Greenland

Mass coral bleaching forces review of reef protection plan #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

By Tony Moore

An urgently revised plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef has been bought forward following evidence of damage from the back-to-back coral bleaching incidents in 2016 and 2017.

The Australian and Queensland governments have on Friday released the 2018 mid-term review of their long-term 2050 Reef Plan, after studies in 2017 confirmed serious damage to the reef from climate change.

Great Barrier Reef coral of Port Douglas in 2017.

Photo: Dean Legacy

“The unprecedented instance of back-to-back mass bleaching events shows that climate change is already having impacts on the reef and clearly underlines the importance of urgent action to build the Reef’s resilience and maintain its functionality,” the report says.

“Consecutive coral bleaching events and the impact of other stressors have fundamentally changed the character of the Reef. Coral bleaching is projected to increase in frequency. As corals are relatively slow growing they will have too little time to recover between events or to evolve genetically.”

The report identifies four climate change trajectories to try to keep ocean temperature warming below 2 degrees to prevent coral bleaching.

The timeline: Why has this report been bought forward?

• 2015 – The Australian and Queensland governments released the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan

• 2016 – There were major problems with coral bleaching on areas of the Great Barrier Reef

• 2017 – There were more coral-bleaching incidents happened along the Great Barrier Reef. Coral bleaching is linked to ocean warming

• March-April 2017 – There was extra damage was caused by Cyclone Debbie

• September 2017 and May 2018 – Surveys showed “sustained significant coral loss due to coral bleaching, cyclones and crown-of-thorns starfish”

• July 2018 – The Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Forum decided to bring forward a revised Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan

What has changed in policy and direction in this new report?

There is a stronger focus on climate change in the revised report.

1. New climate adaptation actions have been added. A new policy is developing a Reef Resilience Network and working on localised restoration activities to build up this network.

2. Research will begin on climate change trajectories to judge their impact on the Great Barrier Reef. These climate change trajectories will be reviewed in 2020 in the first comprehensive review of the revised plan.

3. Water quality targets have been updated.

What is the big issue?

Water temperature increases around the Great Barrier Reef need to be kept below an increase of 1.5 degrees, according to peer-reviewed scientists, to reduce the frequency of coral bleaching, the report says.

A concerted “international effort” is required.

What are some of the key projects under way now?

This three-page table shows $600 million worth of fertilizer and sediment control projects now underway, funded by the Australian and Queensland governments.

Most of them are directed to cane farmers, banana farmers and graziers.

It includes $8.5 million for two sediment-erosion control and restoration projects run by Greening Australia to stop silt flowing down rivers and on to the reef.

Sediment flowing down the Burdekin River towards Upstart Bay near Bowen.

Photo: Tony Moore

Where is the money coming from?

The Australian government put in $500 million in the 2018-19 Budget.

The Queensland government put in $500 million to a Land Restoration Fund in its 2018-19 Budget.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has $1 billion available “on a commercial basis” for clean energy projects close to the reef.

By December 2017 it has invested $345 million to more than 280 projects including seven utility scale solar farms in central and north Queensland.

Earlier funding promises

In 2016, $1.28 billion was committed to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

That included $716 million from the Australian Government, $409 million from the Queensland government and $161 million from other sources.

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What does the Great Barrier Reef contribute to the economy?

1 Over two million visitors each year

2 64,000 jobs

3 Generates economic activity of $6.4 billion each year, largely through tourism

4 It is a “maze” of 1050 islands and 3000 reefs stretching 2300 kilometres along the Queensland coast

How will results be checked?

There are annual reports to Queensland and Australian environment ministers and updated in five-year Outlook Reports, independently monitored by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The first major review will be in 2020 before UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee reviews the health of the Great Barrier Reef in 2020.

The Great Barrier Reef has been a UNESCO protected site since 1981.

What do observers say about the revised reef plan?

Climate Council – Acting chief executive Dr Martin Rice said the revised plan failed to acknowledge Australia’s weak greenhouse gas pollution reduction targets and instead relied heavily on $500 million dollars to improve water quality and eradicate the crown-of-thorn starfish to protect the Reef.

World Wildlife Fund Australia – WWF’s Oceans campaigner Richard Leck said the plan showed more effort was needed to keep ocean warming to below 2 degrees centigrade.

He also questioned why farmers were not updating their practices to stop fertiliser run-off.

Press link for more: Brisbane Times

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Australian governments concede Great Barrier Reef headed for ‘collapse’ #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ClimateChange

By Nicole Hasham

The world’s climate change path means the Great Barrier Reef is headed for “collapse” according to a plan endorsed by state and federal governments that critics say turns a blind eye to Australia’s inadequate effort to cut carbon emissions.

The federal and Queensland governments on Friday released a “new and improved” Reef 2050 Plan to save the iconic natural wonder, which explicitly acknowledges climate change poses a deadly threat to the reef.

The comments depart starkly from previous official efforts to downplay damage wrought on the reef for fear of denting the tourism industry.

Global temperature rises this century must be kept below 1.5 degrees to ensure the Great Barrier Reef’s survival, the government plan says.

Photo: E.Matson, AIMS

Based on current climate projections, the outlook for coral reefs generally is “one of continuing decline over time, and in many regions, including the Great Barrier Reef, the collapse and loss of coral reef ecosystems”, the plan says.

It concedes that consecutive coral bleaching events and other stressors “have fundamentally changed the character of the reef”, which is one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet.

“Coral bleaching is projected to increase in frequency … those coral reefs that survive are expected to be less biodiverse than in the past,” the plan says.

Critics say the revised Reef 2050 Plan ignores Australia’s weak emissions reduction targets.

Photo: Australian Institute of Marine Science

The reef is the world’s largest living structure, covering an area roughly the size of Italy.

Coral reefs are particularly sensitive to the effects of climate change including higher sea temperatures, ocean acidification and more intense storms and cyclones.

The plan recognised that “holding the global temperature increase to 1.5°C or less is critical to ensure the survival of coral reefs”.

“Respected coral scientists have documented in peer-reviewed journals that most of the world’s coral reefs will not survive unless the global temperature increase is limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels,” it said.

However WWF-Australia head of oceans Richard Leck said Australia’s emissions reduction efforts were not even in line with limiting warming to 2°.

He cited a 2017 report by the United Nations environment program that found Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions were set to far exceed its pledge under the Paris accord. This agreement aims to limit global temperature rises this century to well below 2° and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°.

“It is simply not good enough for the revised plan to suggest the global community must work to limit warming when Australia is not doing its fair share,” Mr Leck said.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society’s reef campaign director Imogen Zethoven said increased recognition of climate change as a threat to the reef must be followed by action.

Fish swim among bleached coral in the Great Barrier Reef.

Photo: Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

She said scientific research soon to be published showed that if global temperature rises reached an average 2.4°, the Great Barrier Reef would suffer bleaching events twice a decade from 2041. This would occur as early as 2035 if average temperature rises reached 4.3°.

Bleaching events would be far less frequent under an average temperature rise of 1.6°, Ms Zethoven said.

“The onset of twice-a-decade bleaching will then become the onset of annual bleaching and eventually [the entire reef] will be affected,” she said.

Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said Australia’s Paris target was ambitious and the nation was “on track to meet and beat its 2020 target, we will also meet our 2030 target”.

The Queensland government has previously said millions of dollars in federal reef spending is essentially useless unless matched by efforts to tackle climate change

Labor environment spokesman Tony Burke said the federal government had neglected the reef by allowing large-scale land clearing in nearby catchments, which damages water quality.

Press link for more: SMH

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

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

BY PAUL BLEDSOE AND BEN RITZ, OPINION CONTRIBUTORS

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

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

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

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

We speak from experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The two problems exacerbate one another.

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

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

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

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

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

Democrats and Labor have to do better.

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

Neither is a risk worth taking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press link for more: The Hill

What Climate Change Looks Like In 2018 #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

What Climate Change Looks Like In 2018

Christie Aschwanden

A man cools off in the spray of a fire hydrant during a heatwave in Philadelphia this month.

Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images

It’s only July, but it has already been a long, hot spring and summer.

The contiguous U.S. endured the warmest May ever recorded, and in June, the average temperature was 1.7 degrees Celsius (3.0 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average. Iowa, New Mexico and Texas set record highs for their minimum temperatures in June, and as of July 3, nearly 30 percent of the Lower 48 was experiencing drought conditions. And it’s not just the U.S. During the first five months of 2018, nearly every continent experienced record warm temperatures, and May 2018 marked the 401st consecutive month in which temperatures exceeded the 20th century average.

Climate change, in other words, is not a hypothetical future event — it’s here.

We’re living it. And at a major science conference this month, some of the world’s leading climate scientists said it was changing our world in ways beyond what they’d anticipated.

“The red alert is on,”

Laurent Fabius, who was president of the 2015 international climate change negotiations in Paris, told an audience last week at the EuroScience Open Forum, Europe’s largest interdisciplinary science meeting.

As of 2015, global temperatures had risen about 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. “It’s a race against time,” Fabius said, and the political challenge is to avoid acting too late.

A draft of a forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that leaked earlier this year concludes that global temperatures are on track to rise in excess of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by about 2040. The 2015 Paris climate agreement set limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius as a sort of stretch goal, with the less ambitious target being 2 degrees Celsius.

The IPCC report, which is expected to be released in October, says that even if the pledges made under the Paris agreement are fulfilled, warming will still exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The report also says that the differences between the present day and just 0.5 degrees more warming are “substantial increases in extremes,” including hot temperatures, “heavy precipitation events” and extreme droughts.

We don’t have to look to the future to see what climate change can do.

At the EuroScience Open Forum, Camille Parmesan,1 a professor and member of IPCC, discussed her research showing that 90 percent of the 490 plant species examined at two sites, one in Washington, D.C., the other in Chinnor in the U.K., are responding to climate change in measurable ways.

Some plants she’s studied require winter chilling to thrive, and that’s a problem, because winter is warming more than spring.

And temperatures aren’t rising uniformly. Areas at higher latitudes are warming faster than other places, and that has allowed outbreaks of infections from Vibrio, a bacteria genus that thrives in warm waters, to happen in places like the Baltic Sea area. “We’ve underestimated the impact of climate change thus far,” Parmesan said.

The accelerating consequences of climate disruption will be a major theme when COP24, the next iteration of the climate conference that produced the Paris agreement, meets in Poland in December. Another focus of discussion will be the progress that each country has made toward its “nationally determined contributions,” the voluntary goals for reducing emissions that nations set for themselves in Paris. Progress is not in line with these goals in many countries, Fabius said. “Germany is not fulfilling its [NDCs], and in France last year, CO2 emissions were up,” he said.

If decision-makers can’t agree on politics, they might be persuaded by economics, said Thomas Stocker, a climate scientist and a longtime member of IPCC. De-carbonizing our energy systems is “the biggest opportunity in the 21st century,” he told the EuroScience Open Forum.

Some local and state governments in the U.S. are exploring that opportunity. “The Trump White House is not just failing to do climate,” Parmesan said. “It’s doing its best to stop every advance we’ve made in the last 20 years, but what’s happening is a reaction from the ground level up that’s countering that national-level resistance.” (The White House did not respond to FiveThirtyEight’s request for comment.) As an example, she pointed to Georgetown, Texas, a city north of Austin. The electric company there is owned by the city, which has just switched to 100 percent renewable energy. “The mayor is quite conservative, and he got mad when people said it was for climate change,” she said. “He said, ‘No, no — it just makes economic sense.’”

Press link for more: Five Thirty Eight

#ClimateChange is an existential threat. #auspol #qldpol #Longman #NoNewCoal #StopAdani

The effects of climate change are often talked about in sea level rise and worsening storms, certainly the most immediate and obvious symptoms.

There is a threat more difficult to contemplate — what happens to human civilization.

It is not just alarmist talk to speak of survival of human civilization, at least in the form people today know it. When they were here last month, climate scientists Michael Mann and David Titley warned that, as larger parts of the earth’s surface become uninhabitable, millions of people will be disrupted, in search of new places to live.

What will this do to infrastructure and trade, the way people make their living, support their families and run their countries?

Human beings are adaptable and can live in a variety of climates. But human civilization evolved with a particular set of climate patterns.

Those patterns have a certain predictability that allow for manufacturing plants, ports, electricity generation, for example. Human civilization depends on such things.

And what of the threat of scarcity — of livable land, food, shelter?

If humans don’t head off the worst of human-caused climate change, much of the land now densely inhabited by people will be under water.

Sea levels will rise such that Orlando could be the southernmost point of Florida, and Baton Rouge could be the edge of Louisiana, said Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State and director of the Earth System Science Center there.

California’s inland sea would probably return, and there would be no Charleston, South Carolina. Now, factor in Shanghai, Bangkok and cities all over the globe.

Titley, a retired rear admiral and director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State University, who specialized in national security, says this scenario would displace 500 million people around the world.

Consider that about a million refugees entered the European Union in recent years, fleeing climate-exacerbated problems in Syria.

“I argue that one million unplanned refugees shook the EU to its core,” Titley said. “Multiply that by 500.”

“Anybody who says they can tell you with certainty what the political impacts are, put your hand on your wallet and back away,” he said. “That is unknowable, but the chances are it will be pretty bad.”

“These are changes the likes of which human civilization — not the earth, but human civilization — have not seen before,” Titley said. “The question is how are we going to deal with them?”

This doomsday picture doesn’t have to be the future for the grandchildren of today’s adults, they both say.

When people talk about renewable energy sources or of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, it is this worst-case scenario they are trying to prevent.

Press link for more: WV Gazette Mail

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

A public nuisance

By Patrick Parenteau

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

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

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

I believe climate liability cases like these have merit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A question about jurisdiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Several legal precedents

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exxon knew

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

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

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

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

Patrick Parenteau, Professor of Law, Vermont Law School.

Press link for more: City Metric

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

Climate change will force us to redefine economic growth

World Economic Forum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next two decades will be decisive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press link for more: EWN.CO

So far the Dodos are winning in the U.S. & Australia #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #NoNewCoal #StopAdani #Longman

Republicans try to save their deteriorating party with another push for a carbon tax

Dana Nuccitelli

The Republican Party is rotting away. The problem is that GOP policies just aren’t popular.

Most Americans unsurprisingly oppose climate denial, tax cuts for the wealthy, and putting children (including toddlers) in concentration camps, for example.

The Republican Party has thus far managed to continue winning elections by creating “a coalition between racists and plutocrats,” as Paul Krugman put it.

The party’s economic policies are aimed at benefitting wealthy individuals and corporations, but that’s a slim segment of the American electorate.

The plutocrats can fund political campaigns, but to capture enough votes to win elections, the GOP has resorted to identity politics. Research has consistently shown that Trump won because of racial resentment among white voters.

While that strategy has worked in the short-term, some Republicans recognize that it can’t work in the long-term, and they’re fighting to save their party from extinction.

Can a carbon tax save the GOP?

Climate change is one of many issues that divides the Republican Party.

Like racial resentment, climate denial is a position held mostly by old, white, male conservatives.

There’s a climate change generational, ethnic, and gender gap.

61% of Republicans under the age of 50 support government climate policies, compared to just 44% of Republicans over 50.

Similarly, a majority of Hispanic- and African-Americans accept human-caused global warming and 70% express concern about it, as compared to just 41% of whites who accept the scientific reality and 50% who worry about it.

But the plutocratic wing of the GOP loves fossil fuels.

Republican politicians rely on campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry, and quid pro quo requires them to do the industry’s bidding.

It might as well be called the Grand Oil Party.

There is no other reason why the GOP should not unify behind a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

This free market, small government climate policy – which taxes carbon pollution and returns all the revenue to American households – is indeed supported by many conservatives.

A group of Republican elder statesmen created a coalition called the Climate Leadership Council to build conservative support for a revenue-neutral carbon tax. They’re now backed by Americans for Carbon Dividends (AfCD), led in part by former Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott with a renewed effort to build support for this policy.

AfCD recently released polling results showing that 55% of Americans believe US environmental policy is headed in the wrong direction (29% say it’s on the right track), 81% of likely voters including 58% of Strong Republicans agree the government should take action to limit carbon emissions, and by a 56% to 26% margin (including a 55% to 32% margin among Strong Republicans), Americans support a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

It’s not a wildly popular policy proposal, but it does have broad bipartisan support. It’s also a smart way to curb climate change with minimal economic impact, and in fact with a massive net economic benefit compared to unchecked climate change. That’s why economists overwhelmingly support a carbon tax.

The GOP was on the wrong side of history on civil rights and gay marriage and has paid the price, having largely become the party of old, straight, white men. Climate change is a similarly critical historical issue, but one that will directly impact every single American. Some smart Republicans recognize that the party can’t afford to be on the wrong side of history again on this issue.

Racial politics slapped a band-aid on the GOP’s gaping wound

Donald Trump managed to win the presidency in 2016 by stoking racial resentment among white Americans, but still lost the popular vote by a margin of nearly 3 million, and Republicans have only won the presidential popular vote once in the past two decades. They’re winning elections by relying on structural advantages (gerrymandering and weighting of rural votes), voter suppression, and mobilizing older white voters.

Trump seems to be doubling down on the latter strategy ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, for example by claiming that illegal immigrants are “infesting” America and by putting immigrant children in concentration camps. While only 25% of Americans support separating immigrant children from their parents, 49% of Republicans favor the policy. It’s a recipe for turning out the racist base (who also tend to be climate deniers), but not for winning a general election. Especially over the long-term as America becomes less white and as younger, more tolerant Americans become a larger proportion of the electorate.

When asked about the child concentration camps at a press conference, Senator David Perdue (R-GA) made the connection between the GOP coalition of plutocrats and racists, telling reporters:

we came here to talk about a crisis. Your job is to inform the American people, our job is to provide solutions. … God help us if we don’t solve this debt crisis. This is the No. 1 topic in America today … I want to make sure that the few minutes that we have didn’t get hijacked by the current shiny object of the day. [The national debt] is the current crisis in America.

The national debt might be less of a crisis had the GOP not added well over $1tn to the deficit in order to give wealthy Americans a tax cut. But apparently, it’s now a greater crisis than the American government taking immigrant children from their parents and putting them in concentration camps, or the existential threat posed by climate change. In other words, GOP priority #1 is further enriching plutocrats, priority #2 is reducing the national debt by cutting programs that help non-plutocrats; keeping families together and preserving a livable climate fall somewhere down the list.

Outside of the Republican base, these are unpopular priorities and policies. But as Katie Arrington, who recently beat Climate Solutions Caucus member Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) in a primary put it, “We are the party of President Donald J. Trump.” That’s a party that can only win races that are decided by white racial resentment. It’s a party that, given demographic changes, has become an endangered species.

Some Republicans are trying to save the party by embracing smart policies like a revenue-neutral carbon tax. But so far, the party dodos are winning.

Press link for more: The Guardian

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

Japan floods a warning for a changed climate

Kumuda Simpson

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

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

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

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

The planet has already warmed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need to talk about climate change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our first responsibility should be mitigation.

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

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

Press link for more: Lowy Institute

Conservation isn’t winning. Extinction is. #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #NoNewCoal #StopAdani

Conservation isn’t winning. Extinction is.

by Erik Vance

Erik Vance is a science writer based in Baltimore.

The northern white rhino isn’t going out with the thundering charge that it’s due. It won’t go out in a blaze of glory, fighting a pride of lions, as would befit such an inspiring creature. It’s going to die sad and old, withering away under armed guard in central Kenya while dozens of scientists — and millions of other humans around the world — look on, helpless.

It’s not that scientists have given up on the animal.

They haven’t.

But even the researchers who are pouring immense resources into technology to preserve the subspecies, which recently lost its last male, acknowledge that we are past the point of no return.

If you feel like you’ve heard this story before, you have.

It’s the same way the western black rhino and Vietnamese Javan rhino went out.

It’s the same story as the Chinese river dolphin, the Pinta Island tortoise (including the famous “Lonesome George”) and the passenger pigeon.

And if you’re tired of hearing it, that’s too bad. Because dozens of iconic species are lining up to join them. You see, the stories we have seen in recent years — where a species tilts ominously toward extinction and scientists rush in at the last second to save them — that used to be the exception.

Today, it’s the new normal.

Modern conservation is increasingly about maintaining insanely thin populations with shallow gene pools. Not only is this expensive and often futile, but also it undermines the whole point of wildlife management.

Last year, I spent six months writing about the doomed vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise and rarest marine mammal. I was struck by two things: first, how preventable the mess was.

Only 12 Vaquita left

Mexico has been focused on the vaquita since the early 1990s, and yet its policies have only served to inflame locals and encourage poachers, who catch the animal in their nets while chasing a valuable fish for traditional Chinese medicine.

Second, everything changes when a population gets too low.

In the past, managing for a species such as a spotted owl or a bald eagle wasn’t really about that species but about the ecosystem in which it lives — such as preserving old-growth forests or getting rid of toxic chemicals.

But if a species gets down to just a couple dozen individuals, a whole new problem emerges: genetics. Scientists need to be careful with breeding to stave off health problems. When Florida panthers dropped to about 20, scientists were forced to breed them with Texas cougars.

This saved the subspecies but also changed it forever.

Red wolves dropped to even lower numbers, but a targeted captive breeding program brought them back to a couple hundred (pretty inbred) animals. Will that be a problem? Are there so-called lethal alleles — fatal genes that sometimes pop up in very small populations — that will cause them to suddenly die? Should we go in and edit their genes to fix what inbreeding has done, as experts are trying with the pink pigeon? Or maybe, as has been argued with tigers, we should just change the classification of the animals so that there are fewer subspecies and thus fewer barriers to carting them across a continent to refresh the gene pool.Because all it takes is one bad season or one disease (or one mistake while transporting them, as we saw with black rhinos this week) to cripple the species.

Seeing a trend?

These are profoundly disturbing choices.

In the old days we used to worry about how many acres were needed to maintain a species and whether a corridor might keep animals connected.

Today we have to figure out if there is a gene that will kill off the entire population before we can get them all into zoos and breed them in test tubes.

And we’re still not sure how living in captivity for generations on end might change an animal. In 1987, when biologists put every California condor in captivity to save the species, it was front-page news for years. Today, there are about 200 species of birds alone in similar endangered straits.

This is not to blame the environmental community or take away from the accomplishments of biologists and activists across the globe. (We have them to thank for rebounding bald eagles, Siberian tigers, giant pandas and all the southern rhinos.) But they are just no match for all the things pushing animals toward extinction.

When I was a kid, my first exposure to science writing was a magazine called Zoobooks that would profile different animals.

I remember being baffled as to why so many were endangered. But I also remember being comforted by the magazines themselves. It meant people would do something. Orangutans will be just fine; Zoobooks was on the case.

But as someone who has been covering this topic for years now, I can tell you, it probably won’t be fine.

Conservation is not winning. And even when it does, like with the red wolves near Kitty Hawk, N.C. , it still loses.

This was an animal that successfully returned from just 14 individuals. But in a story eerily similar to the vaquita, local and national politics forced local managers to all but give up on the animal.

My Zoobooks used to tell me that when an animal goes extinct, it’s one more step toward our own extinction. But I know this isn’t true. Humans don’t need pink pigeons or rhinos to survive.

This isn’t about saving humans, or even animals. It’s about saving our humanity.

Press link for more: Washington Post