CSIRO

A Future without Coral #StopAdani #Auspol #Qldpol 

Dahr Jamail | Coral Reefs Could All Die Off by 2050
Bleached coral off the coast of northeastern Australia is the result of warming ocean temperatures.

 Save a dramatic weather event to lower the water temperatures within the next few weeks, most of this coral will die. 


(Photo: Megan Proctor)

Bleached coral off the coast of northeastern Australia is the result of warming ocean temperatures. 

Save a dramatic weather event to lower the water temperatures within the next few weeks, most of this coral will die.
When he was six years old, Dean Miller already knew he wanted to be a marine biologist. 

At that time, growing up in Australia, the world of marine biology seemed both spectacular and limitless, he says.
“I wanted to study the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, the intricate and complex connections between the thousands of different life-forms that represent the most diverse ecosystem on the planet,” Miller told Truthout.
But in the last two years, this has all changed for him.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

“I now look at the reef as an ecosystem that is suffering from our actions and I feel guilty beyond belief that this is happening in my backyard, on our generation’s watch,” he explained. “I no longer dream of the kaleidoscope of life, color and movement that represents the world’s coral reefs. 

Instead, I worry and fight for the actual existence of coral reefs as we know them, as the changes I see are happening all too quickly — much quicker than the reef can adapt.”
This is because over the last two years, the Great Barrier Reef, which is so dear to Miller and countless others who revel in the beauty and mysteries of the oceans, has been dying off at an unprecedented rate due primarily to warming ocean waters.
Coral bleaching occurs when corals become stressed by warmer-than-normal water, causing them to expel symbiotic algae that live in their tissues, from which they get their energy. 

Coral turns completely white when it bleaches.


 If it remains bleached long enough, it dies.
One scientist has already gone so far as to declare the Great Barrier Reef is now in a “terminal stage.” Most of those studying the reef agree that what is happening is unprecedented. This is because, at a minimum, two-thirds of the 1,400-mile long reef bleached out last year, which led to 22 percent of it dying. Now another bleaching event has resulted in at least two-thirds of the reef bleached again.
Dean Miller, a marine scientist with Great Barrier Reef Legacy, a nonprofit environmental organization that works to promote better stewardship of the reef by providing free access for scientists. 


(Photo: Dahr Jamail)

Marine biologist David Burdick, who has been studying the coral around Guam for more than 10 years, told Truthout the frequency of bleaching events he is seeing “is all new to us.” 


(Photo: Courtesy of David Burdick)
“The bleaching this year has moved much farther south and has taken scientists by surprise in its severity and extent,” Miller said. And he fears the state of the reef could be even worse than scientists realize, since only aerial surveys have been conducted to assess the damage and no research vessel is currently active on the reef to provide finer details.
With ocean temperatures rising across the globe as anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) continues to pick up speed, the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral ecosystem on Earth, may well be an example of what is happening to all of the coral on the planet.
“This Is New for All of Us”
Marine biologist David Burdick coordinates a NOAA-funded long-term coral reef monitoring program out of the University of Guam Marine Laboratory, and has been conducting field studies of Guam’s coral reefs for more than a decade.
“In 2013, we had a moderate to severe bleaching event that came out of nowhere and lasted for three months, and we lost a quarter of the coral that was impacted from the 80 percent of the coral species that bleached,” Burdick told Truthout during a recent interview on Guam.
Then, less than seven months later, what he called “an unusual sea-surface temperature spike” caused another moderate to severe bleaching event. “Corals that were already weakened by the 2013 event — many of them died,” he explained. “The event was fairly widespread, and corals that survived the 2013 event did not survive this one.”
Fifty percent of the coral that bleached during the 2014 event died.
Marine biologist David Burdick who has been studying the coral around Guam for more than 10 years, told Truthout the frequency of bleaching events he is seeing “is all new to us.”

Dean Miller, a marine scientist with Great Barrier Reef Legacy, a nonprofit environmental organization that works to promote better stewardship of the reef by providing free access for scientists. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)
“Then, while we were still analysing all of our data from that event, we had another large bleaching event in 2016,” Burdick said. “So we had three major bleaching events, essentially having one per year, which is a pattern now, apparently.”
Prior to these events, they’d never seen anything on Guam that would be classified beyond a “moderate” coral bleaching event.
“This is all new for us,” Burdick said.
Miller is equally stunned by what he is seeing along the Great Barrier Reef, which is eerily similar to what Burdick is seeing on Guam.
“Parts of the reef that didn’t bleach last year are now under immense pressure, and this is totally different because this is back-to-back bleaching,” Miller explained. “The system was already stressed, and this is a new stress event. We are seeing much mortality on reefs in our area…. What didn’t die last year is dying this year.”
In addition to the new bleaching in this year’s event, southern portions of the reef that are typically in cooler waters are now also bleaching out.
“It’s heartbreaking to see,” Miller added. “Seventy thousand direct tourism-related jobs and a $6 billion tourism industry are all at risk, especially on top of the recent damage from Cyclone Debbie.”
According to Dean Miller, this year’s Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching event has taken scientists “by surprise by its severity and extent” and is occurring much further south than last year’s, which killed 22 percent of the reef.

 (Photo: Courtesy of ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)According to Dean Miller, this year’s Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching event has taken scientists “by surprise by its severity and extent” and is occurring much further south than last year’s, which killed 22 percent of the reef. 


(Photo: Courtesy of ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
A study published this March in the journal Nature found that last year’s bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef was so severe that there was no similar analog in the thousands of years of ancient coral cores scientists use to study past climates.
Another study published in Nature projected that by the year 2050, more than 98 percent of global coral reefs will be afflicted by “bleaching-level thermal stress” every single year.
However, the prognosis could be even worse: The scientists involved in the study from this March speculated that the era of never-ending global coral bleaching may have already arrived, albeit several decades earlier than was predicted even just last year. They explained that the Great Barrier Reef needs 10 to 15 years between bleaching events in order to fully recover, and that recovery time period is “no longer realistic.”
“We Don’t Even Know What We Are Losing”
Laurie Raymundo is a coral ecologist at the University of Guam Marine Lab who has worked closely with Burdick for years. Similar to Miller, she knew when she was 11 years old that she wanted to study coral. She now teaches at the University of Guam, and is designing a course in coral reef ecology and management that will include ACD impacts. She has lived in Guam since 2004 and is a co-author of the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement.
Like the other scientists Truthout spoke with, Raymundo is deeply troubled by what she is seeing.
Coral Ecologist Laurie Raymundo with the University of Guam is a co-author of the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement. (Photo: Courtesy of Laurie Raymundo)Coral Ecologist Laurie Raymundo with the University of Guam is a co-author of the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement. (Photo: Courtesy of Laurie Raymundo)
If we lose coral reefs, Raymundo warned Truthout, “We will lose all our sensitive species, and we will have lower diversity.”
Equally worrying to her is the fact that there is still so much we don’t know about the importance of coral reefs.
“We don’t even know what we are losing, and we don’t understand what a loss of biodiversity fully means, for pharmaceuticals, ecologically, and in so many other ways,” she said. “We are losing things before we even actually know, fully, what we are losing.”
One crucial function we do know we’re losing: While coral reefs only cover 0.0025 percent of the oceanic floor, absorb nearly one-third of the carbon dioxide generated from burning fossil fuels.
A report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization shows that coral reefs are responsible for producing 17 percent of all globally consumed protein, with that ratio being 70 percent or greater in island and coastal countries like those of Micronesia.
At the time of this writing, Earth has lost nearly half of its coral, and oceanic warming only continues to accelerate.
“We are finding that reefs living under anthropogenic stresses for many years have already lost their more sensitive coral species, and the ones that are there now are already the tough bastards,” Raymundo said. “And when reefs have lower diversity, there is less ecological redundancy; hence, they are more likely to collapse.”
A Future Without Coral?
A 2012 study revealed that half of the Great Barrier Reef had already vanished in just the previous 27 years. Two years later, the world’s most qualified coral reef experts released a report showing that, without dramatic intervention, the Great Barrier Reef would disappear completely by 2030.
Furthermore, a study published and released by NOAA in 2011 warned that, “unless action is taken now to reduce the threats,” 90 percent of all reefs will be “threatened” by 2030, and all of Earth’s coral reefs could be completely gone by 2050. The study, “Reefs at Risk Revisited,” listed human-caused climate disruption, warmer water temperatures, ocean acidification, shipping, overfishing, coastal development and agricultural runoff as the contributing factors.
While that might sound extreme, Miller told Truthout he thought the report actually didn’t go far enough.
“I think it’s too conservative,” he explained. “Corals need many years to adjust to the warmer ocean waters, and we don’t have that kind of time anymore. The warming we are seeing now is happening far too fast to allow for evolution…. So what we’re seeing now is death. That’s what bleaching is.”
Burdick, who described Guam’s reefs as “getting clobbered,” agreed.
“Various factors will buy some areas some time, so some coral species might eek out a bit longer, for a while,” he said. “But [with] bleaching events every five to 10 years, you won’t give coral enough time to come back to where it was. It is all about the rate of change. And right now, that rate is increasing, and rapidly at that.”
Back in Australia, Miller is dismayed by the fact that his government is doing very little, if anything, to mitigate the crisis.
Truthout asked Miller what steps the Australian government is taking to save the Great Barrier Reef.


“From what I can tell, virtually nothing,” he answered. “They are not focussed on this at all, but rather are pushing for the Adani Coal Mine to go ahead.

 We here in Australia can hardly believe it, to be honest. 

In fact, the government has had almost no comment on the bleaching at all.” 
The coal mine he referred to is looking like it is going to move forward, which will, according to Miller, bring an additional 500 ships carrying coal across the Great Barrier Reef every single year.
Truthout interviewed Miller’s colleague, John Rumney, the managing director of Great Barrier Reef Legacy in February, when this year’s bleaching event began.


“This coral is in big trouble,” Rumney said at the time. Like Miller, Burdick and Raymundo, Rumney warned of the extreme loss of biodiversity that comes with the disappearance of reefs.
“When all that coral goes, all that diversity of fish that depends on it goes,” Rumney told Truthout. 

“The entire food chain is in big trouble.”
Miller concurred, saying, “We might see ecosystem collapse as we know it.”
The need for independent research on the Great Barrier Reef during this second mass-bleaching event is needed more than ever, according to Miller. 

His and Rumney’s organization is striving to get more scientists out to the reef as quickly as possible.
“The world’s greatest natural icon and largest living structure needs our help more than ever, and unless we act as a concerned global population, nothing will be done,” he concluded. “It is not too late. The reef is worth saving — and our actions now will determine the fate of coral reefs in as little as 5 to 10 years. 

We must act.”

Press link for more: Truth Out

The Quest To Save The World’s Coral #StopAdani #Auspol #Qldpol 

Coral reefs are the “rainforests of the sea”, prized for their beauty and resources the world over. They are also one of the Earth’s most vulnerable ecosystems threatened by climate change. And no place better symbolises their importance and their plight than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef covers 345,000 square kilometres, roughly the size of Germany, and stretches 2300km in length, nearly equal to the entire coastline of Chile.
If we continue on our current pathway where we’re pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, we’re acidifying the oceans, we won’t have coral reefs within 20, 30, 40 years from now.

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director, Global Change Institute
While coral reefs cover less than two percent of the ocean floor, nearly 25 percent of all marine life depends on them for survival.
Because it’s a living structure, it can also die. According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), nearly all coral reefs worldwide will be threatened with death by 2050.
“There are multiple stressors that face coral reefs like the Great Barrier Reef. There’s sediments and nutrients flowing down rivers and smothering corals and other organisms. There has been too much fishing in some cases where we’ve knocked down key species. But the real ‘show-stoppers’ now are the global changes that we’re inflicting on coral reefs,” explains Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of The Global Change Institute.

According to WRI, the absorption of an increased level of atmospheric carbon dioxide into the oceans has caused them to become more acidic. This change in water chemistry inhibits the ability of corals, whose skeletons are composed of calcium carbonate, to grow. Higher water temperatures also affect the ecology of the reefs and turn the coral white, a process known as “coral bleaching.”
Scientific models show both ocean acidification and ocean temperatures spiking to unprecedented levels over the next 100 years.
A group of scientists just outside of Townsville are fighting to save the coral reefs – not just from bleaching events now, but also from the effects of climate change yet to come.
Researchers at Australia’s National Sea Simulator aquarium brought the ocean to their lab to replicate and manipulate ocean conditions in a controlled environment.
“So what this experiment is, is we’re looking at current day conditions, and we’re looking at conditions that are projected by the IPCC, which is the intergovernmental panel on climate change, conditions which are predicted for the year 2050 and then conditions which are predicted for the year 2100,” says Nicole Webster.

Saving the coral reef

Researchers are seeking to determine not just whether corals can be conditioned to withstand future ocean conditions, but whether those manipulated corals can pass those survival traits on to future generations – a process known as assisted evolution.
For Ove Hoeugh-Guldberg and other scientists, the threat to coral reefs goes beyond science. More than two million people visit the Great Barrier Reef every year, a $6bn a year industry supported by over 16,000 employees.
“When you take what coral reefs represent to people, this is amazing numbers right, there’s an estimated 500 million people on the planet who come to coral reefs almost on a daily basis to get food and income. Now, that’s about one in every 12 people dependent on coral reefs worldwide,” says Hoeugh-Guldberg.

Press link for more: Aljazeera.com

Fuzzy Thinking Won’t Save The Planet #Science #auspol 

The Oxford Dictionary nominated post-truth as the Word of the Year in 2016. 

 Rather than objective facts, politicians promote alternative facts, emotion and personal beliefs as the basis for public debate. 

This spells disaster to a scientist like Brian Schmidt who says we can’t solve the world’s pressing problems without a renewed respect for evidence and expertise.


Professor Brian Schmidt, Nobel Laureate, cosmologist and ANU Vice-Chancellor.
Professor Schmidt delivered the annual Manning Clark lecture : Evidence and expertise in a post-truth world.
Recorded on 3 March 2017 .

Listen Here: ABC Big Ideas

I have been writing this blog for nearly four years, I have always tried to promote science and highlight the limits to growth that our planet can support. 

I have often included news on the challenges we face such as global poverty and climate change in a economic system that demands continuous growth. 

Today I listened to this lecture delivered by Professor Brian Schmidt, he mentions an annual growth of over 100 million people per year, on an already over loaded planet. 

In one hour he covers the journey I have been on, including the importance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.


If human civilisation is to continue Professor Schmidt says we have five years left to get our act together.

I urge all who read my blog to listen to this speech and act as if your life depended on it. 

Because the Professor thinks it does 
John Pratt 

 

How to reason with a climate denier. #auspol 

How to Reason with the Climate Change Denier in Your Life

By Mary Catherine O’Connor

Everyone working to address climate change, from activists to scientists, knows that success depends in large part on their ability to convert climate change skeptics (or even straight-up deniers) into proponents for action. Most of us have someone in our lives—a family member, co-worker, or friend—whose views on climate change conflict with the latest science, and you’ve likely had some exasperating, polarizing, unconstructive conversations with them.
Philip Kitcher, an MIT professor of philosophy, and Evelyn Fox Keller, an MIT professor emerita of history and philosophy of science, have co-written a book that imagines six of those very conversations. The Seasons Alter: How to Save the Planet in Six Acts (W.W. Norton; $25) reads like six screenplays set in different locations and with two different people in each act. The dialogue—well, it probably won’t pass your sniff test. The authors describe the conversations in the book as “constructive, careful, and amicable,” but they mostly sound stiff.
Even if they don’t ring true to life, many of the book’s exchanges contain useful clues on how to unpack specific issues and work around conversational impasses. Here, culled from The Seasons Alter and other experts, are four guiding principles that could fix the way we talk about climate change.


Don’t Ignore Uncertainty
The book contains a long conversation between an activist from an environmental organization and a person with a terminal illness who is deciding where to donate his money. His conundrum is whether to support environmental initiatives, based on the predictions that climate change will harm large populations, or give to groups addressing things such as malnutrition. “Sometimes I think the real catastrophes [from climate change] aren’t that likely, and the likely effects aren’t that bad,” he says.

There’s no doubt that greenhouse gasses are causing the earth to warm, the seas to rise, and weather patterns to change. But these events aren’t happening according to a strict schedule, and scientists can’t give us a precise timeline with deadlines for action. Climate change is likely to undergird an uptick in pandemics, for example, but there’s no blueprint for preventing those. Some impacts are episodic (heat waves, increasingly severe storms) while others are constant (sea level creeps up), but all are costly. Still, proponents of inaction often use those uncertainties as talking points.
The activist does her best to present fact-based evidence that the climate movement deserves the man’s support, but she has to allow that while there is consensus on the basic mechanisms of climate change, there have been some contradictory studies. That’s how science works. It’s why peer reviews are important and why researchers keep inquiring, testing theses, and adding to the canon. Scientists who study cancer and its causes also don’t always agree, but that’s not a reason to call off cancer research funding.

The merits of a cost-benefit analysis will only go so far in arguing for action to address climate action, and in the end, the authors explain, we need to make some qualitative judgments. Acknowledge gaps in knowledge—and remember that it doesn’t defeat your purpose.
Try to Make a Connection
Managers and people who click on articles about productivity love talking about emotional intelligence. But Renee Lertzman says we need more of it in the climate debate as well. Lertzman, who calls herself a “psychosocial strategist focusing on climate and environment,” coaches NGOs, universities, and corporations on how to communicate issues related to climate change. Her bailiwick is the intersection of psychology and climate change, and Lertzman says we need to be emotionally literate in order to understand the relationship others have with climate change. A Midwest farmer, for instance, might be “concerned with staying afloat and keeping their way of life viable—there is an emotional charge there, and their response to climate change is different than an urbanite in, say, the Bay Area,” she says.
So, know your audience, suggests Lertzman. Climate change means different things to different people, and we all bring our own biases to the conversation. You might know people who believe in climate change and advocate for political action but also disavow vaccines. Clearly, not all of these opinions are rooted in science. You can counter these beliefs with data, but it is unlikely to evaporate beliefs that may be based in anxiety and distrust.

Lertzman advises “starting from a place of authentic compassion, to really attune ourselves to how scary and overwhelming these issues can be for people.” She knows that compassion tends to get a bad rap because it’s equated with letting people off the hook, but she says the opposite is true: “Anyone working in mental or public health will tell you that without compassion, we will stumble into a fight by engaging in each other’s resistance and our own interests in protecting ourselves from whatever feels threatening.”
This approach isn’t some psychobabble, either, says Lertzman. Neurology shows that compassion soothes the nervous system, while confrontation excites it. “If our limbic system—the survival part of our minds—is activated, it’s game over. If I’m feeling uneasy or anxious, I’m not even going to hear what you have to say.”


Advance the War on Atmospheric Carbon, Not on People
President Trump and others who share his dubious views on climate change have painted the climate activist movement as oppositional to American values. They cast the war on coal as a war on coal miners. While Trump is trying to roll back the Clean Power Plan, coal’s loss of competitiveness against natural gas and renewables is what really dooms the coal industry.
In one dialogue, the climate activist lays out a good argument that puts this kind of outcome in historical perspective. Workers, she says, have “found themselves displaced because of foreign competition or technological change or shifts in tastes and attitudes.” Indeed, there’s broad support among Democrats and Republicans for renewable energy as the costs of wind and solar quickly fall while their capacity to meet more of the world’s energy demands rises.

But the bigger issue is this: On both sides of the argument, things get political and emotional fast when it comes to the human impact of climate change. And oftentimes our views on climate change are shaped by those of our parents. That’s a common backstory in many of the more than 500 responses that Reddit users posted over the past month to this question: “Former climate change deniers, what changed your mind?” “I grew up actively and obnoxiously denying climate change because my dad told me it wasn’t real,” said one responder.
Others said they were raised Republican and had always seen climate change as a “liberal” issue that they could not or should not endorse. A video shown during a church service focused on the virtues of caring for the earth made one right-leaning respondent a believer.
Many former deniers said that reading about the science behind climate change and how it’s already affecting us was the catalyst for their conversion. In some cases, Reddit responders pointed to how changes in their personal lives made them believers. “I grew up ice fishing in central Illinois, and I haven’t been able to ice fish in three years. The shit ain’t right. We had tornadoes in February. I was deer hunting in a fucking T-shirt in December,” wrote one, who called himself a liberal redneck.
Know How to Navigate an Impasse
Carla Wise, a conservation biologist turned climate change activist, says the most important thing to do is to just keep having conversations about climate change, because the more we talk about it, the less it becomes a taboo issue that makes everyone uncomfortable. That’s not to say these conversations will always be easy or pleasant.
When things get dicey, Lertzman says, “I use a martial arts move, where you don’t engage directly with the opposition, you don’t argue. I might say, ‘I hear you’re saying XYZ, and I won’t challenge that, but can you help me understand? Let’s just say, hypothetically, that climate change is happening and will have this effect, what would that mean for you? Could you imagine a scenario where you are involved?’”

Lertzman says the goal of this kind of conversation is to help each other get in touch with what is true and uncover the resistance the other person is expressing, which she typically finds to be a defense mechanism.
Don’t expect to master this overnight, she says. “It’s a skill, but it’s about guiding the conversation to arrive at what is true. We’re all wired for that—to crave the truth.”

Press link for more: Outside online.com

March for Science or March for Reality?

March for Science or March for Reality?

By Laurance M. klauss

Shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump as President, it was announced that a March for Science would be held Washington DC and in a host of other cities in the United States and around the world to protest the new Administration’s apparent anti-science agenda—from denial of climate change to dismantling the EPA, to budget priorities that will cut key science programs throughout the country—and to lobby for science-based policymaking as well as support for scientific research to address the challenges of the 21st century.


Meanwhile the Trump administration’s anti-science actions continue.

 Attorney General Sessions announced just this week that he was disbanding the National Commission on Forensic Science, which advises the federal government to enhance national standards in this area.
I have no idea how the Marches for Science—now over 400 in number across the globe—will play out, and how the media will interpret them.

 A series of worrisome tweets emanating from the March for Science twitter account over the past week, following similar early statements made on the groups website that were subsequently removed, claimed that scientific research promotes violence and inequity in society. 

These have been disavowed but the variety of mixed communications from leaders of the march over the past months suggests at the very least that the organization encompasses a wide diversity of agendas.
This is not surprising. After all, the scientific community has never been a one-issue community, like, say, the anti-abortion movement.

 And the current administration is pushing so many different buttons at the same time, with various attacks on fundamental rights, privacy, diversity, and freedom of expression, that these are bound to get caught up in any movement that promotes openness and free-inquiry, the hallmarks of the scientific enterprise.
Despite any such concerns, a host major science organizations, from the American Association for the Advancement of Science to Union of Concerned Scientists, have signed on as supporters of the March, and are urging their members to join their local marches and speak out for science-based public policy on April 22.


If the event becomes a ‘March By Scientists’ rather than a March for Science—namely if it is dominated by scientists labeling themselves as such, in costumes like white lab coats, rather than by members of the general public supporting evidence-based public policy—that too could be problematic. 

The March for science could then appear as a self-serving political lobbying effort by the scientific community to increase its funding base.
Let’s imagine that this is not the case, and the organizers are wildly successful in attracting hundreds of thousands or million of marchers across the globe this coming Saturday.

 It is still reasonable to wonder what the long-term impact of the marches might be. 

After all, following the worldwide March for Women, in which millions of people marched around the world in support of women’s rights, the Trump administration reacted with a deaf ear. 

Just this past week the President signed legislation allowing states and local governments to withhold federal funding for Planned Parenthood, for example.
The situation is different in this case however, and it may have nothing directly to do with science policy, or even in those areas where science should play a key role in affecting policy.
Every week, the alternative realities invoked by the Trump administration are being demonstrated, by events, to be vacuous. 

The administration claimed it would immediately end, and then fix, problems with Obamacare, and failed miserably. Donald Trump campaigned against foreign military intervention, and this week alone initiated unilateral bombings in Syria and Afghanistan. 

Donald Trump pledged to immediately revise NAFTA, forcing Canada and Mexico to the table to make a better deal. 

Nothing has happened.
He promised Mexico would pay for a wall. 

However the first $2 billion installment for a wall was included in the budget proposal he presented to Congress, compensated by cuts in funding in key areas of science, but also in support of the arts and humanities in this country.
He promised to drain the swamp, but he removed restrictions on lobbyists entering government, and as the New York Times reported just this week, he has filled his administration with them, including individuals who are already facing conflict of interest allegations because of their former activities lobbying the organizations they now run.
He lobbied against Wall Street, but former Wall Street leaders dominate his cabinet and economic advisory groups.
He said he would release his taxes after his inauguration and has not. 

And he claimed he would immediate increase growth and the economy, but as the Wall Street Journal reported just this week, projections for growth of the economy have decreased sharply in recent months, as have retail sales, and the consumer price index.


These are just a few of the immediate and obvious inconsistencies. 

Further, as administration policies on energy and the environment take effect, citizens in communities with drinking water at risk from environmental threats will find that programs to avert further deterioration have been cut, and coal mining communities will find that the natural gas glut has much more to do with the continuing demise of coal than Obama’s efforts to improve air quality in the US by restricting coal plants, which, whatever Trump may claim, are bad for the environment. 

(Indeed as the New York Times reported this week, more than 200,000 tons of coal ash residue each year are produced by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and this has been making its way into groundwater, potentially affecting drinking water supplies, even as the EPA is now delaying compliance with rules enacted to enhance the safe storage and disposal of coal ash.).
The very essence of science, indeed that which is motivating the March for Science, involves skeptical inquiry and a reliance on empirical evidence and constant testing to weed out false hypotheses and unproductive or harmful technologies as we move toward a better understanding of reality: A willingness, in short, to force beliefs and policies to conform to the evidence of reality, rather than vice versa.


Unlike its perception among much of the public and its presentation in many schools today, science is not simply a body of facts, but rather a process for deriving what the facts are. 

This process has helped us uncover hidden secrets of the Universe that never would have been dreamed of and producing technologies that have not only been largely responsible for the standard of living enjoyed by the first world today, but have also increased lifespans around the world. 

With this process the very possibility of “alternative facts” disappears.
By providing such a constant and sharp explicit and observable contrast between policy and empirical reality, the Trump administration can encourage a new public skepticism about political assertions vs. reality, and a demand for evidence before endorsing policies and the politicians who espouse them—the very things that most marchers on April 22nd will be demanding. 

This skepticism is beginning to manifest itself in data. 

A Gallup poll result on April 17 indicated that only 45 percent of the public believe President Trump’s promises, a drop of 17 percent since February.
In this regard, it is worth remembering the words of the Nobel Prizewinning physicist, Richard Feynman, who said: For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled. 

Or, as the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick more colorfully put it: Reality is that which continues to exist even when you stop believing in it.
The Trump Administration is discovering that obfuscation, denial, and hype may work when selling real estate, but in public arena eventually reality has a way of biting you in the butt. And the public is watching. 

The March for Science may be lucky to capitalize upon a growing awareness that there is no Wizard behind the curtain. The number of marchers, their backgrounds, or even their myriad messages may not drive the success of the March. Rather, it may be driven by the harsh examples coming out every day that reality exists independent of the desires or claims of those in power. 

In this case, the greatest asset the March for Science has going for it may be Donald Trump himself.

Press link for more: Scientific American

Scientists March For Truth. #auspol 

Scientists to take to the streets in global march for truth.

By Mark Lynas
March for Science on 22 April will see scientists and supporters at more than 500 locations stand up for evidence-based thinking.


Scientists and science supporters will take to the streets in a global March for Science on 22 April . 

What began as a small Facebook group in the US capital, Washington DC has spiralled into a global phenomenon that will now see marches and other events in more than 500 locations around the world, from Seattle to Seoul.
It is great news that so many people are prepared to stand up and defend the need for evidence-based thinking and the scientific method. 

But it is also a sad comment on our times that a March for Science is needed at all. 


Post-truth populism has infected democracies around the world, scientific objectivity is under threat from multiple sources and there seems a real danger of falling into a modern dystopian dark age.
It is clear that the old days of scientists staying in the lab, publishing papers in scholarly journals, and otherwise letting the facts speak for themselves are over. 

As the Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes reminds us: “The facts don’t speak for themselves because we live in a world where so many people are trying to silence facts.” 

In her book, Merchants of Doubt, Oreskes wrote about these efforts from the tobacco industry onwards; science denialist attempts that are paralleled in today’s climate sceptic, anti-vaccine and anti-GMO movements.


These campaigners against truth take great pains to deny the existence of scientific consensus on their different issues. 

The fact that 97% of the peer-reviewed literature on climate change supports the consensus that most of global warming is human-induced is dismissed as mere elitism. 

But as Dr Sarah Evanega, director of the Alliance for Science at Cornell, writes: “The values we defend are those of the Enlightenment, not the establishment.” 

Expertise is real, and we reject it at our peril.

Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of the March for Science, and what may prove to be its most enduring legacy, is its truly global nature. 

Science is not western; it is everywhere and for everyone. 

I have worked with Alliance for Science colleagues to help get marches off the ground in Bangladesh, Nigeria, Uganda, Venezuela, Chile and other places.

 In between long Skype calls about logistics, fundraising, and media outreach I watched the lights flash on as the number of marches on the global map kept on increasing. 

It was like watching the world light up with knowledge.
Bangladesh March for Science’s lead organiser Arif Hossain says: “I am marching to let the world know that we are united for science in Bangladesh. 

We have 160 million people to feed in the changed climate, and together we will make a better day with science and innovation.”
Although the issues of most concern vary in different locations, appreciation of the need for science is global. As Nkechi Isaac, an organiser of the March for Science in Abuja, Nigeria, says: “Science is revolutionary.

 It holds the key to constant development and improvement for addressing climate change, food shortage and challenges in medicine. Science holds the solution to our food security.”
Nigerians can testify to the tragic effects of anti-science activism. Efforts to eradicate polio in the country were held up for years because of conspiracy theories spread by those suspicious of modern medicine and vaccines. People die when science is denied.
So here’s what we will be marching for.

 It’s time to enter the post-post-truth era. 

And there is no time to lose.

• Mark Lynas is a science and environment writer and a visiting fellow at the Alliance for Science at Cornell University.

Press link for more: The Guardian

We Must Act Immediately To save The Reef #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

We must act immediately to save the Great Barrier Reef 

| Jules Howard
And so it begins: the end of days.

 The Great Barrier Reef is bleaching for the second year in a row and now, according to the results of helicopter surveys released on Monday, it is the middle part (all 300 miles-plus of it) that is suffering the awful reef stress that comes courtesy of a warming ocean.

Coral bleaching is incredibly serious. In especially warm summers, the complex balance between the symbiotic algae and the coral becomes disrupted. To save themselves, the coral expels the algae in the hope of better times ahead. In this state, the coral becomes whitened. That’s what bleaching is.

Without the algae to synthesise most of its energy, the coral operates on a kind of “standby” mode. It is vulnerable in this state. Only one third of the entire Great Barrier Reef remains unbleached. The bell, it seems, is tolling for one of the most biologically active parts of planet Earth.
I watched this Great Barrier Reef story unfold, and what started out as quite a conservative bit of science reporting quickly morphed into something else. By midday, many news outlets started running with the line that the Great Barrier Reef was now in a “terminal stage” – a phrase used by one (understandably frustrated) expert in the Guardian’s coverage of the story and recycled into all sorts of other online reports, which then did loops on Twitter.


“Oh Christ,” I thought, “James Delingpole is going to love this.” Skip forward a few hours and the columnist did his thing on Breitbart – don’t go looking for it, but let’s just say I was proved right. For a bleached reef is not a dead reef as you no doubt know – and the climate-change deniers have enjoyed the chance to throw around more allegations of “scaremongering” and their accusations that “Greenies don’t do science” – which is, of course, ridiculous.
Such backlash from climate-change deniers like Delingpole is inevitable. But in this case, I think the conservation hand really was overplayed. Is the Great Barrier Reef really in terminal decline? Is it really done and dusted? I don’t think so. Because coral bleaching, though incredibly serious and concerning, quite simply is not death. (Indeed the scientists involved in the study themselves said: “Bleached corals are not necessarily dead corals …”). Coral reefs can recover. There is reason for hope, therefore. Hope, but not complacency.

 Two-thirds of Great Barrier Reef hit by back-to-back mass coral bleaching

Looking at other reefs around the world offers us some perspective. Of 21 reefs monitored by scientists in the Seychelles, for instance, 12 have since recovered after a coral bleaching episode in 1998. (The other nine? Now seaweed-covered ruins). In Palau, many reefs recovered within a decade after being hit by the same 1998 temperature spike. Likewise, in an isolated reef system in Western Australia, that same bleaching episode also affected 90% of the corals. For six years the reef remained bleached, but by 2010 it had recovered.
This isn’t to say that all reefs can recover. But given time and enough protection from other threats, there is hope.
Though bleaching events have never been known to occur back-to-back (for example in 2016 and 2017) as they have in parts of the Great Barrier Reef this year, the reef has recovered from bleaching events before in 1998 and 2002 – and no doubt before that. It can recover, given time and the security a commitment to global carbon emission targets would bring. It can, and must, survive this latest episode of bleaching. After all, the Great Barrier Reef is worth £3.5bn to the Australian economy each year, and keeps 69,000 people in work. As well as being a bubbling, spiralling three-dimensional maze of biological interactions, it’s also an economic nest-egg for Australia. What sort of government would want to squander that?
So it’s not terminal, yet. Instead, the bleaching is an indicator that yet another wild place is taking a battering. That yet another flag is waving. That the climate is changing. That the incredible symbiosis of algae and coral is breaking down. We must act immediately.

Press link for more: The Guardian

Why We need Nikola Tesla to fight Climate Change #auspol #qldpol #science

By John F. Wasik

Nikola Tesla, the genius inventor of alternating current, radio and robotics, still provides uplifting guidance in this time of automation, climate change, globalization and political division.
Tesla died in 1943 at the age of 86, but his time has come again — particularly in light of the Trump administration’s decision earlier this week to roll back the progressive environmental policies that former President Barack Obama championed.
Adopting Tesla’s vision involves a new way of thinking about our relationship to the planet. Although great environmentalists like Teddy Roosevelt, John Burroughs and John Muir were articulating this new role during Tesla’s lifetime, world leaders today will also need to embrace Pope Francis’s radical “integral ecology.”

That means adopting a holistic approach to energy — intensive activities and tossing self-centered, widely held attitudes that takes man out of the center of his Ptolemaic universe.

Pope Francis, in his Laudato Si encyclical, doesn’t dispute the science behind climate change. The planet is getting hotter and man-made activities have some part in it. Last year was the hottest 12 months on record.
We need to get over ourselves and do something about the situation.
By “greening” all of the major systems of civilization — energy, transportation, manufacturing, building and consumer consumption — we can implement national networks of renewable energy and production.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order that begins the process of reversing climate change policies put in place by President Barack Obama, including his predecessor’s Clean Power Plan. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday has the details. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press
Tesla was a firm believer in green energy. He supported hydro, geothermal and solar power more than 100 years ago. His vision for wireless power is still a major engineering challenge. Yet what if we produced clean energy from 24/7 sunlight in space and beamed it down to our planet? Many engineers are working on this problem across the world.
Although Tesla’s alternating current systems power most of the world’s electrical grid, he saw the dangers of burning fossil fuels to generate electricity. It’s still a massive problem contributing to global warming.
Since the earth is a closed-loop system, integral ecology recognizes the fact that we can’t keep extracting resources forever. A growing world population will demand more and more of the planet to sustain us.
As physicist and systems theorist Fritjof Capra writes:
“At the very heart of our global crisis lies the illusion that unlimited growth is possible on a finite planet…In this economic system, the irrational belief in perpetual growth is carried on relentlessly by promoting excessive consumption and a throwaway economy that is energy and resource intensive, generating waste and pollution, and depleting the Earth’s natural resources.”
How can we provide enough fertilizer and arable land to growing countries? How do we conserve water where it’s most needed? How do we switch over from burning fossil fuels in every country to a renewable portfolio of solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and hydrogen systems? How do we replace SUVs and McMansions with highly efficient, healthy homes?
All of these ideas have been on the table for decades, although progress has been made most notably in Northern Europe, which is working toward ambitious goals to free itself from fossil fuels and create a renewable energy grid.
The biggest obstacle to change has been our human-centered entitlement to global resources, which should be transformed to a responsible sharing of the commons, not an increasingly privatized resource. The earth can be managed more like a public library, not a buffet.
Ultimately, the almost immutable human mantra “it’s all about me” needs to be swapped with a shared prosperity and purpose “made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness,” the Pope notes.
Focus on quality of life over quantity of goods.

The most radical concept of all to be considered by world leaders? How to replace the damaging, universal dogma of economic growth with what the Pope calls “authentic humanity.”
That means more efficient and hospitable cities that embrace the poor, smaller/local commerce, better public transportation, respect for all species, and a new focus on quality of life over quantity of goods.

In crafting a truly integral approach that treats ecology, economics and ethics as points on an equilateral triangle, we’ll not only be addressing climate change, but safeguarding our deeper spiritual journey on this bountiful planet. Since Tesla was fervent advocate of world peace, he would’ve endorsed this worldview.
But to achieve this mission, we need to adhere to some of Tesla’s principles. We must visualize, conceptualize, and create solutions, then aggressively collaborate to make them blossom. Ecology is about relationships, but nothing can happen without consensus and cooperation.
John F. Wasik is a journalist, speaker, and the author of 17 books. 

This column is adapted from Lightning Strikes; Timeless Lessons in Creativity from the Life and Work of Nikola Tesla (Sterling, 2016)

Press link for more: Market Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Press link for more: motherjones.com

The Crazy Climate Technofix #auspol 

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

 Some posit geoengineering as a radical fix to climate change.

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

Welcome to the debate where science fiction meets climate science.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a sticking plaster solution. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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