Capitalism

The Dance of Death #climatechange #neoliberalism #auspol 

The Dance of Death

By Chris Hedges

The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build.

 They seek to destroy. 

They are agents of death. 

They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. 

Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated.

 Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished.

 Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch.

 Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. 

Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future.

 Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. 

State repression is indiscriminant and brutal.

 And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.

The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse.

 Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus.

 The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. 

Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population.

 The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.
The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war.

 President Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations. 

When the Roman Empire fell, it was trying to sustain an army of half a million soldiers that had become a parasitic drain on state resources.
“The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence.”
The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them. 

The difference now, as Joseph Tainter points out in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” is that “collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. 

No longer can any individual nation collapse. 

World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.”
Civilizations in decline, despite the palpable signs of decay around them, remain fixated on restoring their “greatness.” 

Their illusions condemn them. 

They cannot see that the forces that gave rise to modern civilization, namely technology, industrial violence and fossil fuels, are the same forces that are extinguishing it.

 Their leaders are trained only to serve the system, slavishly worshipping the old gods long after these gods begin to demand millions of sacrificial victims.
“Hope drives us to invent new fixes for old messes, which in turn create even more dangerous messes,” Ronald Wright writes in “A Short History of Progress.” “Hope elects the politician with the biggest empty promise; and as any stockbroker or lottery seller knows, most of us will take a slim hope over prudent and predictable frugality. Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism.” 
The Trump appointees—Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Rick Perry, Alex Acosta and others—do not advocate innovation or reform. They are Pavlovian dogs that salivate before piles of money. They are hard-wired to steal from the poor and loot federal budgets. Their single-minded obsession with personal enrichment drives them to dismantle any institution or abolish any law or regulation that gets in the way of their greed. Capitalism, Karl Marx wrote, is “a machine for demolishing limits.” There is no internal sense of proportion or scale. Once all external impediments are lifted, global capitalism ruthlessly commodifies human beings and the natural world to extract profit until exhaustion or collapse. And when the last moments of a civilization arrive, the degenerate edifices of power appear to crumble overnight.
Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life, Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct. The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence.

 It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including our own beings. One of these two forces, Freud wrote, is always ascendant. Societies in decline enthusiastically embrace the death instinct, as Freud observed in “Civilization and Its Discontents,” written on the eve of the rise of European fascism and World War II. 
“It is in sadism, where the death instinct twists the erotic aim in its own sense and yet at the same time fully satisfies the erotic urge, that we succeed in obtaining the clearest insight into its nature and its relation to Eros,” Freud wrote. “But even where it emerges without any sexual purpose, in the blindest fury of destructiveness, we cannot fail to recognize that the satisfaction of the instinct is accompanied by an extraordinary high degree of narcissistic enjoyment, owing to its presenting the ego with a fulfillment of the latter’s old wishes for omnipotence.”
The lust for death, as Freud understood, is not, at first, morbid. It is exciting and seductive. I saw this in the wars I covered. A god-like power and adrenaline-driven fury, even euphoria, sweep over armed units and ethnic or religious groups given the license to destroy anything and anyone around them. Ernst Juenger captured this “monstrous desire for annihilation” in his World War I memoir, “Storm of Steel.”
A population alienated and beset by despair and hopelessness finds empowerment and pleasure in an orgy of annihilation that soon morphs into self-annihilation. It has no interest in nurturing a world that has betrayed it and thwarted its dreams. It seeks to eradicate this world and replace it with a mythical landscape. It turns against institutions, as well as ethnic and religious groups, that are scapegoated for its misery. It plunders diminishing natural resources with abandon. It is seduced by the fantastic promises of demagogues and the magical solutions characteristic of the Christian right or what anthropologists call “crisis cults.”
Norman Cohn, in “The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and Its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements,” draws a link between that turbulent period and our own. Millennial movements are a peculiar, collective psychological response to profound societal despair. They recur throughout human history. We are not immune.
“These movements have varied in tone from the most violent aggressiveness to the mildest pacifism and in aim from the most ethereal spirituality to the most earth-bound materialism; there is no counting the possible ways of imagining the Millennium and the route to it,” Cohen wrote. “But similarities can present themselves as well as differences; and the more carefully one compares the outbreaks of militant social chiliasm during the later Middle Ages with modern totalitarian movements the more remarkable the similarities appear. The old symbols and the old slogans have indeed disappeared, to be replaced by new ones; but the structure of the basic phantasies seems to have changed scarcely at all.”
These movements, Cohen wrote, offered “a coherent social myth which was capable of taking entire possession of those who believed in it. It explained their suffering, it promised them recompense, it held their anxieties at bay, it gave them an illusion of security—even while it drove them, held together by a common enthusiasm, on a quest which was always vain and often suicidal.
“So it came about that multitudes of people acted out with fierce energy a shared phantasy which though delusional yet brought them such intense emotional relief that they could live only through it and were perfectly willing to die for it. It is a phenomenon which was to recur many times between the eleventh century and the sixteenth century, now in one area, now in another, and which, despite the obvious differences in cultural context and in scale, is not irrelevant to the growth of totalitarian movements, with their messianic leaders, their millennial mirages and their demon-scapegoats, in the present century.”
The severance of a society from reality, as ours has been severed from collective recognition of the severity of climate change and the fatal consequences of empire and deindustrialization, leaves it without the intellectual and institutional mechanisms to confront its impending mortality. It exists in a state of self-induced hypnosis and self-delusion. It seeks momentary euphoria and meaning in tawdry entertainment and acts of violence and destruction, including against people who are demonized and blamed for society’s demise. It hastens its self-immolation while holding up the supposed inevitability of a glorious national resurgence. Idiots and charlatans, the handmaidens of death, lure us into the abyss.

Press link for more: commondreams.com

Carbon dioxide levels rising at record pace. #auspol #science 

Carbon dioxide levels rose at record pace for 2nd straight year | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Carbon dioxide levels measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory rose by 3 parts per million to 405.1 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, an increase that matched the record jump observed in 2015.
The two-year, 6-ppm surge in the greenhouse gas between 2015 and 2017 is unprecedented in the observatory’s 59-year record. And, it was a record fifth consecutive year that carbon dioxide (CO2) rose by 2 ppm or greater, said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
“The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age,” Tans said. “This is a real shock to the atmosphere.”
Globally averaged CO2 levels passed 400 ppm in 2015 — a 43-percent increase over pre-industrial levels. In February 2017, CO2 levels at Mauna Loa had already climbed to 406.42 ppm.

This graph shows the annual mean carbon dioxide growth rates observed at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory.

This graph shows the annual mean carbon dioxide growth rates observed at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory. Further information can be found on the ESRL Global Monitoring Division website. (NOAA)

Measurements are independently validated
NOAA has measured CO2 on site at the Mauna Loa observatory since 1974. To ensure accuracy, air samples from the mountaintop research site in Hawaii are shipped to NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, for verification. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which first began sampling CO2 at Mauna Loa in 1956, also takes independent measurements onsite.
Emissions from fossil-fuel consumption have remained at historically high levels since 2011 and are the primary reason atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing at a dramatic rate, Tans said. This high growth rate of CO2 is also being observed at some 40 other sites in NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
The greenhouse effect, explained
Carbon dioxide is one of several gases that are primarily responsible for trapping heat in the atmosphere. This “greenhouse effect” maintains temperatures suitable for life on Earth. Increasing CO2 levels trap additional heat in the atmosphere and the oceans, contributing to rising global average temperatures.
Atmospheric CO2 averaged about 280 ppm between about 10,000 years ago and the start of the Industrial Revolution around 1760.

Press link for more: NOAA

Why Trump is an Existential Threat #auspol #climatechange #science

One of the Most Famous Scientists in the World Just Explained Why Trump Is an Existential Threat

SochAnam/Getty Images
This story was originally published by New Republic and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Earlier this month, thousands of scientists from around the world came together for their favorite nerd fest:

 The annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest scientific organization and publisher of the renowned Science journals.

 There were panels on everything from climate change to robots, hornless cows to honeybees.

 But this year’s meeting was different than any other in its 168-year history, for one reason: Donald Trump was president. And scientists were freaking out.


“I haven’t seen anything like it in my many decades in science and science watching,” Dr. Rush Holt, the president of AAAS and executive publisher of the Science journals, told the New Republic.
Most scientists are uncomfortable talking politics because their work needs to be perceived as objective rather than partisan. But ever since America elected a president who’s made scientifically inaccurate statements on everything from vaccines to climate change, more and more scientists are stepping into the spotlight to stand up for their profession. That includes Holt, who announced Wednesday that AAAS would partner with the March for Science, an Earth Day rally with the primary goal of preserving and promoting evidence-based policymaking.
In a conversation with the New Republic, Holt—who is also a former U.S. Congressman—talked about the unprecedented level of political anxiety among American scientists, and how those scientists should navigate these murky waters.

TNR: We’ve reached this point where scientists are being thrown into the political spotlight, which I imagine is deeply uncomfortable for a lot of people in this profession. You just came from your annual conference, where thousands of scientists in attendance. What is the level of concern you observed from them about the Trump administration, and politics in general?
“The level of concern and anxiety among scientists—and I guess I’d say the science-friendly public—about the place of science in society in government, has gone beyond concern to anxiety.”
RH: The level of concern and anxiety among scientists—and I guess I’d say the science-friendly public—about the place of science in society in government, has gone beyond concern to anxiety. I haven’t seen anything like it in my many decades in science and science watching.
It used to be when that, when scientists in the hallways would talk about being worried about the state of science, what they really meant was, they were worried about the funding for their research. That’s not so much what we’re hearing now, although I do think scientists don’t realize what Congress seems to have in store for non-defense discretionary spending.
TNR: So you’re saying the concern among scientists has gone from, “will I get funding,” to something more existential.
RH: Existential might even be the right word. The concern now is whether policymakers even understand the meaning of evidence. Whether there is any truth to this descriptor of “fact-free era.” Whether policy is going to be made more and more in the absence of scientific input. There seems to be a concern about whether the public appreciation of science has eroded to a point where it has removed science from public debate and public decision making. Whether the public has come to regard evidence as optional.

TNR: You’ve only been at the head of AAAS some 2014, but compared to other years, was there a lot of political talk at this year’s annual meetings?
RH: That was the main hallways discussion, as well as discussion that broke out in panels on various scientific topics. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve also never seen as much of a spontaneous upsurge now of scientists and science-loving members of the public who want to defend science. We see that in the March for Science.
TNR: Regarding the march, though, some people have expressed concern that it’s going to politicize science even further. That it’s going to make science into a partisan issue.
RH: Well, the March for Science is not just a march. It’s a public education effort. It is a children’s science festival. It is emblematic of this public upsurge of interest in defending the idea of science. That’s really unusual. It’s also a rare opportunity for scientists to help get out the message of just how valuable, how powerful science is and how important it is—how it’s more important to lives of nonscientists than to the job of scientists.
TNR: So you don’t think that a march that will likely have politically-oriented signs will undermine science?
RH: There is a sense that science and politics are incompatible. I don’t think so at all. I think it’s important that scientists take great pains to make sure that ideology and personal bias and wishful thinking do not contaminate the collection and analysis and evidence. One must not politicize science. But the converse is not necessarily true. There’s no reason why scientists can not go into the public sphere. In fact, I would argue they should.
TNR: Does that mean you think more scientists should be running for political office?
RH: It doesn’t necessarily mean running for office. Every citizen, scientists included, has some obligation to be involved in public affairs and politics. I do think that in recent months I’ve seen a lot more public-directed attention from scientists. More and more scientists have called me up—strangers for the most part—who say, “I’m thinking about running for office. You’ve done it, how do you do it.” And I say, “just do it.”
TNR: Do you think all this concern is just because of Trump?
RH: Actually, the concerns that I heard raised at the annual meeting seemed to be rooted in trends that began years ago, quite independent of Donald Trump. It is true that when people are appointed to positions and talk without any appreciation or understanding of scientists, well, that gets scientists worried. And when public officials talk about alternative facts, people who have devoted their careers to trying to uncover facts are dismayed. But this type of rhetoric has been present in politics for some time.
TNR: Where do you think the conversation about science in policymaking needs to go from here? What needs to be done to communicate the stakes of an anti-science government?
RH: So much of this discussion in recent weeks and months has not been about specific issues, but about the place of science and science-based evidence in general. The phrase I hear most—more often than genetic engineering or nuclear power or anything like that—is “evidence-based decision-making.” I hear that phrase over and over.
There needs to be a public dawning—and it is beginning to dawn on some members of the public—that how science is practiced actually makes a difference in their lives. If evidence becomes optional, if ideological assertions or beliefs are just as good as scientifically vetted evidence, then their quality of life suffers. I think that’s dawning on people. There’s a level of concern unlike anything I’ve seen.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

Press link for more: motherjones.com

We need Left & Right to fix #climatechange 

Why Democrats and Republicans are Both Right on Climate.
Two very different action plans from opposite sides of the aisle could be even more effective if both are implemented.

Over the past two years, two thoughtful, innovative, and dramatically different plans to address global warming have been presented to the American public by the Democratic and the Republican Parties. 

Both plans would move the nation significantly toward a sustainable future.

The first, the Clean Power Plan (CPP), introduced by President Obama, calls on states to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector by 32 percent below their individual 2005 baselines by 2030. 

The CPP further makes $8 billion available to retrain and aid coal-workers and their families. 

This is a sizeable transition fund for an industry now valued in total at less than $50 billion, a tenth of what it was just a few decades ago.

The second, the Carbon Dividend Plan (CDP) was recently proposed by the Climate Leadership Council which is headlined by former Republican Secretaries of State James Baker and George Schultz, as well as former Treasury Secretary Paulson, two former Chairmen of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and a Chairman of the Board of Walmart.

 The CDP calls for a modestly rising carbon tax, with dividends paid directly back to American families amounting to roughly $2,000 per year for a family of four.

Both plans have a great deal to like. 

The home run strategy for American job creation and industrial leadership is to implement both the CPP and the CDP.

The federal government estimates that the CPP will yield climate benefits to the U. S. economy of $20 billion, and health benefits of $14-34 billion, and to each year avoid 3,600 premature deaths, 1,700 heart attacks, 90,000 asthma attacks, and 300,000 missed work and school days.

 With so many of these illnesses in lower-income areas and in minority communities, the CPP is of tremendous benefit to poorer Americans and to the national budget as well.

 To be fair, some, but not all, of these benefits would also come from the CDP, although they are less clear-cut because emissions reductions could come from other sectors of the economy beyond electricity.

The CDP includes a provision for boarder taxes on foreign imports from nations that do not implement some form of carbon pricing, presumably with a dispensation for the world’s poorest nations.

Together the CPP and the CDP build a vibrant, intensely job-creating energy sector that would be far larger than either plan accomplishes alone. 

The CPP does not pit one state against each other, but pushes each state to develop its own carbon reduction plan.

 Both red and blue states are finding this easier and more profitable than previously imagined.

 The power sector reduced its carbon emissions 21 percent between 2005-2015, primarily by switching from coal to gas.

 It is well on the way to complying with the Clean Power Plan.

The CPP will accelerate the transition to money-saving energy efficiency, and to a job-rich renewable energy sector. 

Countries such as China, Bangladesh, Denmark, Germany Kenya, Korea, and Portugal have seen tremendous manufacturing and job growth as they made their electricity sectors more diverse, clean, and job-producing.


As innovations spread in the energy sector, the benefits of the CDP come into play. 

The carbon dividend to U. S. families is estimated by the U. S. Treasury to directly benefit financially the poorest 70 percent (some 223 million people) of Americans. 

A federal infrastructure investment would further stimulate this deal, bringing jobs to the capital-intensive energy sector across the country.

Of equal or greater importance, however, is the fact that the U. S. and EU energy sectors are growing by less than 1 percent per year, but in many other nations energy demand is growing by 5 percent per year or more.

 The CDP pushes other countries to adopt carbon policies, making them ready markets for the products that the invigorated U. S. energy sector will deliver.

Because the energy industry is about systems integration, not simply individual technology components, countries need company partners that are expert and trusted to deliver integrated packages. 

This is a hallmark of the U. S. energy sector, from the complex and extensive oil and gas industry, to companies like Bechtel and Johnson Controls, to the fastest growing part of the U. S. economy, the clean energy innovators.

The real beauty of the two proposals is how well they can work together for the benefit of all Americans, and at the same time, the global environment.

Daniel M. Kammen is a professor of energy at the University of California, Berkeley, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, and Science Envoy for the U. S. State Department. Twitter: @dan_kammen; URL: http://rael.berkeley.edu

The Crazy Climate Technofix #auspol 

by Mark White
Illustrations by Bren Luke 
Earth’s climate has been edging towards a scene usually reserved for a post-apocalyptic movie.

 Some posit geoengineering as a radical fix to climate change.

 Others say the risks are too high and its proponents mad. 

Welcome to the debate where science fiction meets climate science.

If you visit a block of land near the West Australian dairy town of Harvey in a few years’ time, you will see a few pipes sticking out of the ground, a solar panel and an aerial for communications devices. 

There may be a hut and some room for parking.
These will be the only visible signs of the South West Hub project, designed to test the feasibility of pumping megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the vast Wonnerup sandstone layer, a kilometre-and-a-half deep beneath the Jarrah-Marri trees on the surface.
The gas will be liquefied in a nearby compressor building – an anonymous farm shed – and transported to the injection site via underground pipes.
Wonnerup is an example of carbon capture and storage, one of a suite of technologies known as geoengineering, or climate engineering.
Geoengineering is a mixed bag, but the idea involves large-scale interventions at the level of the whole planet, with the goal of fixing the climate.

 It’s tricky, dangerous, and largely considered “fringe science”.
The proposals come in two main flavours. 

One is carbon dioxide removal, which strips the gas from the atmosphere and slowly restores atmospheric balance.

 A mix of techniques would be needed: hundreds of factories like Wonnerup, billions of new trees and plants, plus contentious technologies such as artificially encouraging the growth of plankton.
The second is solar radiation management, intended to cool the Earth by stopping the sun’s heat from reaching the planet’s surface. 

That can be achieved by pumping minute particles into the atmosphere, but carries the risk of killing billions of people.
Right now, we don’t have the tools or the knowledge to deploy these fixes. 

But some prominent climate scientists argue that as carbon emissions continue to rise, geoengineering will have to be employed to avoid catastrophic climate change.
 

Last December’s meeting of world leaders in Paris produced a voluntary agreement to try to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5C over pre-industrial levels, and to not exceed 2C – the widely agreed level of devastating heat increase.

 But agreement and actual efforts didn’t seem to go hand in hand.

“The roar of devastating global storms has now drowned the false cheer from Paris,” a team of 11 climate scientists wrote in a January letter to The Independent, “and brutally brought into focus the extent of our failure to address climate change. 

The unfortunate truth is that things are going to get much worse.”
University of Cambridge Professor Peter Wadhams says: “Other things being equal, I’m not a great fan of geoengineering, but I think it absolutely necessary given the situation we’re in. 

It’s a sticking plaster solution. 

But you need it, because looking at the world, nobody’s instantly changing their pattern of life.”
Since then, temperatures have been soaring month after month, we’ve learned that the Great Barrier Reef is in extremely poor health and bleaching rapidly, while new quests continue to unearth more fossil fuels.
As we’re failing to keep the planet pleasant and habitable for future generations, could we instead fix the climate with technology? 
With geoengineering?
Debate about geoengineering in Australia is “almost being avoided”, according to Professor David Karoly, a noted atmospheric scientist at the University of Melbourne.

 He is a member of the Climate Change Authority, which advises the federal government, and was involved in preparing the 2007 IPCC report on global warming.
“There’s very little discussion on it in terms of government circles, there’s very little research on it, there’s very little discussion of it in what might be called mainstream science,” Professor Karoly says.

Policymakers are including geoengineering in their plans, but many technologies are still unproven and potentially dangerous.
“You’ll generally find among climate scientists that almost all are opposed to geoengineering,” says Professor Jim Falk, of the University of Melbourne’s Sustainable Society Institute. 

“They’re already pretty concerned about what we’ve done to the climate and don’t want to start stuffing around doing other things we only half-understand on a grand scale.”
When the US National Academy of Science launched a report last year analysing geoengineering options, committee head Marcia McNutt, a geophysicist, was asked if any should be deployed. 

She replied “Gosh, I hope not”.
The report considered carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management so risky it used the term “climate intervention” instead of geoengineering, arguing the term “engineering” implied a level of control that doesn’t exist.
But the IPCC has considered scenarios where such engineering would be necessary: its 2014 assessment report mentions bio-energy carbon capture and storage (known as BECCS), where plant fuel is burned and the resulting carbon dioxide buried.
And the Paris Agreement noted there would be need for a “balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases” in 2050-2100.
“A few years ago, these exotic Dr Strangelove options were discussed only as last-ditch contingencies,” wrote Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change, of the Paris talks in Nature magazine.
“Now they are Plan A.”
 

The term “geoengineering” raises the spectre of a James Bond villain cackling in his lair and planning to make volcanoes erupt at the push of a button. And that’s quite fitting, given that one approach to solar radiation management consists of mimicking the fallout from such giant explosions.
Treating the problem like an outlandish movie script may be the only way of comprehending the scale of the challenge. To reduce atmospheric CO2 levels by 1ppm – approaching the volume needed to stabilise global temperature – requires the withdrawal of 18 gigatonnes of gas, the equivalent of 18,000 South West Hub plants running for a year.
Tim Flannery, the former Australian of the Year who helped raise the profile of climate change, is vocal in supporting some geoengineering approaches. He prefers the less-toxic term “Third Way technologies”, based on the Earth’s natural processes.
Flannery says those which work at the gigatonne scale – the only ones which will dent the problem – may take decades to be developed.
“The only way you can get to a Paris-like outcome is by slamming hard on emissions,” he says, “reducing them as fast as humanly possible as well as investing now in these technologies that’ll give you these gigatonne gains in 20 or 30 years time.”
”The question for most of these technologies is – we don’t know if they work. But we need them to work.”
Flannery says solar-radiation management approaches should be treated with great caution, as they mask the problem: they will reduce the temperature, but not affect rising CO2 levels, leaving the oceans ever more acidic. That could see a catastrophic loss of reefs and oceanic life, devastating the aquatic food chain.
Ironically, one of the reasons the atmosphere isn’t already at a 2C warming mark, says Professor Karoly, is due to the aerosols already in the atmosphere – an unintentional form of solar radiation management.
He says the current best estimate of stabilising the temperature at that level, with a 50 per cent likelihood, is for a carbon equivalent reading of 420-480ppm. The current figure is 481ppm, and rising at 3ppm per year.
Solar radiation management – deliberate and large scale – might buy time in an emergency, says Flannery. “There’s a broad highway to hell that’s easy to go down and it’s really cheap, relatively. It’s instantly effective, nations can do it unilaterally and it gives you a lower temperature.
“But there’s a narrow, crooked, winding path to heaven which is the carbon reduction stuff. It’s at a very early stage, but that actually does solve the problem.”

Once we capture carbon, it can actually be used productively. American researchers have produced carbon nanofibres from atmospheric carbon dioxide – initially only 10g per hour, but they are convinced it could scale.
There could be vast baths of molten chemicals across large swathes of the Sahara Desert, powered by solar radiation, forming layers of a valuable building material on submerged electrodes.
A research project at a California university has gone further, manufacturing a building material dubbed CO2NCRETE from captured carbon dioxide. A pilot plant at Australia’s University of Newcastle is investigating whether a similar process, combining excess CO2 from an Orica plant with minerals to form building materials, has commercial potential.
Flannery is interested in desktop studies on carbon-sucking seaweed and algae, as well as research reporting that carbon dioxide can be made to fall as snow over the Antarctic.

Picture this: the temperature plummeting well below freezing until a blizzard of dry ice cascades onto the barren plains below, each cuboctahedral flake representing a miniscule improvement in carbon levels, to be stored safely – somehow – from warming into a gas and re-entering the air.
“We’re at very, very early days,” Flannery warns. “Various approaches have different favourable aspects to them, but I don’t think any of them are anything like a silver bullet.”
Flannery’s championing of unorthodox technologies – even as avenues for research – isn’t shared by many high-profile climate change campaigners. David Karoly calls Flannery’s interest “surprising”. He deems ideas such as dry ice snowfall in Antarctica as “rather technofix solutions”.
“How do you get sufficient CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it?” asks Professor Karoly. “It’s probably the most inhospitable environment in the world and he’s talking about – if you work out what this equates to, it’s a mountain higher than Everest, the size of a soccer field every year.”
The Paris target of a 1.5C rise is “virtually impossible” without new technologies, he says, which “have not been proved either commercially viable or without major harm”.
“My concern is, the cure might be substantially worse than the disease.”
Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University, who wrote about geoengineering in his 2013 book Earthmasters, is more blunt.
“The schemes [Flannery] proposes are real pie-in-the-sky stuff, way out there,” he says. “He seems to have been sucked in by a kind of strange techno-promise that’ll get us out of this.”

Australian geoengineering research lags far behind the world leaders in the US, UK and Germany. It’s limited to a handful of scientists in Sydney and Hobart, and our major achievement is helping to halt commercial oceanic geoengineering.
The federal government, via its Direct Action policy, focuses on carbon sequestration without the crazy technofix label. Instead it backs land-use practices such as planting new forests, and prioritises soil enhancement, mangrove protection and rainforest recovery.
“There was an enormous groundswell of support for these activities in Paris,” a spokesperson for the Department of the Environment says. “Other actions [in the geoengineering field] would have an enormously high safety bar to cross and are a long way from proof.”
Meanwhile, CSIRO looks set to embark on an expansion of its geoengineering research program, both at land and sea. In a recent memo to staff announcing 350 job cuts at the organisation, CSIRO head Larry Marshall nominated “climate interventions (geo-engineering)” as one area in which it would seek a “step change” in knowledge.
“CSIRO is currently working through the detail of our future climate adaptation and mitigation research, and will include research relevant aspects of onshore and offshore geo-engineering. The scale and scope of this research is still to be determined,” a CSIRO spokesperson told SBS.

 
Jim Falk categorises geoengineering proposals along various lines, including how big a project needs to be for credible deployment, how big an impact it would have, whether it is reversible, what governance is required, how much it would cost, and the risks involved.
“Then you can say different proposals have different footprints,” Falk says, “and depending on the footprint you can suggest what sort of barriers you would want for their regulations before you would allow an experiment to take place.”
Unlike attempts to reduce global carbon emissions – where everyone must do their part for action to be effective – what scares scientists about solar radiation management is the relative ease of one person launching a planet-wide experiment.
Spraying sulphate particles into the atmosphere from aircraft or balloons is known to reduce temperatures. It mimics what happens when volcanic ash blankets the atmosphere.
There would be spectacular sunsets as solar rays interact with the particles, with brilliant red eddies splashing the evening sky, similar to those in Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream.
And it has been costed at just $US10 billion a year.
One test in August 2008 was conducted on land 500km southeast of Moscow by Yuri Izrael, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s science advisor. He and his team rigged aerosol sprays on a helicopter and car chassis, measuring how solar radiation was retarded at heights up to 200 metres.
“China might decide to pump a load of sulphur into the atmosphere and not tell anyone about it,” says Rosemary Rayfuse, a Law professor at UNSW and a global authority on regulating geoengineering. “Or Australia could do it. Anybody could. That’s the other problem – it’s so easy to do.”
Billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson could step forward, says Anita Talberg, a PhD student in the governance of climate engineering at the University of Melbourne. Both support geoengineering and have funded research.
“They could just decide suddenly, ‘I could do enough benefit for the poor and vulnerable in the world, I could just do it and save them from the climate crisis.’”
Such a move could be catastrophic, most immediately due to the risk of drought in the tropics, devastating the food security of billions of people. Those colourful sunsets are projected to see lower rainfall.
The sky will bleach white during the day, while ozone depletes in the tropics – where most of the world’s population live. As the temperature falls, levels of UV radiation will rise, leading to an upsurge in skin cancers.

Professor Andy Pitman, of the Climate Change Research Centre in Sydney, is a member of the World Climate Research Program.
The only role he sees for sulphate injection is alongside steep cuts in carbon emissions. “If people are talking about it as a substitute for that, the technical term you’d use is ‘cloud cuckoo land’.”
But he hopes it’s never necessary.
“God, I hope not. We have a well-studied problem called global warming – we’re not sure of every detail – that would breach every ethics experiment on the planet if you proposed it as an experiment.
“All those problems relate to solar radiation management and I’d suggest any country that tried it at any significant level would find itself in every court in the world.”
There are smaller-scale approaches, he says, without the “ethical problems”. One is painting roofs white to reflect sun, a backyard approach anyone can try, and which would help cool interiors during hot summer days.
Another is genetically modified crops with a higher reflectivity, with variations as simple as leaves that are hairier or have a waxier coating.
Harvard University’s Professor David Keith is leading more research into solar radiation management, arguing in a 2015 paper that the technique could be used in a “temporary, moderate and responsive scenario”.
“Even if we make deep emissions cuts, it might be that the benefits of solar geoengineering outweigh the risks,” he tells SBS. “Or maybe not. To know, we have to decide to learn more.”
 

The belief in a technical solution – that because we have to find something, we will – has psychological roots in an effect known as ‘optimism bias’, says Melbourne psychologist Dr Susie Burke, who has expertise on issues relating to the environment, climate change and natural disasters.
“It’s intrinsic to humans to be optimistically biased,” she says, “and it’s great because it gets us out of bed in the morning and gives us a healthy motivation. But with respect to climate change, it means we end up minimising our personal risk and even risks that pertain to us – and believing the worst problems will happen to other people, somewhere else or into the future.”
She adds, “With the general population who are struggling to make significant changes to their lifestyle, deep down there is a belief that someone, somewhere will come up with something to solve the problem.”
Even talking about geoengineering carries the risk of “moral hazard”, that a solution to rocketing carbon emissions means they can continue unabated. That scenario troubles many.
“There’s a moral hazard in not discussing these things as well,” says Tim Flannery, “because we know we’re going to need them.”
The worst-case scenario – international agreements fail to stop emissions from rising – would force the use of extreme measures. Clive Hamilton thinks sulphate injection is the most likely use of geoengineering, though not yet.
“If we have a series of years where there are catastrophic droughts, heatwaves and hurricanes which cause massive impacts in several countries – also tipping points, so permafrost is now irreversibly melting – what kind of political and geostrategic environment are we going to be facing?” he asks.
“I think in that kind of scenario – which is not just possible but fairly likely – certain scientists promising they can rapidly reduce the earth’s temperature within a year or two are going to start looking increasingly attractive to some nations.”
Andy Pitman says that could lead to war: “You can imagine a situation – and it’s not too far-fetched – where country X starts a major campaign around sulphur injections into the atmosphere, country Y’s rainfall dramatically declines and is going into serious long-term famine, and that instigated a military response.”
And if carbon emissions continued to rise, the sulphate injection would have to be continuous. Otherwise, the particles would drop out of the atmosphere, leading to a sudden, highly disruptive jump in temperature.
If a war, say, or a pandemic was responsible for the break in sulphate injection, the compounding effects could be existential. 

Talking of human extinction in such a scenario is not too far-fetched.

 
The possibilities are less apocalyptic for some form of carbon capture and storage. 

Clive Hamilton identifies land being used by the likes of BECCS – bio-energy carbon capture and storage – to capture carbon as one of the main changes in geoengineering in the last few years.
Plants and trees would be grown for fuel, and the resulting carbon emissions from power generation would be stored away. There’s an example of this in Illinois at an ethanol production plant.
But there are questions over BECCS, not least that “no such economic process [is] available at this point and there may never be”, says Jim Falk.
The sheer amount of land needed is staggering, too. 

In a February 2016 paper in Nature,environmental scientist Philip Williamson estimated that one-third of the world’s arable land (430-580 million hectares of crops) would need planting for BECCS use to limit the temperature rise to 2C by 2100.

This would accelerate deforestation and, given “not unrealistic” assumptions, see carbon emissions actually increase.
Oliver Munnion, of the UK-based BioFuelwatch website, argues that BECCS is more dangerous than solar radiation management.

 “It’s the most outrageous,” he says. “It’s also the favoured approach amongst policy-makers, scientists and industry.
“The idea that we’d harm proven carbon sinks – forests and soils – to create an unproven and untested carbon sink underground is the antithesis of what climate policy should be geared towards.”
The problem facing geoengineering advocates is that most dangerous schemes are possible, but need to be used as a last resort, while the most promising schemes aren’t possible at scale. 

Even if they were, the numbers quickly turn ugly.
In the Nature article, Philip Williamson estimated that growing seaweed as a carbon pool would use nine per cent of the world’s oceans, with unknown environmental impacts.
Utilising the simple solar-radiation management tool of laying a reflective rock on the ground to reduce carbon levels by 12 per cent would need 1-5 kg/sqm of rock to be applied to 15-45 per cent of the earth’s surface, at a total cost of US$60-600 trillion.

That means an area of land at least the size of the old Soviet Union would have to be set aside and the global economy bankrupted.
The further you look, the more improbable geoengineering concepts become. A presentation to the 2016 American Meteorological Conference on Atmospheric Science called for lasers in the sky to microwave and neutralise methane clouds (another greenhouse gas).
UNSW Law professor Rosemary Rayfuse recalls one UK project looking at increasing the reflectivity of the oceans by making white foam, which had to persist for at least three months: “They were proposing to cover the oceans in meringue, which I thought was rather funny!”
David Karoly calls the idea of hanging mirrors in space to reflect sunlight “just stupid”, calculating the need for one million square kilometres of alfoil. Flannery agrees: “Anything that masks the problem, and lets people think they’ve solved it, is a danger.”
Cutting carbon emissions drastically, and now, would start to solve the problem. But that isn’t happening. Campaigners such as Tim Flannery are crossing their fingers that carbon-scrubbing technology we need to take us on “the narrow winding path to heaven” is developed in time.
If neither happens, we’ll be heading down the “broad highway to hell” of having to rely on solar radiation management, where the devil we don’t know is better than a climate gone rogue.
The effects of pumping simulated volcanic fallout into the atmosphere could dwarf the biggest eruptions in history. Start preparing for vivid red sunsets – and an uncertain future

Press link for more: SBS.COM.AU

Scientists can win the war on #Science #ClimateChange #auspol

Scientists can win the war on science — by speaking out

The Stand Up for Science Rally in Boston. CREDIT: Josh Landis
By Jeremy Deaton
Scientists have historically stayed above the political fray, but now that researchers face regular attacks under the Trump administration, many are planning to fight back.
And it’s creating a rift within the scientific community. Some scientists believe their work should speak for itself. Others say academics need to stand up for evidence-based inquiry — particularly where the fate of the planet is concerned. The March for Science, planned for April 22 on the National Mall, has drawn both sharp criticism and enthusiastic praise from scientists.
In the midst of this debate, newly published research has come down on the side of the outspoken. Not only do climate scientists have the public’s trust, they also have considerable latitude to advocate for climate action, a new study finds.

The Stand Up for Science Rally in Boston. CREDIT: Josh Landis

Researchers at George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication found that scientists remain credible even after making public statements that support climate action.
In the study, more than 1,200 participants read one of six Facebook posts from a fictional scientist, Dr. Dave Wilson, and then rated his credibility. The posts represented varying levels of advocacy.
At the low end, Wilson simply described a recent finding, noting that CO2 levels are on the rise. At the high end, he pressed for action on climate change without endorsing a particular course of action. In two other statements, he advocated for specific policies — calling for emissions limits on coal-fired power plants in one instance and more nuclear power in the other.

The Stand Up for Science Rally in Boston. CREDIT: Josh Landis

Readers regarded Wilson as no less credible after reading five of the six statements. Only after reading the statement on nuclear power did they regard him as less credible. Researchers said this suggests that scientists can advocate for climate action so long as they stop short of endorsing specific policies.
Conservatives rated Wilson as less credible than liberals did. Past research has shown those on the right tend to receive scientific statements about climate change more skeptically than their counterparts on the left. But the scientist’s statements did not further diminish his credibility — or the credibility of the scientific community — among conservatives.
These findings are especially notable given public attitudes towards climate scientists.
In the United States, seven in 10 people, including a majority of adults in every congressional district, trust scientists for information about climate change. 

A recently updated interactive tool from researchers at Yale and George Mason University breaks down public opinion on climate change by state, county, and congressional district.

 Its findings align with past research showing that climate scientists are the most trusted source of information about global warming.

But despite trusting scientists for information about climate change, the public remains largely unaware of what scientists actually think about the issue.
Less than half of Americans know that scientists agree broadly agree about the causes of climate change.

 Study after study has shown that 97 percent of climate scientists believe that human activity is driving the warming trend.

Research shows that when people understand the scientific consensus, they are more likely to be concerned about global warming. 

Complicating matters is the fact that Americans rarely speak about climate change. 

Despite the overwhelming urgency of the issue, only around a third of adults talk about it occasionally. 

A similar proportion never talk about it at all.

Clearly, there is ample room for scientists to drive a public conversation about climate, to explain that researchers agree on the urgent need for action and to encourage policymakers — and the public — to tackle the carbon crisis.
Recently, there has been a shift in the scientific community, as researchers organize gatherings, like the March for Science, in response to the Trump administration’s repeated attacks on evidence-based research. 

Last week, scientists in Boston led a rally during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes addressed those assembled, urging researchers to stand up to Trump.

“There have been many conversations in the scientific community about whether a rally is the right response,” said Oreskes.

 “We did not politicize our science. 

We did not start this fight. 

Our science has been politicized by people who are motivated to reject facts because those facts conflict with their worldview, their political beliefs or their economic self-interest.”
The assembled scientists and their supporters, armed with signs that read “stand up for science” and “bring back facts,” greeted her words with cheers and applause. Oreskes concluded with a forceful plea for scientists to advocate for their work — an act that cannot be discredited by those in power.
“It is not political to defend your colleagues. 

It is not political to defend your home. 

It is not political to stand up for science.”

Press link for more: Think Progress

Cutting Foreign Aid & Doing Nothing about Climate Change is Immoral! #auspol 

NAIROBI — President Trump has proposed large cuts to foreign aid at a time of acute need across Africa and the Middle East, with four countries approaching famine and 20 million people nearing starvation, according to the United Nations.


It is the first time in recent memory that so many large-scale hunger crises have occurred simultaneously, and humanitarian groups say they do not have the resources to respond effectively. 

The United Nations has requested $4.4 billion by March to “avert a catastrophe,” Secretary General António Guterres said last week. 

It has so far received only a tiny fraction of that request.


The details of Trump’s budget proposal have not been released, and large cuts to foreign assistance will face stiff opposition from Congress.

 So far, U.S. funding for the hunger crises has come out of a budget approved last year under President Obama.

 But the famines or near-famines in parts of Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen underscore the reliance on continued U.S. assistance to save some of the world’s most desperate people.

In Nigeria, millions have been displaced and isolated by Boko Haram insurgents.

 In Somalia, a historic drought has left a huge portion of the country without access to regular food, as al-Shabab militants block the movement of humanitarian groups. 

In South Sudan, a three-year-old civil war has forced millions of people from their homes and farms. 

In Yemen, a civil war along with aerial attacks by the Saudi-led coalition have caused another sweeping hunger crisis.
In 2016, the United States contributed about 28 percent of the foreign aid in those four countries, according to the United Nations.

“Nobody can replace the U.S. in terms of funding,” said Yves Daccord, the director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who said of the current crises:

 “I don’t remember ever seeing such a mix of conflict, drought and extreme hunger.”
U.S. aid officials said they were still trying to discern what the White House was planning to allocate to humanitarian assistance.

 Even though foreign aid is typically around 1 percent of the government’s budget, that is enough to make the United States by far the world’s largest donor. 

Last year, the United States contributed $6.4 billion in humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations, more than a quarter of global funding.
“We remain committed to a U.S. foreign policy that advances the security, prosperity and values of the American people,” said a USAID spokesman, who added that he was not authorized to speak on the record.
But asked whether the United States planned to contribute to the new U.N. appeal for hunger relief, the USAID official said, “We have no new funding to announce at this time.”


Early reports said Trump planned to propose 37 percent cuts to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development budgets. 

Many experts said they expected that those cuts would exclude U.S. contributions to security assistance.
“That leaves a much smaller component, which takes us directly to cuts in humanitarian assistance,” said Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.
The four hunger crises pose an enormous challenge for the humanitarian community, which is now torn between those emergencies. 

The last time a famine was declared in Africa was in Somalia in 2011. 

Nearly 260,000 people died, and aid groups later determined that they had waited too long to act. 

Famine is only declared when at least 30 percent of a population is acutely malnourished, and two adults or four children per every 10,000 people are dying each day.


Humanitarian groups have tried to apply the lessons from the 2011 disaster by moving quickly at the signs of deepening food crises. 

But the number of countries at risk of famine simultaneously makes a swift, thorough response to each of them very difficult.
“The donors are struggling left, right and center with their own allocations,” said Silke Pietzsch, the technical director for Action Against Hunger.

 “There are just too many fires to take care of.”
The United Nations was, by its own admission, late to recognize the scale of the crisis in northeastern Nigeria. 

Last year, when aid workers from Doctors Without Borders began traveling to parts of the country that had been blocked by Boko Haram fighters, they found soaring malnutrition rates and scores of people dying of preventable illnesses. 

Now, huge swaths of the region are still inaccessible to aid workers.
“No one can go 15 miles outside of the local government capitals,” said Yannick Pouchalan, the country director for Action Against Hunger. 

“There are still many people without any access to humanitarian assistance.”
USAID has been the largest provider of assistance in the crisis, Pouchalan said.
“If that aid stops, it means we won’t reach the people in need,” he said.
None of the crises are strictly about a lack of food aid or humanitarian funding.
“These are man-made crises in need of political solutions,” Pietzsch said.
In South Sudan, where two counties are already in the midst of famine, continued clashes between government and opposition forces have restricted the access of aid workers and kept people from farming on their land. 

The United Nations and other humanitarian groups have frequently been targeted by armed groups affiliated with both sides of the conflict. 

During fighting in July, government forces stole 4,500 metric tons of food from a World Food Program compound in Juba, the capital, enough to feed more than 200,000 people.
More than 1 million children in the country are malnourished and could die without a rapid intervention, according to UNICEF.
The United States has given more than $2.1 billion to South Sudan since the start of the conflict in December 2013. USAID claims that American food donations reach 1.3 million people every month and “has saved lives and helped to avert famine for three consecutive years,” according to a State Department statement last week.
Yet as the situation there worsens and food prices continue to rise as a result of an unusually bad harvest across much of Africa, the need for humanitarian assistance is expected to grow.

 In South Sudan, 700,000 people are already in “phase four” of the hunger crisis, the last stage before famine.
In Somalia, Save the Children has warned that the country has reached a “tipping point” and could quickly enter a famine “far worse than the 2011 famine.”
Of the four crises, Somalia’s is the most clearly linked to drought conditions, but insecurity caused by al-Shabab militants frequently keeps humanitarian workers from reaching civilians.

Press link for more: Washington Post

Open Letter to President Trump on Climate Change #auspol #science

Hingham couple pens open letter to President Trump on climate change
By John and Sally Davenport Hingham Journal

As we believe you must know in your heart of hearts, human-caused climate change is not a hoax.

 Virtually no one believes that climate change is not occurring. 

The globe is warming even faster than climate scientists have predicted, particularly at the poles where the ice is melting at an alarming rate. 


The overwhelming view of the scientific community world-wide is that global climate change is being caused by humans through the burning of fossil fuels and the release into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses. (The warming effect of atmospheric carbon dioxide has been known since the mid-19th century.) 

Most climate models show that, if carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, global temperatures will rise to potentially catastrophic levels by 2100.
These scientists from all over the world do not have any political axe to grind or financial stake in whether climate change is or is not caused by humans. 

They have no interest in participating in the perpetration of a hoax. 

Even climate scientists employed by oil and gas giant Exxon Mobil were unanimous in their advice to their employer, beginning in the 1970s, that the burning of its products was causing global warming.

Studies have shown that the widespread skepticism among conservatives about human-caused climate change stems from their dislike of governmental regulation and international commitments, not from doubt about the accuracy of the climate change science. Otherwise, why would Republicans generally reject the science while Democrats do not? (Republicans and Democrats alike agree about the validity of other, politically neutral, science, such as their own doctors’ science-based medical advice).
The science must be separated from the politics.

 The political debate must not be about the validity of the science of human-caused global warming; let the climate scientists debate that.

 Rather, the political debate must be about what to do about it, ranging from nothing, to promoting renewable energy and stimulating growth of the green economy, to limiting carbon dioxide emissions, to implementing a cap and trade regime. Then there can be a healthy policy debate about the impact of such measures on the economy and their effectiveness in avoiding catastrophic climate change.

Pulling out of the Paris accord and revoking the Clean Power Plan and other measures put in place by prior administrations to curb greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change in the hope that the climate scientists are wrong or overly pessimistic is the equivalent of playing Russian roulette, with possible consequences less instantaneous but infinitely more catastrophic. Arguing about the degree of certainty in the climate change projections is like arguing about whether to play the game with five bullets in the six-shooter or just two or three.
Abandoning governmental actions to curb global warming will be a terrible legacy for you and your administration to leave to our children and grandchildren, to the country, and to the world.
John and Sally Davenport 

Press link for more: Hingham.wickedlocal.com

Climate Change the hidden Catalyst #Auspol 

Climate change is taking an obvious physical toll on earth: from depleted farmland to the rise of toxic pollution to the degradation of long-stable ecosystems to the disappearance of biodiversity and endangered species. 

But looking beyond the physical, experts are also trying to sound the alarm about the quieter, more insidious effects of climate change: namely, that global warming is threatening the emotional health of humans worldwide. 
“We see a sense of despair that sets in as inevitably Mother Nature, who we think of as our nurturing force, tells us we’re not going to be able to survive the conditions she’s set for us,” Dr. Lise Van Susteran, a practicing psychiatrist and expert on the dangers of climate change on mental health, told CBS News. 
Dr. Van Susteran presented on this topic earlier this month at the Climate & Health Meeting in Atlanta, a conference that looked at climate change through the lens of public health. 

Former Vice President Al Gore organized the meeting when, days before President Trump’s inauguration, a long-planned Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) summit on the topic was abruptly cancelled.

Extreme weather, extreme trauma, extreme aggression

Study after study shows that climate change has led to an increased burden of psychological disease and injury worldwide, particularly in developing countries. 
What’s behind this link? 

For starters, climate change has normalized extreme weather events. 

These events, including floods, tornadoes, fires, drought, and sea level rise, are known to trigger mental health problems including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, the abuse of alcohol and drugs, and more.

Extreme weather has a particularly disturbing link to increased aggression. 

In 2013, researchers from Princeton University and the University of California-Berkeley found that even slight spikes in temperature and precipitation have increased the risk of personal violence and social upheaval throughout human history. 
 

The researchers found that just one standard-deviation shift in heat or rainfall increases the risk of a riot, civil war or ethnic conflict by an average of about 14 percent. A similarly sized uptick in heat or rain triggers a 4 percent increase in person-on-person violence like rape, murder and assault. 
With projections that the Earth may warm between three and four degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, the researchers warned that climate change is almost certainly the precursor to more human conflict in the near future.
Global warming is a particularly corrosive force in some farming economies, where overheating, unpredictable weather, new invasive species, and land losses are sinking communities into extreme poverty and creating a breeding ground for violent conflict.  
For millions, the effects of climate change are so severe that leaving home is the only option for survival.

 Thirty-two million people fled their homes because of extreme weather in 2012 alone, according to the United Nations. 

Escaping hazards ranging from mudslides to drought, climate refugees add more stress to an already dire refugee situation worldwide. According to the UN, the world is currently witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.
As climate refugees become more and more common, refugee laws lag behind: none of the existing international or regional refugees law mechanisms specifically addresses climate refugees, the UN says. 
Problems can affect anyone, anywhere

Climate change is triggering mental health problems beyond just developing countries and conflict zones. 
In cities, babies who are exposed in the uterus to higher levels of urban air pollutants (known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety and depression down the line, Columbia University researchers found in 2012. 

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are the chemicals come from burning fossil fuels. 

 

“Climate anxiety” can cripple individuals regardless of their geography, privilege, or vulnerability to the effects of climate change, Dr. Van Susteran said. Joining with other mental health professionals, she is one of the founders behind the Climate Psych Alliance, a new coalition trying to raise awareness about the links between climate change and clinical trauma. 
“You can see how desperate, angry, despairing people are,” she said. “It’s a legitimate response to what people see as inaction, intentional inaction… Whether we know it or not, whether you accept it or not, everyone experiences climate anxiety.”
Seen through a certain lens, inaction on global warming meets the criteria of child abuse for future generations, she said.
“When children believe their parents didn’t do something right, or did something wrong, they spend a whole lifetime feeling abandoned. What in the world are future generations going to think or feel when they know that action could have been taken?” 
Climate change: the hidden catalyst

In the age of an unstable climate, the link between natural disasters and psychological trauma is “under-examined, underestimated and not adequately monitored,” Italian researchers assessed in a January study in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. That research gap is particularly worrisome in Africa, German researchers said in a paper published last year. 
Climate change is often the hidden catalyst — the fuel behind war, displacement and collapsed economies that doesn’t make it into the headlines.
Syria’s civil war, for instance, is most frequently framed as an entrenched political conflict. Closer examination shows that’s far from the full story: in fact, the country’s six-year conflict is rooted in a devastating drought. Earnings depleted and Syrian farmers moved to overcrowded cities, where political corruption and public health crises helped foment bloody revolution. 
Climate change carries enormous political risk for the 21st century, Dr. Van Susteran warned. 
“In times of peril and scarcity, people regress,” she said. “They turn to what they perceive as strong leaders to protect them, and are willing to give up their freedoms and values in exchange for perceived security.”

Press link for more: cbsnews.com

Wind & Solar cheaper than Coal or Gas. #auspol 

A new study by energy experts from the Australian National University suggests that a 100 per cent renewable energy electricity grid – with 90 per cent of power coming from wind and solar – will be significantly cheaper future option than a coal or gas-fired network in Australia.

The study, led by Andrew Blakers, Bin Lu and Matthew Stocks, suggests that with most of Australia’s current fleet of coal generators due to retire before 2030, a mix of solar PV and wind energy, backed up by pumped hydro, will be the cheapest option for Australia, and this includes integration costs.
The report says that wind is currently about $64/MWh and solar $78/MWh, but the costs of both technologies are falling fast, with both expected to cost around $50/MWh when much of the needed capacity is built. 

With the cost of balancing, this results in a levellised cost of energy (LCOE) of around $75/MWh.
By contrast, the LCOE of coal is $80/MWh, and some estimates – such as those by Bloomberg New Energy Finance which adds in factors such as the cost of finance risk – put it much higher.
Blakers says his team did not need to dial that higher price of coal into the equation: “We don’t include a risk premium or carbon pricing or fuel price escalation or threat of premature closure because renewables doesn’t need any of this to compete,” he says.
Nor do his estimates include any carbon price, which will further tip the balance in favour of renewables.

 Nor do they include future cost reductions in wind and solar.

 “There is no end in sight to cost reductions,” Blakers says.
“Much of Australia’s coal power stations will reach the end of their economic life over the next 15 years. 

It will be cheaper to replace these with renewable energy.”

The two key outcomes of this modelling is that the additional cost of balancing renewable energy supply with demand on an hourly basis throughout the year is relatively small: $A25-$A30/MWh (US$19-23/MWh), and that means that the overall cost of a wind and solar dominated grid is much lower than previous estimates.
Indeed, the ANU team suggest that less storage is needed than thought. 

The optimum amount of pumped hydro is 15-25 GW of power capacity with 15-30 hours of energy storage.
blakers 100This is based on more wind than solar. 

If Hwind and PV annual energy generation is constrained to be similar then higher power (25 GW) and lower energy storage (12-21hours) is optimum.
Total storage of 450 GWh +/- 30% is optimum for all the scenarios. This is equivalent to the average electricity consumed in the NEM in 19 hours.
At this stage it should be pointed out that Blakers is a long time proponent of pumped hydro, and this modelling appears designed to support that technology.


For instance, the modelling avoids any “heroic” assumptions about technologies that have not been deployed at scale – meaning battery storage and solar thermal and storage are not included, and neither is geothermal or ocean energy.
Nor does the modelling – which looks at every hour of the year based on data from 2006-2010 – assume other opportunities such as demand management, when consumers agree and sometimes get paid for reducing their load at critical moments on the grid.
The modelling shows that a large fraction of the balancing costs relates to “periods of several successive days of overcast and windless weather that occur once every few years.”
Substantial reductions in balancing costs are possible through contractual load shedding (as occurred in Tomago aluminium smelter and BHP’s Olympic Dam recently), and the occasional use of legacy coal and gas generators to charge pumped hydro reservoirs if needed.
Another option is managing the charging times of batteries in electric cars.
“Although we have not modelled dynamical stability on a time scale of sub-seconds to minutes we note that pumped hydro) can provide excellent inertial energy, spinning reserve, rapid start, black start capability, voltage regulation and frequency control,” the authors write.
Pumped hydro has become a focus of attention in recent weeks, advocated by the Coalition government and others, seemingly in the absence of any consideration about the falling costs of battery storage.
EnergyAustralia last week announced a study into a large 100MW pumped hydro facility on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsular.

 This work includes contributions from the ANU team.
So, how much does all this cost? 

The ANU team estimates $184 billion, or $152 billion at future prices of wind and solar. 

But before the Coalition and others start to hyperventilate about the billions to be spent, the ANU team also point out that this means no fuel costs in the future.
That’s why the key number is $75/MWh, which is around one third of the price that Queenslanders have been paying so far this year for their coal and gas power, making the investment in a 116MW solar farm by zinc producer Sun Metals, which is looking to expand its facility, as a good idea.
Some other interesting points from the study:
+ A sensitivity analysis has been performed on the baseline scenario by varying the following cost- components by +/- 25%: PV, wind, PHES, HVDC/HVAC, system lifetimes and discount rate. 

The effect on LCOE is less than +/- $2/MWh except for system lifetimes, for which the effect is +/- $5/MWh, and wind capital cost and discount rate, for both of which the effect is +/- $10/MWh (about 10%).
+ Large scale deployment of electric vehicles and heat pumps would increase electricity demand by up to 40%. 

Importantly these devices have large scale storage in the form of batteries in vehicles and heat/cool in water stores and the building fabric. 

This storage may substantially reduce LCOB in the future.
+ The LCOB (levellised cost of balancing) calculated in this work is an upper bound.

 A large fraction of LCOB relates to periods of several days of overcast and windless weather that occur once every few years. 

Substantial reductions in LCOB are possible through reduced capital and maintenance costs, contractual load shedding, the occasional.
+ In most scenarios the modelling meets the NEM reliability standard of no more than 0.002% of unmet load (4 GWh per year) without demand management.” 

However, in other scenarios we assume that demand management is employed during critical periods, which are typically cold wet windless weeks in winter that occur once every few years.
“During these periods the PHES reservoirs run down to zero over a few days because there is insufficient wind and PV generation to recharge them, leading to a shortfall in supply.

 The amount of PV, wind and PHES storage could be increased to cover this shortfall. However, this substantial extra investment would be utilised only for a few days every few years.”
One suggestion is to relax the reliability standards: “A portion of the savings in investment in PV, wind and PHES would be available to compensate certain consumers for partial loss of supply for a few days every few years.

 For example, reducing the overall cost of electricity supply by $2/MWh by allowing an unmet load of 336 GWh per 5 years would save $2 billion per 5 years, which is equivalent to $6,000 per unmet MWh.
Hmmm, but just imagine the headlines.

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