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

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

Now time is running out |

Richard WilesFri 16 Mar 2018 01.47 AEDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press link for more: The Guardian


World scientists’ warning to humanity #auspol #sapol #StopAdani

World scientists’ warning to humanity

By Rex Weyler

Rex Weyler was a director of the original Greenpeace Foundation, the editor of the organisation’s first newsletter, and a co-founder of Greenpeace International in 1979.

Environmental activists and organisations typically try and stay positive, to give people hope that we can change.

Positive signs exist, going back to the historic whaling and toxic dumping bans of the 1980s.

The 1987 Montreal Protocol, reducing CFC gas emissions, led to a partial recovery of the ozone hole.

Birth rates have declined in some regions, and forests and freshwater have been restored in some regions.

The world’s nations have, at least, made promises to reduce carbon emissions, even if action has been slow.

A challenge we face as ecologists and environmentalists, however, is that when we step back from our victories and assess the big picture – the global pace of climate change, forest loss, biodiversity decline – we must admit: our achievements have not been enough.

Children playing near a coal plant in Central Java

25 years ago, in 1992, the Union of Concerned Scientists issued the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” signed by 1,700 scientists, including most living Nobel laureates.

They presented disturbing data regarding freshwater, marine fisheries, climate, population, forests, soil, and biodiversity.

They warned that “a great change” was necessary to avoid “vast human misery.”

This year, on the 25th anniversary of that warning, the Alliance of World Scientists published a second warning – an evaluation of our collective progress.

With the exception of stabilising ozone depletion, they report that “humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse.”

A short history of warnings

Environmental awareness is not new.

Over 2,500 years ago, Chinese Taoists articulated the disconnect between human civilisation and ecological values.

Later Taoist Bao Jingyan warned that “fashionable society goes against the true nature of things… harming creatures to supply frivolous adornments.”

Modern warnings began in the 18th century, at the dawn of the industrial age, particularly from Thomas Malthus, who warned that an exponentially growing population on a finite planet would reach ecological limits.

Modern growth advocates have ridiculed Malthus for being wrong, but his logic and maths are impeccable.

He did not foresee the discovery of petroleum, which allowed economists to ignore Malthus for two centuries, aggravating the crisis that Malthus correctly identified.

Rachel Carson ignited the modern environmental movement in 1962 with Silent Spring, warning of eminent biodiversity collapse.

A decade later, in the early days of Greenpeace, the Club of Rome published The Limits To Growth, using data to describe what we could see with our eyes: declining forests and biodiversity, and resources, clashing head-on with growing human population and consumption demands.

Conventional economists mocked the idea of limits, but The Limits to Growth projections have proven accurate.

In 2009, in Nature journal, a group of scientists lead by Johan Rockström published Planetary Boundaries, warning humanity that essential ecological systems – biodiversity, climate, nutrient cycles, and others – had moved beyond ecological limits to critical tipping points.

Melting iceberg in the Southern Ocean

Three years later, 22 international scientists published a paper called ‘Approaching a State Shift in Earth’s Biosphere’ which warned that human growth had “the potential to transform Earth…  into a state unknown in human experience.” Canadian co-author, biologist Arne Mooers lamented, “humans have not done anything really important to stave off the worst. My colleagues… are terrified.”

In 2014 Michael Gerst, Paul Raskin, and Johan Rockström published ‘Contours of a Resilient Global Future’ in Sustainability 6, searching for viable future scenarios that considered both the natural limits to growth and realistic targets for human development. They warned that the challenge is “daunting” and that “marginal changes” are insufficient.

Last year, the UN International Resource Panel (IRP), published ‘Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity’ warning nations that global resources are limited, human consumption trends are unsustainable, and that resource depletion will have unpleasant impacts on human health, quality of life, and future development.

This year, the second “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” alerted us again that marginal changes appear insignificant and that we are surpassing “the limits of what the biosphere can tolerate without substantial and irreversible harm.”

The data speaks

The Alliance of World Scientists researchers tracked data over the last 25 years, since the 1992 warning. They cite some hopeful signs, such as the decline in ozone-depleting CFC gases, but report that, from a global perspective, our “changes in environmental policy, human behavior, and global inequities… are far from sufficient.”

Here’s what the data shows:

Ozone: CFC (chlorofluorocarbons) emissions are down by 68% since 1992, due to the 1987 UN Montreal Protocol. The ozone layer is expected to reach 1980 levels by mid-century. This is the good news.

Freshwater: Water resources per capita have declined by 26% since 1992. Today, about one billion people suffer from a lack of fresh, clean water, “nearly all due to the accelerated pace of human population growth” exacerbated by rising temperatures.

Fisheries: The global marine catch is down by 6.4% since 1992, despite advances in industrial fishing technology. Larger ships with bigger nets and better sonar cannot catch fish that are not there.

Ocean dead zones: Oxygen-depleted zones have increased by 75 %, caused by fertilizer runoff and fossil-fuel use. Acidification due to carbon emissions kills coral reefs that act as marine breeding grounds.

Forests: By area, forests have declined by 2.8% since 1992, but with a simultaneous decline in forest health, timber volume, and quality. Forest loss has been greatest where forests are converted to agricultural land. Forest decline feeds back through the ecosystem as reduced carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and freshwater.

Biodiversity: Vertebrate abundance has declined 28.9 %. Collectively, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals have declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012. This is harrowing.

CO2 emissions: Regardless of international promises, CO2 emissions have increased by 62% since 1960.

Temperature change: The global average surface temperature is increasing in parallel to CO2 emissions. The 10 warmest years in the 136-year record have occurred since 1998. Scientists warn that heating will likely cause a decline in the world’s major food crops, an increase in storm intensity, and a substantial sea level rise, inundating coastal cities.

Population: We’ve put 2 billion more humans on this planet since 1992 – that’s a 35 % increase. To feed ourselves, we’ve increased livestock by 20.5 %. Humans and livestock now comprise 98.5% of mammal biomass on Earth. The scientists stress that we need to find ways to stabilise or reverse human population growth. “Our large numbers,” they warn, “exert stresses on Earth that can overwhelm other efforts to realise a sustainable future”

Soil: The scientists report a lack of global data, but from national data we can see that soil productivity has declined around the world (by up to 50% in some regions), due to nutrient depletion, erosion, and desertification. The EU reports losing 970 million tonnes of topsoil annually to erosion. The US Department of Agriculture estimates 75 billion tons of soil lost annually worldwide, costing nations $400 billion (€340 billion) in lost crop yields.

The pending question

“We are jeopardising our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption,” the scientists warn, “and by not perceiving … population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and societal threats.”

The Alliance of World Scientists report offers some hope, in the form of steps that we can take to begin a more serious transition to sustainability:

• Expand well-managed reserves – terrestrial, marine, freshwater, and aerial – to preserve biodiversity and ecosystem services.

• Restore native plant communities, particularly forests, and native fauna species, especially apex predators, to restore ecosystem integrity.

• End poaching, exploitation, and trade of threatened species.

• Reduce food waste and promote dietary shifts towards plant-based foods.

•  Increase outdoor nature education and appreciation for children and adults.

• Divest from destructive industries and invest in genuine sustainability. That means phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels, and adopting renewable energy sources on a large scale.

• Revise economic systems to reduce wealth inequality and account for the real costs that consumption patterns impose on our environment.

• Reduce the human birth-rate with gender-equal access to education and family-planning.

These proposed solutions are not new, but the emphasis on population is important, and often overlooked. Some environmentalists avoid discussing human population, since it raises concerns about human rights. We know that massive consumption by the wealthiest 15% of us is a fundamental cause of the ecological crisis. Meanwhile, the poorest individuals consume far less than their fair share of available resources.

Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

As an ecologist, I feel compelled to ask myself: if the last 50 years of environmental action, research, warnings, meetings, legislation, regulation, and public awareness has proven insufficient, despite our victories, then what else do we need to do?

That question, and an integrated, rigorous, serious answer, needs to be a central theme of the next decade of environmentalism.

Rex Weyler is an author, journalist and co-founder of Greenpeace International.

Resources and Links:

World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice; eight authors and 15,364 scientist signatories from 184 countries; BioScience, W.J. Ripple, et. al., 13 November 2017

List of 15,364 signatories from 184 Countries: Oregon State University

Alliance of World Scientists:  Oregon State University

Recovery of Ozone depletion after Montreal Protocol: B. Ewenfeldt, “Ozonlagret mår bättre”, Arbetarbladet 12 September, 2014.

Fertility rate reduction in some regions: UN

Accuracy of Limits to Growth Study: “Is Global Collapse Imminent? An Update to Limits to Growth with Historical Data,” Graham Turner, 2014): Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute

“Contours of a Resilient Global Future,” Michael Gerst, Paul Raskin, and Johan Rockström,  Sustainability 6, 2014.

Arithmetic, Population, and Energy: Albert Bartlett video lecture on exponential growth

William Rees, The Way Forward: Survival 2100, Solutions Journal, human overshoot and genuine solutions.

Johan Rockström, et. al., “Planetary Boundaries,” Nature, September 23, 2009.

Anthony D. Barnosky, et. al., “Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere,” Nature, June 7, 2012.

Press link for more: Greenpeace

Welcome to the Third Industrial Revolution #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Welcome to the Third Industrial Revolution

Arianna Huffington

In his 2009 book “The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis,“ Jeremy Rifkin posed one of the defining questions of our time: in a hyper-connected world, what is the goal of all that unprecedented technological connectivity? “Seven billion individual connections,” he wrote, “absent any overall unifying purpose, seem a colossal waste of human energy.”

Now, I’m delighted that The WorldPost is featuring a new series by Rifkin exploring how the possibilities of an even more connected world can lead to solutions to one of our greatest crises: climate change.

With 2015 widely predicted to supersede 2014 as the hottest year on record, the topic’s relevance and timeliness are obvious. According to analysis by Climate Central, “13 of the hottest 15 years on record have all occurred since 2000 and … the odds of that happening randomly without the boost of global warming is 1 in 27 million.”

‘Thirteen of the hottest 15 years on record have all occurred since 2000 and … the odds of that happening randomly without the boost of global warming is 1 in 27 million.’

At the same time, we’re in a moment of real promise, which is why the series, the “Third Industrial Revolution,” will focus not only on the climate crisis but also on the wealth of innovation, creativity and potential solutions out there, which media too often overlook.

Rifkin, one of our premier scholars and thinkers whose work confronts a range of global challenges, sees the rise of “a new biosphere consciousness, as the human race begins to perceive the Earth as its indivisible community. We are each beginning to take on our responsibilities as stewards of the planetary ecosystems that sustain all of life,” he writes. And this new consciousness is coalescing at a moment when we are seeing a tipping point on climate change — both in terms of awareness and action.

For instance, we have seen an unprecedented commitment to common action by the leaders of the two largest economies in the world — the U.S. and China — to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In September, cities, states and provinces from around the world came together in Los Angeles to make the same commitment and to find practical ways to work together at both the global and local levels.

In June, Pope Francis drew worldwide attention to climate change with the release of his encyclical “Laudato Si,” which elevated the issue to a spiritual challenge and moral imperative. As HuffPost’s Jaweed Kaleem wrote at the time of the encyclical’s publication:

In the lengthy treatise, more broadly addressed to ‘every person’ who lives on Earth, the pope lays out a moral case for supporting sustainable economic and population growth as part of the church’s mission and humanity’s responsibility to protect God’s creation for future generations. While saying that there were natural causes to climate change over the earth’s history, the letter also says in strong words that human activity and production of greenhouse gases are to blame.

Then there is the U.N. summit on climate change, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris, with the goal of reaching a binding international agreement to reduce emissions. As President Obama told Rolling Stone in September, looking ahead to the Paris talks, “we’re now in a position for the first time to have all countries recognize their responsibilities to tackle the problem, and to have a meaningful set of targets as well as the financing required to help poor countries adapt.” If the summit leads to meaningful commitments, Obama said, that will pave the way for future progress: “Hope builds on itself. Success breeds success.”

For all the promise and possibility of official gatherings, much of the change we need will come from outside the halls of power. This is where technological advances and innovations, including the Internet of Things, are especially important. Rifkin sees tremendous potential in this aspect of increased connectivity: “For the first time in history,” he writes, “the entire human race can collaborate directly with one another, democratizing economic life.” Advances in digital connectivity, renewable energy sources and smart transportation are allowing us to responsibly shift the way we see the world and our place in it.

Rifkin labels all this the “Third Industrial Revolution” because, “to grasp the enormity of the economic change taking place, we need to understand the technological forces that have given rise to new economic systems throughout history.”

In the coming weeks, our series will outline the path ahead for the realization of this Third Industrial Revolution. And a range of other voices will join the conversation, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on how the Internet of Things can boost China’s manufacturing base and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on the need for a new, forward-looking narrative for European unity that captures the imagination of young people.

So please join the conversation on climate change, technology and the growing global movement toward solutions. And, as always, use the comments section to let us know what you think. Read the first essay here.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

Climate change is a disaster foretold, just like the First World War #auspol #StopAdani

Climate change is a disaster foretold, just like the first world war

Jeff Sparrow

“The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”

The mournful remark supposedly made by foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey at dusk on 3 August 1914 referred to Britain’s imminent entry into the first world war. But the sentiment captures something of our own moment, in the midst of an intensifying campaign against nature.

According to the World Wildlife Fund’s 2016 Living Planet Report, over the last four decades the international animal population was reduced by nearly 60%. More than a billion fewer birds inhabit North America today compared to 40 years ago. In Britain, certain iconic species (grey partridges, tree sparrows, etc) have fallen by 90%. In Germany, flying insects have declined by 76% over the past 27 years. Almost half of Borneo’s orangutans died or were removed between 1999 and 2015. Elephant numbers have dropped by 62% in a decade, with on average one adult killed by poachers every 15 minutes.

We inherited a planet of beauty and wonders – and we’re saying goodbye to all that.

The cultural historian Paul Fussell once identified the catastrophe of the first world war with the distinctive sensibility of modernity, noting how 20th century history had “domesticate[d] the fantastic and normalize[d] the unspeakable.”

Consider, then, the work of climate change.

In February, for instance, scientists recorded temperatures 35 degrees above the historical average in Siberia, a phenomenon that apparently corresponded with the unprecedented cold snap across Europe.

As concentrated CO2 intensifies extreme events, a new and diabolical weather will, we’re told, become the norm for a generation already accustomising itself to such everyday atrocities as about eight million tons of plastics are washed into the ocean each year.

It may seem impossible to imagine, that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we’re now in the process of doing.”

This passage from the New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert concluded a piece on global warming, which was published way back in 2005. Over the 13 years since, the warnings from scientists have grown both more specific and desperate – and yet the march to destruction has only redoubled its pace.

The extraordinary – almost absurd – contrast between what we should be doing and what’s actually taking place fosters low-level climate denialism. Coral experts might publicise, again and again and again, the dire state of the Great Barrier Reef but the ongoing political inaction inevitably blunts their message.

It can’t be so bad, we think: if a natural wonder were truly under threat, our politicians wouldn’t simply stand aside and watch.

The first world war killed 20 million people and maimed 21 million others. It shattered the economy of Europe, displaced entire populations, and set in train events that culminated, scarcely two decades later, with another, even more apocalyptic slaughter

And it, too, was a disaster foretold, a widely-anticipated cataclysm that proceeded more-on-less schedule despite regular warnings about what was to come.

As early as 1898, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia initiated a conference to discuss international arbitration and limit the arms race taking place in Europe. At its opening session at The Hague, he noted that the competition between nations, in which each country was building up its forces to defend against its neighbours, had “transform[ed] the armed peace into a crushing burden that weighs on all nations and, if prolonged, will lead to the very cataclysm that it seeks to avert.”

Over the next years, the rivalries intensified, leading to further militarisation and a complex series of (often secret) treaties, as, between 1908 and 1913, the military spending of the major powers increased by 50%.

In 1912, the international socialist movement had staged an emergency meeting in Basel in Switzerland in which representatives from almost every nation spoke out for peace.

“The great European peoples are constantly on the point of being driven against one another,” the congress resolved, “although these attempts are against humanity and reason cannot be justified by even the slightest pretext of being in the interest of the people.”

Yet in early 1914, Winston Churchill noted that “the world is arming as it has never armed before”. The eventual declaration of war in August that year was still a shock – but only in the sense that those attending a patient expiring from a long illness might be startled by the death rattle.

The appeals to humanity and reason did not move states jostling for trade and commercial advantages. For the people of Europe, the arms race was disastrous; for specific governments, it made perfect sense, for those who did not compete risked falling behind.

The same might be said today.

From a global perspective, the necessity to abandon fossil fuels cannot be denied. But for individual economies, change risks undermining comparative advantages.

If we don’t sell coal, says Malcolm Turnbull, our competitors will – which was, of course precisely the logic of the British fleet expansion in 1908.

The devastation of the first world war eventually engendered a wave of revolt from a populace appalled at the carnage their politicians had wrought.

Climate change has not yet spurred an equivalent of the mutinies in France or the revolution in Petrograd or the uprising in Berlin.

Yet Labor’s appalling equivocation over the Adani mine – a piece of environmental vandalism for which there can be no justification – illustrates the urgency with which we need a new and different type of politics.

The stakes could not be higher. Lamps are going out all over the natural world … and no one will ever see them lit again.

• Jeff Sparrow is a Guardian Australia columnist

Press link for more: The Guardian

Fierce debate over monster coal mine #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

It would be one of the biggest mines on the planet, occupying an area nearly three times larger than Paris, where world leaders hammered out a landmark agreement to combat climate change in late 2015.

If the A$16.5bn (£10bn; $12.5bn) project goes ahead in Queensland’s Galilee Basin – and latest indications are that it will – the coal produced there will emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year than entire countries such as Kuwait and Chile, claim its opponents.

Delayed for six years by a stream of legal challenges and environmental impact assessments, the so-called Carmichael mine – to be developed and operated by the Indian mining giant Adani – has polarised Australians.

Supporters, who include local communities, the federal and Queensland governments, and, naturally, the resources industry, insist that it will bring jobs and prosperity to a depressed region of Queensland.

Critics, on the other hand, among them environmentalists and climate scientists, warn that the 60m tonnes of coal to be dug up annually from Carmichael’s 45km (28-mile) pits will exacerbate global warming and threaten the already ailing Great Barrier Reef .

They also say Australia is out of step with international moves to decrease reliance on fossil fuels, in line with the Paris agreement to limit average temperature rises to “well below” two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

India itself recently forecast that 57% of its electricity would come from renewable sources by 2027. Britain plans to close all its coal-fired plants by 2025 , while Canada aims to do so by 2030 .

In Australia, by contrast, the conservative government is talking up “clean coal” – a commodity most experts consider a pipe dream – and attacking renewable energy as unreliable and expensive. It has also ruled out any kind of emissions trading scheme.

Does coal have a place?

Already the world’s biggest exporter of thermal coal (the type used to generate electricity), Australia is now eyeing new markets in Asia.

In collaboration with Japan, which manufactures power stations, it is “actively encouraging developing countries such as Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to build new coal-fired generators so we can sell coal to them”, Richard Denniss, chief economist at the Australia Institute, a progressive think-tank, told the BBC.

With its long gestation and massive scale – six open-cut and up to three underground mines sprawling across 250sq km of arid landscape, with the entire operation engulfing almost twice that area – Carmichael has become a flashpoint for pro- and anti-coal forces.

Adani has already spent A$1.3bn on the Carmichael mine project

The former contend that its coal will provide millions of Indians with cheap, reliable electricity, lifting them out of “energy poverty”. Royalties from the mine will also give a much-needed boost to the Queensland government’s finances.

The latter see it as a symbol of Australia’s reluctance to commit to the radical action which scientists say is required to prevent dangerous levels of warming.

Frank Jotzo, director of the Australian National University’s Centre for Climate Economics and Policy, warns: “The opening up of new mining areas like the Galilee Basin is fundamentally incompatible with the global goal of well below two degrees.”

Like others, Prof Jotzo is unconvinced by arguments to the contrary. For instance, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – who has called coal “a very important part… of the global energy mix and likely to remain that way for a very long time” – has said that developing Carmichael would not push up global supply.

Mr Turnbull has also said that, far from reducing global emissions, calling a halt to Australian coal exports could actually increase them, since the likes of India would import dirtier coal from elsewhere.

‘Clean’ coal argument

According to the Australia Institute, the quality of coal in the Galilee Basin – an area bigger than the United Kingdom – is among Australia’s poorest. (“Dirty” coal has a lower energy content, meaning more of it has to be burnt.)

The federal Environment and Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, claims there is a “moral case” for Australia to supply coal to developing nations.

Protesters opposed to the mine rally in December

Others point to the serious health costs of pollution caused by burning coal, and to forecasts that climate change will hit the world’s poorest hardest. Critics also say solar energy could power remote Indian villages more easily and cheaply.

Until relatively recently, some were predicting that Adani would walk away from the Galilee, frustrated by funding difficulties, the lengthy environmental assessments and the court actions, one of which concerned the mine’s impact on the yakka skink, an endangered reptile.

One by one, though, the company has cleared the regulatory hurdles, albeit with 190 state and 36 federal conditions now attached to the project.

Last December came the high-profile announcement that the last major element had been approved: a rail line to transport coal from the mine, 400km inland, to the export terminal, near the Great Barrier Reef.

An Adani spokesman notes that the company has already spent A$1.3bn on the project, including more than A$100m on legal fees – “without putting one shovel in the ground”. Those figures, he says, “show the company’s commitment”.

Lately, opposition has focused on news that the federal government is considering giving Adani a cheap A$1bn loan to build the rail link – infrastructure which some fear could become a “stranded [obsolete] asset”.

Getty Images

Adani founder Gautam Adani (left) with Australia’s then Trade Minister Andrew Robb and Rio Tinto’s ex-CEO Sam Walsh in 2015

Prof Jotzo told the BBC: “It’s questionable whether this mine will still be a viable proposition in two decades’ time, whereas infrastructure such as a rail line or port expansion [also planned by Adani] would have a lifetime of 50 to 100 years.”

With construction of the mine expected to begin by late 2017 – assuming final legal appeals, including one by a local indigenous landowners’ group, are rejected – activists are gearing up for a campaign of mass protests.

One of the biggest issues galvanising opponents is the potential impact on the Great Barrier Reef, both indirectly through intensifying climate change, and directly through dredging of the seafloor to expand port facilities and increasing shipping across the reef.

As for jobs, Adani’s own economist has admitted in court that, rather than creating 10,000 positions, as the company has promised, the mine will employ fewer than 1,500 people.

Press link for more: BBC.COM

How Fish Are Migrating from Warming Waters

Feeling the Heat: How Fish Are Migrating from Warming Waters

Steadily rising ocean temperatures are forcing fish to abandon their historic territories and move to cooler waters.

The result is that fishermen’s livelihoods are being disrupted, as fisheries regulators scramble to incorporate climate change into their planning.


The Cape Cod Canal is a serpentine artificial waterway that winds eight miles from Cape Cod Bay to Buzzards Bay. On warm summer evenings, anglers jostle along its banks casting for striped bass. That’s what 29-year-old Justin Sprague was doing the evening of August 6, 2013, when he caught a fish from the future.

Read this article in ESPAÑOL or PORTUGUÉS.

At first, Sprague thought the enormous fish that engulfed his Storm blue herring lure was a shark. But as he battled the behemoth in the gloaming — the fish leaping repeatedly, crashing down in sheets of spray — he realized he’d hooked something far weirder. When the fisherman finally dragged his adversary onto the beach, a small crowd gathered to admire the creature’s metallic body, flared dorsal fin, and rapier-like bill. Sprague had caught a sailfish.

It doesn’t take an ichthyologist to know that sailfish don’t belong in the Cape Cod Canal. Istiophorus albicans favors the tropics and subtropics; it so rarely visits New England that Massachusetts didn’t even have a state record. But strange catches — including cobia and torpedo rays — have become more commonplace. Over the last decade, the Gulf of Maine, the basin that stretches from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, has warmed faster than nearly every other tract of ocean on earth, as climate change joined forces with a natural oceanographic pattern called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation to increase sea surface temperatures by 3.6 F from 2004 to 2013. The results have been ecological transformation, upheaval in marine fisheries management, and an alarming window onto the warm future of global oceans.

Although the Gulf of Maine has faced tumultuous change, it’s far from the only marine ecosystem being turned upside-down. The general — although far from universal — trend, according to a 2013 Nature study, is that fish in hot water flee toward higher latitudes, moving poleward to remain within their preferred temperature ranges. In Portugal, fishermen have caught nearly 20 new species in recent years, many from warmer climes. Chinook salmon are infiltrating Arctic rivers that they rarely, if ever, entered before, even as salmon are imperiled by drought and warming waters in California and Oregon. And in northern Europe, says Steve Simpson, a marine ecologist at the University of Exeter in England, sardines have replaced herring, coldwater-loving cod and haddock are heading north, and bottom-dwelling sole risk being “pushed off a cliff” as suitably cool water temperatures drift away from the continental shelf.

The ocean is warmer today than at any time since record-keeping began in 1880.

“I’m optimistic that we can have sustainable and productive fisheries, but they’re not going to be the fish we used to catch,” Simpson says. “It’s a changing of the guard.”

For decades, the ocean has served as our best defense against climate change, absorbing 90 percent of the atmosphere’s excess heat. But acting as a planetary sponge has taken a toll. Since 1970, global sea surface temperature has increased by around 1 degree F. The ocean is warmer today than at any time since record-keeping began in 1880.

As water temperatures have spiked along the U.S. East Coast, the Atlantic’s inhabitants have undergone a dramatic rearrangement. According to an analysis by researchers at Rutgers University, black sea bass, once most abundant off the coast of North Carolina, have shifted two degrees of latitude north, to New Jersey, over the last half-century. Lobsters have all but vanished from Long Island Sound — where rising temperatures have made the crustaceans more susceptible to disease — and, at least for now, proliferated in the Gulf of Maine. Butterfish have supplanted herring in the Gulf, with disastrous consequences for baby puffins, which struggle to swallow the disc-shaped interlopers and starve to death. Even blue crabs, the invertebrate icon of Chesapeake and Delaware bays, have arrived in the Gulf of Maine. A recent study in the journal Progress in Oceanography suggested that continued warming could reduce the range of species from Acadian redfish to thorny skate.

Black sea bass, once abundant in North Carolina, have moved north to New England. NOAA NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE

Although warming water is the most immediate agent of oceanic chaos, it’s just one front in climate change’s three-pronged assault on marine life. As the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide, it becomes more acidic and less saturated with the calcium carbonate that organisms like corals and pteropods — planktonic snails that support food webs — need to build shells. Fish are far from immune: Ocean acidification may disrupt the development of larval fish and reduce their survival rates, according to a study last year in the journal PLOS One.

Deoxygenation is an even more immediate threat. Scientists have long been acquainted with low-oxygen “dead zones” that form annually in the Gulf of Mexico, the Chesapeake Bay, and other coastal areas where agricultural runoff accumulates. As oceans heat up, those localized hypoxic areas are expected to spread: Not only does warm water hold less dissolved oxygen than cool water, it also tends to divide into layers that don’t readily mix. According to one recent study, the ocean has been losing oxygen since the mid-1980s, likely because rising temperatures have impeded circulation. Lisa Levin, a professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, points out that not all creatures are equally fazed: Along the naturally oxygen-poor Pacific Coast, marine life is well evolved to cope. But all animals have their limits.

“When oxygen goes way down, it’s effectively habitat loss,” Levin says. “They might move north, they might move upslope into shallower water.” Species that can’t easily relocate, like muck-dwelling invertebrates, may perish.

The cruel corollary to deoxygenation is that warmer waters also drive up animals’ metabolic rates, forcing them to use more oxygen to breathe. As Curtis Deutsch,  a chemical oceanographer at the University of Washington, puts it, “They need more, at the same time that they have less.” In 2015, Deutsch and co-authors published a study in Science analyzing how the double bind of warm water and deoxygenation would change distributions for common species like cod, rock crab, and eelpout. Deutsch found the creatures would lose 14 to 26 percent of their habitat. “If you’re going to manage for the long-term viability of fisheries, you need to think carefully about the patterns of oxygen loss in the ocean,” Deutsch says.

As stocks shift, many fishermen face a choice: follow the schools northward, or pursue different species.

When climate change and its harmful effects force fish to relocate, entire ecosystems can suffer. That’s what’s happened in the Mediterranean, Australia, and Japan, where tropical grazers like parrotfish, butterflyfish, and rabbitfish have colonized once-temperate ecosystems. As these herbivores expand their range, they graze kelp forests to nubbins, leaving barren wastelands in their wake — a phenomenon known in Japan as isoyake.

Adriana Vergés, a marine ecologist at the University of New South Wales, says that the tropical incursion has created opportunities as well as crises. In the Mediterranean, a cottage fishery has developed around seaweed-munching rabbitfish, while coral has filled the niche vacated by kelp in some Japanese waters. But in other places, the disruption has been catastrophic: Vergés says that the combination of overgrazing and warming water has reduced the extent of kelp by around 60 miles along the coast in Western Australia, depleting valuable species, like abalone and lobster, which take cover beneath seaweed canopies. Vergés fears that kelp and its dependents may be driven south along the Australian coast until they simply run out of near-shore habitat.

“Here, species move toward the poles,” she says, “but there comes a point where they can’t move anymore.”

While poleward shifts are the rule, exceptions abound. In the Gulf of Maine, many species are drifting southwest instead, seeking cooler spots that form closer to shore. A 2013 Science study analyzed more than 350 groups of marine organisms and found that their movements closely followed local “climate velocity,” the rate and direction of climatic change. More surprising was that those shifts didn’t always track northward — species in the Gulf of Alaska, for instance, moved south in concord with a natural cycle of Pacific cooling. The lesson: The ocean doesn’t warm uniformly, and local conditions drive fish movements as much as broader trends.

In the face of rapid turnover, some agencies and fishing communities have begun considering seafood’s future. In 2016, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists found that around half the Northeast’s fish and shellfish were highly vulnerable to climate change — particularly species like shad, salmon, and sturgeon, which spend part of their lives in freshwater and must therefore contend with changing conditions in rivers as well as oceans. A parallel NOAA study suggested that ports whose economic fates are hitched to vulnerable species — like New Bedford, Massachusetts, which depends on scallops for around 80 percent of its landings — face particular risk, while towns like Point Judith, Rhode Island, whose fishermen catch the gamut from squid to monkfish to lobster, could fare better.

“Ports with fairly diverse fishing portfolios might have an easier time adapting,” says Jon Hare, director of NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

As stocks shift, many fishermen face a choice: follow the schools northward, or pursue different species. Either way, larger-scale, well-heeled fishermen have an advantage, spelling further trouble for beleaguered “day boats” whose captains are already burdened by overfishing, stringent regulations, and industry consolidation. “It may be more difficult for (small-scale) fishermen to react to climate change, because they have less ability to go longer distances, they can carry fewer fish, and they may have less familiarity with fish species in another area,” warns Tom Nies, chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council.

In fits and starts, regulators have begun incorporating climate change into their decision-making: In 2014, for instance, NOAA used water temperature data to set catch limits for butterfish. But such case studies, Nies says, have been “few and far between,” and most regulations remain frustratingly rigid. As summer flounder, black sea bass, and other species migrate north, catch allocations have been slow to follow. Fishermen in North Carolina hold the highest black sea bass quota, for instance, even though the fishery has crept into New England. The absurd upshot is that North Carolinians must motor north for ten hours to catch their share, while New Englanders often have to discard bass.

“The impacts of a changing climate will be far more severe if the data used — and regulation that follows — fails to keep pace with environmental changes,” U.S. Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut cautioned in a 2016 letter to the inspector general of the Department of Commerce, which oversees NOAA.

The squabble over sea bass quotas looks positively tame compared to Europe’s so-called “herring and mackerel wars.” That altercation arose around 2010, as warming seas drove the two prized species away from Scottish and Irish waters and toward Iceland and the Faroe Islands. After Iceland and the Faroes — neither of which is a member of the European Union — unilaterally raised their own fishing quotas to exploit the sudden abundance, the irate EU imposed trade sanctions to rein in the catch. Although the combatants eventually negotiated a deal, the University of Exeter’s Simpson warns that the world almost certainly hasn’t seen the last of international disputes over border-crossing fish.

Tropical rabbitfish are now found in the Mediterranean.  POOJARATHOD/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

While fisheries managers can’t predict precisely how individual species will respond to warming oceans, they can implement nimbler regulatory systems capable of responding swiftly to environmental change.  When a vast pool of warm water, dubbed “The Blob,” materialized in the eastern Pacific in the past several years — an oceanographic oddity that, while not directly caused by climate change, had similar biodiversity-scrambling effects — Elliott Hazen, an ecologist at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center, says the agency used it as a “climate stress test,” an opportunity for the government to assess its preparedness for future warming. For example, after California fishermen began hauling up halibut that usually dwell farther north — fish that had perhaps been displaced from their normal range by the Blob — the Pacific Fishery Management Council rapidly redistributed quotas from anglers in southern Oregon to fishermen in the Golden State.

The future of global fish movements may be murky, Hazen says, but scientists and managers need to get better at expecting the unexpected. “There are always going to be unforeseen events,” says Hazen. “What you can do is make sure your management plans are climate-ready.”

Ben Goldfarb is a freelance environmental journalist based in New Haven, Connecticut, and correspondent at High Country News.

His writing has appeared in Orion Magazine, Scientific American, and The Guardian, among other publications.

He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_A_Goldfarb. MORE



Press link for more: E360.Yale.edu

20,000 scientists give dire warning about the future of humanity! #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

20,000 scientists give dire warning about the future in ‘letter to humanity’ – and the world is listening

Andrew GriffinWednesday 7 March 2018 13:00 GMT

A dire warning to the world about its future, which predicts catastrophe for humanity, is continuing to gain momentum.

The letter – which was first released in November – has now been signed by around 20,000 scientists. And the world seems to be listening: it is now one of the most discussed pieces of scientific research ever, and its publishers claim it is now influencing policy.

The new letter was actually an update to a an original warning sent from the Union of Concerned Scientists that was backed by 1,700 signatures 25 years ago.

It said that the world had changed dramatically since that warning was issued – and almost entirely for the worse.

Mankind is still facing the existential threat of runaway consumption of limited resources by a rapidly growing population, they warned. And “scientists, media influencers and lay citizens” aren’t doing enough to fight against it, the letter read.

If the world doesn’t act soon, there will be catastrophic biodiversity loss and untold amounts of human misery, they wrote.

Now scientists have written a follow-up piece in which they argue scientists and economists need to switch their focus from encouraging growth to conserving the planet. “There are critical environmental limits to resource-dependent economic growth,” the authors state.

The original letter was signed by more than 15,000 scientists. But it has since been endorsed by a further 4,500 – taking the total to around 20,000 and giving further encouragement to scientists working to counteract the dangers highlighted in the letter.

The lead author of the warning letter and new response paper, ecology Professor William Ripple, from Oregon State University, said: “Our scientists’ warning to humanity has clearly struck a chord with both the global scientific community and the public.”

The publishers of the letter now say that the letter is the sixth most-discussed piece of research since Altmetric records, which track publications’ impact, began. It has prompted speeches in the Israeli Knesset and Canada’s BC Legislature.

Press link for more: Independent.co.uk

Implementing Paris Agreement Could Save USD 54 Trillion in Health Care #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

UN Climate Change News, 5 March 2018 – Meeting the objectives of the Paris Climate Change Agreement by investing in low emissions technology would save governments around USD 54 trillion in health care costs by mid-century, leading medical experts say in a new report.

Investing in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions would be far cheaper than paying the health costs associated with polluted air, and would also result in millions fewer premature deaths, write the authors of a study published in the Lancet Planetary Health.

According to the World Health Organization, 92% of people who live in cities do not breathe safe air, and 6.5 million people die each year due to poor ambient air quality.

The report also outlines basic climate policy options which would have an immediate and positive impact both on the health and economies of the world’s societies.

“Removing fossil fuel subsidies and implementing carbon taxes could, if properly designed, improve health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, redistribute wealth, and stimulate employment,” say the authors of “Health co-benefits from air pollution and mitigation costs of the Paris Agreement: a modelling study”.

Image: WHO

The burning of fossil fuels in motor vehicles, operations of industrial facilities and using dirty energy for residential heating, cooking, and lighting are the main causes of bad air quality.

“The good news is that ambient air pollution can be controlled and the diseases it causes prevented. Ambient air pollution is not the unavoidable consequence of modern economic growth…Cities and countries will need to switch to non-polluting energy sources, encourage active commuting, enhance their transportation networks, redesign industrial processes to eliminate waste, and move away from the resource-intensive so-called take-make-use-dispose model of economic growth towards a clean, sustainable, circular economic model,” said Dr. Phillip J Landrigan, an American epidemiologist and a leading advocate for children’s health, on the Lancet Commission’s Report on Pollution and Health.

The sources of human activity that pollute the air and damage global health, via the Lancet

The UN is presently stepping up efforts to fight air pollution and climate change at the same time, both via international agreement such as the Paris Climate Change Agreement and via campaigns such as BreatheLife 2030, a collaboration between the UN Environmental Programme and the World Health Organization, which aims to help cities measure and set targets for reducing air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions.

And UN Climate Change, together with the Rockefeller Foundation, have embarked on a project to shine a light on solutions to balance the need for both human health and a healthy planet.

Momentum for Change: Planetary Health recognizes and showcases novel solutions to balancing the need for healthy communities with stewardship of natural ecosystems.

“The Paris Agreement explicitly links climate action with a healthier environment – from cleaner air and reduced risks of extreme heatwaves to keeping in check the spread of diseases. Today we need to think differently about the relationship between climate health and human health,” says UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa.

Press link for more: COP23.UNFCCC.INT

UN Collects Data on Losses from Climate Change #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

UN Collects Data on Losses from Climate Change | UNFCCC

UN Climate Change News, 2 March 2017 – The UN has launched a new initiative to quantify the impact of disasters, mainly from extreme weather, to help countries better cope with them.

The UN estimates that around 26 million people are pushed into poverty every year due to extreme weather events, 90% of which are linked to climate change.

A new UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) initiative will collect data on disaster losses as UN Member States implement the Sendai Framework, a global plan for reducing such losses.

“Improving how we manage risk is vital and this requires a deeper understanding of where these losses are occurring and not just for major internationally recorded events.

The silent, small-recurring events such as floods and droughts can take a huge toll on communities which lack essential health services and other coping capacities,” says Mami Mizutori, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction.

144 countries have indicated that they will send their 2017 data by the end of March to its Sendai Framework Monitor online data capture system.

Securing adequate food resources is set to become ever more challenging as climate change accelerates. Curbing emissions and meeting the targets of the Paris Climate Change Agreement is therefore crucial to protecting global populations.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions could be the most significant step we can take towards future climate risk reduction,” says Ricardo Mena, head of UNISDR Support and Monitoring of Sendai Framework Implementation Branch.

Since 2009, an estimated one person every second has been displaced by a disaster as a result of climate change, according to the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR).

The uprooting of economic and social livelihoods is set to increase as the risk of climate-related disasters grow globally.

The Sendai Framework targets and indicators contribute to measuring disaster-related goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular SDG 13 – Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Read more about the UNISDR initiative here

Weather Alert! Cairns “Unliveable” #auspol #qldpol #4corners #ClimateChange #StopAdani

How Australia’s warming climate is changing the way we live and work.

“This is very ‘now’.

This isn’t a future problem which is 10 or 20 or 30 years (away).” Climate Risk Expert

Across Australia, farmers, small businesses, government planners and major corporations have stopped waiting for politicians to decide whether climate change is real.

They’re acting now.

“That debate can rage around us.

If I say to my customers, ‘Don’t worry, in 200 years it will all be okay.’

That’s not going to cut it.” CEO

Mounting evidence suggests our changing climate is having an impact on everything – from what we grow, eat and drink, to house prices and the cost of insurance.

“If you own a home in one of those areas and you try to sell it, you may find that the buyer is saying, ‘Well, I’m not going to be able to insure it.’… Or even, ‘I can’t even get a mortgage on this house because the bank is saying, ‘Well, we don’t want the high-risk properties on our books.'” Climate Risk Expert

Four Corners has travelled from coast to coast to chart how Australians are adapting to the new weather challenges.

“The temperatures are more erratic.

We seem to get frosts in the middle of summer, we’ve had frosts nearly on Christmas day. We’re getting hot, dry weather in the middle of winter.” Cattle farmer

“We were probably sceptics… but when we saw those 10 years of drought and the impact it was having on our business… our board decided that we needed to make some significant changes.” Leading wine maker

From farm kitchens to the board rooms of our major cities, people are changing the way they do business.

“It is clear that directors do have duties to take climate risk into account as a foreseeable financial risk, and a failure to do so may expose them to liability for a breach of their duty of due care and diligence.” Corporate risk adviser

Emergency services and state health departments too, have had to significantly alter the way they operate in the face of increasing “extreme” weather.

“It is a significant hazard for us as emergency management agencies.

We need to plan and prepare for it because we can get a significant number of people who will end up being very unwell.” Director of Emergency Management

This is a story that leaves the politics behind and shows what the challenges are for many people across Australia in the face of this ‘new normal’.

Weather Alert, reported by Michael Brissenden and presented by Sarah Ferguson, goes to air on Monday 5th March at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 6th March at 1.00pm and Wednesday 7th at 11.20pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEDT, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.

Press link for more: ABC.NET.AU/4Corners