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

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

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

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

Press link for more: Forbes.com

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

What are the arguments for ignoring climate change?

By Alistair Woodward

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

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


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


High water by Hans. CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.

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

Press link for more: Oxford University Press

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George Monbiot: The Pollution Paradox #auspol

The Pollution Paradox
Dirty industries spend more on politics, keeping us in the fossil age.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 19th January 2017
Make America Wait Again. That’s what Donald Trump’s energy policy amounts to. Stop all the clocks, put the technological revolution on hold, ensure that the transition from fossil fuels to clean power is delayed for as long as possible.

Trump is the president corporate Luddites have dreamt of; the man who will let them squeeze every last cent from their oil and coal reserves before they become worthless. They need him because science, technology and people’s demands for a safe and stable world have left them stranded. There is no fair fight that they can win, so their last hope lies with a government that will rig the competition.
To this end, Trump has appointed to his cabinet some of those responsible for a universal crime: inflicted not on particular nations or groups, but on everyone.


Recent research suggests that – if drastic action of the kind envisaged by the Paris agreement on climate change is not taken – ice loss in Antarctica alone could raise sea levels by a metre this century, and by 15 metres in subsequent centuries. Combine this with the melting in Greenland and the thermal expansion of seawater, and you discover that many of the world’s great cities are at existential risk.

The climatic disruption of crucial agricultural zones – in North and Central America, the Middle East, Africa and much of Asia – presents a security threat that could dwarf all others. The civil war in Syria, unless resolute policies are adopted, looks like a glimpse of a possible global future.
These are not, if the risks materialise, shifts to which we can adapt. These crises will be bigger than our capacity to respond to them. They could lead to the rapid and radical simplification of society, which means, to put it brutally, the end of civilisations and many of the people they support. If this happens, it will amount to the greatest crime ever committed. And members of Trump’s proposed cabinet are among the leading perpetrators.

In their careers so far, they have championed the fossil fuel industry while contesting the measures intended to prevent climate breakdown. They appear to have considered the need of a few exceedingly rich people to protect their foolish investments for a few more years, weighed it against the benign climatic conditions that have allowed humanity to flourish, and decided that the foolish investments are more important.
By appointing Rex Tillerson, chief executive of the oil company ExxonMobil, as secretary of state, Trump not only assures the fossil economy that it sits next to his heart; he also provides comfort to another supporter: Vladimir Putin. It was Tillerson who brokered the $500 billion deal between Exxon and the state-owned Russian company Rosneft to exploit oil reserves in the Arctic. As a result he was presented with the Russian Order of Friendship by Mr Putin.
The deal was stopped under the sanctions the US imposed when Russia invaded Ukraine. The probability of these sanctions in their current form surviving a Trump government is, to the nearest decimal place, a snowball’s chance in hell. If Russia did interfere in the US election, it will be handsomely rewarded when the deal goes ahead.
Trump’s nominations for energy secretary and interior secretary are both climate change deniers, who – quite coincidentally – have a long history of sponsorship by the fossil fuel industry. His proposed attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions, allegedly failed to disclose in his declaration of interests that he leases land to an oil company.
The man nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, has spent much of his working life campaigning against … the Environmental Protection Agency. As the attorney general in Oklahoma, he launched 14 lawsuits against the EPA, seeking, among other aims, to strike down its Clean Power Plan, its limits on the mercury and other heavy metals released by coal plants and its protection of drinking water supplies and wildlife. Thirteen of these suits were said to include as co-parties companies that had contributed to his campaign funds or to political campaign committees affiliated to him.
Trump’s appointments reflect what I call the Pollution Paradox. The more polluting a company is, the more money it must spend on politics to ensure it is not regulated out of existence. Campaign finance therefore comes to be dominated by dirty companies, ensuring that they wield the greatest influence, crowding out their cleaner rivals. Trump’s cabinet is stuffed with people who owe their political careers to filth.
It was once possible to argue, rightly or wrongly, that the human benefits of developing fossil fuel reserves might outweigh the harm. But a combination of more refined climate science, that now presents the risks in stark terms, and the plummeting costs of clean technologies renders this argument as obsolete as a coal-fired power station.

As the US burrows into the past, China is investing massively in renewable energy, electric cars and new battery technologies. The Chinese government claims that this new industrial revolution will generate 13 million jobs. This, by contrast to Trump’s promise to create millions of jobs through reanimating coal, at least has a chance of materialising. It’s not just that returning to an old technology when better ones are available is difficult; it’s also that coal mining has been automated to the extent that it now supports few jobs. Trump’s attempt to revive the fossil era will serve no one but the coal barons.
Understandably, commentators have been seeking glimpses of light in Trump’s position. But there are none. He couldn’t have made it clearer, through his public statements, the Republican platform and his appointments, that he intends to the greatest extent possible to shut down funding for both climate science and clean energy, rip up the Paris agreement, sustain fossil fuel subsidies and annul the laws that protect people and the rest of the living world from the impacts of dirty energy.
His candidacy was represented as an insurgency, challenging established power. But his position on climate change reveals what should have been obvious from the beginning: he and his team represent the incumbents, fighting off insurgent technologies and political challenges to moribund business models. They will hold back the tide of change for as long as they can. And then the barrier will burst. 

Press link for more: Monbiot.com
www. monbiot.com

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Trump could set back climate action 20 years. #auspol 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Press link for more: Yale Climate Connections

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

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


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

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

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Harvests to suffer from #climatechange #auspol 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press link for more: Science Daily

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Australian Govt. supports big polluters ignores #climate #science #auspol 

The running average of global temperatures throughout 2016 compared to recent years

This morning NASA and NOAA declared 2016 the hottest year on record. 

Sea ice is melting and the Arctic is warming at a rapid rate. 


Right now, the east coast of Australia is sweltering through heatwaves, and bushfires are blazing in NSW, Western Australia and South Australia.
The fact that we are in the midst of experiencing the impacts of dangerous global warming, made it all the more jarring when the Federal Government came out championing the big polluters that are driving global warming.


Over the last week, in an extraordinary display of cognitive dissonance, the Minister for Resources held a torch up for so called ‘clean coal,’ the Minister for the Environment spoke out in support of big gas corporations, and the Prime Minister of Australia espoused his support for coal.

The Minister for Environment kicked off the week by prosecuting the gas companies’ misleading war on supply constraints.

 He called – I believe recklessly – for states and territories to lift restrictions on polluting fossil fuels in response this confected gas supply crisis.
There is no supply problem. 

The ‘problem’ is that successive governments have built export terminals and supported big gas companies to send gas offshore – forcing Australian households to compete with China and Japan to buy gas – rather than helping households to invest in cheap renewable energy.
Yesterday, the Minister for Resources threw his weight behind so-called ‘clean coal,’ and championed clean coal as the solution to Australia’s rising greenhouse gas emissions.
It is not possible burn your way to lower emissions. The only way that we will even come close to the ambition of the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris, is to leave the coal in the ground and rapidly transition to a clean energy powered economy.
Minister Frydenberg is right about one thing, energy security is very important. But, he is wrong that we will achieve it by digging up more coal and gas and further destabilising our climate.
Not only is it absurd to suggest that our clean energy future will be powered by digging up more coal, but it is economically irresponsible. As the cost of solar and wind drops around the world, it makes no sense to pour billions of taxpayer dollars into the outdated, and polluting, technologies of the past.
That’s why the ACT has decided that we cannot wait for the Turnbull Government to get its act together. All of our electricity will be powered by clean, renewable energy by 2020 and we have a plan to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the latest.
And we’re on track. By the end of this year, almost 30% of our electricity will be powered by the sun and the wind. By 2018 that will have risen to 50%, we will be powering over three quarters of our electricity with clean, renewable energy by 2019, and 100% by 2025.
Minister Frydenberg’s calls for states and territories to lift restrictions on fossil fuels is a dangerous one, particularly when a lack of federal political leadership means it will largely fall to states and territories to take the next steps in shifting their economies towards our clean energy future.
The ACT is a great example of what subnational governments can achieve. We must not allow the federal government’s inaction to limit what we can achieve at a state and territory level, and state and territories.

Shane Rattenbury is the ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability.  

Press link for more: reneweconomy.com

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Most talked about climate papers in 2016 #science #climatechange #auspol 

Every year, thousands of scientific journal papers are published by researchers across the world, but only a tiny proportion make it into the pages of the newspapers.
Using Altmetric, we’ve compiled a list of the 25 most talked-about climate papers of 2016. You can see the Top 10 in our infographic above (zoomable version here).
Altmetric scores academic papers based on how many times they’re mentioned in online news articles and on social media platforms. You can read more about how the Altmetric scoring system works in last year’s article.
Top of the table

The highest scoring article of the year, with an Altmetric tally of 2,716, is the Nature paper “Contribution of Antarctica to past and future sea-level rise”, by Prof Robert DeConto of the University of Massachusetts and Dr David Pollard of Penn State University.
Published in March, the study found that Antarctica has the potential to contribute more than a metre of sea level rise by 2100 and more than 15 metres by 2500, if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated.

The paper had more coverage in the news than another other climate paper published in 2016. It was featured in 386 news stories and was covered by – among 271 outlets in total – the BBC, Guardian, MailOnline, Independent, Huffington Post, New York Times, Washington Post and the New Yorker.
The study made a particular splash in the US after further analysis, published in August by estate agent firm Zillow, highlighted that 1.8m of sea level rise by 2100 could put two million American homes underwater.

The paper – not the news stories – was also tweeted from 369 accounts and posted on 16 Facebook walls. Overall, the paper’s score puts it in the top 5% of all journal articles in the Altmetric database.
Runner-up

In second place is “Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change”, by lead author Dr Marco Springmann from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food at the University of Oxford.
This paper was published in March in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), which also landed a paper in second place in last year’s list.
The research found that a worldwide switch to diets that rely less on meat and more on fruit and vegetables could reduce global mortality by up to 10% and food-related greenhouse gas emissions by up to 70% by 2050.

The paper’s overall Altmetric score of 1,981 includes 203 new stories from 156 news outlets, as well as 660 tweets from 627 users. This paper scored highest for Facebook, with 115 wall posts from 109 people.
Part of the popularity of the paper stems from being referenced in a press release for the “Kickstart Your Health Rochester” programme in which doctors in New York encouraged local residents to adopt a vegan diet for three weeks in May to improve their health.
Third place

Coming in third is another PNAS paper, “Temperature-driven global sea-level variability in the Common Era,” by lead author Dr Robert Kopp of Rutgers University.
The study compiled the first-ever estimate of global sea level change over the last 3,000 years. Their headline finding – that the speed of rising seas in the 20th century was faster than during any of the previous 27 centuries – generated headlines around the world, from the Boston Globe and Bangkok Post to Le Monde and the Hindu.
With a total score of 1,800, this paper appeared in 228 news stories from 186 outlets, was tweeted by 200 users, and posted on 21 Facebook walls.
Just missing out on the medals

In fourth place, published at the very beginning of 2016, is “The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene” in Science.
This study presented evidence that the impact of humans on the Earth is so severe and so enduring that the geological time period since the mid-20th century should be declared the “Anthropocene”.
This paper was one of the most tweeted about in our Top 25, with 904 tweets from 853 users, reaching a potential of more than three million followers.
The Anthropocene was also the subject of a feature article in Carbon Brief in October, which explored the history of the idea and the debate among geologists on whether they will formally inscribe a new epoch into their books.

In fifth is a paper that sounds like it could be the plot of a James Bond film. “The abandoned ice sheet base at Camp Century, Greenland, in a warming climate”, published in Geophysical Research Letters, assessed the possible fate of a US military base built in 1959 beneath the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet.
This nuclear-powered “city under the ice” doubled as a top secret site to study the feasibility of deploying missiles from the Arctic. The base was abandoned in 1967, under the assumption that all its chemical, biological, and radioactive wastes would forever be preserved in ice. However, the study shows that ice sheet melt as a result of climate change could uncover these wastes by the end of the century.
Completing the Top 10

Elsewhere in the Top 10, coming sixth is “Climate change decouples drought from early wine grape harvests in France” in Nature Climate Change.
This research found that increasingly hot summers are pushing wine grapes in French vineyards to mature earlier in the year. While this could bring some good years for French wine in the near future, it doesn’t bode well for the longer term, the researchers told Carbon Brief when we covered the paper in March.
The study was the second-most covered in the news of our Top 25, presumably because the fate of wine is a subject close to the hearts of many.

The topic of the paper in ninth place is quite a hot potato in climate science. “Greening of the Earth and its drivers”, published in Nature Climate Change, showed that up to half of the Earth’s vegetation-covered land is now “greener” than it was 30 years ago – mostly caused by rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere.
But any benefits of “CO2 fertilisation” may be temporary and are outweighed by the negative consequences of climate change, one of the authors told Carbon Brief.
And while the general principles of CO2 fertilisation are known, there is still much to learn about how these processes will act in future as the world continues to warm, said Prof Richard Betts, head of climate impacts research at the Met Office Hadley Centre, in a guest post for Carbon Brief.
Completing the Top 10 is “Consequences of twenty-first-century policy for multi-millennial climate and sea-level change” in Nature Climate Change. The paper aimed to tackle the “misleading impression in the public arena” that human-caused climate change is merely a 21st century problem.
Projecting changes in temperature and sea levels for the next 10,000 years, the researchers find that greenhouse gas emissions could eventually lead to 7.5C of warming and global sea level rise of 25-52m. With such stark results, it’s no surprise that the paper caught people’s attention.
Final score

If you want a closer look at the final scores, we’ve compiled all the data for the Top 25 climate papers of 2016 here. And there’s just space for a few honourable mentions…
Just missing out on the Top 10 in 11th place is “Observed Arctic sea-ice loss directly follows anthropogenic CO2 emission” in Science. This novel study calculated that for every tonne of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere, summer sea ice cover in the Arctic shrinks by three square metres.

Number 14 on the list is “Evidence for climate change in the satellite cloud record”, published in Nature, which used satellite data to gather evidence on how cloud patterns have changed in recent decades. The findings are another “brick in the wall” that “supports our confidence in the mainstream view of climate science,” a scientist not involved in the study told Carbon Brief.
Last month, scientists from the University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project released their annual stocktake of global CO2 emissions. Their paper, “Global Carbon Budget 2016”, published in Earth System Science Data, comes in 16th for 2016.
Their figures revealed that the amount of CO2 we put into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, gas flaring and cement production has held steady for three years in a row. But it’s too early to say whether this constitutes a peak in global emissions, one of the scientists told Carbon Brief.
Elsewhere in the Top 25 are “Millions projected to be at risk from sea-level rise in the continental United States” in Nature Climate Change (21st), and “Climate change: The 2015 Paris Agreement thresholds and Mediterranean basin ecosystems” in Science (25th). You can read more about both in our coverage here and here, respectively, when the papers were originally published.
Overall, the Top 25 is made up of six papers each from journals Science and Nature Climate Change, followed by three in Nature, two each in Environmental Research Letters and PNAS, and one in each of Earth System Science Data, Geophysical Research Letters, Nature Geoscience, Progress in Human Geography, Science Advances, and The Lancet.
Top infographic by Rosamund Pearce for Carbon Brief.
Press link for more: Carbon Brief

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It’s Time To Stand Up For Climate And Civilisation! #science #democracy #auspol 

DURING HIS CAMPAIGN for president, Donald Trump promised to end action on climate change and kill the climate treaty adopted in 2015 in Paris. 


To truly understand why that’s such a big deal—perhaps the biggest deal ever—you need to think about a few things.
Yes, you need to think about the oft-repeated but nonetheless true and alarming statistics: 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded till 2015 snatched the crown—till 2016 obliterated the record. Last summer featured some of the hottest days ever reliably recorded on this planet: 128 degrees Fahrenheit in cities like Basra, Iraq—right at the edge of human endurance. Global sea ice has been at a record low in recent months.

Think about the slow, difficult, centuries-long march of science that got us to the point where we could understand our peril. 

Think of Joseph Fourier in the 1820s, realizing that gases could trap heat in the atmosphere; John Tyndall in the middle of that century, figuring out that carbon dioxide is one of those gases; and the valiant Svante Arrhenius in the 1890s, calculating by hand how the global temperature rises in lockstep with carbon dioxide levels.

 Think of Hans Suess and Roger Revelle in the 1950s, fumbling toward an understanding that the oceans would not absorb excess CO2—the first modern realization that CO2 must be accumulating in the atmosphere and hence, as Revelle put it, “human beings are now carrying out a large-scale geophysical experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past nor be reproduced in the future.” 

Think of Charles Keeling in 1958, installing the first real CO2 monitor on the side of Mauna Loa and for the first time watching the CO2 level steadily rise. 

Think of the scientists who built on that work, using satellites and ocean buoy sensors to erect a scaffolding of observations; think of the theorists who used that data and the new power of supercomputers to build models that by the 1980s had made it clear we faced great danger. 

Think of the men and women who educated those scientists and who built the institutions in which they were educated and who organized the learned societies that supported them. 

And think of the forums—like the UN and its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—that brought them together from across the planet to combine their knowledge.

The Paris accord would limit the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius—unless the incoming administration dismantles it.JONATHAN RAA/PACIFIC PRESS/LIGHTROCKET/GETTY IMAGES

All this, taken together, is one part of what we call civilization.
Now think of the men and women of the diplomatic corps, who over generations have learned to build bridges across nations, to sometimes reconcile disputes short of war. 

The Paris accord was a triumph for them, not because it solved the problem (it didn’t, not even close) but because it existed at all. Somehow 195 nations—rich and poor, those with oil beneath their sand and those that have to import it—managed to agree that we should limit the rise in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius this century and set up an intricate architecture to at least begin the process. That too is an aspect of what we call civilization.
None of this should be taken for granted. The building blocks of our common home—science and diplomacy and also civility—are hard-won, and history would indicate that they can fade fast. In fact, we now seem likely to start tossing them away based on nothing but the politically useful whim that climate change is a hoax. When Trump announced on the campaign trail that he would “cancel” the Paris agreement, it represented an assault on civilization as surely as announcing that he would jail his political opponent represented an assault on democracy. He’s backed down from the latter plan and, under pressure, said he now has an “open mind” about Paris—though his chief of staff clarified that his “default position” is that climate change is bunk. 

In any event, he has packed his transition team and cabinet with a small band of climate deniers who have blocked action for years. Already they’ve announced their intention to end NASA’s climate research, which has been a bulwark of the scientific edifice. 

If they have their way, there will be no more satellites carefully measuring the mass of ice sheets so we can track their melt, no more creative and fascinating “missions to planet Earth” that the space agency has run so successfully. We seem intent on blinding ourselves, on ripping out the smoke detectors even as the house begins to burn.
Trump’s team can’t, by themselves, change everything.

 Engineers and entrepreneurs have done their jobs magnificently over the past decade, as the price of a solar panel has fallen 80 percent. 

Because of that work, the potential for rapid change is finally at hand. 

Denmark generated nearly half its power from wind in 2015, and not because it cornered the world’s supply of breeze. Given the new economics of renewable energy, progress will continue.

 But the climate question has never been about progress per se; we know that eventually we’ll move to the sun and wind. The issue has always been about pace, and now Trump will add serious friction, quite likely shifting the trajectory of our path enough that we will never catch up with the physics of climate change. 

Other assaults on civilization and reason eventually wore themselves out—fascism, communism, imperialism.

 But there’s no way to wait out climate change, because this test has a timer on it. 

Melt enough ice caps and you live on a very different planet. 

Either we solve this soon or we don’t solve it. 

And if we don’t, then the cascading crises that follow (massive storms, waterlogged cities, floods of migrants) will batter our societies in new ways that we are ill prepared to handle, as the xenophobia of this election season showed.

Which is why we need to rise to the occasion. Not only in our day jobs but in our roles as citizens—of city, state, country, planet.

 Engineers should, by all means, keep developing the next generation of batteries; but that work is merely necessary now, not sufficient. 

We must not watch idly as Trump takes a hammer to the mechanisms of our civilization, mechanisms that can’t be rebuilt in the time we have. 

We need to resist in all the nonviolent ways that we’ve learned over the past century and in new ones that the moment suggests. 

There will be marches and divestment campaigns, pressure to be put on city halls and statehouses. We will not lack for opportunity. If many join in, then civilization will not just endure but will emerge stronger for the testing, able to face our problems with renewed vigor. At best, it’s going to be a very close call.


Bill McKibben is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and founder of global grassroots climate campaign 350.org.”

Press link for more: Wired.com

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Australia joining US in openly trashing global climate efforts. #auspol 

Australia joining US in openly trashing global climate efforts.
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Here we are – Donald Trump is about to become the 45th president of the United States and we have to prepare for the onslaught.

It beggars belief that in 2016 an outright climate change denier could rise to the highest office in the US, dragging with him a Republican controlled Congress hungry to revive the old glory days of coal, gas and oil, not to mention a Secretary of State that until last month ran the biggest oil company on earth.

McKibben (black cap) was among activists arrested outside the White House in 2013 protesting against the proposed expansion of the Keystone oil pipeline. Two years later, the expansion was canned. Photo: Getty Images

Yet while Australians may groan and worry at the destruction that Trump will bring, take a look at your own Trump-like administration.
Washington DC may be awash with fossil fuel operatives, but Australia is no stranger to fossil fuel barons holding political sway either – indeed, you elected one to Parliament a few years ago in the form of Clive Palmer. 

And as Trump thrusts the US firmly into a position as international climate pariah, we are sadly joining Australia as two rogue developed nations openly trashing global climate efforts.


Bill McKibben warns Australia risks missing out on the new jobs and investment opportunities offered by renewable energy industries. Photo: Nic Walker

Similarly, while Trump and his team talks big about slashing environmental regulations and opening up new federal lands to drilling, the Turnbull Government is pushing ahead to develop the first new minerals basin in 40 years through the Adani coal mine project in Queensland.
Driven by Resource Minister – and coal zealot – Senator Matt Canavan, the Adani proposal runs roughshod over the wishes of the local Traditional Owners and the glaringly obvious science that shows to stay within the safe limit of 2 degrees of warming there can be no new fossil fuel projects.
If all the coal in this mega mine is dug up and burned it will produce as much pollution as all the European Union countries put together and would put not only the Great Barrier Reef in harm’s way but clearly the global climate.
The call for no new coal, oil and gas is not an ideological position. It is basic physics. It is the Trump and Turnbull governments that are pursuing their dangerous ideological agendas in the face of facts, science and the Paris climate agreement.


Let’s be clear – there is no mandate for these governments to destroy the global climate. Trump was not exactly swept into office – he lost the popular vote by more than 3 million people and aided by mass electoral interference by a foreign country.
I have met Malcolm Turnbull and I actually believe he wants (or once wanted) to see action on climate change. He believes, I think, in the role of science and innovation to create a cleaner future and a strong economy, but is being held hostage by fringe elements in his party and sadly seems unable to provide strong leadership. He has shrunk into his role and allowed rabid climate deniers to prevent Australia from benefiting from the rapidly growing low-carbon economy.

The fossil fuel era now has an expiry date. Investors know it, businesses know it and global markets know it.
Large scale renewable energy projects are now cheaper than new coal power plants and every year the costs get cheaper. This year China has pledged to spend $US360 billion ($482 billion) over the next four year on renewable projects. This is as much as the whole world spent over the past four years.
Can you imagine what this will mean for clean technology in China? Not only will it create 13 million new jobs, but an investment of this size will drive even greater innovation. By vacating this space not only are Australia and the US blocking faster action on climate change, they are opting to miss out on the new jobs and investment opportunities offered by these industries.
We all have a role to play in ensuring our governments remain culpable for their failures and seize the opportunities of tomorrow. When our governments and laws fail to act in our best interests we have a responsibility to step up and take action.
That is why I will continue to protest the Donald Trump Presidency and all it stands for. I expect my friends in Australia to do the same. The next few years are going to test us. But with the cresting power of clean energy at our backs, we have a chance.
​Bill McKibben is the founder of 350.org, an author and former New Yorker staff writer.

Press link for more: smh.com.au