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Major polluters spend 10 times as much on climate lobbying as green groups #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

Fossil fuel companies are some of the most significant lobby groups in the US for climate change-related issues ( Getty Images )

Major polluters have had a massively disproportionate financial influence on US politics in recent years, according to a new analysis of climate lobbying.

Over the past two decades lobby groups have spent more than $2bn (£1.55bn) in attempts to influence climate change legislation in the US.

The vast majority of this money has come from groups that stand to lose out from limits on carbon emissions, such as the electrical utilities sector, fossil fuel companies and transportation.

This spending dwarfed that of environmental organisations and the renewable energy sector, which overall contributed around a tenth of the funds given by sectors with significant greenhouse gas emissions.

“The vast majority of climate lobbying expenditure came from sectors that would be highly impacted by climate legislation,” explained Dr Robert Brulle of Drexel University, who conducted the analysis.

An environmental sociologist by background, Dr Brulle conducted his study using mandatory lobbying reports made available on the website OpenSecrets.

“The spending of environmental groups and the renewable energy sector was eclipsed by the spending of the electrical utilities, fossil fuel and transportation sectors,” he said.

Dr Brulle looked at spending information for related issues between 2000 and 2016, a period in which climate change was a crucial issue in national politics.

The electrical utilities sector spent the most on climate change lobbying during this stretch – over $500m and a quarter of all overall spending.

This was followed closely by the fossil fuel sector at $370m and the transportation sector at around $250m.

The efforts of environmental groups and the renewable energy sector paled in comparison to these figures, accounting for just 3 per cent of overall funding each.

Overall, this meant sectors relying on fossil fuels spent ten times as much as green interests did during this 16-year period. These findings were published in the journal Climatic Change.

“Lobbying is conducted away from the public eye. There is no open debate or refutation of viewpoints offered by professional lobbyists meeting in private with government officials,” said Dr Brulle.

“Control over the nature and flow of information to government decision-makers can be significantly altered by the lobbying process and creates a situation of systematically distorted communication.

“This process may limit the communication of accurate scientific information in the decision-making process.”

Dr Brulle said that as lobbying by environmental groups often constitutes short-term efforts, it cannot compete with the considerable firepower employed by professional lobbyists. He said his findings have considerable implications for the future of climate legislation in the US.

Press link for more: Independent.Co

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Climate Change Will Change Everything #auspol #qldpol #NoNewCoal #StopAdani #Longman @ElliottShayne CEO @ANZ_AU #Divest

Climate Change Will Change Everything

Stephen Farrell

There is no doubt that climate change is no longer just a threat, it is a real and present danger that is increasingly impacting the lives of many people and the natural world. The question is what are we doing about it?

I think the biggest challenge is leadership.

When the Pope recently spoke to senior members of the petroleum industry and asked why they continued to spend so much effort finding new reserves of carbon polluting resources to dig up at a time when scientists had concluded the consequences for the planet and humankind of digging up any new reserves of carbon-based fuels will be dire, it begs the question of where is leadership on the issue?

Thank you, Pope.

Increasingly, many people in the corporate sector have confirmed that it is financially irresponsible to expose assets to the real threat of climate change – be it investments, assets or production processes.

Figure 1: New Approaches to Climate Thinking and Risk Management – Prof Jean Palutikof, NCCARF director Climate Leadership Conference 2018 Sydney

Think Global, Act Local

One of these conferences was on leadership, with the clear message that rather than get distracted by the partisan climate change politics of the day at a state and federal government levels, we need to think in global and local terms.

The message is that there has never been a more pressing issue around which to think global and act local.

In terms of local, the message has been that we need to think, plan and act on cities, and liveability, since so many of us live in increasing urbanised and built environments.

The Lens of Climate Change

The other key message I took away from the conferences was that we should consider everything we plan to do and how we do it, through the lens of climate change.

Climate change will change everything we know and have experienced until now.  And what’s more, significant change is already locked in.

We have already added the carbon emissions that will change the world’s climate over the next 20 years.

So firstly, be prepared to deal with that – hence the raft of adaptation strategies that many organisations are now considering.

But most importantly decarbonize, decarbonize, decarbonize, so that we don’t continue to lock in more change.

Not only decarbonise our energy production and consumption but decarbonise our product production processes.  For example, we were told of the importance of decarbonising our current cement production processes, since cement production – as a key resource in the building of new cities to house the worlds growing population – is a major contributor to global carbon emissions.  There was some amazing statistics along the lines’ China had used more cement in the 3 years (2011-2013) than the USA did in the entire 20th century.

We were also told of the tremendous efforts in understanding production processes, and refining or replacing the most carbon intensive polluting parts of the process.  Work by groups like the CRC for Low Carbon Living was very impressive and encouraging.

There were also fascinating presentations on reducing the carbon emissions generated in the production of other products, such as smart phone components; or the changes already being observed in health and diseases as our climate changes.  And there was no surprise to hear how many Defence forces have for some time accepted and have been applying scenarios relating to the likely impacts on anticipated climate change.

Starting at the bottom

I particularly liked the graphic related to the climate change activities relevant to the Great Barrier Reef by David Wachenfeld, GBRMA.

The base of the triangle is tackle climate change (directly by reducing carbon emissions).

Above that are changes in land management practices, and at the top point of the triangle were the adaptation strategies, such assisted gene flow, population relocation etc.

The message was that we shouldn’t get distracted talking about how clever we may be in saving the last species of coral on the reef, we need to focus on decarbonizing at a broad and local level as the most important step we can undertake to help the reef, and then changes in land management practices.

Figure 2: Climate change activities relevant to the Great Barrier Reef by David Wachenfeld, GBRMA

How can spatial sciences and technologies help?

My particular interest was to better understand how spatial sciences and technologies can help us understand the likely impacts.

Understand what will change, and by how much when, and which assets are more or less exposed?  And rather than the traditional likelihood consequence matrix approaches to risk management, it seems we need to consider scenarios, and hence use spatial techniques to expose the what-ifs.

What if there is an increased intensity and frequency of storms, and they come from a different direction? – such as the storms that hit Sydney’s coastline a few years ago – coming more from the east than the south east.

Figure 3: Coastal Impacts of the June 2016 East Coast Storm – Prof Ian Turner University of Sydney Climate Leadership Conference 2018 Sydney

A key theme in recent times has been the uncertainly in climate change forecasts. Which model, what assumptions, what timeframes etc. should be used?  The message from these conferences was unequivocally that uncertainly is no excuse.  Change is coming, get on and plan for it.  There are tools and support available.  Make sure that your assumptions and the data you use are clear or transparent and share what you do.

As better tools and data become available the process can be repeated and refined. Another key message was that we are poor at predicting the extremes, the real events we experience are often worse than our worst case modelled scenarios.  So, use the current scenarios in this context.

The power of spatial technologies is also assisting us better understand and plan for change in our cities – particularly their liveability and sustainability in a changing and more climate challenging world.

Identifying city footprints, or thermal heat distribution were two examples of spatial approaches to better understand and inform planning responses.

Figure 4 & 5:Towards a low carbon future – Scientia Prof Deo Prasad Low Carbon Living CRC Climate Leadership Conference 2018 Sydney

There were a couple of great presentations that highlighted how spatial technologies are increasingly applied to natural disasters, both in traditional ways, such as in the planning and being prepared, and to inform those of the threat and by emergency agencies to respond – but in increasingly innovative ways such as the harvesting of twitter feeds to the help track the fire front.

Climate change will change everything.

It is a societal and moral challenge and dilemma.

We can all play a role and do more.

When future generations ask us where we were and what we did, I think we will want to feel comfortable with our answer.

The conferences were:

Climate Leadership conference in Sydney, 2018

Climate Adaption Conference in Melbourne, 2018

For more information, please contact Spatial Vision at info@spatialvision.com.au

Press link for more: Spatial Vision

Who pays the impact cost of #ClimateChange ? #auspol #qldpol @ElliottShayne CEO @ANZ_AU #NoNewCoal #StopAdani

San Francisco sends climate costs to taxpayers as liability suit idles

By Amy Westervelt

When U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup dismissed San Francisco and Oakland’s climate liability suits against five of the world’s largest oil companies last week, his ruling ignored the central question of the suit: who should be responsible for paying for the impacts of climate change?

In his earlier hearing, Alsup seemed to struggle with the idea that cities could even anticipate what those costs are, imagining them to be unpredictable and far in the future.

But climate change adaptation costs are already piling up for the Bay Area cities. And in place of another way to raise money, San Francisco is sending a referendum to voters this November to vote on paying $425 million to repair the Embarcadero seawall, which is only a small part of a projected $5 billion long-term plan to upgrade the seawall to protect the city from sea level rise.

Globally, seas have risen 8 inches since industry started burning fossil fuels and forecasts predict 2 to 4 more feet of sea level rise this century.

“The costs of climate change are here, and they are only getting more expensive,” San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera said. “Without our litigation, the public will pay for everything—adaptation, mitigation and repair— while the companies who profited off creating this situation walk away with a windfall at taxpayer expense.”

San Francisco and Oakland have not yet announced whether they will appeal Alsup’s dismissal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Despite the fact that the cities are already paying for climate change, Alsup questioned the anticipated price tag listed in their complaints.

“You’re asking for billions of dollars for something that hasn’t happened yet in Oakland, for example, and it may never happen to the same extent that you’re predicting in the Complaint,” the judge said to Steve Berman, lead attorney for the cities. “Why don’t we just wait and see if it happens, and if the Corps of Engineers doesn’t build a dike and the City of Oakland has to pay millions of dollars for a sea wall, okay, then—but that hasn’t even occurred yet.”

Berman countered that the cities are already paying for climate change, and pointed to San Francisco’s complaint, in which the costs are clearly spelled out.

“Global warming places at risk at least $10 billion dollars of public property within San Francisco and as much as $39 billion of private property,” one paragraph reads. “In 2016, San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee announced an initial investment of $8 million over the next two years to initiate City efforts to fortify the Seawall,” another paragraph states. “Short-term seawall upgrades are expected to cost more than $500 million. Long-term upgrades to the seawall are projected to cost $5 billion.”

San Francisco and Oakland filed their suits last September against five major oil companies—Exxon, Chevron, BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips—seeking compensation for the impacts of climate change driven by fossil fuel burning. The cities did not specify an amount, but want the companies to pay into an abatement fund to deal with those impacts.

The $425 million seawall bond, approved unanimously by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in June, is one example of financial issues coastal cities are facing. “This is the type of price tag that should help a judge see it’s a real issue for the city,” Berman said.

San Francisco is not the first city to ask taxpayers to foot the bill for climate adaptation. Last year, Miami, led by Republican Mayor Tomás Regalado, put a $400 million obligation bond in front of its taxpayers to pay for climate adaptation measures and it passed.

Herrera has compared the damages requested in the climate cases to those secured in lead paint liability cases, in which three paint companies were ordered to pay $1.15 billion into an abatement fund to clean up lead paint in homes. “It would work the same way: The money would sit in an account to be used for climate adaptation or to deal with climate change-related damage as needed,” Herrera said.

The immediate repairs to the Embarcadero seawall can’t wait for the liability suit to be resolved, which is why the bond question is being sent to taxpayers. The cities—as well as the nearly dozen communities around the country pursuing liability cases against the oil industry—know those costs are only going to grow and don’t believe they can or should rely on taxpayer money to cover them.

Press link for more: Climate Liability

Warming of 2C ‘substantially’ more harmful than 1.5C – draft UN report #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani Stop #ClimateChange @ANZ_AU @CommBank #Divest

Warming of 2C ‘substantially’ more harmful than 1.5C – draft UN report

Karl Mathiesen, Megan Darby and Soila Apparicio

Published on 27/06/2018, 11:07am

Walrus use sea ice to rest while hunting. But at 2C the Arctic is “very likely” to be ice-free one year in ten, scientists have found (Photo: Brad Benter/USFWS)

Latest version of major UN science report concludes the upper temperature goal of the Paris Agreement does not represent a climate safe zone

A leaked draft of a major UN climate change report shows growing certainty that 2C, once shorthand for a ‘safe’ amount of planetary warming, would be a dangerous step for humanity.

The authors make clear the difference between warming of 1.5C and 2C would be “substantial” and damaging to communities, economies and ecosystems across the world.

In 2015, the Paris Agreement established twin goals to hold temperature rise from pre-industrial times “well below 2C” and strive for 1.5C.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has since been working to assess the difference between those targets, with a view to publishing a sweeping analysis of all available research in October this year.

The report summary, which Climate Home News published on Wednesday, is a draft and subject to change. The IPCC said it would not comment on leaked reports. An earlier draft from January was also published by CHN.

CHN has compared the January and June drafts. The new version builds a stronger case for governments to rapidly cut carbon pollution. It also strikes a marginally more optimistic tone on the attainability of the 1.5C target.

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In January, authors said every 0.5C added to today’s level of 1C of warming would “increase” the risks of various impacts. That wording has been beefed up throughout the new summary, which now predicts “substantial increases” in those risks.

Bill Hare, a physicist and CEO of Climate Analytics, said the new draft had made big steps forward in clarifying the difference between the two Paris temperature goals.

“If one looks across many parts of the report there are really very substantial improvements since January,” he said.

Since the first draft was circulated, a number of studies focusing on the differing impacts of 1.5C and 2C warming have been published. New evidence on the impacts on species, the economy, physical systems and invasive pests has been incorporated in the report.

report released in April allowed the IPCC to predict that at 2C it was “very likely that there will be at least one sea ice free Arctic summer per decade”, whereas this would happen just once per century at 1.5C.

The draft was also changed in line with new research on economic impacts, finding “growth is projected to be lower at 2C than at 1.5C of global warming for many developed and developing countries”.

Leaked: final government draft of UN 1.5C climate report – in full and annotated

The major outstanding question about the 1.5C target is: is it feasible? In the new draft, the scientists write “there is no simple answer”.

On current levels of pollution, the world is warming roughly 0.2C each decade. If that continues, the 1.5C threshold will be crossed in the 2040s, the report says.

However comparison of the drafts reveals a significant increase in the “carbon budget” – the total mass of greenhouse gases that can be emitted before the world will be committed to warming past 1.5C.

The January draft found a maximum of 580 gigatonnes of CO2 would give a 50% chance of limiting warming to 1.5C. In the new draft, that number has been increased by a third to 750GtCO2.

In January, authors wrote scenarios that gave a 66% chance of staying under 1.5C were “already out of reach”. That language has been dropped, although the new draft does not say these higher probabilities are now considered feasible.

A coal power plant in Tianjin, China. Primary energy from coal must be reduced by two thirds by 2030 for 1.5C to be possible, the draft says (Photo: Shubert Ciencia)

CHN asked IPCC authors and scientists not directly involved in the summary to help explain the difference between the budgets. None were willing to comment on the record.

One researcher said the process for calculating the budget was “highly intransparent”.

The calculation of carbon budgets relies on assumptions and different approaches produce numbers that vary by “more than 50%”, according to the new draft. That covers a real world set of emissions cuts that range from virtually unachievable to challenging but possible.

The first draft of the special report was released for feedback from researchers in January. After receiving tens of thousands of comments it was revised and on 4 June a new draft was sent to governments for review.

The final government draft summary published on this website contains detailed annotations by CHN reporters on many of the changes made between the first and second drafts of the report.

Both versions of the report find the 1.5C goal requires CO2 emissions from electricity to reach net zero by mid-century.

The second draft adds a note that: “The political, economic, social and technical feasibility of solar energy, wind energy and electricity storage technologies increased over the past few years, signalling that such a system transition in electricity generation may be underway.”

The latest draft summary places more emphasis on efforts to cut emissions before 2030. This mirrors many countries’ pledges to the Paris Agreement, which set emissions targets for that year.

Pressure is growing for these promises to be increased. On Monday, 14 EU countries called on the European Commission’s long term climate strategy, which is under development, to align with the 1.5C limit.

Climate commissioner: EU can increase 2030 pledge to Paris Agreement

The summary elaborates on what a “rapid and far-reaching” transition looks like for different sectors.

Renewables deployment needs to accelerate further for 1.5C to be possible, the draft says, with primary energy from coal falling two thirds by 2030. For comparison, the International Energy Agency forecasts coal use increasing slightly over the period, based on existing and signposted policies.

It calls for sustainable management of competing demands on the land. This includes “diet changes” – code for the rich eating less steak – and “sustainable intensification” of farming, which is viewed with suspicion by many environmentalists.

Radical emissions cuts are also needed in industry, transport and buildings, where it says technology exists but faces economic and social barriers.

The final section deals with sustainable development and how efforts to meet the 1.5C limit interact with goals like eradicating poverty.

In the first summary, the authors warned there was a “high chance” the 1.5C target “might not be feasible” because efforts to remove carbon from the atmosphere, through tree-planting or use of carbon capture with biofuels, can conflict with other development priorities and take up land used for food production.

This language has been toned down, instead concluding the feasibility of such methods “depends on scale, [and the] implications for land, water and energy use”.

Press link for more: Climate Change News

Litigation Is the weapon of choice for #ClimateChange warriors #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange

Climate Change Warriors’ Latest Weapon of Choice Is Litigation

By Jeremy Hodges, Lauren Leatherby and Kartikay Mehrotra

May 24, 2018

In the global fight against climate change, one tool is proving increasingly popular: litigation.

From California to the Philippines, activists, governments and concerned citizens are suing the biggest polluters and national governments over the effects of climate change at a break-neck pace.

“The courts are our last, best hope at this moment of irreversible harm to our planet and life on it,” said Julia Olson, an attorney for Our Children’s Trust, a legal challenge center in the U.S. that is involved in climate change litigation across 13 countries, including the U.S., Pakistan and Uganda.

The wave of activity is about channeling the fervor of a social movement to drive change via the legal system. The arguments vary based on both culture and the law. In the U.S., home to more cases than anywhere else in the world, many recent suits involve plaintiffs seeking to protect climate-change rules passed under former President Barack Obama. In Europe, it’s largely governments being hammered over pollution-reduction plans that fall short of EU targets.

“The political branches of government have had decades to stop destroying our climate system; now only court-ordered mandates will stop the destruction our governments are perpetuating, and increasingly supporting,” said Olson, whose primary dispute is on behalf of a group of American teenagers suing the federal government to end U.S. dependence on fossil fuels. Both the Obama and Trump administrations have sought to end the case and been rebuffed.

California is quickly becoming ground zero for climate cases in the U.S., where eight cities and counties are suing oil companies to recover the cost of infrastructure needed to protect against rising sea levels. Cases by San Francisco and Oakland face a motion to dismiss the lawsuit today in a California federal court, where Chevron Corp., BP Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhilips and Royal Dutch Shell Plc will argue that remedies and penalties for climate change are a matter for lawmakers, not a single judge.

The topic came up twice during BP’s annual meeting on Monday. Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley declined to disclose certain climate targets, or even answer some questions from activist investors, and cited the risk of legal action.

“You want to get us to make statements here in front of you that you can document that will lead to a class action,” Dudley said in response to one question from the Union of Concerned Scientists about pending U.S. litigation against energy companies. Such legal actions are “a business model in the United States,” he said.

The climate lawsuits aren’t all about cleaning up the environment. Last year, 27 percent of U.S. climate-related cases—largely those brought by companies—opposed protections, according to the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, which keeps a database on climate-change cases. Among those: a dispute filed by ExxonMobil against the states of Massachusetts and New York that called for the end of an investigation into Exxon’s knowledge and disclosure of climate change-related risks. The case was thrown out in March by a federal judge in New York.

City of New York v. BP

United States

New York City

The case: In January, New York City sued five of the world’s biggest oil companies, arguing the companies are financially liable for damage caused by climate change to the city and its population. New York followed eight California cities and counties who filed similar cases in the previous year.

Latest: The oil companies filed a motion to dismiss the suit, arguing that the case should be heard under federal law and that federal law doesn’t have the authority to rule on issues that focus on global economy and national security. A dismissal hearing will take place in June.

More cases are using human rights arguments, in which plaintiffs make the case that climate change has threatened or taken away populations’ basic rights to shelter, health, food, water and even life. From Ugandan children who sued their government for failing to protect them from climate change to hundreds of elderly Swiss women who sued the country for failure to shield them from climate change’s effects, human rights cases are a small but growing approach to this type of litigation.

Human rights suits

The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines

Philippines

The case: While not technically a legal fight, The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines’ inquiry is probing whether 47 major fossil fuel companies can be held culpable for accelerating climate change and how climate change impacts have affected basic human rights of Filipinos.

Latest: In March, scientists and lawyers gave evidence in the first public hearings. Several more hearings in Europe and the U.S. are planned in the months ahead.

Some cases may not focus on climate change itself but center on factors that lead to climate change, like air pollution. These lawsuits often involve an NGO or an individual taking a city or district to court to claim that the air quality laws are being breached, forcing authorities to take action.

The strategy has paid off particularly well in the U.K. and Germany, where suits have forced significant government policy changes. Germany is leading the way. Currently 28 German cities are subject to cases over illegal levels of pollution. On May 17, The European Commission said it was taking six countries—Germany, France, U.K., Italy, Hungary and Romania—to the European Court of Justice over their failure to tackle air pollution.

Suits addressing causes of climate change

DUH v Land Baden-Württemberg

Germany

The case: The Deutsche Umwelthilfe, or DUH, an environmental group, sued municipalities across Germany, pressuring them to enforce EU air pollution limits they’ve exceeded for years. Regional courts in Stuttgart and Dusseldorf ruled in favor of banning diesel cars in 2017 as the best and quickest way to cut emissions in busy city centers.

Latest: In February, Germany’s top administrative court upheld the original decisions, paving the way for bans on diesel cars. The landmark ruling could speed up the process of removing the worst-polluting cars from the country’s roads.

Governments fighting climate change litigation reflect a power struggle. Courts could force adjustments to the political platforms that got some of these officials elected. In the U.S., the Trump administration has said a victory for those cities demanding damages would undermine the government’s “strong economic and national security interests in promoting the development of fossil fuels,” while possibly threatening its position on the Paris climate accord.

That’s the official argument to dismiss the cases. But for attorneys committed to defending the environment in court, that’s the very point.

“It’s a legitimate method of seeking to not only draw attention to the issue of climate change but really hold governments to account because it’s already causing harm to people around the world,” said Sophie Marjanac, a lawyer at the activist law firm ClientEarth, which is behind several European pollution suits. These cases “hold elected officials to account, especially when those officials are breaching fundamental human rights.”

Press link for more: Bloomberg

Transformation of consciousness #StopAdani #auspol #empathy #ClimateChange

Transformation of consciousness

Excerpt from the Worldview Dimension of Gaia Education’s online course in Design for Sustainability

Daniel Christian WahlMay 18

Educator, speaker, strategic advisor — PhD Design for Sustainability, MSc Holistic Science, BSc Biol. Sciences; author of ‘Designing Regenerative Cultures’

“The materialistic consciousness of our culture … is the root cause of the global crisis; it is not our business ethics, our politics or even our personal lifestyles.

These are symptoms of a deeper underlying problem.

Our whole civilization is unsustainable. And the reason that it is unsustainable is that our value system, the consciousness with which we approach the world, is an unsustainable mode of consciousness.”

— Peter Russell (Lazlo, Grof, & Russell, 1999, p.5)

Many people who have lived relatively conventional and successful lives within the Westernized industrial growth society, that has spread across the planet in the wake of economic globalization and the neoliberal “free”-market agenda, have recently woken up to a feeling of having raced at full tilt aiming for success and getting ahead, only to find out that the goals they were perusing, once reached, seemed shallow, meaningless, and forced them into a life-style or into keeping up a persona that they really felt unhappy with.

Why does this irrational behavior pattern prevail throughout the consumer society? (image)

The last of the economic shock waves that have rippled through the global system in 2008 as a result of the so-called sub-prime mortgage lending put in question whether this experience is in fact an isolated experience of some people, or much rather, the realization that our entire society and its guiding aims has been steaming all engines ahead into an altogether undesirable direction.

Both individuals and the western ‘financial success driven’ society as a whole seem to find themselves in a situation described by Joseph Campbell as “getting to the top of the ladder and finding that it stands against the wrong wall.”

“The dominant worldview of the Western industrial civilization does not serve either the collective or the individual.

Its major credo is a fallacy.

It promotes a way of being and a strategy of life that is ultimately ineffective, destructive, and unfulfilling.

It wants us to believe that winning the competition for money, possessions, social position, power, and fame is enough to make us happy. … that is not the true.”

Stanislav Grof (Lazlo, Grof, & Russell, 1999, p.65)

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, suggests in his book The Evolving Self (Csikszentmihalyi, 1993): “To know ourselves is the greatest achievement of our species.”

He argues that in order to understand ourselves “ what we are made of, what motivates and drives us, and what goals we dream of — involves, first of all an understanding of our evolutionary past;” we need to reflect “on the network of relationships that bind us to each other and to the natural environment” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1993, p.xvii).

He acknowledges the importance of the emergence of self-reflective consciousness and its role in freeing us from genetic and cult.

The Evolving Self by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggest that commitment to conscious evolution gives people deep meaning an personal satisfaction.

He is noted for his work in the study of happiness and creativity and for his notion of flow with years of research and writing on the topic. (image left; image right)

Csikszentmihalyi believes that the next big evolutionary change in human consciousness may simultaneously acknowledge the self as separate from and fundamentally interconnected with the complexity from which it emerges.

The individual, its culture, and the natural environment are simultaneously differentiated from each other and united into a larger complexity.

“If it is true that at this point in history the emergence of complexity is the best ‘story’ we can tell about the past and the future, and if it is true that without it our half-formed self runs the risk of destroying the planet and our budding consciousness along with it, then how can we help to realize the potential inherent in the cosmos?

When the self consciously accepts its role in the process of evolution, life acquires a transcendent meaning.

Whatever happens to our individual existences, we will become one with the power that is the universe.”

— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1993

Jeremey Rifkin suggest in The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis that human nature is fundamentally empathic rather than selfish and competitive.

He reviews recent evidence from brain science and child development studies that show how selfishness, competition and aggression are not innate parts of human behaviour but learned and culturally conditioned responses.

Our very nature is far more caring, loving, and empathic than we have been educated to believe.

While being empathic may have initially extended primarily to our family and tribe, our ability to empathize has continued to expand to include the whole of humanity, other species and life as a whole. Rifkin suggest that we are witnessing the evolutionary emergence of Homo empathicus:

“We are at the cusp, I believe, of an epic shift into a climax global economy and a fundamental repositioning of human life on the planet. The ‘Age of Reason’ is being eclipsed by the ‘Age of Empathy’.

The most important question facing humanity is this: Can we reach global empathy in time to avoid the collapse of civilization and save the Earth?”

— Jeremy Rifkin (2010, p.3)

The change that Rifkin speaks about resonates with Albert Einsteins’ conviction that our task must be to “widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature.”

While this change is needed at a global scale of the human family, the first step lies in the awakening and transformation of consciousness of each and every one of us.

This section will explore both the personal and the collective dimension of this transformation. …

‘The Empathic Civilisation’, by Jeremy Rifkin. In this ambitious book, bestselling social critic Jeremy Rifkin shows that the disconnect between our vision for the world and our ability to realize that vision lies in the current state of human consciousness.

The very way our brains are structured disposes us to a way of feeling, thinking, and acting in the world that is no longer entirely relevant to the new environments we have created for ourselves.

Note: This is an excerpt from the Worldview Dimension of Gaia Education’s online course in Design for Sustainability. In 2012 I was asked to rewrite this dimension as part of a collaboration between Gaia Education and the Open University of Catalunya (UOC) and in 2016 I revised it again into this current version. The next opportunity to join the course is with the start of the Worldview Dimension on May 21st, 2018. You might also enjoy my book ‘Designing Regenerative Cultures’.

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Why Adani won’t die. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateChange

Why Adani won’t die

BY Richard Denniss

Richard Denniss is the chief economist at the Australia Institute.

The Carmichael coalmine is as much about symbols and interests as it is about jobs and money.

In case spending $1 billion of taxpayers’ money to subsidise the world’s largest export coalmine didn’t seem crazy enough, a coalition of Coalition MPs is now pushing for a $4 billion subsidy for a new coal-fired power station.

No doubt Barnaby Joyce will also demand a further $10 billion to build another inland railway line through National Party seats to link the Adani mine in Central Queensland to the new power station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.

The era of small government is dead, killed by conservative politicians who prefer to subsidise boondoggles and white elephants than stick to their alleged principles.

Indeed, this time last year Tony Abbott was calling on his own party to scrap all new spending initiatives in order to get the deficit under control.

This year he is the highest profile member of the so-called Monash Forum that is demanding the new government-funded power station. And politicians blame Twitter for the public’s loss of faith in politicians.

While some environmentalists and bankers have been saying for years that the Adani coalmine will never be built, the project just won’t die.

There is a simple reason for this seeming resilience, and it is inextricably linked to the Monash Forum’s recent calls for a new era of coal-fired power construction: with enough public subsidies, any project can be rendered profitable.

The fact that world coal demand has fallen three years in a row won’t stop it being built.

The fact that the cost of renewables has fallen by 80 per cent in the past 10 years won’t stop it.

The outrage over the fact that the mine would take an unlimited amount of water from the Great Artesian Basin, for free, won’t stop it.

And nor will the fact that it will never employ anything like 10,000 workers.

None of these things will stop the mine for the simple reason that, contrary to most of what passes for commentary on the issue, it’s not just about jobs or money. As always in Australian politics, it revolves around symbols and interests.

Symbols matter far more to politicians than many voters and political scientists seem to realise.

Why else would allegedly “libertarian” Liberal MPs have defended the rights of same-sex couples to live in loving  relationships but fought to deny them the right to get married?

The symbol of marriage mattered more than the principle of freedom to choose.

Similarly, the symbolism of the date of Australia Day and whether or not the Queen is our head of state matters as well, as does the colour of the ties that male politicians wear at the National Press Club.

Fights about symbols are symbolic, too.

All successful politicians know that losing a fight, any fight, sends a very bad signal. Any loss, no matter how small, is a symbol of weakness.

If a backbench MP loses a fight to get into the ministry, they have a greater chance of losing their preselection next.

Abbott and Eric Abetz know that if the date of Australia Day gets changed it will be harder to fend off calls for a republic.

If they can rally their troops to defend the symbolism of January 26, it will send a signal that they remain a force to be reckoned with. And if they lose the fight about January 26 …

Of course, symbols aren’t the only thing that matter in politics.

Money matters too.

The federal government spent more than $460 billion this year.

It’s the parliament that decides who gets that money. But despite all the rhetoric from business groups about the need to cut spending and reduce the size of government, each sitting week Parliament House is full of business lobbyists asking for subsidies or tax concessions.

Politics is big business.

Which brings me back to Adani.

This is not just a totemic fight for political conservatives; it’s also a fight about money.

Lots and lots of public money.

While it’s widely known that Adani wants a billion dollars from Australian taxpayers, few people realise that Australian taxpayers spend billions of dollars each year subsidising resource companies.

And the mining industry knows that if environment and community groups can win a fight about the Adani subsidies, then it won’t stop there.

Taking money off a group is symbolic as well, which is why conservatives are willing to spend so much money chasing the small debts of welfare recipients, and are also willing to forgo the debts of politicians who were wrongly elected to parliament.

So here we are, watching an enormous political fight over a mine that no bank thinks we need and few voters could place on a map.

At collectively 40 kilometres long and 10 kilometres wide, the Adani coal pits are enormous, but the size of the political fight about the mine has far more to do with power and money than it has to do with planning laws or the need to create jobs.

The word “jobs” is the most offensive four-letter word in the political vocabulary. It is an insult to the 730,000 unemployed people in Australia forced to live on a mere $245 per week.

If Australia needs to cause climate change and pollute our water to “create jobs” because there’s a shortage of them, how can joblessness be the fault of the unemployed?

If there is a shortage of jobs it would be cruel to punish those who don’t have them, wouldn’t it?

Conservative politicians revel in the symbolism of attacking the unemployed for their alleged lack of motivation while simultaneously attacking environmentalists for causing a shortage of mines that, allegedly, would solve the shortage of jobs. It’s a simple trick but it’s worked for decades.

Nobody believes that the Adani mine will create the “10,000 jobs” so frequently claimed by Adani and their parliamentary boosters, let alone the “tens of thousands of jobs” our current prime minister said it would create. How can I say that with such confidence? I was in the witness box at the Queensland Land Court the same day that Adani’s own economic expert ridiculed the 10,000 jobs claim. Indeed, in responding to criticism from yours truly, Dr Jerome Fahrer said, under oath,  “[i]t’s not many jobs. We can agree on that … Not many jobs … No argument. Not many jobs.” But while lying to a judge is a crime, many in the mining industry think lying to the public is funny. As soon as the court case was over, Adani and its boosters returned to the “10,000 jobs” claim. We have departed the age of reason and entered the age of truthiness.

The claim that the Adani mine will provide the revenue needed to fund schools and hospitals is even easier to debunk. Leaving aside the fact that the Queensland government gets more revenue from car registrations and parking fines than it does from coal royalties, Adani has secured a “royalty holiday” that means it wouldn’t even have to pay them for its first five years.

And then there’s the bizarre assertion that Australia has an obligation to the world not just to give others the gift of our “clean coal” but also to help people out of “energy poverty” in India. Coal from the Galilee Basin is far higher in ash and sulphur than even coal from the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. Meanwhile, the Indian government has declared that it intends to cease all coal imports in the near future. And of course it’s far cheaper to install renewable energy with batteries in small remote villages, because doing so doesn’t require billions of dollars worth of transmission lines to be built to communities without power. Oh, and if the Abbott and Turnbull governments cared about poverty in other countries, why did they slash our foreign aid budget by billions of dollars?

If power is defined as the ability to speak crap and get away with it, then those pushing Adani’s barrow are powerful indeed. But while the importance of jobs and tax revenues associated with the Adani mine are often exaggerated, it is hard to exaggerate the symbolic importance that the mine now has in Australian politics.

Former leader of the Australian Greens Bob Brown has said the fight over Adani is the biggest and most important environmental battle since the fight to save Tasmania’s wild rivers from the Franklin Dam. Brown’s claim might well be true, but the political fight over Adani is far bigger than an environmental fight, because the subsidies for the mine have come to symbolise the worldview of conservative politicians.

Western democracies are in the middle of a once-in-a-generation struggle over the role of government in a modern society. Brexit and Trumponomics have both challenged simplistic assertions that right-wing governments like free trade and small government. Here in Australia, the Liberal Party is struggling to explain why it’s okay to spend $65 billion on company tax cuts when the budget is so deep in deficit. And in the middle of all that there is the Coalition’s determination to shovel public money into Adani.

It wasn’t meant to be like this. Resources Minister Matt Canavan and the rest of his Coalition colleagues went out of their way to pick a symbolic fight about coal. Throwing public money at Adani, throwing public money at coal-fired power stations and literally handing lumps of coal around the parliament are all symbolic acts designed to make clear to the public whose side the government is on and who its opponents are.

Surprisingly, and unlike most things the Turnbull government has tried, the Coalition has succeeded in making its support for coal and its hostility to renewable energy crystal clear. Unsurprisingly, it has completely misread the moods of the business community and the public. Apart from a few shock jocks and paid lobbyists, virtually everyone in the community thinks subsidising the Adani mine is a terrible idea. During the Queensland election campaign, even Pauline Hanson campaigned against giving $1 billion to an Indian  mining company. Just think about that: the Turnbull  government even managed to get the climate sceptics in One Nation to oppose subsidies for a coalmine. And while the ALP has been choosing its words carefully, Bill Shorten can undoubtedly see that the Adani mine is politically toxic. Significantly, Ged Kearney, the new member for the seat of Batman that was once held by Martin Ferguson, expressed even stronger views about Adani than her leader did.

The Adani mine was supposed to be a symbol in the fight between those who want to “develop” Australia and the environmentalists who oppose “development” … whatever that means. Instead it has become a symbol of the hubris and hypocrisy of the last generation of  climate-sceptic fiscal conservatives to fill our parliament. And no matter what happens to the world demand for coal, the Adani mine isn’t going away until they do.

Press link for more: The Monthly

Why we can’t comprehend #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Why we can’t comprehend climate change

Meara Sharma

A decade ago, the environmental philosopher Timothy Morton invented a new word: hyperobject.

It describes something so “massively distributed in time and space relative to humans” that it eludes our understanding.

The best example of a hyperobject is climate change.

Its scale confounds our perception.

It is everywhere-“viscous,” as Morton has it – and yet it is hard to see directly.

Its implications are so great that they verge on unthinkable.

William T. Vollmann‘s new book, “No Immediate Danger,” tussles with the comprehension-defying nature of climate change.

It is a 600-page amalgam of scientific history, cultural criticism, mathematical experiments, risk-benefit analyses of energy production and consumption, and diaristic meanderings through radiation-festooned landscapes post-Fukushima.

The effect is bewildering.

The first of two volumes, jointly called “The Carbon Ideologies,” the whole book is written as a letter to the future. “Someday,” it begins, “perhaps not long from now, the inhabitants of a hotter, more dangerous and biologically diminished planet than the one on which I lived may wonder what you and I were thinking, or whether we thought at all.

This book is for them.” We know more today about the effects of climate change than ever before (although, as Vollmann and others have noted, we’ve really known for a half a century).

We are experiencing heightened storms, record droughts, rising seas and temperatures, increased pollution. And yet we have done little to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, which are at record highs.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at a level not seen since the Pliocene era – more than 3 million years ago.

Why so little action?

Is it because many of us don’t care about some “ecosystem somewhere”?

Because the science lacks certainty?

Because of companies’ concerns about their profits?

Because of data suppression?

Because it is easier not to act?

These questions course through the book.

“No Immediate Danger” is divided in two parts, beginning with a primer.

It is a kind of encyclopedia of the causes of climate change, including manufacturing, transportation, agriculture and industrial chemicals, with occasional stretches of commentary and analysis that are some of the most compelling parts of the book.

In the opening section, titled “What Was the Work For?” Vollmann acerbically logs the small, seemingly routine comforts that many of us enjoy – the ability to wake up and turn on the lights, to shower at will, to cook with gas, to take fresh vegetables out of the refrigerator, to leave our devices plugged into the wall, to wash clothes in a machine, to throw out our trash, to cool our houses, to heat our houses, and on and on. “I think we felt a kind of grandness to have so many energies at our call, even if we rarely thought about our situation,” he writes. “Why shouldn’t they serve us faithfully?” (In 2012, 61 percent of power in the United States was wasted).

It’s an elegant indictment of the mundane behaviors that require immense amounts of carbon-emitting fuel, and the ways we’ve structured our world around fulfilling and continually augmenting energy demand. “In each two days of 2009,” Vollmann points out, “the world burned the entire oil output of 1990.”

He adds: “Being one of those pathetic creatures called ‘literary’ writers, I never before got called upon to quantify peak load capacity or ponder the carbon content of dirty diapers.”

Thus, he throws himself exuberantly into numbers, producing dozens of calculations and comparative tables on the global-warming potentials of the three worst greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide), the energy required to manufacture the “big five” materials (cement, paper, steel, plastics, aluminum), the solar energy lost en route to reaching the Earth’s surface, and dozens of others.

These sections are dense and sometimes inscrutable, but terrifying insights are to be found.

For instance, the cultivation of rice – “the most important grain crop in the world” – accounts for about 50 percent of Japan’s methane emissions.

A pound of nylon sends up 10.5 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Brussels sprouts are among the highest producers of nitrous oxide.

The title “No Immediate Danger” refers to a phrase Japanese authorities used after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, and in the second part of the book, Vollmann enters that realm.

Our insatiable demand for energy has pushed us toward nuclear power, touted as a miracle solution that can sustain our way of life without emitting carbon dioxide and thus contributing to climate change.

During trips to Japan, Vollmann wades through the zeal that surrounds nuclear power (“Will free us from the fear that our energy resources will run out.”) and considers its hidden and heinous costs.

He also interrogates the safety failures of the plant operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), whose management plan stated, “The possibility of a severe accident occurring is so small that from an engineering standpoint, it is practically unthinkable.”

Vollmann treks through communities in the vicinity of the Fukushima plant, measuring radiation with a dosimeter and a scintillation counter wherever he goes. He meets tsunami survivors, decontamination workers and plant officials, often supplying them with radiation levels that suggest they’re not as safe as they think. He is repeatedly met with chilling stoicism.

The disaster was “just bad luck. “Even natural radiation exists, and if it is natural, it must be all right.” Nuclear power “is necessary. Whether it is good or bad is another story.” Perhaps this is true patriotism. Or a coping mechanism. Or, as one of Vollmann’s taxi drivers says, “it’s invisible, so I don’t feel anything.”

I read much of “No Immediate Danger” in Delhi, where the air is heavy with the refuse of coal plants, construction and the steady thrum of 10 million cars (as Vollmann calculates, gross domestic product growth and the growth of emissions go hand in hand).

Breathing in Delhi is the equivalent of smoking about 40 cigarettes a day, and 1 in 3 children has impaired lungs.

One hazy day, while sitting in snaking, mind-numbing traffic on a major flyover, I peered over the edge. Beside the sacred Yamuna river, putrid and parched, a large group of men were burning a pile of what looked like refrigerators and televisions. Thick black smoke billowed up toward the highway. Vollmann’s refrain – What Was the Work For? – rang through my ears like a drill.

There are swifter, simpler, more efficient ways to learn about how human impact on the planet has set us striding into a “hot, dark future.” But “No Immediate Danger” – written as calculated denial becomes policy – takes a tack that feels appropriate.

It is overwhelming.

It drowns us in calculations, facts, images, stories.

It embodies the confusion of our current moment, the insidiousness of disbelief, and the mania-inducing reality that our greatest threat is the hardest to act upon.

It is a feverish, sprawling archive of who we are, and what we’ve wrought.

In describing the vast amounts of research, travel, personal expense, risk and, indeed, energy consumption he engaged in to write this book, Vollmann admits to the reader from the future that much of it had to do with assuaging his own guilt, avoiding the shame of doing nothing. “Well, in the end I did nothing just the same,” he concedes. “And the same went for most everyone I knew.”

Sharma writes about culture and the environment.

No Immediate Danger: Volume One of Carbon Ideologies

By William T. Vollmann

Press link for more: Chicago Tribune

The Great Barrier Reef: for dummies – Greenpeace #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the greatest natural treasures on the planet. And it needs our help.

We find it hard to keep track of everything that’s happening, places and names up at the Reef, so the team whipped up an infographic that really helped us and we want to share with you.

This is Abbot Point. It is the closest port to the Galilee Basin and is where the big dredging proposal would dig up the Reef World Heritage area to build the new port terminal. It is where all  the coal from the Carmichael mine would be shipped to other parts of the world.

There are currently 2 new coal terminals proposed for Abbot Point (T0 and T3), turning it into   one of the biggest coal ports in the world. The coal emissions from burning coal mines from the Carmichael mine will rise to 120.7mt CO2 per year.

This is the Galilee Basin, where the coal will be dug out.  The Carmichael mine is one of many proposed in the basin. The others are either cancelled or shelved due to public pressure from people like you and the global coal industry being in terminal decline. The proposed railway will run trains through the Galilee Basin and over to the Abbot Point terminals. There will be 381 kms of new rail lines connecting the basin to Abbot Point.

12 billion litres of water will be required each year from local rivers and underground aquifers for the Carmichael mine.

Lastly, the Great Barrier Reef brings 2 million tourists each year and is a World Heritage Area. Its coral supports an astounding diversity of life and is home to humpback whales, fish and an abundance of sea life. It also creates 69,000 jobs per year. And we are risking all this for a dirty coal port and mine. Take action against the Carmichael mine, for the love of the Reef .

Press link for more: Greenpeace.org.au

Satellite observations show sea levels rising #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

CNN)Sea level rise is happening now, and the rate at which it is rising is increasing every year, according to a study released Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers, led by University of Colorado-Boulder professor of aerospace engineering sciences Steve Nerem, used satellite data dating to 1993 to observe the levels of the world’s oceans.

Changes in sea level observed between 1992 and 2014. Orange/red colors represent higher sea levels, while blue colors show where sea levels are lower.

Using satellite data rather than tide-gauge data that is normally used to measure sea levels allows for more precise estimates of global sea level, since it provides measurements of the open ocean.

The team observed a total rise in the ocean of 7 centimeters (2.8 inches) in 25 years of data, which aligns with the generally accepted current rate of sea level rise of about 3 millimeters (0.1 inches) per year.

But that rate is not constant.

Continuous emissions of greenhouse gases are warming the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans and melting its ice, causing the rate of sea level rise to increase.

“This acceleration, driven mainly by accelerated melting in Greenland and Antarctica, has the potential to double the total sea level rise by 2100 as compared to projections that assume a constant rate, to more than 60 centimeters instead of about 30,” said Nerem, who is also a fellow with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science.

Greenland’s melting glaciers may someday flood your city

That projection agrees perfectly with climate models used in the latest International Panel on Climate Change report, which show sea level rise to be between 52 and 98 centimeters by 2100 for a “business as usual” scenario (in which greenhouse emissions continue without reduction).

Therefore, scientists now have observed evidence validating climate model projections, as well as providing policy-makers with a “data-driven assessment of sea level change that does not depend on the climate models,” Nerem said.

Sea level rise of 65 centimeters, or roughly 2 feet, would cause significant problems for coastal cities around the world. Extreme water levels, such as high tides and surges from strong storms, would be made exponentially worse.

Consider the record set in Boston Harbor during January’s “bomb cyclone” or the inundation regularly experienced in Miami during the King tides; these are occurring with sea levels that have risen about a foot in the past 100 years.

Nerem provided this chart showing sea level projections to 2100 using the newly calculated acceleration rate.

Now, researchers say we could add another 2 feet by the end of this century.

Nerem and his team took into account natural changes in sea level thanks to cycles such as El Niño/La Niña and even events such as the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, which altered sea levels worldwide for several years.

The result is a “climate-change-driven” acceleration: the amount the sea levels are rising because of the warming caused by manmade global warming.

The researchers used data from other scientific missions such as GRACE, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, to determine what was causing the rate to accelerate.

NASA’s GRACE mission used satellites to measure changes in ice mass. This image shows areas of Antarctica that gained or lost ice between 2002 and 2016.

Currently, over half of the observed rise is the result of “thermal expansion”: As ocean water warms, it expands, and sea levels rise. The rest of the rise is the result of melted ice in Greenland and Antarctica and mountain glaciers flowing into the oceans.

Theirs is a troubling finding when considering the recent rapid ice loss in the ice sheets.

“Sixty-five centimeters is probably on the low end for 2100,” Nerem said, “since it assumes the rate and acceleration we have seen over the last 25 years continues for the next 82 years.”

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“We are already seeing signs of ice sheet instability in Greenland and Antarctica, so if they experience rapid changes, then we would likely see more than 65 centimeters of sea level rise by 2100.”

Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann, who was not involved with the study, said “it confirms what we have long feared: that the sooner-than-expected ice loss from the west Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets is leading to acceleration in sea level rise sooner than was projected.”

CNN’s Judson Jones contributed to this story.

Press link for more: CNN.COM