Business Resolve on Climate Action is now more important than ever. #auspol 

Last fall, business leaders from Whirlpool, Schneider Electric and Clif Bar met with Ohio state lawmakers on an important request: Don’t hurt jobs, profits and the economy by rejecting the promise of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Corporate and citizen support for clean energy in Ohio made a powerful difference. In the waning days of 2016, Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich vetoed a bill that would have continued the state’s two-year freeze on renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates. It caused some dissent, but it was hard to argue with the economic case presented by major companies in the state. Within minutes of announcing his veto, a half-dozen major Ohio companies publicly thanked the governor for withstanding “immense pressure” and standing up for clean energy and resulting new jobs.
Governor Kasich’s move in Ohio underscores the mounting challenges we face in continuing this country’s progress towards a low-carbon future, despite a new president who is embracing coal and fossil fuels over climate protection and clean energy.
It’s a politically charged environment like never before and the temptation to ‘lie low’ is obvious. But lying low right now on climate and clean energy – and the policies that are fostering low-carbon action – would be short sighted and dangerous. Too much is at stake with heat-trapping carbon pollution sending global temperatures, sea levels and economic losses ever higher. There are also enormous stakes in positioning the United States to compete in the fast-growing low-carbon global economy. China’s new plans to invest hundreds of billions of dollars on renewable energy in the next several years should be seen as a clear competitive threat to U.S. policymakers.
Just as we saw in Ohio, more than ever, we need strong business community leadership to support federal and state policies that will accelerate our transition to a low-carbon economy. A good place to start would be next month’s kickoff meeting of President Trump’s business adviser team, which includes powerhouse CEOs from General Motors, PepsiCo, Tesla and BlackRock, all of whom have called for stronger action on climate change.
Business support for tackling climate change – and seizing the wide-ranging economic benefits by doing so – is unprecedented. With wind and solar costs plummeting, nearly 90 major companies, including Google, Mars Inc. and Bank of America, have committed to using 100 percent renewable energy to power their operations, and more than 200 have set science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at levels that would prevent the most dangerous effects of climate change.
To be sure, the business community has been more vocal the past two years in calling for strong, stable low-carbon policies that will help accelerate a faster transition to a clean energy economy..

One week after the US Presidential election, 365 U.S. companies issued a public statement at the global climate talks in Morocco calling on President-elect Trump not to abandon the Paris Climate Agreement and to continue supporting low-carbon policies. That number has since mushroomed to over 700 businesses and investors, including over 50 Massachusetts companies and dozens of Fortune 500 companies with headquarters all across the country.

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Nine things we should all do during the Climate Crisis. #auspol 

If everyone in the U.S. gave up meat and cheese just one day a week, it would be equivalent to not driving 91 billion miles, or taking 7.6 million cars off the road, according to the Environmental Working Group. 
My friend the writer and editor Laura M. Browning asked me to write about environmental action for her newsletter “One Small Thing,” which advises people on personal actions they can take to improve their world. Here’s a preview:
Most Americans believe climate change is real and that something should be done about it, but they seem to want someone else to do it—usually, the government. In the wake of the 2016 election, what was always true should be abundantly clear: government won’t solve the problem of climate change.
That leaves us. Fortunately, there are lots of things we can do ourselves. I’ve listed nine of them below. They might look like small things, but they are powerful things.
Sometimes we may feel powerless to transform the transportation, energy and industrial sectors ourselves, and so we want some omnipotent being to do it for us. But while we’re feeling powerless, are we overlooking personal actions that can further our goals?
The Powers That Be may not heed our protests, read our letters, listen to our environmental groups, but they can’t stop us from taking back the dollars we inadvertently contribute to their polluting economy every year.
Here is a list of simple actions that work:
1. Become a vegetarian, or better yet a vegan. 

The share of greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture is usually pegged at 14.5 percent to 18 percent, but the Worldwatch Institute found lots of oversights in those calculations that, when properly counted, bring the ag contribution all the way up to 51 percent. That, you’ll notice, is more than half. Which means that after we clean up all the transportation, energy, industry and commerce in the world, we’ve done less than half the job. The other half is meat and dairy. Refuse to eat it. If this seems too challenging, consider giving it up one day a week. It will still be the most important action you can take.

2. Eat organic when you can.

 Organic food is good for us because we’re not putting pesticides in our bodies, but organic food is also grown without synthetic fertilizers, most of which begin as byproducts of oil refining. When you buy a conventional apple, you’re giving a little boost to Big Oil.
3. Buy local when you can. 

I’m not talking about patronizing mom and pop stores, although that may have its own merit; I’m talking about buying locally-manufactured products made with locally-sourced materials. This goes for food too, with home organic gardening as a local ideal. To the extent that we minimize transportation of goods, we mitigate climate change.
4. Live in the climate. 

The biggest residential demand on our dirty energy system is climate control—home heating and cooling. We travel from our air conditioned homes to our air conditioned workplaces in air conditioned cars. Of course, we need climate control to protect us from freezing temperatures in winter and soaring temperatures in summer, but do we need the atmosphere to be exactly 70 degrees everywhere we go, all year long? Let’s use climate control only for the extremes. When temperatures are moderate, live in the climate we evolved to inhabit.
5. Line dry your clothes. 

Since I stopped using a clothes dryer, not only do I feel good about the fossil fuel I’m not burning, but my clothes last much longer. Which means I don’t need to buy new clothes nearly as often. Which means new clothes are not being shipped to me from Asia in freighters burning dirty, unregulated fuel oil.
6. Vote with your feet. 

Every time you drive a car, you vote for the car. Every time you ride a bike, you vote for the bike. You vote economically in the fuel you purchase—or don’t—but you also vote pragmatically. These days, transportation departments keep meticulous track of road usage and transit trips. Where there are a lot of bicyclists, bicycle infrastructure is more likely to get support. Where there are a lot of pedestrians, most transportation departments will try to make streets safer and friendlier for people, not cars.
7. If you have children, don’t use them as an excuse to wage war on their environment.

“I have children, therefore I must buy meat,” goes the thinking. “I have children, therefore I must drive a car.” This is like saying, “I have children, therefore I must destroy their future.” Researchers estimate each child increases a parent’s carbon footprint by nearly six times! Raise little vegetarians who know how to live in the climate and use public transit—survival skills for the 21st Century.

8. Reduce and reuse before recycle. 

Recycling emerged as a virtue before we knew we had a climate problem, and it turns out that transporting and processing materials for recycling is carbon intensive. Recycling still uses less energy than making new products from scratch, but reducing and reusing are even cleaner.
9. Offset your carbon emissions. After we’ve done everything above, we’ll still be responsible for some unavoidable emissions until our society cleans up its act. It only cost me $35 to offset my carbon emissions for 2016, which included some airline flights. The United Nations has made offsetting easy, cheap, and reliable, and you decide where the money goes—mine went to solar water heaters in India, inhibiting the spread of conventional water heaters there. Calculate and offset your emissions at
By Jeff McMahon, based in Chicago

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Climate Change is a threat to the economy. #auspol

Alan Caron: Climate change a threat to Maine’s economy
As Maine has struggled to build a 21st century economy, we’ve faced many challenges, most of them man-made and some geographic. We’ve been painfully slow to accept how the world was changing around us, and unwilling to hear the warnings of economists about how manufacturing, forestry, farming and fishing would change.
Instead, we’ve spent too much of our time locked in senseless battles based on region and political differences and whether we live in cities or the countryside. And we’ve watched as the state’s economy has lost momentum and energy, and our young people have left.
Now we’re doing a similar thing with climate change. We’ve been reluctant to heed the warnings of scientists who study these things every day. We’ve ignored the signs that are appearing all around us. We’ve confused political views with facts. Because of those things, the challenges for Maine, and for our economy, are growing.

Now, we’re not only cold, remote, expensive, disorganized, discouraged and disgruntled, we’re also ill-informed.
Climate change is going to alter much of what we now see in our minds when we think of Maine. Some familiar things will become rare, while others that we have little experience with will seem to be everywhere. Think of ticks, peach trees, new plant diseases, possums, vultures and insect-borne diseases.
Some people still maintain that climate change isn’t real, and they’ve employed a string of senseless and sometimes dishonest arguments to make their point. They’ve ridiculed computer projections, derided scientists, blamed cow flatulence and dead trees. Anything but the role that burning coal, gas and oil plays. Now they say that climate change is a conspiracy among all of the world’s scientists, engineered by China.

Losing ground in the public debate, climate deniers are now moving toward another strategy, led by the new president. Silence science. Cut funding to agencies, like NASA and NOAA, who collect and publish temperature data from around the world. Book burning can’t be far behind.
The problem with gagging scientists, from an economic standpoint, is that it will leave American businesses flying blind against global competitors who aren’t. And while they’re building technologies for the future, we’ll be re-opening coal mines.
Most common sense people seem to understand that our climate is changing and that burning fossil fuels over the last hundred years or so is the major culprit.

Here’s what the scientists — while they’re still free to speak — have been telling us.
• 2016 was the warmest year on record, beating out 2015, which beat out 2014. Sixteen of the last 17 years have produced global temperatures records.

• Alaska and New England are warming faster than the rest of the country.
• New England will feel impacts 20 years earlier than other places.
• Our average annual temperature will rise by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit over historical levels within 20 years, making us more like southern New England than Maine.
• The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than almost any place on the planet.
• Sea levels in New England could rise by as much as 10.5 feet by 2100, or twice what was earlier predicted. That would put 30 percent of Boston and many parts of our coastline under water.
What does all of that mean for the Maine economy? Warming climates force everything to migrate north. Plants, trees, animals, insects, diseases and people. Already, we’ve seen Maine’s iconic cod pushed further offshore and northward. That’s why you’re not buying much cod at the supermarket that was landed in Portland or New Bedford. Most of it now comes from Iceland and Norway.
Next up will be lobsters and other shellfish. Lobstering is booming now, in part because southern lobsters have moved in. But they won’t stop moving. Connecticut, not so long ago, had 300 lobsterman. Today there are only about half a dozen. In Rhode Island, lobstering is virtually non-existent.
In agriculture, forestry and recreation, we can expect longer growing seasons but more rain, icy winters and far less snow. That will release and sustain both diseases and insects we’re not prepared for. Think about explosions of ticks, new flying insects, tree and plant diseases. Then add human diseases we have no experience with.
Humans also will migrate, with the possibility of waves of people seeking refuge in places like Maine, while escaping heat and violent storms to the south. While Maine needs more skilled people to grow the economy, let’s face it, managing change has not been our strong suit.
The most immediate and compelling challenge we face is that our political leadership, in Maine and in the White House, just doesn’t get it.
Alan Caron, a Waterville native, is the principle of Caron Communications and the author of “Maine’s Next Economy” (2015) and “Reinventing Maine Government” (2010). He can be reached at:

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Why don’t we just ignore #ClimateChange ? #auspol 

What are the arguments for ignoring climate change?

By Alistair Woodward

The simplest is to deny such a thing exists. President Trump’s tweets on the topic, for instance, mostly run along the lines of “It’s record cold all over the country and world – where the hell is global warming, we need some fast!” But this is plainly at odds with the evidence, given what we know now about rising temperatures and accumulation of heat in the oceans.

The next-level argument accepts that the world is warming, but claims that humans are not responsible. However the recent climate record is difficult to explain any other way. For example, while the lower levels of the Earth’s atmosphere are warming, the stratosphere is cooling. This is contrary to what would be expected if warming was caused by increased solar activity, or changes in the Earth’s spin and tilt that expose the planet to more incoming radiation, which would heat the atmosphere all the way through. But it fits if the predominant cause is a thickening blanket of heat-trapping greenhouse gases close to the surface of the planet.

One might argue that climate change is underway, and yes, humans are responsible by and large, but it is not such a bad thing. Under this banner a variety of positions are taken. It may be (and is, sometimes) claimed that the benefits of climate change outweigh the disadvantages. More common is a nuanced argument along the lines of “it is not such a bad thing compared with other problems we now face” and therefore it makes sense to push climate change down the list of priorities. In effect, the problem is ignored.
The “not such a bad thing” world-view minimizes the risks of climate change to human health and well-being. One way of testing this position is to examine the impacts of past changes in the climate (which, it must be noted, are relatively minor compared with what is projected to lie ahead if present trends in greenhouse emissions continue).
Climate change has played an important part in the long course of human history. Indeed the emergence and success of our species were climate-related. Environmental conditions were the motor that drove evolution – stature, mobility, skin colouring, brain size are just some of the consequences of intermittent drying, heating, and cooling, and it is not drawing too long a bow, perhaps, to say that in some respects climate change made us human.
Bearing in mind this legacy, it is not so surprising that our physiology is very sensitive to ambient temperature and humidity. Humans operate, as tuned machines, in the “Goldilocks zone”, with just enough but not too much warmth or rainfall. Pre-requisites for health such as a nutritious diet and a secure supply of safe drinking water are affected by climate; disease vectors (mosquitoes and ticks for example) may be suppressed or promoted by climate shifts. Extreme weather leading to floods, fires, and heatwaves causes death, disease, and displacement, even in high-income countries – and the effects are amplified by poverty.

High water by Hans. CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.

If we want to understand the sensitivity of human societies to heating, cooling, drought, and excessive rainfall, then there is ample material in the historical record. Crises stand tallest – there are many examples of dramatic peaks in mortality associated with droughts, migration, warfare, and plagues. Rapid cooling and unusual variability in the climate at the end of the so-called “Classical Optimum” (around 400 CE) promoted the arrival and spread of new infections in failing Rome. Hunger and violent disorder following crop failures in drought-ridden Central America accelerated the fall of the Mayans. When Mt Tambora erupted in 1815, it threw so much ash into the atmosphere that temperatures fell around the world by as much as three degrees Centigrade on average, leading to a decade of food crises, epidemics, and social unrest.
The spread of farming, the Bronze Age, the rise and fall of American civilizations, and the impacts of the Little Ice Age in Europe and China all present direct connections between death, disease, de-population, and climate changes in both the regional and global sense.
So the argument here is: if we look back, we see the ways in which climate bears down on human health. If we look forward, we face changes that greatly exceed, in scale and speed, what happened in the past. The Holocene, the past 11,000 years during which human culture flourished and the nation state emerged, was a relatively stable time. Rises and falls in decadal-average temperatures rarely exceeded two degrees Centigrade. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected that global average temperatures may rise by four degrees Centigrade by 2100, with heating occurring much more rapidly in some parts of the world (most spectacularly and dangerously, in the Arctic).
In short, we ignore climate change at our peril. What puts humans at risk is the combination of culpability (we have the capacity now to put a serious spoke in the wheel of global systems) and vulnerability. To those who cannot or will not engage, we might say “watch out – humans may be clever enough to cause the problem, but not clever enough to escape the consequences, short of mass migration to a new and better planet”.
Featured image: Tree by katja. CC0 Public domain via Pixabay.
Alistair Woodward is a Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. He has worked extensively on environmental health issues in New Zealand and many other countries. He has investigated climate change, road safety, housing policy, the risks of cell phones and other modern concerns. Closely involved with the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since 2001 (and a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007), he led the writing group on health impacts for the 5th Assessment Report. He has worked frequently for WHO as a consultant on environmental health topics; most recently on the health co-benefits of well-chosen climate mitigation measures.

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3 Ways Trump’s Climate Approach Is A Economic Disaster #auspol 

3 Ways Donald Trump’s Climate Approach Is A US Economic Disaster
January 21st, 2017 by Zachary Shahan 
To be fair, we don’t yet know what Donald Trump’s precise climate approach will be, but it seems all but guaranteed that he will slow and obstruct climate action and will do a “great deal” to increase pollution and CO2 emissions from the out-of-date oil, coal, and gas industries.
This is idiotic not just because it puts all of human society at great risk, but also because it’s one of the worst economic moves a politician can make. I’ll run down three reasons why in the bulk of this article, but let’s first highlight some positive climate policy news from other economic and energy giants — India isn’t going to pull back its climate efforts no matter what Trump does (CleanTechnica exclusive) and China is already announcing that it’s willing to take the lead on climate action (a position it will milk as part of an overall global power grab in the coming years). To be frank, no other country with sane leadership is going to hurt both itself and the world by going slow on cleantech growth. Here’s why:
Cleantech Jobs > Fossil Jobs
At the opening of the World Future Energy Summit earlier this week, former president of Mexico Felipe Calderón had some powerful energy statistics from the US to share — there are approximately 70,000 coal mining jobs in the US today, whereas there are over 200,000 solar energy jobs there

In a separate interview with Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Amin dropped some similar stats on us — 85,000 people work in the coal industry in the United States, whereas approximately 400,000 people are employed in renewables in the US. For a little further context, that equals ~5% of the global renewable energy workforce.

Even today — with coal accounting for ~30% of US electricity and solar accounting for ~1% of US electricity — solar jobs outnumber coal jobs. Solar power and wind power have both become cheaper than coal power (by far) and almost no new coal power capacity has been added in the past few years (renewables have dominated new capacity and natural gas has accounted for almost all of the rest).
Hastening the energy transition would create thousands and thousands of new jobs, whereas delaying it would make the US economy more stagnant and weaker. Hastening the energy transition would result in many more solar and wind energy power plants and distributed systems on homes and farms across the country, whereas delaying it just means burning more coal and natural gas in old power plants, polluting the lives of more Americans, and allowing coal and oil billionaires to stuff more cash into their over-inflated bank accounts.

The basic economics of renewables isn’t going to change, but weakening or crushing the Clean Power Plan would allow old, dirty coal power plants to remain open (and cause premature death to countless American citizens), which would mean a slower increase in renewable energy jobs. Put very frankly: the number of renewable energy jobs that approach would keep off the market is a larger number than the number of coal jobs that would be saved for a few more years.

Coal mining is largely automated at this point and the old coal plants the Clean Power Plan would shut down are, of course, already fully built, but the renewable energy projects that would be created to more quickly replace these old coal plants would create renewable energy design, manufacturing, sales, and installation jobs for Americans in need of work.

Any efforts to let oil & gas companies pollute more and any efforts that allow more natural gas power plants to get built will of course harm human health — they will harm the health, quality of life, and lifespan of real American citizens. However, again, there is also likely to be a jobs hit. Part of the beauty of wind and solar power is that these are highly distributed power-generation technologies that require a great deal of local work for installation. Additionally, some of the largest manufacturers are American (GE for wind turbines, SunPower and First Solar for solar panels, etc.). Much of the cost of natural gas is simply for the fuel and is funnelled to billionaires and multimillionaires at the top of this industry — buddies of Donald Trump, perhaps. Renewable energy is the real job creator, not natural gas.

Efforts to hurt electric vehicle growth will hurt US manufacturing as well — Tesla is based in California and Nevada, the Nissan LEAF is built in Tennessee, the Chevy Bolt is produced in Michigan, and other electric cars are or will be manufactured in the US.

At one point last year, we highlighted that the fastest-growing job in the US was the job of a wind turbine technician. It seems that Trump won’t promote this job or industry since he has a long history of anti-wind behavior, but for his own sake (and the country’s) it would be quite helpful if he didn’t obstruct continued wind energy growth. When the US wind market grows, US wind turbine manufacturing grows. The best way to hurt US wind turbine manufacturing is to hurt the US wind energy market.
Cleantech = Energy Independence

I think Donald Trump is actually keen to make the US energy independent, but he also seems to be clueless about how limited US fossil fuel supplies are, and he seems to be prejudiced against the country’s largest energy resources — sunshine, wind, and water.
If you really want to bring the country to energy independence, you have to focus on renewables. Fossil fuels will only last a short period of time. Furthermore, fossil fuel markets are global fuel markets and we aren’t going to stop importing fossil fuels even if US production increases a great deal. The only way to achieve real energy independence is to switch to electric transport and renewable energy.
Renewable energy and electric transport is the future anyway, but the sooner the country gains true energy independence from renewables and EVs, the sooner we won’t be subject to instability and price swings related to oil and gas dependence.
The basic goal of true energy independence, of course, is to stop exporting cash overseas for fuel we are overdependent on and to stop spending a great deal of money and sacrificing human lives to “protect” oil and gas resources in the Middle East and elsewhere. Electric transport and renewable energy enable that. Crippling these young markets doesn’t.
Cleantech Industries Will Eventually Center Around A Few Corporate Leaders
Mature industries are typically dominated by a handful of core corporations. There are various factors that lead to this, but the point is that only a handful of survivors will dominate clean energy and EV manufacturing once these are very mature global markets. By helping US companies lead the way at this time, the US government is more likely to create long-term value for its citizens.
Currently, major US players in solar manufacturing include SunPower, First Solar, and Enphase Energy. In wind, General Electric (GE) is a leading wind turbine manufacturer (sometimes #1 globally, particularly when the US wind market is hot). In electric vehicles, US-based Tesla and Proterra are early leaders.
None of these companies are guaranteed a place at the table when these markets are much bigger. They have a good running start right now, but they will have a much better shot at strong growth and long-term dominance if the US government further stimulates and encourages the US solar, wind, and EV markets — as well as cleantech manufacturing between the Atlantic and Pacific. Demand-side stimulus and supply-side support are both important right now to help the US economy in the long term.
Any moves to diminish climate action in the US and thus weaken our solar, wind, and EV markets are likely to handicap our early cleantech manufacturing leaders. We’ve already seen German cleantech companies dramatically hurt or gone bankrupt after Germany pulled back on its cleantech leadership, and the same has happened to a lesser extent in the UK and Japan. US and Chinese companies have grown their global market share as a result, but these industries are still young and changing fast.
The US can open the door for other cleantech manufacturers to dominate the global market (like China’s BYD, several Chinese solar & wind equipment manufacturers, Japan’s Panasonic, and South Korea’s LG Chem and Samsung SDI), or Trump and his cabinet can work to further stimulate US cleantech leadership and overall economic growth. The latter would help the US in the coming few years, but even much more so in the coming decades. If Trump doesn’t think it’s important to stimulate and support these high-potential cleantech industries, he’s going to miss out on probably the most promising manufacturing potential of the 21st century. If Trump moves backwards on climate and cleantech leadership, US companies will be hurt and foreign companies will take more of their global market share.
Cleantech = Cha-Ching
Donald Trump doesn’t need luck in order to grow the US economy and US jobs. He just needs to follow Obama’s lead — support the extremely fast-growing cleantech transition, support climate action, help to close down super old and dirty fossil power plants (which will largely be replaced with solar and wind power plants), provide policy stability for the investment and corporate community, and don’t screw around by trying to protect dying industries that are going to lose in competitiveness and collapse in the coming decades anyway (that’s like trying to stick Band-Aids on a broken leg and hemorrhaging organ).
China is eager to come in and eat America’s lunch. It’s eager to take tens or hundreds of thousands of solar, wind, and EV manufacturing jobs from the US in the coming years. Donald Trump can go on Twitter to try to change the story, but that’s not likely to be very effective. Entertaining? Sure. A “good” way to bully people and brag? Maybe. Useful for growing American companies in the hottest global markets? Not so much.
Do we have any strong signs that Trump plans to maintain US leadership in these fast-growing global industries? No. Indications that Trump’s administrators will slow fossil power plant retirements in the US, permit greater pollution in the US, kill programs supporting EV and clean energy manufacturing in the US, kill federal support for EV and clean energy adoption, and focus international relations around oil & gas extraction rather than climate action all indicate that Trump is headed in the wrong direction and the US economy will suffer as a result — during Trump’s presidency, but even much more so in the decades that follow.

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Trump could set back climate action 20 years. #auspol 

Two scientists’ concerns over years of climate inaction
Precisely how the incoming Trump administration will deal with climate change remains uncertain. But Donald Trump’s statements during the campaign and since his election – and also his Cabinet nominations and his immediately purging the website of climate science information – signal, at a minimum, that he will not make addressing climate change a priority. 

And that the administration likely will move to shelve federal government mitigation efforts.
Throughout his campaign and during the transition leading up to his January 20th inauguration, Trump frequently had been dismissive of the science and bullish on coal and fossil fuels generally. Proponents for aggressive action and many in the climate science research community have expressed increasing concerns.

In recent months, two climate modelers – Ben Sanderson, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado, and Reto Knutti of ETH Zurich, Switzerland – examined how Trump administration inaction and actions might influence future planetary warming. They concluded that a four- or eight-year delay in mitigation could lead to substantially exceeding global temperature limits for dangerous levels of emissions and concentrations, perhaps indefinitely.
Background on the scientists’ analysis
Sanderson and Knutti wrote in a December Nature Climate Change commentary that the U.S. accounts for about 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, likely leading some to conclude that U.S. inaction “would only have a small effect.” 

They said that would be “a naïve assessment.”
They argue, to the contrary, that continued or increasing emissions during that period of U.S. inaction would put the world so far off course that it could not recover before dangerous limits have been bypassed.
“Delay is the worst enemy for any climate target,” they wrote. That’s because the additional emissions accrued during a four- or eight-year period of U.S. mitigation inaction would leave the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere beyond or close to the maximum amount considered by the nearly 200 signatories of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to be sufficiently protective.
In their December commentary, the two scientists cautioned against “overinterpreting” their analysis, given uncertainties in how the “economic and ideological shift in U.S. governance will affect greenhouse gas emissions.” Rather, they said their findings help in anticipating the “bounding scenarios that could plausibly happen.”
Though the new administration has not yet articulated a detailed climate policy – and mid-January Senate confirmation hearings on Trump cabinet nominations did little to elaborate – the researchers said there is ample reason to be concerned about the “very different path … for future U.S. climate policy.”

Recognizing all the uncertainties, Sanderson and Knutti assumed that if the U.S. were to drop its commitments to cut back carbon emissions and also stop funding cutbacks by less-developed countries, other big emitters – the European Union, China, and India – might do likewise.
(Many experts conclude that even if China moves to fill a leadership void created by Trump administration decisions, the global agreements represented by the 2015 Paris agreement might well break down, with no clear timetable for a subsequent renewed global accord.)

4- to 8-years of inaction = 15 to 20-year setback
In their analysis, Sanderson and Knutti elaborated on the consequences if U.S. momentum to address climate change stalls, and if global cooperation to deal with climate change doesn’t resume in earnest until 2025.
“Even if emissions were to decrease again after eight years, it could take an additional 15-25 years for emissions to get back to current levels, assuming mitigation rates typical for strong mitigation scenarios,” they wrote.
Sanderson and Knutti conclude that “only immediate, global concerted and effective action can achieve the temperature targets discussed in Paris.” They calculated the chances that, with further delays, the planet might avoid warming by more than 1.5 degrees C or 2 degrees C above pre-industrial temperatures, the goal and stretch goal agreed to in the Paris agreement.
It’s important to understand that the planet already has warmed by about 1 degrees C since the industrial revolution. Climate researchers are in general agreement that even 1 degrees C more would commit the planet to dramatically increased sea-level rise. In addition, they’re concerned that the entire planet would suffer punishing changes from changing storm patterns and intensity, heat waves and droughts. Many climate scientists fear that temperatures more than 2 degrees C above pre-industrial temperatures would be catastrophic in countless ways.

The Sanderson and Knutti commentary, published in Nature Climate Change, was not peer-reviewed. But their commentary was based on a methodology Sanderson and two coauthors presented last summer in a peer-reviewed study published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
Science Writer Dan Grossman’s Q&A

with NOAA Scientist Ben Sanderson
This Q&A relates to the description above of the Nature Climate Change commentary in which the interviewee and a colleague conclude that a U.S. four- or eight-year halt on reducing greenhouse gases would have serious adverse impacts lasting far beyond the delay itself.
Yale Climate Connections freelance science journalist Daniel Grossman spoke with NOAA scientist Ben Sanderson by telephone about their commentary, in which they argued that a U.S. climate stand-down of four or eight years would set back climate efforts by 15 to 25 years.
A lightly edited transcription of their interview follows:
Dan Grossman: I realize that it makes sense that a problem is solved sooner rather than later. But it’s not obvious that a four- or eight-year delay during a Trump administration would have longer-lasting impacts. Why isn’t that right?
Ben Sanderson: There are two main reasons. First, the climate system has inertia. And second the quantity that matters is the cumulative emissions of carbon, not the amount emitted in any given year.
The critical number to keep in mind is the total amount of carbon that humans can safely emit to stay within either 1.5 or 2 degrees C of the pre-industrial temperature. It’s called the carbon budget.

That total is calculated from the beginning of the industrial revolution until the time we stop burning fossil fuels. We’ve already emitted over 600 billion tons of carbon, out of a total budget of about 1,000 billion tons to remain below 2 degrees C, or about 700 billion tons to remain below 1.5 degrees C. We are using up the budget very quickly right now.
At present rates of global emissions, we have somewhere between four and 10 years before we have committed the Earth to blow past the 1.5-degree goal. For 2 degrees, we have somewhere between 15 and 25 years.

Grossman: You mean that if the incoming administration drops the ball for eight years, we commit the planet to bypassing 1.5 degrees?
Sanderson: Yes. With an eight-year delay in action, it would be virtually impossible to avoid going above 1.5 over pre-industrial. We’re very, very close to these thresholds, so the timeline for achieving them is incredibly short.
Grossman: But barring the reduced effort you posit in your peer-reviewed paper, is it still possible to avoid dangerous warming impacts?
Sanderson: So the background to this and the reason that the delay would render these targets unattainable is that anything short of an unprecedented World War II-level global-scale effort, starting now, would probably fail to prevent 1.5 degrees of warming. It would require global cooperation to completely transform the energy and transport infrastructure of the planet on a timescale of a few decades. To avoid a plus-1.5-degrees world, net emissions from the entire planet needs to be zero by 2040 or just after, just over 20 years from now. After that we’d have to be actively removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

But after an eight-year delay, we get into the realm of it being completely politically infeasible to stay within 1.5 or even 2 degrees C of the pre-industrial temperature.
Grossman: Why couldn’t we just pick up where we stopped after the delay? What makes a short period of delay, four or eight years, so dire?
Sanderson: The basic point is that for four or eight years we’d be putting an additional allotment of carbon into the atmosphere. And even if after the delay ended and we started reducing emissions at the same rate as we might otherwise do, we’d have to first remove that additional carbon in the atmosphere that was emitted during those lost years.
That extra CO2, translates into an increased temperature commitment for the future. Even if, post 2024, we reverted to the emissions reductions anticipated before the delay, it would be nearly impossible to return to a trajectory that would keep us safely below the Paris temperature thresholds. We’d have to pull huge amounts of CO2 directly from the air later in the century.
Some such negative emissions are already assumed. But even more would be needed. Prior scenarios that keep us below 1.5 degrees C already assume that we will max-out our technological capacity for negative emissions in the latter part of the century. In effect, the delay translates to a long-term commitment to a temperature rise beyond what we could have otherwise achieved.
Grossman: And that’s assuming that emissions stay at current rates and don’t actually rise?
Sanderson: Yes. And we can’t be certain that will happen. We also considered the effect of a short-term increase in emissions, due to policies encouraging production and consumption of fossil fuels like coal. That would commit us to an even higher temperature, both because of the extra CO2 that would be released during that period and because the investment in high-carbon infrastructure would lock in increased emissions for decades afterwards.
The scenarios for avoiding the 1.5- or 2-degree temperature limits already push the boundaries of feasibility. Any delay will cause us to miss the targets. In our paper, we calculate that if emissions increase for the next eight years (rather than falling as might otherwise occur), there’s only a 33 percent chance of avoiding warming of 2 degrees C or more.
Grossman: In your paper, you also discussed the effects of reduced research on solar power, wind energy, and other technologies for lowering carbon emissions. What would be the outcome of that?
Sanderson: We considered the possibility that eight years of reduced research in low-carbon infrastructure would hinder our ability to cut emissions post-2024, setting us back even further. If we add this effect, it makes the chance of achieving the two-degree target effectively nil, only about 10 percent. Adding in this factor increases the possibility of warming to a 3 degrees C world.

Grossman: Considering all these possibilities, what’s the bottom line?
Sanderson: The consequences of eight years of pro-fossil fuel policies in the U.S., which in turn trigger a global short-term abandonment of climate policy ambition, could be huge. It would put us it into a completely different scenario for the long-term future. The differences in costs and impacts between two-degree and three-degree worlds in the long term are enormous.
What we do even over the next decade is really important for determining what the world of our children and grandchildren will look like. It could transform the landscape of the world in the second part of this century. This is real and will have consequences for people that we know. The idea that you can kick the ball down the road for another decade is just demonstrably not true. The time is running out to avoid dangerous climate change.
Grossman: You wrote, “It’s not easy to be dispassionate watching an uncertain future unfold.” Should we expect scientists to be dispassionate about these things?
Sanderson: As climate scientists, we spend all of our time thinking about the impact of different emissions scenarios. They’re abstract, but the impacts translate into real problems which will affect people’s lives in real ways. Things like health, mortality, and disease outbreak.
It’s hard not to have an emotional response when the conclusions are so clear that the consequences of unbridled and untamed emissions would be disastrous for humanity and for every ecosystem on the planet. It’s hard not to come to the opinion that it would be better to act to avoid damage beyond what we’re already committed to.
Grossman: The new administration might be antagonistic to government employees or scientists opposed to pro-fossil-fuel policies. Are you worried about your job?
Sanderson: I’m concerned, of course. But my plan, and the plan of everyone I know, is just to carry on doing our jobs. Whatever course humanity takes, climate change will happen to some degree, and understanding how those changes are going to affect our society can give us a head start on mitigating some of the risks.
And so, we’ll carry on doing good science to provide the best information. If the political climate stops us from doing that, it would in my view be disastrous. Some of the best climate science in the world is done within the United States, and if American climate scientists were silenced, there would be dire consequences in terms of mankind’s ability to predict the effects and to respond to climate change.

Press link for more: Yale Climate Connections


Too Hot To Grow AnyThing. Ignoring #ClimateChange will not make America Great. #auspol 

Shifting climate patterns in North America could hit U.S. crop production hard, possibly even halving the production of corn by the end of the century, a new study finds.
Scientists believe that the spike in average temperatures that is widely predicted by climate models for North America could hurt its agriculture sector. As the number of days that are hotter than 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) increases, they now predict, estimated future harvests of wheat, soybeans and corn could drop by 22 to 49 percent, depending on the variety of the crop.
“Projections tell us that in the U.S., these crops will suffer from hotter days. Since these days will get more frequent with climate change, there will be harvest losses,” said Bernhard Schauberger, lead author of the study, released by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
Schauberger and a team of scientists came to this conclusion by studying a series of computer simulations.

According to their estimates, corn and soybean plants can lose 5 percent of their harvest for every single day that is recorded above 30 C. Such crop losses could have huge repercussions for domestic food security and — given that the United States is one of the largest crop exporters in the world — affect prices in the international market.
There are multiple ways that higher temperatures could affect crop growth, and most of them come down to water stress, said Joshua Elliott, a research scientist with the University of Chicago and a co-author of the study.
Evaporation rates shoot up on hotter days, reducing the amount of moisture in the soil that’s available to the plants. Moreover, plants tend to open their stomata — small pores on their leaves — to transpire water when temperatures increase, creating an additional source of stress. Certain studies have also suggested that high temperatures during a plant’s flowering period could actually lead to a “sterilization” effect.
“Moreover, at very high temperatures, there can be direct damage to leaves and other organs of the plant — typically called wilting,” Elliott added.
Crops tend to respond to temperature changes in different ways. Some, like rice and cotton, can tolerate higher degrees of heat, but others, like corn and wheat, aren’t as flexible.
Since a loss of water is the key problem that climate change could create for crops, the answer could lie in irrigation, something Elliott called a “key resiliency factor.” However, depending entirely on irrigation to curb crop losses could also be dangerous and unsustainable, he added.

“There are lots of irrigated parts of the world, like northern India, which are already starting to run out of resources. Some estimates say there will be widespread irrigation deficits in the next 20 years — and then you have a double-whammy effect, where temperatures are increasing and you don’t have the water you need to irrigate your crops,” he explained.
The problem is exacerbated in areas like Kansas and West Texas that are entirely reliant on groundwater resources.
Moreover, irrigation can help protect crops until a certain temperature threshold — around 36 or 40 C, according to Schauberger — but not beyond.
The scarcity of water could be influenced by other consequences of climate change, like changes in precipitation patterns, as well as socio-economic factors like a higher demand for food, growth of the hydropower sector and population increase, said Erwan Monier, a principal research scientist with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.
“If there’s no more water available for irrigation, the question becomes what would farmers do — they would either have to rely on rain-fed crops or move to a location where there’s enough water for irrigation. If they shift to rain-fed crop management, there’s going to be a significant decline in yield,” he said.
Some scientists are experimenting with ways to genetically modify crops that are more resilient to higher temperatures. However, this approach hasn’t demonstrated significant results so far and, according to Elliot, contains restrictions in terms of how much the plants can be altered. He sees the most likely adaptation strategy as being a northward shift of traditional crop belts.
“It may very well be that in the next 50 to 100 years, the new Corn Belt is centered around North Dakota, Manitoba and Saskatchewan,” he said. “Parts of Iowa could be growing cotton and the Deep South — where cotton is currently grown — will probably be too hot to grow anything.”
Press link for more: Scientific American


700 #Scientists urge Trump to make #ClimateChange an “Urgent Priority” #auspol 

Maine professors recruit 700 colleagues to sign on to climate change letter to Trump
More than 700 physics and astronomy professors from across the country signed onto a letter written by three Maine professors urging President-elect Donald Trump to make tackling climate change an “urgent priority.”

“Addressing climate change will involve short-term costs, but will also mean new investments, new jobs and new opportunities for global leadership; things that Americans around the country will welcome,” reads the letter sent Wednesday to the president-elect at Trump Tower office in New York. “President-elect Trump, we implore you to address the threat of climate change immediately. In so doing, you have a unique opportunity to make America an even greater country and secure a better future for all the children of the world.”
Three Maine professors – Paul Nakroshis of the University of Southern Maine and Bowdoin College’s Mark Battle and Madeleine Msall – began drafting the letter soon after Trump’s election. In the months since, they contacted colleagues at 751 colleges and universities with degree-granting physics programs. The final version sent Wednesday to Trump and released to the public as an “open letter” on Thursday was signed by 706 physics and astronomy scientists from 45 states.
Trump is a climate change skeptic and several of his Cabinet nominees have either fought against federal regulations to combat climate change or worked in the fossil fuels industry. In their letter, the professors wrote that “the scientific community is highly confident that human use of fossil fuels is the dominant driver of this warming” and that there is “no meaningful dissent” within the scientific community that carbon dioxide emissions are the dominant factor behind the warming climate.
Battle, an associated professor of physics who works on climate issues, said the three leaders of the letter as well as many of the signers were fully aware of Trump’s skepticism toward climate change and dismissal of the scientific consensus on the issue.
“But our feeling was we couldn’t stand by and do nothing with a clear conscience,” Battle said.
Battle stressed that while “a great majority” of the signatories to the letter were not climate scientists, they were all “trained scientists and trained communicators” who are able to recognize valid science and communicate it in a clear way.
“As faculty members and researchers from Departments of Physics and Astronomy around the United States, we urge you to address this issue as a most urgent priority,” reads the letter.

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Harvests to suffer from #climatechange #auspol 

Harvests in US to suffer from climate change
Some of the most important crops risk substantial damage from rising temperatures. 

To better assess how climate change caused by human greenhouse gas emissions will likely impact wheat, maize and soybean, an international team of scientists now ran an unprecedentedly comprehensive set of computer simulations of US crop yields. 

The simulations were shown to reproduce the observed strong reduction in past crop yields induced by high temperatures, thereby confirming that they capture one main mechanism for future projections. 

Importantly, the scientists find that increased irrigation can help to reduce the negative effects of global warming on crops — but this is possible only in regions where sufficient water is available. 

Eventually limiting global warming is needed to keep crop losses in check.
“We know from observations that high temperatures can harm crops, but now we have a much better understanding of the processes,” says Bernhard Schauberger from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, lead author of the study.”The computer simulations that we do are based on robust knowledge from physics, chemistry, biology; on a lot of data and elaborate algorithms. 

But they of course cannot represent the entire complexity of the crop system, hence we call them models. 

In our study they have passed a critical test.” The scientists compare the model results to data from actual observations. This way, they can find out if they include the critical factors into their calculations, from temperature to CO2, from irrigation to fertilization.

Without efficient emission reductions, yield losses of 20 percent for wheat are possible by 2100
For every single day above 30°C, maize and soybean plants can lose about 5 percent of their harvest. 

The simulations have shown that the models capture how rather small heat increases beyond this threshold can result in abrupt and substantial yield losses. Such temperatures will be more frequent under unabated climate change and can severely harm agricultural productivity. 

Harvest losses from elevated temperatures of 20 percent for wheat, 40 percent for soybean and almost 50 percent for maize, relative to non-elevated temperatures, can be expected at the end of our century without efficient emission reductions. 

These losses do not even consider extremely high temperatures above 36°C, which are expected to lower yields further.

The effects go far beyond the US, one of the largest crop exporters: world market crop prices might increase, which is an issue for food security in poor countries.
Irrigation could be a means for adaptation — yet only in regions where there’s sufficient water
“The losses got substantially reduced when we increased irrigation of fields in the simulation, so water stress resulting from temperature increase seems to be a bigger factor than the heat itself,” says co-author Joshua Elliott from the University of Chicago. When water supply from the soil to the plant decreases, the small openings in the leaves gradually close to prevent water loss.

 They thereby preclude the diffusion of CO2 into the cells, which is an essential building material for the plants. Additionally, crops respond to water stress by increasing root growth at the expense of above-ground biomass and, eventually, yields. “Irrigation therefore could be an important means of adaptation to dampen the most severe effects of warming,” says Elliott. “However, this is of course limited by the lack of water resources in some regions.”
Burning fossil fuels elevates the amount of CO2 in the air. This usually increases the water use efficiency of plants since they lose less water for each unit of CO2 taken up from the air. However, this cannot be confirmed as a safeguard of yields under high temperatures, the scientists argue. The additional CO2 fertilization in the simulations does not alleviate the drop in yields associated with high temperatures above about 30°C.

The comparison of different computer simulations of climate change impacts is at the heart of the ISIMIP project (Inter-Sectoral Impacts Modelling Intercomparison Project) comprising about 100 modelling groups worldwide.

 The simulations are generated in cooperation with AgMIP, the international Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project.

Press link for more: Science Daily


Oxfam report: What can tackle runaway inequality in Australia? #Auspol 

What can tackle runaway inequality in Australia?

Oxfam argues that a human economy is the best way to tackle the growing problem of economic inequality, both here in Australia and abroad. 

Building a human economy requires dedicated action from both the Australian Government and corporations.
Oxfam Australia CALLS on the Australian Government to:

1. Tackle corporate tax dodging by implementing full public tax transparency

Multinational corporations should pay their fair share of tax, both in Australia and in the countries where they operate. One of the best ways to ensure that this happens is to mandate that large corporations publicly report on their tax affairs – including profits, revenue, employees and assets – for every country in which they operate.

2.End the era of tax havens and the race to the bottom on corporate tax rates

The relentless race to the bottom on corporate tax rates does not reduce inequality, and is likely to only benefit the super-rich. From a federal budget point of view, the proposed tax cut to big business is also revenue neutral, and does not provide additional public funds. The Government should not proceed with a cut in the corporate tax rate for large Australian businesses.

3. Move beyond GDP growth and report on indicators of Australian progress

The now de-funded Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Measures of Australian Progress (MAP), or Commonwealth Treasury’s Wellbeing Framework
are existing frameworks that could be used, in addition to quarterly GDP growth, to publicly report on the wellbeing of Australians.

 The role of women’s unpaid work should also be captured by Australian progress indicators.
The Government should also use additional measures of progress, beyond GDP growth, within the Australian aid program to make sure that poverty and inequality are effectively targeted by Australian aid.

4. Conduct inequality impact analysis as part of national policy changes

In order to tackle rising inequality at home and abroad, it is imperative that the Australian Government conduct analysis of the impact that policy changes will have on economic inequality. For instance, there is no inequality impact analysis of the proposed cuts to the corporate tax rate.

5. Implement measures to reduce extreme wealth concentration, and follow through with commitment to create a public register of company ownership

In addition to tackling corporate tax dodging, the Australian Government should consider further measures to reduce extreme wealth concentration, such as land taxes, extreme net wealth taxes,
and high-income taxes (such as the Buffet Rule). 

At a time when all levels of government are facing budget pressures, these types of measures can be used to tackle rising inequality, and provide the necessary public funding for essential services that benefit all.

Oxfam also calls on the Australian Government to follow through with the April 2016 commitment to establish a public register of ultimate beneficial owners of companies, foundations, trusts,
and accounts. 

The register should include all companies registered or operating in Australia and from Australia. 

Such measures will help reduce tax dodging by wealthy individuals who own large multinational corporations.

6. Refocus efforts to tackle climate change

The devastation caused by climate change has real impacts on Australians and vulnerable communities in our region.

 It is crucial that the Australian Government refocus efforts to build a human economy powered by renewable energy.

This will require a transition of Australia’s energy system to 100% renewables as soon as possible, with Australia reaching zero emissions well before mid-century.

 The Government must also prioritise support for neighbouring countries to adapt to climate impacts and build resilient, sustainable economies as part of a growing Australian aid program.

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