Climate Change the hidden Catalyst #Auspol 

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

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

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

Extreme weather, extreme trauma, extreme aggression

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

For starters, climate change has normalized extreme weather events. 

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

Extreme weather has a particularly disturbing link to increased aggression. 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Infographic Timeline of Major 2016 Extreme Weather Events_V4

Link Between Climate Change & Extreme Weather. #auspol 

The Link Between Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events

All extreme weather events are being influenced by climate change as they are now occurring in a more energetic climate system (Trenberth 2012).

While extreme weather events are a natural feature of the climate system, the atmosphere and surface ocean of today contain significantly more heat than in
the 1950s.

 In fact, the rate of increase in global average temperature since 1970
is approximately 170 times the baseline
rate over the past 7,000 years (Marcott et
al. 2013; Ste en et al. 2016; NOAA 2017b). 

This extremely rapid, long-term rate of temperature increase is being driven by
the additional greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that have accumulated primarily from the burning of coal, oil and gas.

Over the past decade climate scientists have made strong progress in identifying the links between climate change and extreme weather events, based on three main lines of evidence:

› The basic physics that govern the behaviour of the climate system shows that extreme weather events are now occurring in a significantly warmer
and wetter atmosphere, which means the atmosphere contains more energy, facilitating more severe extreme weather.

› Where sufficient  long-term data are available, observations show trends towards more intensity in many types of extreme weather events.

› More recently, ‘attribution studies’ based on detailed modelling experiments explore how climate change has already increased the probability that extreme weather events would have occurred.

Press link for full report: Climate Council


Climate Council: Key Findings #auspol #Science

Key Findings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press link for full report: Climate Council


Five famous cities doomed by #ClimateChange #Auspol 

Whether you believe humans are contributing to it or not, climate change is happening, temperatures are rising and ice caps are melting.
At this point, even if we limit global temperature rise to 2oC, studies suggest sea levels will still rise by several feet.
Our civilization is in many ways a coastal one, so when the seas rise, and stay risen, that’ll do a real number on world populations and economies.
Here are five metropolises in climate change’s crosshairs.
Thailand’s capital isn’t just a popular tourist destination. It’s very much a working city, home to 15 per cent of Thailand’s 65 million people. 

It’s the center of a major, growing national economy, that nationwide includes a burgeoning manufacturing sector, and an agricultural sector that employs almost half the population around the country.
And the rising ocean is putting all of it under threat. One expert told AFP in 2011 much of the city, built on swampland, could be underwater in 50 years. 
That’s to say nothing of the additional flooding that happens during the monsoon season, or storm surge from the occasional typhoon. 
More powerful storms are likely in the coming century, and the Atlantic reports the monsoon season may be longer and more intense as well. 

Bangkok has already had a taste of what’s to come. The city spent a fair bit of coin developing manufacturing on former rice paddies in the Chao Phraya River floodplain, attracting big names like Sony, Honda and Toyota to set up shop. In 2011, massive flooding dealt huge damage to these industries, causing an estimated $45 billion in economic losses.
It won’t get much better as sea levels rise, and just this month 14 Thai provinces were experiencing flooding and landslides as Tropical Storm Vamco passed through the region.
This long-lived tourist paradise has had to fight the sea almost from day one from its precarious perch atop the low-lying islands of the Venetian lagoon.
Once a powerful merchant republic with a wide-reaching Mediterranean trading empire, Venice’s star has waned somewhat (The European Centre for Climate Adaptation says the population is down to around 70,000 in the lagoon, mostly due to major decline in industry), but its romance endures.

Unfortunately, it may finally be on its way to losing its fight to stay afloat, or at least have to pay dearly for it. 
With sea levels continuing to rise, flooding is becoming more common. Tides of 100 cm or more are expected to happen seven times per year, swamping the lowest-lying areas. It’ll be harder to attract tourists when they know flooding is more likely, costing the industry up to 42.9 million euros (C$ 64 million) by 2030. That’s not even factoring damage to the clam industry and the city’s infrastructure.
But the authorities haven’t been sitting there quietly waiting for it to happen. They’ve poured 5.4 billion euros (C$ 8 billion) into Mose, a series of concrete barriers in the lagoon’s inlets that will be raised when the tide is expected to reach above a certain level.
It could be completed as early as next year, according to the Guardian, but some detractors say it may already be obsolete. In 2009, researchers at Venice’s Institute of Marine Sciences said the Mose project was based on sea level rise predictions that may have been underestimated.
They recommended looking into alternatives, including pumping seawater into a 700 m deep aquifer to raise the city by up to 30 cm, according to the New Scientist.
This ancient metropolis is situated in the delta of Nile River. It’s seen empires rise and fall ever since it was first founded from scratch by Alexander the Great, and has endured for more than two millennia.
Though nowhere near as populous as the capital, Cairo, its importance to the country is far out of proportion to its size. The port handles four fifths of Egypt’s international trade, and is home to 40 per cent of the country’s industry, not to mention the tourism potential that comes from its prime Mediterranean location. 

And then there is the delta itself, which is one of the most fertile parts of the country. But, being a delta, its low-lying terrain makes it especially vulnerable to the rising waters.
Most reports we’ve seen factor in only a modest sea level rise, but even that could be devastating. A 25 cm increase would put 60 per cent of the city’s population underwater (according to the Climate Institute), and a half-meter increase would wipe out 66 per cent of the industry, most of the service sector and about a third of the city’s area.

delta, which accounts for 40 per cent of Egypt’s agricultural output, would suffer as well. The Canada-based International Development Research Centre says around 60 per cent of the delta would be affected by increased salinity due to sea level rise. 
It’s a potential economic disaster on top of the country’s political woes.
This Chinese metropolis topped a recent World Bank study as the number one city most at risk of coastal flooding related to climate change.

That’s a huge problem. Guangzhou has already struggled with major flooding due to extreme weather and the occasional typhoon blowing in from the Pacific. In 2010, heavy rainfall killed dozens of people and caused $85 million in damages.
That last figure pales in comparison to what is to come. By 2070, the city will be home to some $3.4 trillion worth of what the OECD calls “assets at risk.” In 2005, more than two million of its denizens were exposed to coastal flooding, but by 2070, that’ll be up to 10.3 million. 
Guangzhou is an economic giant among China’s economic giants, and both that country and neighboring India will be hard-hit by sea level rise.

On that World Bank-led study, Mumbai is at number four, with $2 trillion in at-risk assets by 2070, and more than 10 million people exposed to coastal flooding effects.
Guangzhou was at the top of the last World Bank-led study, but Miami occasionally makes it into that spot on similar rankings.
America’s beachside Mecca is a haven for sunseekers, but rising sea levels are set to put a serious damper on property values. During spring and autumn tides, the city is already dealing with periodic flooding, and even a 30 cm rise in levels over the next century could prove catastrophic.

worse when you factor in storm surge from major tropical storms. 
2005’s Hurricane Wilma brought more than 200 cm of storm surge to the Miami area, a once-in-76-years event. If sea levels rise 60 cm, that kind of storm surge would be likely to happen once every five years.
The Miami-Dade area of Florida has more people living less than 120 cm above sea level than any other U.S. state except Louisiana, according to the World Resources Institute, accounting for 2.4 million of people whose homes and livelihoods are at risk (according to the Guardian).
At risk: Around $14.7 billion worth of beachfront property, and $21 billion in tourism revenues.

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Super typhoons to increase in strength with climate change. #Auspol

A warming planet is already stoking the intensity of tropical cylones in the north-west Pacific and their ferocity will continue to increase even with moderate climate change over this century, an international research team has found.
A study covering 850 typhoons in the region found the intensity of the damaging storms has increased by about 10 per cent since the 1970s, said Wei Mei, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and a co-author of the study published in the journal Science Advances.

Press link for more: Peter Hannam |


Limiting global warming to 2 degrees ‘inadequate’, scientists say #Auspol #Denial101x #ClimateChange 

By Laurie Goering

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Holding global warming to a 2-degree Celsius temperature rise – the cornerstone of an expected new global climate agreement in December – will fail to prevent many of climate change’s worst impacts, a group of scientists and other experts warned Friday.

With a 2-degree temperature hike, small islands in the Pacific may become uninhabitable, weather-related disasters will become more frequent, workers in many parts of the world will face sweltering conditions and large numbers of people will be displaced, particularly in coastal cities, the experts warned.

The 2-degree goal is “inadequate, posing serious threats for fundamental human rights, labor and migration and displacement” the experts said in a series of reports commissioned by the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of 20 countries chaired by the Philippines.

Press link for more: Laurie Goering |


The world’s 10 hungriest countries

There are over 870 million people in the world who are hungry right now. I’m not talking about could use a snack before lunch hungry, not even didn’t have time for breakfast hungry, but truly, continually, hungry.

Of these 870 million people, it’s been estimated by the World Food Programme that 98% live in developing countries, countries that perversely produce most of the world’s food stocks. So why is this the case?

Here we look at the top 10 worst effected countries and see what obstacles are making them hungry and why:

The main problem with Burundi is not that it can’t produce food, but that due to overpopulation, soil erosion, climate change, high food prices and an ongoing civil war, the country has to import more than they are exporting. In the last few years alone due to these factors, and the increase of internally displaced citizens who can’t produce their own food, the subsistence economy of Burundi has contracted by 25%..

Another reason that Sudan is suffering is because of the extreme climate conditions that the country suffers from, which is something that is unfortunately out of their control.

Press link for more: Clea Guy-Alan |

Climate Change, refugees & war we need a complete system change to solve these issues. 

See link to The Zeitgeist Movement



The story of how a crazy idea became reality.

On Friday 17th October 2014, 30 Pacific Warriors from 12 countries across the Pacific went to Australia to stand up for their homes in the face of the fossil fuel industry.

They were equipped with the traditional, hand made canoes which they used to barricade the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle Australia. Together, they stopped eight ships scheduled to leave the port that day.

Their story inspired thousands of people across Australia, and even more around the world to step up the fight against fossil fuels.

This seven-minute documentary dives head first into the larger social and political issues behind climate change. In the third and final instalment of Canoes Vs. Coal, we hear from’s Oceania Region Coordinator, Aaron Packard and the birth of the idea that became the Newcastle Flotilla.

Combined with his quirky sense of humour and his very real passion for climate justice,’s Oceania Region Coordinator, Aaron Packard, talks about the conception of the Newcastle Blockade, sheds light on how inequality and climate change are related and how the Pacific Climate Warriors are leading the fight for climate justice.

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Vulnerability and resilience in Vanuatu.

Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu was recently classified as the most vulnerable city to natural hazards in the world. Cyclone Pam has provided a stark reminder of this fact. An estimated 90 per cent of homes in the capital, Port Vila, have been destroyed or severely damaged and, while information from the outer islands is only beginning to filter through, traditional rural dwellings made from bamboo and thatch would have stood no chance against the strength of the storm. The true devastation of what’s possibly the most powerful storm to hit the South Pacific will be revealed over coming days and weeks and hopefully the humanitarian response will be commensurate with the scale of the crisis.

Vanuatu is not alone. Since the beginning of 2014 other Pacific countries have experienced the devastating impacts of cyclones. In 2014, Cyclone Ita caused some of the worst flash flooding ever experienced in the neighbouring Solomon Islands, costing the lives of 47 and affecting an estimated 50,000. Thousands were displaced from the homes and became reliant on relief care in evacuation centres. Earlier that year, Cyclone Ian – the most powerful storm ever recorded in Tonga – also left thousands of people without their homes. While these disasters make news headlines, there is often limited analysis of how exactly Pacific Island households and communities cope in their aftermath and with shocks in general.

A recently completed three-year research project examined in depth, the vulnerability and resilience of households in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. The research was funded by AusAID (before it was absorbed into DFAT). The project, which confirmed the vulnerability of households to climatic events, highlighted a further source of vulnerability in the countries: their exposure to economic shocks.

To cope with difficult times, two findings from the research stood out: that (i) the importance of food gardens and (ii) traditional social support systems are both crucial forms of resilience in these countries. In response to food and fuel price hikes, virtually all households responded by growing additional food in their gardens to relieve pressure on the household budget. Moreover, support for the extended family and strong community ties ensure that when people fall on hard times, they are looked after by others who are faring better. The combination of these factors is a key reason why homelessness and starvation are not pressing issues in these Pacific countries.    

Sadly, Cyclone Pam has largely stripped households in Vanuatu of these key resilience mechanisms. It can be assumed that the destruction of food gardens has been virtually universal. Further spikes in the prices of increasingly scarce food and fuel are therefore a real possibility. Combined with a lack of income and income-earning opportunities, food security will become a key concern. While communities will remain strong and the sharing of food and resources will be common, the cyclone-devastated entire islands and there simply won’t be enough to go round.

Short-term international assistance for Vanuatu is now crucial to get the country back on its feet. In the longer term, questions remain over how best to insulate Pacific countries from the multiple shocks that they continue to face. Climate change makes this an even more pertinent issue. 

Dr Lachlan McDonald and Associate Professor Simon Feeny are with the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, RMIT University.

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Briefing Statement: Damage from Cyclone Pam was exacerbated by climate change.