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.”

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Climate Change: Apocalypse by 1000 cuts #auspol 

Climate change: Apocalypse by 1000 cuts

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

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

Sometimes hourly. 

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

Tomorrow it might be Ireland. 

Who knows. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timing aside, it was a big deal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That missile has already been launched. 

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

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

It is not liberal alarmist drama. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Climate Outlook May Be Worse Than Feared. #auspol 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Should I cancel my trip to the Great Barrier Reef? #auspol #climatechange #qldpol 

New photos reveal fresh bleaching at beleaguered Great Barrier Reef
A heatwave that has brought record-breaking temperatures to parts of Australia – leading to bush fires, power outages and a rise in deaths from heat stress – could have a devastating effect on the Great Barrier Reef.  
Though the mercury is set to drop this week, scientists fear the extreme weather event could place stress on the underwater ecosystem, which is still reeling from the worst bleaching events in its history.
Bleaching happens when corals become stressed by high water temperatures, which happened on a massive scale in 2016 when an underwater heatwave ravaged the 1,500-mile reef.

Recently bleached coral was spotted at Maureen’s Cove, the Whitsundays last week Credit: Australian Marine Conservation Society

Scientists claim 93 per cent of the reef was affected last year and that 22 per cent of its coral had died as a result. The same scientists now fear the reef could come under attack once again as parts of Australia bake in temperatures exceeding 47C.
According to the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), which has published photographs of its findings, newly bleached corals were discovered last week near Townsville, Queensland and around the Whitsundays. 
The waters off eastern Australia are unusually warm for this time of the year, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has placed vast swathes of the Great Barrier Reef on red alert (Alert Level 1) for the next four weeks, meaning coral bleaching is likely.
Parts of the far northern, northern and central reef have been placed on Alert Level 2, indicating mortality is likely. Corals south of Cairns, in the Whitsundays and in parts of the far northern reef, that were badly hit last year, are at mortal risk.

AMCS photographs also reveal fresh coral bleaching around Palm Island, Townsville Credit: Australian Marine Conservation Society

“Signs of new coral bleaching in February, plus the likelihood of extensive severe bleaching and even mortality in the next four weeks, is extremely concerning,” said Imogen Zethoven of AMCS.
“Last year we witnessed the worst bleaching event on record for our reef. Over the entire reef, 22 per cent of corals are dead.”
Around 1.9 million people visit the Great Barrier Reef annually, contributing A$5.6 billion (£2.7billion) to the local economy and supporting 69,000 jobs. However, Australia’s biggest tourism asset appears to be in grave danger due to climate change, which campaigners claim is being exacerbated by the Australian coal industry.
“The government must stop special treatment for the coal industry,” warned Zethoven. “Climate change will be catastrophic for our reef unless we urgently move to cut pollution. We cannot afford to risk such a valuable national treasure.”
Scientists say 22 per cent of the reef was destroyed by bleaching in 2016 Credit: STR

In 2016, Telegraph Travel reported how many of the sites used to film the series, Great Barrier Reef, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, had succumbed to coral bleaching.

“We actually went out to the same locations where we filmed a lot of David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef series and found significant bleaching over many, many species,” said cameraman and marine biologist, Richard Fitzpatrick. “It was pretty shocking.”  
In the hit BBC series, Sir David forewarned about the threats facing the Great Barrier Reef, which in 2015 was spared a place on Unesco’s list of endangered heritage sites.
“The Great Barrier Reef is in grave danger,” said the television naturalist. “The twin perils brought by climate change – an increase in the temperature of the ocean and its acidity – threaten its very existence. If they continue to rise at the present rate, the reef will be gone in decades and that would be a global catastrophe.”
Sir David Attenborough has warned of the “grave” dangers facing the Great Barrier Reef Credit: AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION/ABC/HANDOUT

Should I cancel my dive holiday?
Despite the bleak outlook, some dive sites are holding up well.
“A lot of the live-aboard sites are on the edge of the reef, and are flushed by oceanic currents, so they are actually probably the most resilient parts of the reef,” said Fitzpatrick.
Rather than abandoning trips to the Great Barrier Reef, according to reef naturalist, Paul O’Dowd, tourists should consider visiting sooner rather than later.
“My advice to anyone wishing to see the reef is that they get over in the near future not the far,” he said. “It is still spectacular, in many ways, and any reputable operator will have a few relatively unscathed sites on their mooring portfolio.
“You will still see scores of brilliantly coloured fish. However, the issue of whether we have anything to show in a decade, after potentially more bleaching events, is less positive.”

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

By Paul Mason

It hits you in the face and clings to you. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared. 

It’s coal. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their inner idiot wishes it were not. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Climate Change is a threat to Peace & Security #auspol 

by Halvard Buhaug
Despite rapid scientific progress, firm knowledge about the societal consequences of global warming remains limited.
•What are the implications of climate change for peace and security?
•Should we expect more wars and more political instability as the world heats up?

The real concerns linked to climate change are not about shrinking glaciers, eroding coastlines, or changes in precipitation patterns. Nor, strictly speaking, are they about coral bleaching, phenological changes, or species migration.
The primary grounds for concern relate to the consequences these physical changes will have for societal development and prosperity, including human well-being and physical security.
It is somewhat discomforting, then, that there is considerably deeper scientific understanding of the impacts humans have on the climate system than of the effects of climate change on human activity.
There is an obvious and articulated need for more systematic research into the societal consequences of global warming. In response to this need, PRIO has initiated a number of new research projects in recent years targeted specifically at the security implications of climate change. 

This article discusses some of these implications.
A young but growing field of research
Existing research into the empirical relationship between climate fluctuations and armed conflict has resulted in weak, and to some extent contradictory, findings. 

The Human Security chapter in the Fifth Assessment Report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summarizes the situation as follows: “Some of these [studies] find a weak relationship, some find no relationship, and collectively the research does not conclude that there is a strong positive relationship between warming and armed conflict.”
At the same time, this is a young and rapidly growing field of research. 

Until now, most published studies have tested only direct effects and have taken little account of variations in societies’ sensitivity to meteorological conditions. 

However, it seems unlikely that a given climatic shock, such as growing season drought, should have the same effect on communities across different ecological zones and socio-economic contexts, but this is an implicit assumption in many of the studies.
Price shocks have a certain effect
A new wave of more nuanced and plausible studies is now emerging.

 Some of these depart from testing the effects of climate change directly and instead consider indirect and conditional relationships, for example via adverse weather impacts on agricultural production or food prices.

Indeed, in the case of food-price shocks, we are beginning to see the contours of a systematic association with urban uprisings.

 Several studies suggest that rising food-prices contributed to triggering the initial waves of protest during the Arab Spring of 2011, and although the protests primarily evolved around political issues, high bread prices facilitated the mobilization of the masses.
That said, it is unclear what these findings can tell us about the effect of climate change, since extreme weather is only one – and seldom the most important – driver of consumer prices of food. Price shocks have a certain effect
Agricultural income shocks have little effect
So, what about income shocks caused by harvest loss?

 We know that poverty and weak economic development are key causes of many armed conflicts, and in developing countries farming and livestock husbandry are the largest modes of livelihood and significant sources of both government and household revenue.

 In 2015, we published a study that investigated the extent to which weather-induced variations in agricultural production explained outbreaks of political violence in Africa. 

As one would expect, harvest volumes were found to correlate strongly with levels of precipitation, especially in areas with steppe climates, such as the Sahel, where lack of rain results in significantly lower yields. 

However, our analysis lent little support to the hypothesis that a severe drop in agricultural income, in turn, increases the risk of conflict – not even in models that allowed the shock effect to vary with political and economic conditions.
Divergent findings on violence and resource scarcity

While drought and failing harvests thus seem to have a limited role in explaining outbreaks of conflict, there is more to suggest that weather patterns may affect dynamics of violence in areas of chronic instability, although the findings are not always consistent here either. 

For example, we see that levels of inter-group violence in Kenya drop in periods when resources are increasingly scarce, which is the opposite of what the traditional scarcity thesis suggests. 

At the same time, we have found that conflicts in rural India tend to escalate when income from farming falls.
How can we explain these contradictory findings?
Partly they may be due to systematic differences in cultural, socio-economic, and institutional conditions between the Kenyan and Indian countryside that affect the vulnerability to rapid environmental changes. 

Some of the differences in findings may also be because communal conflicts, such as those we find in Kenya, follow a different logic than conventional rebel-government fighting.
Drought is associated with an increased likelihood of prolonged violence
In a new study published in PNAS last fall, we conducted an actor-oriented analysis of the correlation between local drought and conflict involvement among rural groups in Asia and Africa since 1989.

 Drawing on high-resolution meteorological, ecological, and demographic data, we were able to measure drought severity specifically for the growing season for the dominant crop in each group’s agricultural areas, which we linked to georeferenced conflict event and actor data.

 Moreover, we allowed the estimated effect of drought on conflict to vary as a function of local agricultural activity as well as economic and ethno-political marginalization.

 A comprehensive set of statistical models indicated a weak and inconsistent effect of drought on the risk of a new conflict outbreak. 

However, and in line with the results from India, we found that drought is associated with an increased likelihood of prolonged violence, especially for politically excluded groups in the least developed countries. 

This finding is indicative of a reciprocal relationship; while drought may facilitate sustained resistance, violent conflict makes the local population more vulnerable to environmental changes, implying a vicious circle of economic marginalization and political instability.
An under-researched field
Although most states and societies have managed to adapt to recent environmental changes, there is no guarantee that this will continue
Although conflict research thus far has uncovered mostly weak and partially contradictory effects of climate variability on conflict, we are still far from being able to conclude about the relationship between nature and security. 

First, this is still an under-researched field with clear limitations, but also promising opportunities for future research. Second, we have only just begun to observe the physical effects of human-induced warming.

 Although most states and societies have managed to adapt to recent environmental changes, there is no guarantee that this will continue. 

Moreover, future climate changes are expected to have measurable impacts on economic activity well beyond the agricultural sector, as well as on settlement patterns and migration in many parts of the world, and thereby accentuate the effects of existing population growth and urbanization. 

These processes may have significant social and political consequences that societies hitherto have not experienced.
What now?
Given some assumptions, it is nonetheless possible to envisage how things may turn out in the future.

 In the first study of its kind, we simulated the incidence of civil war until the year 2100 along a set of shared socio-economic pathways (SSPs), which have been developed as a supplement to traditional climate change scenarios.

 There are three quantified aspects of development in these five scenarios that are of particular relevance to armed conflict risk: population growth; economic growth (GDP); and growth in human capital (education).

 The simulations revealed that SSP1 (‘sustainability’) and SSP5 (‘conventional development’) are associated with the lowest frequencies of conflict, since both are based on high growth in education and GDP and moderate population growth. 

The two pathways differ in that SSP1 assumes a high level of investment in renewable energy and technology and more sustainable food consumption, which is consistent with a low-emissions scenario. 

The most pessimistic socio-economic scenarios suggest a fragmented (SSP3) and unequal (SSP4) world with clear limitations on economic and social development, especially for the least developed countries with medium to high population growth.

Figure 2 shows the simulated results for the world as a whole and for various geographical regions. 

According to these models, the incidence of conflicts will remain low in Europe and North America, while there are major differences in conflict density between the scenarios for other regions.

 To be clear, these simulations are not intended to be actual predictions in the way that weather forecasts and early warning models are, but rather a tool for analyzing and visualizing implications for peace and security of a range of assumptions about climate change and societal development.
Armed conflicts are political failures
So, will climate change lead to more wars in the future?

 It is, of course, impossible to give a precise answer to this question. 

But based on what we know today, there is little reason to expect that wilder, wetter, drier and warmer weather or rising sea levels by themselves will become the most significant causes of conflict in the foreseeable future.

 Armed conflicts are more than anything else a symptom of political failure, both in terms of creating or allowing social conditions that provide fertile ground for widespread suffering and grievances (such as extreme poverty, inequality, oppression or corruption) and in terms of contributing to, or failing to prevent, social conflicts and protests escalating to the use of military violence.
There is no deterministic connection between drought, loss of livelihood, misery, and unrest
Although some have claimed that the severe drought in northern Syria and the resultant migration to cities in the years leading up to the protests in 2011 were significant causes of the civil war, there is no deterministic connection between drought, loss of livelihood, misery, and unrest. 

Fifty years of misgovernment, economic stagnation, and arbitrary exercise of government authority formed the basis for the Syrian popular uprising, and the preceding upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt led the Syrian opposition to believe that the same could be achieved in Syria.

 Was the drought a sufficient precondition for rebellion? 

Not at all. Was it a necessary ingredient in the cocktail of factors that motivated and enabled the first wave of protests? Probably not. 

On the other hand, Syria most likely would have avoided its current tragic situation if the al-Assad regime had responded to the initial demonstrations in a restrained and responsible manner.
Vulnerability is driven by non-climate-related factors
As the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report makes clear, climate change will contribute to intensifying existing challenges for vulnerable communities by inhibiting agricultural productivity, reducing access to freshwater, making heatwaves more intolerable, and threatening physical infrastructure. 

These trends imply relative, not absolute, impacts on societal development in the sense that other factors are held constant. In other words, things will get worse in the absence of countermeasures, innovation, and substitution.
 However, history has shown that it makes little sense to assume status quo when considering societal changes over a half century or longer.

 For example, despite a marked and worrying increase in the frequency of extreme weather events and simultaneous population growth in recent decades, there is no contemporaneous increase in the number of deaths caused by these natural disasters. The reason is obvious: societies have become more able to cope with extreme weather events through better preparedness and improved response.
The modal response to negative environmental changes blends cooperation, innovation, and peaceful conflict management – not violence and instability
While the impact of climatic events on violence and instability is modest, the significance of the reverse relationship should not be underestimated: Violent conflicts and wars are among the most important drivers of environmental vulnerability. 

Accordingly, an important challenge for future research will be to try to understand how extreme weather and environmental changes interact with policy formation, and to discover what institutional and socio-economic conditions are best suited to minimize challenges related to human-induced climate change. 

Likewise, it is useful to remind ourselves that the modal response to negative environmental changes blends cooperation, innovation, and peaceful conflict management – not violence and instability. 

This is another topic with great potential for more research that could help facilitate transfer of insights and experience about ‘what works’ to societies that traditionally have struggled to achieve efficient and peaceful management of resource competition and environmental stress.

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Climate Council: Key Findings #auspol #Science

Key Findings

 1. Climate change is infuencing all extreme
weather events in Australia.

› All extreme weather events are now occurring in an atmosphere that is warmer and wetter than it was in the 1950s.

› Heatwaves are becoming hotter, lasting longer and occurring more often.

› Marine heatwaves that cause severe coral bleaching and mortality are becoming more intense and occurring more often.

› Extreme fire weather and the length of the fire season is increasing, leading to an increase in bush fire risk. 

› Sea level has already risen and continues to rise, driving more devastating coastal ooding during storm surges.

 2. Some of the most severe climate impacts the world has experienced have occurred in 2016.

 › Arctic sea ice reached its lowest annual extent on record while record sea surface temperatures drove the worst coral bleaching event in the Great Barrier Reef’s history. G

› Tropical Cyclone Winston was the most intense cyclone to hit Fiji on record, while Hurricane Otto was the southernmost hurricane to hit Central America on record. 

› Canada experienced its costliest wild fire in history in Fort McMurray, forcing the evacuation of almost 90,000 people.

 › The US state of Louisiana experienced 1-in-500 year rains that brought severe flooding leading to 30,000 rescues and 13 deaths.  

3 .Across Australia, extreme weather events are projected to worsen as the climate warms further.

› Extreme heat is projected to increase across the entire continent, with significant increases in the length, intensity and frequency of heatwaves in many regions.

› The time spent in drought is projected to increase across Australia, especially in southern Australia.

 Extreme drought is expected to increase in both frequency and duration.

› Southern and eastern Australia are projected to experience harsher fire weather.

› The intensity of extreme rainfall events is projected to increase across most of Australia.

› The increase in coastal flooding from high sea level events will become more frequent and more severe as sea levels continue to rise.

4. The impacts of extreme weather events will likely become much worse unless global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced rapidly and deeply. 

› Burning of coal, oil and gas is causing temperatures to rise at unprecedented rates and is making extreme weather events more intense, damaging and costly.

› Major emitters including China and the European Union are leading action on climate change, but Australia is lagging well behind and is on track to even miss its very weak target of a 26-28% reduction in emissions by 2030.

› Australia is expected to do its fair share to meet the global emissions reduction challenge by cutting its emissions rapidly and deeply.

› Phasing out ageing, polluting coal plants and replacing them with clean, efficient renewable energy sources such as wind and solar is imperative for stabilising the climate and reducing the risk of even worse extreme weather events.

Press link for full report: Climate Council


Experts should speak out on #climatechange #auspol 

Experts are right to speak out on climate change threat
Tomorrow marks the eighth anniversary of the worst bushfires in Australian history – the Black Saturday fires in Victoria. This firestorm killed 173 people, injured 5000, affected 109 communities and damaged or destroyed 3500 buildings. 

For the doctors, nurses and psychologists called to respond, and who continue to deal with its aftermath, now is a time not only to reflect on lessons of the past, but to prepare for the future. 

We know climate change is making extreme weather events – bushfires, droughts and heatwaves, storms and floods – more frequent and severe.

 All of these disasters harm the health of our patients and communities. 

Bushfires are devastating, and their impacts and consequences long lasting.

 As well as causing death, the immediate health risks include radiant heat injuries, dehydration, heat exhaustion, smoke inhalation and trauma. 

In the aftermath, communities face serious public health issues such as sanitation and water safety, smoke pollution, food insecurity, infection control and access to basic accommodation, healthcare and community services. 

Sadly, in the longer term, people affected by bushfire disasters are also at higher risk of many ongoing physical and mental health problems. 

They also face the social and economic costs of rebuilding homes, communities and infrastructure.
Health professionals have a responsibility – to our patients and communities – to speak up on issues that threaten human health. 

It’s why leading medical organisations are describing climate change as a “public health emergency”, mirroring the experiences of doctors and nurses on the frontline.

 So, just as we advocated for tobacco control, health professionals are now mobilising to demand urgent action to mitigate climate change in order to reduce the risk of the tragedy and devastation of another Black Saturday. 
Dr Kate Charlesworth is a Public Health Physician in NSW and works with the Climate and Health Alliance. 

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Poisonous weed will kill the Great Barrier Reef #climatechange #auspol #qldpol 

The Griffith University study, conducted in collaboration with national and international experts in reef and chemical ecology, showed that if the world continues with ‘business as usual’ CO2 emissions important reef building corals will suffer significantly by 2050 and die off by 2100.

Associate Professor Guillermo Diaz-Pulido, of Griffith’s School of Environment, says that is because algae will compete for space with corals in the reef, much like a weed, and eventually take over.

Researchers knew increased CO2 had an effect on seaweed behaviour but have now been able to demonstrate just how this happens. They discovered this is due to an increase in the potency of chemical compounds that poison corals.

“This is a major step forward in understanding how seaweeds can harm corals and has important implications for comprehending the consequences of increased carbon dioxide emissions on the health of the Great Barrier Reef,” says Associate Professor Diaz-Pulido.
“For the algae to grow they need light and CO2, just like any other plant, and because algae in the future would be exposed to much more CO2 in seawater we wanted to know to what extent the CO2 would affect some of the things algae do, the physiology and the interaction with animals.”
Professor Mark Hay, from the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-author of the study, adds: “What we’ve discovered is that some algae produce more potent chemicals that suppress or kill corals more rapidly.

 This can occur rapidly, in a matter of only weeks.
“If the algae overtake the coral we have a problem which contributes to reef degradation, on top of what we already know with coral bleaching, crown of thorn starfish outbreaks, cyclones or any other disturbance.”
The research was undertaken at Heron Island, a coral cay on the southern end of the reef using underwater reef experiments and outdoor lab studies.
Associate Professor Diaz-Pulido says the study has global impacts because one of the seaweeds studied that causes the most damage is a common brown alga species found in reefs worldwide.
“That’s a problem because if these algae take advantage of elevated CO2 in seawater that’s even more a matter of concern,” he says.
“The scale of the problem is so big removing a bunch of seaweed from the reef isn’t going to do much because it just regrows and regenerates, so I think the way to address this really is to reduce the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.”

Explore further: Study analyzed reef fish grazing behaviors to understand coral reef health
More information: Carlos Del Monaco et al, Effects of ocean acidification on the potency of macroalgal allelopathy to a common coral, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/srep41053 

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We Need Vigilance On Climate Change #auspol #science 

We Need Vigilance On Climate Change

An iceberg larger than Delaware is about to break off into the Weddell Sea. 

For the third year in a row, Earth’s average surface temperature was the warmest ever-recorded.

 Across the U.S. 2016 ranked as second hottest year on record with 15 weather-related disasters over $1 billion each, totaling $45 billion in losses.

There is no debate on these issues, but what the Trump administration does need to study is how we get out of this mess and what this really means for the United States and the rest of the world. 

So far all we have seen coming out of the new administration is denial that humans play a role in the changing climate, and the black out of government web pages that document and discuss the climate problem.

NASA estimates the recent strong El Nino boosted 2016 temperature about 25 percent. If climate models are correct, El Nino is going to recur with greater frequency and ferocity as the air continues to warm.

Here in Hawaii, El Nino is a big deal. 

In Honolulu the 2015-2016 El Nino produced 11 record-setting days of rainfall, 24 days of record-setting heat, massive ocean waves, a prolonged failure of the normally cooling trade winds, state-wide coral bleaching and nine months of drought. 

Urban flooding and heat waves characterized the late summer and early fall of 2015 straining our energy utility, emergency responders, and government resources.

 We had 15 tropical cyclones in local waters. 

In an average year we typically see only 3 or 4.
Another historic event happened recently, the American people installed a new administration that, while stating that climate change is real, does not believe humans have significant effects on the climate nor that climate change poses a meaningful threat to our way of life.

This attitude unabashedly ignores facts to the contrary: around the world global warming has increased drought by 10 percent and extreme rainfall 12 percent. 

Record hot days now outnumber cold days by 12 to 1. Nine of the 10 deadliest heat waves in history have occurred since 2000 and is responsible for 140,000 deaths.

The number of insured weather-related loss events has tripled globally over the past three decades, the tropics are expanding and the Arctic is melting. 

Climate-related local extinctions (where species have left historic ranges to move to cooler latitudes and elevations) have already occurred with hundreds of plants and animals.
The global percentage of bleached reefs tripled over the past three decades. 

The West Antarctic ice sheet is retreating much faster than researchers expected, and scientists best estimates of worst case sea level rise by the end of the century have been raised from 3 feet in 2013 to 8 feet today.
As we move forward into a hotter and more dangerous future, led by an administration that denies this reality, the need for a vigilant media to report on climate change has never been more urgent.

Scientists must increase efforts to bring these facts to the public’s attention, and the public must take responsibility for monitoring news of climate change. 

It’s not that hard to raise your level of understanding such that climate change becomes a comfortable topic of discussion.

NGOs, foundations and corporations should step in to the research-funding gap that will likely develop as this administration, and a willing Congress, enacts cuts to federal research in the Earth and environmental sciences.
The renewable energy marketplace has grown more robust, but this status is fragile. 

As former President Obama has pointed out, between 2008 and 2015 national CO2 emissions from the energy sector fell by 9.5 percent while the economy grew by 10 percent. 

This decoupling of greenhouse gas emissions from economic growth signals to the world that in the U.S., combating climate change does not mean lower growth or fewer jobs.

It is estimated that a global temperature increase of 4o degrees, currently projected by late mid-century if greenhouse gases are not rapidly curtailed, will cost the American economy in the form of lost jobs and reduced federal revenue of $340 billion to $690 billion per year.

 In order to achieve the prosperous future that President Trump has promised us all, eventually he must recognize that climate change threatens public safety and the American economy. The sooner he does this, the sooner the world will become a safer place.
If we love our children and grandchildren more than we love ourselves, forward progress on adapting to and mitigating climate change must continue, in fact it must accelerate.

Press link for more: Civil Beat