Geoengineering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press link for more: USA TODAY

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A “Clarion Call” from industry on #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Investors, now we have your attention on climate change

January 3 2018

A clarion call from within the industry, and a costly taste of climate reality, saw investors finally wake up to global warming in 2017.

Investors have tended to downplay their role in combating climate change, preferring to cast themselves as helpless bystanders against a lack of stable and clear policy.

The costs of climate change impacts, and the transformation to a low-carbon economy, present an array of financial risks for investors. Photo: Jessica Shapiro JLS

In Australia, you can see why this argument is effective.

Last year, our climate and energy debate has included the Treasurer Scott Morrison gleefully waving a lump of coal around in parliament as Australia suffers a record-breaking heatwave, the Resources Minister Matt Canavan championing the idea of using public money to build a new coal power station, and renewable energy incentives cut against the advice of our Chief Scientist.

Already over 1ºC of warming, the rate of temperature increase is accelerating, making the challenge of outpacing the threat with remedial action even greater. Photo: a

But the reality is this argument from investors is bogus, regardless of how stable or chaotic the policy context is.

Aside from the principle that the owners of the economy should shoulder some responsibility for its outcomes, a far more compelling argument to investors took hold in 2017: climate risk.

The costs of climate change impacts, and the transformation to a low-carbon economy present an array of financial risks that manifest in the portfolios of investors.

This was the case put by the Financial Stability Board, which set up a Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) to guide investors on how to assess climate risk.

Its final recommendations were released in June and by December the TCFD had the support of over 150 financial firms, responsible for assets of over $US81.7 trillion.

The increased expectation was also starting to get results from companies.

After several failed attempts, investors successfully passed a resolution calling on Exxon Mobil to disclose the risks to its business if the world succeeds in holding global warming below 2ºC.

Australian companies were also starting to move.

By the end of 2017, seven companies had produced scenario analyses of how they stack up in a low carbon economy, with another 12 committed to implement the TCFD recommendations in some form.

Increasing awareness of climate risk also made for a stronger argument that investors divest or withhold finance from companies and projects that have no place in a low-carbon economy.

Banks that had already excluded lending to coal mines and power stations also ruled out extreme oil projects such as tar sands.

NAB and Westpac formally restricted lending to coal, while Commonwealth Bank and ANZ signalled their exposure to coal would continue to fall over time.

The World Bank, which had already excluded coal lending, would do the same for upstream oil and gas from 2019.

AXA made one of the last and the largest divestment announcements of 2017 as the global insurer sold €3.1 billion worth of coal and tar sands stocks.

Financial institutions also received a taste of what physical climate change risk looks like.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which battered the Caribbean and US Gulf Coast last year, resulted in over a dozen insurance companies recording massive losses.

European insurer Hannover Re took the dramatic step of selling its entire stock portfolio, worth almost €1 billion, to cover the cost of natural hazard claims, while questions were being asked whether the insurance industry could even survive climate change.

If 2017 was the year when investors woke up to the significance of climate risk, 2018 needs to be when finance and investment shifts en masse away from activities that threaten a safe climate future.

We are seriously running out of time if we want to keep a lid on global warming and avoid the worst climate change impacts. 2017 is already expected to join 2015 and 2016 as the three hottest years on record.

Already over 1ºC of warming, the rate of temperature increase is accelerating, making the challenge of outpacing the threat with remedial action even greater.

Seven Australian companies producing scenario analyses of how they perform in a low-carbon economy is a start, and nothing more.

There are dozens of other companies in the ASX200 that are still not bothering, or openly dismissing the idea of managing climate risk.

Investors might feel good by targeting 100+ companies to lead on climate risk disclosure, but when there are over 770 companies just in the global coal supply chain, this is far too narrow a focus.

And with no room left in the carbon budget to expand the fossil fuel industry, policies of financial institutions need to reflect climate reality, even if that means leaving governments behind.

Whether for moral reasons or sheer self-interest, investors have every reason to kick climate risk out of the economy as quickly as possible.

Julien Vincent is the executive director of Market Forces.

Press link for more: SMH.Com

How to Save Humanity #StopAdani #Cop23 #Qldvotes

How to Save Humanity: 15,000 Scientists Urge Action Before ‘Vast Human Misery’ Takes Over

By Sydney Pereira On 11/13/17 at 12:25 PM

More than 15,000 scientists signed a warning letter to humanity.

Its namesake? “A Second Notice.”

These experts are warning humanity for the second time against catastrophic biodiversity loss and widespread misery for humans, in a cautionary message for humans to make major changes.

The open letter, signed by 15,364 scientists from 184 countries, was published on Monday in BioScience.

The massive group of scientists, led by William J. Ripple of Oregon State University, is pleading for humans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, phase out fossil fuels, reduce deforestation, and reverse the trend of collapsing biodiversity.

“Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out,” the authors concluded.

“We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.”

An aerial view of a deforested Amazonian jungle is seen close to Maraba, in Brazil’s central state of Para in this May 3, 2009 file photo. Reuters

It is the 25th anniversary since thousands of scientists signed a letter warning humanity back in 1992 in the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity.” On Monday, scientists are saying humanity has mostly failed at solving the problems that will be likely to lead to “vast human misery,” according to the first letter.

Since 1960, freshwater resources and vertebrate species have decreased by around 25 percent.

Marine dead zones have skyrocketed by three-quarters.

Carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 62 percent since 1960.

The human population has increased by 35 percent and livestock by 20 percent.

“Moreover,” the authors write, “we have unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century.”

Binata Pinataw stands on top of a rock holding a fish her husband Kaibakia just caught off Bikeman islet, located off South Tarawa in the central Pacific island nation of Kiribati May 25, 2013. With surrounding sea levels rising, Kiribati President Anote Tong has predicted his country will likely become uninhabitable in 30-60 years because of inundation and contamination of its freshwater supplies. Reuters

The one shining light is the decrease of ozone-depleting chemicals by 68 percent.

Earlier this month, the ozone hole was the smallest measured since 1988 (though still 2.5 times the size of the U.S.).

“The rapid global decline in ozone-depleting substances shows that we can make positive change when we act decisively,” they wrote. “We have also made advancements in reducing extreme poverty and hungry.”

Other global successes include: decline in fertility rates, decline in deforestation, and rapid growth in the renewable-energy sector, all of which are happening in certain regions.

Within the doom-and-gloom disastrous future that scientists have predicted in their research, they offered several solutions.

Though neither easy nor simple, they could reverse or at least curb humanity’s current trajectory.

One solution, likely the most obvious: Phase out fossil fuels and increase green technologies and renewable energy.

Plus, divest from fossil fuels altogether.

Divestment—which refers to the ending of monetary investments of fossil fuels—would “encourage positive environmental change.”

Protestors with a giant silver baloon which symbolizes carbon emissions stand behind a banner with the message, “Divest. Keep it in the Ground” asking investment funds to move their money out of fossil fuels at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) in Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 2, 2015. Reuters

Eating more plant-based foods would also curb the impending doom scientists predict, as well as reducing food waste overall.

How to do that, they wrote, is through education and better infrastructure.

The letter urges us all to prioritize reserves for the world’s land, marine, freshwater, and aerial habitats—particularly those that are well-funded and well-managed. Maintaining nature’s “ecosystem services” by ending the conversion of forests, grasslands, and other native habitats was another recommendation.

Ecosystem services are services that humans can benefit from by letting nature function normally.

Those two recommendations above relate to three other recommendations: restoring native plant communities, rewilding regions with native species, and implementing adequate policy to end the poaching crisis.

Fire burns part of an estimated 105 tonnes of ivory and a tonne of rhino horn confiscated from smugglers and poachers at the Nairobi National Park near Nairobi, Kenya, April 30, 2016. Reuters

Reproductive healthcare also made its way into the list of recommendations. Increasing education and voluntary family-planning services—especially where those resources are lacking—could reduce fertility rates. The human population has increased by 35 percent since 1992, the letter said, which adds further stress on Earth’s resources. They advise to estimate a scientifically defensible and sustainable population size for the long term.

The economic structure should address wealth inequalities in order to ensure that prices, taxation, and incentive systems take into account the cost of consumption patterns on the environment. General appreciation of nature, and an increase in nature education for children could help, too.

They ended with a positive message, writing: “We can make great progress for the sake of humanity and the planet on which we depend.”

Press link for more: Newsweek.com

Climate Change & the Human mind #StopAdani #Auspol 

Climate Change and the Human Mind: 

A Noted Psychiatrist Weighs In
Author Robert Jay Lifton has probed the psyches of barbaric Nazi doctors and Hiroshima survivors. 

Now, he is focusing on how people respond to the mounting evidence of climate change and is finding some reasons for hope.
Interview
By Diane Toomey • October 26, 2017
Psychiatrist and historian Robert Jay Lifton has delved deep into the some of the darkest issues and most traumatic events of the 20th century with his research into the mindset of Nazi doctors, terrorism, the experiences of prisoners of war, and the aftermath of nuclear attack, which he chronicled in Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima, winner of a National Book Award.
Now, at the age of 91, Lifton has turned his attention to climate change. In his new book, The Climate Swerve: Reflections on Mind, Hope, and Survival, Lifton argues that we are living through a time of increasing recognition of the reality of climate change, a psychological shift he refers to as a “swerve,” driven by evidence, economics, and ethics. 

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 Robert Jay Lifton

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Lifton talks about how far into this swerve we are, how natural disasters are critical in changing people’s minds about climate change, and the losing battle the Trump administration is fighting by continuing to deny the science behind global warming. 

“It’s becoming more and more difficult to take the stand of climate rejection,” he says, “because there is so much evidence of climate change and so much appropriate fear about its consequences.”

e360: You’ve written about fragmentary awareness shifting to formed awareness. 

What is the difference between the two, and where are we on that continuum in terms of climate change?
Lifton: Fragmentary awareness consists of a series of images that may be fleeting, and in that sense fragmentary. 

In relation to nuclear weapons, it has to do with the weapons themselves, some Hiroshima film or pictures, descriptions about deterrents, and hydrogen bombs.
Formed awareness is more structured awareness, so that there’s a narrative. 

There’s a cause and effect – hydrogen bombs actually creating the possibility of literally destroying the world and killing every last human being on it. 

And there was, in that way, an image that was clear and sequential – a narrative, a story. And there’s a parallel with climate. 

With climate images, when they’re fragmentary, we may have an image of a storm here, of sea rise here, a little bit of flooding there, the drought. 

But when that becomes a formed image involving global warming and climate change, we take in the idea of carbon emissions leading to human effects on climate change and endangering us. And in that same narrative, there can be mitigating actions to limit climate change.

e360: Are we now entrenched in the formed awareness stage or are we on the verge of that?
Lifton: It’s hard to say exactly, but we’re moving toward formed awareness. Or putting it another way, there’s much greater formed awareness than in previous time. When you just follow the reports, the discussions of causation, you find more and more statements about carbon emissions causing climate change, human responsibility for a radical increase in global warming, and the necessity of taking significant steps toward mitigating these effects.
I think one has to look at the Paris Accord in late 2015 as epitomizing this kind of formed awareness on a universal, on what I call a “species,” basis. It doesn’t mean that we’re perfectly clear on everything and that there aren’t still fragmentary tendencies, but it does mean that there is more and more formed awareness, of a kind that can lead to constructive action.
e360: You say that formed awareness doesn’t guarantee climate wisdom, but is necessary to it. What does guarantee climate wisdom?
Lifton: Sometimes people say, “Well, how can you be so optimistic?” I’m not expressing wild optimism so much as a form of hope. It’s quite possible now, because of the formed awareness, to take wise action. Without the climate swerve and the increasingly formed awareness, no such action would be possible. So that represents a shift going on that’s highly significant and that is hopeful, but it doesn’t promise the next step, those actions. 
“What I’m calling the climate swerve is something profound. It won’t go away. The climate rejecters are fighting a losing battle.”

e360: Of course, we’re discussing these issues with the backdrop of the Trump administration. Just a few days ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency canceled talks by three of its scientists who were scheduled to present on climate change at a scientific conference in Rhode Island. So there are certainly forces pushing any swerve the other way. How concerned are you about that?
Lifton: I’m very concerned about it. The Trump administration, in rejecting climate change and global warming, is doing profound damage every day. And it has to do with canceling regulations and trying to silence scientists and prevent them from expressing and bringing truths to the public.
In my book, I characterize Trump and people like [EPA Administrator Scott] Pruitt and others not so much anymore as climate deniers. 

I call them what I think is more accurate, “climate rejecters.” They, like everyone else, have to know in some part of their minds, that climate change is quite real and dangerous.

 They reject this knowledge as their primary conviction or source of action. 

They reject the knowledge because it’s incompatible with their worldview, their sense of identity, their anti-government and governance bias, and with all they would have to do and be if they were to take in these truths. 

(Malcolm Turnbull & Barnaby Joyce Australian Climate Rejectors)

It’s becoming, I’ll argue, more and more difficult to take the stand of climate rejection, because there is so much evidence of climate change and so much appropriate fear about its consequences. 

And I think we have to, on the one hand, see this as an emergency, and on the other hand recognize that what I’m calling the climate swerve is something profound. 

It won’t go away. 

The climate rejecters are fighting a losing battle.

e360: You cite the three forces of experience, economics and ethics as pushing the climate swerve. 

Do you see any one of those three most forcefully leading the swerve at the moment?
Lifton: Probably the economics of it are most consequential in relationship to taking fairly quick action against global warming and climate change. 

There is this trend in general toward recognizing that the carbon economy is not reliable and could cause us all to suffer. 

And there are groups that advise large corporations about ways that climate change could harm their business, their operations. 

And you find many corporations and much of the business community deeply concerned about the problems of climate change. 

So the economics of it become crucial.


But you need, also, the public response. 

That comes from the experience of it — the experience of droughts, floods, wildfires, extraordinary hurricanes, all that we’ve been witnessing quite recently — so that climate change is no longer a thing of the projected future. 

It’s with us now. 

And that’s a difference in our relationship to time with climate change. 

Then the ethics follow from the experience and the economics. 

People begin to wonder about the ethics of taking from harmful oil and gas reserves that if burnt would threaten human future. 

That is a kind of ethical quandary. 

It shouldn’t be, of course, and it’s being recognized for the absurdity that it is, with more and more pressure to keep those so-called stranded assets underground and protect them from what I call “stranded ethics.”

“The mind can contradict itself; it can believe one thing one day and something else another day.”

e360: You write that swerves by their very nature are not orderly, and that this one seems particularly haphazard and, in almost all of its details, unpredictable. 

How so?
Lifton: Human beings are not linear, orderly creatures. 

We’re more complicated than that. And in the various studies I’ve done, the mind can contradict itself; it can believe one thing one day and something else another day.

 And we know that behavior is an adaptation to circumstances. 

Well, belief can be an adaptation to circumstances also.
All that is by way of saying that beliefs change, and that we’re erratic, our psyches can be quite erratic in general. 

That said, there can still be noted significant trends. 

So we have a swerve that’s irregular. 

The very term suggests irregularity in its origins from Lucretius, the Roman poet millennia ago. And yet, it can be quite definite in its direction. 

It’s been affecting us in recent decades, in my view, in profound ways. 

There’s a temptation to give up on it when we see powerful figures like Trump and Pruitt do the harm they’re doing to our country and to the world. 

But I think it’s crucial that we recognize the importance and the power of what I’m calling the climate swerve, which really amounts to species awareness of the danger that we face, along with a capacity to take the necessary steps to avoid, really, the end of our civilization.


e360: You write that, “The most important outcome of the [Paris climate] meeting may well have been enhanced awareness that we are all members of a single, threatened species.” 

In the U.S., at least right now, it doesn’t feel like the zeitgeist is “we’re in this all together.” 

But you take great hope from the Paris Agreement, don’t you?
Lifton: I take great hope from the possibilities it raised. 

I’ve never seen it as sufficient unto itself. 

In all struggle, in all movements, there’s never a kumbaya moment. 

There’s never a moment of satori, where everything is realized. 

Rather, there’s a continuous struggle with ups and downs. 

And with the election of Trump and all that he represents, and the extremity of his dangerous behavior in relation to climate, with all that, of course there has been a reaction and a response of, call it massive depression in relation to appropriate climate action. 
“In all struggle, in all movements, there’s never a kumbaya moment. There’s never a moment of satori, where everything is realized.”

Having said that, I think we should recognize the larger picture that even Trump has trouble extricating us from Paris. 

When there was this extreme reaction, angry reaction, all through the country with governors and mayors and all through the world with European countries, and an insistence on carrying through with the Paris commitments, he backtracked. And it’s unclear now whether we’ve extricated ourselves from Paris. 

The explanations or interpretations given by his administration are, as is frequently the case, unclear: “Yes, we will go to meetings about climate. 

Yes, maybe we can negotiate climate change. Yes, we’re still withdrawing from Paris.” The whole thing is uncertain because of the pressure of the swerve and the degree to which it’s taken hold.
e360: You write in your book that, “Nuclear and climate threats have both undergone malignant forms of normalization that suppress and distort our perceptions of their danger.” With regard to climate change, do you see fixes that involve geoengineering in the same light of malignant normalization?
Lifton: Yes. I see the vast projections of geoengineering as what I call a “rescue technology.” It’s calling upon technology to take over from what we human beings have been unable to solve in our own minds, even though it’s our responsibility to do exactly that. 

I see [geoengineering] as a desperate last stand, very ill-advised, and as a form of sometimes justifying the failure to take the necessary action in relation to climate change. And in that way, it could support what I call the “malignant normality” of climate change. 

Just going about things as they are now in this ultimate absurdity, as I call it.
e360: At the end of your book, you give an articulate explanation of why you, as a 91-year-old who will not see the worst effects of climate change, care about this issue. 

Could you share a bit of that now?
Lifton: It’s sometimes assumed that when one reaches the last stages of life, one shouldn’t have to care about the human future.

 One, after all, won’t be there. 

But it can be the reverse for many of us, and I think I’m hardly alone in this. If one considers oneself, as I do, part of the human flow, part of the Great Chain of Being, part of human connectedness, which extends from generation to generation, of course it includes one’s own children and grandchildren — and I have those.

 But it’s more than that.

 It’s continuing the human chain that one has been a part of. And in my case, that I sought to in some ways contribute to, in a modest fashion, all through my life in my work.

Press link for more: E360.Yale.edu

Hope is essential to save the planet. #StopAdani #auspol 

We saved the whale. The same vision can save the planet | Susanna Rustin
Susanna RustinFriday 18 August 2017 16.00 AEST

 

Illustration by Mark Long

“Hope is essential – despair is just another form of denial,” Al Gore said last week, in an interview to promote the sequel to his 2006 climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth. 

As well as the very bad news of Donald Trump’s science-denying presidency, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, which opens in the UK today, brings good news: the plummeting cost of renewable electricity and the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

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In 2017, denial of the facts of climate change – and myriad linked dangers including air and ocean pollution, famine and a refugee crisis the likes of which we can hardly imagine – is in retreat, with the Trump administration the malignant exception. 

Virtually all governments know that climate change is happening, and polls show most people do too – with those living in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa particularly worried.

 The question is not whether global warming is happening, but what we are going to do about it. 

There are, and need to be, many answers to this. 

Gore believes the solutions to climate change are within reach, if people can only find the political will to enact them.

 Even if how to whip up sufficient zeal to make this happen remains a puzzle, his essential message is one of optimism.


Others are less sanguine. 

A widely shared article by David Wallace-Wells in New York magazine last month sketching out some worst-case scenarios included an interview with pioneering climate scientist Wally Broecker, now 84, who no longer believes even the most drastic reductions in carbon emissions are sufficient to avert disaster. 

Instead, he puts his hopes in carbon capture and geoengineering. 

Others oppose anything that smacks of a techno-fix, believing the very idea that human ingenuity can get us out of this mess is yet another form of denial.
The human reaction – or lack of one – to climate change is a subject of interest in itself.

 The novelist Amitav Ghosh wrote The Great Derangement, a book about why fiction writers mostly ignore the subject, and argued that the profound alteration of Earth’s climate is difficult to think about. 

Wallace-Wells, in New York magazine, refers to “an incredible failure of imagination”. 

Politics, supposed to help us make sense of the world, has sometimes been more hindrance than help: is climate change really an inconvenient truth, because it means we have to give up eating beef and taking long-distance flights, or a too-convenient truth for anti-capitalists who want to bring down the financial system?
Such left-right binarism, and the relentlessly partisan nature of US politics, is surely why Gore now prefers to frame climate change more as a “moral” issue than as a political one. 

But the clearest and simplest message from his decade of advocacy is the need for action at every level. 

Such action takes many forms, ranging from protests against the Dakota Access pipeline in the US to anti-fracking demonstrations in Lancashire. 

This year the Guardian in conjunction with Global Witness is documenting the deaths of people all over the world who are killed while attempting to defend the environment from damage or destruction.

In a similar vein, the Natural History Museum has chosen its revamped central hall to showcase a key moment for environmental activism. 

When it was first announced that Dippy the dinosaur would be replaced with a blue whale skeleton that had previously hung quietly among the mammals, there were grumbles.

 But a month after its grand reopening in the presence of royalty and Sir David Attenborough, the revamped museum is a smash hit with more than 115,000 visitors a week.
Partly this is because the installation of the skeleton brings Alfred Waterhouse’s 1870s terracotta building, with its marvellous moulded monkeys, back to life in the most magnificent way. 

Whereas visitors once mostly stuck to the ground floor until they joined the procession to the dinosaurs, the aerial position of the whale bones now draws people upstairs. From an overcrowded lobby, Hintze Hall has been raised into a wondrous public space.
But the whale, which died as a result of being stranded off the coast of Ireland in 1891, is more than a 19th-century relic. 

What the museum has done by giving this vast, dead creature such prominence is to issue a warning and a call to action. 

And it makes no bones about this: “Rescued from the brink of extinction in the 1960s, the blue whale is a symbol of hope for the future of the natural world,” says the information panel. 

“Threats such as marine pollution and climate change linger – the blue whale remains a vulnerable and endangered species.”


Like the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, which stopped growing after a 1987 treaty phased out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), whale conservation is one of the global environmental movement’s greatest success stories. 

Blue whales were critically endangered, until activists persuaded governments to legislate to save them, and the museum’s new exhibit is called Hope.
Optimism alone won’t halt climate change, or prevent further extinctions. 

But like Gore, the director of the Natural History Museum, Michael Dixon, and his colleagues understand that the most vital currency of the environmental movement is hope.

 With the knowledge we now have of climate change’s likely consequences, the alternative is nihilism.
• Susanna Rustin is a Guardian columnist

Press link for more: The Guardian

Messing with the Earth’s climate is risky business. #StopAdani #auspol 

Can we cure Climate Change? 

Scientists Debate If We Should

By Elana Glowatz
Scientists are debating if there is a way to stop Earth’s climate from changing or even help the planet cool down — and, if they can do such work, whether or not they should.
Offsetting the effect of greenhouse gas emissions is a complicated science called geoengineering. 

In ideas that have been proposed, experts would either have to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or tinker with the system so that more of the sun’s radiation reflects back into space or more heat can escape the Earth. 

But any effort to cool off the planet could have unintended consequences, assuming it is first performed accurately and effectively. 

Three separate articles just published in the journal Science focus on those concepts and concerns.

Read: When Will It Rain in the Middle East? 

Climate Study Says in 10,000 Years
Scientists from the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative warn in their article that the world will have to work together to choose a solution, rather than allowing a single person, country or small group of countries to make a choice and run with it.

 That could “further destabilize a world already going through rapid change” if something goes wrong.
But even in the case of the world’s leaders deciding upon a solution together, messing with the Earth’s climate is a risky business.
“In so doing, we may expose the world to other serious risks, known and unknown,” the authors say.
When it comes to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, such work “would need to be implemented at very large scales to have the desired effect,” according to the scientists. That takes up a lot of land, which could put a squeeze on the agricultural industry, thus affecting food prices and availability. Such a method could also affect biodiversity.
Solar radiation management, the process through which scientists would change the amount of radiation reflecting back into space as opposed to reaching Earth, is no less perilous. The scientists foresee effects on the cycle through which water evaporates from the surface and returns as precipitation, changing rain patterns and doing nothing to slow down the acidification of the ocean.
earth-sun-iss


The sun shines down on Earth, as seen from the International Space Station. Photo: NASA/JSC
“The world’s most vulnerable people would likely be most affected,” they wrote.
Even if methods to decrease warming were successful, the writers also point out, Earth’s population would still need to work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — the geoengineering simply would be buying us time to figure things out.
Some of those methods of buying time include changing the planet’s cloud coverage. 

In one perspective in Science, researchers investigate the pros, cons and nuances of thinning cirrus clouds to allow more heat to escape Earth. 

Those clouds specifically are not responsible for reflecting much of the sun’s radiation back into space, and serve more to trap heat coming off the surface below. 

Thinning out those clouds, therefore, could have a cooling effect. 

But it may negatively impact tropical climates.
“For the time being, cirrus cloud thinning should be viewed as a thought experiment that is helping to understand cirrus cloud–formation mechanisms,” the article says.
Read: Did Ocean Volcanoes Keep Carbon Dioxide High In Last Ice Age?
Another journal piece focuses on the details and implications of mimicking intense volcanic eruptions as a method to cool off Earth. Injecting aerosol particles of sulfur into the atmosphere would increase a protective layer that prevents heat from the sun from reaching the surface, instead reflecting it back into space.
“The effect is analogous to the observed lowering of temperatures after large volcanic eruptions,” the article says. 

And the process “could be seen as a last-resort option to reduce the severity of climate change effects such as heat waves, floods, droughts, and sea level rise.”
At the same time, however, it would reduce evaporation from the Earth’s surface, which would also reduce the amount of rainfall and could affect water availability.
No matter what option the world chooses — or doesn’t choose — the writers all call on leaders to start the discussion.
“The world is heading to an increasingly risky future and is unprepared to address the institutional and governance challenges posed by these technologies,” the scientists from the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative say. “Geoengineering has planet-wide consequences and must therefore be discussed by national governments within intergovernmental institutions, including the United Nations.”

Press link for more: Yahoo.com

The Crazy Climate Technofix #auspol 

by Mark White
Illustrations by Bren Luke 
Earth’s climate has been edging towards a scene usually reserved for a post-apocalyptic movie.

 Some posit geoengineering as a radical fix to climate change.

 Others say the risks are too high and its proponents mad. 

Welcome to the debate where science fiction meets climate science.

If you visit a block of land near the West Australian dairy town of Harvey in a few years’ time, you will see a few pipes sticking out of the ground, a solar panel and an aerial for communications devices. 

There may be a hut and some room for parking.
These will be the only visible signs of the South West Hub project, designed to test the feasibility of pumping megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the vast Wonnerup sandstone layer, a kilometre-and-a-half deep beneath the Jarrah-Marri trees on the surface.
The gas will be liquefied in a nearby compressor building – an anonymous farm shed – and transported to the injection site via underground pipes.
Wonnerup is an example of carbon capture and storage, one of a suite of technologies known as geoengineering, or climate engineering.
Geoengineering is a mixed bag, but the idea involves large-scale interventions at the level of the whole planet, with the goal of fixing the climate.

 It’s tricky, dangerous, and largely considered “fringe science”.
The proposals come in two main flavours. 

One is carbon dioxide removal, which strips the gas from the atmosphere and slowly restores atmospheric balance.

 A mix of techniques would be needed: hundreds of factories like Wonnerup, billions of new trees and plants, plus contentious technologies such as artificially encouraging the growth of plankton.
The second is solar radiation management, intended to cool the Earth by stopping the sun’s heat from reaching the planet’s surface. 

That can be achieved by pumping minute particles into the atmosphere, but carries the risk of killing billions of people.
Right now, we don’t have the tools or the knowledge to deploy these fixes. 

But some prominent climate scientists argue that as carbon emissions continue to rise, geoengineering will have to be employed to avoid catastrophic climate change.
 

Last December’s meeting of world leaders in Paris produced a voluntary agreement to try to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5C over pre-industrial levels, and to not exceed 2C – the widely agreed level of devastating heat increase.

 But agreement and actual efforts didn’t seem to go hand in hand.

“The roar of devastating global storms has now drowned the false cheer from Paris,” a team of 11 climate scientists wrote in a January letter to The Independent, “and brutally brought into focus the extent of our failure to address climate change. 

The unfortunate truth is that things are going to get much worse.”
University of Cambridge Professor Peter Wadhams says: “Other things being equal, I’m not a great fan of geoengineering, but I think it absolutely necessary given the situation we’re in. 

It’s a sticking plaster solution. 

But you need it, because looking at the world, nobody’s instantly changing their pattern of life.”
Since then, temperatures have been soaring month after month, we’ve learned that the Great Barrier Reef is in extremely poor health and bleaching rapidly, while new quests continue to unearth more fossil fuels.
As we’re failing to keep the planet pleasant and habitable for future generations, could we instead fix the climate with technology? 
With geoengineering?
Debate about geoengineering in Australia is “almost being avoided”, according to Professor David Karoly, a noted atmospheric scientist at the University of Melbourne.

 He is a member of the Climate Change Authority, which advises the federal government, and was involved in preparing the 2007 IPCC report on global warming.
“There’s very little discussion on it in terms of government circles, there’s very little research on it, there’s very little discussion of it in what might be called mainstream science,” Professor Karoly says.

Policymakers are including geoengineering in their plans, but many technologies are still unproven and potentially dangerous.
“You’ll generally find among climate scientists that almost all are opposed to geoengineering,” says Professor Jim Falk, of the University of Melbourne’s Sustainable Society Institute. 

“They’re already pretty concerned about what we’ve done to the climate and don’t want to start stuffing around doing other things we only half-understand on a grand scale.”
When the US National Academy of Science launched a report last year analysing geoengineering options, committee head Marcia McNutt, a geophysicist, was asked if any should be deployed. 

She replied “Gosh, I hope not”.
The report considered carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management so risky it used the term “climate intervention” instead of geoengineering, arguing the term “engineering” implied a level of control that doesn’t exist.
But the IPCC has considered scenarios where such engineering would be necessary: its 2014 assessment report mentions bio-energy carbon capture and storage (known as BECCS), where plant fuel is burned and the resulting carbon dioxide buried.
And the Paris Agreement noted there would be need for a “balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases” in 2050-2100.
“A few years ago, these exotic Dr Strangelove options were discussed only as last-ditch contingencies,” wrote Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change, of the Paris talks in Nature magazine.
“Now they are Plan A.”
 

The term “geoengineering” raises the spectre of a James Bond villain cackling in his lair and planning to make volcanoes erupt at the push of a button. And that’s quite fitting, given that one approach to solar radiation management consists of mimicking the fallout from such giant explosions.
Treating the problem like an outlandish movie script may be the only way of comprehending the scale of the challenge. To reduce atmospheric CO2 levels by 1ppm – approaching the volume needed to stabilise global temperature – requires the withdrawal of 18 gigatonnes of gas, the equivalent of 18,000 South West Hub plants running for a year.
Tim Flannery, the former Australian of the Year who helped raise the profile of climate change, is vocal in supporting some geoengineering approaches. He prefers the less-toxic term “Third Way technologies”, based on the Earth’s natural processes.
Flannery says those which work at the gigatonne scale – the only ones which will dent the problem – may take decades to be developed.
“The only way you can get to a Paris-like outcome is by slamming hard on emissions,” he says, “reducing them as fast as humanly possible as well as investing now in these technologies that’ll give you these gigatonne gains in 20 or 30 years time.”
”The question for most of these technologies is – we don’t know if they work. But we need them to work.”
Flannery says solar-radiation management approaches should be treated with great caution, as they mask the problem: they will reduce the temperature, but not affect rising CO2 levels, leaving the oceans ever more acidic. That could see a catastrophic loss of reefs and oceanic life, devastating the aquatic food chain.
Ironically, one of the reasons the atmosphere isn’t already at a 2C warming mark, says Professor Karoly, is due to the aerosols already in the atmosphere – an unintentional form of solar radiation management.
He says the current best estimate of stabilising the temperature at that level, with a 50 per cent likelihood, is for a carbon equivalent reading of 420-480ppm. The current figure is 481ppm, and rising at 3ppm per year.
Solar radiation management – deliberate and large scale – might buy time in an emergency, says Flannery. “There’s a broad highway to hell that’s easy to go down and it’s really cheap, relatively. It’s instantly effective, nations can do it unilaterally and it gives you a lower temperature.
“But there’s a narrow, crooked, winding path to heaven which is the carbon reduction stuff. It’s at a very early stage, but that actually does solve the problem.”

Once we capture carbon, it can actually be used productively. American researchers have produced carbon nanofibres from atmospheric carbon dioxide – initially only 10g per hour, but they are convinced it could scale.
There could be vast baths of molten chemicals across large swathes of the Sahara Desert, powered by solar radiation, forming layers of a valuable building material on submerged electrodes.
A research project at a California university has gone further, manufacturing a building material dubbed CO2NCRETE from captured carbon dioxide. A pilot plant at Australia’s University of Newcastle is investigating whether a similar process, combining excess CO2 from an Orica plant with minerals to form building materials, has commercial potential.
Flannery is interested in desktop studies on carbon-sucking seaweed and algae, as well as research reporting that carbon dioxide can be made to fall as snow over the Antarctic.

Picture this: the temperature plummeting well below freezing until a blizzard of dry ice cascades onto the barren plains below, each cuboctahedral flake representing a miniscule improvement in carbon levels, to be stored safely – somehow – from warming into a gas and re-entering the air.
“We’re at very, very early days,” Flannery warns. “Various approaches have different favourable aspects to them, but I don’t think any of them are anything like a silver bullet.”
Flannery’s championing of unorthodox technologies – even as avenues for research – isn’t shared by many high-profile climate change campaigners. David Karoly calls Flannery’s interest “surprising”. He deems ideas such as dry ice snowfall in Antarctica as “rather technofix solutions”.
“How do you get sufficient CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it?” asks Professor Karoly. “It’s probably the most inhospitable environment in the world and he’s talking about – if you work out what this equates to, it’s a mountain higher than Everest, the size of a soccer field every year.”
The Paris target of a 1.5C rise is “virtually impossible” without new technologies, he says, which “have not been proved either commercially viable or without major harm”.
“My concern is, the cure might be substantially worse than the disease.”
Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University, who wrote about geoengineering in his 2013 book Earthmasters, is more blunt.
“The schemes [Flannery] proposes are real pie-in-the-sky stuff, way out there,” he says. “He seems to have been sucked in by a kind of strange techno-promise that’ll get us out of this.”

Australian geoengineering research lags far behind the world leaders in the US, UK and Germany. It’s limited to a handful of scientists in Sydney and Hobart, and our major achievement is helping to halt commercial oceanic geoengineering.
The federal government, via its Direct Action policy, focuses on carbon sequestration without the crazy technofix label. Instead it backs land-use practices such as planting new forests, and prioritises soil enhancement, mangrove protection and rainforest recovery.
“There was an enormous groundswell of support for these activities in Paris,” a spokesperson for the Department of the Environment says. “Other actions [in the geoengineering field] would have an enormously high safety bar to cross and are a long way from proof.”
Meanwhile, CSIRO looks set to embark on an expansion of its geoengineering research program, both at land and sea. In a recent memo to staff announcing 350 job cuts at the organisation, CSIRO head Larry Marshall nominated “climate interventions (geo-engineering)” as one area in which it would seek a “step change” in knowledge.
“CSIRO is currently working through the detail of our future climate adaptation and mitigation research, and will include research relevant aspects of onshore and offshore geo-engineering. The scale and scope of this research is still to be determined,” a CSIRO spokesperson told SBS.

 
Jim Falk categorises geoengineering proposals along various lines, including how big a project needs to be for credible deployment, how big an impact it would have, whether it is reversible, what governance is required, how much it would cost, and the risks involved.
“Then you can say different proposals have different footprints,” Falk says, “and depending on the footprint you can suggest what sort of barriers you would want for their regulations before you would allow an experiment to take place.”
Unlike attempts to reduce global carbon emissions – where everyone must do their part for action to be effective – what scares scientists about solar radiation management is the relative ease of one person launching a planet-wide experiment.
Spraying sulphate particles into the atmosphere from aircraft or balloons is known to reduce temperatures. It mimics what happens when volcanic ash blankets the atmosphere.
There would be spectacular sunsets as solar rays interact with the particles, with brilliant red eddies splashing the evening sky, similar to those in Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream.
And it has been costed at just $US10 billion a year.
One test in August 2008 was conducted on land 500km southeast of Moscow by Yuri Izrael, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s science advisor. He and his team rigged aerosol sprays on a helicopter and car chassis, measuring how solar radiation was retarded at heights up to 200 metres.
“China might decide to pump a load of sulphur into the atmosphere and not tell anyone about it,” says Rosemary Rayfuse, a Law professor at UNSW and a global authority on regulating geoengineering. “Or Australia could do it. Anybody could. That’s the other problem – it’s so easy to do.”
Billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson could step forward, says Anita Talberg, a PhD student in the governance of climate engineering at the University of Melbourne. Both support geoengineering and have funded research.
“They could just decide suddenly, ‘I could do enough benefit for the poor and vulnerable in the world, I could just do it and save them from the climate crisis.’”
Such a move could be catastrophic, most immediately due to the risk of drought in the tropics, devastating the food security of billions of people. Those colourful sunsets are projected to see lower rainfall.
The sky will bleach white during the day, while ozone depletes in the tropics – where most of the world’s population live. As the temperature falls, levels of UV radiation will rise, leading to an upsurge in skin cancers.

Professor Andy Pitman, of the Climate Change Research Centre in Sydney, is a member of the World Climate Research Program.
The only role he sees for sulphate injection is alongside steep cuts in carbon emissions. “If people are talking about it as a substitute for that, the technical term you’d use is ‘cloud cuckoo land’.”
But he hopes it’s never necessary.
“God, I hope not. We have a well-studied problem called global warming – we’re not sure of every detail – that would breach every ethics experiment on the planet if you proposed it as an experiment.
“All those problems relate to solar radiation management and I’d suggest any country that tried it at any significant level would find itself in every court in the world.”
There are smaller-scale approaches, he says, without the “ethical problems”. One is painting roofs white to reflect sun, a backyard approach anyone can try, and which would help cool interiors during hot summer days.
Another is genetically modified crops with a higher reflectivity, with variations as simple as leaves that are hairier or have a waxier coating.
Harvard University’s Professor David Keith is leading more research into solar radiation management, arguing in a 2015 paper that the technique could be used in a “temporary, moderate and responsive scenario”.
“Even if we make deep emissions cuts, it might be that the benefits of solar geoengineering outweigh the risks,” he tells SBS. “Or maybe not. To know, we have to decide to learn more.”
 

The belief in a technical solution – that because we have to find something, we will – has psychological roots in an effect known as ‘optimism bias’, says Melbourne psychologist Dr Susie Burke, who has expertise on issues relating to the environment, climate change and natural disasters.
“It’s intrinsic to humans to be optimistically biased,” she says, “and it’s great because it gets us out of bed in the morning and gives us a healthy motivation. But with respect to climate change, it means we end up minimising our personal risk and even risks that pertain to us – and believing the worst problems will happen to other people, somewhere else or into the future.”
She adds, “With the general population who are struggling to make significant changes to their lifestyle, deep down there is a belief that someone, somewhere will come up with something to solve the problem.”
Even talking about geoengineering carries the risk of “moral hazard”, that a solution to rocketing carbon emissions means they can continue unabated. That scenario troubles many.
“There’s a moral hazard in not discussing these things as well,” says Tim Flannery, “because we know we’re going to need them.”
The worst-case scenario – international agreements fail to stop emissions from rising – would force the use of extreme measures. Clive Hamilton thinks sulphate injection is the most likely use of geoengineering, though not yet.
“If we have a series of years where there are catastrophic droughts, heatwaves and hurricanes which cause massive impacts in several countries – also tipping points, so permafrost is now irreversibly melting – what kind of political and geostrategic environment are we going to be facing?” he asks.
“I think in that kind of scenario – which is not just possible but fairly likely – certain scientists promising they can rapidly reduce the earth’s temperature within a year or two are going to start looking increasingly attractive to some nations.”
Andy Pitman says that could lead to war: “You can imagine a situation – and it’s not too far-fetched – where country X starts a major campaign around sulphur injections into the atmosphere, country Y’s rainfall dramatically declines and is going into serious long-term famine, and that instigated a military response.”
And if carbon emissions continued to rise, the sulphate injection would have to be continuous. Otherwise, the particles would drop out of the atmosphere, leading to a sudden, highly disruptive jump in temperature.
If a war, say, or a pandemic was responsible for the break in sulphate injection, the compounding effects could be existential. 

Talking of human extinction in such a scenario is not too far-fetched.

 
The possibilities are less apocalyptic for some form of carbon capture and storage. 

Clive Hamilton identifies land being used by the likes of BECCS – bio-energy carbon capture and storage – to capture carbon as one of the main changes in geoengineering in the last few years.
Plants and trees would be grown for fuel, and the resulting carbon emissions from power generation would be stored away. There’s an example of this in Illinois at an ethanol production plant.
But there are questions over BECCS, not least that “no such economic process [is] available at this point and there may never be”, says Jim Falk.
The sheer amount of land needed is staggering, too. 

In a February 2016 paper in Nature,environmental scientist Philip Williamson estimated that one-third of the world’s arable land (430-580 million hectares of crops) would need planting for BECCS use to limit the temperature rise to 2C by 2100.

This would accelerate deforestation and, given “not unrealistic” assumptions, see carbon emissions actually increase.
Oliver Munnion, of the UK-based BioFuelwatch website, argues that BECCS is more dangerous than solar radiation management.

 “It’s the most outrageous,” he says. “It’s also the favoured approach amongst policy-makers, scientists and industry.
“The idea that we’d harm proven carbon sinks – forests and soils – to create an unproven and untested carbon sink underground is the antithesis of what climate policy should be geared towards.”
The problem facing geoengineering advocates is that most dangerous schemes are possible, but need to be used as a last resort, while the most promising schemes aren’t possible at scale. 

Even if they were, the numbers quickly turn ugly.
In the Nature article, Philip Williamson estimated that growing seaweed as a carbon pool would use nine per cent of the world’s oceans, with unknown environmental impacts.
Utilising the simple solar-radiation management tool of laying a reflective rock on the ground to reduce carbon levels by 12 per cent would need 1-5 kg/sqm of rock to be applied to 15-45 per cent of the earth’s surface, at a total cost of US$60-600 trillion.

That means an area of land at least the size of the old Soviet Union would have to be set aside and the global economy bankrupted.
The further you look, the more improbable geoengineering concepts become. A presentation to the 2016 American Meteorological Conference on Atmospheric Science called for lasers in the sky to microwave and neutralise methane clouds (another greenhouse gas).
UNSW Law professor Rosemary Rayfuse recalls one UK project looking at increasing the reflectivity of the oceans by making white foam, which had to persist for at least three months: “They were proposing to cover the oceans in meringue, which I thought was rather funny!”
David Karoly calls the idea of hanging mirrors in space to reflect sunlight “just stupid”, calculating the need for one million square kilometres of alfoil. Flannery agrees: “Anything that masks the problem, and lets people think they’ve solved it, is a danger.”
Cutting carbon emissions drastically, and now, would start to solve the problem. But that isn’t happening. Campaigners such as Tim Flannery are crossing their fingers that carbon-scrubbing technology we need to take us on “the narrow winding path to heaven” is developed in time.
If neither happens, we’ll be heading down the “broad highway to hell” of having to rely on solar radiation management, where the devil we don’t know is better than a climate gone rogue.
The effects of pumping simulated volcanic fallout into the atmosphere could dwarf the biggest eruptions in history. Start preparing for vivid red sunsets – and an uncertain future

Press link for more: SBS.COM.AU

Farmers on the front lines of #ClimateChange #auspol 

Though we first met Richard Wiles when he was executive director at the Environmental Working Group (which he co-founded), he’s also a major player in the ongoing effort to better understand the future’s hotter, less stable climate (also see our deep-dive with Mark Hertsgaard on the subject). 

Wiles’s current organization, Climate Central, is on the front lines of the climate battlefield, authoring countless papers, special reports, and graphics, and informing critical news stories on climate issues—and how best to handle them. 

Richard’s refreshingly frank assessments on climate change stand out in this space, where the focus on opaque numbers can make the issue feel less urgent than it actually is. 

Below, he paints the picture of what climate change will look like in real terms and presents a new idea about how we might slow it down (hint: actual trees are involved).
A Q&A with Richard Wiles
Q
If we continue on the same path or anything resembling the current emissions path, what will the United States look like in 50 years?

A
The first thing to know is that parts of South Florida will be gone.

 Even with reduced emissions, or a dramatic lowering of emissions, the most prized real estate in South Florida, where thousands of people live, will be routinely underwater, period. You can move up the coastline and look at different low-lying, coastal cities: Charleston, South Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia; and coastal cities in Maryland and North Carolina, and they’re not just going to face major issues of sea level rise, but also major issues with storm surge during hurricanes.

 Even if we limit change to 2 degrees Celsius, which is the goal agreed to at the Paris climate summit in 2015, every major coastal city will see a huge impact (and it’s worth noting that without significant additional commitments by major polluting nations this goal is not particularly likely to be achieved).
“Even if we limit change to 2 degrees Celsius, which is the goal agreed to at the Paris climate summit in 2015, every major coastal city will see a huge impact.”

We’ll also have less snowpack in the West, where it’s critical for water supplies. And earlier snowmelt means drier forests, which then tend to be set up for big wildfires. When it rains, a greater percentage of rainfall will come in these huge downpours. So we’ll get more 2in, 3in, 4in, 5in, 12in rains like what we saw in Houston, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Missouri this year. These out-of-control episodes of 14 inches of rain in 24 hours. So you’re going to see a lot more localized flooding and all the damage that comes with that. Everything will need to be redesigned, from sewage treatment plants to roadways, to people’s homes, in order to handle these gigantic downpours. Hurricanes will be stronger and more intense. Whether there will be more of them or whether they make landfall and hit harder, nobody knows. But it is clear that a greater percentage of the hurricanes that do happen will be big old monster storms.
The next thing you’re going to see for sure is heat. This is the one that nobody really talks about much because it’s kind of boring—it’s just heat. But, in the United States, particularly along the Gulf Coast and in the Southwest, we’re going to see an increase in the number of so-called danger days, where it’s really hazardous to be outside for a long period of time. In Florida, for example, danger days are going to go from 25 days a year to about 140 days a year in 2050. And it’s the same story with Texas, Louisiana, all along the Gulf Coast, and in the Southwest as well. There’s not as much humidity in the Southwest, but the heat is just going to be completely over the top there. We’ll see radical increases in the number of days above 100 or 110 in places like Phoenix and Tuscon. Even places in Southern California that aren’t on the coast will be seriously affected. And in addition to the quality of life issue, that level of heat is truly going to make outdoor work—construction, agriculture, infrastructure like highway-building— in many places impossible for portions of the year.


Q
Can you explain more about the heat issue? What will that physically be like to experience?
A
One of the things that people really need to think about is (and it might be the most compelling, single way to think about how climate change is like a death spiral) is that the hotter it gets, the greater the demand for air conditioning. And it is going to get a lot hotter, especially the extremes: Yes, the average temperature is going to go up, but more importantly you’re going to get many more extremely hot days. So, if you go to a place like India, there are probably 300 million people (about 20 percent of the population) that want and will get (and deserve) air conditioning in the next ten or twenty years, and that’s like powering AC for the entire United States today. How are they going to power that up? They’re mostly going to power that up with coal. So the more air conditioning demand you have, the more demand for electricity you have, and the majority of that electricity is going to come from fossil fuels even with unprecedented ramp-ups in renewables. For the next couple of decades at least. And that is going to accelerate climate change, making it even hotter, upping the demand for more air conditioning. So you see the problem.
Q
What are the consequences of global warming when it comes to disease? Could we see an increased range of disease-carrying mosquitoes, or the release of something that’s been trapped in the ice?
A
No one really knows. What we do know is that warming temperatures are increasing the range and the number of days that are prime breeding and survival days for many disease vectors, like mosquitos that transmit Zika and West Nile, or the ticks that carry Lyme disease. In some places we are headed toward a year-round mosquito season—not a good thing. But what’s worse is that we really have no idea what we are doing. We are warming the planet at least 10 times faster than it has ever warmed in the past 800,0000 years. Could this rapid warming create ideal conditions for a sudden, massive disease outbreak? Theoretically, yes, it could. Is it likely? No, it is probably not very likely. Can we be sure about that? No, we can’t, which to me is a very scary thing.
Q
What if we stopped polluting today? What change are we already locked into?
A
Even if we stop polluting today, like, if the whole world turned off all fossil fuel emissions today, you’re still looking at several feet of sea level rise. What’s probably more relevant, since we can’t turn off all fossil fuel emissions today, is that even if we took aggressive action to curb climate change, we will be putting multiple gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere, for many, many, decades to come.

Q
So what, realistically, can we do in the face of all this doom and gloom?
A
The real bottom line is that there’s only one way to deal with this, and that is through massive policy intervention. It could be an elegant, simple thing, like taxing carbon a lot, and we’re done. Or it could be extremely complicated, like the Clean Power Plan. But it needs to be powerful and significant. Electric cars and efficient light bulbs are great, but they can’t make change at scale unless something forces the current polluting cars and power sources off the market. There aren’t enough Teslas in the world right now to really make a difference, and what people forget about Teslas is that they’re only as good as the power source (if the electricity you’re using to power them comes from fossil fuels, for example).
If everyone committed to the agreement made in Paris, global emissions would be 6 gigatons a year less in 2030 than they are projected to be if we didn’t have any commitment. So from about 60 gigs a year to 54 a year in 2030. This is an increase from where we are now, and while everyone is all proud of themselves for reducing emissions by 2030, and, you know, making sure that they don’t go up, which is where we’re headed, being at 54 gigatons in 2030 won’t get it done—we need to be at, like, 30. So there’s just a gigantic gap between what we’ve committed to and what needs to happen to keep the world anywhere close to two degrees, and we already know (see question 1) that two degrees is still a situation that sucks.
Q
Are there any reasonable ways to take carbon out of the atmosphere?

A
There’s one thing out there that could help a lot and it’s called carbon negative, or negative emissions. To be clear, we’re not talking about geoengineering where you put shiny dust into the stratosphere that deflects sunlight away, or crazy satellites with mirrors, or sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere to absorb ultraviolet rays. None of that science fiction BS. Carbon negative is basically taking carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it somewhere safe and permanent. You can do in a number of different ways, like accelerated weathering of rock, or giant carbon-sucking vacuum cleaners (which haven’t been proven at scale), or you can use photosynthesis: Trees, crops, and perennial grasses, our best option by far.
Q
How would it work?
A
Let’s pretend the world got its act together and committed to drastic action to stop global warming. You need three things, done simultaneously and aggressively. One, radical reductions in fossil-fuel emissions. Two, dramatic acceleration in the deployment of renewables. And three, large-scale implementation of negative emissions strategies.
With negative emissions, we could tip the scale toward real reductions in net carbon emissions, relatively quickly at legitimate scale, by pulling multiple gigatons of carbon out of the atmosphere and putting them in the ground or in plants and trees. Think of it as a massive global effort to get carbon out of the atmosphere—through, basically, more vegetation and improved farming systems. It’s as simple as that. We could restore hundreds of millions of degraded hectares of agricultural land, or just degraded land in general, all around the world. There’s no fancy technology, no science fiction.
“If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s obvious that windmills and solar panels will not get us there fast enough. Not even close.”
Of course, there are big questions, like where it should be done, what plants should be used, and which forests and plants are the most efficient carbon absorbers; and we would need to make sure we don’t compete with water, energy, and food supplies. But despite those questions, which are serious, we know that there’s plenty of land that could be used in this way, and there’s a path forward here that’s not super difficult. It’s not really on anybody’s radar screen, because it’s not very sexy or glamorous. It’s just planting and restoring lands in a way that efficiently takes up carbon—but, it is sitting there in plain sight as a powerful option, and it should be a much bigger part of the conversation: When you add negative emissions to the equation you can legitimately have some kind of realistic hope that we might not just go flying off a cliff. Because if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s obvious that windmills and solar panels will not get us there fast enough. Not even close.

Q
How is this different than carbon sequestration, which we’ve heard about in the past?
A
Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) typically refers to capturing carbon from fossil fuel emissions and physically pumping the carbon back underground, in gas form. CCS may have a role in some carbon negative systems, but when applied to fossil fuel emissions CCS is not carbon negative. Not to mention that it costs way too much, and to date doesn’t actually work at scale. What negative emissions strategies do is literally take carbon out of the atmosphere using plants and trees—efficient natural systems that do this much more elegantly than humans can. It’s not about technology, or putting fancy gizmos on power plants.
Q
How would this differ from the old-fashioned carbon offsets we’ve historically been able to purchase online?
A
The policy setup is totally different. Offsets have historically been a largely unverified license to pollute, as long as someone, somewhere, theoretically offsets that pollution by not doing something bad, say cutting down a forest, that they may not have been going to do anyway. And too often, the pollution we are allowing with offsets falls on poor communities who didn’t have any say in the bargain. Carbon negative would not be anybody’s permission to pollute. It has to be fundamentally disconnected from ongoing, aggressive action to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
Q
Is anyone doing carbon negative projects successfully? Even at a small scale right now?
A
There are, and part of the reason for that is there are a million versions of what this could look like. Carbon negative could involve rotational grazing (which can store a lot of carbon above and below ground in pastures), or no-till farming, or it could be restoring a wetland or a forest or grassland. Those would all probably qualify, though very few of them are being understood that way or measured that way—in general, we make very few measurements of carbon being stored in soil, though it’s just a pretty simple approach. You do a baseline measurement of your carbon, you understand what plants would maximize the potential carbon storage per acre, and you measure the inputs and outputs.
The important thing about this whole idea is scale. Carbon negative is only worth talking about if you’re talking about hundreds of millions of acres of land. And the primary mission for these lands would have to be taking carbon out of the air—it can’t get tied up in other conservation purposes. No one has articulated that vision yet, and we at Climate Central want to do that. We’re going to do that.
Q
What are the next steps to execute carbon negative programs?
A
First, we need to start talking about it—define it, show people the math and get it floating around in people’s consciousness. Then we need to get the science right. Climate Central is beginning to ask these questions: Where would it work based on water and climate? Which soils would it work on? What are the water and food trade-offs when crops are grown for carbon storage? Which crops, which plants, and which places could get the most carbon in the ground most efficiently? We are just beginning to make the case, lay out the path, identify the key questions, and articulate the vision. But it needs to be done, and it needs to be done quickly.
Currently, if you’re honest at all, our climate situation is so damn bleak, with the new president aiming to roll back the progress that has been made, and climate deniers in charge of the congress. Even so, carbon negative at scale, combined with aggressive emission reductions and deployment of renewables, could give us actual, legitimate hope. This isn’t crazy talk. This is very doable. If we do this aggressively and commit to it, then maybe we have a shot. If not, we have no shot. No shot at 2C, maybe no shot at 3C, maybe no shot at 4C for that matter.
Carbon negative could also provide a path forward that would work across the political spectrum. It could be a powerful program for farmers and ranchers with currently unproductive land; they could become part of a National Carbon Reserve. 

You could create contracts that would allow carbon to be locked up on that land for 100 years, priced per acre. Would farmers do it? 

Yes, they would. I worked on agricultural policy for twenty years. 

I can tell you that if the price is right, farmers will sign up. Is there money in the federal budget for that? Yes. If we had a carbon tax of even the tiniest amount, would it pay for that?

 Yes. So, in the United States, there are 400 million acres of land we could start with. That’s a big chunk of land. It’s really not that tricky. It’s just about whether or not we want to do it.

Press link for more: goop.com

Radical Realism About Climate Change #auspol

Lili Fuhr heads the Ecology and Sustainable Development Department at the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

BERLIN – Mainstream politics, by definition, is ill equipped to imagine fundamental change. But last December in Paris, 196 governments agreed on the need to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – an objective that holds the promise of delivering precisely such a transformation. Achieving it will require overcoming serious political challenges, reflected in the fact that some are advocating solutions that will end up doing more harm than good.

One strategy that has gained a lot of momentum focuses on the need to develop large-scale technological interventions to control the global thermostat. Proponents of geo-engineering technologies argue that conventional adaptation and mitigation measures are simply not reducing emissions fast enough to prevent dangerous warming. Technologies such as “carbon capture and storage” (CCS), they argue, are necessary to limit damage and human suffering.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change seems to agree. In its fifth assessment report, it builds its scenarios for meeting the Paris climate goals around the concept of “negative emissions” – that is, the ability to suck excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

But this approach ignores serious problems with the development and deployment of geo-engineering technologies. Consider CCS, which is the process of capturing waste CO2 from large sources like fossil-fuel power plants and depositing it in, say, an underground geological formation, thereby preventing it from entering the atmosphere.

It sounds good. But what makes it economical is that it enables enhanced oil recovery. In other words, the only way to make CCS cost-effective is to use it to exacerbate the problem it is supposed to address.

The supposed savior technology – bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) – is not much better. BECCS begins by producing large amounts of biomass from, say, fast-growing trees which naturally capture CO2; those plants are then converted into fuel via burning or refining, with the resulting carbon emissions being captured and sequestered.

But bioenergy is not carbon neutral, and the surge in European demand for biomass has led to rising food commodity prices and land grabs in developing countries. These realities helped persuade the scientists Kevin Anderson and Glen Peters recently to call carbon removal an “unjust and high-stakes gamble.”

What about other geo-engineering proposals? Solar Radiation Management (SRM) aims to control the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth, essentially mimicking the effect of a volcano eruption. This may be achieved by pumping sulphates into the stratosphere or through “marine cloud brightening,” which would cause clouds to reflect more sunlight back into space.

But blasting sulphates into the stratosphere does not reduce CO2 concentrations; it merely delays the impact for as long as the spraying continues. Moreover, sulphate injections in the northern hemisphere could cause serious drought in the Africa’s Sahel region, owing to dramatic reductions in precipitation, while some African countries would experience more precipitation. The effect on the Asian monsoon system could be even more pronounced. In short, SRM could severely damage the livelihoods of millions of people.

If geo-engineering can’t save us, what can? In fact, there are a number of steps that can be taken right now. They would be messier and more politically challenging than geo-engineering. But they would work.

The first step would be a moratorium on new coal mines. If all currently planned coal-fired power plants are built and operated over their normal service life of 40 years, they alone would emit 240 billion tons of CO2 – more than the remaining carbon budget. If that investment were re-allocated to decentralized renewable-energy production, the benefits would be enormous.

Moreover, with only 10% of the global population responsible for almost 50% of global CO2 emissions, there is a strong case to be made for implementing strategies that target the biggest emitters. For example, it makes little sense that airlines – which actually serve just 7% of the global population – are exempt from paying fuel taxes, especially at a time when ticket prices are at an historic low.

Changes to land use are also needed. The 2009 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development charts the way to a transformed agricultural system – with benefits that extend far beyond climate policy. We must apply this knowledge around the world.

In Europe, the waste sector could make a significant contribution to a low-carbon economy. Recent research, commissioned by Zero Waste Europe, found that optimal implementation of the European Commission’s “circular economy package” waste targets could save the European Union 190 million tons of CO2 per year. That is the equivalent of the annual emissions of the Netherlands!

Available measures in the transport sector include strengthening public transportation, encouraging the use of railways for freight traffic, building bike paths, and subsidizing delivery bicycles. In Germany, intelligent action on transport could reduce the sector’s emissions by up to 95% by 2050.

Another powerful measure would be to protect and restore natural ecosystems, which could result in the storage of 220-330 gigatons of CO2 worldwide .

None of these solutions is a silver bullet; but, together, they could change the world for the better. Geo-engineering solutions are not the only alternatives. They are a response to the inability of mainstream economics and politics to address the climate challenge. Instead of trying to devise ways to maintain business as usual – an impossible and destructive goal – we must prove our ability to imagine and achieve radical change.

If we fail, we should not be surprised if, just a few years from now, the planetary thermostat is under the control of a handful of states or military and scientific interests. 

As world leaders convene for the 22nd United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to bring the Paris agreement into force, they should repudiate geo-engineering quick fixes – and demonstrate a commitment to real solutions.

Press link for more: Project-Syndicate

The trouble with negative emissions. #auspol #ClimateChange

In December 2015, member states of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted the Paris Agreement, which aims to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C. 

The Paris Agreement requires that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emission sources and sinks are balanced by the second half of this century. 

Because some nonzero sources are unavoidable, this leads to the abstract concept of “negative emissions,” the removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere through technical means. 

The Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) informing policy-makers assume the large-scale use of negative-emission technologies.

 If we rely on these and they are not deployed or are unsuccessful at removing CO2 from the atmosphere at the levels assumed, society will be locked into a high-temperature pathway.

It is not well understood by policy-makers, or indeed many academics, that IAMs assume such a massive deployment of negative-emission technologies. 

Yet when it comes to the more stringent Paris obligations, studies suggest that it is impossible to reach 1.5°C with a 50% chance without significant negative emissions (3). 

Even for 2°C, very few scenarios have explored mitigation without negative emissions (2). 

Negative emissions are also prevalent in scenarios for higher stabilization targets (7). 

Given such a pervasive and pivotal role of negative emissions in mitigation scenarios, their almost complete absence from climate policy discussions is disturbing and needs to be addressed urgently.

Negative-Emission Technologies
Negative-emission technologies exist at various levels of development (8–11). Afforestation and reforestation, although not strictly technologies, are already claimed by countries as mitigation measures. 

Bioenergy, combined with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), is the most prolific negative-emission technology included in IAMs and is used widely in emission scenarios. 

It has the distinct feature of providing energy while also, in principle (12), removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Assuming that carbon is valued, BECCS can thus provide an economic benefit that may offset, at least in part, the additional costs of using the technology (13). Generally, carbon is assumed to be fully absorbed during biomass growth, captured before or after combustion, and then stored underground indefinitely. Despite the prevalence of BECCS in emission scenarios at a level much higher than afforestation, only one large-scale demonstration plant exists today.
Other negative-emission technologies have not moved beyond theoretical studies or small-scale demonstrations. Alternative and adjusted agricultural practices, including biochar, may increase carbon uptake in soils (9). It may also be possible to use direct air capture to remove CO2 from the atmosphere via chemical reactions, with underground storage similar to CCS. Enhancing the natural weathering of minerals (rocks) may increase the amount of carbon stored in soils, land, or oceans. Introduction of biological or chemical catalysts may increase carbon uptake by the ocean. New technologies, designs, and refinements may emerge over time.
BECCS: A Political Panacea
The allure of BECCS and other negative-emission technologies stems from their promise of much-reduced political and economic challenges today, compensated by anticipated technological advances tomorrow. Yet there are huge opportunities for near-term, rapid, and deep reductions today at little to modest costs, such as improving energy efficiency, encouraging low-carbon behaviors, and continued deployment of renewable energy technologies. Why, then, is BECCS used so prolifically in emission scenarios?
The answer is simple. Integrated assessment models often assume perfect knowledge of future technologies and give less weight to future costs. In effect, they assume that the discounted cost of BECCS in future decades is less than the cost of deep mitigation today. In postponing the need for rapid and immediate mitigation, BECCS licenses the ongoing combustion of fossil fuels while ostensibly fulfilling the Paris commitments.
The idea behind BECCS is to combine bioenergy production with CCS, but both face major and perhaps insurmountable obstacles. Two decades of research and pilot plants have struggled to demonstrate the technical and economic viability of power generation with CCS, even when combusting relatively homogeneous fossil fuels (14). Substituting for heterogeneous biomass feedstock adds to the already considerable challenges.
Moreover, the scale of biomass assumed in IAMs—typically, one to two times the area of India—raises profound questions (10) about carbon neutrality, land availability, competition with food production, and competing demands for bioenergy from the transport, heating, and industrial sectors. 

The logistics of collating and transporting vast quantities of bioenergy—equivalent to up to half of the total global primary energy consumption—is seldom addressed. 

Some studies suggest that BECCS pathways are feasible, at least locally (15), but globally there are substantial limitations (10). BECCS thus remains a highly speculative technology.
Moral Hazard and Inequity
The appropriateness or otherwise of relying, in significant part, on negative-emission technologies to realize the Paris commitments is an issue of risk (7). 

However, the distribution of this risk is highly inequitable. If negativeemission technologies fail to deliver at the scale enshrined in many IAMs, their failure will be felt most by low-emitting communities that are geographically and financially vulnerable to a rapidly changing climate.
The promise of future and cost-optimal negative-emission technologies is more politically appealing than the prospect of developing policies to deliver rapid and deep mitigation now. If negative-emission technologies do indeed follow the idealized, rapid, and successful deployment assumed in the models, then any reduction in near-term mitigation caused by the appeal of negative emissions will likely lead to only a small and temporary overshoot of the Paris temperature goals (3). 

In stark contrast, if the many reservations increasingly voiced about negative-emission technologies (particularly BECCS) turn out to be valid, the weakening of near-term mitigation and the failure of future negative-emission technologies will be a prelude to rapid temperature rises reminiscent of the 4°C “business as usual” pathway feared before the Paris Agreement (5).
Negative-emission technologies are not an insurance policy, but rather an unjust and high-stakes gamble. 

There is a real risk they will be unable to deliver on the scale of their promise. 

If the emphasis on equity and risk aversion embodied in the Paris Agreement are to have traction, negative-emission technologies should not form the basis of the mitigation agenda. This is not to say that they should be abandoned (14, 15). They could very reasonably be the subject of research, development, and potentially deployment, but the mitigation agenda should proceed on the premise that they will not work at scale. The implications of failing to do otherwise are a moral hazard par excellence.

Press link for more: Kevin Anderson & Glen Peters