#ClimateChange 2017 should send shivers down the spines of policy makers. #auspol #StopAdani

by David Spratt

Much of what happened in 2017 was predictable: news of climate extremes became, how can I put it … almost the norm.

There was record-breaking heat on several continents, California’s biggest wildfire (extraordinarily in the middle of winter), an ex-tropical cyclone hitting Ireland (yes, Ireland) in October, and the unprecedented Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria that swept through the Atlantic in August.

The US government agency, the NOAA, reported that there were 16 catastrophic billion-dollar weather/climate events in the USA during 2017.

And 2017 “marks the first time some of the (scientific) papers concluded that an event could not have occurred — like, at all — in a world where global warming did not exist.

The studies suggested that the record-breaking global temperatures in 2016, an extreme heat wave in Asia and a patch of unusually warm water in the Alaskan Gulf were only possible because of human-caused climate change”, Reuters reported.

At both poles, the news continues to be not good.

At the COP23 in Bonn, Pam Pearson, Founder and Director of the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, warned that the cryoshere is becoming “an irreversible driver of climate change”. She said that most cryosphere thresholds are determined by peak temperature, and the length of time spent at that peak, warning that “later, decreasing temperatures after the peak are largely irrelevant, especially with higher temperatures and longer duration peaks”.

Thus “overshoot scenarios”, which are now becoming the norm in policy-making circles (including all 1.5°C scenarios) hold much greater risks.

As well, Pearson said that  2100 is a misleading and minimising measure of cryosphere response: “When setting goals, it is important to look to new irreversible impacts and the steady state circumstances. The end of the century is too soon to show that before but inevitable response especially for sea level rises.” Pearson added that: “What keeps cryosphere scientists up at night are irreversible thresholds, particularly West Antarctica and Greenland. The consensus figure for the irreversible melting of Greenland is at 1.6°C.”

So what did we learn about the climate system in 2017? Here’s three that stand out, that should send shivers down the spines of policy makers.

1.  2017 was the second hottest year on record and the hottest non-El Nino year on record

Whilst not all sources have yet released data on annual warming for last year, the Copernicus Climate Change Service, the first major international weather agency to report global 2017 temperatures, said they averaged 1.2°C above pre-industrial times. 2017 was slightly cooler than the warmest year on record, 2016, and warmer than the previous second warmest year, 2015, Reuters reported.

Other organisations have unofficial figures which either agree with this assessment, or say that 2017 has tied with 2015. And last year was Australia’s third-warmest year on record.

It is no surprise that the last three years have been the hottest on the instrumental record. What is remarkable is that 2017 was as hot, or hotter than 2015, because 2015 and 2016 were both El Nino years, and the evidence shows that El Nino years are, on average, about 0.15°C warmer than La Nina years.

In fact, a remarkably hot 2017 crushed the old record for hottest non-El Niño year (2014) by an astounding 0.17°C.

The underlying temperature trend is being driven by continuing high levels of climate pollution: The UN says carbon dioxide levels grew at record pace in 2016. The atmospheric carbon dioxide  averaged 403.3 parts per million (ppm) over the year, up from 400 ppm in 2015. The growth rate was 50 percent faster than the average over the past decade.

And global carbon emissions are headed up again after three years in which human-caused emissions appeared to be levelling off. A two percent increase is projected overall, with the highest rise coming in China, according to new research presented at the climate talks in Bonn.

In 2017 we also learned that there was no pause in global warming: the so-called ’slow down’ in climate change between 1998 and 2012 was caused by a lack of data from the Arctic.

2. It is likely to get hotter than we think

Two significant pieces of work released towards the end of 2017 suggest that warming is likely to be greater than the projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on which climate policy-making and carbon budgets are generally based.

This is because what is called Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS), an estimate of how much the planet will warm for a doubling in the level of greenhouse gases, is higher than the median of the IPCC’s modelling analysis.

In “Greater future global warming inferred from Earth’s recent energy budget” published in Nature in December 2017, Brown and Caldeira compared the performance of a wide range of climate models (raw model projections) with recent observations (especially on the balance of incoming and outgoing top-of-the-atmosphere radiation that ultimately determines the Earth’s temperature), in order to assess which models perform best.

The models that best capture current conditions (the “observationally-informed” models) produce 15% more warming by 2100 than the IPCC suggests, hence reducing the “carbon budget” by around 15% for the 2C target.

For example, they find the warming associated by the IPCC with RCP 4.5 emissions scenario would in fact “follow the trajectory previously associated with (higher emissions) RCP 6.0” scenario.

They also find that the observationally-informed ECS prediction has a mean value of 3.7°C (for a doubling of the atmospheric greenhouse gas level), compared to 3.1°C used in raw models, and in the carbon budget analyses widely used by the IPCC, the UN and at climate policy conferences.

In “Well below 2C: Mitigation strategies for avoiding dangerous to catastrophic climate changes”, published in September 2017, Xu and Ramanathan look at what are called the “fat tail” risks. These are the low-probability, high-impact (LPHI) consequences (“fat tails”) of future emission scenarios; that is, events with a 5% probability at the top end of the range of possible outcomes.

These “top end” risks are more likely to occur than we think, so “it is important to use high-end climate sensitivity because some studies have suggested that 3D climate models have underestimated three major positive climate feedbacks: positive ice albedo feedback from the retreat of Arctic sea ice, positive cloud albedo feedback from retreating storm track clouds in mid-latitudes, and positive albedo feedback by the mixed-phase (water and ice) clouds.”

When these are taken into account, the researchers find that the ECS is more than 40% higher than the IPCC mid-figure, at 4.5-4.7°C. And this is without taking into account carbon cycle feedbacks (such as melting permafrost and the declining efficiency of forests carbon sinks), and increase methane emissions from wetlands, which together could add another 1°C to warming be 2100.

This work compliments other recent work which also suggests a higher climate sensitivity:

Fasullo and Trenberth found that the climate models that most accurately capture observed relative humidity in the tropics and subtropics and associated clouds were among those with a higher sensitivity of around 4°C.

Zhai et al. found that seven models that are consistent with the observed seasonal variation of low-altitude marine clouds yield an ensemble-mean sensitivity of 3.9°C.

Friedrich et al. show that climate models may be underestimating climate sensitivity because it is not uniform across different circumstances, but in fact higher in warmer, inter-glacial periods (such as the present) and lower in colder, glacial periods. Based on a study of glacial cycles and temperatures over the last 800,000 years, the authors conclude that in warmer periods climate sensitivity averages around 4.88°C. Professor Michael Mann, of Penn State University, says the paper appears “sound and the conclusions quite defensible”.

Lauer et al. found that climate models that most accurately simulate recent cloud cover changes in the east Pacific point to an amplifying effect on global warming and thus a more sensitive climate.

And the bottom line?

If this work is correct, then the pledges made under the Paris Accord would not produce warming of around 3°C as is widely discussed, but a figure closer to and even above  4°C.

And the total carbon budget would a quarter smaller than is generally accepted, or even less.

3. Climate models under-estimate future risks

This year, the Breakthrough Centre for Climate Restoration in Melbourne, published What Lies Beneath, on the scientific understatement of climate risks. The report found that human-induced climate change is an existential risk to human civilisation, yet much climate research understates climate risks and provides conservative projections. Reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that are crucial to climate policymaking and informing public narrative are characterised by scientific reticence, paying limited attention to lower-probability, high-risk events that are becoming increasingly likely. (Disclosure: I was a co-author of this report.)

But don’t take my word.  At the climate policy conference in Bonn, Phil Duffy, the Director of the Woods Hole Institute, explained the scientific reticence regarding the biggest system feedback issues:

The best example of reticence is permafrost…  It’s absolutely essential that this feedback loop not get going seriously, if it does there is simply no way to control it… The scientific failure comes in because none of this is in climate models and none of this is considered in the climate policy discussion… climate models simply omit emissions from the warming permafrost, but we know that is the wrong answer because that tacitly assumes that these emissions are zero and we know that’s not right…

And the problems of underestimation of future climate impacts from current models was explicitly recognised by the US government in its Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment. In a chapter on “Potential Surprises: Compound Extremes and Tipping Element”, two key findings were:

• Positive feedbacks (self-reinforcing cycles) within the climate system have the potential to accelerate human-induced climate change and even shift the Earth’s climate system, in part or in whole, into new states that are very different from those experienced in the recent past (for example, ones with greatly diminished ice sheets or different large-scale patterns of atmosphere or ocean circulation). Some feedbacks and potential state shifts can be modeled and quantified; others can be modeled or identified but not quantified; and some are probably still unknown. (Very high confidence in the potential for state shifts and in the incompleteness of knowledge about feedbacks and potential state shifts).

• While climate models incorporate important climate processes that can be well quantified, they do not include all of the processes that can contribute to feedbacks, compound extreme events, and abrupt and/or irreversible changes.

For this reason, future changes outside the range projected by climate models cannot be ruled out (very high confidence). Moreover, the systematic tendency of climate models to underestimate temperature change during warm paleoclimates suggests that climate models are more likely to underestimate than to overestimate the amount of long-term future change (medium confidence).

The problem is that the notion that future climate changes may be faster and hotter than those projected by climate models is one rarely understood by climate policy-makers, and rarely discussed by those who do understand.

If climate policymaking is to be soundly based, a re-framing of scientific research within an existential risk-management framework is now urgently required.

This must be taken up not just in the work of the IPCC, but also in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations if we are to address the real climate challenge.

Press link for more: Climate Code Red


They may change policy but climate change is still climate science. 

As you know, today the White House announced that the United States would begin the process of leaving the Paris Agreement. 

Removing the United States from the Paris Agreement is a reckless and indefensible action.

 It undermines America’s standing in the world and threatens to damage humanity’s ability to solve the climate crisis in time.  
But disappointment is not despair.
Make no mistake: if President Trump won’t lead, the American people will.
Civic leaders, mayors, governors, CEOs, investors and the majority of the business community will take up this challenge. We are in the middle of a clean energy revolution that no single person or group can stop. 

President Trump’s decision is profoundly in conflict with what the majority of Americans want from our president; but no matter what he does, we will ensure that our inevitable transition to a clean energy economy continues.  

As proof, just look at how communities like Salt Lake City, Utah and Boulder, Colorado are committing to switch to 100 percent renewable electricity. Just last month, California set a new record for clean energy use in the state, and over the past several weeks and months, major corporations and businesses from around the world reaffirmed their commitment to clean energy, the Paris Agreement, and US leadership on climate. The momentum of clean energy and climate action only continues to build, and ignoring that reality is shortsighted and wrong.
Now it’s up to us to pick up where the White House is leaving off. It’s up to us to keep this progress going full steam ahead. If you’re in the US, commit to pushing your local council or mayor to embrace renewable electricity in your community. If you’re outside the US, commit to pressuring your leaders to fulfill your country’s Paris Agreement pledge and keep the process moving.  
My friends, it’s time to fight like our world depends on it. Because it does. And because together we will win.
Al Gore

Founder and Chairman

The Climate Reality Project

How to reason with a climate denier. #auspol 

How to Reason with the Climate Change Denier in Your Life

By Mary Catherine O’Connor

Everyone working to address climate change, from activists to scientists, knows that success depends in large part on their ability to convert climate change skeptics (or even straight-up deniers) into proponents for action. Most of us have someone in our lives—a family member, co-worker, or friend—whose views on climate change conflict with the latest science, and you’ve likely had some exasperating, polarizing, unconstructive conversations with them.
Philip Kitcher, an MIT professor of philosophy, and Evelyn Fox Keller, an MIT professor emerita of history and philosophy of science, have co-written a book that imagines six of those very conversations. The Seasons Alter: How to Save the Planet in Six Acts (W.W. Norton; $25) reads like six screenplays set in different locations and with two different people in each act. The dialogue—well, it probably won’t pass your sniff test. The authors describe the conversations in the book as “constructive, careful, and amicable,” but they mostly sound stiff.
Even if they don’t ring true to life, many of the book’s exchanges contain useful clues on how to unpack specific issues and work around conversational impasses. Here, culled from The Seasons Alter and other experts, are four guiding principles that could fix the way we talk about climate change.

Don’t Ignore Uncertainty
The book contains a long conversation between an activist from an environmental organization and a person with a terminal illness who is deciding where to donate his money. His conundrum is whether to support environmental initiatives, based on the predictions that climate change will harm large populations, or give to groups addressing things such as malnutrition. “Sometimes I think the real catastrophes [from climate change] aren’t that likely, and the likely effects aren’t that bad,” he says.

There’s no doubt that greenhouse gasses are causing the earth to warm, the seas to rise, and weather patterns to change. But these events aren’t happening according to a strict schedule, and scientists can’t give us a precise timeline with deadlines for action. Climate change is likely to undergird an uptick in pandemics, for example, but there’s no blueprint for preventing those. Some impacts are episodic (heat waves, increasingly severe storms) while others are constant (sea level creeps up), but all are costly. Still, proponents of inaction often use those uncertainties as talking points.
The activist does her best to present fact-based evidence that the climate movement deserves the man’s support, but she has to allow that while there is consensus on the basic mechanisms of climate change, there have been some contradictory studies. That’s how science works. It’s why peer reviews are important and why researchers keep inquiring, testing theses, and adding to the canon. Scientists who study cancer and its causes also don’t always agree, but that’s not a reason to call off cancer research funding.

The merits of a cost-benefit analysis will only go so far in arguing for action to address climate action, and in the end, the authors explain, we need to make some qualitative judgments. Acknowledge gaps in knowledge—and remember that it doesn’t defeat your purpose.
Try to Make a Connection
Managers and people who click on articles about productivity love talking about emotional intelligence. But Renee Lertzman says we need more of it in the climate debate as well. Lertzman, who calls herself a “psychosocial strategist focusing on climate and environment,” coaches NGOs, universities, and corporations on how to communicate issues related to climate change. Her bailiwick is the intersection of psychology and climate change, and Lertzman says we need to be emotionally literate in order to understand the relationship others have with climate change. A Midwest farmer, for instance, might be “concerned with staying afloat and keeping their way of life viable—there is an emotional charge there, and their response to climate change is different than an urbanite in, say, the Bay Area,” she says.
So, know your audience, suggests Lertzman. Climate change means different things to different people, and we all bring our own biases to the conversation. You might know people who believe in climate change and advocate for political action but also disavow vaccines. Clearly, not all of these opinions are rooted in science. You can counter these beliefs with data, but it is unlikely to evaporate beliefs that may be based in anxiety and distrust.

Lertzman advises “starting from a place of authentic compassion, to really attune ourselves to how scary and overwhelming these issues can be for people.” She knows that compassion tends to get a bad rap because it’s equated with letting people off the hook, but she says the opposite is true: “Anyone working in mental or public health will tell you that without compassion, we will stumble into a fight by engaging in each other’s resistance and our own interests in protecting ourselves from whatever feels threatening.”
This approach isn’t some psychobabble, either, says Lertzman. Neurology shows that compassion soothes the nervous system, while confrontation excites it. “If our limbic system—the survival part of our minds—is activated, it’s game over. If I’m feeling uneasy or anxious, I’m not even going to hear what you have to say.”

Advance the War on Atmospheric Carbon, Not on People
President Trump and others who share his dubious views on climate change have painted the climate activist movement as oppositional to American values. They cast the war on coal as a war on coal miners. While Trump is trying to roll back the Clean Power Plan, coal’s loss of competitiveness against natural gas and renewables is what really dooms the coal industry.
In one dialogue, the climate activist lays out a good argument that puts this kind of outcome in historical perspective. Workers, she says, have “found themselves displaced because of foreign competition or technological change or shifts in tastes and attitudes.” Indeed, there’s broad support among Democrats and Republicans for renewable energy as the costs of wind and solar quickly fall while their capacity to meet more of the world’s energy demands rises.

But the bigger issue is this: On both sides of the argument, things get political and emotional fast when it comes to the human impact of climate change. And oftentimes our views on climate change are shaped by those of our parents. That’s a common backstory in many of the more than 500 responses that Reddit users posted over the past month to this question: “Former climate change deniers, what changed your mind?” “I grew up actively and obnoxiously denying climate change because my dad told me it wasn’t real,” said one responder.
Others said they were raised Republican and had always seen climate change as a “liberal” issue that they could not or should not endorse. A video shown during a church service focused on the virtues of caring for the earth made one right-leaning respondent a believer.
Many former deniers said that reading about the science behind climate change and how it’s already affecting us was the catalyst for their conversion. In some cases, Reddit responders pointed to how changes in their personal lives made them believers. “I grew up ice fishing in central Illinois, and I haven’t been able to ice fish in three years. The shit ain’t right. We had tornadoes in February. I was deer hunting in a fucking T-shirt in December,” wrote one, who called himself a liberal redneck.
Know How to Navigate an Impasse
Carla Wise, a conservation biologist turned climate change activist, says the most important thing to do is to just keep having conversations about climate change, because the more we talk about it, the less it becomes a taboo issue that makes everyone uncomfortable. That’s not to say these conversations will always be easy or pleasant.
When things get dicey, Lertzman says, “I use a martial arts move, where you don’t engage directly with the opposition, you don’t argue. I might say, ‘I hear you’re saying XYZ, and I won’t challenge that, but can you help me understand? Let’s just say, hypothetically, that climate change is happening and will have this effect, what would that mean for you? Could you imagine a scenario where you are involved?’”

Lertzman says the goal of this kind of conversation is to help each other get in touch with what is true and uncover the resistance the other person is expressing, which she typically finds to be a defense mechanism.
Don’t expect to master this overnight, she says. “It’s a skill, but it’s about guiding the conversation to arrive at what is true. We’re all wired for that—to crave the truth.”

Press link for more: Outside online.com

Why I March #ClimateChange #auspol 

Why I March: Climate Change And Migration Have Everything To Do With Each Other

By Thanu Yakupitiyage 

It’s pretty ironic that among Donald Trump’s first policies on his agenda were a crackdown on immigrant communities, followed by the dismantling of climate and environmental protections.

 By rolling back the little progress the U.S. has made on climate change ― as well as slashing the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency and lifting a moratorium on federal coal leases ― Trump’s administration is sending a global message: the U.S. (a country that considers itself a leader) will not meet any commitment to bring down greenhouse gas emissions or invest in clean energy jobs. 

Meanwhile, the world is warming at an alarming rate, with each year hotter than the last. And while the planet warms and more climate-related disasters take place ― droughts get longer, rain patterns shift, land becomes infertile, food and water become scarce, and sea levels rise ― more and more people are migrating due to climate change impacts. These are often the world’s poorest people, from regions that have done the least to contribute to the severity of the climate crisis.

By disregarding the necessity for bold action on climate change, the Trump administration and climate deniers everywhere (the United States, China, India, and Russia have the highest emission rates) are ensuring that communities across the globe continue to be displaced and have no choice but to migrate for their own survival.
While Trump and many in his administration throw brown and black immigrants under the bus using hateful and racist isolationist tactics, calling for “Muslim Bans” and empowering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deport millions with little to no due process, his administration’s short-sighted and deliberate decisions to invest in the fossil fuel industry means that he is effectively aiding the process of creating more migrants.

It is estimated that by 2050, there will be 200 million people displaced by climate change-related impacts. According to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre, since 2008, an average of 26.4 million people per year have been displaced from their homes by disasters brought on by natural hazards. Climate change causes migration, and people migrate to flee the impacts of climate change on their homelands.
Make no mistake: people should have the right to migrate no matter what. 

However, the majority of migration happens because people need access to a better life.

 If there is no way for them to live in their homelands ravaged by climate change and other socio-economic impacts, they are left with no choice but to move.
In the United States, people in the Gulf are already being internally displaced due to rising sea levels.

We see this all over the world.

 In the United States, people in the Gulf are already being internally displaced due to rising sea levels. 

Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, home to the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, has lost 98% of its land and most of its population to coastal erosion and rising sea levels since 1955. 

The population of the island is now down to less than 85 residents from the previous hundreds. In January 2016, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funded The Isle de Jean Charles Resettlement Project, the first allocation of federal dollars to move 400 tribe members struggling with the impacts of climate change to inland locations. (This year, the Trump Administration is proposing to slash the HUD budget by 6 billion).
In Mexico, farmers have been dealing with severe drought for decades, leading to a loss of agricultural productivity.

 The outcome?

 More rural Mexicans are migrating to the United States for better futures.

 One study found climate change-driven changes to agricultural livelihoods have impacted the rate of emigration to the United States, estimating that by 2080, climate change-induced migration from Mexico could be up to $6.7 million. Another study argues that undocumented migration to the U.S from rural Mexico very much has to do with climate change and the declining livelihoods of farmers facing droughts and lack of rainfall.
And while many factors have led to the conflict in Syria, some argue that severe drought that started in 2006, worsened by a warming climate, drove Syrian farmers to abandon their crops and flock to cities, helping trigger the civil war. It is widely acknowledged, including by the Pentagon, that climate change acts as a threat multiplier, intensifying conflict and war. The United Nations estimates that there are over five million Syrian refugees now. Within his first 100 days in office, Donald Trump made two attempts to ban refugee resettlement to the U.S from Syria as part of his “Muslim Ban.”
The climate crisis has been decades in the making, but it’s worsening each day that politicians and their fossil fuel ilk sow doubt about its existence. Meanwhile, many Western nations are seeing a rise in xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment at the same time as the displacement of people hits a record high. The road ahead requires that we collectively do what’s right – we must stand up for the rights of migrants everywhere who deserve dignity and respect as they seek better lives for themselves and their families, as we build bold and just solutions to the climate crisis.
That’s why these major actions in the upcoming days are so important. On April 29th, I’ll join tens of thousands in the Peoples Climate March in Washington D.C. There are over 314 sister marches across the United States and around the world. On the 100th day under the Trump administration, we will surround the White House and put forward our vision to build bold solutions for climate, jobs, and justice. Together with a broad spectrum of communities including indigenous peoples, workers, immigrants, and communities of all backgrounds, we understand that mitigating the climate crisis is a matter of social, economic, racial, gender, and immigrant justice.
Then on May 1st, workers and immigrants everywhere will participate in the annual International Workers Day. In light of the assaults on immigrant communities in the United States, this May Day is of particular importance. (Here are just some of the events taking place.) We will harness the energy of the climate march back into our communities to build local solutions and to stand in solidarity with immigrants. We will resoundingly say, “No Ban, No Wall, No Raids,” and push back against a white supremacist and anti-immigrant agenda that aims to divide people, disrespecting the very workers that help uplift America.
There is hope. We’ve seen people fearlessly stand up for justice and it’s imperative that we keep up the momentum. Communities around the world are advocating for more clean energy solutions such as solar paneling and wind power, as well expanding green jobs. We saw the power of inspirational indigenous-led movements like #NoDAPL that called on thousands to push back against destructive pipeline projects. And thousands rose to the occasion to protect and defend immigrants impacted by Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban, as well as to continue to push back against unjust deportations through creating sanctuary spaces.
The clock is ticking for our planet and our communities. Only by seeing these issues as inherently connected can we rise up to demand a fair and just world.

Press link for more: Huffingtonpost.com

Link Between Climate Change & Extreme Weather. #auspol 

The Link Between Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events

All extreme weather events are being influenced by climate change as they are now occurring in a more energetic climate system (Trenberth 2012).

While extreme weather events are a natural feature of the climate system, the atmosphere and surface ocean of today contain significantly more heat than in
the 1950s.

 In fact, the rate of increase in global average temperature since 1970
is approximately 170 times the baseline
rate over the past 7,000 years (Marcott et
al. 2013; Ste en et al. 2016; NOAA 2017b). 

This extremely rapid, long-term rate of temperature increase is being driven by
the additional greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that have accumulated primarily from the burning of coal, oil and gas.

Over the past decade climate scientists have made strong progress in identifying the links between climate change and extreme weather events, based on three main lines of evidence:

› The basic physics that govern the behaviour of the climate system shows that extreme weather events are now occurring in a significantly warmer
and wetter atmosphere, which means the atmosphere contains more energy, facilitating more severe extreme weather.

› Where sufficient  long-term data are available, observations show trends towards more intensity in many types of extreme weather events.

› More recently, ‘attribution studies’ based on detailed modelling experiments explore how climate change has already increased the probability that extreme weather events would have occurred.

Press link for full report: Climate Council

I Don’t Believe in Climate Change #Auspol #science 

I don’t believe in climate change: A line in the sand

Mark Robinson 


Tuesday, February 7, 2017, 12:01 PM – I don’t believe in climate change.
Wait! Before you start smashing a nasty reply back to me, keep reading.
As a trained meteorologist, storm chaser who also studied wildlife biology as an undergraduate, I don’t believe in climate change.
I accept the overwhelming evidence for it.
And that’s the critical point. When you’re talking about science, there’s no such thing as believe. There’s an acceptance or a rejection of the evidence presented. I hear far too often, from both side of the “debate” that this person or that person BELIEVES in climate change.
It drives me up the wall.

But it’s also the crux of the issue.

 I have talked to many people about climate change and why I accept the evidence for it. 

One commonality that I find with people who reject the evidence is an almost religiosity in their belief (and I use this term correctly) that the evidence is either not there or has been faked, or manipulated, or… whatever. There’s a long list.

I have no issue talking with people about their point of view.

 I like it. 

It’s my way of getting out of my own echo chamber that’s so easy to fall into. 

The only thing that I ask is that if you want to debate this, bring your science to the table. 

Otherwise it’s bringing a chihuahua to a badger fight. It’s not going to be pretty and it’s not going to last long.

What I continuously find is that the people who want to discuss it have no science, but a metric (expletive)-tonne of belief. 

I get told that the planet’s been cooling for the last 10 years, or that Climategate is still a thing.

 Or that Michael E. Mann’s graph has been debunked. 

Sources for this information are almost inevitably a blog post or a web page. 

It’s almost never credible peer-reviewed journals; which constitute the gold standard for science.

It’s the exact same tactics I practiced in my wildlife biology undergrad, but substitute evolution for climatology. 

 The same lack of real science, the same conspiracy theory tactics, the same Gish Gallops, it’s all there again.
I don’t believe in evolution either.

 I accept the overwhelming evidence for it. 

Scientific truth isn’t something you “feel”. 

It doesn’t depend on your political preferences.
Science is the single most powerful method humans have ever come up with to get as close to “truth” as possible.
And I for one, am not going to let it be destroyed because some people don’t like its conclusions.
This is my line in the sand.

Press link for more: The Weather Network

A Human Economy? #auspol 

The paper has a larger aim, setting out some initial thinking on the constituent elements of a “human economy approach” that can turn around both inequality and other public bads created by prevailing orthodoxies. Here are the headlines:
A human economy would see national governments accountable to the 99 percent, and playing a more interventionist role in their economies to make them fairer and more sustainable.

A human economy would see national governments cooperate to effectively fix global problems such as tax dodging, climate change and other environmental harm.

A human economy would see businesses designed in ways that increase prosperity for all, and contribute to a sustainable future.

A human economy would not tolerate the extreme concentration of wealth or poverty, and the gap between rich and poor would be far smaller.

A human economy would work equally as well for women as it does for men.

A human economy would ensure that advances in technology are actively steered to be to the benefit of everyone, rather than meaning job losses for workers or more wealth for those who own the businesses.

A human economy would ensure an environmentally sustainable future by breaking free of fossil fuels and embarking on a rapid and just transition to renewable energy.

A human economy would see progress measured by what actually matters, not just by GDP. This would include women’s unpaid care, and the impact of our economies on the planet.

We must not give up the fight on climate change! #auspol 

Canada (And Australia) must not give up the fight on climate change
Thomas Homer-Dixon is a professor in the Balsillie School of International Affairs and the faculty of environment at the University of Waterloo.
Those of us concerned about climate change generally inhabit an old-fashioned reality-based world. Scientific research and evidence drive our concern. Although we wish the climate problem would vanish – because, among other things, we want our kids and grandkids to have a safe future – that motivation doesn’t override what science tells us. And science tells us that climate change is a grave threat to humanity.

Now we also have to face the reality that Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States is calamitous for the fight against climate change. Because Mr. Trump and his key cabinet nominees are deeply committed to promoting carbon-based energy industries, they’re not inclined to believe that climate change is a pressing danger or even, in the case of some of nominees, real. The president-elect himself is ignorant of basic science and has an almost postmodernist contempt for facts or anything resembling the truth. He operates within and through a discourse of authority and force, not a discourse of reason.

For Mr. Trump, evidence either doesn’t matter or it can be created at will, which means he’s largely unreachable through evidence-based argument. His magical reality is unfalsifiable. Ice could completely disappear from the Arctic, forests in the U.S. West could erupt in fire, and a Category 5 hurricane could smash his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida to toothpicks, and it wouldn’t make any difference to his views on climate change. (While campaigning in California, Mr. Trump denied the state is suffering from a severe drought.)

Immediately after his inauguration, Mr. Trump and his cabinet will launch a full-scale assault on the national and international apparatus of climate policy and on the institutions of climate science within the U.S. Climate scientists will likely be muzzled, threatened, and purged, research programs curtailed and shut down, and climate data locked up or destroyed.
Meanwhile, surging populist movements are weakening the capacity and resolve of the European Union, the world’s other main actor in the climate-change fight. Yes, there are some positive developments: California and some other U.S. states are pressing ahead with carbon reductions, cities around the world are adopting meaningful climate plans, and China is rolling out renewable energy at a breakneck pace (although its coal consumption has recently bounced upward). Overall, though, the scene is vastly bleaker than when the Paris Accord was announced – just a year ago.

So what’s Canada to do? It might seem that it’s time for everyone, including Canada, to bolt for the exits. The Trudeau government’s remarkable achievement of a national climate policy, with broad agreement of the provinces, now appears thoroughly anomalous. Sure enough, folks who want Canada to curtail its efforts are repeating their favourite argument: Canada’s overall contribution to warming is so small that our emission cuts can’t make any real difference. So we shouldn’t do much, they say, and we certainly shouldn’t impose carbon prices, until the U.S. and China make big cuts.
The argument is logically flawed because if Canada’s emissions are trivial, and therefore its cuts won’t make a real difference, then the same must be true – even more so – for individual provinces, states, cities, industries, and households. So why, in the end, should anyone anywhere in the world make any cuts at all?
The argument is morally bankrupt, too. It excuses our bad actions by pointing to others who are doing worse things. We’d never say to our child: “It’s okay to shoplift that chocolate bar, Johnny, because other people are stealing a lot more.”
Yet some people are comfortable with the same moral reasoning when it comes to our carbon emissions, even though these emissions are relentlessly stealing our children’s future well-being.
In the end, it’s a simple moral principle – the Golden Rule – that tells us not to give up the fight against climate change. The Rule says we should treat people as we’d want to be treated if our situations were reversed. If we were our children – or if we were members of generations born later this century – we’d want today’s adults to be doing everything reasonable to stop climate change dead in its tracks.
In a world losing its grip on reality, it’s worth keeping such true principles in mind.

COP22 in Marrakesh: A Critical Nuts-and-bolts Carbon-cutting Summit #auspol 

The Paris Agreement is without question an historic achievement.

World leaders authored the first-ever blueprint to broadly tackle climate change. 

The agreement was ratified globally with unprecedented haste and achieves the force of law this week, on November 4th, four years earlier than anticipated.
Meanwhile, more than 100 countries, including the U.S., China and India, agreed last month to dramatically limit the future use of hydroflourocarbons, a potent greenhouse gas used in air conditioners. Another climate victory was hailed.

But those headed to COP22 will emphatically tell anyone listening: Folks, we’re not there yet. We’re not even close. So COP22, the Conference of the Parties — running from November 7-18 — will need to top Paris in many very practical ways.

Creating an operations manual for curbing climate change

Marrakesh negotiators must get nuts-and-bolts meticulous about exactly how the world’s nations will reduce carbon emissions; how we will adapt to more extreme weather events; where we will reduce deforestation and promote reforestation; how we will inspire innovative clean-energy solutions; and, maybe most importantly, how we will raise the trillions necessary to make the singularly vital planet-saving goal of Paris happen — keeping global temperatures from rising another 0.5 degree C by 2100.

“We need an operational manual for the Paris Agreement,” Nick Nuttal, spokesman for the UN Climate Conference says from Bonn, Germany. “This is where Marrakesh needs to make a lot of progress. How will developed and developing countries report what they are doing? Transparency is key. We need to trust that your NDCs [nationally determined contributions] are being achieved.”

If these initial voluntary carbon emission cuts — pledged in Paris — are not achieved, and then quickly toughened, particularly by developed nations, then the world faces the growing wrath of a destabilized climate system. Faster sea-level rise. More drought. More ferocious hurricanes and typhoons. And more climate-change refugees fleeing uninhabitable tropical regions, coasts and low-lying island nations.

Climate scientists agree that this is the price of waiting two decades to marshal the political will to approve the Paris Agreement, which commits 195 nations to a vastly reduced carbon future.

As a range of officials make clear, the pathway to that future remains undefined and unbuilt, thus raising the stakes in Marrakesh.

The role of forests

Nancy Harris is the research manager for the World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch. In Paris, forests and their preservation through carbon offset programs like REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) were recognized as crucial in absorbing and storing CO2 emissions in order to buy time while the world moves rapidly from burning fossil fuels to alternative energy sources.

“It’s really nice to be working in global forests right now,” WRI’s Harris says from Washington, D.C. “The recognition of forests as a climate-change mitigation strategy — reducing emissions and increasing carbon sinks — is more visible. But right now it’s all talk, and progress is being made too slowly.”

Indonesia, for example, whose vast rainforests have been decimated for oil palm plantations over the past two decades, is waking up to the realization that its remaining forests can be worth a lot if left standing through forest-protection incentives like REDD+.

“Indonesia is in line to get a lot of money,” says WRI colleague Fred Stolle, “but it has to get its act together. A billion dollars is sitting there for them. But the country doesn’t have the political will [at present] to tackle deforestation. The hope is that the next generation in Indonesia will have the willpower to do something.”

At the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, CEO Phil Duffy leads a group of scientists committed to forest preservation.

They’ve developed advanced techniques for measuring the amount of carbon stored in a particular forest to establish its value to qualify for REDD+ funding. The system works like this: a developed country such as Norway pays a developing country like Brazil or Peru to protect a swath of rainforest otherwise slated for clear-cutting for ranching, soy plantations or maybe mining. Early demonstrations with REDD+ have shown promise in Brazil — but scientific techniques for the precise measuring of forest carbon stores, like those being developed at Woods Hole, are vital to REDD+ success.

The threat of thawing permafrost

Duffy says his organization will be pressing two pragmatic goals in Marrakesh: identifying denuded or degraded tropical lands for reforestation, and promoting agricultural techniques such as no-till farming to retain and increase the carbon content of croplands.

He admits that this push by Woods Hole for more natural carbon sinks is extremely ambitious, especially in light of previous failed efforts. The recent Bonn Initiative and the New York Declaration on Forests pledged to regrow hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests globally, Duffy recalls: “Big deal. Everyone signed, high-fived and went home. Little has happened. Meanwhile, we are on target, yet again, for the hottest year on record.”

What worries a scientist like Duffy more than anything is thawing permafrost in the Arctic. Human carbon emissions have now warmed the earth to the point that we have begun triggering the melting of permafrost — which contains vast sums of methane, a greenhouse gas more than 20 times as powerful as carbon dioxide.

If this thawing is not reversed, those soils will release tons upon tons of once-locked carbon into the atmosphere, acting as if scores of coal-fired power plants were operating in the Arctic.

“The climate experts on the National Security Council wanted a briefing on the Arctic,” Duffy says. “I told them about the permafrost. I walked away feeling very discouraged. Not because they didn’t believe me. They did. It’s just that the policy responses were nowhere near adequate to the scale of the problem. We really need to build more public interest on this issue in terms of what needs to be done.”

Money, influence and accountability

Beyond the COP buzz words of “mitigation” and “adaptation” lies a relatively new one: “loss and damage”, a reference to on-going and future climate change harm in countries with virtually no carbon footprint — damage that cannot be dodged or adapted to. Think Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines (one of the most intense on record), Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, and the ongoing drought in Malawi.

“The area of ‘loss and damage’ was a huge breakthrough in Paris,” Julie-Anne Richards with Climate Change Advocacy tells me from London. “Many [developed countries] wanted to push it into [the] adaptation [category] so they didn’t need to pay for it. That failed. It’s part of the [final Paris] Agreement, but only on paper. Now we have to make the breakthrough real.”

Richards says there needs to be a new and separate fund, stuffed with billions of dollars, to assist countries suffering climate change related loss and damage. The Green Climate Fund, for example, which aims to raise $100 billion by 2020, is reserved only for mitigation and adaptation efforts.

“We are looking at insurance opportunities,” Richards says. “When a hurricane hits the Caribbean and winds go over a certain speed, a country will automatically be able to make an insurance claim. Haiti will get a pay-out from the (5-year-old) Caribbean Risk Insurance Facility because of Hurricane Matthew. But this whole area is brand new, and insurance companies are already saying things like sea-level rise are uninsurable.”

At Marrakesh, Richards insists, funding for loss and damage must be a high priority.

One way to help assure that governmental promises get converted into real action, is for NGOs to closely monitor the negotiating process. With the urgency for progress so high, and with little time to waste, such monitoring at COP22 could be intense. Corporate Accountability International is an NGO with newly official observer status, and will be on the scene in Marrakesh as a watchdog. It will be ready to pounce on entities it believes have undermined progress in UN climate summits for more than 20 years — the fossil fuel industry and business lobbyists with close ties to transnational corporations.

“Groups like the Business Roundtable and World Coal Association, the very industries the UN has tried to rein in, are now seeking to undermine the Paris Agreement,” Tamar Lawrence-Samuel, an attorney with Corporate Accountability International, tells me from Boston. “They will have direct access to negotiators in Marrakesh. As accredited business-interest NGOs, they will have legitimacy and access.

“This is a direct threat to the very spirit and mission of the Paris Agreement. Their only role should be to provide transparent information so that they can be properly regulated,” she says.

Some fear that the fossil fuel lobby will act aggressively to weaken the negotiated results at COP22, especially because the summit will lack the media spotlight that shone so brightly on Paris.

Lawrence-Samuel’s group will be doing its own lobbying in Marrakesh. Corporate Accountability will push for a conflict of interest policy that she hopes will blunt the influence of any groups that have a financial stake in the Paris Agreement being weakened, not strengthened. No such guiding mechanism now exists within the Paris Agreement.

Nick Nuttall, the UN spokesman in Bonn, is neutral on the lobbying question, and hopeful: “The secretary of OPEC came to us a few weeks ago for an honest discussion about the future,” he tells me. “OPEC consists of parties of the UN [Climate Conference] whose countries have ratified the Paris Agreement. Oil producing countries are looking at a future that is low carbon. There will be a transition.”

Certainly forward-thinking OPEC nations — especially those in North Africa and the Middle East — have much to gain from an effective Paris Agreement; if the rising heat brought by climate change isn’t abated, then their home regions could become inhabitable by mid-century, according to a 2016 study.

“The oil industry has a lot of engineering know-how that could be really useful in a carbon-reduced economy, like wave power and other wonderful inventions for the clean-energy sector,” Nuttal concludes. “To leave them out of the discussion is not very positive. We need all sectors of the economy on board in developing a low-carbon pathway to the future.”

Press link for more: Justin Catanoso pulitzercenter.org

How does climate change fit within the Sustainable Development Goals? #Auspol

On Friday in New York, countries will adopt a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will guide global development up to 2030.

The SDGs take the form of 17 goals, accompanied by 169 targets that give precise information about what should be achieved.
They do not skimp on ambition. If countries succeed in meeting the goals, by 2030 there will be an end to poverty, hunger, child labour, AIDS and various other problems that blight millions of lives globally.

UN is calling the “post-2015 development agenda”. “Sustainable development” – a notoriously difficult term to define – becomes impossible unless global temperature rise is tackled, according to the final document:
“Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and its adverse impacts undermine the ability of all countries to achieve sustainable development.”
Not only has climate change been given its own, dedicated target, but it is also integrated into almost all of the other goals. Many of the targets directly reference the need to tackle climate change and its impacts in some form or another.
What was the process?
Governments instigated the process of designing the SDGs in June 2012, when they met in Brazil for the Rio+20 conference, 20 years after the original 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
Here, it was decided that there should be a new set of goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – a more modest set of eight goals that are set to expire in 2015. These would continue to build on Agenda 21, the 700-page guidebook for development adopted by the UN in 1992.
The MDGs registered many successes: the number of people living in extreme poverty declined by more than half; more than 6.2m malaria deaths were averted; and development assistance from developed countries increased by 66%, according to the 2015 progress report.
However, it also points out that there are limitations to their achievements, with progress patchy across regions, and hundreds of millions of people still living in extreme poverty.
The SDGs aim to fill this gap, and this time they are stressing that no one should be left behind. The SDGs also elevate the issue of environmental sustainability, which was missing from the MDGs.
How are they different from the MDGs?
There are high hopes that the SDGs will be more successful than the MDGs. Bernadette Fischler, executive advisor at WWF UK, who followed the negotiations, tells Carbon Brief that the process was more open and inclusive this time around. She said:
“The Millennium Development Goals were really put together by a bunch of middle-aged, white guys somewhere in the basement of the UN, basically, at the exclusion of other parties. It took the MDGs about five years to take off, also because there was quite a bit of pushback.
“Countries, especially developing countries, were a bit suspicious of this agenda, and that was completely different to the SDGs. With the SDGs, everybody was part of the creation of the agenda, which is maybe why it’s such a broad and inclusive agenda.”
The SDGs are also different qualitatively to the MDGs, offering a more systemic approach to tackling the world’s problems, says Kitty van der Heijden, director of the World Resources Institute Europe.
This should also help to frame the new goals, not just as something for the developing world, but for everyone. She said:
“It is a truly global action agenda, whereas the MDGs were largely about an agenda for the south, with the role of the north just being the funders. This agenda is as much about what happens there in the south, as about what happens here in the developed economies. This is not about development cooperation like the MDGs, but it is about a structural transformation of our economy in all countries, for all sectors and for all people, and the great thing is it will be adopted universally.”
Climate change
The SDGs cover a range of topics, but it is hard to ignore the way in which climate change is woven throughout the 17 goals.
The thirteenth goal in the SDGs sees governments pledging to: “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.”
This is accompanied by five underlying targets. These are:
13.1 Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries
13.2 Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning
13.3 Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning
13.a Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible
13.b Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities
(Note that the first three are targets for the goal; the fourth and fifth, labelled with letters, provide direction about how to implement the targets. This applies throughout the SDGs.)
The document acknowledges that the UNFCCC, the agency responsible for overseeing the international climate deal this December, remains the driving force within the UN for pushing action on climate change. During the negotiations, some parties expressed concerns about how the SDG and UNFCCC processes would operate in parallel, without interfering with each other.
There is also a goal dedicated to energy. This is a pledge to: “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”
This, too, comes with five associated goals. These are:
7.1 By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services
7.2 By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
7.3 By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency
7.a By 2030, enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology
7.b By 2030, expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and landlocked developing countries, in accordance with their respective programmes of support
However, references to climate change don’t stop at these goals. The need to tackle rising emissions and prepare communities for the impacts of climate change is embedded throughout the document, sometimes directly and sometimes obliquely.
The first goal, for instance, is to end poverty. But this includes a target to reduce the exposure and vulnerability of the poor to climate-related extreme events.
The second goal is to end hunger. One of the targets involves ensuring that food production systems are able to adapt to climate change.
The goal relating to education includes a target that all learners should be educated in sustainable development and how to live a sustainable lifestyle.
These are just a few examples of the many places in which climate change is woven throughout the SDGs.
Press link for more: Sophie Yeo | carbonbrief.org