Climate Refugees

Climate change victims need money to survive, not words. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Climate change victims need money to survive, not words

Published on 20/03/2018, 10:35am

There is an opportunity in May to help people hit hardest by climate change; governments must take it.

Sakina Bibi has lost three homes in 8 years to coastal erosion (Pic: EnGIO)

By Harjeet Singh, Sven Harmeling and Julie-Anne Richards

Sakina Bibi has lost three mud houses to the sea in less than 8 years, at Mousuni island in the Indian Sundarbans.

The 65-year-old is not alone. Since Cyclone Aila hit the region in the year 2009, over 2,000 families have been displaced due to unpredictable coastal flooding destroying their homes and livelihoods.

As climate change causes sea level rise, more than 13 million people living in the low-lying Sundarbans – a Unesco World Heritage Site spread across Bangladesh and India – face an uncertain future.

In May, there will be an opportunity to help people like Sakina Bibi: the Suva expert dialogue on “loss and damage”, to take place during interim UN climate talks in Bonn.

Governments must make sure this is not just a talking shop and leads to new finance for those hit hardest by climate change.

A pre-meeting last week showed promise, but also signs of resistance from rich countries to meaningful action. So what would be a positive outcome?

New money

First and foremost, the dialogue should mobilise money. Rich countries must engage constructively with what finance and support vulnerable countries need, who will provide it and how it will be channeled.

To date, there has been an emphasis on providing insurance against climate risks, but the expectation is that vulnerable populations pay the premiums. This is very unfair, as those people did not cause climate change. Also, insurance does not cover “slow onset events” like sea level rise and glacier melt.

We want to see polluters pay for the damage they have caused. One way would be to equitably implement a “climate damages tax” on fossil fuel extraction, which could raise billions of dollars a year.

The provisional concept does not guarantee to put such innovative financial mechanisms at the heart of the expert dialogue, but they will at least be on the agenda.

Science focus

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is due to release a report later this year on 1.5C global warming, the toughest target in the Paris Agreement. It will detail what would be required to meet the target and the consequences of exceeding it.

This is an ideal opportunity to build up the evidence base around loss and damage. Sadly, some rich country representatives on the executive committee have blocked meaningful engagement with the IPCC, despite the science panel’s willingness to cooperate.

Julie-Anne Richards


At the #WIM #ExCom7 meeting. For the 2nd time reps from US, Australia, UK, Germany all trying to shut down discussions between the #IPCC and this @UNFCCC body tasked with dealing with #lossanddamage from #climatechange. Why? What are they so afraid of?

9:10 PM – Mar 14, 2018


At the Paris climate summit in 2015, governments commissioned a task force to “avert, minimise and address” climate-induced displacement, which according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre already affects an average of 21.5 million people each year.

Made up of specialists from climate negotiations and agencies like the International Organisation for Migration and UN Refugee Agency, the task force is holding a stakeholder consultation mid-May to develop policy recommendations. The process will complement the UN Global Compact on Migration, which concludes this year.

Policymakers must rise above politics and self-interest to protect the life and dignity of people forced to move by climate changes beyond their control.

Sakina Bibi and millions like her depend on it.

Harjeet Singh is the global climate change lead for Action Aid International, Sven Harmeling is global policy lead on climate change for Care International and Julie-Anne Richards is an independent consultant

Press link for more: Climate change news


Turnbull The #ClimateChange Denier #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Turnbull knows better than to deny fire weather link to climate change

Peter Hannam20 March 2018 — 4:19pm

Raising the issue of the role of climate change in extreme weather events is always a delicate matter for families battling grief over lost homes and emergency service teams managing the aftermath.

But that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t have a discussion about the issues. If not now, when?

Malcolm Turnbull visit burned out homes in Tathra on Monday.

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Malcolm Turnbull echoed the comments of his deposed predecessor Tony Abbott when he visited Tathra, the NSW south coastal town hit with huge fires amid record-breaking March heat.

Abbott in 2013 declared in the wake of Blue Mountain bushfires that destroyed 200 homes that “these fires are certainly not a function of climate change, they’re a function of life in Australia”.

Unlike Abbott, though, Turnbull is not a denier of climate change, having taken personal efforts to school himself in the issue with scientists from the University of NSW well before becoming Prime Minister.

So, it’s surprising to hear Turnbull on TV on Monday, in rebuttal of Greens’ leader Richard Di Natale that climate change was behind Sunday’s fires, saying: “We have an environment which has extremes.

Bushfires are part of Australia, as indeed are droughts and floods.”

He preceded those comments, though, with a view that, if truly held, suggests the Prime Minister isn’t listening to his scientific advisors.

Fears of asbestos contamination restricted residents coming to see if their home was destroyed by fire to a bus tour of the NSW south coast town.

“[A]s you know very well, you can’t attribute any particular event, whether it’s a flood or fire or a drought … to climate change,” Turnbull said.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said on Tuesday there were legitimate questions to ask about the impact of climate change but opted to avoid inflaming the discussion just now.

“I understand there is a debate about climate in this county,” he said during a visit to Tathra. “On a day when 69 houses have gone, it is not a debate I will start.”

Actually, the science of attribution is advancing fast, and extreme heat – and with it, days of high fire risk – is among the clearer climate signals.

(Turnbull also denies climate change link to coral bleaching)

As Andrew King of Melbourne University and David Karoly – now head of the CSIRO’s climate centre – noted Australia is actually at the head of the pack when it comes to joining the dots between extreme weather and global warming.

To be clear, it’s not a case of saying Sunday’s fires near Bega (or south-west Victoria) were sparked by climate change.

Rather it’s a matter of probabilities.

“While we can’t say climate change caused an extreme event, we can estimate how much more or less likely the event has become due to human influences on the climate,” King and Karoly note.

Whether the Tathra fires are deemed large enough to examine for attribution (and the chance that Adelaide, Hobart, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane should all hit 30 degrees so late in the season as they did on Saturday) will be up the scientists to decide.

But fire authorities across Australia know the bushfire season is getting longer. So, too, is the frequency, intensity and duration of heatwaves.

Add our fire-prone eucalyptus forests – with many species needing fire to regenerate – and it’s no wonder Australians have particular cause to fear climate change.

“Nature hurls her worst at us … always will and always has,” Turnbull said.

The worst, though, will in some cases get more extreme, and pretending otherwise is not leadership.

Peter Hannam is Environment Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald. He covers broad environmental issues ranging from climate change to renewable energy for Fairfax Media.

Press link for more: SMH.COM.AU

#ClimateChange makes war worse. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Environmental Issues, Primarily Climate Change, Wreak Havoc On War-torn Mideast Nations

By Nate Nkumbu | The Media Line

March 20, 2018

Amid the fighting in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the impact of global warming is magnified

As the wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen rage on, the human toll rightfully continues to receive much of the attention.

However, the conflicts in the Middle East have negatively impacted other living organisms, as well as the environment in general, which, in turn, has made the lives of those under fire even more difficult.

According to a United Nations-sponsored report compiled by the human rights group PAX, “climate change is thought to be responsible for an increasing frequency of droughts in Iraq during the last decade.”

It added that, “together with increased damming and upstream water use by neighboring countries, the frequent droughts and increasing urbanization have led to chronic shortages of water.”

Miquel Gonzalez-Meler, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago contended to The Media Line that droughts, in particular, have made already unbearable situations that much more difficult. “The drought has affected many low income crops and created a poor distribution of resources. It has also affected aquifers and contaminated groundwater,” he said.

The war-time mismanagement of vital resources such as water can lead to death in extreme cases, while affecting the yield of crops like barley, wheat and sorghum, which are anyways hard to come by conflict zones.

Gonzalez-Meler highlighted the effects of an ongoing drought in the Zagros Mountains, spanning Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. While the range has been a source of water years—when the snow caps melt water flows down to the valleys below—climate change has caused the snow to recede and, in turn, less water is available to those who need it most.

“Changes in the precipitation means that there is no snow reservoir to increase the flow of the rivers and valleys of the region,” he continued, “which have been the sources and sites of great inventions in human history as well as the location of the demise of great empires like the Babylonians and the Sumerians.”

Adam Rose, Research Professor at the University of Southern California, warns that the current period of global warming is one of the most severe ever and is exacerbating the political and humanitarian situations in the Middle East.

“There have been researchers that have found that drought has been getting more severe and causing more stress [on the environment]. Accordingly, people have become impoverished and it is probably a reason for the outward migration in addition to the conflicts themselves.”

Rose added that the problem is likely to get worse, especially as regards water, which he believes could eventually become valuable than oil. “Political issues and ethnic tensions still dominate the region but water is pretty important. One issue that may come into play is the future redrawing of borders [based on the presence of resources] should the conflicts wind down.”

Already, Ethiopia and Egypt are engaged in a major dispute over a dam the former is building which could impact the flow of the Nile’s water, upon which much of Egypt’s rural population depends. “There are also issues relating to access to water in the Jordan River, the Sea of Galilee and many other rivers and aquifers. Water is a scarce resource,” Rose concluded.

(Nate Nkumbu is a Student Intern in The Media Line’s Press and Policy Student Program)

Press link for more: The Media Line

Antarctic Ice melts faster than thought. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Key Antarctic ice shelf larger than scientists thought

20th March 2018

More of the Totten Glacier is floating on the ocean than previously thought, increasing its potential to contribute to global sea level rise.

Glaciologist, Dr Ben Galton-Fenzi, said the Totten Glacier is one of the fastest flowing and largest glaciers in Antarctica and until now scientists thought more of it was grounded on Antarctic bedrock.

As part of the Australian Antarctic Program, Dr Galton-Fenzi’s team of researchers, including scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division, University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, and the Central Washington University, spent the summer in Antarctica studying the Totten.

Professor Paul Winberry, from Central Washington University, said seismology allowed them to determine the structure of the earth below the surface of the glacier.

“A hammer-generated seismic wave was used to ‘see’ through a couple of kilometres of ice. In some locations we thought were grounded, we detected the ocean below indicating that the glacier is in fact floating,” Professor Winberry said.

Professor Winberry said if more of the glacier is floating on a warming ocean, it may help explain recent periods of accelerated melting and flow.

“It also means the Totten might be more sensitive to climate variations in the future.”

Dr Galton-Fenzi said the Totten Glacier, which is more than twice the area of Victoria, contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by about three metres if it all melted.

“Since the 1900s the global sea-level has risen by around 20 centimetres and by the end of the century it’s projected to rise by up to one metre or more, but this is subject to high uncertainty which is why studying glaciers such as the Totten is important,” Dr Galton-Fenzi said.

“These precise measurements of Totten Glacier are vital to monitoring changes and understanding them in the context of natural variations and the research is an important step in assessing the potential impact on sea-level under various future scenarios.”

Instruments to measure the glacial flow, speed and thickness have been left on the glacier for another 12 months collecting data. The field season was supported by the Australian Research Council Antarctic Gateway Partnership.

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#ClimateChange 140 million #Climate #Refugees #StopAdani #auspol qldpol

Climate change soon to cause mass movement, World Bank warns

140m people in three regions expected to migrate before 2050 unless environment is improved

Fiona HarveyLast modified on Tue 20 Mar 2018 05.09 AEDT

Lalmonirhat in Bangladesh was flooded last year. It is one of the areas likely to be hard-hit by climate change, leading to high levels of migration. Photograph: Zakir Chowdhury/Barcroft Images

Climate change will result in a massive movement of people inside countries and across borders, creating “hotspots” where tens of millions pour into already crowded slums, according to the World Bank.

More than 140 million people in just three regions of the developing world are likely to migrate within their native countries between now and 2050, the first report on the subject has found.

The World Bank examined three regions, which between them account for 55% of the developing world’s population. In sub-Saharan Africa, 86 million are expected to be internally displaced over the period; in south Asia, about 40 million; and in Latin America, 17 million.

Such flows of people could cause enormous disruption, threatening governance and economic and social development, but the World Bank cautioned that it was still possible to stave off the worst effects.

“Climate change-driven migration will be a reality, but it does not need to be a crisis, provided we take action now and act boldly,” said John Roome, a senior director for climate change at the World Bank group.

He laid out three key actions governments should take: first, to accelerate their reductions of greenhouse gases; second, for national governments to incorporate climate change migration into their national development planning; and third, to invest in further data and analysis for use in planning development.

Within countries, the effects of climate change will create multiple “hotspots”: made up of the areas people move away from in large numbers, and the areas they move to.

“Local planners need to make sure the resources are made available, and to make sure it takes place in a comprehensive and coordinated manner,” said Roome.

Globally, many tens of millions more are expected to be similarly affected, creating huge problems for national and local governments. Nearly 3% of the population was judged likely to move owing to climate change in the areas studied – a proportion that might be repeated elsewhere.

Migration between countries has previously taken the spotlight, with its potential for cross-border conflicts, but internal migration may cause as much disruption, putting pressure on infrastructure, jobs, food and water resources.

The 140 million figure extrapolates from current trends, but could be reduced if changes are made. If economic development is made more inclusive, for instance through better education and infrastructure, internal migration across the three regions could drop to between 65 million and 105 million, according to the report. If strong action is taken on greenhouse gas emissions, as few as 30 million to 70 million may migrate.

Climate change is likely to most affect the poorest and most vulnerable, making agriculture difficult or even impossible across large swaths of the globe, threatening water resources and increasing the likelihood of floods, droughts and heatwaves in some areas. Sea level rises and violent storm surges are also likely to hit low-lying coastal areas, such as in Bangladesh.

Kristalina Georgieva, the chief executive of the World Bank, in her introduction to the report published on Monday, said: “There is growing recognition among researchers that more people will move within national borders to escape the effects of slow-onset climate change, such as droughts, crop failure and rising seas.

“The number of climate migrants could be reduced by tens of millions as a result of global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and with far-sighted development planning. There is an opportunity now to plan and act for emerging climate change threats.”

Press link for more: The Guardian

Want to Stop Climate Change? Take ‘Em to Court! #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Want to Stop Climate Change? Take ‘Em to Court!

A novel case highlights the profound unfairness of global warming.

More stories by Mark Buchanan19 March 2018, 10:00 pm AEST

A generational issue.

Photographer: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Climate change is profoundly unfair: By failing to address it, today’s leaders are imposing what could prove to be an unbearable burden on future generations.

But how can they be made to recognize the danger and act?

Using the U.S. legal system, a group of children has found a novel way to do so.

The 2015 Paris Agreement on reducing carbon emissions looked like a big step forward in addressing global warming.

But since then, the U.S. has pulled out, and many other governments have fallen short.

Total emissions will likely rise this year in the U.S., India, China and elsewhere.

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions climb since LNP stopped the price on carbon.

Energy experts predict that we’ll go on using fossil fuels for decades, with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels more than doubling compared with pre-industrial times.

In 50 years or so, we should expect a rash of effects: falling productivity in fisheries and farming, rising sea levels, and drought-driven migrations fueling political instability.

It’s easy to see how this can be construed as a crime against children.

So three years ago a group of them, along with Our Children’s Trust and the youth-centered environmental group Earth Guardians, sued the U.S. government. They argued that its energy policies violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, while also failing to protect essential public resources.

They have a plausible case: In earlier proceedings, the U.S. District Court in Oregon ruled that the due process clause of the Constitution guarantees citizens an “unenumerated fundamental right” to “a climate system capable of sustaining human life.”

The trial was supposed to begin last month. But in June, the government petitioned the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco for a so-called Writ of Mandamus, asking that the suit be dismissed because the process of discovery — the pre-trial gathering of evidence — would be too burdensome and threaten the separation of powers. It didn’t work: Three judges dismissed the petition, ruling that the issues the government raised “were better addressed through the ordinary course of litigation.”

Hence, a new trial date will be set. The stakes for the government could be high. The process of discovery alone promises to be embarrassing, as lawyers for the plaintiffs seek detailed information showing how long authorities have known about the risks of carbon emissions (probably more than 50 years). If the children win, the court could compel the U.S. to produce and act on a firm plan to decarbonize its energy system.

Granted, it’s probably fantasy to suppose such a ruling could survive the conservative Supreme Court, to which the government would almost certainly appeal. Yet the ultimate outcome may be less important than the mere fact that the case has come this far. The spectacle of a trial — or even arguments over whether the government can avoid a trial, and why it wants to — could inspire broader demands for real action, especially among younger people and those most vulnerable to global warming.

From civil rights to the environment, meaningful change requires persistent activism, growing public awareness and engagement. This case reflects a larger global trend, in which people are invoking existing law to protect the young. Such cases rest on the notion of intergenerational equity, the idea that the actions of one generation should not be allowed to deprive future generations of similar opportunities. A recent survey found that the constitutions of some 144 nations, accounting for nearly three-quarters of all carbon emissions, have protections against climate change.

The challenge is to get courts and governments to enforce the law. If it takes a child to make that happen, then so be it.

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India is most vulnerable to #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

India most vulnerable country to climate change: HSBC report

LONDON (REUTERS) – India is the most vulnerable country to climate change, followed by Pakistan, the Philippines and Bangladesh, a ranking by HSBC showed on Monday (March 19).

The bank assessed 67 developed, emerging and frontier markets on vulnerability to the physical impacts of climate change, sensitivity to extreme weather events, exposure to energy transition risks and ability to respond to climate change.

The 67 nations represent almost a third of the world’s nation states, 80 per cent of the global population and 94 per cent of global gross domestic product.

HSBC averaged the scores in each area for the countries in order to reach the overall ranking. Some countries were highly vulnerable in some areas but less so in others.

Of the four nations assessed by HSBC to be most vulnerable, India has said climate change could cut agricultural incomes, particularly unirrigated areas that would be hit hardest by rising temperatures and declines in rainfall.

Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines are susceptible to extreme weather events, such as storms and flooding.

Pakistan was ranked by HSBC among nations least well-equipped to respond to climate risks.

South and southeast Asian countries accounted for half of the 10 most vulnerable countries. Oman, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Mexico, Kenya and South Africa are also in this group.

The five countries least vulnerable to climate change risk are Finland, Sweden, Norway, Estonia and New Zealand.

In its last ranking in 2016, HSBC only assessed G20 countries for vulnerability to climate risk.

Press link for more: Straits Times

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

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

Now time is running out |

Richard WilesFri 16 Mar 2018 01.47 AEDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press link for more: The Guardian

The Market Can’t Solve a Massacre or the #ClimateCrisis #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #sapol #neoliberalism

By Patrick Blanchfield

The massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, one month ago today, left seventeen children and school staff dead.

It was the third highest-casualty mass shooting at an educational institution in American history (after Virginia Tech—32 dead—and Sandy Hook—27) and the ninth highest-casualty single-shooter mass shooting in modern American history.

Assembling such ranked lists, surveying body count subtotals, and tracking the fatalities balance sheet is nauseating, and it was perhaps in the spirit of that enterprise that South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds told NPR the day afterward: “You have to recognize, our most valuable assets are our kids.”

As a Republican with an “A” rating from the NRA, it would be entirely defensible to say Rounds’s words are belied by his deeds: He may say children are our greatest “assets,” but he certainly seems to value an NRA endorsement far more. But what’s striking about Rounds’ phrase isn’t its hypocrisy, but the way it captures a central truth about contemporary American politics.

Our political rhetoric, like our moral imagination, uses the vocabulary and logic of the market, of assets and investments, of incentives and innovation.

Your personal health is an asset, which you must safeguard through savvy navigation of insurance markets, shopping for doctors and medications, and close-reading complicated medical bills.

Immigrants, too, are assets, human resources whose financial contributions to their communities and potential for entrepreneurship become the pivot on which we hang appeals for empathy and support (This man being tragically deported by ICE is a successful small business owner!

This drowned child refugee could have been the next Steve Jobs!). And so on.

There is a word to describe this state of affairs, a word that describes both the way we’ve organized our current political and economic system, and the way we have let that system shape our social and emotional lives.

That word is neoliberalism.

What is neoliberalism?

The many competing definitions can be confusing and even misleading. And, since the history of neoliberalism has played out in many different countries, what the word denotes in one place is not necessarily the same in others. But we shouldn’t let nuance and complexity dissuade us from using the term, because neoliberalism is an incredibly powerful concept for understanding not just contemporary American life and politics in general, but our reactions to gun violence and school shootings specifically.

Neoliberalism is at once a subspecies of capitalism and a model of governance, a vision of what politics can and should be.

It sees political and social life almost exclusively through the lens of the free market, and asks us to consider ourselves and our fellow citizens primarily in terms of our economic activities: as consumers, as workers, as competitors, as human resources.

Under neoliberalism, in other words, the individual is less a human subject with rights that entail obligations from the government, but rather a variable in a broader calculus of efficiency, a site for maximizing revenue and minimizing expenditure.

Simply put, neoliberalism is about the withdrawal of government responsibility for political problems in favor of market-based “solutions” and individual “choices.”

In a very granular and insidious way, neoliberalism narrows the bounds of what counts as a “political” problem as such.

Dramatic political change becomes increasingly unthinkable, dismissed as unrealistic, impracticable, and naïve.

Transmuting hopes for radical transformation into market-based “innovation” as a primary driver of social change, neoliberal governance recedes into technocratic administration, busying itself with ever-more-arcane and bloodless policy tweaks intended merely to keep capital flowing smoothly and efficiently.

Meanwhile, as state responsibility for political problems evaporates, individuals are left to pick up the slack, obligated to perform vast amounts of compensatory emotional and material labor even as they grow ever more vulnerable, atomized, and overwhelmed.

Not coincidentally, neoliberalism has become our dominant system against the backdrop of decades of corporate deregulation, privatization, and the dismantling of social services, developments that it celebrates and champions.

The emotional and political landscape of American gun violence and school shootings specifically reads like an atlas of neoliberalism.

To be sure, our singular problem with gun murder—of which mass shootings are only a fractional percentile, one with no real analogue anywhere in any other nation in the world, neoliberal or otherwise—has deep roots in America’s unique history of ethnic cleansing, racial oppression, globalized militarism, entrenched inequality, and violent ideologies of masculinity; these forces shape how gun violence plays out in and determines which Americans must bear its traumas most. But how our society has chosen to frame and respond to the problem of mass shootings, and school shootings specifically, over the course of the past two decades illustrates neoliberalism’s corrosiveness.

Consider, first, the scope of mainstream reactions to mass shootings.

The problem of random massacres in public spaces is a properly political problem.

It strikes at the core of our basic ability to live together and interact safely with each other in the public sphere. And yet the primary themes in responses of our politicians from across the political spectrum have been disavowal, indifference, resignation, and opportunism.

Conservatives who are otherwise unabashed about endorsing heavy-handed and repressive responses to the evils of terrorism respond to gun massacres by waxing theological and proclaiming that evil cannot be “legislated.”

Liberals, meanwhile, have long operated from a position defined by a self-fulfilling preemptive concession to “reality” whereby entertaining the idea of an outright gun ban is taboo, foreclosed from the get-go.

Whatever one may think of a total gun ban as either a moral or a practical matter, the fact that it is a position currently espoused in public by precisely zero national-level politicians is significant.

The outcome of any political debate partially reflects a middle ground defined by the most extreme positions espoused by mainstream political actors.

American politics accommodates plenty of extreme positions, and the Republican party has been particularly successful in normalizing and leveraging the obstinacy of its most extreme politicians and constituents to consistently move policy and discourse rightwards.

Yet while voices calling for an elimination of the minimum wage or abortion bans are commonplace among conservatives, the signal absence of prominent Democrats stridently demanding a blanket gun ban—even as an ideal principle, deployed for purposes of bargaining—markedly predetermines the entire national conversation on guns.

The idea that the Democratic party is militantly dead-set on nationwide gun confiscation or the repeal of the Second Amendment is simultaneously laughable and a potent staple of paranoiac right-wing fantasies.

The reality is that many Democrats leap to pacify this fear as a token of their reasonableness. For decades now the horizon of political imaginability for gun control has thus been constricted from the outset, and the party has long condemned itself to measures that are so much triage and tinkering, to fundraising off the NRA rather than targeting the problem of money in politics or arms industry influence more broadly, and to publicity stunts and cynical legislative bids that are more about expanding the security state than about sustainably lowering gun deaths.

Even an assault weapons ban, despite its undeniable potential as a wedge issue, has long been seen by most Democrats as a nonstarter.

In the immediate wake of Parkland, the DCCC’s first instruction to Democrats was to avoid “politicizing” the massacre, steer clear of gun ban talk, and mirror the Republican language of “Thoughts and Prayers” themselves.

To be clear: Blame for America’s longstanding inertia on mass shootings cashes out differently for our two main parties.

Republicans playing hardball is not the same thing as Democrats playing catch-up. But the causes of this inertia, which have everything to do with the influence of market incentives—from corporate money to regulatory capture to political careerism—implicate each party, and have produced a state of affairs that is bigger than both of them.

For the sake of appearing “reasonable” and “realistic,” and for the sake of preserving their continued electability and “political capital” (a thoroughly neoliberal concept), our political elites reject responsibility for what could not more obviously be a political problem: mass murder in public spaces.

In consequence, a kind of fatalistic resignation has settled over most Americans—a common wisdom that, on guns, nothing can or will ever get done.

Very literally, Americans teach their children to understand the intrusion of rampaging killers with assault rifles as a random force of nature analogous to a fire or an earthquake.

But neoliberalism means that as government responsibility recedes, and as the bounds of what is politically imaginable constrict, other players step in to pick up the slack—and make a buck.

The social contract gets traded in for a profusion of End User Agreements, gig opportunities, and handshake deals with grifters and loan sharks.

The mushrooming market for security equipment in schools and on college campuses reached $2.68 billion in 2017 alone, and school districts around the country have steadily devoted increasing sums to security even as their overall budgets have dwindled.

These products look and sound like weapons and gear from America’s endless wars abroad: bulletproof whiteboards, School Shooter Kits (complete with tourniquets and trauma dressing), The Barracuda (a reinforced doorstop), The Raptor (a web-based “visitor management system,” the ad copy for which asks “Are you ready to take the next steps in protecting your school?”).

The market isn’t just for school administrators. Parents can buy their kids bulletproof backpacks and folders or invest in literal ballistic security blankets (available with free shipping from Walmart). This burgeoning cornucopia of products for protecting children does little to address the fact that not all schools and parents are equally capable of buying them, of course. But that’s neoliberalism for you: The choices and the opportunities to ameliorate societal problems exist, but only if you can afford them.

The withdrawal of political responsibility in favor of market solutions occurs without any correlative empowerment of the citizen as a consumer—in fact, as American inequality increases and social mobility drops, the end result is quite the opposite.

While the private sector flourishes, public institutions are hollowed out, and the people who depend on them are left in ever-more-precarious conditions.

It should not be surprising—although it is rarely observed—that the overwhelming majority of school shootings have thus far occurred in public, not private schools, even as our leaders pursue massive cuts to federal expenditures on public school safety (including funds used for post mass-shooting trauma counseling).

Meanwhile, advocates for the further hollowing out of the public sector seize on school massacres as an opportunity to argue for increased homeschooling.

The enrichment of the private sector is only one consequence of the neoliberal abdication of political responsibility for a political problem.

The other half of the picture is the burden that devolves from the government onto private individuals.

This burden demands labor and energy, but the costs are not just material.

They are emotional, too. Neoliberalism is not just a way of organizing political economy.

It imposes a regime of feelings and behaviors as well.

Neoliberalism doesn’t just pull the rug of basic social welfare out from under people’s feet—it makes them responsible for getting back on their feet, and blames them for landing on their ass in the first place.

And so in schools across the country, Americans make their children participate in Active Shooter drills.

These drills, which can involve children as young as kindergartners hiding in closets and toilet stalls, and can even include simulated shootings, are not just traumatic and of dubious value.

They are also an educational enterprise in their own right, a sort of pedagogical initiation into what is normal and to be expected.

Very literally, Americans teach their children to understand the intrusion of rampaging killers with assault rifles as a random force of nature analogous to a fire or an earthquake.

This seems designed to foster in children a consciousness that is at once hypervigilant and desperate, but also morbid and resigned—in other words, to mold them into perfectly docile citizen-consumers. And if children reject this position and try to take action, some educational authorities will attempt to discipline their resistance out of them, as in Texas, where one school district has threatened to penalize students who walk out in anti-gun violence actions, weaponizing the language of “choices” and “consequences” to literally quash “any type of protest or awareness.”

It’s not just children that the neoliberal system demands suffer the burden of responsibility for its failure to deal with school shootings.

Even as legislators crush teachers’ unions and ask educators to do ever-more labor—to act as test-prep coaches and job trainers, substitute parents and grief counselors—they also seriously contemplate giving them guns.

Many do this without ever really thinking too much about the emotional and cognitive onus that puts on them: not just to foster creativity and learning while safely controlling access to a firearm in overcrowded classrooms, but to be prepared, at any moment, to exercise lethal force against an assailant who may even be one of their own students.

Teachers, the people on the front lines of a broken system, are demanded, unremunerated or with the promise of meager “bonuses,” to reconcile its contradictions: to educate, but also to be constantly ready to kill. The on-the-face-of-it obscenity of this as a “solution” to anything falls out in favor of dithering over incentives and efficiency, to Trump promising that “Shootings will not happen again – a big & very inexpensive deterrent.”

Only two weeks after Parkland, both Democrat and Republican leadership decided to forgo any legislative debates over gun control and instead agreed to focus on a project with bipartisan appeal—deregulating banks.

Meanwhile, the massacres continue.

And so after each new bloodbath America’s leaders call on the general public to perform mass rituals of affective labor—moments of silence, sending thoughts and prayers, rituals that are excruciatingly draining, formulaic and tokenistic, and utterly useless.

When people reject these rituals as hollow, they are shamed, condemned for “politicizing” or “capitalizing” upon tragedy, a prospect anathema to the neoliberal status quo, which seeks to depoliticize everything. And, like Trump after Parkland, authorities blame victims and their communities for failing to prevent their own murder by not adequately performing as unpaid forensic profilers, social media surveillance professionals, and police informants. The blame is especially fierce when the shortcomings of the authorities and current laws have been exposed and humiliated, as in Parkland, where police responded to incidents involving the future shooter at his home no less than 39 times in seven years, and where multiple armed officers wasted precious minutes waiting outside the school as gunfire continued instead of going in. This apportionment of blame should not be surprising: Under neoliberalism, the system can never fail you, you can only fail it—and your suffering is the proof that you deserve it.

Perhaps the most twisted and tragic feature of the neoliberal script for how American society metabolizes mass shootings is a hollowing out of grief itself.

Americans have constructed an elaborate series of increasingly familiar rituals and performances for honoring the “sacrifice” of exemplary victims of senseless, entirely preventable butchery while doing precious little about it.

Yet this heartbroken, anguished praise of children and teachers who are martyred holding open doors or shielding other people from gunfire indexes how normal and inevitable the demand for these acts—the ultimate unpaid, supererogatory labor—has actually become in our system. If you pay attention, you’ll notice how the statements of school security professionals and the scripts for active shooter response trainings inevitably emphasize delaying or containing the shooter, slowing their progress, keeping them in one place. We expect unarmed people to rush killers carrying military-grade weapons, to improvise weapons and stage ambushes, to use their own bodies as barriers, to soak up bullets and force shooters to reload, to buy time and keep them localized until the authorities arrive. In the tight confines of a classroom or school hallway, facing high-powered rifles firing bullets designed to cause massive wounds, that can penetrate multiple bodies, and can turn flying fragments of shattered bone into devastating projectiles, the carnage this entails is beyond description—and yet we ask people to volunteer for it as part of our safety protocols. It is hard to imagine a more nutshell image of contemporary American neoliberalism than this: Demanding our citizens, training our children, to throw themselves like human sandbags against a problem that we decline to attempt to solve.

None of this has to be this way.

If the essence of neoliberalism lies in the denial of responsibility and the foreclosure of the political, the first step is to recognize this, to take responsibility, repoliticize the political, and demand radically better and more.

Corporations and the individual consumers cannot possibly fix our national problem of gun violence. But mobilized coalitions of politically conscious citizens can.

Nor can change come from our political elites, especially since, only two weeks after Parkland, both Democrat and Republican leadership decided to forgo any legislative debates over gun control and instead agreed to focus on a project with bipartisan appeal—deregulating banks.

In the wake of Parkland, the brave voices of student survivors have been a clarion call and beacon of hope. Once, our nation forced generations of school children to respond to the threat of thermonuclear war by hiding under desks in Duck and Cover drills. Those children grew up, leaving the existence of that threat—our world’s massive nuclear arsenals—unchanged, normalized away from regular consciousness.

It is frankly incredible and genuinely inspiring that today, a generation raised with Active Shooter drills has responded to trauma and horror not by disavowing or normalizing it, but by confronting it head-on. What these young people are demanding is properly political and legitimately radical: not just an opportunity not to be the next victims, but that there not be any next victims at all. Their testimony and demands should galvanize us into reflection, solidarity, and action.

America cannot and must not leave it to them to save us from neoliberalism, from gun violence, or from ourselves.

Press link for more: Splinter News

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

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

By Malcolm Farr

Malcolm is national political editor of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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