Greenland

img_1915-14

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

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

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

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

Press link for more: Forbes.com

img_2051-6

Nine things we should all do during the Climate Crisis. #auspol 

If everyone in the U.S. gave up meat and cheese just one day a week, it would be equivalent to not driving 91 billion miles, or taking 7.6 million cars off the road, according to the Environmental Working Group. 
My friend the writer and editor Laura M. Browning asked me to write about environmental action for her newsletter “One Small Thing,” which advises people on personal actions they can take to improve their world. Here’s a preview:
Most Americans believe climate change is real and that something should be done about it, but they seem to want someone else to do it—usually, the government. In the wake of the 2016 election, what was always true should be abundantly clear: government won’t solve the problem of climate change.
That leaves us. Fortunately, there are lots of things we can do ourselves. I’ve listed nine of them below. They might look like small things, but they are powerful things.
Sometimes we may feel powerless to transform the transportation, energy and industrial sectors ourselves, and so we want some omnipotent being to do it for us. But while we’re feeling powerless, are we overlooking personal actions that can further our goals?
The Powers That Be may not heed our protests, read our letters, listen to our environmental groups, but they can’t stop us from taking back the dollars we inadvertently contribute to their polluting economy every year.
Here is a list of simple actions that work:
1. Become a vegetarian, or better yet a vegan. 

The share of greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture is usually pegged at 14.5 percent to 18 percent, but the Worldwatch Institute found lots of oversights in those calculations that, when properly counted, bring the ag contribution all the way up to 51 percent. That, you’ll notice, is more than half. Which means that after we clean up all the transportation, energy, industry and commerce in the world, we’ve done less than half the job. The other half is meat and dairy. Refuse to eat it. If this seems too challenging, consider giving it up one day a week. It will still be the most important action you can take.

2. Eat organic when you can.

 Organic food is good for us because we’re not putting pesticides in our bodies, but organic food is also grown without synthetic fertilizers, most of which begin as byproducts of oil refining. When you buy a conventional apple, you’re giving a little boost to Big Oil.
3. Buy local when you can. 

I’m not talking about patronizing mom and pop stores, although that may have its own merit; I’m talking about buying locally-manufactured products made with locally-sourced materials. This goes for food too, with home organic gardening as a local ideal. To the extent that we minimize transportation of goods, we mitigate climate change.
4. Live in the climate. 

The biggest residential demand on our dirty energy system is climate control—home heating and cooling. We travel from our air conditioned homes to our air conditioned workplaces in air conditioned cars. Of course, we need climate control to protect us from freezing temperatures in winter and soaring temperatures in summer, but do we need the atmosphere to be exactly 70 degrees everywhere we go, all year long? Let’s use climate control only for the extremes. When temperatures are moderate, live in the climate we evolved to inhabit.
5. Line dry your clothes. 

Since I stopped using a clothes dryer, not only do I feel good about the fossil fuel I’m not burning, but my clothes last much longer. Which means I don’t need to buy new clothes nearly as often. Which means new clothes are not being shipped to me from Asia in freighters burning dirty, unregulated fuel oil.
6. Vote with your feet. 

Every time you drive a car, you vote for the car. Every time you ride a bike, you vote for the bike. You vote economically in the fuel you purchase—or don’t—but you also vote pragmatically. These days, transportation departments keep meticulous track of road usage and transit trips. Where there are a lot of bicyclists, bicycle infrastructure is more likely to get support. Where there are a lot of pedestrians, most transportation departments will try to make streets safer and friendlier for people, not cars.
7. If you have children, don’t use them as an excuse to wage war on their environment.

“I have children, therefore I must buy meat,” goes the thinking. “I have children, therefore I must drive a car.” This is like saying, “I have children, therefore I must destroy their future.” Researchers estimate each child increases a parent’s carbon footprint by nearly six times! Raise little vegetarians who know how to live in the climate and use public transit—survival skills for the 21st Century.

8. Reduce and reuse before recycle. 

Recycling emerged as a virtue before we knew we had a climate problem, and it turns out that transporting and processing materials for recycling is carbon intensive. Recycling still uses less energy than making new products from scratch, but reducing and reusing are even cleaner.
9. Offset your carbon emissions. After we’ve done everything above, we’ll still be responsible for some unavoidable emissions until our society cleans up its act. It only cost me $35 to offset my carbon emissions for 2016, which included some airline flights. The United Nations has made offsetting easy, cheap, and reliable, and you decide where the money goes—mine went to solar water heaters in India, inhibiting the spread of conventional water heaters there. Calculate and offset your emissions at climateneutralnow.org
By Jeff McMahon, based in Chicago

Press link for more: Forbes.com

img_2151-2

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

What are the arguments for ignoring climate change?

By Alistair Woodward

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

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


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


High water by Hans. CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.

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

Press link for more: Oxford University Press

img_2193-3

George Monbiot: The Pollution Paradox #auspol

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

img_2230

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

img_2228

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Press link for more: Wired.com

img_2217-1

2016 warmest on record. #science #climatechange #auspol 

Earth’s 2016 surface temperatures were the warmest since modern recordkeeping began in 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Globally-averaged temperatures in 2016 were 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit (0.99 degrees Celsius) warmer than the mid-20th century mean. 

This makes 2016 the third year in a row to set a new record for global average surface temperatures.
The 2016 temperatures continue a long-term warming trend, according to analyses by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. NOAA scientists concur with the finding that 2016 was the warmest year on record based on separate, independent analyses of the data.


Because weather station locations and measurement practices change over time, there are uncertainties in the interpretation of specific year-to-year global mean temperature differences. 

However, even taking this into account, NASA estimates 2016 was the warmest year with greater than 95 percent certainty.
“2016 is remarkably the third record year in a row in this series,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. 

“We don’t expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear.”
The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.
Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. Not only was 2016 the warmest year on record, but eight of the 12 months that make up the year – from January through September, with the exception of June – were the warmest on record for those respective months. October, November, and December of 2016 were the second warmest of those months on record – in all three cases, behind records set in 2015.
Phenomena such as El Niño or La Niña, which warm or cool the upper tropical Pacific Ocean and cause corresponding variations in global wind and weather patterns, contribute to short-term variations in global average temperature. A warming El Niño event was in effect for most of 2015 and the first third of 2016. Researchers estimate the direct impact of the natural El Niño warming in the tropical Pacific increased the annual global temperature anomaly for 2016 by 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit (0.12 degrees Celsius).  
Weather dynamics often affect regional temperatures, so not every region on Earth experienced record average temperatures last year. For example, both NASA and NOAA found the 2016 annual mean temperature for the contiguous 48 United States was the second warmest on record. In contrast, the Arctic experienced its warmest year ever, consistent with record low sea ice found in that region for most of the year.

The planet’s long-term warming trend is seen in this chart of every year’s annual temperature cycle from 1880 to the present, compared to the average temperature from 1880 to 2015. Record warm years are listed in the column on the right. Credit: NASA/Earth Observatory.Joshua Stevens.

NASA’s analyses incorporate surface temperature measurements from 6,300 weather stations, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures, and temperature measurements from Antarctic research stations. These raw measurements are analyzed using an algorithm that considers the varied spacing of temperature stations around the globe and urban heating effects that could skew the conclusions. The result of these calculations is an estimate of the global average temperature difference from a baseline period of 1951 to 1980.
NOAA scientists used much of the same raw temperature data, but with a different baseline period, and different methods to analyze Earth’s polar regions and global temperatures.
GISS is a laboratory within the Earth Sciences Division of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The laboratory is affiliated with Columbia University’s Earth Institute and School of Engineering and Applied Science in New York.
The full 2016 surface temperature data set and the complete methodology used to make the temperature calculation are available at:
http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp

Press link for more: climate.nasa.gov

img_2216-1

The Climate Threat posed by Right-Wing Populism’s rising tide. #Auspol 


Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom, speaks to members of the media before the start of the the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 19, 2016. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The day after American voters chose Donald Trump as their next president, Dutch politician Geert Wilders, leader of his country’s Party for Freedom, gave his take on the election to Russian broadcaster RT.

“I think that the people of America, as in Europe, feel insulted by all the politicians that ignore the real problems,” he said. “The lesson for Europeans is: Look at America. What America can do, we can do as well.” Wilders asserted that 2017 will see a series of electoral wins for right-wing nationalist parties, each an echo of Trump’s victory in the US.
There’s another reason the world should be considered about the form this growing disillusionment and outrage has taken: Right-wing populism threatens climate action.

The idea is not far-fetched. Both the June 2016 Brexit referendum and Trump’s unexpected win in November show all too clearly that it’s hard to predict where the anger bubbling beneath the surface of the western world will find an outlet — polls were unhelpful in both the Brexit vote and the US election. But when that anger does erupt, it tends to buoy nationalists who channel it toward established institutions and the elite.
The advance of these right-wing movements has caused quite a bit of concern within Europe. First, the nationalists’ hardline immigration policies threaten the pluralism Western nations prize. These victories also seem to foretell a global geopolitical realignment that would elevate Russia and Vladimir Putin as the West becomes more reactionary and isolationist.
But there’s another reason the world should be concerned about the form this growing disillusionment and outrage has taken: Right-wing populism threatens climate action.

The Paris Climate Agreement — the culmination of a more-than-20-year-long effort by the United Nations — is already in peril, thanks to America’s right-wing populists. It is a devastating irony that less than a week after the Paris Climate Agreement went into effect, America elected a climate change denialist who promptly announced he would pull America out of the deal.


However, even if America does leave the pact, other major emitters — China, India, Russia, Brazil and the European Union — are expected to stay the course. At the moment, Europe’s pledge to quickly cut climate change-causing emissions to 40 percent of 1990 levels is one of the most ambitious in the agreement. But if the predictions of leaders like Wilders and others on Europe’s far-right prove prescient, the presumption of Europe’s continued enthusiastic involvement in the deal could become far less safe.
Europe’s right-wing parties don’t share a common ideology or set of policy platforms, and they often have qualms about working with one another. Some of Europe’s right-wing populist leaders mirror Trump’s outright rejection of climate action — but not all. France’s Marine Le Pen of the National Front, for instance, questions climate science but champions “eco-nationalism.”
Europe’s right-wing populists are, however, largely united in their skepticism of cooperative bodies like the EU and the UN. These organizations are essential to progress on climate change. Taken as a unit, the European Union is the third-largest emitter of climate change-causing pollution, behind China and the United States, and the European Commission, which governs the EU, has played an essential role in pushing European nations to cut back pollution and green their economies. Yet this sort of international economic cooperation raises suspicions among Europe’s right, which, like Trump, denounces “globalism.” Le Pen’s National Front party, for instance, has described the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, a legal arrangement that undergirds the Paris Deal, as “a communist project.” UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage describes the fight for climate action as “one of the biggest and stupidest collective misunderstandings in history.”
“If climate change is labeled as an elitist, global project, which is what UKIP and Le Pen want to do, then it’s dead,” Nick Mabey, an environmental consultant and a former climate adviser to the UK government, told Bloomberg during a recent UN meeting in Marrakech to chart the path forward for the Paris deal.
Although the rise of right-wing populism has little to do with climate change, the world’s inability to deal with it may become our current populist moment’s most lasting impact. Establishment institutions including the UN and the EU are far from perfect, and the Paris deal alone will not be enough to ensure a stable climate future. But by attacking these institutions, populists’ victories will throw another speed bump onto the meandering and already quite bumpy road toward warding off climate catastrophe.
“NATO, the UN, the European Union and others were institutions that could be a bulwark of the international rule of law, as opposed to what we had before that, which was whoever had the biggest gunships, or the modern day equivalent, got what they wanted,” said Anthony Hobley, CEO of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a London-based nonprofit group that tracks the risk climate change poses to financial markets.

“If you take an issue like climate change, you’ve got a feedback loop. Without those institutions it makes it harder to fight climate change. A more destabilized climate will erode economic security and will increase migration. These issues add more pressure that may cause more populist politicians to be elected. That erodes international rule of law further and makes it harder to fight climate change, and so on.”
The first of these potential wins may come in March, when the Netherlands is holding its general election and Wilders’ party is expected to gain ground. Then, in the fall, Germany will hold elections. Many predict that anti-immigrant sentiment bolstered by terrorist attacks like the December assault on a Berlin Christmas market will allow the right-wing Alternative for Germany party to challenge Angela Merkel’s leadership. With Merkel at the helm, Germany has charted one of the steadiest courses toward addressing climate change. With the election looming, the country could veer off course.
If and when the US government rejoins international efforts to tackle climate change, the same forces that caused it to ditch those efforts may have fundamentally reshaped the efforts themselves, derailing the global climate action that just months ago seemed poised to finally get off the ground.

Press link for more: billmoyers.com

img_2210

Think before you fly. #auspol 

Ready to get over your post-festive comedown by booking an escape to the sun? For many of you, that will involve flying. And while I’m sorry to put a downer on your holiday plans, there are several problems with this from a climate perspective.
  The first is that aviation is essentially a fossil fuel industry, one which guzzles an eye-watering 5m barrels of oil every day. Burning that fuel currently contributes around 2.5% to total carbon emissions, a proportion which could rise to 22% by 2050 as other sectors emit less.


The second problem is, as Air Asia puts it, “Now everyone can fly”. And in “generation easyJet”, those who already fly, fly more than ever. This increasing demand from new and existing travellers means the number of passenger aircraft in our skies is set to double by 2035.
The third problem is that unlike other sectors where there might be a greener alternative (solar not coal, LEDs not lightbulbs etc), there is currently no way to fly 8m people every day without burning lots of dirty kerosene. Aircraft are becoming more fuel-efficient, but not quickly enough to offset the huge demand in growth. Electric planes remain decades away, weighed down by batteries that can’t deliver nearly as much power per kilo as jet fuel.


But here’s the peculiar thing: although no other human activity pushes individual emission levels as fast and as high as air travel, most of us don’t stop to think about its carbon impact.
While in many countries new cars, domestic appliances, and even houses now have mandatory energy efficiency disclosures, air travel’s carbon footprint is largely invisible, despite it being relatively much bigger. For instance, a return trip from Europe to Australia creates about 4.5 tonnes of carbon. You could drive a car for 2,000 kilometres and still emit less than that. And the average per capita emissions globally is around 1 tonne.
Several studies have found people to be quite ignorant of how their own flying behaviour contributes to climate change. It’s not hard to see why. Research into airline websites shows little mention of environmental impact. Green NGOs are often quiet on the issue, perhaps being reluctant to “preach” to their members to fly less, and concerned over accusations of hypocrisy as their own staff fly around the world to conferences.
Political leaders are also unwilling to point the finger at passenger-voters. Indeed, Tony Blair asked as prime minister in 2005 “how many politicians facing a potential election would vote to end cheap air travel?” His answer: zero. The political strategy seems to be passing the buck to the airline industry, and hoping for the best.
Aviation is a golden goose for politicians. In the UK, where sources of future post-Brexit economic growth are hard to identify, the industry looks set to continue its enviable historic growth-rate of 4-5% annually. The main problem for airlines now is finding enough space to accommodate planes at crowded airports such as Heathrow. Airlines’ seductive message to politicians is “If you build it, they will come.”
And the primary reason that they will come is because flying is kept artificially cheap, while trains and cars become more expensive. The main reason for this is the so-called “Chicago Convention”, agreed in 1944 by a then much smaller air industry, which prohibits countries from imposing jet fuel tax and VAT on international flights. Taxes on other forms of transport have increased dramatically since 1944 but thanks to the convention aviation has remained almost unscathed. Things have actually moved in the other direction since the 1990s, when an influx of low-cost carriers led to big cost savings and even lower ticket prices.

What is to be done? Aviation, along with shipping, was given special status and excluded from the Kyoto and Paris climate change agreements. The industry was tasked to come up with its own solutions instead. After much foot-dragging, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), finally addressed aviation emissions in 2016, proposing a market-based mechanism, the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).
Under CORSIA, countries’ airlines are given allowances to emit carbon, and if they exceed their allowances (which they will) then they must buy offsets from other sectors. Yet the plan is not nearly radical enough. It doesn’t even come into power for another decade, and it does nothing to stifle demand – unlike a carbon tax.
As we can see, regulating the environmental impact of flying is a complex business. Ignorance and inaction is an appealing reaction to complexity, but we need to act before aviation gobbles up more of the increasingly small wriggle-room for emission cuts. We can try and reduce the number of flights taken, buy carbon offsets for unavoidable flights, and question the broader logic of allowing the industry to grow ad infinitum. Just using a carbon calculator to learn about the carbon impact of our sunny escapades is a good start.
If citizens remain blissfully unaware of aviation emissions, then airlines and governments are unlikely to do anything about them. Alternatively, if governments ever wish to place a global carbon tax on flights, then they will need to create political “buy-in” from citizens who increasingly see cheap flights as a right.

Press link for more: The Conversation

img_2193-1

Interfaith effort spreads the word about climate change #auspol 

Interfaith effort spreads the word about climate change
Interfaith groups throughout Philadelphia came together to challenge climate change deniers as part of the National Day Against Denial recently, and Black organizations want to keep up the momentum.


Christians, Jews, Muslims and other faith communities braved the cold to gather for a march through Center City on Monday. The two-prone effort had others engaged in phone-bank calls to policymakers and lawmakers.
Members of Philadelphia PA Interfaith Power & Light joined with groups outside the faith community to champion the cause of keeping the issue in the political forefront as President-elect Donald Trump has nominated people who question or refute climate change science.
The Rev. Cheryl Pyrch of the Philadelphia PAIPL was among those answering the call to action.
“This is part of the national response to the climate deniers to let them know we are organized,” Pyrch said.
“I could not make it to the event,” he added. “I do know that Rev. Alison Cornish [executive director of PAIPL] was planning this for a while. The 350.org is also involved under the direction of Mitch James. They are involved in different climate environmental justice issues and are active right now.”
Philadelphia PAIPL plans to hold a brainstorming retreat to strategize on how it will help faith communities in the area address climate issues. The event is scheduled for Tuesday at the Summit Presbyterian Church in the Mount Airy section. Pyrch is the pastor at the church.
Mary Wade, founder of One Light, Building Respect in Community, said the issue of climate change came up at one of her recent events. But the associate minister at Wayland Temple Baptist Church in North Philadelphia said race, violence and environmental issues should remain among the focuses for faith-based groups and churches.
“Underlining every issue confronting our community is a disregard for the integrity of life,” Wade said. “Whether in the workplace, by those in authority or everyday people walking the streets of the community, the problem is the same — a lack of appreciation for our Creator and the sacredness of life. There is a lack of awe and deep respect for the God, who created us all and this planet.

“Our national culture is that of extreme irreverence and lack of honor,” she said. “There is little respect and appreciation for the Creator and creation. This undermines and destroys the fiber of society and hope for our future on this planet.
“That’s why we must continue to call upon people of all faiths and goodwill to show dignity, respect and care,” Wade added.
Gloria Jones of Germantown was among those who attended a tree planting along Germantown Avenue. Though the trees planted by PAIPL and others are small, it still brings her great pleasure, she said.
“I believe in a God who loves us so much that he gave us a beautiful place to live,” Jones said. “I think it is wonderful that many are trying to make sure that we save this planet. I know that I try to do my part.
“When I talk about climate change, I find that most African-American Christians do believe it is real, but what I find is that most think other things are more important. I tell them if you cannot breathe or lose the earth, all those other things will not matter,” she said.
“So, I applaud any group that is speaking out about this,” Jone said.

Press link for more: Phillytrib.com