Keeling Curve

The Science that reveals #ClimateChange is Sound. #auspol 

Valley Voice: The science that reveals climate change is sound

By Dwight Fine 

In his April 10 Valley Voice, “Another opinion on climate science,” Larry Wilhelmsen expresses skepticism over climate change and bases that skepticism, in part, on a petition signed by “31,000 people with various science-related degrees,” and on two publications by atmospheric scientists. 

This illustrates the denialist techniques of “fake experts” and “magnified minority.”
The “petition signed by 31,000 scientists” has long since been discredited. 

The petition was sent out by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, a small group calling itself a research organization. 

Anyone with a bachelors degree or higher in a science-related field was invited to sign. 

Examination of the signatures showed that only about 0.1% of the signers had ever had any involvement with climate science research.

I do not feel that my own Ph.D. in chemistry qualifies me to speak with authority on climatology; instead, I look for the consensus of scientists who have actually done research in the field and have published their results in peer-reviewed journals.

Studies of publications of climatologists have been carried out at Queensland University, the University of Chicago and Princeton University. These studies examined some 12,000 publications.

 The average for the studies showed that 97 percent of climate scientists supported the hypothesis that global warming is real and mainly induced by human activity.

Furthermore, some 30 major scientific societies such as the American Chemical, Physical and Geological Societies have now endorsed this hypothesis, as have the national science academies of 80 countries. Are we to believe that all of these scientists, societies and academies are engaged in a gigantic conspiracy to perpetrate a hoax?
Wilhelmsen states that climate has changed forever and that advocates of human-induced climate change have stopped calling it global warming because warming was stopping. Stopping? 2016 was the warmest year on record, according to data reported by NASA and NOAA, and 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001. Yes, the climate has always changed, but it has never changed at such an abrupt rate as we are observing now. The term ”climate change” came into use so as to be more inclusive of events other than increased surface temperatures.
Such events include:

1) increased severity of blizzards, tornadoes, flooding and wildfires;

2) sea level rise;

3) warming of oceans and increasing acidification of ocean waters due to increased concentrations of carbonic acid; this has led to extensive destruction of coral reefs;

4) declining Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets;

5) declining Arctic sea ice – we now have cruise ships sailing the once impenetrable Northwest Passage;

6) retreating of glaciers in the Himalayas, Andes, Alps, Rockies and Alaska.


As to the “pleasures” we owe to fossil fuels the Wilhelmsen referenced, such pleasures are becoming limited. Reserves of coal and oil are finite and non-renewable, and these fuels become increasingly difficult, expensive and hazardous to extract as reserves are depleted. Landscapes are littered with abandoned strip mines and oilfields, often laden with toxic chemicals. Renewable energy would seem to offer far greater potential in the way of jobs and development.
For readers confused by denialist rhetoric in regard to climate change, I recommend the websites climate.nasa.gov and skeptical science.com.
Dwight Fine is a retired research chemist living in Palm Springs. Email him at dwigf@msn.com.

Press link for more: Elpaso Times

Aging & Climate Change: Graying Green #auspol 


Mike Smyer is on a fellowship on climate change and aging at Stanford University. (Photo: Patrick Beaudouin)
It’s a common misconception: Older adults don’t care about climate change.

 Why? Because they won’t be around long enough to experience the results, the misguided thinking goes.
Mick Smyer has stepped inside the eye of the storm to reverse this myth.
It began with Hurricane Katrina, which devastated his hometown of New Orleans in 2005. 

Then it was the birth of twin grandsons in 2015, who deserve a planet free from devastating weather events.
After that, Smyer knew exactly how he’d spend his yearlong civic innovation fellowship with Stanford’s design school.
But first he had to overcome some human obstacles.
“I thought I’d work with hundreds of other people who were working at the intersection of two global patterns,” aging and climate change, he said.
He quickly learned there were only a handful of people straddling the two worlds. 

So he launched the website Graying Green to help foster a social movement that would “energize older adults around what is arguably our most important issue.”
And where others – including climate change scientists – only saw tired victims, Smyer saw possibilities. “It’s an important, growing and largely untapped demographic,” he adds.
What Can I Do?
Smyer has so far interviewed 400 adults over 60 using his simple, three-step Graying Green engagement process. 

Most are from California or Colorado.
First, he asks them to select a special place they love, then imagine it being affected by extreme weather. 

“It sidesteps the politics,” said Smyer, 66. “Everybody has a place they care about.”
Next, Smyer asks them to sort climate-change action cards into three piles: what they’re already doing about it, what they might do, and things they’ll never do.
“It’s kind of odd, but people like doing this,” he said. “It’s important to acknowledge the things they’re already doing.”
Finally, comes the commitment contract. Smyer asks the participants to commit to one of the actions in their “might” pile. He may even suggest a commitment website like StickK.
What if they don’t follow through? Bad news. They must commit to donating money to a cause they dislike, like the campaign of an opposing candidate.
“I’m delighted to see how many things I’m already doing, but I’m even more delighted to see what my next step is,” quoted Smyer of a typical response. “And that’s the point. Helping people see the next step on their journey.”
Show Me the Future
In 2015, Santa Cruz marine scientist Susanne Moser led a team who installed a 360-degree climate change viewer on the Mill Valley-Sausalito Multi-Use Path in Marin County. For 14 weeks, observers used the viewer to see the future influence of climate change on the landscape.
Besides envisioning water three feet higher, other possible futures included a sea wall to protect against flooding — one that completely blocked their view — and a levee with a bikeway. All would dramatically change the landscape.
The installation tallied more than 3,700 views, with 150 participants leaving audio feedback after their peek into the future.
“Amazing messages,” said Moser. “Some of them quite emotional.”
Moser says those who began the interactive session with the least concern about climate change did an abrupt turnaround: “They were the most likely to want to engage and make an impact in the community.” The experiment is summarized in the paper “Never Too Old to Care: Reaching an Untapped Cohort.” 
Others are exploring the intersection of aging and climate change.
University of California, Berkeley, associate professor Greg Niemeyer is pairing 130 Berkeley middle school and Stanford earth-sciences students with older adults to record their observations about climate change. The three-minute videos will be posted on YouTube.
In 2011, Canada’s Simon Fraser University hosted the conference titled, “Growing Old in a Changing Climate.”
At a recent conference hosted by Physicians for Social Responsibility addressing the health effects of climate change, the average age of participants in conference work groups was 74.
The Lessons of Fracking
Smyer and others are taking a cue from another important environmental movement: the fight against fracking.
“It’s very inspirational to see how elders have played a major role in this movement,” said Wenonah Hauter, founder of Food & Water Watch. 
The controversial fracking process involves shooting jets of water into the earth to release trapped oil and gas. Environmentalists have said that the practice may contribute to groundwater contamination or other health hazards.
Hauter said older adults have been integral to the movement because they offer three important attributes: wisdom, life experience and time.
“There is a huge momentum in this movement,” she stated. “And I can tell you, elders are playing an important role.”
The myth that older adults don’t care about climate change is parodied in a humorous video by the website Funny or Die featuring Hollywood celebrities like Ed Asner and Cloris Leachman. “You know why I don’t care about climate change?” jokes actor M. Emmett Walsh. “Because I’ll be dead, silly.”
The truth, said Smyer, is that older adults are both worried and confused.
“They’re concerned about it, but they don’t know what to do about it,” he stressed, citing a common reply: “I have time and talent, but I don’t know what to use it on.”
Military Support
Most recently, climate change opponents have been empowered by President Donald Trump and new Environmental Protection Agency director Scott Pruitt, both climate change deniers. Yet even some fervent right-wing organizations believe humans are responsible for rising temperatures.
In 2009, the U.S. military officially acknowledged the reality of climate change. Not only will climate change create greater global instability, say officials, but refueling fossil fuel tankers puts American troops at greater risk.
The American public is largely concerned as well.
A shocking map [http://tinyurl.com/hyrxceg] from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication shows that a majority of citizens in nearly every county in the United States believe that climate change is occurring.
Smyer has a diverse and extensive background – he has worked as a clinical psychologist, and been the head of the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College and provost at Bucknell University.

Today, he’s trying to save the world from the effects of climate change by uncovering heroes: “Giving back is elders’ superpower.”
Matt Perry wrote this article for California Health Report’s “Aging With Dignity” website with the support of a journalism fellowship from New America Media, the Gerontological Society of America and the Silver Century Foundation.

Press link for more: Calhealthreport.org

Climate Change is Rapidly Accelerating! #auspol #Qldpol 

Climate change is rapidly accelerating. 

By  Paul Dawson

Data shows 16 of the world’s 17 hottest years have occurred since 2000. 


Carbon dioxide concentrations have accelerated to the highest levels in human history. 

There is no natural explanation for this. 

Scientists and models may have been too conservative in the past. 

The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, heat waves, droughts, flooding and wildfires are all accelerating. So are health effects from climate change, such as heat stress, air pollution and infectious diseases. Oceans are warming about 13 percent faster than previously thought and the destruction of coral reefs is happening at a rate that scientists didn’t expect for another 30 years.


The Arctic is warming at two to four times the rate as the rest of the planet.

 Sea ice is melting from above and below and is very shallow. Greenland ice sheets are also quickly melting and are increasing global sea levels. As the Arctic warms and loses its ice, it absorbs more solar radiation and warming accelerates. This produces more water vapor, a greenhouse gas. In addition, the Arctic permafrost melts and some of the abundant greenhouse gases (GHG) of methane and carbon dioxide from organic materials in the frozen soil are released into the atmosphere. In time, humanity’s release of GHG may be small in comparison to the natural release mechanisms of the GHG from the ocean, wetlands, soils, and permafrost of the Arctic. But this tipping point has not been reached yet.
 

Many Americans seem to lack a sense of urgency in dealing with climate change. 

A few years ago, mankind used chlorofluorocarbons as refrigerants and in aerosol dispensers and these chemicals reacted with ozone to create a hole in the ozone layer of the atmosphere. The ozone layer absorbs harmful solar ultraviolet radiation. Thankfully, the countries respected scientific findings and agreed to stop using the damaging chemicals. Now, ozone is filling in the opening and the ozone crisis has ended.
Fortunately, renewable energy can now compete economically with fossil fuel energy, especially if energy subsidies were removed. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that global energy subsidies, including the social and environmental costs associated with heavily subsidized fossil fuels, are costing the world’s governments upward of $5 trillion annually. This figure includes over $700 billion in subsidies to U.S. fossil fuel companies. This is equivalent to every American giving fossil fuel corporations $2,180 annually in the form of taxes. This is absurd and shocking. The IMF said that ending subsidies for fossil fuels would cut global carbon emissions by 20 percent.
Let’s end energy subsidies. 

Let’s reverse carbon and methane emissions.

 Let’s support the Paris Agreement and make climate change a high priority for us and for our elected officials. 

Please join the People’s Climate March on Saturday, April 29.
Paul Dawson is an emeritus professor of engineering at Boise State University, specializing in the thermal sciences, atmospheric science and renewable energy.
CLIMATE MARCH

The People’s Climate March in Idaho, hosted by Idaho Sierra Club, will be at noon Saturday, April 29, at the Idaho Capitol in Boise. Call (208) 384-1023 for details.

Press link for more: Idaho Statesman

CO2 the ever increasing driver of global warming! #auspol #qldpol 

The primary driver of global warming, disruptive climate changes and ocean acidification is the ever-increasing amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

By Barry Saxifrage

Despite decades of global efforts towards climate policies, clean energy and efficiency, CO2 levels continue to rise and are actually accelerating upwards.

 For those of us hoping for signs of climate progress, this most critical and basic climate data is bitter news indeed.

 It shows humanity racing ever more rapidly into a full-blown crisis for both our climate and our oceans.
That’s the story told by the newest CO2 data released by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Let’s take a look….
Even the increases are increasing

Even the increases are increasing

Annual CO2 increase in atmosphere

My first chart, above, shows NOAA’s CO2 data thru 2016.
Each vertical bar shows how much the level of CO2 in the atmosphere increased that year. You can see at a glance how the annual changes keep getting larger.
Indeed, the last two years (dark orange) saw CO2 rise by three parts-per-million (3 ppm) for the first time ever recorded.
And the relentless upwards march of CO2 is even more clear in the ten-year averages.
Annual atmospheric CO2 increases. Ten-year averages.

My second chart shows these ten-year average increases as yellow columns. Up, up, up.
“Unprecedented”
NOAA’s press release highlighted the “unprecedented” CO2 rise in last two years.
The scientists also pointed out that 2016 “was a record fifth consecutive year that carbon dioxide (CO2) rose by 2 ppm or greater.” Those last five years also broke a new record by exceeding +2.5 ppm per year for the first time.
I’ve included both the new five-year record and the new two-year record as black bars on the chart. All told, we’ve managed to pull off the triple crown of climate failure. The last ten years, five years and two years have all smashed records for CO2 increases.
If humanity is making climate progress, someone forgot to tell the atmosphere about it.
I thought we were making progress on CO2, what’s going on?
Recently the climate press has been buzzing about a hopeful CO2 report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA estimates that fossil fuel CO2 didn’t increase in either 2015 or 2016. Even better, they point out, this is the first time that has happened while the global economy expanded. I was curious how to reconcile this plateau in fossil fuel CO2 with the continued acceleration of atmospheric CO2. Here’s what I found:
Fossil fuel CO2 might be increasing.

 The IEA numbers might be wrong. 

They rely on nations to accurately report their fossil fuel use.

 Not all of them do, especially when it comes to burning their own coal supplies. 

In fact, the lack of a system to accurately verify national CO2 claims was a key issue in the Paris Climate Accord discussions.

 The worry is that as nations face increasing pressure and scrutiny around their CO2, the incentives to cook the books will increase.

 Incorrect accounting of just one percent globally could switch the storyline from “hopeful plateau” to “continuing acceleration”. 

The IEA devotes two chapters of their “CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion” report to the various issues impacting data accuracy.

Humans might be increasing CO2 emissions from other sectors. 

Roughly a quarter of the CO2 released by humans comes from non-energy sources not covered in the EIA numbers. These include land use changes, agriculture, deforestation, fugitive emissions, industrial processes, solvents and waste.

 We could be increasing CO2 from these.

Climate change might be increasing CO2 emissions. 

Increases in wildfires, droughts, melting permafrost — as well as changes to plankton and oceans — can all cause sustained increases in CO2 emissions. And climate change is affecting all of these. Perhaps some of these changes are underway.

The oceans and biosphere might be absorbing less of our CO2. Much of the CO2 humans release gets taken up by the oceans (ocean acidification) and the biosphere (increased plant growth). Some climate models predict these “CO2 sinks” will lose their ability to keep up. If that is starting to happen, then dumping the same amount of CO2 into the atmosphere will result in increasing amounts staying there.

Unfortunately we don’t have good enough measurements to say what the mix of these factors is. However, what we can accurately measure is the CO2 level in our atmosphere. That’s the CO2 number we have to stop from rising because it is what drives global warming, climate changes and ocean acidification. Sadly, it’s also the CO2 number that shows no sign of slowing down yet.
Out burping the ice age
NOAA’s press release also provided some perspective on how historically extreme our atmosphere’s CO2 increases have been:
“… the rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age. This is a real shock to the atmosphere.”
For context, during the last ice age all of Canada was buried beneath a massive northern ice cap. The ice was two miles thick over the Montreal region, and a mile thick over Vancouver. So much water was locked up in ice that global sea levels were 125 meters (410 feet) lower. We are talking a lot of ice and a radically different climate.
Recent research reveals that:
“… a giant ‘burp’ of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the North Pacific Ocean helped trigger the end of last ice age, around 17,000 years ago.”
Just how big of a CO2 ‘burp’ did it take to help heat the frigid global climate, eliminate the continent-spanning ice sheets and raise sea levels by hundreds of feet? Around 80 to 100 ppm — the same amount we’ve belched into our atmosphere just since 1960. We did it 100 times faster than that so-called “burp” and we are still accelerating the rate we pump it out.
I’ve added the ice-age-ending ‘burp’ rate as a red line on the chart above. Look for it way down at the bottom. Such incredible climate altering power from even small CO2 increases shows why we must reverse the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Adding it up: the rising level of CO2 in our atmosphere
So far we’ve only been looking at annual increases in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It’s an important metric to evaluate whether we’re making any progress against climate pollution. But what actually drives the greenhouse effect is the total amount that has accumulated in our atmosphere over time. So let’s take a look at that.
Here’s my next chart showing atmospheric carbon dioxide as a solid blue line. Just for interest, I’ve also included a series of dotted lines showing how quickly CO2 was increasing in each of the last few decades. I’ve extended each of those out to 2030 so you can see at a glance how the CO2 curve keeps bending relentlessly upwards, decade after decade.

Accelerating towards the 450 ppm ‘guardrail’
Every major nation in the world has agreed that climate change must be limited to a maximum of +2oC in global warming. Beyond that point we risk destabilizing droughts, floods, mega-storms, heat waves, food shortages, climate extremes and irreversible tipping points. The best climate science says that staying below +2oC means we can’t exceed 450 ppm of CO2.
At the top of the chart I’ve highlighted this critical climate ‘guardrail’ of 450 ppm as a red line.
Notice how much faster we are approaching that danger line as the decades go by. Back in 1970, it seemed we had more than a century and a half to get a grip on climate pollution because CO2 was increasing much more slowly. But at our current rate we will blow through that guardrail in just 18 years. And, as we’ve seen, our “current rate” keeps accelerating.
Our foot-dragging at reducing climate pollution has left us in a dangerous situation with little time left to act. We’ve spent decades accelerating CO2 emissions to unprecedented extremes. We’ve blown our chance to deal gracefully with the climate and ocean crisis.
Global efforts so far
Beginning in 1995, the world’s nations have gathered every year to address the climate crisis. I’ve included all 22 of these annual meetings of the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) on the chart above. Despite these decades of negotiations, plans, protocols and accords, CO2 is now increasing 60 per cent faster than when they first met.
Instead of slowing the rise of CO2, we’ve accelerated it.
What would Plan B for 2C look like?
Recently, two of the world’s premier energy agencies — International Energy Agency (IEA) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) — produced a joint report that tries to answer that question. Here’s the blunt summary:
“Limiting the global mean temperature rise to below 2°C with a probability of 66% would require an energy transition of exceptional scope, depth and speed. Energy-related CO2 emissions would need to peak before 2020 and fall by more than 70% from today’s levels by 2050 … An ambitious set of policy measures, including the rapid phase out of fossil fuel subsidies, CO2 prices rising to unprecedented levels, extensive energy market reforms, and stringent low-carbon and energy efficiency mandates would be needed to achieve this transition. Such policies would need to be introduced immediately and comprehensively across all countries … with CO2 prices reaching up to US dollars (USD) 190 per tonne of CO2.”
And here is their key chart showing annual energy-related CO2 emissions. Note the 50 percent surge since 1990 … and the need to reverse it by 2030.


Press link for more: National Observer

Carbon dioxide levels rising at record pace. #auspol #science 

Carbon dioxide levels rose at record pace for 2nd straight year | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Carbon dioxide levels measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory rose by 3 parts per million to 405.1 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, an increase that matched the record jump observed in 2015.
The two-year, 6-ppm surge in the greenhouse gas between 2015 and 2017 is unprecedented in the observatory’s 59-year record. And, it was a record fifth consecutive year that carbon dioxide (CO2) rose by 2 ppm or greater, said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
“The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age,” Tans said. “This is a real shock to the atmosphere.”
Globally averaged CO2 levels passed 400 ppm in 2015 — a 43-percent increase over pre-industrial levels. In February 2017, CO2 levels at Mauna Loa had already climbed to 406.42 ppm.

This graph shows the annual mean carbon dioxide growth rates observed at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory.

This graph shows the annual mean carbon dioxide growth rates observed at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory. Further information can be found on the ESRL Global Monitoring Division website. (NOAA)

Measurements are independently validated
NOAA has measured CO2 on site at the Mauna Loa observatory since 1974. To ensure accuracy, air samples from the mountaintop research site in Hawaii are shipped to NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, for verification. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which first began sampling CO2 at Mauna Loa in 1956, also takes independent measurements onsite.
Emissions from fossil-fuel consumption have remained at historically high levels since 2011 and are the primary reason atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing at a dramatic rate, Tans said. This high growth rate of CO2 is also being observed at some 40 other sites in NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
The greenhouse effect, explained
Carbon dioxide is one of several gases that are primarily responsible for trapping heat in the atmosphere. This “greenhouse effect” maintains temperatures suitable for life on Earth. Increasing CO2 levels trap additional heat in the atmosphere and the oceans, contributing to rising global average temperatures.
Atmospheric CO2 averaged about 280 ppm between about 10,000 years ago and the start of the Industrial Revolution around 1760.

Press link for more: NOAA

The Crazy Climate Technofix #auspol 

by Mark White
Illustrations by Bren Luke 
Earth’s climate has been edging towards a scene usually reserved for a post-apocalyptic movie.

 Some posit geoengineering as a radical fix to climate change.

 Others say the risks are too high and its proponents mad. 

Welcome to the debate where science fiction meets climate science.

If you visit a block of land near the West Australian dairy town of Harvey in a few years’ time, you will see a few pipes sticking out of the ground, a solar panel and an aerial for communications devices. 

There may be a hut and some room for parking.
These will be the only visible signs of the South West Hub project, designed to test the feasibility of pumping megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the vast Wonnerup sandstone layer, a kilometre-and-a-half deep beneath the Jarrah-Marri trees on the surface.
The gas will be liquefied in a nearby compressor building – an anonymous farm shed – and transported to the injection site via underground pipes.
Wonnerup is an example of carbon capture and storage, one of a suite of technologies known as geoengineering, or climate engineering.
Geoengineering is a mixed bag, but the idea involves large-scale interventions at the level of the whole planet, with the goal of fixing the climate.

 It’s tricky, dangerous, and largely considered “fringe science”.
The proposals come in two main flavours. 

One is carbon dioxide removal, which strips the gas from the atmosphere and slowly restores atmospheric balance.

 A mix of techniques would be needed: hundreds of factories like Wonnerup, billions of new trees and plants, plus contentious technologies such as artificially encouraging the growth of plankton.
The second is solar radiation management, intended to cool the Earth by stopping the sun’s heat from reaching the planet’s surface. 

That can be achieved by pumping minute particles into the atmosphere, but carries the risk of killing billions of people.
Right now, we don’t have the tools or the knowledge to deploy these fixes. 

But some prominent climate scientists argue that as carbon emissions continue to rise, geoengineering will have to be employed to avoid catastrophic climate change.
 

Last December’s meeting of world leaders in Paris produced a voluntary agreement to try to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5C over pre-industrial levels, and to not exceed 2C – the widely agreed level of devastating heat increase.

 But agreement and actual efforts didn’t seem to go hand in hand.

“The roar of devastating global storms has now drowned the false cheer from Paris,” a team of 11 climate scientists wrote in a January letter to The Independent, “and brutally brought into focus the extent of our failure to address climate change. 

The unfortunate truth is that things are going to get much worse.”
University of Cambridge Professor Peter Wadhams says: “Other things being equal, I’m not a great fan of geoengineering, but I think it absolutely necessary given the situation we’re in. 

It’s a sticking plaster solution. 

But you need it, because looking at the world, nobody’s instantly changing their pattern of life.”
Since then, temperatures have been soaring month after month, we’ve learned that the Great Barrier Reef is in extremely poor health and bleaching rapidly, while new quests continue to unearth more fossil fuels.
As we’re failing to keep the planet pleasant and habitable for future generations, could we instead fix the climate with technology? 
With geoengineering?
Debate about geoengineering in Australia is “almost being avoided”, according to Professor David Karoly, a noted atmospheric scientist at the University of Melbourne.

 He is a member of the Climate Change Authority, which advises the federal government, and was involved in preparing the 2007 IPCC report on global warming.
“There’s very little discussion on it in terms of government circles, there’s very little research on it, there’s very little discussion of it in what might be called mainstream science,” Professor Karoly says.

Policymakers are including geoengineering in their plans, but many technologies are still unproven and potentially dangerous.
“You’ll generally find among climate scientists that almost all are opposed to geoengineering,” says Professor Jim Falk, of the University of Melbourne’s Sustainable Society Institute. 

“They’re already pretty concerned about what we’ve done to the climate and don’t want to start stuffing around doing other things we only half-understand on a grand scale.”
When the US National Academy of Science launched a report last year analysing geoengineering options, committee head Marcia McNutt, a geophysicist, was asked if any should be deployed. 

She replied “Gosh, I hope not”.
The report considered carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management so risky it used the term “climate intervention” instead of geoengineering, arguing the term “engineering” implied a level of control that doesn’t exist.
But the IPCC has considered scenarios where such engineering would be necessary: its 2014 assessment report mentions bio-energy carbon capture and storage (known as BECCS), where plant fuel is burned and the resulting carbon dioxide buried.
And the Paris Agreement noted there would be need for a “balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases” in 2050-2100.
“A few years ago, these exotic Dr Strangelove options were discussed only as last-ditch contingencies,” wrote Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change, of the Paris talks in Nature magazine.
“Now they are Plan A.”
 

The term “geoengineering” raises the spectre of a James Bond villain cackling in his lair and planning to make volcanoes erupt at the push of a button. And that’s quite fitting, given that one approach to solar radiation management consists of mimicking the fallout from such giant explosions.
Treating the problem like an outlandish movie script may be the only way of comprehending the scale of the challenge. To reduce atmospheric CO2 levels by 1ppm – approaching the volume needed to stabilise global temperature – requires the withdrawal of 18 gigatonnes of gas, the equivalent of 18,000 South West Hub plants running for a year.
Tim Flannery, the former Australian of the Year who helped raise the profile of climate change, is vocal in supporting some geoengineering approaches. He prefers the less-toxic term “Third Way technologies”, based on the Earth’s natural processes.
Flannery says those which work at the gigatonne scale – the only ones which will dent the problem – may take decades to be developed.
“The only way you can get to a Paris-like outcome is by slamming hard on emissions,” he says, “reducing them as fast as humanly possible as well as investing now in these technologies that’ll give you these gigatonne gains in 20 or 30 years time.”
”The question for most of these technologies is – we don’t know if they work. But we need them to work.”
Flannery says solar-radiation management approaches should be treated with great caution, as they mask the problem: they will reduce the temperature, but not affect rising CO2 levels, leaving the oceans ever more acidic. That could see a catastrophic loss of reefs and oceanic life, devastating the aquatic food chain.
Ironically, one of the reasons the atmosphere isn’t already at a 2C warming mark, says Professor Karoly, is due to the aerosols already in the atmosphere – an unintentional form of solar radiation management.
He says the current best estimate of stabilising the temperature at that level, with a 50 per cent likelihood, is for a carbon equivalent reading of 420-480ppm. The current figure is 481ppm, and rising at 3ppm per year.
Solar radiation management – deliberate and large scale – might buy time in an emergency, says Flannery. “There’s a broad highway to hell that’s easy to go down and it’s really cheap, relatively. It’s instantly effective, nations can do it unilaterally and it gives you a lower temperature.
“But there’s a narrow, crooked, winding path to heaven which is the carbon reduction stuff. It’s at a very early stage, but that actually does solve the problem.”

Once we capture carbon, it can actually be used productively. American researchers have produced carbon nanofibres from atmospheric carbon dioxide – initially only 10g per hour, but they are convinced it could scale.
There could be vast baths of molten chemicals across large swathes of the Sahara Desert, powered by solar radiation, forming layers of a valuable building material on submerged electrodes.
A research project at a California university has gone further, manufacturing a building material dubbed CO2NCRETE from captured carbon dioxide. A pilot plant at Australia’s University of Newcastle is investigating whether a similar process, combining excess CO2 from an Orica plant with minerals to form building materials, has commercial potential.
Flannery is interested in desktop studies on carbon-sucking seaweed and algae, as well as research reporting that carbon dioxide can be made to fall as snow over the Antarctic.

Picture this: the temperature plummeting well below freezing until a blizzard of dry ice cascades onto the barren plains below, each cuboctahedral flake representing a miniscule improvement in carbon levels, to be stored safely – somehow – from warming into a gas and re-entering the air.
“We’re at very, very early days,” Flannery warns. “Various approaches have different favourable aspects to them, but I don’t think any of them are anything like a silver bullet.”
Flannery’s championing of unorthodox technologies – even as avenues for research – isn’t shared by many high-profile climate change campaigners. David Karoly calls Flannery’s interest “surprising”. He deems ideas such as dry ice snowfall in Antarctica as “rather technofix solutions”.
“How do you get sufficient CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it?” asks Professor Karoly. “It’s probably the most inhospitable environment in the world and he’s talking about – if you work out what this equates to, it’s a mountain higher than Everest, the size of a soccer field every year.”
The Paris target of a 1.5C rise is “virtually impossible” without new technologies, he says, which “have not been proved either commercially viable or without major harm”.
“My concern is, the cure might be substantially worse than the disease.”
Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University, who wrote about geoengineering in his 2013 book Earthmasters, is more blunt.
“The schemes [Flannery] proposes are real pie-in-the-sky stuff, way out there,” he says. “He seems to have been sucked in by a kind of strange techno-promise that’ll get us out of this.”

Australian geoengineering research lags far behind the world leaders in the US, UK and Germany. It’s limited to a handful of scientists in Sydney and Hobart, and our major achievement is helping to halt commercial oceanic geoengineering.
The federal government, via its Direct Action policy, focuses on carbon sequestration without the crazy technofix label. Instead it backs land-use practices such as planting new forests, and prioritises soil enhancement, mangrove protection and rainforest recovery.
“There was an enormous groundswell of support for these activities in Paris,” a spokesperson for the Department of the Environment says. “Other actions [in the geoengineering field] would have an enormously high safety bar to cross and are a long way from proof.”
Meanwhile, CSIRO looks set to embark on an expansion of its geoengineering research program, both at land and sea. In a recent memo to staff announcing 350 job cuts at the organisation, CSIRO head Larry Marshall nominated “climate interventions (geo-engineering)” as one area in which it would seek a “step change” in knowledge.
“CSIRO is currently working through the detail of our future climate adaptation and mitigation research, and will include research relevant aspects of onshore and offshore geo-engineering. The scale and scope of this research is still to be determined,” a CSIRO spokesperson told SBS.

 
Jim Falk categorises geoengineering proposals along various lines, including how big a project needs to be for credible deployment, how big an impact it would have, whether it is reversible, what governance is required, how much it would cost, and the risks involved.
“Then you can say different proposals have different footprints,” Falk says, “and depending on the footprint you can suggest what sort of barriers you would want for their regulations before you would allow an experiment to take place.”
Unlike attempts to reduce global carbon emissions – where everyone must do their part for action to be effective – what scares scientists about solar radiation management is the relative ease of one person launching a planet-wide experiment.
Spraying sulphate particles into the atmosphere from aircraft or balloons is known to reduce temperatures. It mimics what happens when volcanic ash blankets the atmosphere.
There would be spectacular sunsets as solar rays interact with the particles, with brilliant red eddies splashing the evening sky, similar to those in Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream.
And it has been costed at just $US10 billion a year.
One test in August 2008 was conducted on land 500km southeast of Moscow by Yuri Izrael, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s science advisor. He and his team rigged aerosol sprays on a helicopter and car chassis, measuring how solar radiation was retarded at heights up to 200 metres.
“China might decide to pump a load of sulphur into the atmosphere and not tell anyone about it,” says Rosemary Rayfuse, a Law professor at UNSW and a global authority on regulating geoengineering. “Or Australia could do it. Anybody could. That’s the other problem – it’s so easy to do.”
Billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson could step forward, says Anita Talberg, a PhD student in the governance of climate engineering at the University of Melbourne. Both support geoengineering and have funded research.
“They could just decide suddenly, ‘I could do enough benefit for the poor and vulnerable in the world, I could just do it and save them from the climate crisis.’”
Such a move could be catastrophic, most immediately due to the risk of drought in the tropics, devastating the food security of billions of people. Those colourful sunsets are projected to see lower rainfall.
The sky will bleach white during the day, while ozone depletes in the tropics – where most of the world’s population live. As the temperature falls, levels of UV radiation will rise, leading to an upsurge in skin cancers.

Professor Andy Pitman, of the Climate Change Research Centre in Sydney, is a member of the World Climate Research Program.
The only role he sees for sulphate injection is alongside steep cuts in carbon emissions. “If people are talking about it as a substitute for that, the technical term you’d use is ‘cloud cuckoo land’.”
But he hopes it’s never necessary.
“God, I hope not. We have a well-studied problem called global warming – we’re not sure of every detail – that would breach every ethics experiment on the planet if you proposed it as an experiment.
“All those problems relate to solar radiation management and I’d suggest any country that tried it at any significant level would find itself in every court in the world.”
There are smaller-scale approaches, he says, without the “ethical problems”. One is painting roofs white to reflect sun, a backyard approach anyone can try, and which would help cool interiors during hot summer days.
Another is genetically modified crops with a higher reflectivity, with variations as simple as leaves that are hairier or have a waxier coating.
Harvard University’s Professor David Keith is leading more research into solar radiation management, arguing in a 2015 paper that the technique could be used in a “temporary, moderate and responsive scenario”.
“Even if we make deep emissions cuts, it might be that the benefits of solar geoengineering outweigh the risks,” he tells SBS. “Or maybe not. To know, we have to decide to learn more.”
 

The belief in a technical solution – that because we have to find something, we will – has psychological roots in an effect known as ‘optimism bias’, says Melbourne psychologist Dr Susie Burke, who has expertise on issues relating to the environment, climate change and natural disasters.
“It’s intrinsic to humans to be optimistically biased,” she says, “and it’s great because it gets us out of bed in the morning and gives us a healthy motivation. But with respect to climate change, it means we end up minimising our personal risk and even risks that pertain to us – and believing the worst problems will happen to other people, somewhere else or into the future.”
She adds, “With the general population who are struggling to make significant changes to their lifestyle, deep down there is a belief that someone, somewhere will come up with something to solve the problem.”
Even talking about geoengineering carries the risk of “moral hazard”, that a solution to rocketing carbon emissions means they can continue unabated. That scenario troubles many.
“There’s a moral hazard in not discussing these things as well,” says Tim Flannery, “because we know we’re going to need them.”
The worst-case scenario – international agreements fail to stop emissions from rising – would force the use of extreme measures. Clive Hamilton thinks sulphate injection is the most likely use of geoengineering, though not yet.
“If we have a series of years where there are catastrophic droughts, heatwaves and hurricanes which cause massive impacts in several countries – also tipping points, so permafrost is now irreversibly melting – what kind of political and geostrategic environment are we going to be facing?” he asks.
“I think in that kind of scenario – which is not just possible but fairly likely – certain scientists promising they can rapidly reduce the earth’s temperature within a year or two are going to start looking increasingly attractive to some nations.”
Andy Pitman says that could lead to war: “You can imagine a situation – and it’s not too far-fetched – where country X starts a major campaign around sulphur injections into the atmosphere, country Y’s rainfall dramatically declines and is going into serious long-term famine, and that instigated a military response.”
And if carbon emissions continued to rise, the sulphate injection would have to be continuous. Otherwise, the particles would drop out of the atmosphere, leading to a sudden, highly disruptive jump in temperature.
If a war, say, or a pandemic was responsible for the break in sulphate injection, the compounding effects could be existential. 

Talking of human extinction in such a scenario is not too far-fetched.

 
The possibilities are less apocalyptic for some form of carbon capture and storage. 

Clive Hamilton identifies land being used by the likes of BECCS – bio-energy carbon capture and storage – to capture carbon as one of the main changes in geoengineering in the last few years.
Plants and trees would be grown for fuel, and the resulting carbon emissions from power generation would be stored away. There’s an example of this in Illinois at an ethanol production plant.
But there are questions over BECCS, not least that “no such economic process [is] available at this point and there may never be”, says Jim Falk.
The sheer amount of land needed is staggering, too. 

In a February 2016 paper in Nature,environmental scientist Philip Williamson estimated that one-third of the world’s arable land (430-580 million hectares of crops) would need planting for BECCS use to limit the temperature rise to 2C by 2100.

This would accelerate deforestation and, given “not unrealistic” assumptions, see carbon emissions actually increase.
Oliver Munnion, of the UK-based BioFuelwatch website, argues that BECCS is more dangerous than solar radiation management.

 “It’s the most outrageous,” he says. “It’s also the favoured approach amongst policy-makers, scientists and industry.
“The idea that we’d harm proven carbon sinks – forests and soils – to create an unproven and untested carbon sink underground is the antithesis of what climate policy should be geared towards.”
The problem facing geoengineering advocates is that most dangerous schemes are possible, but need to be used as a last resort, while the most promising schemes aren’t possible at scale. 

Even if they were, the numbers quickly turn ugly.
In the Nature article, Philip Williamson estimated that growing seaweed as a carbon pool would use nine per cent of the world’s oceans, with unknown environmental impacts.
Utilising the simple solar-radiation management tool of laying a reflective rock on the ground to reduce carbon levels by 12 per cent would need 1-5 kg/sqm of rock to be applied to 15-45 per cent of the earth’s surface, at a total cost of US$60-600 trillion.

That means an area of land at least the size of the old Soviet Union would have to be set aside and the global economy bankrupted.
The further you look, the more improbable geoengineering concepts become. A presentation to the 2016 American Meteorological Conference on Atmospheric Science called for lasers in the sky to microwave and neutralise methane clouds (another greenhouse gas).
UNSW Law professor Rosemary Rayfuse recalls one UK project looking at increasing the reflectivity of the oceans by making white foam, which had to persist for at least three months: “They were proposing to cover the oceans in meringue, which I thought was rather funny!”
David Karoly calls the idea of hanging mirrors in space to reflect sunlight “just stupid”, calculating the need for one million square kilometres of alfoil. Flannery agrees: “Anything that masks the problem, and lets people think they’ve solved it, is a danger.”
Cutting carbon emissions drastically, and now, would start to solve the problem. But that isn’t happening. Campaigners such as Tim Flannery are crossing their fingers that carbon-scrubbing technology we need to take us on “the narrow winding path to heaven” is developed in time.
If neither happens, we’ll be heading down the “broad highway to hell” of having to rely on solar radiation management, where the devil we don’t know is better than a climate gone rogue.
The effects of pumping simulated volcanic fallout into the atmosphere could dwarf the biggest eruptions in history. Start preparing for vivid red sunsets – and an uncertain future

Press link for more: SBS.COM.AU

Deep Oceans Face Starvation by End of Century #climatechange #science #auspol 

Deep Oceans Face Starvation by End of Century

A habitat that covers half the planet. 


Deep-water Hydroid at 1,050 meters (3,450 feet) deep. Photo: Daniel Jones, SERPENT Project, National Oceanography Centre
The deep ocean floor, Earth’s largest habitat, will be starved of food by the end of this century, scientists have warned. 
New research published in the open-access journal Elementa today shows that food supply to some areas of the earth’s deep oceans will decline by up to half by 2100.
Andrew Sweetman of the Lyell Centre for Earth and Marine Science and Technology at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Lisa Levin, a biological oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, and colleagues from 20 of the world’s leading oceanographic research centers used earth system models and projected climate change scenarios to quantify impending changes to deep oceans in the review released Feb. 23.
The team looked at a number of sea and ocean beds, from the Arctic to Antarctic oceans, focusing on bathyal (200-3,000 meter or 650-9,800-foot) and abyssal (3,000-6,000 meter or 9,800-19,700-foot) depths, the areas defined in the paper as deep ocean. As well as measuring how the deep oceans’ food sources will change, the team examined the impact that predicted seabed temperature increases, oxygen level declines, and increasingly acidic seawater will have, under the sea and across the planet.
“The rate of change underway in our oceans is faster than at any point we know of in geological history,” said Sweetman. “Deep seafloor ecosystems provide services that are vitally important to the entire ocean and biosphere; we should all be concerned at what’s happening on our ocean floors. The organic matter cycling that occurs in the deep sea helps to buffer the ocean against pH changes and the effects of ocean acidification.” 
The changes that are projected in the deep ocean, which accounts for more than 95 percent of the volume of the Earth’s oceans, are likely to significantly alter the health and sustainable functioning of the planet over the next couple of centuries.
“Because many deep-sea environments are naturally very stable in terms of environmental conditions, even slight changes in temperature, oxygen, food supply, and pH are likely to significantly lower the resilience of deep-sea communities to the impact of human activity,” said Levin. “These many challenges call for intensified observations of and spatial planning for the deep ocean, coordinated at an international level.” 
Organic compounds produced through primary production – the creation of chemical energy by algae and other phytoplankton through photosynthesis – sink to the deep ocean and make up much of the food supply there. Most of the deep sea currently experiences a severe lack of food, but according to Sweetman and his research team, it is about to receive even less. That’s because the phytoplankton deep sea organisms rely upon are themselves facing a dwindling supply of nutrients in the surface oceans as warming makes waters more stratified.
Sweetman continued: “Abyssal ocean environments, which are over 3,000 meters deep, are some of the most food-deprived regions on the planet. These habitats currently rely on less carbon per square meter each year than is present in a single sugar cube. We’ve shown that large areas of the abyss will have this tiny amount of food halved by 2100. For a habitat that covers half the earth, the impacts of this will be enormous.”
The researchers also describe an imminent, significant temperature increase that will happen at the deepest parts of the ocean.
“Deep-sea ecosystems are not just going to experience a reduction in food, but will likely also experience an increase in ocean temperature of 1°C within 85 years,” said Andrew Thurber, co-author of the study and a professor at Oregon State University. “This is very worrying because increasing temperature will increase the metabolism of animals and microbes that live in the sediment, meaning they will require more food at a time when much less is available.”
The scientists also examined how certain human activity will continue to affect the deep ocean.
Sweetman said the deep sea is fast becoming a target area for increased exploitation of key resources and the dumping of pollutants. Pressure from fishing has led to many deep-sea fish species being severely exploited through trawling and long-lining, with some species having been fished to commercial extinction.
“There is also extensive interest in mineral mining at hydrothermal vent systems along mid ocean ridges, at seamounts and polymetallic nodule areas at abyssal depths, such as the Clarion Clipperton Zone of the Pacific Ocean,” he added. 
The review is based on a workshop led by Sweetman and funded by the Norwegian Research Council.
Summary of key findings
Over the next 84 years, the highest temperature changes are likely to occur at the abyssal seafloor in the North Atlantic, Southern and Arctic oceans (0.5-1oC). 

Bathyal depths are also likely to experience increasing temperatures of approximately 4 °C in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans.

Bathyal seafloor habitats in the North Pacific, North Atlantic, Arctic and Southern oceans could experience a reduction in bottom-water oxygenation by 0.03–0.05 milliliters per liter by the year 2100, which represents a reduction in water column O2 levels by 0.5–3.7 %.

Ecosystems within and on the fringes of oxygen minimum zones could be particularly affected by the O2 and warming changes predicted for bathyal environments.

Bathyal seafloor habitats in the North Atlantic and the Weddell Sea, Antarctica in other areas of the world´s oceans will also experience a decrease of 0.29 to 0.37 pH units by the year 2100, as a result of the entrainment of CO2-rich seawater to the seafloor at sites of bottom-water formation.

The areas likely to be impacted by significant declines in food supply lie in the North and South Pacific, North and South Atlantic, and North and South Indian oceans. The abyssal and bathyal regions of the Indian Ocean are predicted to experience declines in food supply by as much as 40 percent and 55 percent, respectively by 2100.

– This news release was adapted from an original issued by Heriot-Watt University

Press link for more: Scripps

The Slow Confiscation of Everything #auspol 

The Slow Confiscation of Everything

By Laurie Penny 


A protest against EPA head Scott Pruitt. / Lorie Shaull
These days, the words of the prophets are written in whimsical chalk on the hoardings of hipster latte-mongers: “The end is nigh. Coffee helps.”

 In the days running up to the inauguration of Donald Trump, I saw this sort of message everywhere, and as panic-signals go, it’s oddly palliative. 

The idea that the Western world might soon be a smoking crater or a stinking swamp does, in fact, make me a little more relaxed about the prospect of spending five dollars on a hot drink.  
Fuck it. 

The planet, as we keep telling each other, is on fire. 

Might as well have a nice latte while we wait for the flames to slobber up our ankles. 

When you consider that some desperate barista boiled the entire philosophy of post-Fordist public relations down to its acrid essence, it would be ungrateful not to. 

What have you got to lose? 

Five dollars and your pride, in the short term, but what will those be worth next year? 

Next week? 

Have you looked at the Dow Jones lately? 

Have you turned on the news? 

On second thoughts, best not—just drink your coffee and calm down. 

Look, they’ve drawn a little mushroom cloud in the milk foam. 

It’s quite beautiful, when you think about it. 
The topic of apocalypse comes up a lot these days. 

It’s slipped into conversation as compulsively as you might mention any other potentially distressing disruption to your life plans, such as a family member’s illness, or a tax audit. 

And yet the substance of the conversation has shifted in recent weeks and months from an atmosphere of chronic to acute crisis. 

The end seems to be slightly more nigh than it was last year; we talk about the Trumpocalypse with less and less irony as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moves the Doomsday clock half a minute closer to midnight. 
Of all the despicable things the runaway ghost train of the Trump administration has done in its first ferocious weeks, the attempt to utterly destroy every instrument of environmental protection is perhaps the most permanent.

 The appointment of fossil fuel tycoons and fanatical climate change deniers to key positions in energy and foreign policy, the immediate reinstitution of the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines, the promise to pull out of the Paris Climate Pact—all moves crafted to please the oil magnates who helped put him in power—these are changes that will hasten the tick of the time bomb under civilization as we know it. 

Racist laws can eventually be overthrown, and even a cultural backslide toward bigotry and nationalism can be slowly, painfully reversed. 

We don’t get a do-over on climate change. 

The vested interests agitating to strip the planet for parts know that, too—and they plan to profit from this particular apocalypse as hard as they can.
They’re not the only ones eagerly anticipating the end times. 

Apocalyptic thinking has a long and febrile history in Western thought, and it is usually associated with moments of profound cultural change, when people found it all but impossible to envision a future they might live inside. 

The notion of armageddon as something to look forward to crops up time and again at moments of profound social unrest. 

Today, that includes legions of lonely alt-righters celebrating the advent of a new post-democratic, post-civilizational age where men will be real men again, and women will be really grateful. 


This “dark enlightenment” rumbles alongside a massive revival in millenarian end-times fanaticism among the Evangelical Christians who overwhelmingly voted for a man some of them believe is the literal antichrist who will hasten the final return of Jesus and his arse-kicking angels to sweep the righteous to their reward. 

There are many millions of people, especially in the United States, who seem to want an apocalypse—a word whose literal meaning is a great “unveiling,” a moment of calamity in which the murkiest and basest of human terrors will be mercifully swept aside. 

That gentle armageddon, however, looks unlikely to be delivered. 

Frightened, angry human beings have always fantasized about the end of the world—and institutions of power have always profited from that fantasy. 

In fact, as David Graeber notes in Debt: The First 5,000 Years, the ideal psychological culture for the current form of calamity capitalism is an apprehension of coming collapse mated bluntly with the possibility of individual escape. 

An economy driven by debt and fueled by looting and burning the resources that have sustained the species for generations would feel far more monstrous if it weren’t for the lingering suspicion that it might all be in flames tomorrow anyway.

 The world is on fire. 

Might as well build that pipeline. 

Might as well have that coffee.

But what world is on fire? 

The late comedian George Carlin had it right when he reminded us that

 “The planet is fine. The people are fucked.” 

The Earth is resilient, and will stagger on in some form until it is swallowed by the sun some four billion years from now—the world that we envision ending is Western civilization as we have come to understand it, a mere eyeblink in the long species churn of planetary history. 

Apocalyptic thinking has been a consistent refrain as the human species struggles to evolve beyond its worst impulses, but the precise form of the anticipated collapse always changes. 

Those changes are important. 

The catastrophes we are anticipating today are not the catastrophes of thirty years ago, and that distinction matters a great deal.
Climate change is this generation’s calamity, and it is similar to the nuclear threat that nurtured the baby boomers in that it promises a different sort of death from the petty disasters of war, famine, and pestilence—it promises near-total species collapse. 

The past swept away along with the future. 

The deletion of collective memory. 

This is an existential threat more profound than anything humanity has had to reckon with before except in the throes of ecstatic religious millenarianism.

 Rapture, in the Abrahamic understanding, traditionally meant immortality for the species.

 We are the first to really have to wrestle with ultimate species death, extinction in memory as well as being.

 Of course we are afraid. 

We were afraid of the Bomb. 

We’re afraid now, even though many people’s understanding of climate change hasn’t moved past the denial stage.

 It is there, however, that the similarities between the two types of apocalypse end.
Climate change is a different prospect of calamity—not just elementally but morally different from nuclear exchange in a manner which has not been properly dealt with. 

The first difference is that it’s definitely happening. 

The second is that it’s not happening to everyone. 
There will be no definite moment can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked.

For anyone who grew up in the Cold War, the apocalypse was a simple yes-no question: either it was coming, or it wasn’t. 

Many people I know who grew up before the end of the nuclear arms race describe this as oddly freeing: there was the sense that since the future might explode at any point, it was not worth the effort of planning. 

Climate change is species collapse by a thousand cuts. 

There will be no definite moment we can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked. 

Instead the fuckery increases incrementally year on year, until this is the way the world ends: not with a bang, not with a bonfire, but with the slow and savage confiscation of every little thing that made you human, starting with hope.


“In the U.S. we have a very strong sense of apocalypse that comes from puritanism, and it fed nicely into fears about the Bomb,” says Annalee Newitz, author of Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive A Mass Extinction.

 “Both kinds of apocalypse are instantaneous and there’s not much you can do about them. 

But climate change is slow and strange, sometimes imperceptible in a human lifetime. 

There are no pyrotechnics. 

Plus, we actually have a chance to intervene and prevent the worst effects of it. 

I think that’s a tough sell for people who grew up with a Bomb paradigm of apocalypse, where there’s either fiery atomic death or you’re fine. 

It’s hard to explain to people that there are probabilities and gradations of apocalypse when it comes to the environment, and there are hundreds of ways to mitigate it, from curbing emissions to preserving natural habitats and changing our agricultural practices. 

In a weird way, I think people are just now getting used to the slow apocalypse, and still don’t know how to deal with it.”
This was the unegalitarian apocalypse millennials inherited. 

If we are to define generations by their political impressions, one thing that everyone who grew up with no memory of the Cold War shares is a specific set of superstitions. 

 One of them was the consensus that neoliberalism had produced the “End of History.” 

For those of us who had not read Francis Fukuyama by the age of five, this came across as a general sense that there was no better society to hope for, no way of living on the horizon that would improve on the one we had been raised to—the nineties and the early aughts were as good as it was going to get.

 From here on in, unless we recycled and remembered to turn off the taps like the singing Saturday afternoon TV puppets urged us to, it would be slow collapse. 

Our parents, relieved of the immediate threat of atomic incineration, seemed oddly calm about that prospect.
Not half as calm, however, as our elected and unelected leaders.

 Because that’s the inconvenient truth, the other inconvenience about the world ending this way: it’s not ending for everyone.
This month, in a fascinating article for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos interviewed several multi-millionaires who are stockpiling weapons and building private bunkers in anticipation of what preppers glibly call “SHTF”—the moment when “Shit Hits The Fan.” 

Osnos observes that the reaction of Silicon Valley Svengalis, for example, is in stark contrast to previous generations of the super-rich, who saw it as a moral duty to give back to their community in order to stave off ignorance, want and social decline. 

Family names like Carnegie and Rockefeller are still associated with philanthropy in the arts and sciences. 

These people weren’t just giving out of the goodness of their hearts, but out of the sense that they too were stakeholders in the immediate future.
Cold War leaders came to the same conclusions in spite of themselves.

 The thing about Mutually Assured Destruction is that it is, well, mutual—like aid, or understanding, or masturbation.

 The idea is that the world explodes, or doesn’t, for everyone. 

How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone down, though, if the negotiating parties had known, with reasonable certainty, that they and their families would be out of reach of the fallout? 
How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone down if the negotiating parties had known that they and their families would be out of reach of the fallout?

Today’s apocalypse will be unevenly distributed.

 It’s not the righteous who will be saved, but the rich—at least for a while.

 The irony is that the tradition of apocalyptic thinking—religious, revolutionary or both—has often involved the fantasy of the destruction of class and caste. 

For many millenarian thinkers—including the puritans in whose pinched shoes the United States is still sneaking about—the rapture to come would be a moment of revelation, where all human sin would be swept away. 

Money would no longer matter. 

Poor and privileged alike would be judged on the riches of their souls. 

That fantasy is extrapolated in almost every modern disaster movie—the intrepid survivors are permitted to negotiate a new-made world in which all that matters is their grit, their courage, and their moral fiber. 
A great many modern political currents, especially the new right and the alt-right, are swept along by the fantasy of a great civilizational collapse which will wash away whichever injustice most bothers you, whether that be unfettered corporate influence, women getting above themselves, or both—any and every humiliation heaped on the otherwise empty tables of men who had expected more from their lives, economic humiliations that are served up and spat back out as racism, sexism, and bigotry. 

For these men, the end of the world sounds like a pretty good deal. 

More and more, it is only by imagining the end of the world that we can imagine the end of capitalism in its current form. This remains true even when it is patently obvious that civilizational collapse might only be survivable by the elite.
When it was announced that the Doomsday Clock had moved closer to midnight, I panicked for an entire day before realizing that, like a great many people, I didn’t know what the Doomsday Clock actually was.

 In case you were wondering, it’s not actually a real clock. 

It’s a visual representation of certain scientists’ estimation of how close human society is to catastrophe, published on the front cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1947—a genius exercise in metonymy and public relations conceived in an age when the problem was not that people were panicking about the end of the world, but that they weren’t panicking enough. 

There is no sympathetic magic at play: if a drunk sub-editor got into the layout program and moved the portentous second hand all the way to Zero Hour on a whim, no rockets would fire of their own accord. 

This apocalypse is still within our power to prevent—and that starts with abandoning the apocalyptic mindset.
It is hard to outline the contours of a future you have never been allowed to imagine—one that is both different from today but accessible from it, too. 

The best we have been permitted to hope for is that the status quo be scraped to the edges of the present for as long as it lasts—a vote to run the knife around the empty jar of neoliberal aspiration and hope there’s enough to cover our asses.

 If people cannot imagine a future for themselves, all they can measure is what they’ve lost. 

Those who believe in the future are left, as they always were, with the responsibility of creating it, and that begins with an act of faith—not just that the future will be survivable, but that it might, somehow, maybe, be an exciting place to live. 
“Every ruthless criticism of current politics should be tied in some way to an example of how we could do things better,” said Newitz. “I realize that’s a tall order, especially when positive visions often feel like wishful thinking rather than direct action. Nevertheless we need to know what we are fighting for to retain our sense of hope. We need maps of where we are going, not just fire to burn it all down.”

Press link for more: The Baffler.com

Climate Change: Apocalypse by 1000 cuts #auspol 

Climate change: Apocalypse by 1000 cuts

Not since the Reagan era cold war with Russia has apocalyptic awareness been so forefront in the public’s mind. 

Disturbing incidents ranging from nuclear football Facebook selfies to alarming North Korean military activity now accrue weekly. 

Sometimes hourly. 

What can one do besides scroll through Twitter before bedtime and let the news populate our nightmares?
The distractions and details are addictive: political murders via improv and a spray bottle, daily revelations of Russian infiltration in US elections and government, and today the president is yelling at Sweden. 

Tomorrow it might be Ireland. 

Who knows. 

We watch the global breakup like helpless children realizing that mom and dad are really getting a divorce.

 Right now, the sitting US president is not even welcome in the British Parliament, but he regularly tweets flattering sentiments to Russia. 

But there is a larger story that needs telling–and action.

Lost in the noise was the recent breakage of a mile-long stretch of West Antarctica, due to warmer ocean water.

 It was part of one of the largest glaciers within the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which scientists predict will collapse in the next 100 years. 

NASA caught the images of the event earlier in the week, but the story broke just as Scott Pruitt was confirmed as head of the Environmental Protection Agency–making it seem as if the Earth did the planetary version of a spit take at the news. 

Timing aside, it was a big deal.


In the distraction of every new development, tweet, or outrage, it’s hard to get a bird’s eye view of what the hell is going on in the literal world.

 Luckily, Laurie Penny of The Baffler has done that for us, in a brilliant new article that should be required reading for the human race: The Slow Confiscation of Everything: How to think about climate apocalypse. 

Referencing the daily outrages, legislative battles, and civil division, she writes:
“Racist laws can eventually be overthrown, and even a cultural backslide toward bigotry and nationalism can be slowly, painfully reversed. 

We don’t get a do-over on climate change. 

The vested interests agitating to strip the planet for parts know that, too—and they plan to profit from this particular apocalypse as hard as they can.”
In the piece, she eloquently demonstrates that it is no longer the failure of diplomatic relations that is likely to kill us. 

It’s the man-made weapon that’s already been unleashed in global warming. 

That missile has already been launched. 

The point becomes clear: climate change is no longer an environmental issue. 

It’s a human rights issue–the right to live, and the right to have our children’s children live, too. 

It is not liberal alarmist drama. 

It’s about life as we know it, and we need to adjust accordingly, or we will soon not recognize it at all.
“Climate change is species collapse by a thousand cuts. 

There will be no definite moment we can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked. 

Instead the fuckery increases incrementally year on year, until this is the way the world ends: not with a bang, not with a bonfire, but with the slow and savage confiscation of every little thing that made you human, starting with hope.”
Echoing the storyline of her outstanding dystopian novel, Everything Belongs to the Future, she outlines where we are, how we got here, and shows us the (decreasing) options before us. 

Importantly, government policy choices are part of what determines which path the human race is really on. 

The voice of the people and their ability to understand this fatally overlooked reality–and then do something about it, is the ray of hope here. 

But it’s an attitude adjustment that needs to happen soon. 

We’re looking at incremental, but preventable, human extinction. 

We’re all drafted for this war, and really, we’re all ultimately on the same side. 

The challenge is, can we stop the bleeding in time?
“It is hard to outline the contours of a future you have never been allowed to imagine—one that is both different from today but accessible from it, too. 

The best we have been permitted to hope for is that the status quo be scraped to the edges of the present for as long as it lasts—a vote to run the knife around the empty jar of neoliberal aspiration and hope there’s enough to cover our asses. 

If people cannot imagine a future for themselves, all they can measure is what they’ve lost. 

Those who believe in the future are left, as they always were, with the responsibility of creating it, and that begins with an act of faith—not just that the future will be survivable, but that it might, somehow, maybe, be an exciting place to live.”
A heat-wave hit Oklahoma, sending temperatures into the high 90s. 

Norman, Oklahoma was 99 degrees F (37 C) on February 11. 

From ThinkProgress: Many people may welcome a temperate day in February, but warm weather in normally cold months disrupts ecosystems. Trees may bloom after an unseasonably balmy spell — and then suffer frost damage when cold […]

Press link for more: Boing boing.net

Carbon Tax a Market Based solution for #ClimateChange #auspol 

This GOP-Backed Carbon-Tax Plan
Purist objections scuttled Washington State’s market-friendly carbon tax plan in November. 

Let’s not let that happen at the national level.

By Charles Komanoff


Progressives Need to Get Over Themselves and Support This GOP-Backed Carbon-Tax Plan

Carbon-tax haters can relax. 

The proposal for a national carbon tax released on February 8 by high-level Republicans, including über-GOP consigliere James Baker, isn’t going anywhere. 

Financially and ideologically, the American right is wedded to carbon fuels. 

Trumpism runs on and reeks of them. 

Predictably, not a single Republican in Congress, and no one in the White House, has uttered a single positive word about the new carbon-tax plan.
Nevertheless, the proposal’s intended audience may not be Beltway Republicans but rather those ordinary Americans, majorities in both parties, who say they want action on climate, and who therefore might yet figure in the political equation over climate policy. 

That group includes progressives. 

We should pay attention: Carbon taxes matter.
Our long-building climate crisis is already materializing as drowned coasts, punishing droughts, vanishing glaciers—and political upheaval. 

At its root is a century-old lie: market prices for gasoline and other fossil fuels that do not factor in the damage from burning them.

A clean-energy revolution is at last underway, with wind power, solar electricity, and energy efficiency becoming not only cheaper by the day but also easier to deploy. 

Still, the clean-energy transition will be slowed until prices of coal, oil, and gas reflect their true environmental costs. 

A carbon tax could do that, if designed properly.
How carbon taxes work is simple enough, at least in theory.

 Fuel use is infinitely varied and intricately woven into society in ways that regulations such as auto-mileage standards can’t fully reach. 

Clear price signals, on the other hand, can be a nearly magic wand to help billions of invisible hands rapidly reduce and replace fossil fuels.


But with a carbon tax come difficult choices about the vast revenue it will generate. 

Carbon taxing had a test run at the ballot box last November in the state of Washington, and it ended badly.
Progressives can’t just walk away from carbon taxes, the policy tool with the best chance of catching fire globally.

On November 8, voters in the Evergreen State rejected by a nearly 3-to-2 margin what would have been the nation’s first statewide carbon tax.

 A win for “Initiative 732” would have given the United States a carbon-tax beachhead, like Canada’s British Columbia, which has had a small but successful carbon tax since 2008.
Remarkably, the decisive factor in defeating I-732 may not have been money from Big Carbon or even popular aversion to higher taxes, since the initiative was tailored to keep Washingtonians’ tax burden unchanged. 

What doomed I-732 was a fissure within the climate movement, with centrist economists and other policy wonks in favor of the initiative and progressive greens opposed.
Stated briefly, climate activists in Washington split over opposing answers to two key questions: 

What are carbon taxes for, and who gets to design them?
Carbon taxes can cut emissions in two ways.

 As noted above, they raise the price of carbon fuels, thereby worsening their competitive position vis-à-vis cleaner fuels. 

In addition, the tax revenues raised by a carbon tax can be invested in clean-energy infrastructure such as public transit and community solar.
The first path—the “price pull” of boosting market prices of carbon fuels—is what dazzles economists. 

The second route—the “revenue push” of investing in green infrastructure—appeals to many ordinary folks, especially on the left. 

Some progressives actively distrust policies that lean hard on price signals, partly for fear that workers in dirty industries will be penalized as investment migrates to cleaner alternatives.
The stakes are higher now than ever.

For decades, reactionary forces in the United States have been able to block seemingly every new public endeavor by labeling it “tax and spend.”

 The Washington State carbon-tax proponents believed they had an antidote:

 Don’t allow the government to spend the revenues from the carbon tax; rather, use those revenues to reduce other taxes. 

The political assumption seemed to be that going “revenue neutral,” though it might frustrate the left—bye-bye, public investment—could placate the right or at least capture the center. 

And so Carbon WA, as the advocates of I-732 called themselves, fashioned its ballot initiative around cuts to the state’s regressive sales tax.
Progressive greens recoiled. 

The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, a state umbrella group of environmental-justice organizations and mainstream allies, blasted I-732 for starving green jobs and ignoring front-line communities. 

So did nationally prominent progressive leaders like Naomi Klein and Van Jones. 

The measure’s electoral chances, which were never good, could not withstand this split. 

On Election Day, as Hillary Clinton was besting Trump in Washington State by half-a-million votes, the carbon tax was rejected, 59 percent to 41 percent.
But progressives can’t just walk away from carbon taxes. 

Carbon taxes are the only policy tool that, by slashing demand in a rapid, predictable way, divests our economy from fossil fuels and enables governments, business, and consumers to make investments in the transition to clean energy. 

Carbon taxes also have the best chance of catching fire globally.

The carbon tax James Baker brought to the Trump White House on February 8 on behalf of the new Climate Leadership Council has a lot in common with I-732: 

The Council’s proposal is also avowedly revenue neutral.

 But rather than lowering an existing tax, it relies on a so-called tax-and-dividend model: 

As the state of Alaska does with oil revenues, revenues from the Council’s national carbon tax would be returned equally to all American households in quarterly “dividends” digitally deposited in Social Security accounts. 

The tax would start at $40 per ton of carbon dioxide.
Earmarking all of the revenue to these dividends creates the political will to raise the tax every year, since the dividends rise in tandem with the tax rate. 

Ramping up the tax by $5 a year would shrink the use of carbon fuels so drastically that, by my calculations, US carbon emissions in 2030 would be 40 percent less than they were in 2005 (a standard baseline year).
Government policy revolves around trade-offs, and on balance James Baker’s carbon tax is worth supporting.

Yet this progress comes with a catch. 

The council would phase out much of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority over greenhouse gases and would outright repeal President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to cut emissions from electricity generation. 

It would also immunize fossil-fuel companies from lawsuits for damages done by their products—lawsuits such as those bound to arise from the revelations that ExxonMobil and other companies knew for decades about the climate damages their products cause, and lied about it.
But government policy revolves around trade-offs, and on balance the council’s carbon tax is worth supporting.

 After all, well over 80 percent of the Clean Power Plan’s targeted reductions for 2030 were already achieved by the end of 2016. 

Thus trading away the Clean Power Plan for a tax that could scour fossil fuels from the entire economy is like swapping an aging ballplayer for the next superstar.
Of course, some people will not see it that way, particularly traditional green groups that helped write the laws and regulations that cleaned up the nation’s air and water.

 Some will regard the council’s trade as a ploy to undo the EPA’s authority to protect not just climate—where it may be largely ineffectual anyway—but public health.
With Republicans tightly lashed to climate denial, the value of Baker’s carbon-tax proposal may be less as a gateway to legislation and more as a spur for progressives and other citizens to take a clear look at carbon pricing.

Will progressives trust the verdict of economists that a revenue-neutral carbon tax can drive the energy transition so long as the tax level is high enough? 

Or do we support carbon taxes only if the revenues are invested in the clean-energy transition? 

If so, how do we craft a spending program that reconciles the claims of competing interests? 

And what is our blueprint for building political power to enact such a carbon tax, when “tax” remains a dirty word in national politics?


Clear majorities of Americans want climate action.

 Remarkably, some polls have even found that majorities of Americans support carbon taxes like the Climate Leadership Council’s proposal. 

With the Democrats’ national defeats last November, the failure of climate activists to unite on the Washington state referendum is looking like an unforced error of cruel proportions. 

We can’t afford to repeat that mistake at the national level.

Press link for more: The Nation.com