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Think It’s Hot Now? Wait Until We Reach Hothouse Earth #auspol #qldpol #heatwave #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ClimateChange now #ClimateCrisis @SciNate

Think It’s Hot Now? Wait Until We Reach Hothouse Earth

Steven Salzberg7:30 am

The river bed of the Rhine is dried on August 8, 2018 in Duesseldorf, western Germany, as the heatwave goes on. (Photo credit: PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s getting hotter all over the planet.

This week the temperature in Bar Harbor, Maine, reached 91° F (32.8° C).

In my 20 years vacationing here, this is easily the hottest weather I’ve ever experienced.

Up and down the U.S. east coast, cities are sweltering, and temperatures out west are even hotter, with California seeing all-time high temperatures, including the hottest July on record in some areas, which has fed damaging fires across the state. Death Valley is always hot, but this week has been crazy, with temperatures on August 7 reaching 122° F (50° C).

At the same time, Europe is baking under a “heat dome” that has brought unprecedented high temperatures, including 45° C (113° F.) in Portugal. It’s so hot that people aren’t even going to the beach.

Global warming is here, folks.

I know we’re supposed to call it “climate change,” because it’s much more complex than simply warming, but warming is one of the most obvious consequences.

And yes, a single heat wave doesn’t prove anything, and weather is not the same as climate. I know. But a just-released study from Oxford University found that climate change made this summer’s heat wave in Europe twice as likely.

And now, a new study published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says it could get much, much hotter if we don’t do something about it.

In this paper, an international team of climate scientists led by Will Steffen and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber explain that, thanks to human activities, the planet is well on its way to a “Hothouse Earth” scenario.

In a Hothouse Earth, global average temperatures would rise 4–5° C (7–9° F) and sea levels will rise 10–60 meters (33–200 feet) above today’s levels.

This would be catastrophic for many aspects of modern civilization.

Many agricultural regions would become too hot and arid to sustain crops, making it impossible to feed large swaths of humanity.

Low-lying coastal areas would disappear or become uninhabitable without massive engineering efforts, displacing hundreds of millions of people. As Steffen et al. put it:

“The impacts of a Hothouse Earth pathway on human societies would likely be massive, sometimes abrupt, and undoubtedly disruptive.”

That’s putting it mildly.

One reason this scenario is happening, as the study explains, is that we are very close to “tipping points” beyond which certain changes cannot be stopped. (We may have already passed some of them.)

These include losing the Arctic ice cap in the summer, and losing the Greenland ice sheet permanently: because they are basically white, these massive expanses of ice serve as giant reflectors to send much of the sun’s heat back into space. Without the ice, the darker planet surface absorbs far more heat, creating a positive feedback effect. Another example is the melting of the permafrost, land that has been frozen for thousands of years and that contains a great deal of carbon in the form of methane. Once that methane is released, it will create further warming.

We are also likely to lose the Amazon rainforest, all of our coral reefs, and huge swaths of boreal forests. (See here for a global map of these tipping points.)

If this seems grim, Steffen and colleagues point out that we still have time to avoid it. They propose that societies must act collectively to create a “Stabilized Earth” at no more than 2° C above pre-industrial levels, which is possible but not easy:

“Stabilized Earth will require deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, protection and enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, efforts to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, possibly solar radiation management, and adaptation to unavoidable impacts of the warming already occurring.”

None of this is beyond our abilities.

We know what we need to do, but it requires large-scale, coordinated action that many governments must agree on if it’s to have an impact.

Unfortunately, humans (and our governments) tend to do nothing until faced with an emergency, and the tipping points leading to a Hothouse Earth may not look like emergencies, not at first. For example, Arctic sea ice has been declining steadily for 25 years or more, but because few people are aware of this (and even fewer experience it first hand), it doesn’t seem urgent.

Yet it is.

So perhaps this summer’s heat wave can serve as a wake-up call that we need to pay more attention to our planet’s health. Otherwise it’s going to get a lot hotter.

Steven Salzberg is the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science, and Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University.

I’m the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science, and Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University. From 2005-2011 I was the Horvitz…MORE

Press link for more: Forbes

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California #Wildfire linked to #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal @SciNate

The Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California is now the largest wildfire ever recorded in California’s history.

It started burning in July—the state’s hottest month on record.

Of the 20 largest wildfires in California history, 15 have occurred since 2000.

This year’s fires have already burned nearly three times as many acres as the same time last year.

Experts say climate change has increased the length of fire season.

In Oakland, California, we speak with Michael Brune, the director of the Sierra Club.

We also speak with Michael Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University and author of “The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving us Crazy.”

Transcript

This is a rush transcript.

Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, Democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And I’m Nermeen Shaikh. Welcome to our listeners and viewers around the country and around the world.

We begin today’s show in California, where 17 wildfires are raging across the state. The Mendocino Complex fire in Northern California is now the largest wildfire ever recorded in the state’s history.

It has already scorched more than a quarter of a million square acres and is still burning.

Firefighters say it is expected to burn uncontrollably for the rest of this month and is currently the size of Los Angles.

Fires have also forced the indefinite closure of much of Yosemite National Park.

Meanwhile, the Carr fire near Redding, California has destroyed more than 1,000 homes and taken at least six lives.

AMY GOODMAN: Of the 20 largest wildfires in California history, 15 have occurred since 2000. Since 2012, there has not been a single month without a wildfire. The three biggest fires currently burning in California all started in July, which was the state’s hottest month on record. Experts say climate change has increased the length of fire season. This year’s fires have already burned nearly three times as many acres as the same time last year. This is California Governor Jerry Brown.

GOVERNOR JERRY BROWN: We are being surprised. Every year, it is teaching the fire authorities new lessons. We are in uncharted territory. Since civilization emerged 10,000 years ago, we haven’t had this kind of heat condition, and it’s going to continue getting worse. I mean, that’s the way it is. Some people don’t want to accept that and some people just outright deny it. I don’t say it with any great joy here. We are in for a really rough ride and it is going to get expensive, it’s going to get dangerous, and we have to apply all our creativity to making the best out of what is going to be an increasingly bad situation, not just for California, but for people all over America and all over the world.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Meanwhile on Tuesday, six youth activists were arrested after holding a sit-in protest at Governor Brown’s office to demand action on climate change.

ACTIVIST: We need clean air!

CROWD: We need clean air!

ACTIVIST: No new oil expansion!

CROWD: No new oil expansion!

ACTIVIST: No new gas expansion!

CROWD: No new gas expansion!

ACTIVIST: Jerry Brown, this is your last chance!

CROWD: Jerry Brown, this is your last chance!

AMY GOODMAN: This comes as smoke from the massive California wildfires continues to move north into Washington and east to the central part of the United States. For more, we go to Oakland, California, where we’re joined by Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. This week, you wrote a piece headlined Jerry Brown’s Last Challenge. Also joining us, Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State University and author of “The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy.” We welcome you both to Democracy Now!

Dr. Mann, I want to begin with you.

The corporate media is covering the fires in California constantly, and that is very important, but what is rarely mentioned in any of these reports is the connection between the fires and climate change.

Can you explain what that connection is?

What is happening right now in California?

MICHAEL MANN: Sure thing.

In fact, some of the networks have started to connect the dots when it comes to climate change and the role that it’s playing with these wildfires.

NBC Nightly News the other night did have a segment where they did make that connection.

It is not rocket science, OK?

You warm up the planet, you’re going to get more intense and longer heat waves. You’re going to get drier soils because that heat is baking the soil.

It’s baking the surface of the earth.

So you’ve got hotter temperatures, you’ve got drier soils, you’ve got less winter snowpack, which is less snow falling in the winter in the Sierra Mountains, and the storms are getting diverted north of California.

And we think that that jet stream behavior itself may have a climate change connection.

So you put that all together and you sort of have a perfect storm of consequences when it comes to wildfire.

You’ve got all of the ingredients coming together, and so it is not a surprise.

It’s not a surprise that we are seeing these record wildfires in California, in the Arctic, around the Northern Hemisphere this summer, as a consequence of heat and drought caused by human-caused climate change.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: On Sunday, just hours after the Trump administration declared the California wildfires a major disaster, President Trump tweeted, “California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized.

It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean.

Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!”

Then on Monday, Trump tweeted again, “Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else.

Think of California with plenty of water–Nice!

Fast Federal govt. approvals.” Those were Trump’s tweets. Dr. Mann, could you respond to that?

MICHAEL MANN: This is, unfortunately, the sort of diversion that we’ve often seen from the president, a misdirection. Because the irony here of course is what what we’re seeing has nothing to do with environmental regulations.

In fact, it’s Trump’s effort to eliminate environmental regulations and policies to act on climate change which are putting us in a precarious position.

These wildfires will only get worse as we continue to warm the planet by burning fossil fuels and increasing the concentration of these warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and the Trump administration is doing everything it can to scuttle international efforts and domestic efforts to act on climate.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Michael Brune, could you talk about the state-level response to these wildfires? What has Governor Jerry Brown’s response been, and what do you think can happen at the state level, given the Trump Administration’s response?

MICHAEL BRUNE: There’s really two parts to that question.

First is what is the state doing to help to control these wildfires and respond to some of the life-threatening fires that we’re seeing across the state? And the response really has been impressive.

There are more than 15,000 firefighters putting their lives on the line.

There are thousands of families and homes and schools and businesses that are under threat, and the response has been impressive.

The firefighters have all of the water that they need.

What they need is some support and they need some respect coming from the president and people in the administration. But the response has been heroic, very brave, and frankly it has been impressive to see the way in which people have come together to fight this challenge in this fire season and the last several fire seasons as well.

These fires are happening in the context of a big debate here in California about climate policy, and there are two policies that are being debated.

One is the fact that you highlighted at the beginning of the show, which is that Governor Brown, even though he has been a great leader on promoting energy efficiency and solar power and beginning to take cars off the road and move to electric vehicles, under his watch, more than 20,000 new wells and drilling permits have been issued.

The state is expanding oil production in the state, even as they are scaling up clean energy.

So the Sierra Club and hundreds of other organizations and scientists are calling for Jerry Brown to begin a managed phaseout of fossil fuels, reasonably, thoughtfully, over time, to respond to this climate crisis.

And then at the same time, there is also a debate in the state legislature to move the entire state, which is the fifth-largest economy in the world, all the way to 100 percent clean energy.

San Diego has committed to go to 100 percent clean energy.

San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, large parts of the state at the city level have committed to move to 100 percent clean energy.

We’re looking to see the whole state get off of all coal, all gas, all fossil fuels and move to 100 percent clean energy as quickly as possible over the coming years.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Brune, you began your piece by saying—let me just find it because—well, you can tell us how you began your piece. “If Donald Trump could take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as efficiently as he sucks oxygen out of the news cycle, the climate crisis would be solved faster than you can say ‘Mexico will pay for that wall.’” You go on to say, “Unfortunately, even as we deal with the Trump administration’s daily cascade of corruption, crudeness, and cruelty, the clock keeps ticking and climate pollution keeps rising. But the math is merciless: If we don’t accelerate a phaseout of fossil fuels today, then the wildfires, droughts, and extreme weather events currently plaguing the planet will seem mild compared with what’s coming.”

Yet, you have as the fires are gaining intensity, in California, the Environmental Protection Agency, now under the former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler—who has replaced the corrupt Scott Pruitt who you really helped to tank, certainly, your organization, the Sierra Club, by exposing a lot of what he was doing—the EPA announced last week it’s going to freeze Obama-era fuel economy standards at 2020 levels in the latest blow by the Trump administration against efforts to curb catastrophic climate change. Can you talk about what it is Wheeler is doing?

MICHAEL BRUNE: Sure. Well, let me just add one word to what you said. The EPA will try to—they will try to freeze the U.S. auto efficiency at current levels or at 2020 levels. We will fight them, and dozens of other groups will fight them as well, both in the courts and in the marketplace.

One of the best things that the Obama administration did on climate change, probably the best thing that the administration did on climate change, was to work with the auto industry, to work with states across the country, to work with unions, to increase the fuel efficiency and increase an acceleration towards electric vehicles so that we could save money at the pump, we could save a lot of oil, we could import a lot less oil, and reduce climate pollution. So of course the Trump administration is opposed to that and is seeking not only to roll back those protections, roll back all of those savings, but also crucially to eliminate the ability for the state of California and then other states to fight for clean air and to work with the auto industry directly in order to reduce emissions from cars and trucks and SUVs.

So this is something that is being challenged by state attorneys general across the country. It is being challenged by groups like the Sierra Club and many others. We’re going to prevail. We’re going to make sure that these rules are protected. But it’s one more fight that we have with the Trump Administration, which is taking us backwards when you need to be moving very quickly—very quickly—in the opposite direction.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Michael Mann, one of the causes that you have pointed to for these extreme weather events that we’re seeing today are changes in the jet stream. Could you explain what the jet stream is and how it is changing and why?

MICHAEL MANN: Sure thing. The basic factors are easy to understand here—hotter temperatures, drier soils, less runoff, less water running off from the Sierra Mountains. Obviously, those create the conditions conducive to these wildfires. But there is this other ingredient that we think is involved here and in this whole array of unprecedented extreme summer weather events that we are seeing over the past month around the entire Northern Hemisphere—unprecedented floods, droughts, heat waves, wildfires.

What is happening here is that these weather systems are not moving along the way they normally do. The jet stream is this band of strong winds that blow from west to east, and if you’re flying a jet, it is faster flying from west to east across the United States than in the other direction because you’ve got that tailwind. So that’s the jet stream.

The jet stream also pushes weather systems from west to east. What is happening as we melt the sea ice in the Arctic, believe it or not, what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. That warming in the Arctic is actually changing temperature patterns in the atmosphere in a way that slows down the jet stream. The jet stream is actually driven by the contrast in temperature from the warm equator to the cold polar regions. When you decrease that contrast by warming the poles more than the rest of the planet, you slow down the jet stream. Now, there are other physical processes that are involved, but that’s really the key process here. And so you have these large meanders in the jet stream, you see the jet stream really wiggling vigorously north and south, and that gives you extreme weather events.

But the added ingredient here is that the jet stream isn’t moving along, it’s not pushing those weather systems along, so the same locations get rained on day after day or get baked by the sun, day after day. And that’s when you see unprecedented extreme weather events like what we’re seeing around the Northern Hemisphere this summer. The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We are seeing them play out this summer in real time on our television screens.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the “hothouse state”?

Yesterday a group of leading scientists warning the cascading effects of melting ice, warming seas, shifting currents and dying forests could push the planet into a “hothouse state.” Michael Mann?

MICHAEL MANN: Yeah. That article, it’s more of a commentary than an original research article. The basic science that is discussed there is science we have understood for some time. James Hansen, the former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, made this point a number of years ago, that if we keep CO2 levels elevated even at current levels and we allow the climate system to equilibrate to those high levels of CO2, then over many centuries, we lose the ice sheets, forests start to migrate, we fundamentally remake the planet and it turns out that can add a whole lot of extra warming. And that isn’t always taken into account in these projections you see of the warming we can expect over the next century or so. There’s is this longer-term commitment.

Much of that CO2 that we’ve put into the atmosphere is going to remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years. If we keep that CO2 elevated at levels they are now or even higher than they are now, then we could see major disruptions in the climate. Again, the science there isn’t new, but it is important, and what it tells us is not only do we have to cut our emissions dramatically to avoid warming the planet more than a catastrophic two degrees Celsius, 3.5 degree Fahrenheit—we can still do that; Paris will get us halfway there—we have to improve on Paris to get all the way there. We can do that. But it is not enough just to level off those CO2 concentrations. Ultimately, we’re going to have to pull that CO2 back out of the atmosphere. If we leave it at current levels for centuries, we will commit potentially to catastrophic changes in our climate.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: You said, Michael Mann, that if emissions are not reduced, we will witness major disruptions in the climate. Would you not describe what is happening now as a major disruption? And if not, then what do you anticipate happening?

MICHAEL MANN: Too often, we allow the problem of climate change to be framed as if there’s some tipping point—there’s a certain amount of warming that we go beyond and then, you know, we suddenly have a calamity on our hands. It is much more like a minefield. We’re walking out onto this minefield already, and we are starting to set off some of those mines. But what we know is the further we walk out onto that minefield, the more of those mines we are going to set off. So the only sensible strategy is to stop moving forward out onto the minefield. We’ve got to go back to where we came from. We’ve got to bring those carbon emissions down.

Again, the Paris Accord gets us about halfway to where we need to be to stave off the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, but we’re already seeing dangerous climate change now. If you talk to people in California, if you talk to the people of Puerto Rico, people in Europe, people all around the world, in many respects, dangerous climate change is already starting to arrive. We’re on this highway, this carbon highway, and we have to get off at the next available exit.

AMY GOODMAN: As we wrap up, Michael Brune, Governor Brown is going to be holding this Global Climate Action Summit in September in San Francisco, and there’s going to be a counter summit as well. What are you demanding? What are you saying is most important he do right now? And what about these protests, for example, of the young people, six of them arrested at his office doing a sit-in?

MICHAEL BRUNE: Yeah, sure. Thanks for asking the question. Well, the summit really is well-timed. I’m calling in from Oakland this morning. You can see the fires here in the Bay Area. You can see the smoke from the fires in the Bay Area, even though the fires are a couple hours to the north and to the east of the city.

What we need from Jerry Brown here in the state and leaders across the country and around the world, but what we particularly need from Jerry Brown, is a managed phaseout, a thoughtful and reasonable managed phaseout of fossil fuel production here in the state. The first thing you do when you want to solve a problem is stop making it worse. We need to make sure that we’re focusing both on the demand for clean energy, increasing that as quickly as we possibly can, but also focus on the supply of fossil fuels and reducing that as quickly as we can.

Here in the state, we need to be making sure that we’re protecting communities, families, homes and businesses. Many of them live within 300, 400, 1,000 feet of an oil well. We should be phasing those sites out the quickest. Any site that is within 2,500 feet of an oil well, we should be able to phase out the production of oil from those sites as quickly as possible.

And then from a large-scale perspective across the state, let’s think carefully—how do we help the communities that are currently depending on producing oil in the state? How do we make sure that the transition away from oil is one that is good for workers and good for the communities that are economically dependent on fossil fuel production? We can do this if we’re thoughtful, if we’re reasonable, if we make sure that we’re taking care of the communities and the workers who economically depend on fossil fuels. But it takes leadership. It’s going to take leadership from Jerry Brown. And so far, he has been absent on this issue.

And around the world, what we need to see much more of is an aggressive replacement of fossil fuels with clean energy. If the Republican mayor of Georgetown, Texas can do it, and if the Republican city council in Abita Springs, Louisiana or in San Diego, California can say, “We are moving to 100 percent clean energy,” then we should be able to see heads of state and leaders of corporations and governors across the country and people around the world saying, “We’re going to get off of fossil fuel entirely. We’re going to move to clean energy. We’ll save money as well as saving lives in the process.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Brune, we want to thank you for being with us, executive director of the Sierra Club, speaking to us from Oakland, California, and Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University. Coming up, we will look at the thousands of California prisoners who are on the frontlines battling the fires. They make a dollar a day. Stay with us.

Press link for more: Democracy Now

Runaway #climatechange could trigger ‘Hothouse Earth’ with 200ft sea level rises! #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal @SciNate #Drought #Heatwave #Wildfire Join the dots!

Runaway climate change could trigger ‘Hothouse Earth’ with 200ft sea level rises, warn scientists!

By Sarah Knapton

6 AUGUST 2018 • 8:00 PM

Earth may be on a runaway trajectory towards a ‘hothouse’ climate which will see huge swathes of the planet become uninhabitable and 200ft sea level rises, an international team of scientists has warned.

A new review found that even if targets to cap global warming at 2C are met, it may already be too late because of a ‘domino effect’ of other factors such as the ongoing reduction in Arctic sea ice and the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

Press link for more: Telegraph.co.uk

Many parts of the earth could become uninhabitable!

‘Many parts of Earth could become uninhabitable’: Study’s grim warning

Blake Foden7 August 2018 — 9:05am

Many parts of Earth could become uninhabitable for humans, with the planet at risk of entering an irreversible “hothouse” climate.

That’s the alarming warning from an international team of scientists, including Australian National University professor Will Steffen, in a study published on Tuesday.

Current targets may not stop global warming domino effect

A new study says that the global warming target set at the 2015 Paris climate agreement may be too little to stop catastrophic temperature rises.

As large parts of eastern Australia battle drought and Europe is gripped by a heatwave, Professor Steffen said current efforts to combat global warming would not be enough to meet the emission-reduction targets set by governments in the Paris Agreement, which may be insufficient to prevent the dangerous scenario anyway.

The study warns that Earth is already more than halfway towards the point of no return.

Global average temperatures are just over one degree above pre-industrial temperatures, but rising by 0.17 degrees every 10 years.

Professor Steffen said if temperatures rose to two degrees above pre-industrial levels, a level within Paris Agreement targets, it could trigger natural processes that would cause further warming of the Earth even if all human emissions ceased.

If that happened, global average temperatures may reach up to five degrees above pre-industrial levels – the hottest temperatures experienced in more than 1.2 million years.

Sea levels could also rise between 10 and 60 metres, threatening coastal areas.

“Many parts of the planet could become uninhabitable for humans,” Professor Steffen said.

“… Sitting on our hands means we are at risk of driving the Earth – and human wellbeing – beyond an irreversible point of no return.”

The study, titled Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene, says temperatures could hit the level needed to send the planet down the “Hothouse Earth” path in just a few decades.

“The impacts of a Hothouse Earth pathway on human societies would likely be massive, sometimes abrupt, and undoubtedly disruptive,” says the study, which is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Professor Steffen said scientists considered 10 natural feedback processes as part of the study, some of which were “tipping elements” that could lead to abrupt changes if a critical threshold was crossed.

Those elements included the reduction of Antarctic sea ice and polar sheets, the release of methane trapped on the ocean floor and Amazon rainforest dieback.

“The real concern is these tipping elements can act like a row of dominoes,” Professor Steffen said.

“Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another.

“It may be very difficult or impossible to stop the whole row of dominoes from tumbling over.”

The impacts on arguably Australia’s most notable natural attraction, the Great Barrier Reef, would be severe.

“A Hothouse Earth trajectory would almost certainly flood deltaic environments, increase the risk of damage from coastal storms, and eliminate coral reefs … by the end of this century or earlier,” the study says.

Press link for more: SMH

Greedy Politicians must think they live on another planet. #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #Drought #Heatwave #Wildfire

We already have 1C temperature anomaly and we are on the fast track to 4C or higher.

Throwing $440,000,000 at the Great Barrier Reef will not save the reef. To save the reef we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Australian PM personally approved $443m fund for tiny Barrier Reef foundation

See here for more: The Guardian

Josh Frydenberg & Malcolm Turnbull

This Planet is burning!

We are at the beginning of a climate crisis humans, have never faced anything like the temperatures we will see in the near future.

We need to take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now.

To think we can continue to open new coal mines or build more coal fired power stations is completely ignoring reality.

Our farmers are already suffering from record drought, many will have to leave the land as Australia becomes hotter and dryer.

The Great Barrier Reef is dying.

Thousands of jobs rely on a healthy reef.

We need political leadership to tackle the climate emergency.

We must turn to scientists for solutions.

We are in a fight for survival and we’re losing the battle.

Climate Council says government has failed to tackle #climatechange #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #Drought #StopAdani #NoNewCoal @abc730 #TheDrum help #MoveTheDate #anthropocene

HAPPY Earth Overshoot Day!

Just kidding.

This is not actually a good thing.

It means that for the rest of the year, we will be basically living on resources “borrowed” from our future.

But what does this actually mean, and what are the potential consequences?

WHAT IS EARTH OVERSHOOT DAY?

Earth Overshoot Day marks the point in the year where we run out of our “allocated” supply of natural resources.

The Global Footprint Network (GFN), an organisation partnered with the World Wide Fund for Nature, produced the results.

To calculate the date for Earth Overshoot Day, it crunched United Nations data on thousands of economic sectors such as fisheries, forestry, transport and energy production.

The GFN claimed we have just used up our allotted supply of regenerative natural resources for the year, earlier than ever before in history.

This means that, from today onward, we will be in “credit” mode.

Any and all of the natural resources we use, such as water and land, will be “borrowed” from next year’s “budget”, contributing to the cycle.

“One year is no longer enough to regenerate humanity’s annual demand on the planet, even using conservative data sets,” the GFN states.

In other words, in 2018, Earth’s 7.6 billion humans will consume 1.7 times more from Mother Nature than it’s capable of regenerating.

According to previous figures, the trend of sliding into “ecological debt” has gradually worsened over the years.

In the 1960s, for example, we managed to stretch three quarters of our year’s allocated “supply” across the whole 365-day period, giving us an “energy surplus” of about three months.

By 1987, we’d “run out” by mid-December.

By 2007, we’d “run out” by the end of October.

As of today — August 2 — we’re officially in “credit mode”.

It’s the earliest time in the year that’s ever happened. Judging by this, we’re just a couple of months away from doubling the amount of the Earth’s natural resources that have been allocated to us.

The report warns that in 2018, we’ll use up the equivalent of 1.7 Earths to support human civilisation.

By 2030, this date will fall around the middle of the year, meaning we’ll need the equivalent of two Earths to support human civilisation.

“Our economies are running a Ponzi scheme with our planet,” said GFN chief executive officer Mathis Wackernagel. “We are using the Earth’s future resources to operate in the present and digging ourselves deeper into ecological debt.

“It’s time to end this ecological Ponzi scheme and leverage our creativity and ingenuity to create a prosperous future free of fossil fuels and planetary destruction.”

See where this is going?

WHERE DOES AUSTRALIA SIT IN THIS?

The GFN estimates that 86 per cent of countries are currently living beyond their means.

It ranked every country by comparing its biocapacity — the ability to “regenerate” what people demand from those surfaces — to its ecological footprint, a measure of how much area of biologically productive land and water a population requires to sustainably function.

On the list of countries where their biocapacity exceeded their ecological footprint (this is the “good list”, if you will) Australia ranked 24th.

In fact, Australia was listed as one of very few OECD countries on this list.

This is in part because compared to many other countries, we have a relatively tiny population compared to the size of our landmass.

But on a per capita basis, Australia is actually one of the world’s worst offenders, as you can see in this graph:

If the whole world lived like Australians, we would need 4.1 Earths per year.Source:Supplied

In other words, if the whole world lived like Australia, would need the resources of more than four planet Earths to sustain ourselves — well over twice the global average.

The good news, at least, is we’re getting better.

In 2016, Australia was the worst offender — surpassing even the United States.

A key contributing factor is our continued reliance on fossil fuels — particularly coal-fired power stations, through which we contribute to some of the highest global greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the world.

By comparison, if we all lived like Vietnam or Morocco, the global overshoot date wouldn’t arrive until mid-December.

IS THIS A REVERSIBLE TREND?

While Earth Overshoot Day has come earlier and earlier over time, there is some good news — it’s a reversible trend.

In fact, the date has not moved all that much since 2011, despite continued population growth.

The GFN makes a number of recommendations — green up your commute by using public transport or a bicycle instead of a car every day; recycle and work towards zero waste; eat more vegetables and less livestock (livestock-related activity accounts for almost 15 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions produced by humans); and use the most fuel-efficient option when filling up your car or booking a flight.

Press link for more: News.com.au

Missing Villain In New York Times Magazine’s Climate Opus #auspol #qldpol #Neoliberalism #ClimateChange #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #abc730 #TheDrum

The Real Missing Villain In The New York Times Magazine’s 31,000-Word Climate Opus

The story laments a lost opportunity when climate change was a bipartisan issue from 1979 to 1989.

But another bipartisan change was happening too.

Alexander C. Kaufman

MARK RALSTON / Getty Images

Property scorched by the Carr Fire, the largest of 17 active fires in California and the seventh biggest in the state’s history,

It’s obvious why controversy engulfed The New York Times Magazine’s 31,000-word opus on climate change before it was even published online Wednesday morning.

The story, titled “Losing Earth,” takes an ambitiously nuanced stab at anthropogenic global warming.

(A must read to help understand the anthropogenic global warming)

Writer Nathaniel Rich chronicles the years from 1979 to 1989, a window when the science made clear that greenhouse gases were warming the planet and the fossil fuel industry’s big-tobacco-style misinformation campaign hadn’t yet warped the debate or weaponized the Republican Party into full-scale denial.

The story is a rumination on regret, a deliberate attempt to step beyond the orthodoxies of climate messaging of clear-cut villains and urgent calls for change and instead dwell on what could have been, had policymakers acted rationally.

It’s an exercise in hindsight.

In doing so, Rich pats on the back Republicans like President George H.W. Bush and then-Sens. John Chafee (R.I.), Robert Stafford (Vt.) and David Durenberger (Minn.), who at the time “called for urgent, immediate and far-reaching climate policy,” Rich writes. He acknowledges the fossil fuel industry as a “common boogeyman” but credits companies like Exxon and Shell with making “good-faith efforts to understand the scope of the crisis and grapple with possible solutions,” at least in the early stages.

The villain, he concludes with the sort of heady literary flourish that distinguishes magazine writing from other journalism, is humanity’s incapacity for proactive planning.

Faced with an existential threat, policymakers in the world’s richest and most powerful nation neglected even the most basic tools at their disposal.

“We have a solution in hand: carbon taxes, increased investment in renewable and nuclear energy and decarbonization technology,” Rich concludes in the epilogue. “We can trust the technology and the economics. It’s harder to trust human nature.”

Gary Hershorn / Getty Images

The New York Times on Aug. 1 published “Losing Earth,” an ambitious dissection of a lost opportunity for the U.S. to take action against climate change.

But do we trust the economics?

At a private dinner at a Manhattan hotel Tuesday night, Rich pre-emptively repelled criticism by reminding an audience of roughly two dozen climate reporters, academics and New York Times editors that his job as a writer did not include propagandizing policies that should be. But the story omits critical context about the economic philosophy that came to dominate policymaking in the developed world.

The rise of neoliberalism ― a form of laissez-faire capitalism that preaches prosperity through privatization and quasi-religious reverence for the wisdom of unfettered markets ― tracks the period covered in Rich’s story. Democratic President Jimmy Carter first embraced neoliberalism in the late 1970s, when he began deregulating the trucking, banking and airline industries.

After defeating Carter in 1980, President Ronald Reagan repackaged the philosophy as Reaganomics and pumped it with steroids ― slashing taxes and regulations on the financial industry and promoting runaway growth and free trade. In February 1986, The New York Times breathlessly summarized Reagan’s proposal during a State of the Union address to dramatically reduce federal spending on pollution controls, public housing and energy research as a “welfare plan to free poor from government dependency.”

George H.W. Bush’s administration, despite nodding to the need to address the greenhouse effect, continued pushing for welfare reform and laid the groundwork for the North American Free Trade Agreement. After Bill Clinton won the White House, he ushered in an era of Democratic politics that included gutting welfare programs and sanctioning mass privatization in the name of political centrism. In the 1992 election, only independent candidate Ross Perot opposed NAFTA.

That economic thinking has dominated for so long, it has become, for many, the conventional wisdom, not unlike believing vanilla is plain-flavored ice cream.

Even the philosophy’s most vocal proponents take it as such a norm that they refuse to name it. Jonathan Chait, who devotes many of his New York magazine columns to defending centrist orthodoxy, dismissed the term “neoliberalism” as nothing more than “the left’s favorite insult of liberals.” It’s as though the effects of neoliberalism aren’t plainly obvious — dramatically worsening income inequality; dilapidated and debt-laden public transit, housing and parks; and crumbling unions.

PhotoQuest / Getty Images

President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale at the White House in December 1979. Carter first embraced neoliberalism in the late 1970s, when he began deregulating the trucking, banking and airline industries.

But above all, it has left us with a rapidly changing climate and a policy discourse devoid of solutions on the scale of the actual problem.

The United States has not passed any significant environmental legislation at the national level since the 1980s, instead relying on market incentives and consumer labeling to address issues ranging from greenhouse gas pollution, conservation and toxic chemicals, according to a 2016 paper in the Utah Law Review. The paper concluded that neoliberal policy “asks for the challenging valuation of natural resources and asks consumers to make choices in the aggregate that will achieve environmental goals when they may not be in the best position to do so.”

In 2014, British environmentalist George Monbiot warned that the rise of the “natural capital agenda,” a movement to assign financial value to nature, was “gobbledygook,” considering that pollution itself is evidence of market failure. A 2012 study published in the journal Environmental Politics blamed “market fetishism” for undermining large-scale federal legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while failing to foster effective policies that don’t involve government intervention, sequestering climate action to the subnational level.

Rich nods to this but never really explores the forces that have prevented us from taking significant steps: “Keeping the planet to two degrees of warming, let alone 1.5 degrees, would require transformative action. It will take more than good works and voluntary commitments; it will take a revolution. But in order to become a revolutionary, you need first to suffer.”

The suffering is now upon us. A wildfire in Greece last month killed 91 people. The Carr Fire, the largest of 17 ongoing fires in California and the seventh biggest in the state’s history, has killed six people and displaced tens of thousands of others. A global heat wave last month killed up to 70 people in Quebec in Canada alone. Last year shattered records, with $306 billion in damage from unprecedented hurricanes, floods and wildfires.

Revolutionary ideas are now ― finally ― entering the mainstream. Democratic socialist congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise primary victory over party stalwart Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) in June gave momentum to a growing crop of candidates running on a Green New Deal platform to spend billions of dollars on building up renewable energy and rapidly ending fossil fuel use.

The last time the Democratic Party attempted a major climate policy was in 2009, with the introduction of a cap-and-trade bill, which, applying neoliberalism in its purest form, would have put a price on carbon emissions and created a market in which companies could sell permits to pollute. Yet even that failed in 2010, when Barack Obama’s White House abandoned the legislation as a wave of austerity politics crashed over the Western world.

In attempting to capture the regret of a decade of missed opportunity, Rich missed the fact that the biggest mistake is one we haven’t stopped making.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

Infinite growth on a finite planet is a fantasy.

Neoliberalism is nothing more than a cargo cult.

Sacrificing the environment for profit is just another suicide cult.

Was this the scorcher that finally ended climate denial? #heatwave #drought #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

Was this the scorcher that finally ended climate denial? | Michael McCarthy | Opinion | The Guardian

Michael McCarthyWed 1 Aug 2018 15.00 AEST

It’s not always easy to recognise a historical tipping point when you see one, but I believe I spotted one when I walked into my local newsagent last Wednesday and saw the front page of the Sun.

Over a map of the world which was coloured bright scarlet, the splash headline screamed: “THE WORLD’S ON FIRE”.

Britain’s biggest-selling daily newspaper was not mincing its words.

The subheading on the left-hand side proclaimed “PLANET GRIPPED BY KILLER HEATWAVE”, while the right-hand one announced: “HUNDREDS DIE IN EUROPE AND JAPAN”. And if you were wondering what the cause of all this might be, the accompanying news report carried a quote – just the one – from Len Shaffrey, professor of climate science at Reading University, who said: “Global temperatures are increasing due to climate change.

The global rise in temperatures means the probability that an extreme heatwave will occur is also increasing.”

I nearly choked on my KitKat when I read that.

Is this really the Sun?

The shoutiest outlet belonging to Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul who famously characterised climate change as “alarmist nonsense”?

Is something happening here?

I think something is, and I think what the appearance of this front page in a rightwing tabloid signals is that the summer of 2018, which is throwing up extraordinary climactic extremes all over the northern hemisphere, from north Africa to the Arctic, is finally puncturing the bubble of so-called climate scepticism, at least in Britain.

Let us at once say that it will take a lot more to puncture that bubble in the United States, where unabashed and brazen denial of the overwhelming scientific evidence for global warming is an article of faith not just with Donald Trump, but with the Republican party as a whole.

But still it’s a start.

Because what we are witnessing now is a historic shift in the way that the threat of climate change is perceived by the world, from prediction to observation.

(In Australia the Liberal National Party still supports open new coal mines)

Remember: from the first report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in May 1990, the whole argument that global warming is a potentially disastrous danger has been based on the predictions of supercomputer models of the climate system; they were essentially the same computer models that forecast the weather up to six days in advance, but were now being tasked with forecasting the climate up to 100 years into the future.

So most of the biggest climate change headlines for the last three decades have been based on prophecy, as it were, from successive IPCC reports calculating that unless we cut our greenhouse gas emissions, global average temperatures will rise by four or even six degrees celsius by 2100, and that sea levels will rise by up to a metre by the same date, and so forth.

There have been five IPCC reports, and with each one the computer models have been more refined and the predictions more reliable, so the conclusions are likely to be more robust. Yet the uncertainty of predicting the future remains.

These predictions have been the scientific strength of the argument for acting to combat the warming to come, but also, its political weakness. The large degree of uncertainty they inevitably contain has provided the soil in which climate denial has sprouted and flourished, after the issue so lamentably became politically polarised between left and right. It has allowed climate action to be characterised by its rightwing opponents merely as an unnecessary and colossally expensive bet about the future, without overwhelming numbers of ordinary people – voters – disagreeing. This is because for the 30 years that ordinary people have been hearing these predictions, they have not seen anything much to worry them when they look out of their windows.

But observation is different. Seeing things happening around you cannot be gainsaid like predictions can, and in this remarkable summer of 2018, events in the real world have been starting to catch up with the climate models’ forecasts of an overheating globe. Not only has Britain sweltered in the five-week heatwave that finally ended last Friday, record-breaking heat has subjected Norway, Sweden and Finland to unheard-of temperatures – above 32C, that’s 90F, recorded 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Meanwhile in Ouargla, a Saharan desert city in Algeria, a temperature of 51.3C (124.2F) recorded on 5 July is thought to be the highest ever reliably measured in Africa. And so in Japan, and so in Greece, and so in Canada: all over the northern hemisphere, record-breaking heat.

The reaction to all this from the Daily Mail last week was very much the traditional and expected take from the rightwing newspaper. It strenuously avoided the term “climate change” as long as it could; on the same day as the Sun, it used the second sentence quoted above from Prof Shaffrey, but not the first one. The next day it could no longer avoid it, by reporting that the Commons environmental audit committee had forecast a trebling of heat-related deaths by 2050. But to set the balance right it wheeled out the reliable climate sceptic Christopher Booker to proclaim, in a truly feeble piece of polemic, that linking climate change to the heatwave was, as the headline put it, “Just Hot Air”.

The Sun also carried an opinion piece from Rod Liddle, which looked at first sight like a climate-sceptic rant, but wasn’t – it was a scolding of the Met Office for nanny-state advice to stay indoors. Last Friday the Sun splashed again on the story with the front-page headline “BAKE TO THE FUTURE” and once more, climate change featured prominently in the news story. It quoted the climate scientist Peter Stott blaming “human-induced climate change” for the increasing global risk of extreme heatwaves. As a sub-headline summarised: “Scorchers could go on for decades say boffins”.

I am fascinated by the Sun’s reaction to these events, so different from the Daily Mail’s, because I think it marks the moment when someone on a rightwing populist newspaper – someone clearly possessed of sharp news antennae – recognises that the time has come when people are finally realising beyond doubt that something abnormal is happening to the global climate.

Who knows?

Maybe Murdoch will order a different tone to be set in the Sun next week. But I still think it marks a tipping point, when observation begins to replace prediction in the headlines, and the start of a process that will eventually throw the perverted ideology of climate denial into the dustbin of history – where it belongs.

• Michael McCarthy is the author of The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy

Press link for more: The Guardian

Join us to demand climate action

DEFIANT EARTH: The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ClimateChange #Drought #abc730 #TheDrum #TheCoalTruth

Two important books that all journalists & politicians should read.

DEFIANT EARTH: The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene by Clive Hamilton

Our new epoch started with a bang

The rapid increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere began with the Industrial Revolution but really kicked in during 1945, with the first nuclear detonations, and has effectively split the planet’s history in two: the initial 4.5 billion years of its existence in thrall to blind natural forces; the remaining five billion, between now and the death of the sun, irrevocably to be governed by human agency, even after our species has expired.

The term ‘Anthropocene’, Hamilton argues, is intended to describe this rupture in the functioning of the Earth System (the notion that the planetis a unified, evolving, complex system rather than an aggregate of individual ecosystems), and only became accepted in the last few decades.

Much of Hamilton’s book is geared towards emphasising these definitions, and refuting alternative claims that the Anthropocene is simply the period during which human activity has acted as a major factor in modifying landscape and environment; that it merely acts as a measure of the human footprint, and is thus neutral, if not positively benign.

Having established his ground, he goes on to examine the implications of the new epoch, and the new ways of thinking it demands from us.

We are, he explains, in the middle of a power struggle, one in which humans are attempting to drag the Earth into our sphere of influence, but which the Earth is resisting through an increasingly energised climate system: more droughts, storms, heatwaves, and so on.

Drawing his observations from the humanities as much as the sciences, Hamilton offers a robust view of the current state of play; not a warning – we’re past that stage – but an attempt at understanding.

Press link for more: Geographical.co.uk

The Coal Truth: The fight to stop Adani

The Coal Truth has a simple message – stop the proposed Adani Carmichael Mine in Queensland from going ahead.

Since 2012, the fight to stop the opening of the vast Galilee coal basin has emerged as an iconic crusade of the Australian climate and environment movement.

In his latest book The Coal Truth: the fight to stop Adani, defeat the big polluters and reclaim our democracy David Ritter, chief executive officer for Greenpeace Australia Pacific, provides a timely and colourful contribution to one of the most important issues in our national history – the struggle over the future of the coal industry.

Written by an environmental insider with an eye on the world his daughters will inherit, The Coal Truth is told with wit and verve, drawing on other specialist voices to bring to life the contours of a contest that the people of Australia can’t afford to lose.

Before taking up his present position with Greenpeace Australia Pacific, David Ritter worked for Greenpeace in London in a series of senior campaign positions. Prior to joining Greenpeace, he was one of Australia’s leading Indigenous rights lawyers.

David is a widely published commentator on current affairs and is the author of two books on Indigenous land justice: Contesting Native Title and The Native Title Market.

David Ritter will be presenting a workshop on ‘Activism, Community and Advocacy’ on Wednesday 1 August, then discussing all things Adani and The Coal Truth in an off-site Feature Event at the Beach Hotel on Thursday 2 August presented in association with Dumbo Feather and The Beach Hotel.

Ritter will also feature at Byron Writers Festival in several sessions including The Anthropocene: Human Survival in the New Epoch with climate scientist Joelle Gergis and public intellectual and author Clive Hamilton.

In Keeping the Blue Planet Green he will be in conversation with former Greens leader and activist Christine Milne, Chris Hammer author of The River: A Journey through the Murray-Darling Basin and Joelle Gergis.

Tickets at www.byronwritersfestival.com.

• See more news and articles on the 2018 Byron Writers Festival.

Droughts, Heat Waves and Floods: How to Tell When #ClimateChange Is to Blame #auspol #qldpol #abc730 #TheDrum #QandA #StopAdani #NoNewCoal @SciNate

Weather forecasters will soon provide instant assessments of global warming’s influence on extreme events

Quirin Schiermeier, Nature magazineJuly 30, 2018

The dried up bed of Yarrow Reservoir near Bolton, England, on July 23, 2018, during a weeks-long heatwave across the U.K. Credit: Christopher Furlong Getty Images

The Northern Hemisphere is sweating through another unusually hot summer. Japan has declared its record temperatures a natural disaster. Europe is baking under prolonged heat, with destructive wildfires in Greece and, unusually, the Arctic. And drought-fuelled wildfires are spreading in the western United States.

For Friederike Otto, a climate modeller at the University of Oxford, UK, the past week has been a frenzy, as journalists clamoured for her views on climate change’s role in the summer heat. “It’s been mad,” she says. The usual scientific response is that severe heatwaves will become more frequent because of global warming. But Otto and her colleagues wanted to answer a more particular question: how had climate change influenced this specific heatwave? After three days’ work with computer models, they announced on 27 July that their preliminary analysis for northern Europe suggests that climate change made the heatwave more than twice as likely to occur in many places.

Soon, journalists might be able to get this kind of quick-fire analysis routinely from weather agencies, rather than on an ad hoc basis from academics. With Otto’s help, Germany’s national weather agency is preparing to be the first in the world to offer rapid assessments of global warming’s connection to particular meteorological events. By 2019 or 2020, the agency hopes to post its findings on social media almost instantly, with full public reports following one or two weeks after an event. “We want to quantify the influence of climate change on any atmospheric conditions that might bring extreme weather to Germany or central Europe,” says Paul Becker, vice-president of the weather agency, which is based in Offenbach. “The science is ripe to start doing it”.

The European Union is interested too. The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) in Reading, UK, is preparing to pilot a similar programme by 2020 that will seek to attribute extreme events, such as heatwaves or floods, to human-induced climate change. If that works well, a regular EU attribution service could be in place a year or two later, says Richard Dee, head of the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service at the ECMWF. “It’s ambitious, but doable,” says Otto, who is also helping to set up the EU effort.

That weather agencies are contemplating such regular services shows how far ‘attribution science’ has come since the first cutting-edge research projects—more than a decade ago—tried to attribute individual weather events to climate change. Now, after more than 170 studies in peer-reviewed journals, attribution science is poised to burst out of the lab and move into the everyday world. It still has difficulty with some kinds of extreme weather phenomena, but as meteorological services begin to offer attribution information routinely, the bigger challenge is to work out how to make the studies helpful to the people who might use them. “It’s one thing to make scientifically robust attribution statements,” says Peter Walton, a social scientist at the University of Oxford. “How to go about using that information is another thing.”

Attribution 101

The idea behind attribution science is simple enough. Disasters such as record-breaking heatwaves and extreme rainfall are likely to become more common because the build-up of greenhouse gases is altering the atmosphere. Warmer air contains more water vapour and stores more energy; the increasing temperatures can also change large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns. But extreme weather can also arise from natural cycles, such as the El Niño phenomenon that periodically warms sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

Researchers say that teasing out the role of human-induced global warming—as opposed to natural fluctuations—in individual weather extremes will help city planners, engineers and home-owners to understand which kinds of floods, droughts and other weather calamities are increasing in risk. And surveys suggest that people are more likely to support policies focused on adapting to climate-change impacts when they have just experienced extreme weather, so quickly verifying a connection between a regional event and climate change, or ruling it out, could be particularly effective.

The Theewaterskloof dam and reservoir in South Africa, which supplies water to Cape Town, in March 2018 after a 3-year drought. Credit: Melanie Stetson Freeman Getty Images

Otto, the deputy director of the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute, is a veteran of attribution science, having conducted more than two dozen analyses. On 4 June, for instance, she and her colleagues completed a study focused on the southern edge of Africa, which had been suffering from a three-year drought. By early this year, the situation had become so dire in South Africa’s Western Cape Province that officials in Cape Town had warned they would soon hit ‘Day Zero’, when the region would run out of water to serve basic needs—a first for a major city.

As reports of Day Zero made international headlines, Otto and Mark New, a climate scientist at the University of Cape Town, decided that the event was a good candidate for an attribution study. Working in their spare time because they had no dedicated funding for the project, researchers from the Netherlands, South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom started by defining the regional extent of the multi-year drought. They also created an index of its severity, which combined measurements of rainfall and heat. Then, the teams turned to the workhorses of attribution studies: complex computer models that mimic Earth’s climate. On each of five independent models, they ran thousands of simulations. Some of these took into account observed levels of human-generated greenhouse gases; others ran with natural concentrations of the gases, as if the Industrial Revolution had never happened. The researchers compared how many times a drought of similar severity and extent turned up in the thousands of test runs. Most of the teams used their own dedicated computers, but the Oxford branch of the study conducted its simulations on the weather@home model ensemble, a distributed computing framework that uses the idle time of thousands of volunteers’ personal computers.

By the time the team met in June, rains had returned to South Africa and had pushed Day Zero away. But the scientists were still chasing the causes of the mega-drought, which could help to determine whether the region might face a repeat anytime soon. Coordinating a four-way Skype call from her office in Oxford, Otto looked relieved when colleagues agreed that the analysis had yielded a result. “Global warming has tripled the odds of three consecutive dry years in the region,” she says.

Texas National Guard soldiers arrive in Houston to aid residents in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey, Aug. 27, 2017. Credit: 1st Lt. Zachary West, Texas Army National Guard and U.S. Department of Defense

The findings came just in time for Roop Singh, a climate-risk adviser at the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre in The Hague, the Netherlands, to present the results at a conference on climate-change adaptation in Cape Town two weeks later. Researchers there didn’t find the results particularly shocking, Singh says—but they did trigger lively discussions about whether the increase in drought risk could help to justify increased investment in diversifying water sources in Cape Town. Otto’s study was published on 13 July, before peer review, at the website of World Weather Attribution, a partnership of six research institutes (including the University of Oxford) that joined together in 2014 to analyse and communicate the possible effect of climate change on extreme weather events.

Although Cape Town avoided Day Zero this year, policymakers in the region say Otto’s results send a sobering warning to water authorities that might be inclined to downplay the risk of global warming. “This is an incredibly strong message which we cannot afford to ignore,” says Helen Davies, director of green economy in the Western Cape Government’s Department of Economic Development and Tourism. “We may need to work on a radically new approach to water management,” she says.

The work by Otto’s team joins a rapidly growing corpus of studies on climate attribution. From 2004 to mid-2018, scientists published more than 170 reports covering 190 extreme weather events around the world, according to an analysis by Nature, which builds on previous work by the publication CarbonBrief. So far, the findings suggest that around two-thirds of extreme weather events studied were made more likely, or more severe, by human-induced climate change (see ‘Attribution science’). Heat extremes made up more than 43% of these kinds of events, followed by droughts (18%) and extreme rain or flooding (17%). In 2017, for the first time, studies even stated that three extreme events would not have occurred without climate change: heatwaves in Asia in 2016, global record heat in the same year, and marine warming in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea from 2014–16. But in 29% of cases in Nature’s analysis, the available evidence either showed no clear human influence or was too inconclusive for scientists to make any judgement.

Nature, July 30 2018, doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-05849-9

Sometimes studies seem to come to opposite conclusions about a particular event. One study about a 2010 heatwave in Russia found that its severity was still within the bounds of natural variability; another analysis determined that climate change had made the event more likely to occur. The media found the results confusing, but climate scientists say the discrepancy is not surprising because the two studies looked at different issues: severity and frequency. According to Otto, “The example goes to show that framing and communicating attribution questions is a real challenge.” But researchers have become more sophisticated since then about how they set up and present their studies, she adds.

Rapid reports

The South Africa study could have been done faster, had the researchers been able to spend all their time on it. This year’s work during the European heatwave was not the first rapid study: in 2015, for instance, during another sweltering heatwave in Europe, an international team of researchers (including Otto) found within weeks how climate change had made comparable heatwaves four times more likely in some European cities, and at least twice as likely over much of the continent. Meteorological agencies plan to work even faster when they put these experimental methods into regular operation. Over the past few months, Otto has talked extensively with the staff of the German weather service, briefing them on how to conduct attribution studies using the best approaches. On 21 June, she signed an agreement with the agency that provides free use of the University of Oxford’s weather@home model. Meanwhile, the Copernicus Climate Change Service has asked Otto and two of her colleagues to write a paper describing workflows and methods for conducting rapid attribution studies, to be published by September.

Otto says a rapid attribution service is needed because questions about the role of climate change are regularly asked in the immediate aftermath of extreme weather events. “If we scientists don’t say anything, other people will answer that question not based on scientific evidence, but on whatever their agenda is. So if we want science to be part of the discussion that is happening, we need to say something fast,” she says.

Some scientists might feel uncomfortable if weather forecasters announce results before work has gone through peer review. But in these cases, the methods have already been extensively reviewed, says Gabriele Hegerl, a climate scientist at the University of Edinburgh, UK. Hegerl is also a co-author of a 2016 report by the US National Academies, which concluded that the science of attribution has advanced rapidly and would benefit from being linked to operational weather prediction. “It can be really useful to have results quickly available for event types we understand reasonably well, such as heatwaves,” she says. “You don’t need to peer review the weather forecast,” adds Otto.

But not all of the science involved in attribution studies is settled, Hegerl says. Computer algorithms still struggle to model severe local storms that result from the rapid convection of air, such as small hailstorms and tornadoes, so scientists can’t say whether climate change has made these events more likely. Reliable attribution is also difficult or even impossible where long-term climate records are still lacking, such as in some African countries. And there might still be natural climate variability that is not fully visible in the relatively short record of direct climate observations. To trace very-long-term climate fluctuations—such as those caused by changes in atmospheric-pressure patterns or sea surface temperatures that cycle once every few decades—researchers must rely on low-resolution proxy data, such as from tree rings. That this variability doesn’t always show up in direct observations does create some uncertainty in studies, particularly for research on drought attribution, says Erich Fischer, a climate scientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

At a meeting in Oxford in 2012, some critics questioned whether climate scientists could be confident about the conclusions of attribution studies, given the lack of observational data and weaknesses in the climate models of the time. But since then, doubts have largely been quelled. Researchers now run the studies using several independent climate models, which reduces uncertainty because they can look for results that concur. And scientists are more careful about how they make probabilistic claims. “Extreme-event attribution has made a lot of progress since it began with scant resources,” says Fischer. “It may still not work for small hailstorms or tornadoes. But attribution claims are now fairly robust for any large-scale weather patterns that can be represented by state-of-the-art climate models.”

Unclear impact

In South Africa, Davies says Otto’s latest study should help to press the case for new approaches to regional water management. “Meteorologists assured us after the second year of drought that there was no way we were going to have a third dry year in a row. But we can’t use the past any more for what might happen in the future. We need to learn to adapt to a changing climate, and we absolutely need attribution to do it right.” One of the lessons of the recent drought and the attribution analysis is that the Western Cape should not rely solely on rainfall to replenish its water supply, she says. Instead, it should diversify by tapping groundwater and expanding its desalination and waste-water treatment facilities.

But, in general, it’s hard to know what effect attribution studies are having, social scientists say. That’s because it is difficult to tease out the impacts of these findings from other studies that forecast increased risks of extreme weather associated with climate change—or from the shock of the weather events themselves. Still, if attribution studies start appearing regularly in weather reports, rather than just in scientific journals, then their impacts could become much more conspicuous, says Jörn Birkmann, an expert in spatial and regional planning at the University of Stuttgart in Germany. “City and infrastructure planners who plan and approve new housing areas, hospitals or train stations need to consider risks of extreme weather events more precisely if these events are clearly attributed to climate change,” he says.

Evidence from attribution reports could also feed into litigation on climate change, suggest Birkmann and James Thornton, the London-based chief executive of ClientEarth, an international group of environmental lawyers. Court cases that allege failure to prepare for the effects of climate change haven’t yet cited attribution studies, Thornton says. But he thinks judges will increasingly rely on them to help decide whether defendants—who might be oil companies, architects or government agencies—can be held liable. “Courts tend to give credibility to government data,” he says. “If attribution moves from science to public service, judges will be much more comfortable using the results.”

At the German weather agency, Becker says he is convinced that attribution studies will become a valuable service for many parts of society. “It’s part of our mission to illuminate the links between climate and weather,” he says. “There is demand for that information, there is science to provide it, and we are happy to spread it.”

Drought in Australia The Big Dry

This article is reproduced with permission and was first published on July 30, 2018.

Press link for more: Scientific American

Climate change is supercharging a hot and dangerous Northern Summer #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #TheDrum #QandA Australian media ignores #Science

Photo: David Goldman, STF

FILE – In this July 21, 2017 file photo, researchers look out from the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica as the sun sets over sea ice floating on the Victoria Strait along the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. After 24 days at sea and a journey spanning more than 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles), the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica has set a new record for the earliest transit of the fabled Northwest Passage. The once-forbidding route through the Arctic, linking the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, has been opening up sooner and for a longer period each summer due to climate change. Sea ice that foiled famous explorers and blocked the passage to all but the hardiest ships has slowly been melting away in one of the most visible effects of man-made global warming.(AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

In the town of Sodankyla, Finland, the thermometer on July 17 registered a record-breaking 90 degrees, a remarkable figure given that Sodankyla is 59 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in a region known for winter snowmobiling and an abundance of reindeer.

This is a hot, strange and dangerous summer across the planet.

Greece is in mourning after scorching heat and high winds fueled wildfires that have killed more than 80 people. Japan recorded its highest temperature in history, 106 degrees, in a heat wave that killed 65 people in a week and hospitalized 22,000, shortly after catastrophic flooding killed 200.

STUDIES: Heat makes you dumb, in charts

Montreal hit 98 degrees on July 2, its warmest temperature ever measured. Canadian health officials estimate as many as 70 people died in that heat wave.

In the United States, 35 weather stations in the past month have set new marks for warm overnight temperatures. Southern California has had record heat and widespread power outages. In Yosemite Valley, which is imperiled by wildfires, park rangers have told everyone to flee.

The brutal weather has been supercharged by human-induced climate change, scientists say. Climate models for three decades have predicted exactly what the world is seeing this summer.

And they predict that it will get hotter – and that what is a record today could someday be the norm.

“The old records belong to a world that no longer exists,” said Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Photo: The Washington Post

Map of extreme weather locations in the Northern Hemisphere

It’s not just heat. A warming world is prone to multiple types of extreme weather – heavier downpours, stronger hurricanes, longer droughts.

“You see roads melting, airplanes not being able to take off, there’s not enough water,” said Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. “Climate change hits us at our Achilles’ heel. In the Southwest, it’s water availability. On the Gulf Coast, it’s hurricanes. In the East, it’s flooding. It’s exacerbating the risks we already face today.”

The proximate cause of the Northern Hemisphere bake-off is the unusual behavior of the jet stream, a wavy track of west-to-east-prevailing wind at high altitude. The jet stream controls broad weather patterns, such as high-pressure and low-pressure systems. The extent of climate change’s influence on the jet stream is an intense subject of research.

This summer, the jet stream has undulated in extreme waves that have tended to block weather systems from migrating. The result has been stagnant high-pressure and low-pressure systems with dire results, such as heat waves in some places and flooding elsewhere.

HEAT WAVES: 5 ways to keep cities cooler during the heat

“When those waves are very big – as they have been for the past few weeks – they tend to get stuck in place,” said Jennifer Francis, a professor of atmospheric science at Rutgers University. Last year, scientists published evidence that the conditions leading up to “stuck jet streams” are becoming more common, with warming in the Arctic seen as a likely culprit.

Gone are the days when scientists drew abright line dividing weather and climate. Now researchers can examine a weather event and estimate how much climate change had to do with causing or exacerbating it.

Last year, when Hurricane Harvey broke the record for how much rain could fall from a single storm, researchers knew climate change had been a factor.

Months later, scientists presented findings that Harvey dumped at least 15 percent more rain in Houston than it would have without global warming. Theory, meet reality: When the atmosphere is warmer, it can hold more moisture. Climate change does not cause hurricanes to spin up or thunderstorms to develop, but it can be an intensifier.

In Dallas, where the temperature hit 100 on 10 out of 11 days this month, three homeless people have died of heat-related causes in the past week, said Brenda Snitzer, executive director of the Stewpot, a downtown shelter.

Photo: Tim Meko And Angela Fritz/The Wa

Map of the jet stream

In Phoenix, Arizona, where this week’s temperature hit 116 degrees, Dustin Nye, 36, who spent the day installing air-conditioning units, said he has suffered heat stroke in the past and still gets woozy. “It takes a special breed to do this all day long in this heat,” he said. “You’ve really got to work up your endurance and just buckle down and deal with it.”

In Los Angeles, Marty Adams, chief operating officer of the Department of Water and Power, said, “It seems like every year, we’ve had some type of temperature anomaly that we normally would not have.” Residents of California beach cities such as Long Beach and Santa Monica, who normally rely on the ocean breeze to cool their homes, have added air-conditioning units, which strains the grid and has contributed to power outages, he said.

Said Hayhoe: “The biggest myth that the largest number of people have bought into is that ‘climate change doesn’t matter to me personally.’ ”

The heat waves have hit hard where people don’t expect them – the Netherlands, Sweden, Britain, Ireland and Canada.

“Our office doesn’t have air conditioning. I do have a fan,” said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a climate researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. He spoke by phone from the city of Gouda, where the temperature hit 96 degrees Thursday.

“This kind of event was a 1-in-100-year event in 1900,” he said. “It’s become 20 times more likely.”

It’s Britain’s driest summer since modern records began in 1961. Reservoirs are declining rapidly, and water restrictions are in effect. The United Kingdom’s national weather service urged people to avoid the sun this week, with temperatures expected to hit 98 Fahrenheit.

In Ireland, the sun-parched fields revealed a previously hidden footprint of a 5,000-year-old monument near Newgrange.

Human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, has added greenhouse gases to the atmosphere,trapping heat and making extreme weather events even more extreme. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 410 parts per million in May, the highest the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii had measuredsince Charles David Keeling started keeping records in 1958. NASA estimates Earth has warmed almost one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s. Of that, half a degree (around one degree F) has accrued since 1990 alone.

If nothing is done to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, scientists say, the global temperature increase could reach nine degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, with higher spikes on land and at high latitudes. The Paris agreement, signed by every country in the world, is designed to limit that temperature spike through commitments to cut greenhouse-gas emissions over time. President Donald Trump, who in the past has called global warming a hoax, has vowed to pull the United States out of the accord as soon as that becomes possible, in 2020.

The 2017 National Climate Assessment, released in November, concluded what it has for nearly three decades: Human-made climate change is real, and the impacts have already started.

Average temperature is rising rapidly across the United States. Heat waves are becoming more extreme and will continue to do so.

Overall precipitation has decreased in the South and West and increased in the North and East. That trend will continue. The heaviest precipitation events will become more frequent and more extreme. Snowpack will continue to decline. Large wildfires will become even more frequent.

Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said even modest heat from global warming can build up over time.

“The accumulated energy over one month is equivalent to a small microwave oven at full power for six minutes over every square foot of the planet,” Trenberth said. “No wonder things catch on fire.”

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The Washington Post’s Justin Glawe in Dallas, Jeremy Duda in Phoenix, William Dauber in Los Angeles and Jennifer Hassan in London contributed to this report.

Press link for more: Houston Chronicle