Europe

#ClimateChange 2017 should send shivers down the spines of policy makers. #auspol #StopAdani

by David Spratt

Much of what happened in 2017 was predictable: news of climate extremes became, how can I put it … almost the norm.

There was record-breaking heat on several continents, California’s biggest wildfire (extraordinarily in the middle of winter), an ex-tropical cyclone hitting Ireland (yes, Ireland) in October, and the unprecedented Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria that swept through the Atlantic in August.

The US government agency, the NOAA, reported that there were 16 catastrophic billion-dollar weather/climate events in the USA during 2017.

And 2017 “marks the first time some of the (scientific) papers concluded that an event could not have occurred — like, at all — in a world where global warming did not exist.

The studies suggested that the record-breaking global temperatures in 2016, an extreme heat wave in Asia and a patch of unusually warm water in the Alaskan Gulf were only possible because of human-caused climate change”, Reuters reported.

At both poles, the news continues to be not good.

At the COP23 in Bonn, Pam Pearson, Founder and Director of the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, warned that the cryoshere is becoming “an irreversible driver of climate change”. She said that most cryosphere thresholds are determined by peak temperature, and the length of time spent at that peak, warning that “later, decreasing temperatures after the peak are largely irrelevant, especially with higher temperatures and longer duration peaks”.

Thus “overshoot scenarios”, which are now becoming the norm in policy-making circles (including all 1.5°C scenarios) hold much greater risks.

As well, Pearson said that  2100 is a misleading and minimising measure of cryosphere response: “When setting goals, it is important to look to new irreversible impacts and the steady state circumstances. The end of the century is too soon to show that before but inevitable response especially for sea level rises.” Pearson added that: “What keeps cryosphere scientists up at night are irreversible thresholds, particularly West Antarctica and Greenland. The consensus figure for the irreversible melting of Greenland is at 1.6°C.”

So what did we learn about the climate system in 2017? Here’s three that stand out, that should send shivers down the spines of policy makers.

1.  2017 was the second hottest year on record and the hottest non-El Nino year on record

Whilst not all sources have yet released data on annual warming for last year, the Copernicus Climate Change Service, the first major international weather agency to report global 2017 temperatures, said they averaged 1.2°C above pre-industrial times. 2017 was slightly cooler than the warmest year on record, 2016, and warmer than the previous second warmest year, 2015, Reuters reported.

Other organisations have unofficial figures which either agree with this assessment, or say that 2017 has tied with 2015. And last year was Australia’s third-warmest year on record.

It is no surprise that the last three years have been the hottest on the instrumental record. What is remarkable is that 2017 was as hot, or hotter than 2015, because 2015 and 2016 were both El Nino years, and the evidence shows that El Nino years are, on average, about 0.15°C warmer than La Nina years.

In fact, a remarkably hot 2017 crushed the old record for hottest non-El Niño year (2014) by an astounding 0.17°C.

The underlying temperature trend is being driven by continuing high levels of climate pollution: The UN says carbon dioxide levels grew at record pace in 2016. The atmospheric carbon dioxide  averaged 403.3 parts per million (ppm) over the year, up from 400 ppm in 2015. The growth rate was 50 percent faster than the average over the past decade.

And global carbon emissions are headed up again after three years in which human-caused emissions appeared to be levelling off. A two percent increase is projected overall, with the highest rise coming in China, according to new research presented at the climate talks in Bonn.

In 2017 we also learned that there was no pause in global warming: the so-called ’slow down’ in climate change between 1998 and 2012 was caused by a lack of data from the Arctic.

2. It is likely to get hotter than we think

Two significant pieces of work released towards the end of 2017 suggest that warming is likely to be greater than the projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on which climate policy-making and carbon budgets are generally based.

This is because what is called Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS), an estimate of how much the planet will warm for a doubling in the level of greenhouse gases, is higher than the median of the IPCC’s modelling analysis.

In “Greater future global warming inferred from Earth’s recent energy budget” published in Nature in December 2017, Brown and Caldeira compared the performance of a wide range of climate models (raw model projections) with recent observations (especially on the balance of incoming and outgoing top-of-the-atmosphere radiation that ultimately determines the Earth’s temperature), in order to assess which models perform best.

The models that best capture current conditions (the “observationally-informed” models) produce 15% more warming by 2100 than the IPCC suggests, hence reducing the “carbon budget” by around 15% for the 2C target.

For example, they find the warming associated by the IPCC with RCP 4.5 emissions scenario would in fact “follow the trajectory previously associated with (higher emissions) RCP 6.0” scenario.

They also find that the observationally-informed ECS prediction has a mean value of 3.7°C (for a doubling of the atmospheric greenhouse gas level), compared to 3.1°C used in raw models, and in the carbon budget analyses widely used by the IPCC, the UN and at climate policy conferences.

In “Well below 2C: Mitigation strategies for avoiding dangerous to catastrophic climate changes”, published in September 2017, Xu and Ramanathan look at what are called the “fat tail” risks. These are the low-probability, high-impact (LPHI) consequences (“fat tails”) of future emission scenarios; that is, events with a 5% probability at the top end of the range of possible outcomes.

These “top end” risks are more likely to occur than we think, so “it is important to use high-end climate sensitivity because some studies have suggested that 3D climate models have underestimated three major positive climate feedbacks: positive ice albedo feedback from the retreat of Arctic sea ice, positive cloud albedo feedback from retreating storm track clouds in mid-latitudes, and positive albedo feedback by the mixed-phase (water and ice) clouds.”

When these are taken into account, the researchers find that the ECS is more than 40% higher than the IPCC mid-figure, at 4.5-4.7°C. And this is without taking into account carbon cycle feedbacks (such as melting permafrost and the declining efficiency of forests carbon sinks), and increase methane emissions from wetlands, which together could add another 1°C to warming be 2100.

This work compliments other recent work which also suggests a higher climate sensitivity:

Fasullo and Trenberth found that the climate models that most accurately capture observed relative humidity in the tropics and subtropics and associated clouds were among those with a higher sensitivity of around 4°C.

Zhai et al. found that seven models that are consistent with the observed seasonal variation of low-altitude marine clouds yield an ensemble-mean sensitivity of 3.9°C.

Friedrich et al. show that climate models may be underestimating climate sensitivity because it is not uniform across different circumstances, but in fact higher in warmer, inter-glacial periods (such as the present) and lower in colder, glacial periods. Based on a study of glacial cycles and temperatures over the last 800,000 years, the authors conclude that in warmer periods climate sensitivity averages around 4.88°C. Professor Michael Mann, of Penn State University, says the paper appears “sound and the conclusions quite defensible”.

Lauer et al. found that climate models that most accurately simulate recent cloud cover changes in the east Pacific point to an amplifying effect on global warming and thus a more sensitive climate.

And the bottom line?

If this work is correct, then the pledges made under the Paris Accord would not produce warming of around 3°C as is widely discussed, but a figure closer to and even above  4°C.

And the total carbon budget would a quarter smaller than is generally accepted, or even less.

3. Climate models under-estimate future risks

This year, the Breakthrough Centre for Climate Restoration in Melbourne, published What Lies Beneath, on the scientific understatement of climate risks. The report found that human-induced climate change is an existential risk to human civilisation, yet much climate research understates climate risks and provides conservative projections. Reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that are crucial to climate policymaking and informing public narrative are characterised by scientific reticence, paying limited attention to lower-probability, high-risk events that are becoming increasingly likely. (Disclosure: I was a co-author of this report.)

But don’t take my word.  At the climate policy conference in Bonn, Phil Duffy, the Director of the Woods Hole Institute, explained the scientific reticence regarding the biggest system feedback issues:

The best example of reticence is permafrost…  It’s absolutely essential that this feedback loop not get going seriously, if it does there is simply no way to control it… The scientific failure comes in because none of this is in climate models and none of this is considered in the climate policy discussion… climate models simply omit emissions from the warming permafrost, but we know that is the wrong answer because that tacitly assumes that these emissions are zero and we know that’s not right…

And the problems of underestimation of future climate impacts from current models was explicitly recognised by the US government in its Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment. In a chapter on “Potential Surprises: Compound Extremes and Tipping Element”, two key findings were:

• Positive feedbacks (self-reinforcing cycles) within the climate system have the potential to accelerate human-induced climate change and even shift the Earth’s climate system, in part or in whole, into new states that are very different from those experienced in the recent past (for example, ones with greatly diminished ice sheets or different large-scale patterns of atmosphere or ocean circulation). Some feedbacks and potential state shifts can be modeled and quantified; others can be modeled or identified but not quantified; and some are probably still unknown. (Very high confidence in the potential for state shifts and in the incompleteness of knowledge about feedbacks and potential state shifts).

• While climate models incorporate important climate processes that can be well quantified, they do not include all of the processes that can contribute to feedbacks, compound extreme events, and abrupt and/or irreversible changes.

For this reason, future changes outside the range projected by climate models cannot be ruled out (very high confidence). Moreover, the systematic tendency of climate models to underestimate temperature change during warm paleoclimates suggests that climate models are more likely to underestimate than to overestimate the amount of long-term future change (medium confidence).

The problem is that the notion that future climate changes may be faster and hotter than those projected by climate models is one rarely understood by climate policy-makers, and rarely discussed by those who do understand.

If climate policymaking is to be soundly based, a re-framing of scientific research within an existential risk-management framework is now urgently required.

This must be taken up not just in the work of the IPCC, but also in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations if we are to address the real climate challenge.

Press link for more: Climate Code Red

Advertisements

The unlikely pioneers fighting #climatechange #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

An agronomist in North Carolina, an ironworker in California and a coral restoration worker off the Florida coast. (John West/Justin Moore/Coral Restoration Foundation/The WorldPost)

This is the weekly roundup of The WorldPost, of which Nathan Gardels is the editor in chief.

The historian Arnold Toynbee famously argued that the well-being of a civilization can be judged by its ability to respond to human and environmental challenges.

The Donald Trump administration’s full-throttle reverse course aimed at renewing fossil fuels as the chief source of energy — as the planet faces the droughts, deluges and firestorms of climate change — would seem to indicate an unwell civilization indeed.

Yet what’s missing from such a dire verdict is that the response to climate change is so distributed that we don’t apprehend the massive changes actually taking place.

In today’s world, we no longer have to go up the tree of political authority to make something happen.

People can do it on their own, through interconnectedness with others.

“Our civilization has developed extraordinary capacities, but we are unable to see the image they produce,” the celebrated designer and “Massive Change” author Bruce Mau has said. “It is as if that image has been cut up into the billion pixels of everyone’s contribution, and we can only see the pixel that we are working on but never the image as a whole.”

As only someone with the eye of a designer like Mau might put it, “The important challenge is to maintain the visibility of accomplishments — the whole image — so the momentum toward massive change grows.”

In The WorldPost this week, we make a small contribution to pulling together the pixels into a whole image by sampling the widely dispersed responses to climate change, from research into carbon capture to coral nurseries in the Florida Keys, the growth of green jobs in California’s oil belt, and conservation agriculture in North Carolina.

“Farewell to Ice” author Peter Wadhams points out the “stock-flow” conundrum of de-carbonizing the planet — the problem is not only new emissions but the already damaging levels of carbon deposited in the atmosphere from past burning of fossil fuels that will remain for hundreds of years.

“If we want to survive climate change, we must double down in research manpower and dollars to find and improve technology to remove carbon dioxide — or at least reduce its effects on the climate,” he writes.

“We now emit 41 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year.

The current level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is already high enough to bring about a warming of more than 2 degrees after it has worked its way through the climate system, so if we want to save the Paris accord, we must either reduce our emissions to zero, which is not yet possible, or combine a significant emissions reduction with the physical removal of about 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year indefinitely.”

The only answer, according to Wadhams, is new carbon capture technologies that reduce the stock of carbon, some of which are employed in innovative projects in Houston, Iceland and elsewhere.

Marine ecologist John Bruno reports on innovative efforts to regenerate coral reefs — thus saving the “tropical forests” of the ocean — that are getting bleached to death by warming seas. Bruno documents several such projects, from a coral restoration nursery off the Florida coast where marine biologists are growing and replanting new coral on degraded reefs, to the experiments of molecular biologists using cutting-edge gene editing tools like CRISPR to alter the DNA of corals so they can better withstand rising temperatures.

From the oil belt of California’s San Joaquin Valley, Bridget Huber reports that climate policies are not killing jobs, but creating them.

Through the prism of on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs of the ironworkers’ and electrical workers’ unions in Fresno, she traces the return of robust job and wage growth to what had become a depressed economic zone.

This is largely thanks to state mandates to meet requirements for renewable energy production. “Solar saved our bacon,” one veteran ironworker told her.

Also contributing in a major way to high-wage employment, she reports, are the construction jobs associated with California’s massive high-speed rail project running through the region.

Brian Barth reports from farms in eastern North Carolina where pork production giant Smithfield Foods — the largest producer of pork in the world — has rolled out efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of its meat production “According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” writes Barth, “agriculture accounts for about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, roughly the same as the combined total for electricity and heating, and well above the transportation sector, which contributes just 14 percent.

Add emissions from refrigeration, shipping and other activities required to get your dinner from farm to plate, and the food system’s share of global greenhouse gases climbs to roughly a third, making it easily the most climate-unfriendly sector of the global economy.”

Barth discusses Paul Hawken’s book “Natural Capitalism,” in which the environmentalist lays out the top 100 solutions to climate change.

Of these, “11 are related to food systems, seven to energy systems and none to transportation systems.

Electric vehicles are #26, while ‘tree intercropping’ — planting strips of apple trees throughout a corn field, for example — is #17.

The top food-related practices — reducing food waste (#3) and switching to a plant-rich diet (#4) — are largely consumer-driven solutions.”

Yet Barth’s reporting suggests that farmers and producers play a crucial part in reducing emissions as well. Barth also discusses silvopasture — a “mashup of forestry and grazing” — which is the highest-ranked agricultural solution to climate change in Hawken’s analysis.

The challenge for all these distributed cases of climate action is how to scale them up to realize the potential for massive change as the clock ticks.

The political roadblocks of vested interests which always resist change aside, what has been true throughout history is that, in the end, scale and resources follow cultural commitments.

That commitment will only grow deeper if society becomes more fully aware of the whole picture of what it is already doing.

This was produced by The WorldPost, a partnership of the Berggruen Institute and The Washington Post.

Update: https://www.facebook.com/StopAdaniBrisbane/videos/395052270934742/

Press link for more: Washington Post

Blue Skies in Beijing #StopAdani #auspol #Divest

Blue skies are more common in Beijing these days.

A Greenpeace analysis of government data found that pollution levels had dropped 53 percent in the last three months of 2017 from a year earlier.

Bryan Denton for The New York Times

BEIJING — Winters in Beijing have long been choked by thick, dusty, toxic smog. But this winter, the sky has taken on a once seemingly unthinkable hue: blue.

Now, an analysis of government data by Greenpeace has confirmed what many people could see but that nonetheless seemed too good to be true.

Pollution in Beijing and in 27 other cities in northeastern China has fallen precipitously, dropping 33 percent on average compared with the last three months of 2016.

In Beijing, pollution fell 53 percent.

Greenpeace estimated that lower pollution levels resulted in 160,000 fewer premature deaths across China in 2017.

The drop indicated that the government’s antipollution campaign — first announced in 2013 but accelerated last year for regions around the capital — has begun to show results.

Even so, pollution levels fell less precipitously or rose elsewhere, suggesting that a concerted effort last fall to shift heating to natural gas from coal may have simply shifted the harmful effects to regions far from the capital.

In the northern province of Heilongjiang, on the border with Russia, pollution levels rose 10 percent.

In a statement with its analysis, Greenpeace argued that the results demonstrated the need for more government action, noting that nationwide the drop in pollutants was only 4 percent.

“China’s national air pollution action plan has brought massive reductions in pollution levels and associated health risks, but policies favoring coal and heavy industry are holding back progress,” Huang Wei, one of the organization’s campaigners, said in the statement.

But in Beijing, where pollution levels are tracked as closely as property prices are in Hong Kong, London or New York, the respite from eye-watering, throat-scratching smog has nonetheless been welcomed.

Only a year ago the pollution was so bad on some days that schools were closed and flights were canceled.

Air quality is measured by the concentration of PM2.5, or particulate matter of a size deemed especially harmful; such pollutants contribute to a variety of health conditions. Anything under 50 is considered good.

For a couple of days at the end of December, levels nearly reached 300, which is considered hazardous, but those were, for this winter so far at least, the exceptions. (On Thursday evening, as this article was being written, the level was 29, according to the China Environmental Monitoring Station index.)

But beyond the health risks, pollution also poses a political risk for the government of President Xi Jinping as he moves to promote the country’s rise on the world stage.

The government does not seem to be resting on its laurels in the fight against pollution. The Ministry of Environmental Protection warned in a statement on Wednesday that clearer skies were caused in part by favorable weather conditions, and that conditions could worsen in late January and early February.

“Local governments need to strengthen pollution controls to further cut emissions and make sure they reach their goals on air quality improvement,” the ministry was quoted as saying in China Daily.

Press link for more: NYTimes.com

#PoweringPastCoal #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

The We Mean Business coalition urges forward-looking companies to sign the declaration of the Powering Past Coal Alliance and back the powerful signal sent by more than 25 countries, states and regions that coal’s time has passed.

At COP23, the UK and Canada, alongside Costa Rica, Fiji, France, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, New Zealand, Oregon, Quebec and many others, announced the Powering Past Coal Alliance.

They stand united in taking action to accelerate clean growth and climate protection through the rapid phase-out of traditional coal power.

They now need the private sector to step up and match their level of ambition.

Companies embracing the transition to clean energy have an opportunity to show their support, giving governments their vital backing as they look to fulfil their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Business and governments must work hand in hand to manage the transition away from coal, it must be a just transition, carefully managed to ensure it leaves no-one behind.

Coal plants still produce almost 40 percent of global electricity, making carbon pollution from coal a leading contributor to climate change and a major cause of negative health effects.

As a result, phasing out traditional coal power is one of the most important steps companies, governments, states and regions can take to tackle climate change and meet our commitment to keep the global temperature increase well below 2°C, while pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.

Read the full declaration here and contact Jennifer Gerholdt Corporate Engagement Director at We Mean Business (jennifer@wemeanbusinesscoalition.org), to find out more and sign the declaration before the One Planet Summit on December 12, 2017.

We need a just transition

Yesterday we witnessed much needed climate leadership at the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany. More than 25 countries, states and regions, led by the United Kingdom and Canada and including Fiji, Mexico, the Marshall Islands, France, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Quebec, Oregon and Alberta, announced their participation in the Powering Past Coal Alliance and their declaration to accelerating growth through a rapid transition from coal power to clean power.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance declared that a transition away from coal is necessary if the world is to deliver the Paris Agreement. It is also critical for climate justice and the protection of human rights.

Today we celebrate this commitment to delivering concrete action on cutting emissions. We wish to emphasise, however, that the transition away from coal to net-zero emissions can only happen with commitment from governments and businesses to work hand-in-hand with workers to ensure a just transition, which secures decent, low-emissions jobs, upholds rights, protects vulnerable workers and communities and leaves no one behind.

As B Team Leaders, we urge that the Powering Past Coal Alliance ensure that their work and statements about it include this “just transition,” as enshrined in the preamble of the Paris Agreement and by the International Labour Organisation. The fact that the declaration does not include just transition is in our view a major omission. Minister McKenna of Canada and Minister Shaw of New Zealand both reflected on the need for just transition during their remarks yesterday.

As the Powering Past Coal Alliance moves forward, we hope that it can revisit its declaration and commitments by participants, so that they reflect just transition as well as moving away from coal. Governments who support the alliance should commit to setting targets to move away from existing traditional coal power through a just transition of the workforce, that protects human rights and takes steps to revitalize affected communities. Businesses and other partners should commit to powering their operations without coal and to collaborating with unions to achieve to a just transition for workers and communities that spurs new, decent and low-emissions jobs.

We, like our fellow B Team Leaders, know that businesses will only grasp the opportunities of the net-zero economy if workers are partners in the process to develop concrete plans to protect themselves and their communities. This cooperation will ensure workers get the skills and opportunities they need for good and green new jobs that respect global labour standards.

We are pleased to see fellow B Team Leader Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, which has an industry-leading coal phase out commitment, working with the alliance to explore how the global business community can engage. We, along with partners such as We Mean Business, encourage continued support for a just transition to power past coal and encourage business to join this alliance.

Update: https://www.facebook.com/StopAdaniBrisbane/videos/395052270934742/

Press link for more : Bteam.org

wemeanbusiness

Australia’s extreme heat here to stay. #ClimateChange #StopAdani #Auspol

How Australia’s extreme heat might be here to stay

By Adam Morton

Hobart

A section of highway connecting Sydney and Melbourne started to melt.

DRIVERS were being urged to take caution while heading towards Melbourne on the Hume Highway.

A stretch of the road began to melt at Broadford in hot weather on Friday afternoon.

Bats fell dead from the trees, struck down by the heat.

Mounds of dead flying foxes in Campbelltown suburb of Sydney. (Facebook/Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown)

On the northern Great Barrier Reef, 99% of baby green sea turtles, a species whose sex is determined by temperature, were found to be female.

In outer suburban Sydney, the heat hit 47.3C (117F) before a cool change knocked it down – to the relative cool of just 43.6C in a neighbouring suburb the following day.

Scenes from a sci-fi novel depicting a scorched future?

No, just the first days of 2018 in Australia, where summer is in fierce form.

With parts of the US suffering through a particularly grim winter, extremes in both hemispheres have triggered discussions about the links between current events and the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Climate change ‘no brainer’

The climate system is incredibly complex and no weather event can be directly attributed to rising emissions, but everything that is experienced today happens in a world that is about one degree warmer than the long-term mean.

Prof Andy Pitman, the director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes at the University of New South Wales, says given the average temperature has risen it is a “no brainer” that the likelihood of the sort of heat that hit Sydney last week has also increased.

Sydney swelters on hottest day since 1939

Reactions to extreme weather in US and Australia

“It was a meteorological anomaly, but the probability works a bit like if you stand at sea level and throw a ball in the air, and then gradually make your way up a mountain and throw the ball in the air again,” he says.

“The chances of the ball going higher increases dramatically.

That’s what we’re doing with temperature.”

Sydney has experienced a sweltering start to 2018

While it is record-breaking that tends to make news, scientists say it is the unbroken run of hot days in the high 30s and 40s that causes the significant problems for human health, and other life.

Health officials in Victoria highlighted the threat of heatwaves when they found about 374 more people died during an extreme three-day period in January 2009 than would have been expected had it been cooler.

There has, however, been relatively little investment in research into the health impact of escalating maximum temperatures.

A paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change last year said while a government report called for greater focus on the area 25 years ago, less than 0.1% of health funding since has been dedicated to the impact of climate change.

Hundreds of bats die as Sydney swelters

Australia had third-warmest year on record

VR shows terrifying reality of bushfires

Prof Pitman says Australia is yet to properly consider the health risks of a warming planet.

“It’s not being able to cool down at night, and in the days that follow, that causes problems,” he says.

“I was camping in the Blue Mountains [west of Sydney] on Saturday night. It was about 30 degrees at midnight, and I could feel my heart racing. Now, that extra stress on my cardiovascular system didn’t kill me, but it might have if I was 20 years older.”

Last year was Australia’s third-warmest year since records began, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Globally, it was the second or third warmest, and comfortably the hottest year in which there was not an El Niño weather system helping push up temperatures further.

Put another way: it is now hotter without an El Niño than it was with an El Niño just a few years ago.

Far-reaching impact

In eastern Australia – where the bulk of the population lives – temperatures were particularly inflated during summer months, when an increase is most likely to lead to uncomfortable or dangerous heat.

Several locations had runs of record hot days and nights. More than 40% of the most populous state, New South Wales, recorded at least 50 days hotter than 35C. The town of Moree had 54 consecutive days of extreme heat.

“Across Australia, the last five years were all in the top seven years on record. That’s quite a striking signal,” the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s Dr Blair Trewin says.

The extra energy warming up the climate system is also being felt in several ways. The bushfires season starts earlier than it used to, and Australia has already experienced wild blazes this season.

Along with the increased background heat, this is in part due to a clear drying pattern in some areas.

Rainfall is down for both the south-east and south-west of the country in the cooler months months between April and October.

“That also has quite significant impacts for agriculture because historically that’s when they get most of their inflows,” Dr Trewin says.

The impact of warming on the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, the only living structure visible from space, has been well documented. Estimates suggest about half its shallow-water coral was killed during bleaching events over the past two years linked to increased water temperatures.

Damage to Australia’s reef ‘unprecedented’

Further south, the sea along Tasmania’s east coast has warmed dramatically, pushing tropical species to unlikely high latitudes and coinciding with the disappearance of giant kelp forests.

Some weather patterns have not changed. There is no evidence of variations in cyclone behaviour or the frequency or intensity of large hail and lightning, for instance.

All this comes against a backdrop of political fighting over how to tackle climate change.

It is less than a year since senior government members brandished a piece of coal in parliament to taunt the Labor opposition, whom ministers accused of wanting to see an end to the fossil fuel industry.

The Malcolm Turnbull-led government remains committed to a 2030 target pledged at the Paris climate talks: a 26-to-28% cut below 2005 emissions.

It says it can cut emissions while shielding the public and business from unnecessary price rises.

It also points out that Australia is directly responsible for little more than 1% of global emissions (though it is responsible for about 30% of the global coal trade).

But national greenhouse accounts released in the week before Christmas showed Australia’s industrial emissions have been on an upward curve since 2014, when the government repealed carbon pricing laws, which required big business to pay for its pollution.

Emissions had fallen in the two years the laws were in place. The latest projections in the accounts suggest Australia will overshoot its 2030 target unless new policies are introduced to arrest the growth.

“There really isn’t an argument that climate change isn’t true in parliament anymore,” Prof Pitman says. “You’d find a couple of members of parliament that say that, but you’d also find a couple who didn’t believe in evolution and didn’t believe in inoculating children against disease.

“The issue now is that the scale of concern – and the action under way or committed to both in Australia and internationally – doesn’t match the scale of the problem.”

Press link for more: BBC.COM

Depleting Nature’s stocks. #StopAdani Australia uses 5.4 times what earth can provide. #auspol

Humanity uses 70% more of the global commons than the Earth can regenerate

Mathis Wackernagel, CEO and co-founder of Global Footprint Network

Persistent ecological overuse inevitably depletes nature’s stocks. Photograph: NASA/REX/Shutterstock

Households and governments who want to succeed track both expenditure and income. Businesses similarly keep a keen eye on their balance sheets.

So what does the physical balance sheet of our biggest household – the Earth – look like?

The income side would tell us how much our planet provides in matter and energy.

The expenditure side would tell us how much material and energy people use – or what we call humanity’s ecological footprint.

Ecological footprint accounting was developed to address the question: how much of the biosphere’s regenerative capacity – or biocapacity – does human activity demand?

Global Footprint Network measures this human demand for ecosystem services by adding up the space occupied by food, fibre and timber provision, space occupied by infrastructure, and the absorption of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Indeed, carbon dioxide emissions take up approximately 60% of humanity’s ecological footprint.

Australians use 5.4 times

This audit can be done at any scale.

Analysing the accounts for the entire world enables us to compare the material demands of humanity against the size of the global commons.

Global Footprint Network’s most recent data show that humanity overshoots the regenerative capacity of our global commons, and now demands about 70% more than what the biosphere can regenerate.

In other words, we are using 1.7 Earths.

Keeping humanity’s ecological footprint within the planet’s biocapacity is the minimum threshold for sustainability.

That threshold can be exceeded for some time, just as households can spend more money than they earn by dipping into savings, thereby depleting their assets.

But persistent ecological overuse inevitably depletes nature’s stocks, through the collapse of fisheries, soil loss, freshwater overuse, over harvesting of forests – or leads to climate change from the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The Stockholm Resilience Centre has identified nine planetary boundaries, required to maintain the integrity of healthy, productive ecosystems. The UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) bring together a vision for safeguarding the health of the global commons while ensuring flourishing lives and wellbeing for everyone. The Stockholm Resilience Centre calls this vision the safe operating space.

Oxford University economist Kate Raworth adds the social dimensions and calls it doughnut economics – with the outer circle of the doughnut representing the ecological boundaries within which we need to operate, and the inner one the social necessities required for thriving lives for all.

The core idea of socially and ecologically safe operating space was quantified for the first time in 2002 by Aurélien Boutaud.

He combined the Ecological Footprint and United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP)’s Human Development Index (HDI) to track sustainable development outcomes country by country, city by city. His approach has evolved into the HDI footprint diagram. His framework has been used widely, by those including UNDP, UN Environment, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, and WWF’s Living Planet Report. It even serves as the foundation of the Philips sustainability programme.

Figure 1: Mapping sustainable development outcome: HDI and the Footprint of nations, in 2013

One axis of the diagram is sustainability – or to what extent development can be supported within the Earth’s means. It is measured by the ratio between what people take compared to what the global commons can renew. The second axis, development, is measured by HDI, which captures income, access to basic education, and longevity.

Global sustainable development occurs where these two dimensions intersect. Available biocapacity is now 1.7 hectares per person. Some of this, however, is needed to support wildlife – and we also need to leave room for a growing human population. So the average ecological footprint per person worldwide needs to be significantly smaller if we are to live within nature’s means.

The figure above shows the latest results for most countries of the world (2013), comparing their footprints per person against the world’s per capita biocapacity, to show how far their development models could be replicated worldwide.

Most countries do not meet both minimum requirements. Since every country has different amounts of biocapacity within its natural boundaries, this analysis can be adapted to each country.

Using a scale from zero to one, UNDP considers an HDI of more than 0.7 to be “high human development”, with 0.8 “very high”.

For global sustainable development to occur, the world average would need to be in the marked panel at the bottom right (the global sustainable development quadrant). This is defined by an average footprint of less than 1.7 global hectares per person and an HDI score of more than 0.7. Yet the quadrant is ominously empty.

The HDI score of the UK is 0.9, but its ecological footprint per person is five global hectares, high above the sustainable development quadrant.

India has an HDI score of 0.6, and an ecological footprint per person of 1.1 global hectares, suggesting the need to increase the quality of life of citizens and the footprint.

Global sustainable development is necessary for a thriving future.

The SDGs give us strategies on how to get there.

Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) global commons initiative makes obvious the dependence on Earth’s physical health. It reminds us that our fabulous planet enables the wellbeing of all, if we manage it carefully.

Measuring whether we are achieving these desired outcomes enables us to take charge of the future we want.

We can explore countries’ resource balances, and compare them with what would be in their economic self interest. And we can allocate our budgets and choose our development strategies more effectively so that they serve the goals we have wisely chosen through the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Therefore, Global Footprint Network firmly endorses the GEF’s initiative, which stimulates the collaborative effort needed to create a world where all thrive within the means of the planet’s regenerative capacity.

Press link for more: The Guardian

#StopAdani We can’t afford the damage bills! #ClimateChange record $306 Billion in U.S. 2017

Natural disasters caused record $306 billion in damage to U.S. in 2017

Doyle RiceUpdated 4:46 p.m. ET Jan. 8, 2018

AUSTIN — A trio of monster hurricanes and a ferocious wildfire season led to the costliest year for natural disasters on record in the U.S. in 2017, with nearly a third of a trillion dollars in damage, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday.

The U.S. endured 16 separate weather and climate disasters with losses that each exceeded $1 billion last year, with total costs of about $306 billion, a new record for the country. It broke the previous record set in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina and other disasters caused $215 billion in damage to the U.S.

Last year’s disasters killed 362 people in the U.S., including Puerto Rico, NOAA said. However, NOAA climatologist Adam Smith said the death toll could increase based on information that continues to come in from Puerto Rico.

It was also the most expensive hurricane season on record at $265 billion and the costliest wildfire season on record at $18 billion, Smith said.

The news comes only weeks after the House passed an $81 billion disaster aid package. The Senate did not take up the bill and is working on its own version.

Hurricane Harvey racked up total damage costs of $125 billion, second only to Hurricane Katrina in the 38-year period of record keeping for billion-dollar disasters. Rainfall from Harvey caused massive flooding that displaced more than 30,000 people and damaged or destroyed more than 200,000 homes and businesses, NOAA said.

Hurricanes Maria and Irma totaled $90 billion and $50 billion in damage, respectively. Maria now ranks as the third-costliest weather and climate disaster on record for the nation and Irma ranks as the fifth-costliest.

The total of last year’s disaster costs is nearly the same as Denmark’s gross domestic product, which the World Bank tallied at $306.9 billion in 2016.

Climate change is “playing an increasing role in the increasing frequency of some types of extreme weather that lead to billion-dollar disasters, most notably the rise in vulnerability to drought, lengthening wildfire seasons and the potential for extremely heavy rainfall and inland flooding,” Smith said.

Another expert, University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd, said that “while we have to be careful about knee-jerk cause-effect discussions, the National Academy of Science and recent peer-reviewed literature continue to show that some of today’s extremes have climate change fingerprints on them.”

The announcement came at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Austin.

As for temperatures in 2017, the U.S. sweltered through its 3rd-warmest year on record, trailing only 2012 and 2016, NOAA said.

For the third consecutive year, every state across the contiguous U.S. and Alaska was warmer than average.

Five states — Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina and South Carolina — experienced their warmest year on record. Thirty-two additional states, including Alaska, had annual temperatures that ranked among the 10 warmest on record.

“While the weather can change on a dime, our climate is steadily warming,” said Shaun Martin of the World Wildlife Fund. “Each year provides another piece of evidence in what science has already confirmed — the consequences of rising temperatures are putting people and wildlife at risk.”

“In the U.S., we’re seeing more severe droughts, wildfires, crop losses and more frequent coastal storms with deadly impacts,” Martin added.

Global temperature data for 2017 will be released on Jan. 18 by NOAA and NASA.

Press link for more: USA TODAY

Sydney Hottest Day in 78 years. #StopAdani #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #nswpol

Temperatures In Australia Hit 117 Degrees As Sydney Sees Hottest Day In 78 Years

The extreme weather melted one area’s roads. Elsewhere in the world, record low temperatures were seen.

Nina Golgowski

A brutal heat wave in Australia skyrocketed temperatures in Sydney on Sunday to 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47.3 Celsius), making it the hottest weather New South Wales’ capital has seen in 78 years, weather officials said.

The bizarre forecast follows record low temperatures in other parts of the world.

The worst of the weekend’s heat was recorded in the Sydney suburb of Penrith where the triple-degree temperature was just slightly lower than a 118-degree (47.8 C) reading recorded in the town of Richmond in 1939, according to the New South Wales’ Bureau of Meteorology.

James D. Morgan via Getty Images

Crowds cool off in water at Yarra Bay in Sydney, Australia, on Sunday amid a heat wave.

Temperatures became so hot across southern Australia that police in the neighboring state of Victoria warned drivers on Twitter that a 6-mile freeway was “melting.”

Fire warnings and bans were also issued across Sydney in response to the high heat threat that has caused multiple wildfires. There was also an air quality warning issued by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage for higher than normal ozone levels, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Adding to some of the misery felt, a power outage left thousands of people in Sydney without electricity on Sunday evening as temperatures stayed between 91 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit, the local news site reported.

A spokeswoman for local electricity provider Ausgrid, speaking to Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service, partially blamed the outage on a surge in power use.

The bizarre weather isn’t just in Australia, however.

Across the Pacific, Alaska has experienced unusually warm temperatures in recent days, roughly 10 to 20 degrees above average, prompting concerns about ice levels, NPR reported.

Last week, temperatures in Anchorage were warmer than in northern Florida, which saw snow.

The U.S.′ northeast has also endured unseasonably cold temperatures, with the mercury dipping below zero in many places. At New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, the area saw an all-time low on Saturday of 8 degrees F, meteorologist Bob Oravec of the Weather Prediction Center, told Reuters.

Temperatures are expected to rise to above normal temperatures for much of the United States in the middle of January, the National Weather Service said on Sunday.

Meanwhile, World Meteorological Organization spokesperson Clare Nullis pointed out on Friday that Europe is also experiencing unusual temperatures.

“The French national average on Wednesday was 11.5 degrees Celsius [52.7 degrees Fahrenheit], so that’s about 6 degrees Celsius above the normal, so as I said, lots of extreme weather,” she said during a United Nations session, according to Newsweek.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

1.5C a missed Target #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Leaked Draft of Landmark Climate Change Report Pours Cold Water on 1.5°C Goal

Missed Targets

Bar a concerted global effort to reduce emissions and remove carbon from the atmosphere, the world is highly likely to exceed the most ambitious climate goal set by the Paris Agreement by the 2040s, according to a leaked draft of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report obtained by Reuters.

The IPCC is expected to release the final version of their highly anticipated Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C in October.

The preliminary version obtained by Reuters was submitted to a small group of experts and government officials for review and was not meant for public release.

Every few years, the IPCC publishes an Assessment Report containing the available research about the current state of climate change.

This year’s special report is the first focused on what is possibly the Paris Agreement’s most controversial climate goal: limiting global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Though some countries are in strong support of taking action to ensure the world meets this climate goal, research has shown that we are highly unlikely to do so.

The draft of the special report obtained by Reuters seems to confirm this low probability of success: “There is very high risk that […] global warming will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels [should emissions continue at the current pace].”

The draft also states that meeting the climate goal would require an “unprecedented” leap from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy and extensive reforms everywhere from industry to agriculture.

Additionally, while curbing global temperatures would help reduce some of the worst impacts of climate change, including sea level rise and droughts, it would not be enough to protect the planet’s most fragile ecosystems, including polar ice caps and coral reefs.

Political Motives?

While the findings currently included in the report confirm what the public may consider the worst-case scenario, scientists who have read the report are not surprised by its contents.

“The report is unexceptional,” Peter Wadhams, Professor of Ocean Physics at the University of Cambridge, told Futurism. “It was already clear to every climate scientist that a 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit would be breached by 2050 (in fact, probably much earlier) in the absence of drastic carbon capture measures.”

Gabriel Marty, a climate change analyst and former U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) delegate for France, told Futurism that it’s too soon to speculate on the content of the final report.

However, once it is released, he said readers should note the treatment of the uncertainties and risks of the so-called “bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS)” technologies designed to suck carbon emissions out of the atmosphere.

The risks associated [with heavily relying on these technologies] must be clearly outlined,” said Marty. “They do not exist yet, the scale that would be needed would be enormous, and the adverse impacts on land and water resources would likely be huge.”

According to sources familiar with the IPCC’s proceedings, the panel has been criticized in the past for being too coy about the limitations of BECCS and for understating their risks in order to present the 2 degrees Celsius target as “still viable.”

Wadhams also mentioned the possibility that the IPCC’s hesitation to release the special report itself could be politically motivated.

“The IPCC has long since become a political rather than a scientific organization, so their secretiveness and sensitivity about a perfectly ordinary report has some political motive,” he told Futurism.

““A lot could still change between now and the final version.”

Roz Pidcock, head of communications for the IPCC Working Group 1, told Futurism that that’s not the case. She said the fact that the special report is currently confidential has nothing to do with a lack of transparency on the part of the panel — they simply aren’t finished with it yet.

“All of the expert and government review comments that come in over the next few weeks are taken on board […] Just to give an idea of what that involves, the first draft of this report received 12,895 comments from nearly 500 expert reviewers around the world,” said Pidcock. “A lot could still change between now and the final version.”

We will need to wait until October for the IPCC’s final take on the viability of the extremely ambitious 1.5 degrees Celsius limit, but whatever the contents of the report, we can’t let it discourage us from taking the strongest action possible to prevent further damage to our planet.

Press link for more: Futurism.com

Renewables cheaper than coal. #StopAdani #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol

Climate change is a reality.

We can no longer bury our heads in the sand about how we have changed our environment for the worse through our use of, and reliance on, non-renewable energy resources.

But the good news is that 2018 will finally mark a shift in our use of global energy.

Next year will see onshore wind and solar energy become the lowest-cost form of energy generation across the world.

This lower cost means that those with an interest in sustaining our planet are increasingly aligned with those who are driven by profit.

As Michael Drexler, agenda adviser to the World Economic Forum, stated in a debate in April 2017: “Solar and wind have just become very competitive and costs continue to fall.

It is not only a commercially viable option, but an outright compelling investment opportunity with long-term, stable, inflation-protected returns.”

The costs of solar and wind are falling each year – and today they are lower than coal.

According to engineering consultancy Arup, onshore wind is on track to be lower cost even than natural gas in the UK by 2018, especially if it is to be included in the existing Contract for Difference (Cfd) mechanism.

In the US, a report by Lazard, the asset-management firm, has shown that onshore wind and utility-scale solar have significantly lower costs today than any other form of energy if the energy playing field is levelled by taking away subsidies.

From the US to China and Nigeria to Mexico, investors and governments are rapidly catching up to the new rules of energy.

In 2018 we will see smarter regulatory environments, new projects coming online, even greater efficiencies in technologies and energy-storage costs and a further dawning realisation of companies exposed to long-term fossil fuels that their positions are increasingly untenable.

And the benefits will trickle down.

Citizens across Africa who are spending up to 16 per cent of their household income on fuels such as kerosene or disposable batteries now have multiple options to harness solar energy for their daily needs.

“The cheapest electricity in most of Africa now comes from a solar panel on your roof,” says Xavier Helgesen, CEO of Off Grid Electric. “The combination of growing demand for reliable electricity and plummeting costs for solar and batteries has started to spark a distributed-energy revolution in Africa.”

In 2018, the world will experience a global energy sea change based on solar and onshore wind being the cheapest forms of energy.

No more excuses and no more platitudes from our governments: now the markets and citizens will be the drivers of the energy revolution.

Press link for more: Wired