Finland

We must bridge generational divide to prevent climate & budget crises #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange Intergenerational Debt #Neoliberalism

Progressives must bridge the generational divide to prevent climate and budget crises

BY PAUL BLEDSOE AND BEN RITZ, OPINION CONTRIBUTORS

Amid the daily drama of President Trump‘s tweets and scandals, it can be hard to focus on the most important issues for our future.

An unfortunate consequence of this purposeful turmoil is that few serious solutions are being offered for addressing two of the greatest threats facing the United States: runaway climate change and unsustainable budget policies.

The resignation of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt may end his days of plundering the environment and public treasury, but the Trump administration will continue doing both even in his absence, risking long-term national well-being for temporary political benefits.

It’s critical that progressives offer credible alternatives, especially if they hope to inspire younger voters who will bear the burden of these problems, because we cannot afford to dither on either issue much longer.

We speak from experience.

One of us is a baby boomer who has spent most of his career working on energy and climate policy; the other is a millennial focused on the federal budget.

Although our two fields may seem unrelated, both these existential challenges require our generations to work together to solve.

Our leaders have been warned about the climate crisis for more than a generation.

Thirty years ago last month, NASA scientist James Hansen first testified before Congress noting the irrefutable relationship between growing carbon dioxide emissions and rising temperatures.

Since then, global average temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions have increased relentlessly, leading to enormously expensive climate change impacts around the world.

Just last year, Hurricane Harvey and other major storms made worse by climate change devastated the US costing federal taxpayers over $130 billion so far.

The longer we wait to stem rising temperatures, the higher these costs will grow.

The Long-term Budget Outlook recently published by the Congressional Budget Office tells a similar story.

The gap between federal revenues and spending is growing at an alarming rate, requiring the government to borrow more each year to cover the difference.

If current policies remain in place, the national debt relative to the size of the economy could rocket past the record-high level reached just after World War II as soon as 2029.

From then onward, the federal government will be stuck spending over $1 trillion every year just to pay interest on the debt, making the growing budget deficit increasingly difficult to close the longer we wait.

Both our climate and our budget problems stem in large part from a moral failure by baby boomers.

Rather than investing in their children’s future via sustainable energy and fiscal policies, boomers emitted greenhouse gases and cut their own taxes with reckless abandon, while promising themselves generous retirement benefits paid-for by future workers.

Now millennials will be stuck with a debt and a climate that are far more dangerous than in previous generations.

The two problems exacerbate one another.

As climate change worsens, hundreds of billions each year will need to be spent each year on adaptation and disaster relief, making it that much harder to reduce future budget deficits.

Conversely, the federal government will find it increasingly difficult to invest in technologies to combat climate change when so much of tax revenue is pre-committed to servicing our debt and paying for past promises.

Alas, the Republican-controlled government in Washington (like the LNP government in Australia) has made both problems much worse.

Party leaders deny or ignore the overwhelming scientific consensus around climate change, with the president calling it a “hoax” while his administration is pushing to replacing the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with a pro-pollution alternative that props up dying industries at the expense of our planet and economy.

The GOP exhibits the same pattern of willful ignorance on the federal budget: just recently, National Economic Council Chairman Larry Kudlow erroneously claimed that the deficit is falling even as it does the exact opposite – a problem which was made worse by the $2 trillion tax cut Republicans enacted at the end of last year without making any serious effort to pay for it.

Democrats and Labor have to do better.

Just as the far right wants to play chicken with our climate, some on the far left want to play chicken with our national debt.

Neither is a risk worth taking.

Democrats must resist the far left’s calls to pursue expensive expansions of social insurance programs before making our current obligations financially sustainable.

When it comes to climate change, most of the party understands the need for action but has yet to coalesce around practical approaches for solving the problem that would attract rather than alienate swing voters.

Democrats must realize there is little value in having the moral high ground, on either climate or the budget, without the political power to implement solutions.

The responsibility for making these changes thus lies with voters as much as their leaders, and both of our respective generations must do our part to promote responsible solutions.

Baby boomers need to accept responsibility for the unresolved problems they leave millennials and be willing to contribute to solutions.

But millennials need to take ownership of their future by showing up at the polls and making these challenges core voting issues.

Young voters already overwhelmingly support Democrats – it’s time they show up and demand Democrats support them in return by addressing the two greatest threats to our future prosperity.

Paul Bledsoe is strategic advisor for the Progressive Policy Institute, and Ben Ritz is the director of PPI’s Center for Funding America’s Future.

Press link for more: The Hill

Advertisements

The global heat wave that’s been killing us #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #Longman

A heat wave is ravaging countries around the world. Although many celebrate sunny days, wildfires, wasted crops and health problems are some of the many disastrous consequences hot weather can have.

Most of us enjoy sunny days and complain on rainy ones — yet behind the clear skies lies a less pleasant reality. Since June 2018, numerous regions around the world have been facing infernal temperatures, which have caused wildfires, ruined crops and killed hundreds of people.

The hottest year ever recorded was 2016, due to a combination of global warming and a strong El Niño episode. Despite 2018 experiencing the opposite climate event, La Niña — which tends to cool temperatures — June has ranked as one of the hottest months on record.

A heat wave describes a period of at least five days with a temperature of 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) above the average.

Extremely hot individual days can be a one-off, which doesn’t always have a link to heat waves or global warming.

However, a trend is clear: As a result of climate change, we can expect more extreme and frequent heat waves. Clare Nullis, media officer World Meteorological Organization, confirmed this to DW.

Ruined crops are among the consequences of the global heat wave

The heat hits

For a south European person, 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) is nothing special. But that definitely is hot for people in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where the normal temperature in June doesn’t exceed 20 degrees.

On June 28, Glasgow reached its hottest June day ever, with 31.9 degrees Celsius, and the Irish town of Shannon its highest temperature ever recorded at 32 degrees.

Germans have enjoyed — or suffered — temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius for most of May and June. In the country of Georgia, July 4 made history with 40.5 degrees Celsius.

North America has not escaped the suffocating wave either. Denver and Los Angeles were among several cities in the United States that tied or broke heat records.

Montreal, in Canada, recorded the highest temperature in 147 years of record-keeping on July 2. The heat wave there killed more than 70 people.

Thermometers in Japan, Russia and Algeria, among other places, were also on fire. On July 5, the Ouargla weather station in Algeria’s Sahara Desert reported the highest reliable temperature ever recorded in Africa: 51.3 degrees Celsius.

In a climate change scenario, extreme heat waves may occur “as often as every two years in the second half of the 21st century,” Vladimir Kendrovski, technical officer for climate change and health for the World Health Organization (WHO) regional office for Europe, told DW.

Too hot to survive

“Heat waves have caused much higher fatalities in Europe in recent decades than any other extreme weather event,” Kendrovski pointed out.

High temperatures increase the level of pollutants in the air, as they speed up the rate of chemical reactions. This increases the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Substances like pollen, which can cause asthma, are also higher in extreme heat, WHO said.

Unusually high temperatures at night disturb restful sleep, preventing the body from recovering from daytime heat.

Vulnerable groups such as young children and the elderly suffer the most, Simone Sandholz, associate academic officer at the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security, told DW. Most victims of extreme heat live in densely populated urban areas, where ventilation is scarce, she added.

Heat and humidity form a particularly deadly combination for humans, Nullis said. Up to 70 people may have died in Montreal as a result of the persistent heat wave and high humidity. In a recent three-day weekend, 14 people died in Japan, while more than 2,000 were sent to hospitals for heat exhaustion or insolation.

Hot weather coupled with humidity is also a perfect setting for insects to thrive. In England, helpline calls for insect bites almost doubled in early July.

But this is particularly worrisome for countries vulnerable to diseases such as malaria or dengue — that is, vector-borne diseases — transmitted by the bite of species such as mosquitoes, ticks or blackflies.

“Vector-borne diseases are associated with climate change, due to their widespread occurrence and the vectors’ sensitivities to their environments,” Kendrovski said. Mosquitos like Aedes aegypti are spreading into new regions due at least in part to rising temperatures.

And if you’ve ever felt it was so hot your brain doesn’t work, science says you could be right. Hot weather can make your thinking more than 10 percent slower, a new study shows.

Another study in New York City schools suggested that “upwards of 510,000 exams that otherwise would have passed received failing grades due to hot temperature, affecting at least 90,000 students.”

Extreme heat increases the risk of deadly diseases, such as malaria

A complex circle

Wildfires are another sad result of unusually sunny days, and lack of rainfall has caused large fires in the UK, Sweden and in Russia, where 80,000 hectares of forest have been devastated this season.

Farmers and crops are further victims of heat waves and droughts. In the UK, growers of peas and lettuce have struggled to meet demand due to low yields and crop failure this growing season; wheat, broccoli and cauliflower are also on the list of crops affected by the weather.

In Germany, farmers have resigned themselves to a much lower grain harvest due to the heat and dryness.

“We will again have a harvest that is far below the average,” Joachim Rukwied, president of the German Farmers Association (DVB), said in a statement. Some farmers have opted to destroy the crops instead of trying to harvest them, he added.

Access to air conditioning and cooling systems, though vital in a warmer world, can be part of a vicious cycle. Increasing use of cooling devices, currently powered largely by fossil fuels, would further contribute to climate change — and therefore rising temperatures.

Time to adapt

If health systems were better prepared and coordinated with meteorological systems, health problems from heatwaves and hot weather could largely be prevented, Kendrovski points out. “That’s the good news,” he said.

Sandholz highlighted the role of adequate urban planning to reduce heat impacts in urban areas. Simple changes, such as building out green zones or creating wind corridors, could make a huge difference.

We should not understimate the heat, Sandholz concluded.

Unusually dry

In northeastern Germany, there has been hardly any rainfall in recent months. The country’s weather service says Saxony-Anhalt received just 15 liters of rainfall per square meter — roughly a quarter of the average. Across Germany, there were just 50 liters of rainfall per square meter, half of the usual amount. Mecklenburg-West Pomerania received more sunshine than any other German state.

Unpredictable weather

The little rain that fell came down very unevenly across Germany. In May, the country’s weather service warned of potential forest fires in parts of Lower Saxony. Meanwhile in southwestern Germany, some towns faced torrential rains that flooded cellars and roads, such as here in Fischbach, Rhineland-Palatinate.

Date 18.07.2018

Author Irene Banos Ruiz

Press link for more: DW.COM

Who will pay to protect our cities from rising seas? #auspol #qldpol

A public nuisance

By Patrick Parenteau

Since most American state and local governments are cash-strapped, cities and counties fear that they won’t be able to afford all the construction it will take to protect their people and property.

So some communities in California are in a bid to force them to foot the bill. Recently, , when it sued 21 oil and gas companies “for knowingly contributing to climate change and the catastrophic consequences to the State and its residents, economy, eco-system, and infrastructure”.

Does it make sense to hold the industries responsible for global warming liable for the price – in dollars and cents – that everyone will have to pay to adapt to a changed climate?

I believe climate liability cases like these have merit.

The local governments asking the courts to intervene allege that higher sea levels brought about by climate change are a public nuisance.

That may sound odd at first, but I believe that is fair to say. It is also the legal basis on which similar liability lawsuits have been filed before.

The sea level along California’s coasts may have risen about 8 inches in the past century. Scientists project that they may rise by as much as 55 inches by the end of this century.

That worst-case scenario would put nearly half a million people at risk of flooding by 2100, and threaten $100bn in property and infrastructure, including roadways, buildings, hazardous waste sites, power plants, parks and tourist destinations.

Superstorm Sandy caused over $60bn in damage along the New Jersey and New York coasts. Several researchers have concluded that sea level rise and a warming ocean played a major role in making that storm so catastrophic.

The Trump administration has released a national climate change assessment, confirming that extreme weather events – storms on steroids – are becoming more frequent and intense.

If anything, characterising these catastrophes as a public nuisance is an understatement.

A question about jurisdiction

Oakland and San Francisco both sued five of the world’s largest oil companies in state court, asserting claims based on California’s own nuisance law. They are seeking billions of dollars for an abatement fund.

But Chevron, one of the five oil majors being sued, objected and sought to transfer the San Francisco and Oakland lawsuit to a federal district court, where Judge William Alsup recently dismissed the case.

Still, it wasn’t a clear win for oil companies.

Alsup accepted the scientific consensus that the defendants’ line of business is driving climate change and therefore poses a clear and present danger to coastal communities and others. But in his ruling, he also questioned whether it’s “fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded”.

And while the judge also acknowledged that federal courts have the authority “to fashion common law remedies for claims based on global warming”, he opted to “stay his hand in favor of solutions by the legislative and executive branches”. In other words, he said it’s up to Congress and the White House to figure out whether oil companies ought to pay to, say, move San Francisco’s airport to higher ground.

Even if prospects for federal action on this front are next to nil for the foreseeable future, given the Trump administration’s warm embrace of oil, gas and coal, this is no legal dead end. I believe that Oakland and San Francisco will surely file an appeal to the 9th Circuit, which could rule differently.

Even more importantly, there is another case pending that is taking a different course. The counties of Marin and San Mateo and the City of Imperial Beach, California, are also suing oil companies with similar climate liability claims. Judge Vince Chhabria sees things differently than Alsup and ruled that state law, not federal law, should prevail.

He has ordered that case back to state court, a move that Chevron, BP, ExxonMobil and the other oil company defendants are trying to prevent.

In addition to coastal communities concerned about rising sea levels, several Colorado counties filed their own climate liability cases in April 2018. Those lawsuits allege that oil companies should be held responsible for the higher temperatures now reducing the state’s snowpack. Getting less snow is jeopardising Colorado’s agriculture, water supply and ski industry.

Several legal precedents

I maintain that these cases do belong in state court because there are many relevant legal precedents.

U.S. courts have repeatedly held manufacturers liable for the damage their products wreak, especially when those companies knew full well that their products, used as intended, would cause that harm.

The biggest precedent is the tobacco industry’s 1998 settlement with the states, which called for companies to pay out $246bn over the next 25 years.

In addition, there have been many judgments against oil companies and other corporations responsible for manufacturing a potentially cancer-causing chemical called MTBE that used to be a common gasoline additive and has contaminated public water supplies.

And a panel of California judges ordered paint companies to pay more than $1bn to help get lead out of housing that remains contaminated decades after the government banned lead-laced paint. The companies are vowing to take the case to the Supreme Court if they can.

Currently, another new kind of liability lawsuit is emerging against opioid manufacturers. Ohio and at least six other states are seeking damages to help cover the expense of dealing with widespread addiction from the allegedly irresponsible marketing of prescription painkillers – which it says the companies should have known were being abused.

Exxon knew

As for the oil industry, it has evidently known for 60 years or longer that burning fossil fuels would eventually overheat the planet, with monumental consequences.

Rather than alert the public and engage in good-faith discussions to address the problem, oil majors like Exxon sought to mislead and deny what they knew about the risks of fossil fuels. Furthermore, the fossil fuel industries have sought to block any meaningful federal climate response by donating vast sums to the political campaigns of candidates who promised to oppose the requisite policies.

In a perfect world, the nation’s elected leaders at all levels of government would be hard at work passing laws and establishing programs to confront the existential threat of climate change and to help communities prepare for the unavoidable impacts that are already baked into the system.

Alas, that is not the case. The courts are the last line of defense in this epic struggle to deal with the effects of climate change – including the astronomically expensive costs of moving housing, businesses, schools and other structures out of harm’s way.

Patrick Parenteau, Professor of Law, Vermont Law School.

Press link for more: City Metric

#ClimateChange will force us to redefine economic growth. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #NoNewCoal #Longman

Climate change will force us to redefine economic growth

World Economic Forum

Last Friday, Pope Francis called for nothing less than “a financial paradigm shift” in order to tackle climate change.

His comments, made at a conference hosted by the Vatican and uniting business people, policy-makers of different stripes, indigenous leaders, academics and young people, could not be more timely: humanity is at a turning point. But when it comes to the economy, if handled sensibly and without delay, this turning point does not have to be a breaking point.

Over the past 70 years, the world has seen remarkable advances that are unprecedented in its history.

These include an increase in average life expectancy around the world from around 40 to around 70 years, a rise in income per capita by a factor of around four, and huge declines in the number of people living in absolute poverty.

One result of this has been a near trebling of the global population as fewer people die early deaths. These outcomes have in large measure been fostered by a spirit of internationalism, international collaboration and a functioning international economic order, all created after the second world war.

At the same time as this record growth in our numbers and wealth, we have seen fundamental changes in our natural capital, including the atmosphere, oceans, forests, glaciers, rivers and biodiversity. In 142 tropical countries, for instance, the overall area of natural forest declined by 11% between 1990 and 2015. Oceans have recorded a 30% increase in acidity since the start of the industrial revolution, and acidity is projected to increase to a pH level that the oceans have not experienced for more than 20 million years.

At the same time, indoor and outdoor air pollution were responsible for an estimated 6.5 million premature deaths in 2015. Air pollution is particularly threatening for children, and is especially prevalent in large, rapidly developing countries such as India and China.

The next two decades will be decisive.

They will determine whether we suffer severe and irreversible damage to livelihoods and the natural world or whether, instead, we set off on a more attractive path of sustainable and inclusive economic development and growth.

It is clear from the science of climate change that we must cut emissions by at least 30% in the next two decades to avoid dangerous levels of warming.

If we go on emitting greenhouse gases at current rates for the next two decades, then it is likely that we will far exceed a 3°C increase in average global surface temperature compared with the late 19th century – the usual benchmark.

A rise of 3°C would be extremely dangerous, taking us to a temperature we have not seen on this planet for around 3 million years.

Remember that modern Homo sapiens has been here for only around a quarter of a million years. A warming of this magnitude could transform where we could live, severely damage livelihoods, displace billions of people and lead to severe and extended conflict. And we risk considerably higher temperatures than that if we do not radically change how we produce and consume. Delivery on the global agenda to curb emissions, at scale and with urgency, is now crucial.

We must do that during a period of two decades, during which the world economy is likely to roughly double, and infrastructure more than double. Given the need to cut emissions by 30%, it is clear that we must act now to change radically the relationship between our economic activity and the damage to the environment it causes.

The economics of that change is compelling. For instance, it is now cheaper in many countries to generate electricity from renewable sources than from fossil fuels. Since 2006, the costs for solar power modules has fallen by 79%, and since 2010 the prices of batteries for storage of power have fallen by 72%.

We can build a new form of growth and poverty reduction that is clean, sustainable and inclusive. It is an economic path that is much more attractive, robust and lasting. The world is starting to realise the attractiveness of the new growth model, as well as the risks of unmanaged climate change. We can see what needs to be done, that it can be done, and that it is very attractive. If we act wisely, we can create cities in which we can move and breathe, ecosystems that are robust and fruitful, and living standards that can continue to rise. The alternative route would lead to severe disruption and poverty for many.

There is no horse race between climate responsibility and economic development. But we must build the political will, and quickly, to take the strong decisions that are necessary.

His Holiness the Pope is showing extraordinary leadership in trying to bridge the gap between moral obligation and will to act. He leads us in recognizing the combination of urgency and opportunity in the crisis we now face. He serves as an outstanding and crucial example to those of us in the secular world. Only by combining political and moral leadership, together with social movements and sound economics, will the necessary decisions be taken with the urgency that is now required.

Professor Nicholas Stern is chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics.

Press link for more: EWN.CO

Heatwaves around the world. #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #Longman

Heatwave sees record high temperatures around world this week

From Europe to Africa, extreme and widespread heat raises climate concerns in hottest La Niña year to date on record

Jonathan Watts

Record high temperatures have been set across much of the world this week as an unusually prolonged and broad heatwave intensifies concerns about climate change.

The past month has seen power shortages in California as record heat forced a surge of demand for air conditioners. Algeria has experienced the hottest temperature ever reliably registered in Africa. Britain, meanwhile, has experienced its third longest heatwave, melting the roof of a science building in Glasgow and exposing ancient hill forts in Wales.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the rising temperatures were at odds with a global cyclical climate phenomena known as La Niña, which is usually associated with cooling.

“The first six months of the year have made it the hottest La Niña year to date on record,” said Clare Nullis of the WMO.

Taiwan is the most recent place to report a new high with a temperature of 40.3C in Tianxiang on Monday. This followed a flurry of other anomalies.

Last week, a weather station at Ouargla in Algeria’s Sahara Desert, reported a maximum temperature of 51.3C on 5 July, the highest temperature reliably recorded in Africa.

Even when the sun goes down, night is not providing the cooling relief it once did in many parts of the world. At Quriyat, on the coast of Oman, overnight temperatures remained above 42.6C, which is believed to be the highest “low” temperature ever recorded in the world. Downtown Los Angeles also saw a new monthly July minimum overnight record of 26.1C on 7 July.

Globally, the warmest year on record was in 2016, boosted by the natural climate cycle El Niño. Last year, temperatures hit the highest level without that amplifying phenomenon. This year, at the other cooling end of the cycle, is continuing the overall upward trend.

Swathes of the northern hemisphere have seen unusually persistent warmth due to strong, persistent high pressure systems that have created a “heat dome” over much of Eurasia.

“What’s unusual is the hemispheric scale of the heatwave,” said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “It’s not just the magnitude in any one location but that high temperatures are being seen over such a large area.”

Northern Russia’s exceptionally sunny weather – seen on TV by billions thanks to the World Cup – has caused wildfires that affected 80,000 hectares of forest near the Krasnoyarsk region, which reported daily anomalies of 7C above average. The Western Siberian Hydromet Center has issued storm warnings after temperatures of more than 30C for five days. Climate watchers fear this will accelerate the melting of permafrost, releasing methane – a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

People cool off in the water on Huntington Beach during record heat in California. Photograph: Ringo Chiu/ZUMA Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

In California, daytime records were also set last week at Chino (48.9C), Burbank airport (45.6C) and Van Nuys airport (47.2C). In Canada, at least 54 deaths have been attributed to the prolonged heatwave and high humidity in Quebec. Montreal saw a new record high temperature of 36.6C on 2 July.

In Europe, the WMO has warned of droughts, wildfires and harvest losses after the second hottest June on record. Over the past two weeks, records have been set in Tbilisi (40.5C), Shannon (32C), and Belfast (29.5C)

Britain has cooled slightly in the past two days, after 17 days of temperatures over 28C. This was the third longest heatwave on record, following the record 19-day run in 2013 and the famous summer of 1976, when there were two prolonged spells of 18 days and 15 days. Dean Hall of the UK’s Met Office said Britain’s temperatures were forecast to rise again over the coming week.

The concern is that weather fronts – hot and cold – are being blocked more frequently due to climate change. This causes droughts and storms to linger, amplifying the damage they cause. This was a factor in the recent devastating floods in Japan, where at least 150 people died after rainfall up to four times the normal level.

Floods in Kurashiki city, western Japan. More than 150 people have died in the country following torrential rain. Photograph: Jiji Press/EPA

Paolo Ruti of the WMO said it was difficult to ascribe any one weather event to climate change, but that recent high temperatures, intense rains and slow-moving fronts were in line with forecasts of how rising emissions will affect the climate.

“Recent analysis suggests that anthropogenic forcing might indeed affect the characteristics of summer blocking events in the Euro-Asia sector, in particular leading to longer blocking episodes,” he said.

Extreme weather events have buffeted much of the world over the past 12months, from the “Day Zero” drought in Cape Town to the abnormally powerful hurricanes Harvey and Irma that buffeted the east coast of the US and Caribbean.

Underscoring the link, a new report from scientists at the World Weather Attribution group indicates that manmade climate change and its effect on rainfall made the recent Cape Town drought three times more likely.

Press link for more: The Guardian

Japan floods a warning of #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #NoNewCoal #StopAdani #Longman

Japan floods a warning for a changed climate

Kumuda Simpson

The scenes in Japan in the wake of torrential rain that has caused landslides and widespread flooding are heartbreaking.

The rains have been described as unprecedented, and the death toll has continued to rise as emergency workers and volunteers search for those who are still missing.

While some people have been able to return to their homes, many of the people who were ordered to evacuate remain displaced.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has committed millions of dollars to aid recovery.

The planet has already warmed.

To continue to ignore or downplay this should no longer be acceptable.

Japan has experienced more than its fair share of disasters, including the devastating tsunami in 2011 that caused the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Scenes this week of flooded landscapes with the roofs of houses just visible above the water are eerily reminiscent of the horrific aftermath of the 2011 tsunami.

However, the recent rain and flooding have different lessons for us.

Extreme weather events such as this are very likely to become increasingly common as a result of climate change and the continued warming of the planet.

Heatwaves, bush fires, intense typhoons and cyclones, sea-level rise, flooding, and drought will all increase in both intensity and frequency unless we keep global warming below 1.5–2 degrees Celsius. Even if we keep global warming below 2 degrees we are still likely to face a significantly less stable or predictable climate than the one most of us grew up with.

In response to extreme heat and precipitation events across Asia, Europe, America, and the Middle East during June and July, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change stated that:

Episodes of extreme heat and precipitation are increasing as a result of climate change. Although it is not possible to attribute the individual extreme events of June and July to climate change, they are compatible with the general long-term trend due to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases.

In the same week as the disaster in Japan, record hot temperatures were registered across California, with Disneyland soaring to 45 degrees Celsius on 12 July.

In Australia, the state of New South Wales continued to be affected by one of the worst droughts in recent history.

In Muscat, Oman, in June, the temperature didn’t drop below 42 degrees for more than 24 hours. Reports of record-breaking extremes and violent “once in a hundred year” storms are becoming commonplace.

We need to talk about climate change

In media coverage of all these events, climate change is only occasionally mentioned, and often just in passing.

There is a reluctance to talk about climate change in the wake of tragedy, particularly when linking a specific weather event to climate change is complex. Establishing a direct causal link involves complex scientific modelling and analysis of data, with results that are often nuanced rather than clear-cut.

The conclusion is often that while floods and droughts have always occurred, climate change is making their occurrence more frequent.

Yet the argument over whether or not this particular drought or that particular storm was directly and indisputably caused by the warming planet is counterproductive.

Instead, it is imperative that we shift the conversation away from a debate about climate change that all too often becomes politicised either though omission or oversimplification. We must focus on what these events can teach us about the kinds of climate-related risks we face in the near future, and how unprepared we are for them.

The tragedy in Japan should serve as a particularly alarming indicator of the kinds of challenges even the most disaster-prepared country faces.

Japan has a highly developed disaster early-warning system, one that was utilised before the worst of the flooding and landslides caused so much devastation.

Early analysis suggests that a combination of urban development and land use in floodprone areas; human complacency in the face of evacuation orders, or an inability to evacuate safely; the sudden onset of torrential rains; and Japan’s unique geography interacted in such a way that the human toll has been unacceptably high.

The Center for Climate and Security recently released a report titled A Responsibility to Prepare. It argues that we face a future of unprecedented risks as a result of climate change. Yet we also possess a unique capacity to predict some of these risks and prepare to deal with them.

This will involve more than just early-warning systems or financial aid to rebuild after disasters. It will involve paying attention to the unanticipated consequences of climate change and the human and institutional factors that make resilience or adaptability possible. As researcher Joshua Busby has argued:

the disruption to the Earth’s climate will ultimately command more attention and resources and have a greater influence on the global economy and international relations than other forces visible in the world today.

Our first responsibility should be mitigation.

The Paris Agreement must be upheld, and strengthened. Failure to radically cut global carbon emissions will mean disasters such as the one unfolding in Japan will become the new normal.

Our second responsibility is to learn from the past and present, and be prepared for a future in which extreme weather events will challenge even the wealthiest, most developed states, and will be devastating for the poorest and least developed. The global climate is changing, and the planet has already warmed. To continue to ignore or downplay this should no longer be acceptable.

Press link for more: Lowy Institute

Australia’s Climate Policy is disgraceful! #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #NoNewCoal #StopAdani #Longman We’re stealing our children’s future

There has been no improvement in Australia’s climate policy settings over the last year, and the 2018 CAT assessment confirms all previous assessments that its emissions are set to far exceed its Paris Agreement NDC target for 2030.

We rate the NDC target itself “Insufficient“, with a level of ambition that—if followed by all other countries—would lead to global warming of over 2°C and up to 3°C. In addition, if all other countries were to follow Australia’s current policy settings, warming could reach over 3°C and up to 4°C (“highly insufficient”).

While the Federal Government continues to maintain, most recently in its “2017 Review of Climate Change Policies”, that Australia is on track to meet the 2030 target, the Climate Action Tracker is not aware of any factual basis, published by any analyst or government agency, to support this.

To the contrary, Australia’s emissions are increasing, and the latest projection published by the government at the same time as the Climate Policies Review shows that emissions are still projected to grow instead of leading to a reduction in line with the 2030 target.

While the Federal Government continues to promote coal as a solution to energy security issues, downplay renewable energy and obfuscate on its climate policies, the reality on the ground at the state level, public opinion and across the business sector in Australia, is very different.

The Federal Government is proposing an electricity sector emissions reduction pathway with proportional reductions to the overall emissions reductions, contrary to independent advice and analysis that shows the electricity sector needs to and can reduce emissions faster than other sectors such as industry or agriculture.

All states and territories (except Western Australia) now have strong renewable energy targets and/or zero emissions targets in place (Climate Council, 2017) Victoria has recently introduced legislation. South Australia is widely seen as a global leader with uncertainty about the continuation of policy in South Australia with the recent change in government (The Guardian, 2018a): it has one of the highest shares of variable renewable energy, with 48% share of wind and solar total generation in 2017) (IEEFA, 2018), the world’s largest lithium ion battery, and innovative projects for renewable hydrogen and virtual power plants. Households across Australia are massively deploying small-scale solar (the 15% share of households deploying solar PV is among the highest in the world (ESAA, 2015)) and increasingly combining this with battery storage, and public opinion (Essential, 2017) is supportive of renewable energies and climate policy.

The federal government of Australia decided not to accept the recommendations of the 2017 Finkel-Review (commissioned by Federal and State governments) to adopt a Clean Energy Target. It has instead proposed an alternative instrument: a reliability obligation and an emissions reduction target on energy retailers and a small number of large electricity users (so-called National Energy Guarantee, NEG) (COAG Energy Council, 2018; Energy Security Board, 2018).

The electricity sector emissions reduction pathway suggested by the government (26–28% reduction from 2030 levels from 2005) is not consistent with the Paris Agreement, as its reductions only track the (already insufficient) 2030 reductions proposed for the entire Australian economy, whereas the electricity sector needs to—and can—reduce emissions faster (Hare et al., 2017). Other suggested elements such as the inclusion of domestic and international offsets, and the possibility of delaying emissions reductions—increase both the risk of slowing down investments in renewable energy below business as usual, and the risk of locking-in carbon intensive fossil fuel infrastructure (coal and gas) (Jotzko & Mazouz, 2017) (Energetics, 2018).

The Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF)—the so-called “centrepiece” of the Australian Government’s policy suite to reduce emissions—does not set Australia on a path to meeting its targets as has been reiterated in the latest review by the (Climate Change Authority, 2017). Instead of introducing new policies to address the structural change needed (CCA 2017), the government is now considering allowing international units to be used for compliance. In addition, the recently-established safeguard mechanism risks counteracting the emissions reductions the ERF is supposed to deliver and further undermining the achievement of the 2030 target (Reputex, 2018) by increasing emissions allowances for large industry facilities.

Australia ratified the Paris Agreement on 6 November 2016. Its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), includes a target of reducing GHG emissions, including land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF), by 26–28% below 2005 levels by 2030. This target is equivalent to a range of around 1% to 3% above 1990 levels of GHG emissions excluding LULUCF in 2030.

Press link for more: Carbon Action Tracker

Is your retirement invested in risky fossil fuels? #auspol #qldpol @ElliottShayne CEO @ANZ_AU #NoNewCoal #StopAdani #ClimateChange #Divest

Is your retirement invested in risky fossil fuels?

Petition content reads:

I call on my employer, and all U.S. employers, to offer fossil-free retirement options to their employees.

For most Americans, retirement planning means taking advantage of a 401k/403(b) or similar plan offered by their employer.

In fact, American workers have invested more than $4.4 trillion in 401(k)s and similar retirement plans already.

But scientists also tell us that to stop the worst impacts of climate change, we need to leave 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground and make a rapid transition to 100% clean energy by 2050.

That means a share of a big oil company with a 20 year plan to drill in the arctic, or utilities betting on China building a new generation of coal plants are both bad ideas and bad investments.

You’ve worked hard, played by the rules and invested wisely for your retirement. But your 401(k), mutual fund or pension could be hiding a dirty secret.

Even funds that sound benign might contain enough oil, coal and fossil fuel stock to threaten our shared home.

One popular fund (NYSEARCA:SPY), for example, contains over $19,000,000,000 in dirty oil, coal and gas investments — that’s over 11% of the total assets! And even some funds that are marketed as “sustainable” can contain substantial investments in the oil and gas sector or fossil-fired utilities.

Your 401(k) and pension committee need to know the future risk of staying invested in coal, oil, gas and fossil fuels — and the opportunities for a more sustainable earth, as the Sun, Wind and Water provides orders of magnitude more energy than the old pressed dinosaurs in the ground.

Did you and your retirement plan decision makers know that the U.S. Dept. of Labor considers that investing for a better world can be as much a part of your fund administrator’s legal duty (also known as fiduciary duty) as investing for high returns? “Investing in the best interests of a retirement plan and in the growth of a community can go hand in hand,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez.

The first step to cleaning up our collective retirement is to build a coalition of peers and interested co-workers — Our voices will be much stronger as a group.

Press link for more: Salsa4

Will veganism save the planet? #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #Neoliberalism #Longman

By Dr Cristy Clark

I’m happy to report that, according to my highly rigorous and scientifically valid survey (okay, twitter), we are all making significant changes to our lives — both in terms of daily habits and big lifestyle choices — in order to try to protect our planet.

To give you a feel for the responses, I’ll group them into a number of key themes. The first is consumption. People are consciously reducing their consumption, avoiding ‘fast fashion’ and meat, and trying to buy locally or only second-hand. Right on theme for this year’s World Environment Day, people are also focused on eliminating their use of single use plastics by avoiding excess packaging, and bringing their own containers, water bottles, keep cups, and shopping bags.

Recycling is also a big theme, including composting, worm farming, and donating clothing. And, finally, people are taking steps to reduce their water and energy consumption — moving into smaller housing, ditching their cars (or using them as little as possible), installing insulation, using solar power and energy efficient appliances, and avoiding the clothes dryer.

To add a bit more rigour to this analysis, these responses also reflect many of the ‘climate solutions’ identified by Drawdown as being worth taking due to their impact on both emissions and environmental and community amenity.

All this being said, the fact is that people remain frustrated by the limitations of individual action and are clear that there is a pressing need for structural and systemic change. While walking and riding to work is worthwhile, inner city living is beyond the means of many people, and public transport options need improvement. Inner city residents in turn would like to grow their own food, but have little space to do so, and there are challenges with gardening in communal spaces, including finding appropriate locations and dealing with issues of soil contamination.

Other people identified big steps that they’d like to take — such as going off-grid or building passive solar housing — if only they had the money. It is also challenging to avoid plastic packaging when it is so ubiquitous, and hard to efficiently heat and cool many rental properties.

“Australia is the third fastest growing vegan market in the world, and the roughly two million Australians who have adopted a plant-based diet are now thought to pose a genuine threat to the nation’s meat and dairy industries.”

Faced with these structural barriers to change, the question naturally arises as to which actions we can take that will have the most significant impact. And, as it turns out, recent research published in Science has concluded that the most powerful individual action we can take is to make the switch to a plant-based diet.

After examining five key environmental impacts — land use, climate change emissions, air pollution water pollution, and freshwater use — researchers from Oxford University and Agroscope, Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecekd, concluded that consumers have significant power to ‘deliver environmental benefits on a scale not achievable by producers’ simply by excluding animal products from their diets.

According to their findings, which were based on a survey of 38,700 farms and 1600 processors, packaging types, and retailers, the global adoption of a vegan diet would result in a 76 per cent reduction of agricultural land use for food production, a 49 per cent reduction of emissions, 50 per cent reduction of air pollution, 49 per cent reduction of water pollution, and a 19 per cent reduction of freshwater withdrawals.

Poore and Nemecekd describe these benefits as transformative.

Interestingly, this report comes at a time when the uptake of veganism is growing significantly, both globally and in Australia. According to some reports, Australia is the third fastest growing vegan market in the world, and the roughly two million Australians who have adopted a plant-based diet are now thought to pose a genuine threat to the nation’s meat and dairy industries.

This perceived threat is considerably heightened when it comes to vegan activists. No longer content to take over the world with cupcakes, many vegans have started to take a more radical approach. On 28 April 2018, several thousand vegan activists marched through Melbourne’s CBD to draw attention to the ethical issues associated with animal agriculture. There has also been an increase in direct actions such as farm and abattoir lock-ons.

While the focus of many vegan activists is on the ethics of the industry’s commodification and treatment of animals, environmental issues also feature in these campaigns and in the motivation for many people’s decision to take action. As several vegans explained to me, the protection of the planet is fundamental to protecting both humans and animals.

While it’s true that not everyone feels ready to make the switch to a plant-based diet, it is interesting to consider the choices so many are making to help protect the planet. Many of these actions would have seemed too hard not long ago.

So, maybe the same will be said about adopting a vegan lifestyle in the not-too-distant future?

Dr Cristy Clark is a lecturer at the Southern Cross University School of Law and Justice. Her research focuses on the intersection of human rights, neoliberalism, activism and the environment, and particularly on the human right to water.

Press link for more: Eureka Street

What we can learn from China’s fight against environmental ruin #auspol #qldpol #NoNewCoal #StopAdani #ClimateChange #Longman @ElliottShayne CEO @ANZ_AU #Divestt

What we can learn from China’s fight against environmental ruin

Brett Bryan and Lei Gao

July 12, 2018 6.08am AEST

Hukou Waterfall of Yellow River, China. Leruswing /Wikimedia , CC BY-SA

A good news story about China’s environment is something you don’t hear every day. But a major review published today in Nature has found that China has made significant progress in battling the environmental catastrophes of the past century.

Our team, which included 19 scientists from 16 Australian, Chinese and US institutions, reviewed China’s 16 major programs designed to improve the sustainability of its rural environment and people.

We wanted to tell the story of China’s progress, so that other nations may learn from its experience as they strive towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

A monumental effort

From 1998, China dramatically escalated its investment in rural sustainability. Through to 2015, more than US$350 billion was invested in 16 sustainability programs, addressing more than 620 million hectares (65% of China’s land area).

This effort, while imperfect, is globally unrivalled. Its environmental objectives included:

• reducing erosion, sedimentation, and flooding in the Yangtze and Yellow rivers

• conserving forests in the north-east

• mitigating desertification in the dry north and rocky south

• reducing the impact of dust storms on the capital Beijing

• increasing agricultural productivity in China’s centre and east.

Just as important were the socio-economic objectives of poverty reduction and economic development, particularly in western China.

Programs improved livelihoods by paying farmers to implement sustainability measures on their land. Providing housing and off-farm work in China’s booming cities also boosted household incomes and reduced pressure on land.

An environmental emergency

China’s pivot towards sustainability in the late 1990s came as a type of emergency response to the heinous condition of its rural people and environment.

China has been farmed for more than 8,000 years, but by the mid-1900s the cumulative impacts of inefficient and unsustainable agricultural practices and the over-exploitation of natural resources caused widespread poverty and environmental degradation.

Floods, droughts, and other catastrophes ensued, including the Great Chinese Famine from 1959-61, which caused between 20 million and 45 million deaths.

Following the 1978 economic reforms, six sustainability programs were established, but with only modest investment conditions continued to deteriorate. By the 1990s natural forest cover was below 10% and around 5 billion tonnes of soil eroded annually, causing major water quality and sedimentation problems.

In the Loess Plateau, the worst-affected parts were losing 100 tonnes of soil per hectare each year to erosion, and the Yellow River that flowed through it had the dubious honour of being the world’s muddiest waterway.

Agricultural soils were exhausted and productivity was down, grasslands were overgrazed, and more than a quarter of China was desertified.

In the late 1990s, China experienced a series of natural disasters widely believed to have been caused by unsustainable land management, including the Yellow River drought in 1997, the Yangtze River floods in 1998, and the severe dust storms that repeatedly afflicted Beijing in 2000.

This sustainability emergency triggered a great acceleration in investment after 1998, including the launch of 11 new programs. The portfolio included iconic programs such as the Grain for Green Program, the Natural Forest Conservation Program, and the Three North Shelterbelt Program which aimed to slow and reverse desertification by planting a 4,500km Great Green Wall.

The result

After 20 years the results of these programs have been overwhelmingly positive. Deforestation has declined and forest cover has exceeded 22%. Grasslands have expanded and regenerated. Desertification trends have reversed in many areas, and while mostly driven by climatic change, restoration efforts have helped.

Soil erosion has waned substantially and water quality and river sedimentation have improved dramatically. Yellow River sediment loads have fallen by 90% and the Yangtze is not far behind. Agricultural productivity has increased through efficiency gains and technological advances. Rural households are generally better off and hunger has largely disappeared.

That said, there have also been significant unintended consequences. Afforestation – or planting trees where trees never grew – has dried up water resources and led to high rates of plantation failure.

In the most degraded areas, significant cultural disruption has occurred through the migration of entire communities to less sensitive environments. More could be done to conserve biodiversity, particularly by prioritising diverse natural forest restoration and regeneration over single-species plantations.

The precise impacts of China’s sustainability programs are clouded by other influences such as the One Child Policy and Household Responsibility System, urbanisation and development, and environmental change. Detailed and comprehensive evaluations are now needed to disentangle these factors.

Lessons from China’s experience

While the context of China’s path to sustainability is unique, other countries can learn from its experience. Nations must commit to sustainability as a long-term, large-scale public investment like education, health, defence, and infrastructure.

We do not wish to pretend that China is a global poster child of sustainability. Very serious pollution of its air, water, and soils, urban expansion, vanishing coastal wetlands and the illegal wildlife trade still dog the world’s most populous nation.

As China cleans up its domestic environment, great care needs to be taken not to simply shift problems offshore.

But to give credit where credit is due, China’s vast investment has made great strides towards improving the sustainability of rural people and nature.

China’s path towards sustainability is clearly charted in the 13th Five Year Plan where President Xi’s Chinese dream for an ecological civilization and a “beautiful China” is laid out.

Professor of Global Change, Environment, and Society, Deakin University

Senior Research Scientist, CSIRO

Brett Bryan is a Visiting Scientist at CSIRO and holds Adjunct Professorships at Beijing Normal University and The University of Tasmania. This research was part-funded by the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Climate Change Engagement Program.

Lei Gao does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Press link for more: The Conversation