Cyclone

A Moral Call to Action on the #ClimateCrisis #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani Demand a #GreenNewDeal #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebelliono

If you just met Al Gore, you might be hard-pressed to know that the environmentalist ever did anything else. 

Al Gore

With a 2006 Academy Award for his film “An Inconvenient Truth” and a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental advocacy, Gore has seamlessly shifted from high-level politician to one of the world’s leading voices on the threat of climate change. 

“I enjoyed the years I spent in elected office and I enjoyed politics,” Gore told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But I feel privileged to be able to serve in other ways, and it feels like the right thing to do. I have worked on this issue for more than 40 years and more people are seeing the impact.” 

In March, the former U.S. senator, vice president and Democratic presidential nominee will bring his Climate Reality Leadership Corps to Atlanta for a three-day meeting to train activists on environmental justice and climate change. 

Gore said the training will focus on several key themes, as well as the challenges that the climate crisis poses to vulnerable communities, including how it is changing the Southeast, how fossil fuels threaten the health of low-income families and communities of color, and how clean energy can help to right historical injustices and create opportunities. 

“We are changing the conditions that have given rise to the flourishing of humanity,” Gore said. “How can we tell our grandkids that we are in the process of destroying the environment?

This is a crisis like we have never experienced before.

That is why I spend so much of my time training grassroots activists all over the world.” 

The event — the 40th time that Gore has hosted this kind of training — will also for the first time include “A Moral Call to Action on the Climate Crisis,” an interfaith mass meeting at Ebenezer Baptist Church, featuring the historic church’s pastor, the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, and the Rev. William J. Barber II, a 2018 MacArthur fellow. 

The Rev. William Barber II is the leader of the Moral Monday movement that advocates for social justice. Barber delivered the keyote speech during the 48th Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Commemorative Service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.  Photo: JONATHAN PHILLIPS / SPECIAL

“The climate crisis, as many of us have said for a long time, is not a political issue,” Gore said. “It is a moral and spiritual issue for the survival of humanity.”

Gore said there would be a particular focus on environmental justice. And he argues that for everything we see — rising temperatures, flooding, powerful storms and wildfires — it is often less-visible problems, such as fossil fuel emissions and pollution, that directly impact black, brown and poor communities, which he wants faith leaders to address. 

“Too often, the climate crisis inflicts deep and disproportionate burdens on those least responsible for causing it,” Gore said. “We will succeed in climate action when we prioritize inclusivity.

Climate solutions must be fair and equitable for all people.” 

Warnock, whose church was once co-pastored by 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King Jr., said the environment is a moral and justice issue that civil rights leaders and climate change activists have just recently begun to find common ground on. 

The Rev. Raphael G. Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church said climate change is a civil and human rights issue. Photo: Branden Camp

“Traditionally, the civil rights activists and climate change activists have not sufficiently engaged one another,” Warnock said. “That is unfortunate because climate change is a civil and human rights issue. And issues, traditionally raised by the civil rights community, that leave certain communities more vulnerable.” 

But there is also a religious battle simmering among evangelical Christians over whether climate change is a liberal hoax, flawed science, or an affront to the concept of human existence. 

They are being encouraged by President Donald Trump, who has rolled back many of President Barack Obama’s environmental policies that aimed to curb climate change and limit environmental pollution. 

And on Wednesday, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist Trump nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency, declined to identify climate change as a crisis requiring unprecedented action from the United States. 

“How can you not believe in climate change?” Warnock asked. “We are way past a period when we could be concerned about the politics.

Climate change is not something that is coming, it is here. It is way past time for all of us to get serious.” 

The event will be held March 14-16, 2019. The mass meeting will take place on March 14 at 7 p.m. at Ebenezer Baptist Church. To learn more about the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Atlanta and to apply before the Jan. 28 deadline, visit https://www.climaterealityproject.org/training

Press link for more: AJC

A #GreenNewDeal to Save People and the Planet #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #Heatwave #Drought #AirPollution now a #ClimateCrisis #StopAdani

by Nicole Ghio, senior fossil fuels program manager

Friends of the Earth

The U.S. Climate Report released in November and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in October confirmed what we already know based on the extreme fires, droughts and hurricanes that have wreaked devastation on our country this past year: the climate crisis is here.

Million fish die in Australia’s Murray-Darling river system

We need a Green New Deal to prevent climate catastrophe and fight rising social, racial, economic and gender inequities.

At its root, the climate crisis is the result of an economic system based on ever-increasing consumption that pushes the earth beyond its ecological limits. This system has also turned what should be a human right — from energy to food to clean air and water — into commodities. We need to remake financial and economic systems so that they serve people and the planet, not the other way around. We must also account for the United States’ tremendous ecological debt to the Global South and its responsibility as the largest historical climate polluter to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide finance for people in developing countries commensurate with what science and justice demand.

23,000 fruit bats die in Cairns, Australia during recent heatwave

There is no room for the half solutions of the past.

We cannot allow the vast political power of the fossil fuel or industrial agriculture lobbies to advance policies that continue our reliance on dirty energy and unsustainable food systems. The real answer to the climate change crisis lies in changing the way we manage, extract, use and distribute Earth’s natural resources. We need a new model of environmental, social, racial, economic and gender justice that upends traditional power structures in order to build a future where everyone has access to wealth, equitable decision-making and safety. Below are Friends of the Earth U.S.’s platform principles to guide a Green New Deal. Linked here are principles from our international network across 70 countries.

1. Cut greenhouse gas emissions

  • Rapidly phase out all fossil fuel extraction and burning, starting with the projects and infrastructure that have the greatest impact on frontline communities and sensitive ecosystems.
  • End subsidies for fossil fuel projects in the U.S. and overseas, as well as investments in expensive, unproven technologies that extend fossil fuel and nuclear power use. These include carbon capture and storage and small modular nuclear reactors.
  • Put an end to energy waste through energy efficiency and energy saving, along with ending overconsumption by corporations and economic and political elites.
  • We must fully decarbonize our transportation system. We must invest in public transit systems that serve those who need it most and are fully powered by renewable energy. We must phase out vehicles with combustion engines and clean up shipping. And instead of constructing new roads, highways and airport projects, we must reconnect our cities and suburbs to reduce vehicle and air traffic.
  • Cut support for climate-polluting industrial animal agriculture (concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs) by shifting federal subsidies away from CAFOs and chemical- and energy-intensive animal feed monocultures and instead support diversified, organic and regenerative agricultural practices that rely on low/natural carbon inputs and that store carbon in healthy soil.

Concentrated animal feeding operation. Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
  • Shift public food purchasing and feeding programs (e.g., school lunch) away from carbon-intensive animal foods toward healthier, climate-friendly plant-based alternatives.
  • Sequester biological carbon in addition to — and not in lieu of — reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This must exclude forest carbon offsets and other carbon sequestration proposals such as chemical-intensive no-till farming or ocean fertilization that pose their own environmental risks.
  • Reject the development, testing and use of controversial and unproven climate geoengineering techniques, including solar radiation management, greenhouse gas removal and sequestration and weather modification, which could have devastating impacts on the environment, ecosystems and communities across the world.
  • Implement federal and state mandates to drive and assure policy compliance with greenhouse gas reduction targets, and to ramp up investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable diets and ecological agriculture in line with the consensus of climate scientists.

There is no room for the half solutions of the past.

2. Transition to 100 percent renewable, resilient and just energy and food systems

  • Shift to 100 percent renewable energy. This includes major investments in solar, wind, geothermal and other technologies; updating our electrical grid; public and community ownership over power infrastructure; and the option for distributed energy sources in our homes and communities.
  • Enact binding laws to ensure the fundamental right to renewable energy for all, based on democratic and community control.
  • Switch subsidies and incentives away from climate-wrecking activities and massively ramp up public investment in ecological agriculture and renewable energy, both at home and overseas.
  • Reject so-called energy solutions that further racial, economic and social inequities, such as large-scale hydroelectric dams, which can harm ecosystems and undermine livelihoods; biofuels and biomass, which can be carbon intensive, disrupt food systems and destroy forests; or waste-to-energy projects (e.g., trash incineration or biogas from factory farms), which can impact health.
  • Reject carbon trading schemes, which can concentrate the dirtiest projects in marginalized communities, worsening environmental injustice and racism.
  • Ensure energy sufficiency. This means sufficient universal energy access — at a level that respects everyone’s right to a dignified life.

Image via Creative Commons.
  • Promote food sovereignty and climate resiliency by guaranteeing the right to land, water and seeds, and ensuring local and Indigenous Peoples’ control over their territories and food systems.
  • Recognize and empower the fundamental role of women in food production across the world.

3. Just transition with good jobs and worker rights

  • A true just transition must provide a framework for transforming our economy to one based on energy democracy, food sovereignty, worker and community control, and protection of the right to water, food, land and energy for all.
  • Shift to local solutions that make good on the promise of public ownership and cooperative control.
  • Public policies should enable community management of forests and natural systems that are the best way to protect biodiversity and promote ecosystem restoration.
  • Instead of an economy based on extraction and consumption where frontline communities are turned into sacrifice zones, we must foster ecological resilience to restore biodiversity and other natural systems.
  • Promote organic and ecological small- and mid-scale food production systems which support thriving local economies and higher numbers of dignified jobs than energy-intensive large-scale commodity agriculture.
  • Ensure the right for people to have dignified work and safe workplaces, as well as a guaranteed family-sustaining wage, hours and benefits. Protect the rights of workers to organize, engage in collective bargaining and undertake workplace actions.
  • The Green New Deal process must be transparent and include frontline peoples, affected communities and workers at every stage from planning through implementation.

Press link for more: Medium.com

To Those Who Think We Can Reform Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani Demand a #GreenNewDeal #Drought #Heatwave #Bushfire

Our only hope is to stop exploiting the earth—and its people.

A resident stands in front of a burning hill in Drafti area, about 23 miles east of Athens, Greece. (AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris)

Welcome to the future.

It feels like it, doesn’t it?

Like we have reached the end of something—of the days when the Arctic was not actually in flames, when the permafrost was not a sodden mush, when the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets were not rushing to join the quickly rising seas.

When the Darling in outback Australia was a flowing river system.

Perhaps we have also, finally, reached the end of the days when we could soothe ourselves with lies, or delusions at least; when we imagined that we were the only masters here, that we could keep taking what we wanted, and that no one would ever have to pay.

We are paying now.

Twenty eighteen was the year that temperatures scraped 90 degrees in the Norwegian Arctic; that permafrost in northern Siberia failed to freeze at all; that wildfires burned on the taiga there, as well as above the Arctic Circle in Alaska and Sweden, in the moors of northern England, in Greece, and in California, where they showed no sense of poetic restraint whatsoever and reduced a place called Paradise to ash.

23,000 fruit bats die from heat exhaustion in Cairns, Australia after record 42.9C temperatures

And where there wasn’t fire, there were floods: Hundreds died and millions were evacuated from rising waters in Japan, southern China, and the Indian state of Kerala. Venice flooded too, and Paris, where the Louvre had to close its Department of Islamic Arts, which it had consigned, ahem, to a basement. It was also the year the United Nations’ climate change body warned that, to avoid full-on cataclysm, we, the humans of planet Earth, would have just 12 years (11 now) to cut carbon emissions by 45 percent, and 32 years (31 and counting) to eliminate such emissions altogether.

Still, the weather may be the least of our problems. The fire that razed Paradise displaced 52,000 people overnight, forcing many into the ranks of California’s swelling homeless population and what passes for a safety net these days: free berths on the asphalt in a Walmart parking lot. Millions more of us will become refugees when a mega-storm drowns Miami or Manila, and when the Bay of Bengal rises high enough to swallow Bangladesh. Narendra Modi’s India is ready, and has nearly finished stretching barbed wire across the entire 2,500-mile border with Bangladesh. By conservative estimates, climate change will displace a quarter of a billion people over the next 31 years. Most will not be wealthy, and most will not be white.

We do know, at least, how we got here.

It was all that oil and coal that we burned, that we’re still burning. But that “we” is misleading.

It isn’t all of us, and never was.

As the Swedish scholar Andreas Malm recounts in Fossil Capital, his exhaustive account of the rise of the coal-powered steam engine, coal was initially embraced by a tiny subclass of wealthy Englishmen, the ones who owned the mills. They came to favor steam over hydropower in large part because it allowed them to erect factories in cities and towns—rather than submitting to the dictates of distant rivers and streams—giving them access to what we would now call a flexible workforce: masses of hungry urbanites accustomed to the indignities of factory labor, willing to toil for less, easily replaceable if they refused.

In the process these early industrialists created the illusion fundamental to the functioning of our entire economic system: the possibility of self-sustaining growth.

Machines could always move faster, squeezing more work out of fewer hands for greater and greater profits. After the Second World War, the same logic would push the transition from coal to oil: It took far less labor to get oil out of the ground and to transport it across continents, plus coal miners had an alarming tendency to strike.

From its inception, then, the carbon economy has been tied to the basic capitalist mandate to disempower workers, to squeeze the most sweat out of people for the least amount of money. For the last 200-odd years, the exploitation of the planet has been inseparable from the exploitation of living human beings.

This is why, though the alarm bells about anthropogenic warming began tolling more than half a century ago, the carbon habit has proven nearly impossible to break. Since 1990, when international climate negotiations commenced, carbon emissions have jumped by more than 60 percent. Last year, as the fires burned and the floodwaters rose, they leaped by a projected 2.7 percent. It’s almost as if someone’s profiting from our misfortune. And they are: Six of the 10 highest-earning corporations on last year’s Fortune Global 500 list made their money extracting or delivering fossil energy; two were automobile manufacturers and one—Walmart, the planet’s richest brand—relied on a system of globalized trade inconceivable without massive consumption of fossil fuels. Even on an individual level, the richest 1 percent have a carbon footprint 2,000 times larger than the poorest inhabitants of Honduras or Mozambique, countries that have contributed next to nothing to global warming and are suffering disproportionately from it. We already know well that the 1 percent do not let go of power willingly.

We are stealing our children’s future.

Nor will our political system likely be much help, even with our survival as a species at stake.
Politicians are not often good at thinking in planetary terms.
The system in which they function—national governments and international institutions alike—evolved alongside the carbon economy and has for decades functioned mainly to serve it. However enlightened their representatives may appear at climate talks, wealthy countries continue to subsidize fossil-fuel extraction—last year to the tune of $147 billion. In the United States, Trumpian climate denialism and Pelosian tepidity are two faces of the same phenomenon. Congressman Frank Pallone, who chairs the toothless committee that Pelosi resurrected to tackle climate change, announced that he plans to propose nothing more than “some oversight” of Trump’s assaults on preexisting federal programs, and that requiring committee members to reject donations from fossil-fuel industries would be “too limiting.”

Centrists continue to reassure, unshaken in the conviction that no problem exists that cannot be solved with a little technocratic fiddling. Just before he left office, Barack Obama penned an article in Science, contending that climate change “mitigation need not conflict with economic growth.” Wealthy countries, the argument goes, have already managed to reduce emissions without sacrificing growth. “Decoupling” is the magic word here. Imagine a gentle, Gwyneth Paltrowesque divorce between fossil fuels and capital, followed by a fresh romance with greener tech, perhaps a few extra therapy bills for the kids.

We need a global Green New Deal

But someone always gets hurt in a break-up. The techno-optimist dream holds together only if you hide the fact that much of the progress made by the United States and Europe came at the expense of poorer countries: As corporations off-shored manufacturing jobs over the last few decades, they sent the carbon-intensive industries with them, allowing Western consumers, at the clean end of a very dirty process, to import massive quantities of goods. The only year so far this millennium that global emissions have dropped was 2009. It took a global financial meltdown and more than a year of recession for fossil-fuel consumption to even dip.

For now, the petroligarchy is winning. Thirteen years ago, Hurricane Katrina gave us an early taste of the future they have built for us: a murderous, militarized, racialized response to human vulnerability.

Now we are living in it.

We know what their world looks like: abundance for the few behind walls and razor wire, precarity and impoverishment for the rest of us; endless prisons for endless streams of migrants, concentration camps by other names.

But there are other futures, other worlds as yet unmade.

We have only to choose ours, and to fight like hell for it—fiercely, with forms of solidarity that we have not yet been able to imagine. Solidarity not only with one another but with this planet and the many forms of life it hosts.

There is no way out of this but to cease to view the Earth, and its populations, as an endless sink of resources from which wealth can be extracted.

This is not hippie idealism but purest practicality: There is no way to preserve anything approximating the status quo without turning into monsters, or cadavers, and no way to survive that is not radical.

In this future we will need to keep our eyes open and learn to calm ourselves only with truths.

If other worlds are not yet visible, it is because they are ours to make.

Press link for more: The Nation

To Take Down Fossil Fuels, We Must Abandon Capitalism #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #ClimateStrike Stop Stealing our children’s future! #ExtinctionRebellion

Dahr Jamail’s latest book bears witness to the destruction of our natural world due to climate change.
Ritesh Chaudhary / Shutterstock

Dahr Jamail, staff writer at Truthout, has been writing about the global emergency of climate change for nearly a decade. In his new book, The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Destruction, which is being released today, Jamail shares his firsthand accounts of returning to beloved spaces in the natural world. He observes the drastic ways in which they’ve been destroyed due to humanity’s relentless burning of fossil fuels, and mourns over how many of them are unlikely to recover over the duration of human existence.

A million fish die in Australia’s Murray-Darling River System

Anton Woronczuk: In bearing witness to the destruction of the natural world, you write about the severe impacts of climate change on several different kinds of ecosystems and landscapes. Instead of The End of Ice,you could’ve as easily chosen The End of Rainforests, The End of Coral or The End of Coastal Cities as a relevant title for your book. Why did you decide on “ice”?

Dahr Jamail: That’s exactly right … we are in an age of loss, and the book could have had any number of titles. I landed on “ice” for two reasons. First, because that is where I personally feel the loss the most, given how much time I spend in the mountains, and where the idea of the book originated. Having lived in Alaska and spent so much time on glaciers there while climbing, that is where I saw how dramatically climate change was already unfolding back in the mid-1990s. The second reason I chose ice was because as we lose glaciers and ice fields, literally hundreds of millions, and even billions of people will be directly impacted by lack of drinking water, lack of water for irrigation for agriculture, and so much more. This is no small thing.

Record breaking drought in Australia

In your accounts about scaling glaciers in Alaska or snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, you reflect on how much has changed since you first visited them. Which was the hardest place to return to? Which was the hardest to leave?

All of it was heartbreaking, from what I see happening on Denali and other glaciers in Alaska that I have long-term relationships with, to the loss of the Great Barrier Reef. But certainly, the moment when I was out of the Great Barrier Reef, it was the last snorkel of the day, and time to head back to land, when my heart broke. It really felt like it was the last time I’d see the reef, and I was saying goodbye. I wept. That year, 30 percent of the reef died from that coral bleaching event I was witnessing. The next year, another bleaching event took out 20 percent of the reef. So, in two years, half of the single largest coral reef on the planet was wiped out from climate change-induced bleaching. That’s why I wept, knowing that was happening, and was only going to continue.

Dahr Jamail.
Via Dahr Jamail

I’m wondering if even more significant changes have occurred in some of the places you’ve written about in The End of Ice.

I could write pages about that. I was updating my scientific reports in my citations up until my final deadline for publishing, and even then, struggling to keep pace with the changes. Since then, intensely dramatic changes have happened.

One example is a study published in Nature [that] showed that over the last quarter century, the oceans have absorbed 60 percent more heat annually than estimated in the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. The study underscored that the globe’s oceans have, in fact, already absorbed 93 percent of all the heat humans have added to the atmosphere, that the climate system’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases is far higher than thought, and that planetary warming is far more advanced than had previously been grasped.

Thousands of flying foxes die from heat exhaustion Cairns Australia

To give you an idea of how much heat the oceans have absorbed: if that heat had instead gone into the atmosphere, the global temperature would be 97 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it is today. For those who think that there are still 12 years left to change things, the question posed by a sea level rise expert in my book seems painfully apt: How do we remove all the heat that’s already been absorbed by the oceans?

Two weeks after that Nature article came out, a study in Scientific Reports warned that the extinction of animal and plant species, thanks to climate change, could lead to a “domino effect” that might, in the end, annihilate life on the planet. It suggested that organisms will die out at increasingly rapid rates because they depend on other species that are also on their way out. It’s a process the study calls “co-extinction.”

A common thread throughout your book is that the fate of our ecosystems and the many ecological sites you visited has been decided. This seems to be in marked contrast with mainstream wisdom, which says that humanity can prevent a climate-induced catastrophe as long as we make major changes within a decade or so. Why do you think this discrepancy exists?

Global capitalism, neoliberal economics and the power structure depend upon things continuing as they are. The only real chance at mitigation of the impacts from climate change that are now entrenched in the climate system, would have been to abandon capitalism and enact something akin to the New Green Deal back when NASA’s James Hansen sounded the alarm about climate change to Congress in the 1980s. A radical restructuring of the entire fossil-fuel based economy means those who have all the power today would be rendered obsolete. The current hierarchy would have to be obliterated. And so, in short, power never concedes power willingly.

Press link for more: Truth Out

Banks should recognise the risks of #climatechange #auspol #qldpol #ClimateRisk #StopAdani #COP24

BoE governor Mark Carney is right to suggest adding global warming to stress tests

Mark Carney: any move by the Bank of England to incorporate climate risks in stress tests would be the first by a central bank of a major financial centre © Bloomberg

Most central bankers make a virtue of the narrowness of their remit, remaining circumspect on issues deemed to go beyond it.

Not Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, who, despite facing criticism for exceeding his mandate, has suggested the risks arising from climate change should form part of its annual stress tests for banks from 2019. 

The suggestion is timely.

It comes a few days after rules governing how to implement the Paris climate agreement were approved, against significant odds, by nearly 200 countries at the COP24 talks in Poland.

It is also uncontroversial — it does not require a change to the regulatory framework, but simply adds a risk to the list that banks are already meant to measure. Furthermore, the Bank of England is suggesting including climate change as an exploratory scenario, which banks can neither pass nor fail.

They are required only to scrutinise whether they are doing enough. For that reason, many climate activists will consider the proposal, much like the Paris agreement itself, does not go far enough. 

The measure should at least help to convince financial sector actors of the potential impact they face from climate issues.

The latest warnings about global warming are sobering.

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report noted that on current trends, average global temperatures are set to rise by 3-4C from pre-industrial levels by 2100.

Failure to take action to curb that rise creates multiple risks.

Extreme heat events are likely to multiply.

So, too, are the frequency and intensity of heavy rain and floods, and of droughts. 

Actions taken to mitigate climate change also carry risk.

New policies aimed at limiting average global temperature rises, in line with the Paris agreement, will make it harder for hydrocarbon-intensive industries to operate profitably.

This could leave companies with stranded assets worth billions, and the banks that lent to them with enormous unpaid debts.

Whatever the source of the risk, a core function of a central bank is to ensure that money is being safely lent. 

Lenders are moving slowly because unlike the insurance sector they are less directly exposed to the destructive power of extreme weather. But they are not immune — and should be paying more heed.

A report by insurance company Swiss Re found the total economic loss from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters nearly doubled to $337bn in 2017, from $180bn the year before.

Lloyd’s of London this year posted its first loss in six years, citing the impact of a series of natural disasters.

Axa, the large insurer, has warned that more than 4C of warming this century would make the world “uninsurable”.

The consequences for the whole financial system would then be catastrophic.

Any move by the Bank of England to incorporate climate risks in stress tests would be the first by a central bank of a major financial centre. But others are alert to climate change risks.

In 2017, the Dutch central bank published a report entitled “Waterproof?”, which concluded that financial institutions should factor in the consequences of a changing climate and the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. 

Such steps alone will not prevent the oceans rising, climate-induced mass migration or extreme weather.

Governments must develop policies and regulatory environments that change businesses’ behaviour.

The “tragedy of the horizon”, as Mr Carney puts it, is the danger that by the time climate change is recognised by enough actors to be a defining issue for financial stability, it may already be too late to manage it.

Press link for more: Financial Times

Risks of ‘domino effect’ of #ClimateChange tipping points #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #COP24

Scientists warn policymakers not to ignore links, and stress that ‘every action counts’

Policymakers have severely underestimated the risks of ecological tipping points, according to a study that shows 45% of all potential environmental collapses are interrelated and could amplify one another.

The authors said their paper, published in the journal Science, highlights how overstressed and overlapping natural systems are combining to throw up a growing number of unwelcome surprises.

“The risks are greater than assumed because the interactions are more dynamic,” said Juan Rocha of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. “The important message is to recognise the wickedness of the problem that humanity faces.”

The study collated existing research on ecosystem transitions that can irreversibly tip to another state, such as coral reefs bleaching and being overrun by algae, forests becoming savannahs and ice sheets melting into oceans.

It then cross-referenced the 30 types of shift to examine the impacts they might have on one another and human society.

Only 19% were entirely isolated. Another 36% shared a common cause, but were not likely to interact. The remaining 45% had the potential to create either a one-way domino effect or mutually reinforcing feedbacks.

The destruction of coral reefs can weaken coastal defences and expose mangrove forests to damage. Photograph: Greg Torda/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Among the latter pairings were Arctic ice sheets and boreal forests. When the former melt, there is less ice to reflect the sun’s heat so the temperature of the planet rises. This increases the risks of forest fires, which discharge carbon into the air that adds to the greenhouse effect, which melts more ice. Although geographically distant, each amplifies the other.

By contrast, a one-way domino-type impact is that between coral reefs and mangrove forests. When the former are destroyed, it weakens coastal defences and exposes mangroves to storms and ocean surges.

The deforestation of the Amazon is responsible for multiple “cascading effects” – weakening rain systems, forests becoming savannah, and reduced water supplies for cities like São Paulo and crops in the foothills of the Andes. This, in turn, increases the pressure for more land clearance.

Until recently, the study of tipping points was controversial, but it is increasingly accepted as an explanation for climate changes that are happening with more speed and ferocity than earlier computer models predicted. The loss of coral reefs and Arctic sea ice may already be past the point of no return. There are signs the Antarctic is heading the same way faster than thought.

Co-author Garry Peterson said the tipping of the west Antarctic ice shelf was not on the radar of many scientists 10 years ago, but now there was overwhelming evidence of the risks – including losses of chunks of ice the size of New York – and some studies now suggest the tipping point may have already been passed by the southern ice sheet, which may now be releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

“We’re surprised at the rate of change in the Earth system. So much is happening at the same time and at a faster speed than we would have thought 20 years ago. That’s a real concern,” said Peterson. “We’re heading ever faster towards the edge of a cliff.”

The fourth most downloaded academic research of 2018 was the Hothouse Earth paper, which considered how tipping points could combine to push the global climate into an uninhabitable state.

The authors of the new paper say their work goes beyond climate studies by mapping a wider range of ecological stress points, such as biodiversity loss, agricultural expansion, urbanisation and soil erosion. It also focuses more on what is happening at the local level now, rather than projecting geo-planetary trends into the future.

“We’re looking at things that affect people in their daily lives. They’re things that are happening today,” said Peterson. “There is a positive message as it expands the range of options for action. It is not just at an international level. Mayors can also make a difference by addressing soil erosion, or putting in place social policies that place less stress on the environment, or building up natural coastal defences.”

Rocha has spent 10 years building a database of tipping points, or “regime shifts” as he calls them. He urges policymakers to adopt a similar interdisciplinary approach so they can better grasp what is happening.

“We’re trying to connect the dots between different research communities,” said Rocha. “Governments also need to look more at interactions. They should stop compartmentalising ministries like agriculture, fisheries and international relations and try to manage environmental problems by embracing the diversity of causes and mechanisms underlying them. Policies need to match the scale of the problem.

“It’s a little depressing knowing we are not on a trajectory to keep our ecosystem in a functional state, but these connections are also a reason for hope; good management in one place can prevent severe environmental degradation elsewhere. Every action counts.”

Press link for more: The Guardian

Extreme heat wipes out 23,000 flying foxes #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #COP24 now a #ClimateEmergency #ClimateStrike #TheDrum #ExtinctionRebellion Demand #GreenNewDeal

Extreme heat wipes out 23,000 flying foxes

Photo: Thousands of spectacled flying foxes dropped dead from trees during a week of record-breaking heat in Cairns. (Supplied: David White)

An extreme heatwave in far north Queensland last month is estimated to have killed more than 23,000 spectacled flying foxes, equating to almost one third of the species in Australia.

The deaths were from colonies in the Cairns area where the mercury soared above 42 degrees Celsius two days in a row, breaking the city’s previous record temperature for November by five degrees.

Ecologist, Dr Justin Welbergen from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (Western Sydney University) is collating the numbers of bat deathsand said it was the second-largest mass die-off of flying foxes recorded in Australia and the first time it had happened to this species.

“These are certainly very serious wildlife die-off events and they occur at almost biblical scales,” he said.

“[The biggest] was in south-east Queensland back in 2014 where about 46,000 animals (predominantly black flying foxes) died.

“The population size of the spectacled flying fox in Australia is estimated to be about 75,000 individuals, give or take, so for all intents and purpose that means we have lost close to a third of the entire species in Australia.

“Losing a third of the species on a hot afternoon I would argue certainly strengthens the case for both the Federal and Queensland Governments to consider lifting the species from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘endangered’, if not ‘critically endangered’.”

Photo: An army of wildlife volunteers removed thousands of rotting bat carcasses from around Cairns last month. (Supplied: David White)

Dr Welbergen said it was also the first time there had been mass deaths of flying foxes from heat stress in far northern Australia where conditions were typically hot and humid but usually remained below 40 degrees.

“Science pretty much agrees this is a sign of things to come,” he said.

“Extreme heat events are increasing in frequency, also in terms of intensity and duration, and we can expect more extreme temperatures to occur increasingly frequently further north. 

“A certain proportion of such an extreme event can certainly be statistically attributed to climate change for sure. I think the jury is no longer out on that.”

Wildlife carers overwhelmed

Flying foxes dropped dead from roosting trees around Cairns during the heatwave with some residents forced to leave their homes due to the smell from thousands of rotting carcasses.

With no official protocols in place on how to deal with such an event, the task of removing the dead bats was largely left to an army of wildlife volunteers.

Wildlife carer Rebecca Koller said almost 850 bats were rescued and she was looking after about 200 on her property at Kuranda.

“None of our carers were prepared for the numbers we would have. We already had 500 orphans in care prior to this event,” she said.

“To find places for another nearly 850 orphans was just not something that we would ever in a million years anticipate.

“Not having experienced this before, we went in flying blind.”

Photo: The mass deaths occurred at the start of the birthing season, leaving hundreds of orphaned flying foxes. (Supplied: David White)

‘Canaries in the coal mine’

Dr Welbergen said Australia was now averaging one major flying fox die-off (in excess of 1,000 deaths) each year.

Since our paper in 2008 where we had identified more than 30,000 casualties going all the way back to settlement, we have evidence for at least nine other major events [where] the number of casualties combined is now more than 100,000 individuals,” he said.

“So this is very clearly a very serious issue for the long-term conservation of flying foxes in Australia.”

He said climate change impacts on bats were highly visible given they often roosted near urban areas.

“These sorts of events really raise concerns around what is happening to other species, especially wildlife that have more solitary and cryptic lifestyles,” he said.

“If 30 per cent of all koalas die in a forest, who will be there to see them and count the dead bodies?

“Flying foxes are Australia’s canaries in the coal mine.”

Press link for more: ABC

More evidence showing catastrophic climate

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Australia experiencing more heat, longer fire seasons and rising oceans #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #ClimateStrike we need a #GreenNewDeal

State of the climate report points to a long-term increase in the frequency of extreme heat events, fire weather and drought

Australia is experiencing more extreme heat, longer fire seasons, rising oceans and more marine heatwaves consistent with a changing climate, according to the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO’s state of the climate report.

The report, published every two years, measures the long-term variability and trends observed in Australia’s climate.

The 2018 report shows that Australia’s long-term warming trend is continuing, with the climate warming by just over 1C since 1910 when records began.

That warming is contributing to a long-term increase in the frequency of extreme heat events, fire weather and drought.

“Australia is already experiencing climate change now and there are impacts being experienced or felt across many communities and across many sectors,” said Helen Cleugh, the director of the CSIRO’s climate science centre.

The report’s key findings include:

  1. Australia’s fire seasons have lengthened and become more severe. In some parts of the country, the season has been extended by months.

  2. The number of extreme heat days continues to trend upward.

  3. There has been a shift to drier conditions in south-eastern and south-western Australia in the months from April to October.

  4. Rainfall across northern Australia has increased since the 1970s, particularly during the tropical wet season in north-western Australia.

  5. Oceans around Australia have warmed by about 1C since 1910, which is leading to longer and more frequent marine heatwaves that affect marine life such as corals.

  6. Sea levels around Australia have risen by more than 20cm since records began and the rate of sea level rise is accelerating.

  7. There has been a 30% increase in the acidity of Australian oceans since the 1800s and the current rate of change “is ten times faster than at any time in the past 300 million years”.

Karl Braganza, the bureau of meteorology’s manager of climate monitoring, said the increase in average temperature was having an impact on the frequency or amount of extremes Australia experienced in any given year.

“In general there’s been around a five-fold increase in extreme heat and that is consistent whether you look at monthly temperatures, day time temperatures or night time temperatures,” he said.

He said there had been a reduction in rainfall of 20% in south-western Australia and in some places that was as high as 26%. In south-eastern Australia, April to October rainfall had fallen by 11%.

The report also highlights an increase in the number of extreme fire danger days in many parts of Australia, particularly in southern and eastern Australia.

Braganza said there was a “clear shift” towards a lengthened fire season, more fire weather during that season and an increase in its severity.

“Often the worst fire weather occurs when you’ve had long-term drought, long-term above-average temperatures, maybe a short-term heatwave and then the meteorology that’s consistent with severe fire weather and the ability for fire to spread,” he said.

“It’s those types of compound events that are going to be most challenging going forward in terms of adapting to climate change in Australia.”

David Cazzulino, the Great Barrier Reef campaigner for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said the report confirmed what many Australians already knew about the rising risks of climate change.

“The big line around oceans warming one degree since 1910 is a huge wake-up call,” he said.

“It’s undeniable that warming oceans lead to more marine heatwaves, coral bleaching and coral mortality.”

He said the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef, and climate change policy generally, would be a key campaign issue ahead of the 2019 federal election.

“We are running out of time to keep warming to a safe degree for the reef to have a future,” Cazzulino said.

Press link for more: The Guardian

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The great’ COP out #COP24 #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #LabConf18 Demand #GreenNewDeal #ClimateEmergency

The Conference of the Parties 24 – or COP24, as the branding goes – opened with an emotion-grabbing call on world leaders by Sir David Attenborough.

But at the end of the first week, the mood of optimism went into a spasm when it was clear that the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, would oppose accepting the recent report by the IPCC stating that the difference between a global average heating of 1.5°C and 2°C is the difference between two very different worlds that climate change will deliver.

Of course, whether we accept a report or not does not change its validity.

In fact, in a UK Met Office presentation at the COP, Dr. Richard Betts stated that currently, we are on track for around 3.3°C, a death knell for many of the world’s poorest people and a likely scenario of the collapse of the global economy, agriculture and general human well being.

Barefaced lying

Professor John Schellnhuber, a German climate scientist speaking at the same session as Betts, started his talk with the following: “If you thought this conference can deliver on [the less safe] 2°C then you have been fooled!”

All this brings us back to that tawdry slogan smeared like cream across the British Pavilion. Green may indeed be great but to imply in any way that we are honouring our Paris Agreement commitments is a barefaced lie.

This lie was made very explicit to me by British climate scientist, Professor Kevin Anderson.

He passed the stand and said: “Why don’t you go and ask them about the new Clair Ridge oil platform coming online, that the Energy and Clean Growth Minister, Claire Perry, has been celebrating?

“That is something like 50,000 tonnes of CO2 every single day from that one platform in the North Sea. They expect it to have 640 million barrels of recoverable oil for the duration of its life, equal to a quarter of a billion tonnes [of CO2 pollution].”

This is the same government who continues in its efforts to pursue shale gas from fracking, while at the same time refusing to back renewable energy projects such as the tidal energy project in Swansea, and placing a moratorium on onshore wind power, despite record growth.

It is not only the low-carbon energy potential that they have thrown out of the window, but it is also the lead position we have held in these industries that attract investments, leading to more jobs and a brighter future.

In this context, it is hard to see how Green Is Great, or even the open bragging of The Climate Change Act can be more than barefaced lying, both to the British people and again here at COP to delegates looking for hope in a dark place.

Road to hell 

The fossil fuel energy pathway this government is locking us into for decades to come will contribute significantly to shattering the myth that we will avert dangerous climate change.

Combined with all the lies of other developed nations, including those in Scandinavia, Germany, and Canada, not to mention China and India, our global emissions are set to keep rising and with it, the cost to all life on Earth.

This was expressed in the morning while talking to the scientist, Christoph Thiel from Greenpeace: “we don’t just have a climate change problem, we are also into the first human caused mass extinction!”

People like me

People like me feel a sense of sadness and anger when Russia or the US deny obvious truths, especially on existential issues such as climate change. Yet, in reality, there is very little difference between what UK policy is doing underlying banners such as Green Is Great. The reason they can get away with it is because we all know they are doing it and choose to turn a blind eye in case it impacts our own way of life.

There is now clear evidence that the top 10 percent of society’s highest emitters are responsible for 50 percent of global emissions. Kevin Anderson raised this point numerous times over various presentations both in and out of the COP. Within this group emissions from flying drastically impact our individual carbon footprints and Anderson cites frequent flying as being emblematic of the kind of lifestyle that speaks much louder than rhetoric on climate action:

“The airports are full of frequent fliers, who are the wealthy people in our society. Emissions across the board are being driven by a relatively small cohort of very high emitters.

“At the global level, we know that 50% of emissions come from 10 percent of the population and it looks like the UK is not dissimilar to that, nor is the US. In the US the top one percent emit around 300-350 tonnes of CO2 pollution [per person] each year, and yet the average in the US is around 23 tonnes. In the EU, it’s nearer 13 tonnes. But I bet you there are a lot of poorer people in the EU who are running well below the average at about 4-8 tonnes!”

Axis of Evil?

All of this sheds light on why the UK, US, and pretty much all other governments in developed nations, ignore their Paris Agreement commitments and focus on the job of keeping us in the profligate and destructive lives that we have become accustomed too.

At an individual level, it is the choices that we make every day that collectively make up the staggering true cost of climate change. As Anderson puts it:

“Emissions relate very closely to income and that is because we use a lot more energy, but also then, above a certain threshold, it means we consume lots more goods. That stuff uses lots of energy; the raw material, the manufacturing of it, and then to import it.”

The consequences of every decision

Scientists have created a set of carbon budgets that tell us how much carbon we can emit depending on whether we are aiming to achieve a global warming of 1.5ºC, 2ºC, or anywhere over 3.3ºC. These budgets are very tight and, yet, this year global emissions rose 2.7 percent – much larger than last years 1.6 percent.

After 24 years of COP’s, to achieve an international agreement that no one is honouring, and the wealthy people, who have the power to change, are ignoring, is a disgrace. The decisions I make going forward, from flying to eating meat, or air freighted avocados, they all consume another part of that carbon budget that is rightly the property of the poorer people in the global society, who have emitted virtually nothing but face the worst consequences.

In addition, careful consideration should be given to our children and grandchildren who will have to try and live in the environmental mess that we have created for them. It should not surprise anyone as to why they are taking to the streets and will continue to do so as the crisis worsens.

Anderson ends leaving this question hanging in the air: “What’s worse, Russia, America, and Saudi Arabia being honest about their rejection of the science, or us, lying about it so we can go on doing what we are doing?”

This Author

Nick Breeze is a climate change journalist also publishing on https://envisionation.co.uk and organising https://climateseries.com. Follow him on Twitter at @NickGBreeze

Press link for more: The Ecologist

12 Reasons Labor Should Demand a #GreenNewDeal #LabConf18 #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #SchoolStrike4Climate #ClimateChange #Airpollution

Only protecting humanity from climate catastrophe can unify the political forces needed to meet labor’s demands for jobs, union rights, economic security, full employment, and worker empowerment

Labor shouldn’t just back the Green New Deal, it should help lead the way. (Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Workers have gotten a raw deal.

Employers and their Republican (Liberal) allies are trying to eliminate workers’ rights both in the workplace and at the ballot box.

But even when Democrats controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress, they did little to protect, let alone expand, the rights of working people. Workers need a new deal.

Now, an alliance of social movements and members of Congress are proposing a Green New Deal to create millions of jobs by putting Americans to work making a climate-safe economy. This program meets the needs of—and has the potential to unite—the labor movement, environmentalists, and all those who have been the victims of inequality, discrimination, racism and, now, climate change.

In the week following the 2018 midterm elections, a group of 150 protesters led by young people with the Sunrise Movement occupied the office of likely Democratic House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, urging her to support a Green New Deal. Newly-elected House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) joined the protest with a resolution in hand to establish a Select Committee for a Green New Deal. The proposal has since amassed growing support among Congressional representatives, progressive organizations and young people across the country.

The Green New Deal is poised to become a factor in the 2020 elections. Labor unions should take this opportunity to embrace the proposal—and fight to make sure it’s a strong vehicle for advancing workers’ rights.

What was the New Deal?

In the depths of the Great Depression, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched the New Deal—a set of government programs to provide employment and social security, reform tax policies and business practices, and stimulate the economy. It included the building of homes, hospitals, school, roads, dams and electrical grids. The New Deal put millions of people to work and created a new policy framework for American democracy.

New Deal programs included public employment (Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps); farm price supports (Agricultural Adjustment Act); environmental restoration (reforestation and land conservation); labor rights (Wagner Act); minimum wages and standards (National Recovery Act and Fair Labor Standards Act); cooperative enterprises (Works Progress Administration support for self-help); public infrastructure development (TVA and rural electrification); subsidized basic necessities (food commodity programs and Federal Housing Act); construction of schools, parks, and housing (Civil Works Administration); and income maintenance (Social Security Act).

Besides its famous “alphabet soup” of Federal government agencies, the New Deal was part of a larger process of social change that included experimentation at a state, regional and local level; organization among labor, unemployed, urban, the elderly and other grassroots constituencies; and lively debate on future alternatives that went far beyond the policies actually implemented.

What a Green New Deal would do 

The Green New Deal is a program that all trade unionists and advocates for working people can and should get behind.

While there are a variety of detailed proposals for a Green New Deal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ proposal promises to create millions of jobs through building a new 100%-renewable electrical system and a national “smart grid,” retrofitting residential and industrial buildings, and building a new, low-emission transportation system.

It also seeks to end the epidemic of poverty by mitigating deeply entrenched racial, regional and gender-based inequalities in income and wealth and distributing federal aid and other investment equitably to historically impoverished and marginalized communities.

At its core, the Green New Deal would work toward saving the climate by meeting scientific targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases, investing in the drawdown and capture of greenhouse gases, and making “green” technology a major export of the United States to help other countries transition to carbon-neutral economies.

Why labor should support a Green New Deal 

American workers, like most Americans, are dissatisfied with the status quo and want change. Organized labor is in a position to help lead that change. But all too rarely is labor’s program directed to a vision of what we want for the future.

The Green New Deal provides a visionary program for labor and can provide a role for unions in defining and leading a new vision for America.

At the same time, the Green New Deal projects a program that is not far-fetched. It includes plans for a public works programs, the expansion of human rights and new entitlement programs. Americans have made such goals a reality before in U.S. history—with organized labor playing a leading role.

Why a Green New Deal? Only protecting humanity from climate catastrophe can unify the political forces needed to meet labor’s demands for jobs, union rights, economic security, full employment, and worker empowerment.

There are 12 key reasons why labor should get on board with a Green New Deal:

  1. Avert climate catastrophe: We are in a climate emergency. The current threat to humanity rivals that of Nazi armies that once threatened to establish a “thousand-year Reich” whose master race would rule the world. Millions of workers mobilized to build the tanks, planes and ammunition that defeated the Nazis. Today we need a mobilization that similarly puts millions to work building the windmills, solar collectors, grids and other tools needed to defeat climate change. Working people have no greater collective interest.
  2. Provide jobs for all: The production of equipment and construction of infrastructure for the new climate-safe economy will provide manufacturing and construction jobs for millions of workers. The Climate Jobs Guarantee contained within the Green New Deal would provide jobs for all who want them at a base wage of $15, including healthcare and other benefits. The ongoing conversion to a sustainable economy will continue to provide good jobs for generations.
  3. Abolish poverty: In addition to a jobs guarantee providing wages that will lift workers out of poverty, the Green New Deal will also include basic income programs and universal health care for those who are not in the workforce.
  4. Rebuild the labor movement: Put simply, a Green New Deal can help rebuild the U.S. labor movement. With input from labor, the plan can guarantee the right to organize, bargain collectively, engage in concerted action and retain basic Constitutional rights on the job for all workers.
  5. Unite the working class: President Donald Trump, the Republican Party and corporate America have been working overtime to divide the working class. The Green New Deal embodies the common interests of all working people in climate protection, jobs for all and greater equality. At the same time, it addresses the legacy of race, gender, and other forms of discrimination and injustice. And it expresses human values that recognize the equal worth and common fate of all people.
  6. Win wide popular support for a labor-friendly program: Public opinion polling shows that the programs of the Green New Deal are extraordinarily popular. A recent poll shows that over half of voting-eligible adults said they would be more likely to support a candidate running on a Green Job Guarantee, including 35 percent of Trump voters. And young people are far more likely to support a candidate running on a platform of 100 percent renewable energy and Green jobs.
  7. Build a powerful labor-friendly coalition: The original New Deal coalition brought together diverse constituencies including labor, African Americans, city dwellers and farmers. That coalition was a dominant force in American politics for more than 40 years. The Green New Deal similarly provides the basis for a broad, long-lasting coalition that can again transform American politics and society. By helping lead that coalition, organized labor can secure the rights and well-being of all workers.
  8. Unify environmental and labor forces in the Democratic Party: Labor and environmentalists have too often been at loggerheads in the Democratic Party. This has undermined both the protection of the environment and of workers. A Green New Deal can become a common program unifying the environmental and labor constituencies of the Democratic Party. By making protecting the climate the way to provide jobs for all, it puts an end to the phony conflict between “jobs and the environment.”
  9. Challenge corporate dominance of the Democratic Party: For far too long, the Democrats’ corporate wing, representing the interests of the wealthy, has dominated the party. Even when Democrats controlled the Presidency and both houses of Congress, the corporate wing of the party helped stymie both labor law reform and effective climate protection—screwing workers twice. The Green New Deal provides a program that represents the views of the great majority of Democrats that can allow the party’s rank-and-file to take control and advance both workers’ rights and climate protection.
  10. Strengthen workers bargaining power: The tremendous demand for labor created by the transition to a fossil-free economy, combined with the Climate Jobs Guarantee, will eliminate that “long line of workers at the gate” that employers use to strengthen their hands in negotiations. The Climate Jobs Guarantee will set a new floor for wages and benefits that all employers will need to exceed if they wish to sustain a workforce.
  11. Expand union apprenticeship and training: As with the economic mobilization for World War II, climate mobilization will require training a new workforce. The Green New Deal defines union apprenticeships and other training programs as a central way to do so. That will provide both a major source of financial support for unions and a chance to show the benefits of unionization to millions of workers entering the workforce or being retrained for new jobs.
  12. Establish a standard for those who claim to be labor’s friends: One reason for organized labor’s declining clout has been the lack of a clear standard for those who seek labor’s support. The Green New Deal provides a clear statement of how candidates and organizations can show support for labor—and therefore what politicians must fight for if they want labor’s support.

What the New Deal did for labor 

The New Deal established jobs programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), Civil Works Administration (CWA), and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA employed more than 8.5 million workers who built 650,000 miles of highways and roads, 125,000 public buildings, as well as schools, bridges, reservoirs, irrigation systems, parks and playgrounds.

In 1936, when many American employers were violently opposing unions, WPA director Harry Hopkins signed an agreement assuring the Workers Alliance of America, a merger of several unemployed organizations, the right to organize relief workers.

The Workers Alliance functioned as a proto-union in the WPA, striking, protesting grievances, and organizing mass demonstrations and marches to maintain and expand the program. It worked with the AFL and the nascent CIO to demand union scale for skilled workers, a minimum payment for WPA workers and collective bargaining for all workers on work-relief projects. Many WPA workers used their experience to become organizers in the new CIO. As the WPA wound down and the private economy revived, many former Workers Alliance activists became leaders in the new industrial unions.

The 1935 Social Security Act established retirement pensions, unemployment insurance, and welfare programs that remain the primary basis for economic security for many American workers to this day.

The 1935 National Labor Relations Act—aka the Wagner Act—guaranteed workers the right to bargain collectively through unions of their own choosing. Union membership virtually tripled in the decade following the passage of the act.

The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act set maximum hours, minimum wages and abolished child labor.

Through its role in the administrative agencies of the New Deal and its growing role in the New Deal coalition, organized labor achieved an unprecedented, if still subordinate, voice in the halls of governmental and political power.

What labor should ask of a Green New Deal

While current proposals for a Green New Deal align with workers’ interests, organized labor brings traditions and insights that can make them even more compelling.

Incorporating worker demands in the Green New Deal program will pay benefits long before they can be implemented at a national level. It will ensure that labor’s approach is understood and adopted by a wide coalition. And it will provide guidelines for what policies that coalition will fight for at a local, state, regional and industry level.

Labor needs to begin the discussion on what it wants in a Green New Deal. It needs a program that will transform the role of organized working people at least as profoundly as the programs of the New Deal. But that can’t simply be a matter of going back to labor’s past glories.

The rights of working people have been eroded under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Labor law as amended by Congress and interpreted by the courts has become less a protection for workers and unions than a means to restrict their freedom. Simply rolling back recent conservative victories like the Supreme Court’s Janus decision is not enough. Labor can and should demand that the Green New Deal—like the original New Deal—establish a new framework that protects workers’ fundamental Constitutional and human rights.

Labor should demand that any Green New Deal:

Restore the right to organize, bargain collectively and engage in concerted action on the job: These rights were originally protected by the New Deal’s National Labor Relations Act, but they have been eroded by legislation, court decisions and the power of employers to discipline and fire their workers.

Guarantee the Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly in the workplace: These rights are essential to workers’ freedom to organize as they see fit. They are also essential aspects of human rights and human dignity that should not be eliminated once you enter the workplace.

Restore the right to strike: In the half-century following the Civil War, American workers’ movements maintained that the right to strike was a fundamental Constitutional right, guaranteed by the 13th  Amendment’s prohibition of “involuntary servitude.” It’s time to enforce that right.

Guarantee the right to a safe and healthy work environment: The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970 supposedly assured “safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women,” but it was deeply flawed from the outset and has been gutted over time. A Green New Deal can help meet both labor and environmental goals by banning all unsafe practices in workplaces.

Provide a fair and just transition for workers whose jobs may be threatened by economic change: This should include but not be limited to change that results from the transition to a climate-safe economy. It should include an updated version of the GI Bill of Rights that gave returning World War II veterans education, housing, medical and other benefits to make a new start on life and economic development support for communities affected by economic transition.

Establish fair labor standards: The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provided minimum wages, limited the hours of work, and established other protections for workers. Today the minimum wage is so low that it fails to ensure even a poverty-level income. In practice, workers can be made to work for as few or as many hours as their employers want. New labor standards should ensure that anyone who works gets a living wage; employees are provided predictable hours of labor; and that workers may not be fired without just cause.

Establish strong state and local prevailing wage laws: The Davis-Bacon Act, passed on the eve of the New Deal, requires that all contractors and subcontractors performing federally-funded construction, alteration, or repair work must pay their workers no less than the prevailing wages and benefits for corresponding work on similar projects in the area. A Green New Deal should implement prevailing wage laws for all climate-protection jobs, all state- and locally-funded projects, as well as other industries.

Encourage industry-wide bargaining: The labor relations system established by the New Deal often led to industry-wide collective bargaining in which all steelworkers or auto workers were united in their confrontations with management. Today, workers in each industry and each corporation are often represented by dozens of different unions who all bargain separately with little coordination. A Green New Deal can encourage bargaining councils and other forms of coordination that promote higher wages and prevent a race to the bottom by taking wages out of competition.

Establish a “buy fair” and “buy local” procurement policy: A Green New Deal can provide incentives for quality jobs which provide family-sustaining wages and benefits; the right to form a union and engage in collective bargaining free of intimidation and reprisal; and hiring opportunities for workers in disadvantaged communities.

What trade unionists can do right now to win a Green New Deal

The idea of a Green New Deal has rapidly and unexpectedly broken through into public discussion. Here’s how unions can build on this momentum right now:

Support the Sunrise Movement’s Green New Deal actions: Show up for demonstrations at your Congressional representative’s office to demand they support a Green New Deal.

Ask politicians who depend on labor support to sign on to Congressional resolutions calling for a Green New Deal

Educate your membership about the Green New Deal: Materials are available at the Labor Network for Sustainability website.

Pass a resolution demanding a Green New Deal: The organization Labor for Single Payer first passed resolutions through hundreds of local unions, then dozens of national unions, and ultimately turned the labor movement into a powerful advocate for universal healthcare. The labor movement’s support for a Green New Deal can send a strong message that the plan is critical to building working-class power.

Push for elements of the Green New Deal in your collective bargaining demands: “Bargaining for the common good” is a growing trend for American unions. Many aspects of the Green New Deal can be won through union bargaining. For example, unions can bargain for their employers to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to apply prevailing wage standards to their own workers or outside contractors who perform the necessary work.

Join together with other unions and allies to demand a Green New Deal: Coalitions that advocate for protection for both workers and the climate have emerged at the local, state and national levels. You can join with them to form a powerful force to ultimately win a strong and bold Green New Deal.

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