Flat Earthers vs #climatechange sceptics: why conspiracy theorists keep contradicting each other #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Flat Earthers vs climate change sceptics: why conspiracy theorists keep contradicting each other

Gareth Dorrian May 21, 2018 8.29pm AEST

Would a flat Earth suffer from climate change? Shutterstock

Flat Earthism and the idea that human activity is not responsible for climate change are two of the most prevalent conspiracy theories today. Both have been increasing in popularity since the late 20th century. Currently, 16% of the US population say they doubt the scientifically established shape of the Earth, while 40% think that human-induced climate change is a hoax. But proponents of one of these theories are not necessarily proponents of the other, even though both are often motivated by a common mistrust of authority. In fact, they regularly contradict one another.

Flat Earthers, for example, tend to disbelieve organisations such as NASA on the shape of Antarctica – or indeed, that there is a southern hemisphere at all. Yet the president of the Flat Earth Society, Daniel Shenton, is quite convinced – presumably at least in part thanks to information from NASA – that climate change is happening and espouses a fairly conventional view on the subject.

Former White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci (dismissed by president Trump after ten days in office), meanwhile, believes that the Earth is in fact round, but does not believe in anthropogenic climate change, as he made clear in an interview with CNN.

Such selective reasoning is common among conspiracy theorists who often lack consistency with one other. Despite this, the media, celebrities and even politicians regularly make broad comparisons between climate change scepticism, Flat Earthism and other conspiracy theories.

Fabricated data?

In the field of global climate change, scientific bodies often are accused, even by those in power, of fabricating data. But such criticism is often deeply flawed. Take those sceptics, for example, who believe that climate change is occurring, but because of natural – rather than man-made – causes. If one argues that data has been fabricated to show warming where there is none, one cannot then also imply that warming is occurring after all, but naturally. Either there is warming or there is not. Similarly, Flat Earthers who state that images showing Earth’s curvature are due to the shape of a camera lens, themselves believe in a disc which by definition has a curved edge.

Indeed, one of the few commonalities which exist between all major conspiracy theories is that somehow scientists and governments are involved in a grand conspiracy for reasons unknown.

A major part of the scientific anthropogenic climate change argument is that there is an increase in temperature extremes in both summer and winter. Evidently, a Flat Earth model cannot support this; in fact, the most accepted Flat Earth model, which maintains that the sun rotates in a non-variable circular orbit over the flat disk, implies that there should be no seasons at all, let alone multi-decadal seasonal extremes due to climate change. Nevertheless, to quote Shenton:

Climate change is a process which has been ongoing since (the) beginning of detectable history, but there seems to be a definite correlation between the recent increase in worldwide temperatures and man’s entry into the industrial age.

In this instance, the president of the Flat Earth Society is correct. Anthropogenic climate change sceptics, on the other hand, are often willing to accept the science behind the Earth’s natural cycles, which they blame – instead of human activity – for the world’s weather woes. Clearly, we again find an implicit difference of opinion between a Flat Earth model, and a non-anthropogenic climate change one.

Climate change: a ‘global’ problem. Shutterstock

It is also clear that many climate change sceptics believe in the (approximately) spherical Earth, even if only subconsciously, by their use of scientifically accepted global maps when discussing data – not to mention when calling it “global” warming.

And what about aliens?

If governments and scientists are so untrustworthy and steeped in corruption, then why would one believe them on any issue? Where does the line of trust actually fall? Why would a person who mistrusts governments and scientists on the shape of the Earth, not hold the same politicians and scientific organisations similarly bogus on the issue of climate change? Or alien abductions, chem trails, or anything else?

Read more: I watched an entire Flat Earth Convention for my research – here’s what I learnt

But the problem isn’t likely to go away any time soon. The US has the highest number of believers in both flat-Earthism and anthropogenic climate change scepticism, and the UK is not far behind. The US also has a high number (more than 50%) of senior political figures who deny man-made climate change, not to mention a democratically elected leader vocally believing the same. There are also numerous well-known celebrities who question the established shape of our planet.

While of course scientists can play the blame game, it could be that the scientific method itself is a major limiting factor in communicating results with the public. Science is not just a body of knowledge, but a method of critical thinking.

Scientists, by necessity, have to communicate their findings in a certain rigid way focusing on probabilities, certainty values and confidence intervals. These can appear dry or baffling to the public. But by providing more easily understandable narratives we can make scientific discussions with the public more productive.

In today’s complex world of social media narratives, the engagement of scientists with the public is more crucial than ever. Thankfully, current funding for public engagement training and activities is accessible to scientists with a passion for communication and conversation, enabling them to communicate facts rather than “fake news”.

Press link for more: The Conversation


Climate change author still hopeful for future of planet #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Climate change author still hopeful for future of planet

By JEFF DEZORT Newton County Times May 17, 2018

Jeff Dezort/Staff

Acting Buffalo National River Superintendent Laura Miller (left) and Jack Stewart of Jasper were on hand when Dr. Terry L. Root, PhD, professor emerita at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment, recently spoke to a group in Harrison about climate change.

A renown scientist studying effects of climate change says she still has hope that many species of birds and other animals will escape extinction brought on by rising world-wide temperatures.

Terry L. Root, PhD, professor emerita of Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment, was a lead author of assessment reports in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which earned her a share of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with Vice President Al Gore.

The Earth is a fragile planet.

We have to take care of it, but time is running short.

That was Root’s message to a group of people including National Park Service personnel attending an hour-long presentation last week at the Buffalo National River Headquarters in Harrison.

Root is acquainted with Jack Stewart of Jasper, a conservationist who has worked with her on the National Audubon Society’s Board of Directors. Stewart is also a member of the Buffalo National River Partners and made arrangements for Root’s visit.

Temperature studies spanning from the 1800s to the present were used by Root to plot global surface temperature changes well into the future. Temperatures will gradually be nudged higher and higher due to greater concentrations of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere causing the greenhouse effect, her studies show.

In 1975, data strongly indicated that one species is causing climate change. Humans are affecting the temperature of the oceans and the atmosphere, she said.

The overall size of the oceans and atmosphere are very small, she showed in one of the graphics.

There are four different “story lines” for global warming in the future. The first proposes what would happen if there are no changes — it’s business as usual. Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations will increase from 400 to more than 1,200 parts per million.

Two other story lines show the effects of influences brought on with some types of international cooperation to limit these emissions. Concentrations would increase but only to 400 to 700 parts per million. The fourth scenario shows what would happen if greenhouse gas emissions were suddenly ended. Concentrations would drop, so you would think.

But carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere a long time. Root said 25 percent of the carbon dioxide released today will still be in the atmosphere 50 years from now. And 25 percent of that carbon dioxide will still be in the atmosphere 100 years from now. So even without adding more carbon dioxide its concentration will not disappear entirely.

“What we are doing today is affecting our great-great-great-great-grandchildren. That just really bothers me,” Root said.

Technological advances won’t help. At least not short term. The only things today that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are trees, she said.

Press link for more: Harrison Daily

#ClimateChange ‘Global existential risk” Senate Report #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Extract from Senate Report released today.

Press link for more: APH.GOV.AU

2.3 American climate security expert Ms Sherri Goodman described climate change as a ‘direct threat to the national security of Australia’, and a ‘global existential risk’.

Other submissions also recognised climate change as an existential risk, defined as ‘one that threatens the premature extinction of Earth-originating intelligent life or the permanent and drastic destruction of its potential for desirable future development’.

Mr Mark Crosweller, Director General of Emergency Management Australia (EMA), also referred to the ‘existential nature’ of climate change risks.

Climate change viewed as a current threat

2.4 The 2015 United States Department of Defense (US DoD) report mentioned in the terms of reference characterised ‘climate change as a present security threat, not strictly a long-term risk’.

Illustrating this immediacy, Ms Goodman described recent climate-related events:

…we know now that the hurricane train that has come through the United States this fall and the wildfires that we are experiencing are, in part, due to additional climate risks. And we know that the storms that you’ve been experiencing in your part of the world [Australia] now are also attributable, in part, to accelerated climate risks.

The problem also is not a distant one in the future but it’s now.

We are experiencing this in regular sunny-day flooding at military bases in the United States and in changes in the Arctic, forcing the first wave of displaced persons from villages in the Arctic.12

2.5 The Climate Council further stated the effects of climate change ‘are already contributing to increases in the forced migration of people within and between nations, as well as playing a role in heightening social and political tensions, flowing onto conflict and violence’.

2.6 A recent Australian Government report highlighted how Australia is ‘already experiencing the impacts of a changing climate, particularly changes associated with increases in temperature, the frequency and intensity of extreme heat events, extreme fire weather, and drought’.

For example, it noted ‘communities in the Torres Strait

Methane, Climate Change, and Our Uncertain Future #StopAdani #auspol

Methane is generally considered secondary to carbon dioxide in its importance to climate change, but what role might methane play in the future if global temperatures continue to rise?

Flooded permafrost tundra in northeast Siberia. Hydrology is a key control on methane emissions in wetland and permafrost ecosystems. Credit: Joshua Dean

By Joshua Dean

The greenhouse gas, methane, is produced by both natural processes and human activities. While there has been much attention paid to curbing anthropogenic emissions, a changing climate will likely increase the production of natural methane. In an open access article recently published in Reviews of Geophysics, Dean et al. [2018] describe the ways in which biological, geochemical, and physical systems influence methane concentrations and explore how methane levels in natural systems may alter in a warming climate. Here the authors answer some questions about the sources and significance of methane, and indicate some future research directions.

How does methane effect the Earth’s climate?

Methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas that is much stronger than carbon dioxide (CO2), 34 times stronger if compared over a 100-year period. While concentrations of methane in the atmosphere are about 200 times lower than carbon dioxide, methane was responsible for 60% of the equivalent radiative forcing caused by carbon dioxide since the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Methane’s presence in the atmosphere can also affect the abundance of other greenhouse gases, such as ozone (O3), water vapor (H2O), and carbon dioxide.

What are the primary natural and anthropogenic sources of methane?

The main natural sources of methane are wetlands and freshwater systems (rivers and lakes). The main sources of anthropogenic methane are agriculture (such as cattle farming) and waste (such as landfills), and methane derived from the fossil fuel industry. Anthropogenic sources are slightly larger emitters of methane to the atmosphere compared to natural sources.

How have methane levels in the atmosphere changed over time?

Direct records of atmospheric methane concentrations only go back about 800,000 years. During this time methane concentrations have generally varied between 300 and 800 parts per billion. Since the onset of the Industrial Revolution in about 1750, however, atmospheric methane concentrations shot up to about 1800 parts per billion and are continuing to rise.

Between 2000 and 2007, atmospheric methane concentrations appeared to stabilize, leading to sustained debate regarding the main drivers of atmospheric methane. Crucially, after 2007 atmospheric methane concentrations began to rise again and current measurements suggest that atmospheric methane concentrations will continue to increase.

It remains vital that we are able to identify the cause(s) of this rise in order to address emissions of this critical greenhouse gas. Particularly important is curbing emissions from human activities, namely agriculture and the fossil fuel industries. One key example of this, currently, is the identification and mitigation of leaking natural gas infrastructure.

Which natural systems are most vulnerable to climate change and may significantly influence methane emissions?

The biggest natural emitters of methane are wetlands and lakes, both of which are affected by the impacts of climate change, namely increased temperatures and changing hydrology. The balance between methane production and its oxidation within these environments before it can be released to the atmosphere, both of which are affected by temperature and hydrology, is crucial to understanding the response of these systems to climate change.

While not the largest emitters, permafrost systems (underlain by soils that remain frozen throughout the year due to cold local temperatures) are highly vulnerable to climate change. The proportion of methane emitted from such systems may increase significantly in a warmer future as the previously frozen organic carbon-rich soils are thawed out, making this material available for methane producing microbes.

The methane climate feedback loop. Credit: Dean et al., 2018, Figure 7

What are some of the unresolved questions in this field where additional research, data or modeling is needed?

In the short-term, a key issue that needs resolving is the mismatch between global methane budgets from top-down (derived from atmospheric measurements) and bottom-up (derived from measurements of methane emissions at the land surface from different methane producing environments) approaches. This requires collecting more data at high resolution in time and space, and the use of isotopes to bridge top-down and bottom-up observations to identify methane sources across these measurement scales.

In the longer-term, a crucial question that remains is whether methane oxidation in natural environments can match potentially increased methane production in response to predicted climate change. Answering this question requires observations and modeling at a wide range of scales from the microbial- to the global-scale. This should also involve bringing together researchers across these disciplines, particularly linking geophysicists and geochemists with microbiologists.

—Joshua Dean, Department of Earth Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands; email:

Press link for more: EOS.ORG

The Gulf Stream has slowed. #auspol #ClimateChange #StopAdani

The ocean currents that help warm the Atlantic coasts of Europe and North America have significantly slowed since the 1800s and are at their weakest in 1600 years, according to new research my colleagues and I have conducted. As we’ve set out in a new study in Nature, the weakening of this ocean circulation system may have begun naturally but is probably being continued by climate change related to greenhouse gas emissions.

This circulation is a key player in the Earth’s climate system and a large or abrupt slowdown could have global repercussions. It could cause sea levels on the US east coast to rise, alter European weather patterns or rain patterns more globally, and hurt marine wildlife.

We know that at the end of the last major ice age, rapid fluctuations in the circulation led to extreme climate shifts on a global scale. An exaggerated (but terrifying) example of such a sudden event was portrayed in the 2004 blockbuster film The Day After Tomorrow.

Press link for more: The Conversation

Does your city have a plan to tackle #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

We examined 885 European cities’ plans to tackle climate change – here’s what we found

Oliver Heidrich

Around the world, cities endeavour to cut greenhouse gas emissions, while adapting to the threats – and opportunities – presented by climate change. It’s no easy task, but the first step is to make a plan outlining how to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement, and help limit the world’s mean temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

About 74% of Europe’s population lives in cities, and urban settlements account for 60-80% of carbon emissions – so it makes sense to plan at an urban level. Working to meet carbon reduction targets can also reduce local pollution and increase energy efficiency – which benefits both businesses and residents.

But it’s just as important for cities to adapt to climate change – even if the human race were to cut emissions entirely, we would still be facing the extreme effects of climate change for decades to come, because of the increased carbon input that has already taken place since the industrial revolution.

In the most comprehensive survey to date, we collaborated with 30 researchers across Europe to investigate the availability and content of local climate plans for 885 European cities, across all 28 EU member states. The inventory provides a big-picture overview of where EU cities stand, in terms of mitigating and adapting to climate change

Map of cities with local climate plans (LPCs). The countries in dark orange make it compulsory to have local climate plans. Oliver Heidrich/University of Newcastle., Author provided

The leaderboard

The good news is that 66% of EU cities have a mitigation or adaptation plan in place. The top countries were Poland – where 97% of cities have mitigation plans – Germany (81%), Ireland (80%), Finland (78%) and Sweden (77%). In Finland, 78% of cities also had a plan for adapting to climate change.

But only a minority of EU countries – including Denmark, France, Slovakia and the UK – have made it compulsory for cities to develop local climate plans. In these countries, cities are nearly twice as likely to have a mitigation plan and five times as likely to have an adaptation plan. Throughout the rest of the EU, it is mainly large cities that have local climate plans.

There were some shortcomings worth noting: 33% of EU cities (that’s 288 cities) have no standalone climate plans whatsoever – including Athens (Greece), Salzburg (Austria), and Palma de Mallorca (Spain). And not one city in Bulgaria or Hungary has a standalone climate plan. Only 16% of cities – that’s a total of 144 – have joined-up mitigation and adaptation plans, and most of these were in France and the UK – though cities such as Brussels (Belgium), Helsinki (Finland) and Bonn (Germany) had joined-up plans as well.

Where’s the plan, Palma de Mallorca? Shutterstock

Some cities have made climate initiatives a common feature in planning activities, often aiming for broader environmental goals, such as resilience and sustainability. Some of these forward-looking cities – Rotterdam and Gouda in the Netherlands, for example – may not have standalone climate change mitigation or adaptation plans, per se. Instead, climate issues are integrated into broader development strategies, as also seen in Norwich, Swansea, Plymouth and Doncaster in the UK.

Mitigation, adaptation – or both?

Plans for mitigating the effects of climate change are generally straightforward: they look at ways to increase efficiency, transition to clean energy and improve heating, insulation and transport. In doing so, they are likely to result in financial savings or health benefits for the municipality, and the public. For example, more low-emission vehicles on the road doesn’t just mean less carbon emissions – it also means better air quality for the city’s residents.

Adapting to climate change is not always so simple. Each area will need to adapt in different ways. Some adaptations – such as flood defences – can require huge investment to build, and only rarely prove their effectiveness. Yet there are plans and measures that cities can take, to both mitigate the threats from climate change and adapt to the changes that are already coming.

One way for cities to become more resilient to climate change is to integrate infrastructures for energy, transport, water and food, and allow them to combine their resources. A sensors become more commonplace across European cities, it’s easier to monitor the impacts of local plans to reduce emissions and stay on top of extreme weather. The University of Newcastle in the UK is home to the Urban Observatory, which provides one of the largest open-source digital urban sensing networks in the world.

Spot the sensor. University of Newcastle., Author provided

Across the board, cities need to improve the way they manage water at the surface and below ground. Installing more green features in city centres or strategic locations can help urban areas adapt to heatwaves, extreme rainfall and droughts all at once. To find out what works and what doesn’t, it’s essential for cities to network and share knowledge, to create and improve on their local climate plans.

There is simply too much at stake for the world’s cities to go their separate ways when it comes to climate change.

We have found that international climate networks make a big difference to countries and cities, as they develop and implement their climate plans.

For instance, 333 EU cities of our sample are signatories of the Covenant of Mayors and through that are given support and encouragement as they engage in climate change planning and action.

Our study shows that cities are taking climate change threats seriously, but there is clearly more work to be done.

It is a near certainty that if cities do not plan and act now to address climate change, they could find themselves in a far more precarious position in the future.

While there is plenty that cities can do, national governments must still take the lead – providing legal and regulatory frameworks and guidance. Our study has demonstrated that this is one of the most effective ways to make sure that cities – and their citizens – are well prepared for the threats and opportunities that climate change will bring.

Press link for more: The Conversation

Humans didn’t exist the last time there was this much CO2 in the air #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani

Humans didn’t exist the last time there was this much CO2 in the air

By Eric Holthauson May 3, 2018

Eric Holthaus is a meteorologist and staff writer for Grist, covering climate science, policy, and solutions. He has previously written for the Wall Street Journal, Slate, and a variety of other publications.

The last time atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were this high, millions of years ago, the planet was very different.

For one, humans didn’t exist.

On Wednesday, scientists at the University of California in San Diego confirmed that April’s monthly average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration breached 410 parts per million for the first time in our history.

We know a lot about how to track these changes.

The Earth’s carbon dioxide levels peak around this time every year for a pretty straightforward reason. There’s more landmass in the northern hemisphere, and plants grow in a seasonal cycle. During the summer, they suck down CO2, during the winter, they let it back out. The measurements were made at Mauna Loa, Hawaii — a site chosen for its pristine location far away from the polluting influence of a major city.

Increasingly though, pollution from the world’s cities is making its way to Mauna Loa — and everywhere else on Earth.

In little more than a century of frenzied fossil-fuel burning, we humans have altered our planet’s atmosphere at a rate dozens of times faster than natural climate change. Carbon dioxide is now more than 100 ppm higher than any direct measurements from Antarctic ice cores over the past 800,000 years, and probably significantly higher than anything the planet has experienced for at least 15 million years. That includes eras when Earth was largely ice-free.

Not only are carbon dioxide levels rising each year, they are accelerating. Carbon dioxide is climbing at twice the pace it was 50 years ago. Even the increases are increasing.

That’s happening for several reasons, most important of which is that we’re still burning a larger amount of fossil fuels each year. Last year, humanity emitted the highest level of greenhouse gas emissions in history — even after factoring in the expansion of renewable energy. At the same time, the world’s most important carbon sinks — our forests — are dying, and therefore losing their ability to pull carbon dioxide out of the air and store it safely in the soil. The combination of these effects means we are losing ground, and fast.

Without a bold shift in our actions, in 30 years atmospheric carbon dioxide will return back to levels last reached just after the extinction of the dinosaurs, more than 50 million years ago. At that point, it might be too late to prevent permanent, dangerous feedback loops from kicking in.

This is the biggest problem humanity has ever faced, and we’ve barely even begun to address it effectively. On our current pace, factoring in current climate policies of every nation on Earth, the best independent analyses show that we are on course for warming of about 3.4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, enough to extinguish entire ecosystems and destabilize human civilization.

Climate change demands the urgent attention and cooperation of every government around the world. But even though most countries have acknowledged the danger, the ability to limit our emissions eludes us. After 23 years of United Nations summits on climate change, the time has come for radical thinking and radical action — a social movement with the power to demand a better future.

Of the two dozen or so official UN scenarios that show humanity curbing global warming to the goals agreed to in the 2015 Paris Accord, not one show success without the equivalent of a technological miracle. It’s easier to imagine outlandish technologies, like carbon capture, geoengineering, or fusion power than self-control.

Our failed approach to climate change is mostly a failure of imagination. We are not fated to this path. We can do better. Yes, there are some truly colossal headwinds, but we still control our future. Forgetting that fact is sure to doom us all.

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Can we geo-engineer our way out of #climatechange? #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Can we geo-engineer our way out of climate change?

New technologies may one day pull the greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

But at what cost?

Image: REUTERS/Andres Forza/Files

With fires, storms, record-breaking temperatures and changes in the natural environment, there is growing evidence that our earth’s systems are becoming increasingly unstable.

This has potentially catastrophic consequences.

Public debate often places climate risks in the context of “this century” or “by 2100”. But scientists are increasingly highlighting the risks of devastating and irreversible impacts in just 20 or 30 years.

This is within our lifetimes, and certainly within our children’s.

Loss of nearly all corals, which support 25% of all ocean life (as documented in the recent film Chasing Coral)

Collapsing ice sheets, which will raise sea-levels, devastating coastal cities and low-lying countries

Warming oceans, which energize storms (to category 6 and higher), with damage that includes breaches of coastal nuclear reactors

Warming of the planet, caused by the greenhouse effect, is the primary stressor of many of these environmental challenges. Carbon dioxide and other pollutants present further complications, such as increasing ocean acidification.

450 parts per million

Humans have long affected their environment. But until we started burning fossil fuels in the mid-1800s, the amount of carbon we added to the air balanced the amount removed. However, over the past 150 years, CO2 emissions have far outpaced the subtractions. Our annual production of carbon is currently around 40 billion tonnes.

Scientists debate how much carbon can be safely stored in our atmosphere before exceeding safe operating limits.

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates it to be around 300 billion tonnes, but many scientists suggest a much lower amount.

Climate scientists believe that a CO2 concentration of 450 parts per million is likely to warm the climate by 2°C, the safe upper limit. By 2015, CO2 in the atmosphere rose to 400 parts per million. At our current rate of emissions, we will reach 450 ppm within 20 years.

Even if we achieve the Paris Agreement reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the gases that were generated over the past few decades will be absorbed back into the earth slowly, and will be at an elevated level in our atmosphere for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

To stay below the safe threshold of 2°C, the UN and IPCC plans entail removal of CO2 from the atmosphere using methods that do not exist yet (“negative emissions”).

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Some countries are developing plans for adapting to a warmer, more volatile planet. However, the cost of adaptation starts to rise rapidly as climate-linked incidents become more common.

The Paris Agreement and bold decisions by certain nations to expand renewable energy, introduce electric vehicles and deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals are powerful multilateral steps to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Will all of these efforts be enough? If not, do we have other options? (No, Mars is not an option yet.)

Adaptation to a warmer climate may not be a realistic long-term proposition for certain nations such as small island states and low-lying countries, given rising sea levels. We would still suffer the ecological loss of disappearing sensitive ecosystems, such as coral reefs.

During the agricultural, industrial and digital revolutions of the past 150 years, we have arguably been accidentally engineering the Earth’s system. We lit the planet where it was dark. We transplanted species, paved forests, emitted carbon, moved rivers and changed the Earth’s chemistry.

Could we now apply the advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to protect the natural systems we rely on?

Intervening to stabilise the climate

In recent decades, scientists have proposed engineered interventions to counter the effects of climate change. These are called “climate interventions” or “geoengineering”. They are not long-term solutions, but could protect communities and ecosystems, buying time both to reduce emissions and for the climate to cool.

Such technologies fall into three categories: removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, reducing heat by reflecting sunlight, and intervening locally for a specific problem or system.

Greenhouse gas removal, or “negative emissions technology”, uses industrial air filters or even living organisms to capture greenhouse gases and convert them into energy or materials, or store them in the ground. Many of these exist only as proof-of-concepts, and will take decades to deploy at scale. Therefore they could only reduce the heating effect slowly over time.

“The only known means of reducing warming in a timespan of years-to-decades is to reflect additional sunlight away from Earth,” states leading climate researcher, Ken Caldeira.

The most promising means of reflecting sunlight are based on natural processes. They involve dispersing particles to make the stratosphere more reflective, or to brighten clouds. These will take a couple of decades to develop, but if viable, could reduce warming rapidly.

Local interventions range from genetically modifying plants and organisms for survival to cooling parts of the ocean to sustain corals or dampen hurricanes.

We do not have the means to implement any of these options yet.

A global governance effort for geoengineering?

Engineering the climate is not without risks, creating great plotlines for Hollywood blockbusters, and making environmental decisions even more complex.

Reflecting sunlight could alter regional rainfall patterns. Greenhouse-gas removal methods may harm natural ecosystems. We will need frameworks to assess these risks.

Yet as climate threats grow, a wider range of countries, and even other non-state actors, may develop interventions. We will need governance for decisions about when and how these tools might be used, and such decisions must be inclusive.

Experiments are safe on a small scale, and people will need to do them. We must ensure that such research is open, that safeguards are in place, and that findings can be verified.

What next?

Above all, we need options. While many are concerned about controlling geoengineering, these capabilities do not even exist yet, and are very hard to develop. We currently risk having no options at all.

It will take a decade of small-scale research and development to assess the feasibility and risks of these approaches, and another decade to scale any option for meaningful use.

We will need a new generation of Fourth Industrial Revolution platforms, such as satellites, drones, exascale computing, advances in bio-technology, to analyse the climate as we work to sustain it.

At present, we need a sufficient portfolio and pipeline of research and innovation. This ensures that if efforts to reduce emissions are not enough, we have options to protect ourselves, our ecosystems and our society, and leave an inhabitable world to future generations.

(Editor’s note: Surely is easier, safer and far cheaper to rapidly shift to clean energy.

We need a rapid transition to a sustainable economy and we should start planting millions of trees 🌲 make polluters pay for the clean up.)

Press link for more: WEFORUM

Imagine A World Where Volcanic Eruptions Were Denied Like #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Imagine A World Where Volcanic Eruptions Were Denied Like Climate Change

Robin Andrews

Every now and then, on a good day where my inbox is full of glorious new scientific discoveries and instead of any of those mentally poisonous effusions coming out of the Trump administration or any of its acolytes, I forget climate change deniers exist. In this glorious, ephemeral haze, I don’t spare a thought for the lawmakers or fossil fuel barons that pretend that any politically inconvenient science doesn’t exist.

Then Scott Pruitt pops up, says something like global warming isn’t necessarily a bad thing (it is), and I have no choice but to write about it and explain, with the help of climate scientists, why it’s not just erroneous, but incredibly dangerous. This is often accompanied by a lotof facepalming. I can feel my brain ache and creak, like the aged bowels of a seafaring vessel’s hull, struggling to push back the sea of stupidity.

The threat is clear, present and urgently needs addressing. Climate change ranges from a mere inconvenience to existential crisis, depending on your circumstances, but as I’ve written here, there’s no escaping from it, no matter where in the world you are, or who you are.

In fact, this anthropogenically-led phenomenon is becoming so increasingly out of control that plans are being set in motion to turn the skies into a sunlight-blocking shield, to essentially cover up the problem to give us a chance at dealing with it before its effects becoming ever more dangerous.

Climate denial, therefore, is extremely irritating. It’s putting your fingers in your ears, often at a price, and refusing to listen or do anything about a problem that the wealthiest have created but that the poorest will suffer most from. On a purely scientific level, though, it’s vexing that anyone is able to get away with denying that it exists because the evidence for it – specifically, that it’s happening, it’s happening at an unprecedentedly quick pace, and it’s almost entirely driven by human actions – is utterly overwhelming. There’s a reason that there’s a 97-100 consensus in peer-reviewed literature on the subject.

During a gesticulation-heavy rant to a stranger I had literally just met in a bar a few weeks back, I got to this exact point in the monologue when I said: “It’s like denying that volcanic eruptions exist!”

Nope. Nothing happening over there. Definitely not a volcanic eruption driven by pressure, temperature and geochemical changes in the underlying magma, nuh-uh. (Shutterstock)

And it is. Volcanologists are a notoriously clever (if sometimes cagey) bunch of people. Sure, there’s a lot that we’re yet to understand about volcanic eruptions; we don’t know, for example, exactly why water and magma trigger explosive eruptions only sometimes, not pretty much all the time, even if we have a few ideas. We’re also not entirely clear on how volcanoes on other planets or moons work either, although again we have some ideas.

As you’ve probably noticed, predicting when volcanoes will next erupt isn’t exactly a piece of cake, especially as each volcano is different, idiosyncratic and doesn’t obey the same pattern of behavior as it has in the past, or displayed by any of its other fiery fountain comrades nearby or around the world.

We do, however, know without question that volcanic eruptions take place, and the general processes that lead to an eruption, including the variables that influence them, are agreed upon by volcanologists, even if individual volcanoes are highly complex. Trying to disagree on the first point would be literal madness; attempting to argue against the second, particularly if you’re not a volcanologist, would be an enormous waste of time.

The types of evidence also vary, but they all complement each other. Obviously, you can see volcanic eruptions happening with your own eyes. Even if you can’t, then you have webcams, satellites, seismometers, geochemical analysis devices (both ground-based and airborne), GPS equipment, physical samples of the fresh volcanic deposits themselves, and even thermal emission cameras attached to helicopters and drones. There are plenty of volcanoes that remain poorly monitored or under-researched, sure, but that doesn’t change what we already know about volcanoes, their eruptions, and their effects on the world around them.

We also happen to know, using the geological record, about past eruptions. The data isn’t as high-res, so to speak, as contemporary, real-time data, but by studying thousands of volcanoes across the world, even those that no longer exist as dormant or active volcanoes, we have a grasp of what volcanic activity was like in the past. We know how volcanic activity has changed over time; not as much as we like, but we do.

In both cases, it’s safe to say that every single day, thanks to the extremely hard work of volcanologists all over the world, we learn more and more, tweak our hypotheses, strengthen our theories, and advance onward. Progress is, gradually, step-by-step, made.

Imagine if POTUS said that volcanic eruptions are a Chinese hoax. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Now just imagine, for a second, if President Trump one day declared that volcanic eruptions are conspiracy. Imagine if he said that, because he personally hasn’t seen a volcanic eruption, or footage of one in some time, then volcanic eruptions mustn’t happen.

This would quite rightly be seen as bonkers. Just to emphasize the ridiculousness of this analogy, though, let’s apply it to a handful of the President’s comments on climate change.

“When will our country stop wasting money on volcanic eruptions and so many other truly “STUPID” things and begin to focus on lower taxes?” [Original]

“The concept of volcanic eruptions was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” [Original]

“Newly released emails prove that scientists have manipulated data on volcanic eruptions. The data is unreliable.” [Original]

This is all terribly and self-evidently silly, but there are more verbally acrobatic forms of climate denial. The same principle applies, though.

Imagine if Scott Pruitt claimed that, sure, volcanic eruptions exist, but they’ve always happened. He occasionally says much the same about the climate, in that it’s “always been changing”. In both cases, such a statement is inherently meaningless, and is designed to suggest that the phenomenon in question isn’t really a big deal. It also falsely implies that the explanations scientists give for both happening are somehow erroneous.

It’s ridiculous. Imagine if a volcanologist was talking about the risks people living around an actively erupting volcano face, and Pruitt responded by simply shrugging, then saying “well, volcanoes have always been erupting.” It’s a quick route to becoming apoplectic.

Imagine if, under this President’s administration, federal scientists aren’t allowed to use the phrases “volcanic eruption” or “pyroclastic flow” because they’re politically inconvenient. Imagine if volcanologists are turfed out of their jobs, and replaced instead by members of the petrochemical industry.

Imagine watching TV, and witnessing the existence of volcanic eruptions being debated, with a volcanologist on one side being told by an eruption denier that they don’t know what they’re talking about. Not only are they being lectured on how there isn’t a consensus on whether volcanic eruptions exist, but they’re also being told that the dangers of eruptions are being greatly exaggerated. Of course they make eruptions sound scary – volcanologists rely on scaring people to earn money, right?

Pah, volcanologists. What do they know, eh? (Giuseppe Distefanno / Barcroft I / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Eruption denial, of course, is entirely absurd. It’ll never happen. Anyone who, in this reality of ours, publicly claimed to not believe in volcanic eruptions or trust volcanologists’ work would be seen, quite rightly, as fundamentally broken on a moral or neurological level. You can’t decide, for whatever reason, that some scientific consensuses are nonsense and others are totally acceptable, because that’s not how factual information works.

There’s still a lot left to learn, but volcanologists agree that eruptions exist, and that they are driven by temperature, pressure and geochemical changes within their plumbing systems. Still presented with plenty of scientific uncertainties, climatologists nevertheless agree that climate change is happening, and today it’s predominantly driven by human activity. Somehow though, only one of these are denied or otherwise maliciously obfuscated by the current President of the United States, much of his administration, and plenty of members of Congress.

What a time to be alive!

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Three theories to help save the world. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateChange #DoughnutEconomics @KateRaworth

Three theories to help save the world

Humanity is now using the equivalent of 1.6 planets to provide the resources we use and to absorb our waste.

That is, it takes Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year.

How do we solve the delicate problem of population growth and environmental limitations?

It’s a question with no easy  answer, but that hasn’t stopped mathematician and author, Joel Cohen, from coming up with three potential solutions:

A bigger pie: technical innovation

This theory looks to innovation and technology as Earth’s saviour, not only to extend the planet’s human carrying capacity but to also improve the quality of life for each individual.

Advances in food production technologies such as agriculture, water purification and genetic engineering may help to feed the masses, while moving away from fossil fuels to renewable power sources such as wind and solar will go some way to reducing climate change.

Funding and research of technical innovation should be a high priority in these areas, but we must accept that technology can only do so much, and is only part of the solution.

Fewer forks: education and policy change

The fewer forks theory is based on demographic transition, effectively finding ways to slow or stop population growth, resulting in fewer people fighting for resources or ‘slices’ of pie.

Birth rates naturally decline when populations are given access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, education for boys and girls beyond the primary level is encouraged and made available, and women are empowered to participate in social and political life. Continuing to support programs and policies in these areas should see a corresponding drop in birth rates. Similarly, as the incomes of individuals in developing countries increase, there is a corresponding decrease in birth rates. This is another incentive for richer countries to help their developing neighbours reach their potential.

Education is the foundation of our future, and not only because it helps to reduce unsustainable birth-rates. Image sourced from: European Union DG ECHO; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Fewer forks can also cover another complicated area—the option of seriously controlling population either by force (as China has done in the past with its one-child policy), or by providing a health, education or financial incentive (for example free education for families with a single child). Both are morally, economically and politically charged areas, to which there is no easy answer.

Better manners: less is more

The better manners approach seeks to educate people about their actions and the consequences of those actions, leading to a change in behaviour.

This relates not only to individuals but also governments. Individuals across the world, but particularly in developed countries, need to reassess their consumption patterns. Numerous studies have shown that more ‘stuff’ doesn’t make people happier. We need to step back and re-examine what is important, while actively finding ways to reduce the amount of resources we consume.

Humanity is now using the equivalent of 1.6 planets to provide the resources we use and to absorb our waste. That is, it takes Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year.

Governments too need to instigate shifts in environmental policy to protect and enhance natural areas, reduce CO₂ and other greenhouse gas emissions, invest in renewable energy sources and focus on conservation as priorities.

Developing countries should be supported by their more developed neighbours to reach their development goals in sustainable, practical ways.

Humans—all 7.6 billion of us—are complex, and so are the problems we create. In reality, there is no single, easy solution. All three options must be part of a sustainable future.

This article was adapted from Academy website content reviewed by the following experts: Professor Stephen Dovers FASAA Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University; Professor Colin Butler Centre for Research and Action in Public Health, University of Canberra

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