ones eagerly anticipating the end times. 

Apocalyptic thinking has a long and febrile history in Western thought, and it is usually associated with moments of profound cultural change, when people found it all but impossible to envision a future they might live inside. 

The notion of armageddon as something to look forward to crops up time and again at moments of profound social unrest. 

Today, that includes legions of lonely alt-righters celebrating the advent of a new post-democratic, post-civilizational age where men will be real men again, and women will be really grateful. 


This “dark enlightenment” rumbles alongside a massive revival in millenarian end-times fanaticism among the Evangelical Christians who overwhelmingly voted for a man some of them believe is the literal antichrist who will hasten the final return of Jesus and his arse-kicking angels to sweep the righteous to their reward. 

There are many millions of people, especially in the United States, who seem to want an apocalypse—a word whose literal meaning is a great “unveiling,” a moment of calamity in which the murkiest and basest of human terrors will be mercifully swept aside. 

That gentle armageddon, however, looks unlikely to be delivered. 

Frightened, angry human beings have always fantasized about the end of the world—and institutions of power have always profited from that fantasy. 

In fact, as David Graeber notes in Debt: The First 5,000 Years, the ideal psychological culture for the current form of calamity capitalism is an apprehension of coming collapse mated bluntly with the possibility of individual escape. 

An economy driven by debt and fueled by looting and burning the resources that have sustained the species for generations would feel far more monstrous if it weren’t for the lingering suspicion that it might all be in flames tomorrow anyway.

 The world is on fire. 

Might as well build that pipeline. 

Might as well have that coffee.

But what world is on fire? 

The late comedian George Carlin had it right when he reminded us that

 “The planet is fine. The people are fucked.” 

The Earth is resilient, and will stagger on in some form until it is swallowed by the sun some four billion years from now—the world that we envision ending is Western civilization as we have come to understand it, a mere eyeblink in the long species churn of planetary history. 

Apocalyptic thinking has been a consistent refrain as the human species struggles to evolve beyond its worst impulses, but the precise form of the anticipated collapse always changes. 

Those changes are important. 

The catastrophes we are anticipating today are not the catastrophes of thirty years ago, and that distinction matters a great deal.
Climate change is this generation’s calamity, and it is similar to the nuclear threat that nurtured the baby boomers in that it promises a different sort of death from the petty disasters of war, famine, and pestilence—it promises near-total species collapse. 

The past swept away along with the future. 

The deletion of collective memory. 

This is an existential threat more profound than anything humanity has had to reckon with before except in the throes of ecstatic religious millenarianism.

 Rapture, in the Abrahamic understanding, traditionally meant immortality for the species.

 We are the first to really have to wrestle with ultimate species death, extinction in memory as well as being.

 Of course we are afraid. 

We were afraid of the Bomb. 

We’re afraid now, even though many people’s understanding of climate change hasn’t moved past the denial stage.

 It is there, however, that the similarities between the two types of apocalypse end.
Climate change is a different prospect of calamity—not just elementally but morally different from nuclear exchange in a manner which has not been properly dealt with. 

The first difference is that it’s definitely happening. 

The second is that it’s not happening to everyone. 
There will be no definite moment can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked.

For anyone who grew up in the Cold War, the apocalypse was a simple yes-no question: either it was coming, or it wasn’t. 

Many people I know who grew up before the end of the nuclear arms race describe this as oddly freeing: there was the sense that since the future might explode at any point, it was not worth the effort of planning. 

Climate change is species collapse by a thousand cuts. 

There will be no definite moment we can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked. 

Instead the fuckery increases incrementally year on year, until this is the way the world ends: not with a bang, not with a bonfire, but with the slow and savage confiscation of every little thing that made you human, starting with hope.


“In the U.S. we have a very strong sense of apocalypse that comes from puritanism, and it fed nicely into fears about the Bomb,” says Annalee Newitz, author of Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive A Mass Extinction.

 “Both kinds of apocalypse are instantaneous and there’s not much you can do about them. 

But climate change is slow and strange, sometimes imperceptible in a human lifetime. 

There are no pyrotechnics. 

Plus, we actually have a chance to intervene and prevent the worst effects of it. 

I think that’s a tough sell for people who grew up with a Bomb paradigm of apocalypse, where there’s either fiery atomic death or you’re fine. 

It’s hard to explain to people that there are probabilities and gradations of apocalypse when it comes to the environment, and there are hundreds of ways to mitigate it, from curbing emissions to preserving natural habitats and changing our agricultural practices. 

In a weird way, I think people are just now getting used to the slow apocalypse, and still don’t know how to deal with it.”
This was the unegalitarian apocalypse millennials inherited. 

If we are to define generations by their political impressions, one thing that everyone who grew up with no memory of the Cold War shares is a specific set of superstitions. 

 One of them was the consensus that neoliberalism had produced the “End of History.” 

For those of us who had not read Francis Fukuyama by the age of five, this came across as a general sense that there was no better society to hope for, no way of living on the horizon that would improve on the one we had been raised to—the nineties and the early aughts were as good as it was going to get.

 From here on in, unless we recycled and remembered to turn off the taps like the singing Saturday afternoon TV puppets urged us to, it would be slow collapse. 

Our parents, relieved of the immediate threat of atomic incineration, seemed oddly calm about that prospect.
Not half as calm, however, as our elected and unelected leaders.

 Because that’s the inconvenient truth, the other inconvenience about the world ending this way: it’s not ending for everyone.
This month, in a fascinating article for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos interviewed several multi-millionaires who are stockpiling weapons and building private bunkers in anticipation of what preppers glibly call “SHTF”—the moment when “Shit Hits The Fan.” 

Osnos observes that the reaction of Silicon Valley Svengalis, for example, is in stark contrast to previous generations of the super-rich, who saw it as a moral duty to give back to their community in order to stave off ignorance, want and social decline. 

Family names like Carnegie and Rockefeller are still associated with philanthropy in the arts and sciences. 

These people weren’t just giving out of the goodness of their hearts, but out of the sense that they too were stakeholders in the immediate future.
Cold War leaders came to the same conclusions in spite of themselves.

 The thing about Mutually Assured Destruction is that it is, well, mutual—like aid, or understanding, or masturbation.

 The idea is that the world explodes, or doesn’t, for everyone. 

How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone down, though, if the negotiating parties had known, with reasonable certainty, that they and their families would be out of reach of the fallout? 
How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone down if the negotiating parties had known that they and their families would be out of reach of the fallout?

Today’s apocalypse will be unevenly distributed.

 It’s not the righteous who will be saved, but the rich—at least for a while.

 The irony is that the tradition of apocalyptic thinking—religious, revolutionary or both—has often involved the fantasy of the destruction of class and caste. 

For many millenarian thinkers—including the puritans in whose pinched shoes the United States is still sneaking about—the rapture to come would be a moment of revelation, where all human sin would be swept away. 

Money would no longer matter. 

Poor and privileged alike would be judged on the riches of their souls. 

That fantasy is extrapolated in almost every modern disaster movie—the intrepid survivors are permitted to negotiate a new-made world in which all that matters is their grit, their courage, and their moral fiber. 
A great many modern political currents, especially the new right and the alt-right, are swept along by the fantasy of a great civilizational collapse which will wash away whichever injustice most bothers you, whether that be unfettered corporate influence, women getting above themselves, or both—any and every humiliation heaped on the otherwise empty tables of men who had expected more from their lives, economic humiliations that are served up and spat back out as racism, sexism, and bigotry. 

For these men, the end of the world sounds like a pretty good deal. 

More and more, it is only by imagining the end of the world that we can imagine the end of capitalism in its current form. This remains true even when it is patently obvious that civilizational collapse might only be survivable by the elite.
When it was announced that the Doomsday Clock had moved closer to midnight, I panicked for an entire day before realizing that, like a great many people, I didn’t know what the Doomsday Clock actually was.

 In case you were wondering, it’s not actually a real clock. 

It’s a visual representation of certain scientists’ estimation of how close human society is to catastrophe, published on the front cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1947—a genius exercise in metonymy and public relations conceived in an age when the problem was not that people were panicking about the end of the world, but that they weren’t panicking enough. 

There is no sympathetic magic at play: if a drunk sub-editor got into the layout program and moved the portentous second hand all the way to Zero Hour on a whim, no rockets would fire of their own accord. 

This apocalypse is still within our power to prevent—and that starts with abandoning the apocalyptic mindset.
It is hard to outline the contours of a future you have never been allowed to imagine—one that is both different from today but accessible from it, too. 

The best we have been permitted to hope for is that the status quo be scraped to the edges of the present for as long as it lasts—a vote to run the knife around the empty jar of neoliberal aspiration and hope there’s enough to cover our asses.

 If people cannot imagine a future for themselves, all they can measure is what they’ve lost. 

Those who believe in the future are left, as they always were, with the responsibility of creating it, and that begins with an act of faith—not just that the future will be survivable, but that it might, somehow, maybe, be an exciting place to live. 
“Every ruthless criticism of current politics should be tied in some way to an example of how we could do things better,” said Newitz. “I realize that’s a tall order, especially when positive visions often feel like wishful thinking rather than direct action. Nevertheless we need to know what we are fighting for to retain our sense of hope. We need maps of where we are going, not just fire to burn it all down.”

Press link for more: The Baffler.com

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Climate Change: Apocalypse by 1000 cuts #auspol 

Climate change: Apocalypse by 1000 cuts

Not since the Reagan era cold war with Russia has apocalyptic awareness been so forefront in the public’s mind. 

Disturbing incidents ranging from nuclear football Facebook selfies to alarming North Korean military activity now accrue weekly. 

Sometimes hourly. 

What can one do besides scroll through Twitter before bedtime and let the news populate our nightmares?
The distractions and details are addictive: political murders via improv and a spray bottle, daily revelations of Russian infiltration in US elections and government, and today the president is yelling at Sweden. 

Tomorrow it might be Ireland. 

Who knows. 

We watch the global breakup like helpless children realizing that mom and dad are really getting a divorce.

 Right now, the sitting US president is not even welcome in the British Parliament, but he regularly tweets flattering sentiments to Russia. 

But there is a larger story that needs telling–and action.

Lost in the noise was the recent breakage of a mile-long stretch of West Antarctica, due to warmer ocean water.

 It was part of one of the largest glaciers within the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which scientists predict will collapse in the next 100 years. 

NASA caught the images of the event earlier in the week, but the story broke just as Scott Pruitt was confirmed as head of the Environmental Protection Agency–making it seem as if the Earth did the planetary version of a spit take at the news. 

Timing aside, it was a big deal.


In the distraction of every new development, tweet, or outrage, it’s hard to get a bird’s eye view of what the hell is going on in the literal world.

 Luckily, Laurie Penny of The Baffler has done that for us, in a brilliant new article that should be required reading for the human race: The Slow Confiscation of Everything: How to think about climate apocalypse. 

Referencing the daily outrages, legislative battles, and civil division, she writes:
“Racist laws can eventually be overthrown, and even a cultural backslide toward bigotry and nationalism can be slowly, painfully reversed. 

We don’t get a do-over on climate change. 

The vested interests agitating to strip the planet for parts know that, too—and they plan to profit from this particular apocalypse as hard as they can.”
In the piece, she eloquently demonstrates that it is no longer the failure of diplomatic relations that is likely to kill us. 

It’s the man-made weapon that’s already been unleashed in global warming. 

That missile has already been launched. 

The point becomes clear: climate change is no longer an environmental issue. 

It’s a human rights issue–the right to live, and the right to have our children’s children live, too. 

It is not liberal alarmist drama. 

It’s about life as we know it, and we need to adjust accordingly, or we will soon not recognize it at all.
“Climate change is species collapse by a thousand cuts. 

There will be no definite moment we can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked. 

Instead the fuckery increases incrementally year on year, until this is the way the world ends: not with a bang, not with a bonfire, but with the slow and savage confiscation of every little thing that made you human, starting with hope.”
Echoing the storyline of her outstanding dystopian novel, Everything Belongs to the Future, she outlines where we are, how we got here, and shows us the (decreasing) options before us. 

Importantly, government policy choices are part of what determines which path the human race is really on. 

The voice of the people and their ability to understand this fatally overlooked reality–and then do something about it, is the ray of hope here. 

But it’s an attitude adjustment that needs to happen soon. 

We’re looking at incremental, but preventable, human extinction. 

We’re all drafted for this war, and really, we’re all ultimately on the same side. 

The challenge is, can we stop the bleeding in time?
“It is hard to outline the contours of a future you have never been allowed to imagine—one that is both different from today but accessible from it, too. 

The best we have been permitted to hope for is that the status quo be scraped to the edges of the present for as long as it lasts—a vote to run the knife around the empty jar of neoliberal aspiration and hope there’s enough to cover our asses. 

If people cannot imagine a future for themselves, all they can measure is what they’ve lost. 

Those who believe in the future are left, as they always were, with the responsibility of creating it, and that begins with an act of faith—not just that the future will be survivable, but that it might, somehow, maybe, be an exciting place to live.”
A heat-wave hit Oklahoma, sending temperatures into the high 90s. 

Norman, Oklahoma was 99 degrees F (37 C) on February 11. 

From ThinkProgress: Many people may welcome a temperate day in February, but warm weather in normally cold months disrupts ecosystems. Trees may bloom after an unseasonably balmy spell — and then suffer frost damage when cold […]

Press link for more: Boing boing.net

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Climate Outlook May Be Worse Than Feared. #auspol 

Climate Outlook May Be Worse Than Feared, Global Study Suggests
Newswise — As world leaders hold climate talks in Paris, research shows that land surface temperatures may rise by an average of almost 8C by 2100, if significant efforts are not made to counteract climate change.

Such a rise would have a devastating impact on life on Earth. It would place billions of people at risk from extreme temperatures, flooding, regional drought, and food shortages.
The study calculated the likely effect of increasing atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases above pre-industrialisation amounts. 

It finds that if emissions continue to grow at current rates, with no significant action taken by society, then by 2100 global land temperatures will have increased by 7.9C, compared with 1750.


This finding lies at the very uppermost range of temperature rise as calculated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

It also breaches the United Nations’ safe limit of 2C, beyond which the UN says dangerous climate change can be expected.
Research at the University of Edinburgh first created a simple algorithm to determine the key factors shaping climate change and then estimated their likely impact on the world’s land and ocean temperatures. 

The method is more direct and straightforward than that used by the IPCC, which uses sophisticated, but more opaque, computer models.
The study was based on historical temperatures and emissions data. 

It accounted for atmospheric pollution effects that have been cooling Earth by reflecting sunlight into space, and for the slow response time of the ocean.
Its findings, published in Earth and Environmental Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, may also help resolve debate over temporary slow-downs in temperature rise.
Professor Roy Thompson, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who carried out the study, said: “Estimates vary over the impacts of climate change. 

But what is now clear is that society needs to take firm, speedy action to minimise climate damage.”

Press link for more: Newswise.com

Ocean Waves Crashing on Seawall

Irreversible Threshold of #ClimateChange 

IN LATE 2015, a chilling report by scientists for
the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative
on 

“Thresholds and closing windows: Risks of irreversible cryosphere climate change”

Warned that the Paris commitments will not prevent the Earth 

“crossing into the zone of irreversible thresholds”


In polar and mountain glacier regions, and that crossing these boundaries may 

“result in processes that cannot be halted unless temperatures return to levels below pre-industrial” 

The report says it is not well understood outside the scientific community that cryosphere dynamics are slow to manifest but once triggered “inevitably forces the Earth’s climate system into a new state, one that most scientists believe has not existed for 35–50 million years” 


Ian Howat, associate professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University, says: 

“It’s generally accepted that it’s no longer a question of whether the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will melt, it’s a question of when. 

This kind of rifting (cracking) behaviour provides another mechanism for rapid retreat of these glaciers, adding to the probability that we may see significant collapse of West Antarctica in our lifetimes.”


The scientists I have communicated with take the view that Rignot, Mouginot et al. is a credible paper and, together with the evidence published since, it would be prudent to accept that WAIS has very likely passed its tipping point for mass deglaciation, with big consequences for global sea level rise (SLR). 

DeConto and Pollard project more than a metre of SLR from Antarctica this century. 

This tallies with the Hanse, Sato et al scenario, which is also consistent with the findings of Phipps, Fogwill and Turney.

The reality of multi-metre SLRs is not if, but how soon. 

“The natural state of the Earth with present CO2 levels is one with sea levels about 70 feet (21 metres) higher than now” 

says Prof. Kenneth G. Miller. 

Other research scientists agree it is likely to be more than 20 metres over the longer term.

So how much could we expect sea levels to rise this century?

OVER TWO METRES

Press link for more: media.wix.com

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An Atmospheric River Takes aim at #California Welcome to #ClimateChange

Atmospheric River Brings Historic Flood Risk to California
California is now experiencing its worst storm yet — with the potential to reshape its history.
By Eric Holthaus

A rainbow is made by spray from water coming down the damaged main spillway of the Oroville Dam on February 14th, 2017, in Oroville, California. (Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Amid the wettest start to a rainy season in state history, California is now experiencing its worst storm yet—with the potential to reshape its history.
An atmospheric river — a narrow band of tropical moisture — is taking aim at the central California coast on Monday and Tuesday, and providing a textbook meteorological scenario for major flooding. The National Weather Service office in Sacramento used dire language to describe the threat, urging residents to be prepared to evacuate with less than 15 minutes notice and warned of flooding unseen for “many years” in some places. More than a foot of rain is expected over a 36-hour period in higher elevations.

A weather model projection of the atmospheric river, as of Monday evening, with tropical moisture creating heavy rainfall as it hits the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

As of Monday morning, a cascade of flood warnings are in effect for the Bay Area and the Central Valley, as heavy rains reach the coastline. Dozens of lightning strikes have been detected offshore, and numerous landslides are being reported. A weather station near Big Sur, on the central coast of California, picked up more than an inch of rain in just an hour — a rainfall intensity more typical of a heavy tropical thunderstorm.
By Monday evening, damaging winds nearing hurricane force could spread across much of the central and northern part of the state, prompting the National Weather Service to warn of “long-lasting” power outages for thousands of households.
Heavy rains will continue on Tuesday, at which point serious problems could begin to emerge. The fragile Oroville Dam will again be tested, but dozens of other dams — like the one at Don Pedro Reservoir near Modesto — are also nearing capacity statewide and planning emergency contingencies.
By late Tuesday, the San Joaquin River — the main hydrologic thoroughfare of the vast Central Valley — is expected to exceed a level not seen since 1997, and then keep rising the rest of the week. The river is already in “danger” stage — the stage above flood stage when critical levees could begin to become compromised.
California’s levee network constrains the flow of water as it leaves the mountains of the Sierra Nevada and makes its way toward the Delta region near Sacramento. Overwhelming this system could bring a flood that, according to a study from the United States Geological Survey in 2011, could inundate hundreds of square miles and cost hundreds of billions of dollars, knocking out the water supply for two-thirds of Californians in the process; it would be the worst disaster in American history. That study, referred to as the “ARkStorm” scenario, was designed to anticipate the impact of a flood with an expected return period of about 300 years, similar to the one the region last experienced in 1862. A 2011 New York Times Magazine article about that scenario used the word “megaflood.”
Weather models on Sunday showed that rainfall intensity on Monday near the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta could briefly reach levels not expected more than once a century — or even once per millennium if the slow-moving atmospheric river stalls completely, a scenario consistent with past levee breaches.


Making the impact of this storm even worse is the fact that Northern California has already racked up more than double the amount of rain it typically receives between October and late February. The rainy season is running about a month ahead of the previous record-setting pace set in 1983 — a rate not seen in at least a century of record-keeping. San Francisco has already eclipsed the total it typically receives in an entire “normal” rainy season in less than half the normal time.
The ARkStorm scenario was constructed without taking into account the effects of climate change, which helps to make atmospheric rivers more intense. A warmer atmosphere increases the rate of evaporation and causes more precipitation to fall as rain instead of snow. In California, the intensity of atmospheric rivers could double or triple by the end of the century.
Should this week’s atmospheric river morph into a megaflood — and it is still unlikely, though not impossible that it will do so — it will mean California has quickly transitioned from milliennial-scale drought to a millennial-scale deluge. Welcome to climate change.

Press link for more: psmag.com

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Let’s Make a Deal #ClimateChange Put a price on pollution. #auspol 

Left & Right “Let’s Make a Deal” Put a price on Carbon Pollution #ClimateChange #auspol 

Earlier this month, conservative elder statesmen issued a “Let’s Make a Deal” on climate: Nix Obama-era regulations in return for a carbon tax and dividend.
So far, the idea has gained little traction from unretired Republicans who could actually make a deal. 

But if that changes, should Democrats and pro-environment independents accept it?

The proposal was issued with great fanfare by the newly formed Climate Leadership Council. 

Conservative economists Martin Feldstein and Gregory Mankiw and former secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker III touted the plan in op-eds for the The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. 

The council launched its effort at the National Press Club the same day.
A carbon tax appeals to free-market conservatives by empowering markets to find the cheapest ways to cut emissions.

 By returning the money through a dividend, the tax would not grow the size of government. 

The council estimates the dividend would start at $2,000 for a family of four, and rise with the carbon tax.
However, the council isn’t offering something for nothing. 

Their proposal calls for ending President Obama’s climate regulations. 

Specifically, they would nix the Clean Power Plan, tougher fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks and additional regulations yet to be specified. 

Fortunately, the council is not seeking to weaken light-duty fuel economy standards, appliance efficiency standards or the hydrofluorocarbon deal signed in Kigali, Rwanda, last year.


Obama pledged under the Paris climate agreement that the United States would aim for 28 percent emission reductions by 2025 from 2005 levels. 

As I wrote last year, the U.S. had already cut emissions 9 percent by 2014. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced that emissions fell another 2.2 percent in 2015.
The council estimates that continuation of Obama-era policies would leave the U.S. about 12 percentage points shy of its Paris pledge. 

That’s why 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had proposed an ambitious agenda for further progress.

With President Trump and congressional Republicans calling to reverse Obama’s policies without replacement, we’d likely fall further behind.
To meet our Paris pledge, the council proposes a carbon tax starting at $40/ton and rising with time. 

Unlike weaker taxes discussed before, the new proposal would likely be more than sufficient for that goal. 

A recent Treasury Department analysis estimates that a $49/ton tax would far surpass the emission cuts needed for Paris.

Meanwhile, Resources for the Future modeled various sets of carbon taxes that could achieve the Paris pledge. 

As co-author Marc Hafstead explained via email, their modeling shows a tax rising to $38/ton (in year 2013 dollars) by 2025 would meet the target. 

The council’s proposal would exceed that level with its annual increases, and yield further benefits for decades to come.
Interestingly, Hafstead noted that their calculation of a $38/ton threshold for Paris compliance assumes the U.S. abandons efforts to control more potent greenhouse gases like methane. 

That may be the case, as the House voted this month to overturn rules on methane emissions from oil and gas drilling.
But if we don’t abandon progress on other pollutants, Hafstead estimates a tax of just $22/ton would be sufficient.
Ditching methane controls is a bad deal for many reasons. 

Methane is the leading source of ozone smog worldwide. 

That’s why researchers such as Jason West of the University of North Carolina and Arlene Fiore of Columbia University have shown that methane reductions can save tens of thousands of lives.

Leaking methane also means wasting a valuable fuel. 

Since methane is short-lived, it actually causes more warming near-term than traditional 100-year outlooks would suggest. 

Controlling methane while keeping the council’s $40-plus/ton tax proposal would accelerate U.S. progress toward its ultimate goal of 80 percent emission reductions by 2050.
Environmentalists have little to lose trading the Clean Power Plan for a carbon tax. 

As I wrote with Leah Parks last year, the U.S. is well ahead of schedule to meet the plan’s targets.

 That’s because cheaper natural gas and renewables are already displacing coal, even as the Clean Power Plan remains tied up in court.


The main importance of the Clean Power Plan is preventing a swing back to coal if natural gas prices rise. 

But a carbon tax averts that scenario. 

A $40/ton tax would add 4.2 cents per kilowatt hour to the cost of coal electricity, but just 1.6 cents for natural gas combined cycle plants. 

Solar and wind would pay nothing.

With many coal plants already losing money, coal would quickly give way to cheaper and cleaner forms of electricity.

 Meanwhile, the tax on natural gas is comparable in size to existing tax credits for wind and solar. 

Even without those tax credits, wind and solar are already as cheap as new natural gas plants. 

Taxing natural gas would help renewables extend their recent dominance of new generation capacity without the need for subsidies.
For transportation, the effects of a carbon tax would be far milder. 

A $40/ton tax would add just 36 cents to the cost of a gallon of gasoline. 

That’s not going to convince many people to drive less or buy an electric car, especially since electricity prices would rise a bit too. 

However, with fuel economy standards set to tighten, electric car sales would continue to rise.

Looking beyond the 2025 Paris target, swapping regulations for a carbon tax becomes an even more attractive deal. 

The Clean Power Plan ends in 2030. 

However, a steadily rising carbon tax would continue to drive down emissions for decades to come.
Carbon taxes have traditionally been criticized as regressive, since the poor spend a greater share of their income on energy. 

However, by rebating the tax through a per-person dividend, the Climate Leadership Council’s proposal would leave many low-income families better off.
So should Democrats and independents welcome this deal?
In a word, yes. 

Writers in The Nation, the The New York Times and Mother Jones have reached similar conclusions. 

I’d bargain for tougher methane regulations, but could accept waiting to restore those later.
Trouble is, conservative economists and retired Republican statesmen are in no position to seal this deal. 

RepublicEn, Citizens Climate Lobby and the Climate Solutions Caucus are trying to rally Republican and bipartisan support for a carbon tax in Congress.
For now, such efforts have fallen on deaf ears from politicians who hear no evil on climate.

 If that changes, liberals and moderates shouldn’t shy away from nixing Obama-era policies to accept a market-based solution to climate change.
Dan Cohan is an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University.

Press link for more: The Hill

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We’re at War to save the planet! #auspol #climatechange #science 

By Paul Mason

It hits you in the face and clings to you. 

It makes tall buildings whine as their air conditioning plants struggle to cope.

 It makes the streets deserted and the ice-cold salons of corner pubs get crowded with people who don’t like beer. 

It is the Aussie heatwave: and it is no joke.

Temperatures in the western suburbs of Sydney, far from the upmarket beachside glamour, reached 47C (117F) last week, topping the 44C I experienced there the week before.

 For reference, if it reached 47C in the middle of the Sahara desert, that would be an unusually hot day.
For Sydney, 2017 was the hottest January on record. 

This after 2016 was declared the world’s hottest year on record. 

Climate change, even in some developed societies, is becoming climate disruption – and according to a UN report, one of the biggest disruptions may only now be getting under way.

El Niño, a temperature change in the Pacific ocean that happens cyclically, may have begun interacting with the long-term process of global warming, with catastrophic results.
Let’s start by admitting the science is not conclusive. 

El Niño disrupts the normal pattern by which warm water flows westwards across the Pacific, pulling the wind in the same direction; it creates storms off South America and droughts – together with extreme temperatures – in places such as Australia. 

It is an irregular cycle, lasting between two and seven years, and therefore can only be theorised using models.
Some of these models predict that, because of climate change, El Niño will happen with increased frequency – possibly double. 

Others predict the effects will become more devastating, due to the way the sub-systems within El Niño react with each other as the air and sea warm.
What cannot be disputed is that the most recent El Niño in 2015/16 contributed to the extreme weather patterns of the past 18 months, hiking global temperatures that were already setting records.

 (Although, such is the level of rising, both 2015 and 2016 would have still been the hottest ever without El Niño.) 

Sixty million people were “severely affected” according to the UN, while 23 countries – some of which no longer aid recipients – had to call for urgent humanitarian aid. 


The catastrophe prompted the head of the World Meteorological Association to warn: 

“This naturally occurring El Niño event and human-induced climate change may interact and modify each other in ways that we have never before experienced.”
The warning was enough to prompt the UN to issue a global action plan, with early warning systems, beefed-up aid networks and disaster relief preparation, and calls for developing countries to “climate proof” their economic plans.
Compare all this – the science, the modelling, the economic foresight and the attempt to design multilateral blueprint – with the actions of the jackass who runs Australia’s finance ministry.

Scott Morrison barged into the parliament chamber to wave a lump of coal at the Labor and Green opposition benches, taunting them: 

“Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared. 

It’s coal. 

It was dug up by men and women who work in the electorate of those who sit opposite.” 

Coal, argues the Australian conservative government, has given the economy “competitive energy advantage for more than 100 years”. 

Labor and the Greens had called, after the Paris climate accord, for an orderly shutdown of the coal-fired power stations that produce 60% of the country’s energy.
The Aussie culture war over coal is being fuelled by the resurgence of the white-supremacist One Nation party, led by Pauline Hanson, which is pressuring mainstream conservatives to drop commitments to the Paris accord and, instead, launch a “royal commission into the corruption of climate science”, which its members believe is a money-making scam.
All over the world, know-nothing xenophobes are claiming – without evidence – that climate science is rigged. 

Their goal is to defend coal-burning energy, promote fracking, suppress the development of renewable energies and shatter the multilateral Paris agreement of 2015.


Opposition to climate science has become not just the badge of honour for far-right politicians like Ukip’s Paul Nuttall.

 It has become the central tenet of their appeal to unreason.
People facing increased fuel bills, new taxes on methane-producing cattle farms, dimmer light bulbs and the arrival of wind and wave technologies in traditional landscapes will naturally ask: is this really needed? 

Their inner idiot wishes it were not. 

For most of us, the inner rationalist is strong enough to counteract that wish.

What distinguishes the core of the rightwing populist electorate is its gullibility to idiocy-promoting rhetoric against climate science. 

They want to be harangued by a leader who tells them their racism is rational, in the same way they want leaders who tell them the science behind climate change is bunk.


Well, in Australia, people are quickly finding out where such rhetoric gets you: more devastating bushfires; a longer fire season; more extreme hot days; longer droughts. And an energy grid so overloaded with demands from air conditioning systems that it is struggling to cope.
And, iIf the pessimists among climate scientists are right, and the general rise in temperature has begun to destabilise and accentuate the El Niño effects, this is just the start.
The world is reeling from the election victory of Donald Trump, who has called climate science a hoax.

 Dutch voters look set to reward Geert Wilders, whose one-page election programme promises “no more money for development, windmills, art, innovation or broadcasting”, with first place in the election. 

In France, 27% of voters are currently backing the Front National, a party determined to take the country out of the Paris accord, which it sees as “a communist project”.
The struggle against the nationalist right must, in all countries, combine careful listening to the social and cultural grievances of those on its periphery with relentless stigmatisation of the idiocy, selfishness and racism of the leaders and political activists at its core.
It’s time to overcome queasiness and restraint. 

We, the liberal and progressive people of the world, are at war with the far right to save the earth. 
The extreme temperatures and climate-related disasters of the past 24 months mean this is not some abstract struggle about science or values: it’s about the immediate fate of 60 million people still recovering from a disaster.

Press link for more: The Guardian.com

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Carbon Tax a Market Based solution for #ClimateChange #auspol 

This GOP-Backed Carbon-Tax Plan
Purist objections scuttled Washington State’s market-friendly carbon tax plan in November. 

Let’s not let that happen at the national level.

By Charles Komanoff


Progressives Need to Get Over Themselves and Support This GOP-Backed Carbon-Tax Plan

Carbon-tax haters can relax. 

The proposal for a national carbon tax released on February 8 by high-level Republicans, including über-GOP consigliere James Baker, isn’t going anywhere. 

Financially and ideologically, the American right is wedded to carbon fuels. 

Trumpism runs on and reeks of them. 

Predictably, not a single Republican in Congress, and no one in the White House, has uttered a single positive word about the new carbon-tax plan.
Nevertheless, the proposal’s intended audience may not be Beltway Republicans but rather those ordinary Americans, majorities in both parties, who say they want action on climate, and who therefore might yet figure in the political equation over climate policy. 

That group includes progressives. 

We should pay attention: Carbon taxes matter.
Our long-building climate crisis is already materializing as drowned coasts, punishing droughts, vanishing glaciers—and political upheaval. 

At its root is a century-old lie: market prices for gasoline and other fossil fuels that do not factor in the damage from burning them.

A clean-energy revolution is at last underway, with wind power, solar electricity, and energy efficiency becoming not only cheaper by the day but also easier to deploy. 

Still, the clean-energy transition will be slowed until prices of coal, oil, and gas reflect their true environmental costs. 

A carbon tax could do that, if designed properly.
How carbon taxes work is simple enough, at least in theory.

 Fuel use is infinitely varied and intricately woven into society in ways that regulations such as auto-mileage standards can’t fully reach. 

Clear price signals, on the other hand, can be a nearly magic wand to help billions of invisible hands rapidly reduce and replace fossil fuels.


But with a carbon tax come difficult choices about the vast revenue it will generate. 

Carbon taxing had a test run at the ballot box last November in the state of Washington, and it ended badly.
Progressives can’t just walk away from carbon taxes, the policy tool with the best chance of catching fire globally.

On November 8, voters in the Evergreen State rejected by a nearly 3-to-2 margin what would have been the nation’s first statewide carbon tax.

 A win for “Initiative 732” would have given the United States a carbon-tax beachhead, like Canada’s British Columbia, which has had a small but successful carbon tax since 2008.
Remarkably, the decisive factor in defeating I-732 may not have been money from Big Carbon or even popular aversion to higher taxes, since the initiative was tailored to keep Washingtonians’ tax burden unchanged. 

What doomed I-732 was a fissure within the climate movement, with centrist economists and other policy wonks in favor of the initiative and progressive greens opposed.
Stated briefly, climate activists in Washington split over opposing answers to two key questions: 

What are carbon taxes for, and who gets to design them?
Carbon taxes can cut emissions in two ways.

 As noted above, they raise the price of carbon fuels, thereby worsening their competitive position vis-à-vis cleaner fuels. 

In addition, the tax revenues raised by a carbon tax can be invested in clean-energy infrastructure such as public transit and community solar.
The first path—the “price pull” of boosting market prices of carbon fuels—is what dazzles economists. 

The second route—the “revenue push” of investing in green infrastructure—appeals to many ordinary folks, especially on the left. 

Some progressives actively distrust policies that lean hard on price signals, partly for fear that workers in dirty industries will be penalized as investment migrates to cleaner alternatives.
The stakes are higher now than ever.

For decades, reactionary forces in the United States have been able to block seemingly every new public endeavor by labeling it “tax and spend.”

 The Washington State carbon-tax proponents believed they had an antidote:

 Don’t allow the government to spend the revenues from the carbon tax; rather, use those revenues to reduce other taxes. 

The political assumption seemed to be that going “revenue neutral,” though it might frustrate the left—bye-bye, public investment—could placate the right or at least capture the center. 

And so Carbon WA, as the advocates of I-732 called themselves, fashioned its ballot initiative around cuts to the state’s regressive sales tax.
Progressive greens recoiled. 

The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, a state umbrella group of environmental-justice organizations and mainstream allies, blasted I-732 for starving green jobs and ignoring front-line communities. 

So did nationally prominent progressive leaders like Naomi Klein and Van Jones. 

The measure’s electoral chances, which were never good, could not withstand this split. 

On Election Day, as Hillary Clinton was besting Trump in Washington State by half-a-million votes, the carbon tax was rejected, 59 percent to 41 percent.
But progressives can’t just walk away from carbon taxes. 

Carbon taxes are the only policy tool that, by slashing demand in a rapid, predictable way, divests our economy from fossil fuels and enables governments, business, and consumers to make investments in the transition to clean energy. 

Carbon taxes also have the best chance of catching fire globally.

The carbon tax James Baker brought to the Trump White House on February 8 on behalf of the new Climate Leadership Council has a lot in common with I-732: 

The Council’s proposal is also avowedly revenue neutral.

 But rather than lowering an existing tax, it relies on a so-called tax-and-dividend model: 

As the state of Alaska does with oil revenues, revenues from the Council’s national carbon tax would be returned equally to all American households in quarterly “dividends” digitally deposited in Social Security accounts. 

The tax would start at $40 per ton of carbon dioxide.
Earmarking all of the revenue to these dividends creates the political will to raise the tax every year, since the dividends rise in tandem with the tax rate. 

Ramping up the tax by $5 a year would shrink the use of carbon fuels so drastically that, by my calculations, US carbon emissions in 2030 would be 40 percent less than they were in 2005 (a standard baseline year).
Government policy revolves around trade-offs, and on balance James Baker’s carbon tax is worth supporting.

Yet this progress comes with a catch. 

The council would phase out much of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority over greenhouse gases and would outright repeal President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to cut emissions from electricity generation. 

It would also immunize fossil-fuel companies from lawsuits for damages done by their products—lawsuits such as those bound to arise from the revelations that ExxonMobil and other companies knew for decades about the climate damages their products cause, and lied about it.
But government policy revolves around trade-offs, and on balance the council’s carbon tax is worth supporting.

 After all, well over 80 percent of the Clean Power Plan’s targeted reductions for 2030 were already achieved by the end of 2016. 

Thus trading away the Clean Power Plan for a tax that could scour fossil fuels from the entire economy is like swapping an aging ballplayer for the next superstar.
Of course, some people will not see it that way, particularly traditional green groups that helped write the laws and regulations that cleaned up the nation’s air and water.

 Some will regard the council’s trade as a ploy to undo the EPA’s authority to protect not just climate—where it may be largely ineffectual anyway—but public health.
With Republicans tightly lashed to climate denial, the value of Baker’s carbon-tax proposal may be less as a gateway to legislation and more as a spur for progressives and other citizens to take a clear look at carbon pricing.

Will progressives trust the verdict of economists that a revenue-neutral carbon tax can drive the energy transition so long as the tax level is high enough? 

Or do we support carbon taxes only if the revenues are invested in the clean-energy transition? 

If so, how do we craft a spending program that reconciles the claims of competing interests? 

And what is our blueprint for building political power to enact such a carbon tax, when “tax” remains a dirty word in national politics?


Clear majorities of Americans want climate action.

 Remarkably, some polls have even found that majorities of Americans support carbon taxes like the Climate Leadership Council’s proposal. 

With the Democrats’ national defeats last November, the failure of climate activists to unite on the Washington state referendum is looking like an unforced error of cruel proportions. 

We can’t afford to repeat that mistake at the national level.

Press link for more: The Nation.com