Sea level rise threatens over 300,000 US coastal homes – #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani Demand a clean energy future

Flooding from sea level rise threatens over 300,000 US coastal homes – study

Climate change study predicts ‘staggering impact’ of swelling oceans on coastal communities within next 30 years

Oliver MilmanLast modified on Mon 18 Jun 2018 15.19 AEST

Sea level rise driven by climate change is set to pose an existential crisis to many US coastal communities, with new research finding that as many as 311,000 homes face being flooded every two weeks within the next 30 years.

Oceanfront homes in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Houses on the US coastline could risk being flooded every two weeks. Photograph: Alamy

The swelling oceans are forecast repeatedly to soak coastal residences collectively worth $120bn by 2045 if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t severely curtailed, experts warn. This will potentially inflict a huge financial and emotional toll on the half million Americans who live in the properties at risk of having their basements, backyards, garages or living rooms inundated every other week.

“The impact could well be staggering,” said Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). “This level of flooding would be a tipping point where people in these communities would think it’s unsustainable.

“Even homes along the Gulf coast that are elevated would be affected, as they’d have to drive through salt water to get to work or face their kids’ school being cut off. You can imagine people walking away from mortgages, away from their homes.”

Sea level rise: Miami and Atlantic City fight to stay above water

The UCS used federal data from a high sea level rise scenario projected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and combined it with property data from the online real estate company Zillow to quantify the level of risk across the lower 48 states.

Under this scenario, where planet-warming emissions are barely constrained and the seas rise by around 6.5ft globally by the end of the century, 311,000 homes along the US coastline would face flooding on average 26 times a year within the next 30 years – a typical lifespan for a new mortgage.

The losses would multiply by the end of the century, with the research warning that as many as 2.4m homes, worth around a trillion dollars, could be put at risk. Low-lying states would be particularly prone, with a million homes in Florida, 250,000 homes in New Jersey and 143,000 homes in New York at risk of chronic flooding by 2100.

Unfortunately, many coastal communities will face declining property values as risk perceptions catch up with reality

This persistent flooding is likely to rattle the housing market by lowering property prices and making mortgages untenable in certain areas. Flood insurance premiums could rise sharply, with people faced with the choice of increasing clean-up costs or retreating to higher ground inland.

“Unfortunately, in the years ahead many coastal communities will face declining property values as risk perceptions catch up with reality,” said Rachel Cleetus, an economist and climate policy director at UCS. “In contrast with previous housing market crashes, values of properties chronically inundated due to sea level rise are unlikely to recover and will only continue to go further underwater, literally and figuratively.”

The report does not factor in future technological advances that could ameliorate the impact of rising seas, although the US would be starting from a relatively low base compared to some countries given that it does not have a national sea level rise plan. And the current Trump administration has moved to erase the looming issue from consideration for federally-funded infrastructure.

Miami mayor: ‘People on the waterfront won’t be able to stay unless they are very wealthy.’ Photograph: Hoberman Collection/UIG via Getty Images

The oceans are rising by around 3mm a year due to the thermal expansion of seawater that’s warming because of the burning of fossil fuels by humans. The melting of massive glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica is also pushing up the seas – Nasa announced last week that the amount of ice lost annually from Antarctica has tripled since 2012 to an enormous 241bn tons a year.

This slowly unfolding scenario is set to pose wrenching choices for many in the US. Previous research has suggested that around 13 million Americans may have to move due to sea level rise by the end of the century, with landlocked states such as Arizona and Wyoming set for a population surge.

“My flood insurance bill just went up by $100 this year, it went up $100 the year before,” said Philip Stoddard, the mayor of South Miami. “People on the waterfront won’t be able to stay unless they are very wealthy. This isn’t a risk, it’s inevitable.

“Miami is a beautiful and interesting place to live – I’m looking at a lizard on my windowsill right now. But people will face a cost to live here that will creep up and up. At some point they will have to make a rational economic decision and they may relocate. Some people will make the trade-off to live here. Some won’t.”

Press link for more: The Guardian


How to reverse #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Paul Hawken on how to reverse climate change now

Climate change is often quoted as the most pressing issue of our time. But as individuals it’s hard to comprehend how we can play a part in addressing it. Paul Hawken, environmentalist and author, aims to bridge the gap between urgency and agency, showing how we can use the power we have to create change now.

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming is Paul Hawken’s project and book compiles thinking (and doing!) from scientists to farmers.

‘Drawdown’ is the scientific term for the first time greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – the cause of global warming – begin to decline. Paul Hawken says drawdown is the goal, where reduction of emissions isn’t enough and reversal is key.

The good news is that the 80 ways to get there are based not on emerging technologies or concepts, but practises we already have. The solutions are ranked by effectiveness in their carbon impact through to the year 2050, as well as total and net cost to society and total lifetime savings.

So let’s get this out of the way. Drawdown argues that management of fridges and air-con units is the number one solution. It’s not as sexy as electric cars, but chemical refrigerants, which absorb and release heat to enable chilling, have 1,000 to 9,000 times greater capacity to warm the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Removing and transforming these chemicals into other chemicals that don’t cause warming will reduce 89.74 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2050, according to Drawdown.

But it’s in combination that the solutions will achieve reversal. It’s a welcome perspective that diversity of land, as well as scaled technology, will allow us to adequately reverse climate change. Here are some examples from Drawdown.

Educating girls (ranked #6)

Thanks to One Girl’s Business Brainsprogram, Sarah now has her own small

business selling homemade butterscotch, which has enabled her to pay

for her continuing education.

Drawdown highlights that women with more years of education lead more vibrant lives that positively affect their families and communities. They also have fewer and healthier children, and curbing population growth significantly avoids emissions.

Further, Drawdown maintains that educated women have better nourished families and more productive plots of land, and are more effective stewards of soil, trees and water. Resilience in food production through a changing climate will have impacts that resound throughout the world.

A few key initiatives that enable girls to access education are:

• making school more affordable

• reducing the time and distance to get to school

• helping girls overcome health barriers, and

• making schools more girl-friendly.

One example of this kind of thinking comes from the not-for-profit One Girl, which is equipping women to start their own businesses in Uganda through their entrepreneurship program called Business Brains.

Drawdown calculates that 59.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide will be reduced by 2050 by educating girls.

Wave and tidal electricity generation (ranked #29)

Drawdown suggests that wave and tidal energy is a largely untapped energy source that utilises oceanic flows to generate electricity. Although the constant and hugely powerful nature of tides and waves holds great potential, the challenges of operating in harsh and complex marine environments has stalled developments in energy generation from the ocean.

Carnegie Energy is working to transform theglobal renewable energy market

through its unsurpassed waveenergy technology, CETO

Wave energy typically relies on generator devices floating on the surface of the water that convert wave movement to electricity. Tidal uses underwater turbines that spin and create power from rising and lowering tides. Supporters believe wave power could provide 25% of US electricity, for example, says Drawdown, and around the world technologies are being tested and improved to capture and convert the incredible power of the ocean into energy.

Drawdown approximates tidal and wave energy could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 9.2 gigatons over thirty years.

Indigenous people’s land management (ranked #39)

It makes sense that those who have lived on the land the longest are those best equipped to care for it. Drawdown’s analysis has found lower rates of deforestation and higher rates of carbon sequestration on lands that indigenous people manage. Sequestration is where carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and held in solid or liquid form – although this can be done artificially, forests do that well.

Indigenous communities have long been the frontline of resistance against deforestation. Their land management practices also encourage biodiversity and safeguard rich cultures and traditional ways of life. Growing the acreage under secure indigenous land tenure can sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, says Drawdown. Some actions include:

• engaging the local community to manage forests

• shifting swidden cultivation, which employs slashing and burning to clear land

• agroforestry – growing and conserving trees as part of the agricultural system, and

• using fire as a tool to maintain ecosystem dynamics.

Drawdown estimates that approximately 849.37 gigatons of carbon dioxide captured in the biomass of forests and soil will be protected by indigenous land management.

Finding the most effective way to contribute

The climate has always changed over time. It’s time to acknowledge that we’re contributors to this change and then start focusing on what we can do to positively affect that change. It’s important to reframe the ‘problem’ of climate change to perceive the change as an opportunity for improvement. Hawken pushes to shift the language around climate change away from war-related expressions like ‘fight against’, ‘combat’ and ‘slashing emissions’.

Responding to our changing climate is an opportunity to build a healthier and more inclusive environment and society. It’s also an opportunity for innovation. ‘Coming attractions’ by Project Drawdown is an inspiring collection of new technologies and ideas striving to reverse climate change.

From transitioning to a plant-rich diet (ranked #4) to ridesharing (ranked #75), there are many more solutions to explore, some of which may already be part of your daily life. Hawken says we need all of the solutions to achieve drawdown – so do what you’re passionate about to make a difference.

Want to go in the draw to win one of three copies of Drawdown, signed by Paul himself?! Enter here

The Drawdown Competition Terms & Conditions apply. Australian Ethical has independently chosen to promote the Drawdown Project and has no commercial ties or association with Paul Hawken or the Drawdown organisation.

Press link for more: Australian Ethical

The battle against #climatechange has just begun #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

The battle against climate change has just begun


The scale of the climate challenges we face today is clear.

The adverse effects of climate change are already being felt around the world and pose a great threat to our planet and its people.

Moreover, they could undermine both the development gains made over many decades and the prospects for achieving the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

The Paris Agreement on climate change – the landmark global agreement adopted by almost 200 countries in 2015 – sets out an action plan to put the world on track to counter climate change. It has set the direction of travel for the global transition to low-emission, climate-resilient economies and societies.

However, we already know that on aggregate the emissions reduction targets put forward by countries in Paris will not be enough to reach our common objective of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, let alone 1.5C.

The upcoming special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will unfortunately show us that the window to stay within these limits is closing very fast. This is why we must continue to raise our collective ambition and accelerate the implementation and operationa of the Paris Agreement.

This year, governments and stakeholders from around the world are getting together to assess how far we have come since Paris and to consider additional efforts under the “Talanoa Dialogue”.

Taking place throughout 2018, this facilitative process, inspired by the Pacific tradition of “talanoa” – an open and inclusive dialogue – is the first opportunity since Paris to look at our collective efforts so far, and increase our level of ambition.

The European Union sees the Talanoa Dialogue as a key moment to focus on the solutions and the potential associated with the low-carbon transformation, while also enhancing cooperation and trust. It also sets the tone for the EU’s annual Climate Diplomacy week celebrated this week. In Thailand we are organising an event on Thursday with the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning to engage with a broad range of stakeholders, share experiences and explore avenues for further collective action.

Another important goal for the international community this year is adopting the Paris Agreement work programme – detailed transparency and governance rules for putting the agreement into practice. Adopting this “rulebook” at the next UN climate conference (COP24) in December in Katowice, Poland, is vital. A clear and comprehensive set of transparency rules will enable us to track and demonstrate the progress being made around the world and give all sides – developed and developing countries alike – a shared framework to deliver on our shared vision.

The European Union is well advanced in its domestic legislative framework to deliver on the target of cutting domestic greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. This includes, for example, revising the EU emissions trading scheme for the period after 2020, setting national emissions reduction targets for sectors not covered by emissions trading, and integrating land use in our climate legislation.

These key pieces of legislation were all recently adopted, and further proposals on clean energy and mobility are in the pipeline.


Additionally, the European Union is stepping up international cooperation and support to partners through policy dialogues, capacity-building projects and climate finance.

The European Union, its member states and the European Investment Bank contributed US$24 billion (Bt783 billion) in public climate finance towards developing countries in 2016. This represents a 15 per cent increase compared to the previous year, or a 50 per cent increase from 2012, as well as roughly half of global public climate finance.

The EU remains committed to the collective goal of mobilising $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020 from a variety of sources to support action in developing countries. Support to the development and implementation of the climate change policy in Thailand continues with a number of initiatives on climate change adaptation, multi-stakeholder engagement, resource efficiency, product design for sustainability, and with the recently launched Thai-German Climate Programme for climate change mitigation efforts through a cross-sectoral approach. We also welcome Thailand’s initiative in updating its Power Development Plan, which will provide a clear indication of Thailand’s pathway to a low carbon future.

While the Paris Agreement sets the direction of travel, the journey has only just begun. Going forward, all countries will need to foster the right environment to enable this transformation to continue, supporting a long-term structural change in energy systems worldwide and scaling up investments that contribute to it.

Low-emissions and climate-resilient growth is an opportunity for countries to grasp; it brings multiple and tangible benefits to the people, the economy and the environment. The European Union and its member states are committed to work with all partners to continue this journey together.

Press link for more: National Multimedia

Caroline Lucas “The Apocalypse is happening” #ClimateChange #Heathrow #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Caroline Lucas on Heathrow and climate change: ‘The apocalypse is happening’

Decca Aitkenhead

Caroline Lucas

The last time I met Caroline Lucas, she was about to stand trial. The Green party co-leader was prosecuted in 2014 following an anti-fracking protest in Balcombe, West Sussex, and was due in court the week after we met, yet her spirits that day were remarkably high.

If optimism has been the defining quality of Lucas’s political career, one might say it has served her well: in 2010, she became the first – and remains the only – Green politician elected to parliament and in 2014 she was cleared of all charges.

Her subdued demeanour when we meet this week, therefore, is unfamiliar.

The 57-year-old was more upbeat when facing a court case, it strikes me, than she is facing today’s political landscape.

Lucas’s mood may be due in part to the visit she had made earlier in the day to Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire.

When we meet, her expression has a sober, preoccupied air, as though she would rather be processing what she had seen in quiet solitude than giving a press interview. But the MP has always shown a talent for reconciling light and shade, having spent her career warning us of impending armageddon, while simultaneously assuring us we still have time to avert it.

Her capacity to sustain hope has always impressed me, so I begin by apologising if my questions sound defeatist to her. I put their gloom down to my state of general pessimism. In a barely audible murmur, Lucas admits: “Well, I’m not in such a different place, to be honest.”

The member for Brighton Pavilion had until recently thought the campaign against a third Heathrow runway had been won. “We’d been lulled into a bit of a false sense of security, thinking the government would do – or in this case, not do – what it said it wouldn’t do.” In 2009, the then prime minister, David Cameron, had promised: “The third runway at Heathrow is not going ahead – no ifs, no buts” – but in the Commons last week the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, announced it would be built after all and could be open by 2026. Tory MPs representing constituencies that will be ravaged by the new runway are up in arms; Boris Johnson and Justine Greening and others may yet thwart Grayling’s plan. But, for Lucas, the fight goes way beyond defending villages from bulldozers.

Grayling’s Commons speech did not even mention climate change, yet this omission attracted negligible attention until Lucas tweeted her incredulous dismay – which, I suggest, tells us that most people now think one more runway will make no difference to climate change, but a massive difference to the UK economy. Might they be right? Lucas addresses her reply to the carpet between our chairs, like a pop star performing an old hit she can’t believe anyone could still need to hear again.

“If you measured impact on climate change by each individual action then you’d never be able to talk about the cumulative impact of a set of actions on the climate.

We know aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of emissions; we know emissions at altitude are a lot more damaging to the climate than they are at ground level; we know that if Heathrow expands then it’s almost like an arms race between the different airports across Europe, because they’re all in a fight for passengers.”

But we keep being told we must not concede a competitive advantage to rival European airports. She counters wearily: “If you were talking to campaigners in Charles de Gaulle [airport in Paris], they’d tell you they’re told exactly the same thing: don’t concede defeat to London! We’re all being pitted against one another in this incredibly dangerous race to the bottom. If we were to follow the logic of those people who think every time we build a runway our economy miraculously benefits, then why would you not just cover the whole country in concrete? That’s the logic of that argument. The bottom lines is that aviation is a very good example of why you can’t say: ‘We’ll have a demand-led approach’ – because the demand will go on. I think there needs to be a mature conversation about limits to growth. I think we need to ask: growth for what?”

Growth for jobs?

Growth for our kids to leave home and afford a mortgage and enjoy the living standards our parents took for granted? “Growth that is not tackling inequality,” she rejoins. “Growth that’s destroying the planet we depend on. Growth that we know, by simply measuring prosperity in terms of GDP growth, is an incredibly blunt instrument. GDP simply measures the circulation of money in the economy, not whether or not the outcome of using that money is positive or negative. A major pile up on the M5 is wonderful for growth, because it means people go out and buy more cars. But by any other measure of what’s useful or helpful, a pile up on the M5 is bad news.”

We’re in danger of losing something incredibly precious. If you don’t have an environment, you don’t have anything else

She does not blame MPs such as Johnson for objecting to the runway on local, self-interested grounds. But if, as is widely predicted, the foreign secretary absents himself from the parliamentary vote by contriving an excuse to be abroad, “I think it would be despicable. He’s promised to stand up for something; he’s gone to the polls and said: ‘This is what I stand for.’ And no one is going to believe that absence from the country was seriously unavoidable. I just think the cowardice of that is grotesque.”

For all Johnson’s ostentatiously theatrical opposition (he promised to “lie down in front of the bulldozers”), it is Jeremy Corbyn whom Lucas believes has the power to determine the third runway’s fate. With the support of Tory rebels, the Labour leader could defeat Grayling’s bill by imposing a three-line whip – and Lucas thinks he will. “There’s a good chance. What I’m hearing is that there’s a good chance Labour might come out against it.” As a long-time Corbyn enthusiast, could Lucas forgive him if he did not? “No. I think it would be unforgivable.”

Corbyn would make a convenient culprit, but should the blame not lie ultimately with her party? The Greens are forever predicting environmental catastrophe – if it is not Heathrow, it is plastic or diesel or eating meat – but when the world continues to turn, despite their apocalyptic warnings, does the environmental movement become a casualty of its own hyperbole?

“I don’t think so. I recognise the danger of crying wolf. But when you look at the data – or, indeed, just look around green spaces – the apocalypse is happening. You don’t hear the same birdsong any more. Not that long ago, if you drove at night through the countryside, your windscreen would become full of moths and now there are no moths any more.”

I wonder how she explains why this does not translate into votes for her party. Which half of her message does the public not buy – that we are heading for armageddon or that we still have time to save the planet? “I think for the past 10 years the public has been struggling just to get by. They’ve been hit by a wall of austerity: struggling to get their kids into school, to get a doctor’s appointment, to keep their job. So, the environment feels like a luxury to be discussed on another day. And I understand that. But, at the same time, we’re in danger of losing something incredibly precious and that ultimately all this other stuff is built on. If you don’t have an environment then you don’t have anything else.”

No one could doubt the sincerity of her commitment. The daughter of Tory-voting, small-business-owning parents, she was converted to environmental politics in adolescence and has devoted herself to the Green party for most of her adult life. And yet last month Lucas announced that she will not be standing for re-election this summer.

“Well, it’s not ‘And yet’,” she objects. Having dedicated her leadership energy to overdue structural reform, she insists she is standing aside in order to allow fresh talent to flourish. This will give her more time to “campaign around nature”, but she adds: “The overarching context right now is Brexit.”

Lucas is a passionate campaigner for what she calls a “people’s vote” – a referendum on the terms the government agrees with the EU for Brexit. Earlier this year, she put the odds of such a vote at 50/50 – and, to my surprise, she believes they have since shortened.

“I do. I think it’s very significant that Labour have refused to rule it out. They have been careful to leave the door open. I think they might well find it would be an elegant way for them to resolve the very uncomfortable position they’re in with so many of their constituencies, particularly in the north, being pro-leave while having a very strong remain support as well.” For the PM, too, “it’s one way of getting herself off a very awkward hook. And the number of people supporting a people’s poll is absolutely growing. It is.”

Her worry is that remain MPs are so focused on the parliamentary mechanics of securing such a vote that “they’re forgetting that, were we to get it, we’d still need to win it. Which is not a given.” Liberated from leadership, she plans to use her time to visit leave areas and “start listening to them, instead of telling them they’re wrong”.

The question this plan does not answer is why the electorate would decide a former leader of the Green party was right about anything. Ever since my childhood, the environmental movement has been celebrating alleged breakthrough victories, from the election of German Greens post-Chernobyl in the 80s, right up to Lucas’s electoral triumph in Brighton. As each has proved premature, is it time to conclude that the cause, no matter how right, is hopeless?

The public has been struggling just to get by. So, the environment feels like a luxury to be discussed on another day

She shakes her head. “It is a long slog. But not hopeless. If we could change the electoral system …” Perhaps, I suggest, the problem is not our electoral system, but human nature. Turkeys don’t want to vote for Christmas.

“No. It’s not human nature. There are Greens in many other countries, in government.” But the US elected Donald Trump! “They’ve got a crap electoral system, too. And Trump didn’t win by the popular vote. So I never think the game is up. But I do think it’s a bloody long slog. And I certainly didn’t think, when I joined the party back in 1986, that by 2018 we’d have one MP. I didn’t think that. But I still passionately believe there’s a massively important role for the Green party. Even within our hopeless system.”

Lucas thinks a Corbyn-led Labour government might introduce a proportional representation system that would translate their 1.1m votes in 2015 into 20 MPs. And yet, I say again, she has chosen not to be their leader.

“I’m not going to be very far away. I’m still going to be sounding off, I hope.”

Does she think she can defeat the Heathrow runway? “I think there’s a perfectly good chance we’ll defeat it.” As I am not sure if this is a prediction or ambition, I ask which way she would bet if she had to gamble £1,000 of her own money.

“Bet £1K on it?” Lucas laughs nervously, buying time, but in the end her old optimism wins.

“Because I’m a bit of a risk-taker, I’ll put my thousand pounds on it not happening.”

Press link for more: The Guardian

St Maarten Is. Governor calls for #climatechange response unit @ANZ_AU @CommBank #auspol

The critical question for a small island developing state such as St. Maarten is: “Do we have the time needed to effect the required strategic actions to tackle climate change,”

Governor Eugene Holiday questioned at the opening of the seventh Governor’s Symposium, themed “Climate Change and Small Island States: A Call for Strategic Action,” at American University of the Caribbean (AUC) campus in Cupecoy on Friday morning.

A strategic climate change governing agenda must be discussed, and a climate change response unit is necessary.

This unit must be a “separate,” yet integral part of the government’s apparatus.

That unit will focus on executing strategic climate change priorities by engaging government, the private sector and residents to become more aware and active participants in bringing about positive change.

Collaboration with regional and international institutions and entities is a must for the climate change response unit, said Holiday.

The unit “must be mandated” to make this a priority.

Tackling climate change requires tangible actions such as “increased investments in greater energy and infrastructure resilience.”

This can materialise by completing the underground utilities project throughout the country and taking a large step to clearer, sustainable sources of energy such as solar power.

The unit and government must “secure financing from an effective mix of private insurance, national first response funding and regional disaster risk facility.”

St. Maarten is “very susceptible” to the global impact of climate change and this is a “major governance challenge” for the country.

(The governor of St Maarten Is. must be one of those Tofu Tyrants)

The country does not significantly contribute to the negative impact on the earth’s climate; it is nevertheless amongst the most vulnerable, Holiday said.

“We are already at risk,” he said, pointing to the ongoing drought, the devastation of two unprecedented hurricanes – Irma and Maria in September 2017 – and Nature Foundation’s sea level rise prediction that puts the country’s capital Philipsburg and other low-lying areas under water in the next two decades.

Holiday left attendees with this strong statement: St. Maarten is “running out of time” to enact timely climate change measures. However, he is optimistic that “acting now, we can save the day for future generations.”

Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin built on the governor’s call by telling the symposium government is “tackling climate change from several angles,” including through striving to attain the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Government is “committed” to working on climate change challenges.

Data needs

Meteorological Department of St. Maarten head Joseph Isaac called in the symposium’s “Climate Change, Weather and Environmental Patterns” segment for improved weather data collection, perhaps in collaboration with the French side of the island to effect better planning and mitigation.

The formation of a network of weather stations/radars is required “to assist in early warning systems” for natural disaster planning, Isaac pointed out.

Sea level monitoring is also vitally critical for St. Maarten to plan for the impact of the planet warming up and the melting of polar ice caps, he said.

Rounding off the segment, Climatologist Cedric van Meerbeeck of Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology outlined the science behind climate change to attendees and left behind the very frightening thought that by the end of the 21st century the Caribbean region is heading to a one- to five-degrees-Celsius increase in temperature, at least a one-metre rise in sea level and the lengthening of the annual hurricane season.

(Meanwhile in Australia the major banks are still heavily invested in fossil fuels)

Yes, climate matters

Windward Islands Bank General Managing Director Derek Downes, speaking in the “Climate Change effects on socio-economic development” segment, urged government to establish a “disaster fund” that will be activated following a climate change event to cover clean-up and reconstruction of the country. This fund can be financed by an “environmental levy.”

He also called for improving and building of coastal defences, updated environmental laws, improved drainage systems and improving and enforcing building standards. Building on the latter, Downes unapologetically stated the country has “too many shanty towns.”

University of the West Indies Faculty of Science and Technology Deputy Dean Michael Taylor pressed home the point that “climate matters” because the climate has already changed and will continue to change.

Climate matters because it “demands change” through a change in attitude to the phenomenon, change of approach and for people “to act with respect” to climate change, he said.

On the current climate change path, Taylor said, “We are heading towards water deficit” aggravated by less rainfall. This also endangers food security as crops struggle in higher temperatures and drier conditions, impacts already-burdened health care and the wiping out of coastal areas and infrastructure.


Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Director Kendrick Leslie, the symposium keynote speaker, described the impact of climate change on the region as “devastating is an understatement.”

Adaptation is the “only option” for small island developing states to battle against the hurdles of climate change, but they are not economically positioned to do without help from developed countries, Leslie said.

Adaptation suggestions include storm-proofing of schools to ensure less impact to educational development, securing water harvesting routes (wells) for water security, protecting the central emergency operating centre, putting all utility cables underground and planting category-five hurricane-resistant light poles.

Governments should be more proactive in tackling climate change, Leslie said, as he urged all to take the examples of measures Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and Aruba, among others, have taken to mitigate the growing impact of climate change.

The symposium concluded with a panel discussion with all speakers, moderated by Nature Foundation Managing Director Tadzio Bervoets.

Press link for more: The Daily Herald

Antarctica is melting faster than anyone thought, we’re not ready for the sea level rise #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani

Antarctica is melting faster than anyone thought, and we’re not ready for the sea level rise that’s coming

Kevin Loria Jun 17, 2018, 1:15 AM

Ian Joughin, University of WashingtonCrevasses near the grounding line of Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica.

• Ice melting rates in Antarctica tripled between 2012 and 2017, according to a study published in the journal Nature.

• The biggest increase has been ice melt in West Antarctica, where glaciers and ice sheets are vulnerable to warmer ocean temperatures.

• Experts think that if we don’t get climate change under control quickly, ice sheets in West Antarctica could collapse, leading to rapid sea level rise around the globe.

In the future, seas will rise far higher than they are today.

The question is whether it happens quickly or slowly.

There’s enough ice stacked on top of Antarctica to raise seas around the globe by almost 200 feet.

While it takes time for major changes to occur with that much ice, Antarctica is melting faster than we thought, according to a study recently published in the journal Nature.

The melting rate has been speeding up significantly in recent years.

Between 1992 and 2017, Antarctica lost more than 3.3 trillion tons of ice, causing sea levels around the globe to rise an average of 8 millimetres. About 40% of that loss occurred between 2012 and 2017, according to the new study. From 1992 to 2012, the continent lost about 84 billion tons of ice a year, and over the next five years, that jumped to more than 240 billion tons per year.

If the acceleration of ice melt were to continue, it could potentially cascade, leading to runaway ice melt and rapid sea level rise.

The biggest changes have come in West Antarctica, where the glaciers holding back ice sheets rest on rapidly warming ocean waters, causing them to melt more quickly.

Climate science professor Chis Rapley of the University College London has previously described Antarctica as a “slumbering giant” of ice melt and sea level rise that seems to be awakening.

“This paper suggests it is stretching its limbs,” he told the UKScience Media Center.

Hamish Pritchard, BASA British Antarctic Survey two-man field camp next to The Obelisk on Alexander Island, Antarctic Peninsula.

Melting ice, rising seas

For the new study, scientists from 44 international organisations combined data from 24 different satellite surveys.

“Thanks to the satellites our space agencies have launched, we can now track [polar ice sheet] ice losses and global sea level contribution with confidence,” said Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds, who led the study along with Erik Ivins of NASA’s JPL Laboratory. “[T]he continent is causing sea levels to rise faster today than at any time in the past 25 years.”

Their research brings our understanding of the current state of Antarctic ice up to date, according to researchers not involved in the study.

While 8 millimetres of sea level rise from Antarctic melting alone might not sound extreme, the rapid changes associated with it should be enough to give anyone pause.

In the 20th century, sea levels around the globe rose about six inches on average, Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences at Princeton, said during a recent media briefing on sea level rise. That was enough to narrow the typical East Coast beach by about 50 feet.

Since the mid-1990s, places like Miami have seen an additional five inches of sea level rise. Seas rise faster in some places than others, due to ocean currents and the effects of gravity.

The loss of ice on one side of the world tends to make seas rise on the other side, due to gravity. As mass from the Antarctic ice sheet is lost, gravity in that region decreases, which means that places furthest from that ice sheet tend to see the biggest increases in sea level.

Right now, three factors contribute about equally to global sea level rise, according to Oppenheimer. First, as the world has warmed as result of the burning of fossil fuels, oceans have absorbed the majority of the heat. Warmer water expands, which takes up more space. Second, glaciers are melting, adding more water to the system. The third factor is the ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland that are still protected by glaciers.

LANCE/NASAIceberg A-68 (center) drifts off the Antarctic Peninsula in this daytime satellite image.

But if or when glaciers holding those ice sheets back collapse, ice sheets are expected to become by far the biggest cause of sea level rise. And one of the most vulnerable ice sheets is that one on West Antarctica, where the melting rate has increased most quickly.

Time is running out

In an article published alongside the new research, a team of researchers described two possible scenarios for the near future.

Within a short period of time, we’ll have either taken action to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, or we won’t.

If we dramatically cut emissions and keep global temperature from climbing more than two degrees Celsius by the end of the century, we’re far more likely to avoid rapid ice sheet collapse, according to the authors.

We’ve already baked a certain amount of sea level rise into the planet’s system. Global temperatures are close to what they were about 125,000 years ago, when seas were 20 to 30 feet higher than they are now, according to Andrea Dutton, a geologist at the University of Florida who spoke at the same sea level rise briefing. That means the planet will see at least that much sea level rise eventually, though if we’re lucky it will take hundreds or thousands of years to get there.

But the scenario where we don’t cut emissions, if we don’t do anything about climate change, is a lot more disturbing. In that case, the authors of the new article in Nature argue that by 2070, we could start to see the rapid loss of ice sheets.

If the glaciers holding back ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica were to collapse, massive quantities of ice could pour into the world’s oceans, leading to rapid sea level rise – something known as a “pulse.

If such a scenario were to occur, current sea-level rise predictions for vulnerable cities like Miami would be far too low. In the case of a pulse, some experts think coastal cities could see more than 10 feet of sea-level rise by 2100.

“If we aren’t already alert to the dangers posed by climate change, this should be an enormous wake-up call,” Martin Siegert, co-director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, said to the Science Media Center.

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Cost of fossil fuel investment is too high #auspol #qldpol @ANZ_AU @CommBank #divest #climatechange #StopAdani

by Tim Radford

Fossil fuel investment is not just bad for the global climate. It could also be dangerous for investors, and for national economies.

LONDON, 12 June, 2018 – European and Chinese scientists have identified a simple new way to become poor: fossil fuel investment.

Not only could it leave you without a penny to your name.

It could perhaps precipitate a global financial crash within one generation.

Coal, oil and natural gas are already huge investments.

The International Energy Agency foresees price rises until 2040, and investor confidence is high. But researchers from the Netherlands, the UK and Macao don’t see it that way.

They warn in the journal Nature Climate Change that, whatever the markets think, and whatever governments do, change is on the way.

Other forces are now driving global power and transportation in directions that suggest a dramatic decline in demand for fossil reserves. These will become what the money markets call “stranded assets”, and their value will slump some time before 2035.

And this bursting of what researchers call “the carbon bubble” – a reference to a three-centuries old financial disaster known to historians as the South Sea Bubble – could wipe between one and four trillion US dollars off the global economy. The financial crash of 2008  was triggered by a loss of a mere $0.25 trillion.

“Our analysis suggests that, contrary to investor expectations, the stranding of fossil fuel assets may happen even without new climate policies”

The scientists base their conclusion on a computer simulation known by the migraine-inducing acronym E3ME-FTT-GENIE, which is short for Energy-Environment-Economy Macroeconomic-Future Technology Transformations Grid Enabled Integrated Earth. They say it is the only such model that looks at the big picture: the macroeconomy, energy, the environment and global energy and transport systems according to both sector and geography.

Their argument is that the world is heading towards greater fuel efficiencies, renewable energy and low carbon technologies, whatever governments and the money markets may think.

In 2015, in Paris, 195 nations vowed to contain global warming – driven by greenhouse gases emitted from fossil fuel combustion – to “well below” 2°C above the historic levels. Economists and climate scientists have repeatedly warned that fossil fuels would be a bad bet. There has been evidence since the Paris Agreement that national and international action so far taken is not enough: the world could be heading for at least a 3°C rise this century.

The implication of the latest study is that, unless the world faces this reality, and switches to low-carbon investments, the global economy could suddenly collapse.

“Our analysis suggests that, contrary to investor expectations, the stranding of fossil fuel assets may happen even without new climate policies. This suggests a carbon bubble is forming and is likely to burst,” said Jorge Viñuales, of the University of Cambridge, and one of the authors.

“Individual nations cannot avoid the situation by ignoring the Paris Agreement or burying their heads in coal and tar sands. For too long, global climate policy has been seen as a prisoner’s dilemma game, where some nations can do nothing and get a free ride on the efforts of others. Our results show this is no longer the case.”

$4tn time-bomb

There is a catch: suppose nations become aware of the danger. A sudden push to fulfil the 2°C promise, combined with declines in fossil fuel demand but continued high output of fossil fuels, could trigger a collapse that would wipe $4 trillion off the global balance sheets.

Canada, Russia and the US would see their fossil fuel industries collapse. Fuel-importing nations such Japan, China and most EU countries might gain, especially if they had invested in low-carbon technologies to create jobs and boost gross domestic product.

“If we are to defuse this time-bomb in the global economy, we need to move promptly but cautiously. The carbon bubble must be deflated before it becomes too big, but progress must also be carefully managed,” said Hector Pollitt, of the University of Cambridge, and another of the authors.

“If countries keep investing in equipment to search for, extract, process and transport fossil fuels, even though their demand declines, they will end up losing money on these investments on top of their losses due to limited exports,” said Jean-François Mercure of Radboud University at Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and of Cambridge, who led the study. “Divestment from fossil fuels is both a prudent and necessary thing to do.” – Climate News Network

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World Wakes up to Climate Migration #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateChange #refugees

By Harjeet Singh

Harjeet Singh is Global Lead on Climate Change at ActionAid International and is based in New Delhi*

Millions of people worldwide are being displaced by natural disasters triggered partially by climate change, and the international community is finally taking steps to mitigate the suffering.

Sahara Begum of Nadagari village in Jamalpur district lost her home and all her assets to the 2017 floods in Bangladesh. Thousands like her now eke out a living in Dhaka and other cities. Credit: Md Sariful Islam / ActionAid

NEW DELHI, Jun 11 2018 (IPS) – This year is set to be an important milestone in the arduous journey of climate migrants.

The global community is now beginning to fathom the challenges of people displaced by events such as floods, storms and sea level rise that are partly fuelled by climate change.

Natural disasters forced over 18 million people out of their homes in 135 countries just last year, according to a new global report released by Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). It highlights that weather-related hazards triggered the vast majority of the displacement, with floods and storms accounting for more than 80% of the incidents. China, the Philippines, Cuba and the US were the worst affected.

“Climate change is becoming a critical driver of displacement risk across the world, in combination with rapid and badly managed urbanisation, and increasing levels of inequality and persistent poverty,” Bina Desai, Head of Policy and Research at IDMC told indiaclimatedialogue.net.

The study further cites that hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria broke several records in the Atlantic and Caribbean, and a series of storms in South and East Asia and Pacific displaced large numbers of people throughout the year.

Highest disaster displacement risk

In South Asia alone, heavy monsoon floods and tropical cyclones have displaced 2.8 million, and in relation to its population size, the region has the highest disaster displacement risk globally. Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are among the 10 countries in the world with highest levels of displacement risk related to sudden-onset events.

In addition, displacement linked to slow-onset events such as sea level rise, desertification and salinisation are displacing millions more, particularly in the Sub-Saharan Africa and Pacific regions.

“No country is immune to climate change impacts anymore,” Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA), told indiaclimatedialogue.net. “South Asia has 22% of the world’s population but it houses 60% of the poor with the least capacity to confront increasing climate impacts.”

Millions of people in the Sundarbans — a unique mangrove ecosystem shared by Bangladesh and India — are already facing the brunt of rising sea and high intensity storms more frequently. These low-lying islands away from the global attention has already seen thousands being displaced, many of them permanently to inland cities, to eke out a living. See: Sinking Sundarbans islands underline climate crisis

Migration gets centre stage

It was the UN climate change summit in the Mexican city of Cancún in 2010 that for the first time recognised the relationship between climate change and different forms of forced human mobility.

It called on governments to “commit to measures to enhance understanding, coordination and cooperation with regard to climate change induced displacement, migration and planned relocation.” Decisions at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summits advanced the agenda in subsequent years. A high-level political boost came at the Paris summit in 2015.

The Paris Agreement not only acknowledged the rights of migrants but also gave a mandate to establish a Task Force on Displacement to provide recommendations to the Conference of Parties (COP), the apex body of the UNFCCC.

A year later, 193 nations at the UN General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, recognising the need for a comprehensive approach to issues related to migration and refugees and enhanced global cooperation.

It decided to start the process in April 2017 to develop a “Global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.” Since then, several consultations have been organised to gather inputs from various regions and stakeholders.

The on-going negotiations will be concluded this July and the General Assembly will then hold an intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018 in Morocco to adopt the global compact.

Along the same lines, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) jointly hosted a stakeholder meeting in May on behalf of the UNFCCC Task Force on Displacement.

More than 60 experts from governments, regional organisations, civil society and international organisations contributed in drafting recommendations to avert, minimise and address displacement in the context of climate change.

After the discussion in its forthcoming September meeting, the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage will present the recommendations for adoption at the Katowice Climate Change Conference (COP 24) in December 2018.

“As climate change is already contributing to forced migration and displacement now and will continue to do so in the future, the recommendations of the Task Force can help develop a more prospective approach to managing displacement risk, including more equitable financing and risk reduction,” Desai told indiaclimatedialogue.net.

Migration as adaptation

There is an on-going discussion to consider migration as an adaptation strategy and not just a desperate measure taken by people badly hit by climate impacts. The answer lies in analysing whether the recourse taken by climate victims offers them better quality of life or an unsafe situation devoid of identity and inadequate access to basic services like healthcare, shelter, sanitation and security.

“If we invest in climate action today, we reduce the risks of displacement due to climate change for future generations,” said Dina Ionesco, IOM Head of Migration, Environment and Climate Change division. “It will mean reducing losses and damages that occur when migration is a tragedy and a last resort.”

But, Ionesco added, “We also have to think migration policy and practice with innovative eyes, so as to see how safe and orderly migration can provide solutions and opportunities for people who are affected by climate change to move in a dignified manner.”

All eyes are now on the December climate summit in Poland, with a few rounds of talks in between, when both the UN processes involving almost 200 countries conclude, collectively aiming to protect the safety, dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants.

“Migration remains the only option left for people who permanently lose home and income to climate change impacts,” said Vashist. “The issue requires serious attention from our governments and the global community alike.”

Press link for more: IPS NEWS

‘Carbon Bubble’ Could Cost World Trillions #StopAdani #ClimateChange @ANZ_AU @CommBank #auspol #qldpol #Divest

Singapore-Supertrees are generating solar power, acting as air venting for conservatories, and collecting rain water, June 11, 2015 (Photo by Güldem Üstün) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

CAMBRIDGE, UK, June 7, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Globally, the consumption of fossil fuels will slow down or decline in the near future as a result of fast-moving technological change and new climate policies, creating a “dangerous carbon bubble,” finds a newly published study by an international team of scientists.

If not deflated early, the carbon bubble could lead to a discounted global wealth loss of between US$1 trillion and $4 trillion, a loss comparable to what triggered the 2007 financial crisis, the study shows.

Relying on groundbreaking modeling techniques, researchers from Radboud University in the Netherlands, the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance (C-EENRG), Cambridge Econometrics, The Open University in the UK and the University of Macau were able to show that the demise of the fossil-fuel industry will have profound economic and geopolitical consequences.

The study is published in the current issue of the journal “Nature Climate Change.”

“If countries keep investing in equipment to search for, extract, process and transport fossil fuels, even though their demand declines, they will end up losing money on these investments on top of their losses due to limited exports,” explains co-author Dr. Jean-Francois Mercure of Radboud University and C-EENRG.

“Countries should instead carefully deflate the carbon bubble through investment in a variety of industries and steady divestment,” he advises. “The way in which this is done will determine the impact of the ongoing low-carbon transition on the financial sector.”

This transition will result in clear winners, importers such as China and the European Union, and losers, exporters such as Russia, the United States and Canada, which could see their fossil-fuel industries nearly shut down.

If these countries keep up their investment and production levels despite declining demand, the global wealth loss could be huge. Even the United States could not pull out from this transition, as it would only hurt itself even more, the researchers warn.

This new study is more conservative in its warnings than a 2013 research paper from Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics. That paper calls for regulators, governments and investors to re-evaluate energy business models against carbon budgets, to prevent a $6 trillion carbon bubble in the next decade.

The Underlying Reasoning

Quite a few major economies rely heavily on fossil-fuel production and exports. The price of fossil-fuel companies’ shares is calculated under the assumption that all fossil-fuel reserves will be consumed.

But to do so would be inconsistent with the tight carbon budget set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, which limits the increase in global average temperature to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.”

According to a 2015 study in the journal “Nature,” an estimated third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and more than 80 percent of known coal reserves should remain unused in order to meet global temperature targets under the Paris Agreement.

To date the Paris accord has not deterred continuing investment in fossil fuels because of the belief that climate-friendly policies will not be adopted, at least not in the near future.

But the researchers show that ongoing technological change, by itself and even without new climate policies, is already reducing global demand growth for fossil fuels, which could peak in the near future.

Examples are clean technologies in power generation, cars and households that become more efficient and so reduce the use of fossil fuels.

For instance, countries, states and cities representing 75 percent of new passenger car sales in 2016 have established electric vehicle targets totaling 15.1 million, providing policy certainty of a transition away from oil consuming vehicles.

New climate policies would aggravate the impact of policies like this, Dr. Mercure and his colleagues believe.

Because the Trump Administration has proclaimed the United States’ intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the scientists also modeled what would happen if the United States did continue to invest in fossil-fuel assets instead of diversifying and divesting from them.

The analysis shows the GDP of the United States would be reduced even further.

Dr. Mercure clarifies this point, saying, “With a declining global fossil-fuel demand, fossil-fuel production in the USA is becoming uncompetitive, and may shut down.”

“If the USA remains in the Paris Agreement, it will promote new low-carbon technologies and reduce its consumption of fossil fuels, creating jobs and mitigating its loss of income, despite losing its fossil-fuel industry,” he said.

“If it pulls out, it will nevertheless lose its fossil-fuel industry, but by not promoting low-carbon technologies, will miss out on job creation opportunities, while increasing its fossil-fuel imports by not reducing its domestic fossil-fuel consumption. The outcome is therefore worse if the USA pulls out,” said Dr. Mercure.

The process of transition towards a low-carbon economy is now becoming “inevitable,” as policies supporting this change have been developed and gradually implemented for some time in many countries, the authors point out.

Hector Pollitt, study co-author from Cambridge Econometrics and C-EENRG, says, “This new research clearly shows the mismatch between the reductions in fossil fuel consumption required to meet carbon targets and the behavior of investors.”

“Governments have an important role to play in emphasizing commitments to meet the Paris Agreement to ensure that the significant detrimental economic and geopolitical consequences we have identified are avoided,” warned Pollitt.

The authors conclude that economic damage from a carbon bubble burst could be avoided by decarbonizing early.

Divestment is Prudent

“We should be carefully looking at where we are investing our money. For instance, much like companies, pension funds and other institutions currently invest in fossil-fuel assets. Following recommendations from central banks, commercial banks are increasingly looking at the financial risks of stranded fossil-fuel assets, even though their possible impacts have not yet been fully determined,” said Mercure.

“Until now, observers mostly paid attention to the likely effectiveness of climate policies, but not to the ongoing and effectively irreversible technological transition,” Mercure concludes. “This level of ‘creative destruction’ appears inevitable now and must be carefully managed.”

Another new study, released June 4, bolsters these findings.

Policymakers are being misinformed by the results of economic models that underestimate the future risks of climate change impacts, according to the new paper by authors in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Published in the “Review of Environmental Economics and Policy” calls for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to improve how it analyzes the results of economic modeling as it prepares its Sixth Assessment Report, due to be published in 2021 and 2022.

The IPCC is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. It has 195 member states.

The paper’s authors point to “mounting evidence that current economic models of the aggregate global impacts of climate change are inadequate in their treatment of uncertainty and grossly underestimate potential future risks.”

This study, “Recommendations for Improving the Treatment of Risk and Uncertainty in Economic Estimates of Climate Impacts in the Sixth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report,” was written by Thomas Stoerk of the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, Gernot Wagner of the Harvard University Center for the Environment and Bob Ward of the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy and Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

They warn that the assessment models used by economists “largely ignore the potential for ‘tipping points’ beyond which impacts accelerate, become unstoppable, or become irreversible.”

Featured image: Heavy seas engulf the Block Island Wind Farm, the first U.S. offshore wind farm, located off the coast of Rhode Island in the Atlantic Ocean. It came online in December 2016. (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / National Renewable Energy Laboratory) Public domain

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Big Oil CEOs needed a #climatechange reality check. The #Pope delivered #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #TofuTyrant #GreenActivist @CourierMail

Big Oil CEOs needed a climate change reality check. The Pope delivered |

By Bill McKibben

At a gathering of fossil fuel executives at the Vatican, Pope Francis spoke much-needed common sense about climate change

‘Good common sense speaks even more loudly when it comes from unexpected corners.’ Photograph: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

You kind of expect popes to talk about spiritual stuff, kind of the way you expect chefs to discuss spices or tree surgeons to make small talk about overhanging limbs.

Which is why it was so interesting this week to hear Pope Francis break down the climate debate in very practical and very canny terms, displaying far more mathematical insight than your average world leader and far more strategic canniness than your average journalist. In fact, with a few deft sentences, he laid bare the hypocrisy that dominates much of the climate debate.

The occasion was the gathering of fossil fuel executives at the Vatican, one of a series of meetings to mark the third anniversary of Laudato Si, his majestic encyclical on global warming. The meetings were closed, but by all accounts big oil put forward its usual anodyne arguments: any energy transition must be slow, moving too fast to renewable energy would hurt the poor by raising prices, and so forth.

In response, Francis graciously thanked the oil executives for attending, and for “developing more careful approaches to the assessment of climate risk”. But then he got down to business. “Is it enough?” he asked. “Will we turn the corner in time? No one can answer that with certainty, but with each month that passes, the challenge of energy transition becomes more pressing.” Two and a half years after the Paris climate talks, he pointed out, “carbon dioxide emissions and atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases remain very high. This is disturbing and a cause for real concern.” Indeed.

It’s odd to have the pope schooling energy executives on the math of carbon

What’s really “worrying”, though, “is the continued search for new fossil fuel reserves, whereas the Paris agreement clearly urged keeping most fossil fuels underground”. And in that small sentence he calls the bluff on most of what passes for climate action among nations and among fossil fuel companies. Yes, Donald Trump notwithstanding, most countries have begun to take some steps to reduce demand for energy over time. Yes, oil companies have begun to grudgingly issue “climate risk reports” and divert minuscule percentages of their research budgets to renewables.

(I guess that according to Brisbane’s Courier Mail & Australian resources chiefs the Pope is just another “Green Activist” supporting “Tofu Tyrant “)

But no one has been willing to face the fact that we have to leave more than 80% of known fossil fuel reserves underground if we have any chance of meeting the Paris targets. No company has been willing to commit to leaving the coal and oil and gas in the earth, and almost no nation has been willing to make them do so. Instead, the big fossil fuel countries continue to aid and abet the big fossil fuel companies in the push for more mining and drilling. In Australia, the Turnbull government backs a massive new coalmine; in Canada, the Trudeau government literally buys a pipeline to keep the tar sands expanding; in the US, the federal government might as well be a wholly owned subsidiary of the fossil fuel companies.

In fact, as Francis points out, it’s not just that these companies and countries are committed to digging up the reserves they currently have. Even more insanely, they’re out there exploring for more. Companies like Exxon devote billions and billions of dollars to finding new oil fields, even though we have far more oil than we could ever safely burn.

All of this is morally wrong, as Francis points out. “Decisive progress cannot be made without an increased awareness that all of us are part of one human family, united by bonds of fraternity and solidarity. Only by thinking and acting with constant concern for this underlying unity that overrides all differences, only by cultivating a sense of universal intergenerational solidarity, can we set out really and resolutely on the road ahead,” he says.

Which is great – it’s the job of religious leaders to remind us to think beyond our own self-interest.

But Francis also understands that our current approach makes no mathematical sense. We can’t have a nice, slow, easy transition because we can’t put barely any more carbon in the atmosphere. We must solve the problem of energy access for the poor by using renewables, not fossil fuel, because “our desire to ensure energy for all must not lead to the undesired effect of a spiral of extreme climate changes due to a catastrophic rise in global temperatures, harsher environments and increased levels of poverty”. Above all, we’ve got to pay as much attention to actual reality as we do to political reality: “Civilization requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilization!”

Bill McKibben on his recent trip to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

It’s odd to have the pope schooling energy executives on the math of carbon. But actually, no odder than NFL quarterbacks schooling politicians on racial injustice, or high school kids schooling a nation on the danger of guns. Amid the unprecedented wave of nonsense coming from DC, it’s good to remember that there are still people of all kinds able to pierce through the static and the shouting. Good common sense speaks even more loudly when it comes from unexpected corners.

Bill McKibben is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and the founder of the climate campaign 350.org

Press link for more: The Guardian