Haiku

Australia experiencing more heat, longer fire seasons and rising oceans #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #ClimateStrike we need a #GreenNewDeal

State of the climate report points to a long-term increase in the frequency of extreme heat events, fire weather and drought

Australia is experiencing more extreme heat, longer fire seasons, rising oceans and more marine heatwaves consistent with a changing climate, according to the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO’s state of the climate report.

The report, published every two years, measures the long-term variability and trends observed in Australia’s climate.

The 2018 report shows that Australia’s long-term warming trend is continuing, with the climate warming by just over 1C since 1910 when records began.

That warming is contributing to a long-term increase in the frequency of extreme heat events, fire weather and drought.

“Australia is already experiencing climate change now and there are impacts being experienced or felt across many communities and across many sectors,” said Helen Cleugh, the director of the CSIRO’s climate science centre.

The report’s key findings include:

  1. Australia’s fire seasons have lengthened and become more severe. In some parts of the country, the season has been extended by months.

  2. The number of extreme heat days continues to trend upward.

  3. There has been a shift to drier conditions in south-eastern and south-western Australia in the months from April to October.

  4. Rainfall across northern Australia has increased since the 1970s, particularly during the tropical wet season in north-western Australia.

  5. Oceans around Australia have warmed by about 1C since 1910, which is leading to longer and more frequent marine heatwaves that affect marine life such as corals.

  6. Sea levels around Australia have risen by more than 20cm since records began and the rate of sea level rise is accelerating.

  7. There has been a 30% increase in the acidity of Australian oceans since the 1800s and the current rate of change “is ten times faster than at any time in the past 300 million years”.

Karl Braganza, the bureau of meteorology’s manager of climate monitoring, said the increase in average temperature was having an impact on the frequency or amount of extremes Australia experienced in any given year.

“In general there’s been around a five-fold increase in extreme heat and that is consistent whether you look at monthly temperatures, day time temperatures or night time temperatures,” he said.

He said there had been a reduction in rainfall of 20% in south-western Australia and in some places that was as high as 26%. In south-eastern Australia, April to October rainfall had fallen by 11%.

The report also highlights an increase in the number of extreme fire danger days in many parts of Australia, particularly in southern and eastern Australia.

Braganza said there was a “clear shift” towards a lengthened fire season, more fire weather during that season and an increase in its severity.

“Often the worst fire weather occurs when you’ve had long-term drought, long-term above-average temperatures, maybe a short-term heatwave and then the meteorology that’s consistent with severe fire weather and the ability for fire to spread,” he said.

“It’s those types of compound events that are going to be most challenging going forward in terms of adapting to climate change in Australia.”

David Cazzulino, the Great Barrier Reef campaigner for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said the report confirmed what many Australians already knew about the rising risks of climate change.

“The big line around oceans warming one degree since 1910 is a huge wake-up call,” he said.

“It’s undeniable that warming oceans lead to more marine heatwaves, coral bleaching and coral mortality.”

He said the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef, and climate change policy generally, would be a key campaign issue ahead of the 2019 federal election.

“We are running out of time to keep warming to a safe degree for the reef to have a future,” Cazzulino said.

Press link for more: The Guardian

We’re stealing our children’s future.

Listen to Greta Thunberg TED

Australia urgently needs a Green New Deal

Advertisements

How to create a leaderless revolution and win lasting political change #auspol #qldpol #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #StopAdani #SystemChange not #ClimateChange #TheDrum #GreenNewDeal

The gilets jaunes movement in France is a leaderless political uprising.

It isn’t the first and it won’t be the last.

Occupy, the Arab spring and #MeToo are other recent examples of this new politics.

Some of it is good.

Some of it is not: a leaderless movement, self-organised on Reddit, helped elect Donald Trump.

But leaderless movements are spreading, and we need to understand where they come from, what is legitimate action and, if you want to start one, what works and what doesn’t.

The Arab spring began with the self-immolation of one despairing young man in Tunisia; the revolt rapidly spread across the region, just as protests have proliferated in France.

In highly connected complex systems, such as the world today, the action of a single agent can suddenly trigger what complexity theorists call a “phase shift” across the entire system.

We cannot predict which agent or what event might be that trigger. But we already know that the multiplying connections of our worldoffer an unprecedented opportunity for the rise and spread of leaderless movements.

Leaderless movements spring from frustration with conventional top-down politics, a frustration shared by many, not only those on the streets.

Polls suggest the gilets jaunes are supported by a large majority of the French public.

Who believes that writing to your MP, or signing a petition to No 10 makes any difference to problems such as inequality, the chronic housing shortage or the emerging climate disaster?

Even voting feels like a feeble response to these deep-seated problems that are functions not only of government policies but more of the economic system itself.

What such movements oppose is usually clear, but what they propose is inevitably less so: that is their nature.

The serial popular uprisings of the Arab spring all rejected authoritarian rule, whether in Tunisia, Egypt or Syria. But in most places there was no agreement about what kind of government should replace the dictators.

In Eygpt, the Tahrir Square protests failed to create an organised democratic political party that could win an election.

Instead, the Muslim Brotherhood, long highly organised and thus prepared for such a moment, stepped into the political vacuum.

In turn, this provoked further mass protest, which eventually brought to power another dictatorship as repressive as Hosni Mubarak’s.

When the demand is for change in social relations– norms more than laws – such as the end of sexual harassment, the results can be as rapid but also more enduring and positive.

The #MeToo movement has provoked questioning of gender relations across the world.

The British deputy prime minister, Damian Green, was forced to resign; in India, a cabinet minister. The effects are uneven, and far from universal, but sexual harassers have been outed and ousted from positions of power in the media, NGOs and governments.

Some mass action has required leadership. The race discrimination that confronted the US civil rights movement was deeply entrenched in both American society and its laws. Martin Luther King and other leaders paid exquisite attention to strategy, switching tactics according to what worked and what didn’t.

King correctly judged, however, that real and lasting equality required the reform of capitalism – a change in the system itself.

In a sense, his objective went from the singular to the plural. And that is where his campaign hit the rocks.

Momentum dissipated when King started to talk about economic equality: there was no agreement on the diagnosis, or the solution.

The Occupy movement faced a similar problem.

It succeeded in inserting inequality and economic injustice into the mainstream political conversation – politicians had avoided the topic before. But Occupy couldn’t articulate a specific political programme to reform the system.

I was in Zuccotti Park in New York City, where the protest movement began, when the “general assembly” invited the participants to pin notes listing their demands on to trees. Ideas were soon plastered up, from petitioning Washington DC to replacing the dollar – many of which, of course, were irreconcilable with each other.

This is why a leaderless response to the climate change disaster is tricky.

It’s striking that in Emmanuel Macron’s fuel tax rises the gilets jaunes opposed the very thing demanded by Extinction Rebellion, Britain’s newly minted leaderless movement: aggressive policies to reduce carbon emissions to net zero.

Macron’s proposals would have hit the poorest hardest, illustrating that resolving the crises of the environment and inequality requires a more comprehensive, carefully wrought solution to both. But leaderless movements have largely proved incapable of such complicated decision-making, as anyone at Zuccotti Park will attest.

Conventional party politicians, reasserting their own claim to legitimacy, insist that such problems can only be arbitrated by imposing more top-down policy. But when most feel powerless about the things that matter, this may only provoke further protests.

Ultimately, to address profound systemic challenges, we shall need new participatory and inclusive decision-making structures to negotiate the difficult choices.

An example of these forums has emerged in parts of Syria, of all places. Rightly, this is precisely what the Extinction Rebellion is also demanding.

Inevitably, leaderless movements face questions about their legitimacy.

One answer lies in their methods.

The Macron government has exploited the violence seen in Paris and elsewhere to claim that the gilets jaunes movement is illegitimate and anti-democratic.

Mahatma Gandhi, and later King, realised that nonviolent action – such as the satyagraha salt march or the Montgomery bus boycott – denies the authorities this line of attack.

On the contrary, the violence used by those authorities – the British colonial government or the police of the southern US states – against nonviolent protestors helped build their own legitimacy and attracted global attention.

Complexity science tells us something else important.

System-wide shifts happen when the system is primed for change, at so-called criticality.

In the Middle East there was almost universal anger at the existing political status quo, so it took only one match to light the fire of revolt.

Meeting people in colleges and towns across the UK but also in the US (where I lived until recently) you can hear the mounting frustration with a political and economic system that is totally unresponsive to the needs of the 99%, and offers no credible answer to the climate emergency.

There will be more leaderless movements to express this frustration, just as there will be more rightwing demagogues, like Trump or Boris Johnson, who seek to exploit it to their own advantage.

For the right ones to prevail, we must insist on nonviolence as well as commitment to dialogue with – and not denunciation of – those who disagree.

Messily, a new form of politics is upon us, and we must ensure that it peacefully and democratically produces deep systematic reform, not the counter-reaction of the authoritarians.

Get ready.

 Carne Ross is a former British diplomat and author of The Leaderless Revolution

Press link for more: The Guardian

We Have To Make Sure the “#GreenNewDeal” Doesn’t Become Green #Capitalism #auspol #qldpol #COP24 #ClimateChange #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #TheDrum

A conversation with Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson.

Incoming Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made waves in late November when she called for a Green New Deal (GND)—a plan to “transition” the U.S. economy to “become carbon neutral” over the course of 10 years.

In adraft resolution, she proposes the formation of a Select Committee to develop a plan for massive public works programs, powered by a jobs guarantee and public banks, with the goal of “meeting 100 percent of national power demand through renewable sources.”

According to Ocasio-Cortez, the plan aims to eliminate poverty, bring down greenhouse gas emissions, and “ensure a ‘just transition’ for all workers, low-income communities, communities of color, indigenous communities, rural and urban communities and the front-line communities.”

The GND is still in its nascent phase, and concrete details haven’t yet been hashed out, but the proposal has received backing from the youth climate organization, the Sunrise Movement, which staged direct actions and protests to build political support for the framework.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is throwing his political weight behind the plan and 35 House members have endorsed it.

Ocasio-Cortez—who identifies as a democratic socialist—is poised to lead the progressive conversation about climate change at the federal level.

Yet, some climate justice organizations are responding with more cautious support.

The Climate Justice Alliance (CJA), a network of front-line environmental justice organizations, including the Southwest Workers Union and Black Mesa Water Coalition, praised the GND as “a much-needed aggressive national pivot away from climate denialism to climate action.” But CJA said in a statement released earlier this week that “the proposal for the GND was made public at the grasstops [as opposed to grassroots] level. When we consulted with many of our own communities, they were neither aware of, nor had they been consulted about the launch of the GND.”

While the GND is in its developmental phase, the Climate Justice Alliance says it is critical for social movement groups to fight for the best possible version of the deal—and ensure that it does not include false solutions such as “carbon markets, offsets and emissions trading regimes or geoengineering technologies.”

CJA says any jobs plan should restore and protect workers’ rights to organize and form unions, and it should be predicated on non-extractive policies that build “local community wealth that is democratically governed.”

Any deal must ensure “free, prior and informed consent by Indigenous peoples,” CJA insists, and should be directed by those communities bearing the brunt of the “dig, burn, dump” economy.

In These Times spoke with Kali Akuno, director of the CJA-affiliated Cooperation Jackson, a Missisippi-based group that aims to build a “solidarity economy” that is “anchored by a network of cooperatives and worker-owned, democratically self-managed enterprises.”

According to Akuno, movements must defend the best components of the GND, while challenging–and offering alternatives to–the capitalist logic embedded in some of its proposals. “While this is still in the drafting phase,” he argues, “let’s get it as near perfect as we possibly can.”

Kali Akuno

Kali served as the Director of Special Projects and External Funding in the Mayoral Administration of the late Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, MS. His focus in this role was supporting cooperative development, the introduction of eco-friendly and carbon reduction methods of operation, and the promotion of human rights and international relations for the city. 

Sarah Lazare: What do you think of proposal for a Green New Deal put forward by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Kali Akuno: One, I’m glad that something like this is being introduced and is being discussed so widely, particularly coming from a freshman congresswoman. I don’t think that’s insignificant at all. I’m excited Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even had the courage to take this up. Let’s be real: To walk in as a freshman congresswoman in this environment and atmosphere, she should be applauded.

Is it perfect, is it everything we want? Absolutely not. To a certain extent, that’s fine. She has to play ball in the balance of power as it concretely exists. The broad public debate that the introduction of the Green New Deal proposal has generated presents an opportunity for the Left to strengthen our forces, gather new forces and expand the base of the movement. Her putting this forward is a profound opportunity for the Left.

I think the Left needs to seize it. We can do that by talking about it: the things we support, why we support them, the things we want to see strengthened, improved and changed. We should communicate that as far and wide as we can. We have to shift the conversation and put the Right on the defensive. Right now, they’re on the offensive.

We need to critically analyze some of the shortfalls of the capitalist logic embedded in this plan. We have to push back and improve upon the Green New Deal. In a real practical and concrete way, the Left has to intervene.

Dismissing it and not having a dialogue and talking just about how it’s imperfect is not good enough. If we believe there is a limited time to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change, we have to seize every opportunity to educate people, create the policy framework, and to take action to implement it on the ground in real time. We need to talk about it, raise awareness and build a base for our point of view. Let’s use the platform her winning the election has provided to move people and to take action.

Sarah: What should a left intervention look like?

Kali: Let me get to the heart of it. Because of the capitalist logic that’s embedded in what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has put forth, at this point, the Left needs to intervene.

We need to be putting out and elevating the counter-proposals many of us have been putting forward. There is the “just transition” framework coming out of some social movements and organized labor. There are some concrete suggestions many of us have been putting forward for years. Healing the soil, reintroducing small-scale agriculture, restoring the commons, making more space available for wildlife reintroduction. This has been coming from the It Takes Roots Alliance, which consists of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Climate Justice Alliance, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and the Right to the City Alliance. On the ground, organizations from oppressed communities have been putting forward a just transition for a while.

Representatives from It Takes Roots are opening a dialogue with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s office. Our aim is to lift up our demands and concrete solutions and have them constitute core components of the legislation that she puts forward. We’re seeing the beginning of an opening in that regard.

While this is still in the drafting phase, let’s get it as near perfect as we possibly can.

Sarah: What needs to be improved?

Kali: There are some things in the framework that she put forth that need to be challenged. The one that I always highlight is this notion that the different types of solutions that are developed through the entrepreneurial innovations that come out of this program, like renewable energy technologies, that the U.S. government and major transnational corporations should be exporters of this energy and knowledge. That’s deeply embedding this thing as a new export industry, which is a new cycle of capital accumulation. That part really needs to be challenged. This is trying to embed the solution in market-based dynamics, but the market is not going to solve this problem.

Editor’s note: In her draft text calling for a committee on the Green New Deal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez includes the following objective, to be accomplished within 10 years of the plan’s implementation: “making ‘green’ technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major export of the United States, with the aim of becoming the undisputed international leader in helping other countries transition to completely greenhouse gas neutral economies and bringing about a global Green New Deal.”

Sarah: U.S. industries have played tremendous and disproportionate role in driving climate change. It seems predatory for those industries to develop “solutions” and then turn around and sell them to the Global South.

Kali: Yeah, it’s this logic of, I created the problem, I control the resolution of the problem through various mechanisms, I play a big role in preventing any serious motion that might happen at the level of intergovernmental exchange through the United Nations—under Obama, and now under 45. I set it up so that we come up with these technology solutions—some are pure scientific fiction–come up with a few carbon sequestration solutions, and I’m going to charge exorbitant rates selling technology to the Global South. Primarily Trump, the United States and western Europe created the problem and prevent anyone from coming up with solutions. They come up with market solutions and sell them back to us through force.

We need to struggle with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others about this. We have to frame this in a way that really speaks to the global nature of the problem. We have to include the peoples of the world at the frontlines of the transition in the discussion to resolve it – Indigenous peoples, the peoples of Oceania, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and the African continent. It’s not just a national problem. The way this is framed is really as if we’re going to stop certain problems within U.S. borders. But carbon emissions don’t observe national boundaries—they never have and never will. Nation-state policy limits us in certain ways. That’s another aspect of this that we have to push back on and challenge. This has to include front-line communities in the United States and from all throughout the world.

Sarah: What would the ideal global climate policy look like? What do you think about the framework of reparations?

Kali: Reparations is one of the key aspects that has to be introduced into the dialogue. The United States has, under all administrations, blocked this kind of approach. It is not new to Trump. The concept of reparations needs to be introduced into several different levels of the conversation. You can think of reparations in terms of financial compensation, and you can think of it in terms of decolonization—returning lands back to indigenous and colonized people subjected to the United States and Western Europe much of the past 500 years.

The market-based capitalist extractive system has been highlighted through the World Trade Organization. You have intellectual patents that are being codified into law through the WTO, which the United States and Western Europe have pushed on the world. If we look at Monsanto, they basically took agricultural practices and indigenous knowledge, codified it with their technology of splicing genes, and now have power and control over it. Patents need to be abolished and dissolved and we need to open up space in many areas for small farmers like those aligned with the global peasant movement, La Via Campesina, to return to traditional practices of growing food. That is a major form of reparations: repairing harm that’s been done.

Sarah: What about the fossil fuel industry? Should we be talking about going to battle with the industry? Shutting it down?

Kali: There is no question about it. That has to be target number one. We have to adopt a program of “keep it in the ground.” There is no way to get around that. That’s a demand coming from Indigenous communities. If we just look at the raw science, all the raw data that is out there, that’s what we need to do. We’re locked into an old exploitative logic that is only maintained through the grip the petrochemical companies have on the political process. We are going to have to take them on head on.

What happened at Standing Rock really points the way forward for the future. I don’t think we should hide from that or step away from that. We’re going to have to take direct action on a massive scale to shut that industry down on an international level. There are a ton of alternatives that could be scaled up—solar, wind—and they need to be scaled up.

To think that they can keep pumping and drilling, and we’ll just phase them out with alternatives, on the basis of some kind of market logic, is not going to work. There is no question that we need to adopt a “keep it in the ground” policy—like, yesterday. That has to be one of our central demands.We have to scale up our campaigns against the oil companies, and we have to win. This is a necessary political struggle.

Sarah: Can you talk more about the concept of a “just transition”—where it comes from, what it’s calling for?

Kali: Just so folks know, the term comes out of the labor movement in the 1980s, particularly some folks who were working in labor sectors, including the petrochemical and thermonuclear industries. The concept was adopted to say that our interests around having a clean and safe environment, and your interest in having a living-wage job, are not and should not be opposed. There is a system in place keeping us at odds with each other in the short term. We have to change the system. A key part is taking care of our communities, making sure that the overall impacts of toxic contamination are thoroughly addressed. There has to be a way in which new jobs are created that enable workers to go through a just transition from one set of skills to another set of skills and maintain a high standard of living.

For Cooperation Jackson, which is part of the It Takes Roots Alliance, we fully endorse the just transition framework. This means highlighting grassroots, independent solutions in front-line communities: programs centering on reparations, decolonization and building a democratic economy through the advancement of the social and solidarity economy. For us at Cooperation Jackson, this is linked to a program of eco-socialist development. We are going to have to ultimately do a major overhaul in how things are produced, distributed, consumed and recycled back into the natural resource systems that we depend on. If we don’t think about just transition in a long-term, holistic way, we are missing the point. To think we can make some tweaks to capitalism or expansive “carbon neutral” production—that is also missing the point.

To address our deep problems, we have to shift wealth and power—it has to be moved from the United States and Europe to the rest of the world. We know we are going to run into a great deal of resistance from corporations and governments. We want to include that in our narrative of what a just transition entails.

Right now, as we speak, the COP24 climate talks are happening in Poland, and there are workers there in the coal industry who are trying to appropriate the term “just transition” to say “clean coal” is part of the just transition, which is contrary to the spirit and letter of the concept, especially knowing how that industry is contributing to the crisis we are in.

Sarah: What do you think about the Green New Deal’s call for a jobs guarantee?

Kali: It excites me, because I could see the immediate benefits here in my community in Jackson, Mississippi. That would create a lot of jobs for the young people in my community for the people who are chronically unemployed and underemployed. However, we should push for this plan with open eyes. There’s a limit to how many jobs could be created and how long they could be sustained. At a certain point, the logic of expansion has to run its course and end. You have to go back to eco-socialism. There need to be limits we impose on ourselves. We can’t just keep extracting minerals out of the earth—we’re going to have to figure out some natural limits to live in. I would like to see more of that infused into the Green New Deal: real conversations about our natural limits and how to create a truly sustainable system, so that we don’t exhaust all of the earth’s resources and deprive them to future generations. We have to start thinking about that now.

Sarah: Among other things, the Green New Deal calls for new investment in public banking. The draft text reads, “Many will say, ‘Massive government investment! How in the world can we pay for this?’ The answer is: in the same ways that we paid for the 2008 bank bailout and extended quantitative easing programs, the same ways we paid for World War II and many other wars. The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments, new public banks can be created (as in WWII) to extend credit and a combination of various taxation tools (including taxes on carbon and other emissions and progressive wealth taxes) can be employed.”

What do you think of this public banking component?

Kali: We are big-time supporters of public banking. We’ve been thinking of that in relation to the implementation of the Jackson-Kush Plan going back 10 years, and we’re still trying to figure out how to put it in practice on the municipal level. I’m excited to see it embedded in Green New Deal proposal. Without that, you won’t have certain kinds of capital controls over the process. But we need to make sure there’s going to be sufficient investment in communities. I don’t think enough of the Left is really talking about it.

Some people will say public banking is just another reform measure in the logic of capitalism. That’s true but we’re not going to eliminate finance overnight, like it or not. One of the first steps in the socialist transition as we see it, is that we’re going to have to learn how to discipline capital and put it to public use. That’s a key thing that I think public banks will help us do as we learn and grow. There will still be contradictions to deal with, on display in struggle against the pipeline in North Dakota, because the public banks there are invested in that. This is not without contradiction, but we will have to set them up to be run by communities, and they must have a profoundly different orientation and logic. Whoever on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s team that put that in there, I was very much pleased to see it.

Sarah: To what extent were front-lines environmental justice groups consulted about the Green New Deal?

Kali: As an individual I was not consulted, but I think it’s a two-way street, because I also didn’t do much to help her get elected. The natural inclination is you’re going to listen to the folks who support you. The political trade off, whether we like it or not, is that you listen to those who put skin in the game to help you. That’s a reality we need to start with. Whether or not Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reaches out, we have an obligation to tap her on her shoulder and say some of these ideas are terrible, here’s why, here are alternatives, here are examples of what the alternative looks like in practice—you can elevate them and use them as a model. That’s our task on the left—to intervene in that particular way. It’s not a question of whether or not she will listen: She’s an elected official, and we have move her to listen through the force of our organizing initiatives. We have to struggle with her to make sure she votes in the broadest interests possible, since she’s trying to lead this on a national level.

For me, it’s our task to hit her up, to contact her, to make sure we are very upfront and vocal from this point forward, to make sure what we’re demanding and proposing is very clear. We have to win other folks over to that position as well. Some of the best ideas might not carry the day if they don’t have an organized constituency behind them. She’s going to have to go to battle, she’s going to have to fight for the Green New Deal, and she’s probably going to listen to those forces that have the greatest leverage in terms of resources, or the greatest number of voices in sheer numbers. Those are things we have to deliver—we need to deliver that to make sure she’s accountable to our demands. We need to be real about how this game is going to play out. And be clear about what we bring to the table to make sure we get the outcomes we need.

Press link for more: In These Times

Anger as US & Australian delegates tell #COP24 fossil fuels can help fight global warming. #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #StopAdani #TheDrum #QandA

It’s ludicrous for Trump officials to claim that they want to clean up fossil fuels, while dismantling standards that would do just that’

Branded “laughable” by critics, the news comes after the US allied with other oil states included Russia and Saudi Arabia to stop a key scientific report influencing proceedings at the COP24 event in Poland.

The side event, which featured representatives from the US government and energy industry, saw panellists insist so-called “clean” fossil fuels had a role to play in tackling global warming.

The Australian Ambassador for the Environment, Patrick Suckling, appeared on a panel for a US government side-event pushing clean coal technologies.

Their presentations suggested innovation and investment in these energy sources would not only make them more competitive, but significantly decrease emissions as well.

Proceedings were interrupted by activists infuriated by the administration’s continued focus on polluting fuels.

The overwhelming majority of qualified experts agree that coal, oil and gas must be rapidly and completely phased out if the world is to stand a chance of meeting its ambitious climate targets and avoid catastrophic environmental consequences.

According to the US State Department, the event was intended to “showcase ways to use fossil fuels as cleanly and efficiently as possible, as well as the use of emission-free nuclear energy”.

This marks the second year in a row the US government has tried to promote fossil fuels at a UN climate event.

While the event was meant to focus on “clean” fossil fuels, Donald Trump has made clear his enthusiasm for coal, the dirtiest variety available, very clear.

Even as coal consumption has fallen in the US, the president has attempted to reverse this trend by announcing a rollback of Obama-era standards that would make building new plants easier.

Press link for more: Independent UK

Thousands march for climate in Paris despite ‘yellow vest’ unrest #auspol #qldpol #COP24 #ClimateStrike #GreenNewDeal #StopAdani

Police estimated the number of green activists at 17,000 while organisers counted 25,000 

Up to 25,000 people marched through Paris on Saturday urging greater action on climate change, despite fears that their protest would be scuppered by “yellow vest” demonstrations.

Police estimated the number of green activists heading onto the streets at 17,000 while organisers counted 25,000 urging world governments to better protect the environment.

The numbers were similar to previous climate marches in Paris, despite sporadic violence in the city on Saturday among thousands of “yellow vest” demonstrators who want more help for France’s poor.

Organisers had to change the route of the climate march, marching instead from Place de la Nation to Place de la Republique, due to the yellow vest demonstrations, but refused a request by Interior Minister Christophe Castaner to postpone it.

“It was unthinkable to cancel this march.

It’s important to talk about problems related to the end of the world as well as the end of the month,” Elodie Nace, a spokeswoman for green NGO Alternatiba, told the crowds.

Thousands also marched in other French cities, including an estimated 10,000 in Marseille, 3,500 in Montpellier and 3,000 in Lille.

The “yellow vest” movement has been spurred by anger in small-town and rural France at rising car fuel taxes which were aimed at helping the country transition to a greener economy, but which protesters say hurts the poor.

But green activists at the climate marches urged people to find solutions for both environmental problems and the financial struggles of France’s poorest.

“Yellow vests, green vests — same anger,” they chanted.

Some “yellow vest” activists, clad in their emblematic high-visibility road jackets, joined the Paris march after breaking off from their own demonstration.

Marches had been organised in more than 120 towns across France to mark the COP24 climate talks in Poland.

Press link for more: AFP.COM

The ‘great dying’: rapid warming caused largest extinction event ever. #auspol #qldpol #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum We urgently need a global #GreenNewDeal Catastrophic #ClimateChange

Up to 96% of all marine species and more than two-thirds of terrestrial species perished 252m years ago

The mass extinction, known as the “great dying”, occurred around 252m years ago and marked the end of the Permian geologic period.

The study of sediments and fossilized creatures show the event was the single greatest calamity ever to befall life on Earth, eclipsing even the extinction of the dinosaurs 65m years ago.

10,000 fruit bats (Flying Fox) die from heat stress during record heatwave in Cairns last week.

Up to 96% of all marine species perished while more than two-thirds of terrestrial species disappeared.

The cataclysm was so severe it wiped out most of the planet’s trees, insects, plants, lizards and even microbes.

Scientists have theorized causes for the extinction, such as a giant asteroid impact. But US researchers now say they have pinpointed the demise of marine life to a spike in Earth’s temperatures, warning that present-day global warming will also have severe ramifications for life on the planet.

“It was a huge event. In the last half a billion years of life on the planet, it was the worst extinction,” said Curtis Deutsch, an oceanography expert who co-authored the research, published on Thursday, with his University of Washington colleague Justin Penn along with Stanford University scientists Jonathan Payne and Erik Sperling.

The researchers used paleoceanographic records and built a model to analyse changes in animal metabolism, ocean and climate conditions. When they used the model to mimic conditions at the end of the Permian period, they found it matched the extinction records.

According to the study, this suggests that marine animals essentially suffocated as warming waters lacked the oxygen required for survival. “For the first time, we’ve got a whole lot of confidence that this is what happened,” said Deutsch. “It’s a very strong argument that rising temperatures and oxygen depletion were to blame.”

The great dying event, which occurred over an uncertain timeframe of possibly hundreds of years, saw Earth’s temperatures increase by around 10C (18F). Oceans lost around 80% of their oxygen, with parts of the seafloor becoming completely oxygen-free. Scientists believe this warming was caused by a huge spike in greenhouse gas emissions, potentially caused by volcanic activity.

The new research, published in Science, found that the drop in oxygen levels was particularly deadly for marine animals living closer to the poles. Experiments that varied oxygen and temperature levels for modern marine species, including shellfish, corals and sharks, helped “bridge the gap” to what the model found, Payne said.

“This really would be a terrible, terrible time to be around on the planet,” he added. “It shows us that when the climate and ocean chemistry changes quickly, you can reach a point where species don’t survive. It took millions of years to recover from the Permian event, which is essentially permanent from the perspective of human timescales.”

Over the past century, the modern world has warmed by around 1C due to the release of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, rather than from volcanic eruptions.

This warming is already causing punishing heatwaves, flooding and wildfires around the world, with scientists warning that the temperature rise could reach 3C or more by the end of the century unless there are immediate, radical reductions in emissions.

At the same time, Earth’s species are undergoing what some experts have termed the “sixth great extinction” due to habitat loss, poaching, pollution and climate change.

“It does terrify me to think we are on a trajectory similar to the Permian because we really don’t want to be on that trajectory,” Payne said. “It doesn’t look like we will warm by around 10C and we haven’t lost that amount of biodiversity yet. But even getting halfway there would be something to be very concerned about. The magnitude of change we are currently experiencing is fairly large.”

Deutsch said: “We are about a 10th of the way to the Permian. Once you get to 3-4C of warming, that’s a significant fraction and life in the ocean is in big trouble, to put it bluntly. There are big implications for humans’ domination of the Earth and its ecosystems.”

Deutsch added that the only way to avoid a mass aquatic die-off in the oceans was to reduce carbon emissions, given there is no viable way to ameliorate the impact of climate change in the oceans using other measures.

The research group “provide convincing evidence that warmer temperatures and associated lower oxygen levels in the ocean are sufficient to explain the observed extinctions we see in the fossil record”, said Pamela Grothe, a paleoclimate scientist at the University of Mary Washington.

“The past holds the key to the future,” she added. “Our current rates of carbon dioxide emissions is instantaneous geologically speaking and we are already seeing warming ocean temperatures and lower oxygen in many regions, currently affecting marine ecosystems.

“If we continue in the trajectory we are on with current emission rates, this study highlights the potential that we may see similar rates of extinction in marine species as in the end of the Permian.”

Press link for more: The Guardian

Global warming will happen faster than we think! #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike We urgently need a global #GreenNewDeal #TheDrum

Three trends will combine to hasten it, warn Yangyang Xu, Veerabhadran Ramanathan and David G. Victor.

Devastating wildfires ravaged California last month. Credit: Gene Blevins/Reuters

Prepare for the “new abnormal”. That was what California Governor Jerry Brown told reporters last month, commenting on the deadly wildfires that have plagued the state this year.

He’s right. California’s latest crisis builds on years of record-breaking droughts and heatwaves.

The rest of the world, too, has had more than its fair share of extreme weather in 2018. The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change announced last week that 157 million more people were exposed to heatwave events in 2017, compared with 2000.

Such environmental disasters will only intensify. Governments, rightly, want to know what to do. Yet the climate-science community is struggling to offer useful answers.

In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report setting out why we must stop global warming at 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, and how to do so1. It is grim reading. If the planet warms by 2 °C — the widely touted temperature limit in the 2015 Paris climate agreement — twice as many people will face water scarcity than if warming is limited to 1.5 °C. That extra warming will also expose more than 1.5 billion people to deadly heat extremes, and hundreds of millions of individuals to vector-borne diseases such as malaria, among other harms. 

But the latest IPCC special report underplays another alarming fact: global warming is accelerating. Three trends — rising emissions, declining air pollution and natural climate cycles — will combine over the next 20 years to make climate change faster and more furious than anticipated. In our view, there’s a good chance that we could breach the 1.5 °C level by 2030, not by 2040 as projected in the special report (see ‘Accelerated warming’). The climate-modelling community has not grappled enough with the rapid changes that policymakers care most about, preferring to focus on longer-term trends and equilibria.

Sources: Ref. 1/GISTEMP/IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (2014)

Policymakers have less time to respond than they thought. Governments need to invest even more urgently in schemes that protect homes from floods and fires and help people to manage heat stress (especially older individuals and those living in poverty). Nations need to make their forests and farms more resilient to droughts, and prepare coasts for inundation. Rapid warming will create a greater need for emissions policies that yield the quickest changes in climate, such as controls on soot, methane and hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases. There might even be a case for solar geoengineering — cooling the planet by, for instance, seeding reflective particles in the stratosphere to act as a sunshade. 

Climate scientists must supply the evidence policymakers will need and provide assessments for the next 25 years. They should advise policymakers on which climate-warming pollutants to limit first to gain the most climate benefit. They should assess which policies can be enacted most swiftly and successfully in the real world, where political, administrative and economic constraints often make abstract, ‘ideal’ policies impractical.

Speeding freight train

Three lines of evidence suggest that global warming will be faster than projected in the recent IPCC special report. 

First, greenhouse-gas emissions are still rising.

In 2017, industrial carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to have reached about 37 gigatonnes.

This puts them on track with the highest emissions trajectory the IPCC has modelled so far.

This dark news means that the next 25 years are poised to warm at a rate of 0.25–0.32 °C per decade. That is faster than the 0.2 °C per decade that we have experienced since the 2000s, and which the IPCC used in its special report. 

Second, governments are cleaning up air pollution faster than the IPCC and most climate modellers have assumed.

For example, China reduced sulfur dioxide emissions from its power plants by 7–14% between 2014 and 2016 (ref. ).

Mainstream climate models had expected them to rise. Lower pollution is better for crops and public health. But aerosols, including sulfates, nitrates and organic compounds, reflect sunlight. This shield of aerosols has kept the planet cooler, possibly by as much as 0.7 °C globally. 

Third, there are signs that the planet might be entering a natural warm phase that could last for a couple of decades. The Pacific Ocean seems to be warming up, in accord with a slow climate cycle known as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation. This cycle modulates temperatures over the equatorial Pacific and over North America. Similarly, the mixing of deep and surface waters in the Atlantic Ocean (the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation) looks to have weakened since 2004, on the basis of data from drifting floats that probe the deep ocean. Without this mixing, more heat will stay in the atmosphere rather than going into the deep oceans, as it has in the past. 

These three forces reinforce each other. We estimate that rising greenhouse-gas emissions, along with declines in air pollution, bring forward the estimated date of 1.5 °C of warming to around 2030, with the 2 °C boundary reached by 2045. These could happen sooner with quicker shedding of air pollutants. Adding in natural decadal fluctuations raises the odds of blasting through 1.5 °C by 2025 to at least 10% (ref. ). By comparison, the IPCC assigned probabilities of 17% and 83% for crossing the 1.5 °C mark by 2030 and 2052, respectively.

Four fronts

Scientists and policymakers must rethink their roles, objectives and approaches on four fronts. 

Assess science in the near term. Policymakers should ask the IPCC for another special report, this time on the rates of climate change over the next 25 years. The panel should also look beyond the physical science itself and assess the speed at which political systems can respond, taking into account pressures to maintain the status quo from interest groups and bureaucrats. Researchers should improve climate models to describe the next 25 years in more detail, including the latest data on the state of the oceans and atmosphere, as well as natural cycles. They should do more to quantify the odds and impacts of extreme events. The evidence will be hard to muster, but it will be more useful in assessing real climate dangers and responses. 

Rethink policy goals. Warming limits, such as the 1.5 °C goal, should be recognized as broad planning tools. Too often they are misconstrued as physical thresholds around which to design policies. The excessive reliance on ‘negative emissions technologies’ (that take up CO2) in the IPCC special report shows that it becomes harder to envision realistic policies the closer the world gets to such limits. It’s easy to bend models on paper, but much harder to implement real policies that work. 

Realistic goals should be set based on political and social trade-offs, not just on geophysical parameters. They should come out of analyses of costs, benefits and feasibility. Assessments of these trade-offs must be embedded in the Paris climate process, which needs a stronger compass to guide its evaluations of how realistic policies affect emissions. Better assessment can motivate action but will also be politically controversial: it will highlight gaps between what countries say they will do to control emissions, and what needs to be achieved collectively to limit warming. Information about trade-offs must therefore come from outside the formal intergovernmental process — from national academies of sciences, subnational partnerships and non-governmental organizations. 

Design strategies for adaptation. The time for rapid adaptation has arrived. Policymakers need two types of information from scientists to guide their responses. First, they need to know what the potential local impacts will be at the scales of counties to cities. Some of this information could be gleaned by combining fine-resolution climate impact assessments with artificial intelligence for ‘big data’ analyses of weather extremes, health, property damage and other variables. Second, policymakers need to understand uncertainties in the ranges of probable climate impacts and responses. Even regions that are proactive in setting adaptation policies, such as California, lack information about the ever-changing risks of extreme warming, fires and rising seas. Research must be integrated across fields and stakeholders — urban planners, public-health management, agriculture and ecosystem services. Adaptation strategies should be adjustable if impacts unfold differently. More planning and costing is needed around the worst-case outcomes. 

Understand options for rapid response. Climate assessments must evaluate quick ways of lessening climate impacts, such as through reducing emissions of methane, soot (or black carbon) and HFCs. Per tonne, these three ‘super pollutants’ have 25 to thousands of times the impact of CO2. Their atmospheric lifetimes are short — in the range of weeks (for soot) to about a decade (for methane and HFCs). Slashing these pollutants would potentially halve the warming trend over the next 25 years.

There has been progress on this front. At the Global Climate Action summit held in September in San Francisco, California, the United States Climate Alliance — a coalition of state governors representing 40% of the US population — issued a road map to reduce emissions of methane, HFCs and soot by 40–50% by 2030. The 2016 Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which will go into force by January 2019, is set to slash HFC emissions by 80% over the next 30 years.

Various climate engineering options should be on the table as an emergency response. If global conditions really deteriorate, we might be forced to extract large volumes of excess CO2 directly from the atmosphere. An even faster emergency response could be to inject aerosols into the atmosphere to lower the amount of solar radiation heating the planet, as air pollution does. This option is hugely controversial, and might have unintended consequences, such as altering rainfall patterns that lead to drying of the tropics. So research and planning are crucial, in case this option is needed. Until there is investment in testing and technical preparedness — today, there is almost none — the chances are high that the wrong kinds of climate-engineering scheme will be deployed by irresponsible parties who are uninformed by research. 

For decades, scientists and policymakers have framed the climate-policy debate in a simple way: scientists analyse long-term goals, and policymakers pretend to honour them.

Those days are over.

Serious climate policy must focus more on the near-term and on feasibility.

It must consider the full range of options, even though some are uncomfortable and freighted with risk. 

Nature 564, 30-32 (2018)

Press link for more: Nature.com

Labor understands the need for urgent #ClimateAction #auspol #qldpol #ClimateStrike but will they #StopAdani ? #COP24 #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum #QandA #GreenNewDeal now.

Mr BUTLER

This morning, perhaps the most famous naturalist in the world, David Attenborough, addressed that conference and said: ‘It is a man-made disaster on a global scale and our greatest threat in thousands of years of human existence.’

Sir David Attenborough’s Address to COP24

This very grave statement by the most legendary naturalist on the face of the planet follows the recent publication of a confronting report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, which laid out the impacts of climate change at a level of two degrees Celsius of global warming on the one hand and 1.5 degrees Celsius following the Paris climate agreement of 2015.

That report shows that two degrees of global warming will have a devastating impact on our natural environment and human society as we understand it.

Just as one example, the IPCC has said that, at two degrees of global warming, more than 99 per cent of the world’s coral reefs will be destroyed—almost all of our world’s coral reefs will be destroyed.

Our own coral reef, the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, has already been subject to two major bleaching events in the last three years. And the Bureau of Meteorology only recently advised that there is a 70 per cent chance of an El Nino building in the Pacific over the course of the coming summer, which would place the reef under threat of a third major bleaching event in just four years. Before these last three years there has been only one major bleaching event in the recorded history of the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s not just the IPCC report that has underlined the gravity of even two degrees of global warming. The World Bank only a couple of years ago indicated that two degrees of global warming would wipe out as much as 20 per cent of global cereal production, including fully 50 per cent of cereal production on the continent of Africa, which, as we know, is already struggling to feed its people and will be the area where most of the world’s population increase over coming decades occurs. The grave thing about these reports is that we are not even close to tracking to keeping global warming below two degrees. At the moment we’re advised that we’re currently tracking to somewhere between three and four degrees of global warming, whose impacts are barely able to be imagined.

The world is now facing a climate emergency. This emergency won’t unfold over the course of the coming year or even few years; this emergency will unfold over coming decades, but we are starting to see the impacts of climate change now. Much earlier than 20 or 25 years ago we were advised that we’d see those impacts. We’re starting to see them now and they are frightening. Barack Obama said when he was President of the United States:

We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.

Last week here in Australia literally thousands of students, overwhelmingly with the permission of their parents, decided to take a day off school and march in the streets to protest at the lack of reasonable action by this parliament and this government. We all want kids to go to school, but I think on this side of the parliament we also understand the deep frustration that young Australians at school and beyond school age feel at the lack of action by our generation on climate change, particularly in this building. I talk to young Australians, as I know members of this House across the aisle talk to young Australians, all the time. I hear them saying just how let down they feel by our generation in dealing with something that they feel is going to be such a substantial issue over the course of what we hope will be their very long lives. They feel let down in an unforgiveable way.

None of us should fall for the rubbish that is often spouted by commentators—and unfortunately some on the other side of the House—that what Australia does doesn’t matter in this debate.

Yes, we are a small nation.

We don’t even rate in the top 50 of the world’s nations in population, but we rate in the top 15 in the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted from this economy.

We are a wealthy nation that has, along with other members of the OECD, grown wealthy on the back of long-term industrialisation.

We are the highest per capita producer of greenhouse gases.

If Australia won’t act and take responsible strong action on climate change, which nation on the face of the planet should be expected to act?

We have a deep responsibility in this area, as a good global citizen, a friend and a neighbour to communities in our region for whom climate change poses a threat.

As parents, grandparents, uncles and aunties we have a generational responsibility to do everything we reasonably can to ensure our children and grandchildren enjoy a natural environment at least as good as the one that we enjoy.

We are a wealthy nation, but it is in our own self-interest to act on climate change, because our continent is deeply vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

This continent already pushes us up right against the limits of human tolerance to heat.

This continent has agricultural regions that are deeply vulnerable to very clear structural trends, already identified by the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO, in rainfall, particularly the Murray-Darling Basin region in eastern Australia and the Wheatbelt in the South West of Western Australia.

We largely live on coasts, with coastal communities that are deeply vulnerable to very quickly accelerating sea level rise, which over time will pose risks to literally billions and billions of dollars of assets. And we know that already the increase in heat events and other extreme weather events is posing a substantial risk to the health of Australians.

In this area, government action and government policy matter. When we were in government, carbon pollution levels came down by more than 10 per cent in those six years. We were the fourth most attractive investment destination in renewable energy. We had state governments in New South Wales and Queensland finally acting on an end to broadscale land clearing of remnant vegetation.

This government’s record could not be different. Carbon pollution has been rising since this government came to office and is projected to continue to rise all the way to 2030, which is as far as the government’s projections go.

The new climate change minister can’t even pinpoint a day on which she thinks carbon pollution might eventually peak.

We are now pretty much the only major advanced economy where carbon pollution and greenhouse gases are going up rather than coming down.

In spite of the Prime Minister and all of his ministers getting up at the despatch box and doing media conferences to say that we’ll meet our targets in a canter, no-one believes them.

Their own data doesn’t show it and the United Nations Emissions gap report 2018 from a couple of weeks ago doesn’t show it, because it simply is not happening. As Malcolm Turnbull said again today, as Rob Stokes said on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald, this federal coalition is simply genetically incapable of taking climate change action. It is so deeply divided that it is incapable of taking action in this policy area.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The UK Conservatives understood that this was in the national interest. They’re tracking to a budget at around 2030 of not a five per cent reduction in carbon pollution, which is this government’s track record, but a 61 per cent reduction in carbon pollution. At the same time, they’re producing about three times as much steel as Australia and have 800,000 workers still working in the automotive industry—an industry that this government shut down in Australia—which demonstrates that decarbonisation and the maintenance of a strong industrial base are possible and are consistent with a strong, growing economy.

As Malcolm Turnbull has said, this coalition is just incapable. Its division, its ideological obsessions, are holding this nation hostage on a critically important policy area. The division in the coalition party room is holding future generations hostage. That’s why they were marching in the streets last week. Labor isn’t just ready. We’re not just ready to take action here; we are impatient to take action, because we know that this is in the national interest, that this is in our children’s interest, and that this is in our grandchildren’s interest. But to look after those interests, we need a change of government.

Press link for more: Mark Butler

Attenborough warns of the end of civilisation. Protesters & students enter Australian Parliament to demand #ClimateAction #COP24 #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #auspol

Watch David Attenborough

Breaking News

School students have joined a group of 100 people peacefully occupying the foyer of Parliament house to call for climate justice now and an end to the Adani coal mine. #ClimateStrike #StopAdani

More Actions planned this Saturday.

Portrait of a planet on the verge of climate catastrophe #auspol #qldpol #COP24 #StopAdani #ClimateChange #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion @SenatorWong #TheDrum #QandA

By Robin McKie

On Sunday morning hundreds of politicians, government officials and scientists will gather in the grandeur of the International Congress Centre in Katowice, Poland. It will be a familiar experience for many.

For 24 years the annual UN climate conference has served up a reliable diet of rhetoric, backroom talks and dramatic last-minute deals aimed at halting global warming.

But this year’s will be a grimmer affair – by far.

As recent reports have made clear, the world may no longer be hovering at the edge of destruction but has probably staggered beyond a crucial point of no return.

Climate catastrophe is now looking inevitable. We have simply left it too late to hold rising global temperatures to under 1.5C and so prevent a future of drowned coasts, ruined coral reefs, spreading deserts and melted glaciers.

One example was provided last week by a UN report that revealed attempts to ensure fossil fuel emissions peak by 2020 will fail.

Indeed the target will not even be reached by 2030.

Another, by the World Meteorological Organization, said the past four years had been the warmest on record and warned that global temperatures could easily rise by 3-5C by 2100, well above that sought-after goal of 1.5C. The UK will not be exempt either. The Met Office said summer temperatures could now be 5.4C hotter by 2070.

At the same time, prospects of reaching global deals to halt emissions have been weakened by the spread of rightwing populism. Not much to smile about in Katowice.

Nor will the planet’s woes end in 2100. Although most discussions use the year as a convenient cut-off point for describing Earth’s likely fate, the changes we have already triggered will last well beyond that date, said Svetlana Jevrejeva, at the National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool. She has studied sea-level rises that will be triggered by melting ice sheets and expanding warm seawater in a world 3-5C hotter than it was in pre-industrial times, and concludes these could reach 0.74 to 1.8 metres by 2100. This would be enough to deluge Pacific and Indian Ocean island states and displace millions from Miami, Guangzhou, Mumbai and other low-lying cities. The total cost to the planet could top £11trillion.

Even then the seas will not stop rising, Jevrejeva added. “They will continue to climb for centuries even after greenhouse-gas levels have been stabilised. We could experience the highest-ever global sea-level rise in the history of human civilisation.”

Vast tracts of prime real estate will be destroyed – at a time when land will be needed with unprecedented desperation. Earth’s population stands at seven billion today and is predicted to rise to nine billion by 2050 and settle at over 11 billion by 2100 – when climate change will have wrecked major ecosystems and turned farmlands to dust bowls.

Residents of Anaroro, Madagascar, paddle through the flooded streets in the aftermath of a cyclone. Photograph: Gregoire Pourtier/AFP/Getty

Unfortunately many experts believe Earth’s population will actually peak well beyond 11 billion. “It could reach 15 billion,” said Sarah Harper, of Oxford’s Institute of Population Ageing. “All sorts of factors suggest women, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, will still want to have relatively high numbers of children and this might keep the world’s population approaching 15 billion rather than 12 billion.”

The world will have double its present numbers – but with hugely reduced areas of fertile land to provide food. We will be living in a shrunken, scorched planet bursting with human beings. Somaliland gives a grim vision of this future.

In the past few years climate change has killed 70% of its livestock and forced tens of thousands of families to flee from its scorched interior to live in refugee camps. “You can touch it, the climate change, in Somaliland. It is real. It is here,” the country’s environment minister, Shukri Ismail Bandare, said in the Financial Times last week.

Sudan and Kenya are also victims of a drought that has dried the Horn of Africa faster than at any other time in the past 2,000 years. Similarly, in Vietnam, thousands a year are abandoning the once fertile Mekong Delta as rising seawater pollutes paddy fields. By 2050, the World Bank says more than 140 million will become climate refugees.

It will be bad for humans, but catastrophic for Earth’s other inhabitants. Arctic ice loss threatens polar bears, droughts imperil monarch butterflies, and koala habitats are being destroyed by bush fires. In all, about a sixth of all species now face extinction, say scientists, although in the end no creature or plant will be safe. “Even the most resilient species will inevitably fall victim as extreme stresses drive ecosystems to collapse,” said Giovanni Strona of Europe’s Joint Research Centre in a report last week on climate change.

Scientists warned more than 30 years ago that such a future lay ahead, but nothing was done to stave it off. Only dramatic measures are now left to those seeking to save our burning planet, and these can have grim political consequences. In France, for example, President Macron’s new levies on fossil fuels, introduced to cut emissions and to fund renewable energy projects, triggered riots. Had only modest changes been enacted a few decades ago there would be no trouble today, say analysts.

But the most telling example is provided by the US, which has emitted about a third of the carbon responsible for global warming. Yet it has essentially done nothing to check its annual rises in output. Lobbying by the fossil fuel industry has proved highly effective at blocking political change – a point most recently demonstrated by groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute, which helped persuade President Trump to pull out of the Paris agreement, thus dashing the planet’s last hope of ecological salvation. “The coalition used its power to slow us down precisely at the moment when we needed to speed up,” said the environmentalist Bill McKibben in the New Yorker. “As a result, the particular politics of one country for one half-century will have changed the geological history of the Earth.”

Florida

No region of the US has more to lose from climate change than southern Florida. If scientists’ worst predictions are realised, an entire metropolitan area, currently inhabited by more than six million people, is likely to be swamped by a 1.5-metre sea-level rise before the end of this century, a rise that could see the tourist mecca of Miami simply disappear.

It’s a doomsday scenario that has united the leaders of Miami-Dade county and the cities of Miami and Miami Beach in an attempt to find solutions to the most severe effects of rising oceans before it is too late. Their plan to combat the physical, economic and social challenges of climate change, as part of the global 100 Resilient Cities programme, will play a key role in determining whether the low-lying region will still be habitable in the coming decades or surrendered to the ever-rising Atlantic.

“It’s a problem that can be managed, it’s not a problem that can be fixed and you walk away from,” said Susanne Torriente, chief resilience officer for Miami Beach, where hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars have already been spent elevating roads, constructing higher sea walls and investing in modern, high-capacity pumps and stormwater drainage systems.

“Every generation will add to the work that we have begun,” Torriente says. “We are always learning, it’s a constant process of learning, re-evaluating and improving.”

A flooded street in Miami Beach, Florida, one of the areas of the US at greatest risk from rising sea levels. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Up to a million Florida homes, worth an estimated $371bn (£290bn, are at risk of tidal flooding by 2100, one recent study calculated, but the threats facing the greater Miami region are not just coastal. Hurricanes are becoming more powerful because of global warming, say scientists, who point to the destruction wrought by Hurricane Michael in October, while the combination of a low water table and high “king” tides – occurring in autumn – causes regular inland flooding even on dry days.

This means that the new joint action plan being worked on by city and county officials has to be further-reaching than anything that has preceded it, Torriente says. “Our resilience journey began with the climate work, the storm water, [but] this strategy will be much broader and will be defining resilience not only in terms of climate and flooding, but also mobility and housing, property, and how to recover quickly in the event of a hurricane in south Florida.” 

These moves reflect the sense of urgency being felt in Florida, where the state leadership has been criticised for neglecting the environment. Its newly elected senator, Rick Scott, banned staff from using the term climate change during his time as governor of Florida, and will be a close Washington ally of President Donald Trump, who took the US out of the Paris climate agreement.

“We’ll be much more successful if we have more cooperation and more attention at all levels of government, [because] it’s a problem for all of us,” Torriente says. “But we do what we can. Everything we are doing is funded locally, so we can continue to invest.”

Richard Luscombe, Miami

Madagascar

It’s a 45-minute canoe journey along the coast from regional capital Morombe to Kivalo in south-west Madagascar. Children frolic in the water, palm trees sway, and fishing nets hang along the beach. This tranquillity is deceptive, however – for Madagascar is ranked as one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Higher temperatures, extended drought periods in the south, intensification of cyclones and rising sea levels are all forecast. For good measure, the country’s pervasive poverty restricts its capacity to adapt to such changes.

In Kivalo, this is already a familiar picture. “The southern wind used to start in January and last until July,” says Bikison Thomas, a fisherman. “But it’s still going now in November.” On very windy days, he cannot put out to sea. “There is also more fog,” he adds. Overfishing, higher sea temperatures and the loss of mangrove, a crucial habitat for fish stocks, are also reducing catches.

Villagers deal with the floods in Madagascar after a tropical cyclone. Photograph: Alain Iloiniaina/Getty Images

The Madagascar government is aware of the country’s vulnerability and has ratified the Paris agreement. Climate change is listed in every major policy document but budgets usually fall short of producing effective measures, a point that is demonstrated dramatically down the coast in the town of Morondava, where hotels are grappling with sea-level rise.

Two years ago, Chayune Badouraly bought the Coco Beach hotel. It had a few bungalows and a lovely beach. Badouraly added more bedrooms, a reception area and a restaurant.

But in September, powerful tides destroyed two of his bungalows, and the sea has not returned to its previous level. “We used to have 150 metres of beach,” he says bitterly. “Now it’s minus five.” 

Although there are plans to build sea defences, Badouraly says that could take months, even years, so he’s taken the problem into his own hands and built a 60-metre-long sea wall, a mixture of stone blocks, steel rods and sandbags. “I knew we had coastal erosion problems, but I didn’t think it would be that bad,” he adds. “I would never have bought.”

Emilie Filou, Madagascar

Antarctica

It is hard to get a grip of the sheerscale of the Thwaites glacier in west Antarctica. It’s more than 300 miles long and 200 wide – and more than a mile thick. It drains an area of ice that is larger than England and stealthily slides towards the sea by several metres every day. Only from satellite images have we understood the shape and power of this ice monster.

These now show the beast is waking up. Thwaites’s uptake of falling snow was once matched, fairly finely, by snow and ice being lost as icebergs. Now it has begun to flow faster, along with some of its neighbouring glaciers. More ice is being lost into the ocean than is being replaced, speeding up global sea-level rise.

The cause of the disruption at Thwaites is straightforward, researchers have discovered. Increasing amounts of warm ocean water coming from the north have been melting the floating parts of the glacier and this, in turn, is letting the inland glacier run more quickly into the sea. This much we know, but we have still to understand how this process is likely to accelerate. At present, Thwaites contributes around 4% of observed sea-level rise, but it is widely agreed that this could grow exponentially. Indeed, some glaciologists believe that a complete collapse of the Thwaites glacier over coming centuries is now inevitable – and that would raise global sea level by several metres, drowning coastal ecosystems around the world, damaging coastal investments and displacing millions of people.

The field support team who will be setting up the camps on Thwaites Glacier, Antarctica. Photograph: Tim Gee/British Antarctic Survey

Research on the ice and frigid waters around Thwaites Glacier is urgently needed but carrying that out is tough. Even by Antarctic standards, this area is cold and remote. I have been working in Antarctica for more than 30 years, and I’ve never managed to reach Thwaites. However, the UK and US governments have agreed to send in scientists as part of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration. We are finally going to get the chance to understand this waking monster. At the moment, it is merely yawning and stretching. The question we must answer, urgently, is whether it is about to wake up and roar.

David Vaughan, British Antarctic Survey

Great Barrier Reef

Coral reefs cover a mere 0.1% of the world’s ocean floor but they support about 25% of all marine species. They also provide nature with some of its most beautiful vistas. For good measure, coral reefs protect shorelines from storms, support the livelihoods of 500 million people and help generate almost £25bn of income. Permitting their destruction would put the planet in trouble – which is precisely what humanity is doing.

Rising sea temperatures are already causing irreparable bleaching of reefs, while rising sea levels threaten to engulf reefs at a faster rate than they can grow upwards. Few scientists believe coral reefs – which are made of simple invertebrates related to sea anemones – can survive for more than a few decades.

Yet those who have sounded clear warnings about our reefs have received little reward. Professor Terry Hughes, a coral expert at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, recently studied the impact of El Niño warmings in 2016 and 2017 on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef and its largest living entity – and wept when he saw the damage.

Close to half the corals on the Great Barrier Reef have died in the past three years, according to expert Prof Terry Hughes. Photograph: Greg Torda/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

“The 2016 event killed 30% of corals, the one a year later killed another 20%. Very close to half the corals have died in the past three years,” he said recently.

For his pains, Hughes has faced demands from tourist firms for his funding to be halted because he was ruining their business. “The Australian government is still promoting new developments of coal mines and fracking for gas,” Hughes said, after being named joint recipient of the John Maddox prize, given to those who champion science in the face of hostility and legal threats. “If we want to save the Great Barrier Reef, these outdated ambitions need to be abandoned. Yet Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are rising, not falling. It’s a national disgrace.”

This grim picture is summed up by the ethnographer Irus Braverman in her book Coral Whisperers: “The Barrier Reef has changed for ever. The largest living structure in the world has become the largest dying structure in the world.”

Queensland Australia

Press link for more: The Guardian