Kirabati

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It’s More Than Just Climate Change #auspol 

It’s More than Just Climate Change
Study shows climate change is one of many inter-related threats to natural systems and human societies, with other interconnnected factors being economic inequality, consumption and population
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (PRWEB) February 24, 2017
A recent scientific paper by a University of Maryland-led international team of distinguished scientists, including five members of the National Academies, argues that there are critical two-way feedbacks missing from current climate models that are used to inform environmental, climate, and economic policies.

 The most important inadequately-modeled variables are inequality, consumption, and population.
In this research, the authors present extensive evidence of the need for a new paradigm of modeling that incorporates the feedbacks that the Earth system has on humans, and propose a framework for future modeling that would serve as a more realistic guide for policy making and sustainable development.

The large, interdisciplinary team of 20 coauthors are from a number of universities (University of Maryland, Northeastern University, Columbia University, George Mason University, Johns Hopkins University, and Brown University) and other institutions (Joint Global Change Research Institute, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, the Institute for Global Environment and Society, Japan’s RIKEN research institute, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center).
The study explains that the Earth System (e.g., atmosphere, ocean, land, and biosphere) provides the Human System (e.g., humans and their production, distribution, and consumption) not only the sources of its inputs (e.g., water, energy, biomass, and materials) but also the sinks (e.g., atmosphere, oceans, rivers, lakes, and lands) that absorb and process its outputs (e.g., emissions, pollution, and other wastes).
Titled “Modeling Sustainability: Population, Inequality, Consumption, and Bidirectional Coupling of the Earth and Human Systems”, the article describes how the recent rapid growth in resource use, land-use change, emissions, and pollution has made humanity the dominant driver of change in most of the Earth’s natural systems, and how these changes, in turn, have critical feedback effects on humans with costly and serious consequences, including on human health and well-being, economic growth and development, and even human migration and societal conflict. However, the paper argues that these two-way interactions (“bidirectional coupling”) are not included in the current models.

The Oxford University Press’s multidisciplinary journal National Science Review, which published the paper, also highlighted the paper in a separate “Research Highlight”, pointing out that “the rate of change of atmospheric concentrations of CO2, CH4, and N2O [the primary greenhouse gases] increased by over 700, 1000, and 300 times (respectively) in the period after the Green Revolution when compared to pre-industrial rates.” See attached figure.
“Many datasets, for example, the data for the total concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases, show that human population has been a strong driver of the total impact of humans on our planet Earth. This is seen particularly after the two major accelerating regime shifts: Industrial Revolution (~1750) and Green Revolution (~1950)” said Safa Motesharrei, UMD systems scientist and lead author of the paper. “For the most recent time, we show that the total impact has grown on average ~4 percent between 1950 and 2010, with almost equal contributions from population growth (~1.7 percent) and GDP per capita growth (~2.2 percent). This corresponds to a doubling of the total impact every ~17 years. This doubling of the impact is shockingly rapid.”
“However, these human impacts can only truly be understood within the context of economic inequality,” pointed out political scientist and co-author Jorge Rivas of the Institute for Global Environment and Society.

 “The average per capita resource use in wealthy countries is 5 to 10 times higher than in developing countries, and the developed countries are responsible for over three quarters of cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from 1850 to 2000.”
“The disparity is even greater when inequality within countries is included,” added University of Maryland geographer and coauthor Klaus Hubacek.

 “For example, about 50 percent of the world’s people live on less than $3 per day, 75 percent on less than $8.50, and 90 percent on less than $23. One effect of this inequality is that the top 10 percent produce almost as much total carbon emissions as the bottom 90 percent combined.”


The study explains that increases in economic inequality, consumption per capita, and total population are all driving this rapid growth in human impact, but that the major scientific models of Earth-Human System interaction do not bidirectionally couple Earth System Models with the primary Human System drivers of change such as demographics, inequality, economic growth, and migration.
Instead of two-way coupling with these primary human drivers of change, the researchers argue that current models usually use independent, external projections of those drivers. “This lack of two-way coupling makes current models likely to miss critical feedbacks in the combined Earth-Human system”, said National Academy of Engineering member and co-author Eugenia Kalnay, a Distinguished University Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at the University of Maryland.
“It would be like trying to predict El Niño with a sophisticated atmospheric model but with the Sea Surface Temperatures taken from external, independent projections by, for example, the United Nations. 

Without including the real feedbacks, predictions for coupled systems cannot work; the model will get away from reality very quickly,” said Kalnay
In this new scientific research, the authors present extensive evidence of the need for a new paradigm of modeling that incorporates the feedbacks that the Earth System has on humans, and propose a framework for future modeling that would serve as a more realistic guide for policymaking and sustainable development.


“Ignoring this bidirectional coupling of the Earth and Human Systems can lead to missing something important, even decisive, for the fate of our planet and our species,” said co-author Mark Cane, G. Unger Vetlesen Professor of Earth and Climate Sciences at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who recently won the Vetlesen Prize for creating the first coupled ocean–atmosphere model with feedbacks that successfully predicted El Niño.
“The result of not dynamically modeling these critical Human-Earth System feedbacks would be that the environmental challenges humanity faces may be significantly underestimated. Moreover, there’s no explicit role given to policies and investments to actively shape the course in which the dynamics unfold. Rather, as the models are designed now, any intervention — almost by definition — comes from the outside and is perceived as a cost,” said co-author Matthias Ruth, Director and Professor at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University. “Such modeling, and the mindset that goes with it, leaves no room for creativity in solving some of the most pressing challenges.”
”The paper correctly highlights that other human stressors, not only the climate ones, are very important for long-term sustainability, including the need to reduce inequality”, said Carlos Nobre (not a co-author), one of the world’s leading Earth System scientists, who recently won the prestigious Volvo Environment Prize in Sustainability for his role in understanding and protecting the Amazon. ”Social and economic equality empowers societies to engage in sustainable pathways, which includes, by the way, not only the sustainable use of natural resources but also slowing down population growth, to actively diminish the human footprint on the environment.”
Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, who is not a co-author of the paper, commented: “We cannot separate the issues of population growth, resource consumption, the burning of fossil fuels, and climate risk. 

They are part of a coupled dynamical system, and, as the authors show, this has dire potential consequences for societal collapse. 

The implications couldn’t be more profound.”
This work was supported by the University of Maryland Council on the Environment 2014 Seed Grant (1357928). The authors would like to acknowledge the following grants and institutions: SM, KF, and KH: National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)–US National Science Foundation (NSF) award DBI-1052875; JR: The Institute of Global Environment and Society (IGES); GRA: Laboratory Directed Research and Development award by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which is managed by the Battelle Memorial Institute for the US Department of Energy; MAC: Office of Naval Research, research grant MURI N00014-12-1-0911; FMW: NSF award CBET-1541642; VMY: The Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET).
“Modeling Sustainability: Population, Inequality, Consumption, and Bidirectional Coupling of the Earth and Human Systems” is available at: https://academic.oup.com/nsr/article/doi/10.1093/nsr/nww081/2669331/Modeling-Sustainability-Population-Inequality and https://doi.org/10.1093/nsr/nww081; or PDF https://academic.oup.com/nsr/article-pdf/3/4/470/10325470/nww081.pdf
UMD Web Release
For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2017/02/prweb14095379.htm

Press link for more: My Sanantonio.com

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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

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Should I cancel my trip to the Great Barrier Reef? #auspol #climatechange #qldpol 

New photos reveal fresh bleaching at beleaguered Great Barrier Reef
A heatwave that has brought record-breaking temperatures to parts of Australia – leading to bush fires, power outages and a rise in deaths from heat stress – could have a devastating effect on the Great Barrier Reef.  
Though the mercury is set to drop this week, scientists fear the extreme weather event could place stress on the underwater ecosystem, which is still reeling from the worst bleaching events in its history.
Bleaching happens when corals become stressed by high water temperatures, which happened on a massive scale in 2016 when an underwater heatwave ravaged the 1,500-mile reef.


Recently bleached coral was spotted at Maureen’s Cove, the Whitsundays last week Credit: Australian Marine Conservation Society

Scientists claim 93 per cent of the reef was affected last year and that 22 per cent of its coral had died as a result. The same scientists now fear the reef could come under attack once again as parts of Australia bake in temperatures exceeding 47C.
According to the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), which has published photographs of its findings, newly bleached corals were discovered last week near Townsville, Queensland and around the Whitsundays. 
The waters off eastern Australia are unusually warm for this time of the year, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has placed vast swathes of the Great Barrier Reef on red alert (Alert Level 1) for the next four weeks, meaning coral bleaching is likely.
Parts of the far northern, northern and central reef have been placed on Alert Level 2, indicating mortality is likely. Corals south of Cairns, in the Whitsundays and in parts of the far northern reef, that were badly hit last year, are at mortal risk.

AMCS photographs also reveal fresh coral bleaching around Palm Island, Townsville Credit: Australian Marine Conservation Society

“Signs of new coral bleaching in February, plus the likelihood of extensive severe bleaching and even mortality in the next four weeks, is extremely concerning,” said Imogen Zethoven of AMCS.
“Last year we witnessed the worst bleaching event on record for our reef. Over the entire reef, 22 per cent of corals are dead.”
Around 1.9 million people visit the Great Barrier Reef annually, contributing A$5.6 billion (£2.7billion) to the local economy and supporting 69,000 jobs. However, Australia’s biggest tourism asset appears to be in grave danger due to climate change, which campaigners claim is being exacerbated by the Australian coal industry.
“The government must stop special treatment for the coal industry,” warned Zethoven. “Climate change will be catastrophic for our reef unless we urgently move to cut pollution. We cannot afford to risk such a valuable national treasure.”
Scientists say 22 per cent of the reef was destroyed by bleaching in 2016 Credit: STR

In 2016, Telegraph Travel reported how many of the sites used to film the series, Great Barrier Reef, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, had succumbed to coral bleaching.

“We actually went out to the same locations where we filmed a lot of David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef series and found significant bleaching over many, many species,” said cameraman and marine biologist, Richard Fitzpatrick. “It was pretty shocking.”  
In the hit BBC series, Sir David forewarned about the threats facing the Great Barrier Reef, which in 2015 was spared a place on Unesco’s list of endangered heritage sites.
“The Great Barrier Reef is in grave danger,” said the television naturalist. “The twin perils brought by climate change – an increase in the temperature of the ocean and its acidity – threaten its very existence. If they continue to rise at the present rate, the reef will be gone in decades and that would be a global catastrophe.”
Sir David Attenborough has warned of the “grave” dangers facing the Great Barrier Reef Credit: AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION/ABC/HANDOUT

Should I cancel my dive holiday?
Despite the bleak outlook, some dive sites are holding up well.
“A lot of the live-aboard sites are on the edge of the reef, and are flushed by oceanic currents, so they are actually probably the most resilient parts of the reef,” said Fitzpatrick.
Rather than abandoning trips to the Great Barrier Reef, according to reef naturalist, Paul O’Dowd, tourists should consider visiting sooner rather than later.
“My advice to anyone wishing to see the reef is that they get over in the near future not the far,” he said. “It is still spectacular, in many ways, and any reputable operator will have a few relatively unscathed sites on their mooring portfolio.
“You will still see scores of brilliantly coloured fish. However, the issue of whether we have anything to show in a decade, after potentially more bleaching events, is less positive.”

Press link for more: Telegraph.co.uk

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We’re at War to save the planet! #auspol #climatechange #science 

By Paul Mason

It hits you in the face and clings to you. 

It makes tall buildings whine as their air conditioning plants struggle to cope.

 It makes the streets deserted and the ice-cold salons of corner pubs get crowded with people who don’t like beer. 

It is the Aussie heatwave: and it is no joke.

Temperatures in the western suburbs of Sydney, far from the upmarket beachside glamour, reached 47C (117F) last week, topping the 44C I experienced there the week before.

 For reference, if it reached 47C in the middle of the Sahara desert, that would be an unusually hot day.
For Sydney, 2017 was the hottest January on record. 

This after 2016 was declared the world’s hottest year on record. 

Climate change, even in some developed societies, is becoming climate disruption – and according to a UN report, one of the biggest disruptions may only now be getting under way.

El Niño, a temperature change in the Pacific ocean that happens cyclically, may have begun interacting with the long-term process of global warming, with catastrophic results.
Let’s start by admitting the science is not conclusive. 

El Niño disrupts the normal pattern by which warm water flows westwards across the Pacific, pulling the wind in the same direction; it creates storms off South America and droughts – together with extreme temperatures – in places such as Australia. 

It is an irregular cycle, lasting between two and seven years, and therefore can only be theorised using models.
Some of these models predict that, because of climate change, El Niño will happen with increased frequency – possibly double. 

Others predict the effects will become more devastating, due to the way the sub-systems within El Niño react with each other as the air and sea warm.
What cannot be disputed is that the most recent El Niño in 2015/16 contributed to the extreme weather patterns of the past 18 months, hiking global temperatures that were already setting records.

 (Although, such is the level of rising, both 2015 and 2016 would have still been the hottest ever without El Niño.) 

Sixty million people were “severely affected” according to the UN, while 23 countries – some of which no longer aid recipients – had to call for urgent humanitarian aid. 


The catastrophe prompted the head of the World Meteorological Association to warn: 

“This naturally occurring El Niño event and human-induced climate change may interact and modify each other in ways that we have never before experienced.”
The warning was enough to prompt the UN to issue a global action plan, with early warning systems, beefed-up aid networks and disaster relief preparation, and calls for developing countries to “climate proof” their economic plans.
Compare all this – the science, the modelling, the economic foresight and the attempt to design multilateral blueprint – with the actions of the jackass who runs Australia’s finance ministry.

Scott Morrison barged into the parliament chamber to wave a lump of coal at the Labor and Green opposition benches, taunting them: 

“Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared. 

It’s coal. 

It was dug up by men and women who work in the electorate of those who sit opposite.” 

Coal, argues the Australian conservative government, has given the economy “competitive energy advantage for more than 100 years”. 

Labor and the Greens had called, after the Paris climate accord, for an orderly shutdown of the coal-fired power stations that produce 60% of the country’s energy.
The Aussie culture war over coal is being fuelled by the resurgence of the white-supremacist One Nation party, led by Pauline Hanson, which is pressuring mainstream conservatives to drop commitments to the Paris accord and, instead, launch a “royal commission into the corruption of climate science”, which its members believe is a money-making scam.
All over the world, know-nothing xenophobes are claiming – without evidence – that climate science is rigged. 

Their goal is to defend coal-burning energy, promote fracking, suppress the development of renewable energies and shatter the multilateral Paris agreement of 2015.


Opposition to climate science has become not just the badge of honour for far-right politicians like Ukip’s Paul Nuttall.

 It has become the central tenet of their appeal to unreason.
People facing increased fuel bills, new taxes on methane-producing cattle farms, dimmer light bulbs and the arrival of wind and wave technologies in traditional landscapes will naturally ask: is this really needed? 

Their inner idiot wishes it were not. 

For most of us, the inner rationalist is strong enough to counteract that wish.

What distinguishes the core of the rightwing populist electorate is its gullibility to idiocy-promoting rhetoric against climate science. 

They want to be harangued by a leader who tells them their racism is rational, in the same way they want leaders who tell them the science behind climate change is bunk.


Well, in Australia, people are quickly finding out where such rhetoric gets you: more devastating bushfires; a longer fire season; more extreme hot days; longer droughts. And an energy grid so overloaded with demands from air conditioning systems that it is struggling to cope.
And, iIf the pessimists among climate scientists are right, and the general rise in temperature has begun to destabilise and accentuate the El Niño effects, this is just the start.
The world is reeling from the election victory of Donald Trump, who has called climate science a hoax.

 Dutch voters look set to reward Geert Wilders, whose one-page election programme promises “no more money for development, windmills, art, innovation or broadcasting”, with first place in the election. 

In France, 27% of voters are currently backing the Front National, a party determined to take the country out of the Paris accord, which it sees as “a communist project”.
The struggle against the nationalist right must, in all countries, combine careful listening to the social and cultural grievances of those on its periphery with relentless stigmatisation of the idiocy, selfishness and racism of the leaders and political activists at its core.
It’s time to overcome queasiness and restraint. 

We, the liberal and progressive people of the world, are at war with the far right to save the earth. 
The extreme temperatures and climate-related disasters of the past 24 months mean this is not some abstract struggle about science or values: it’s about the immediate fate of 60 million people still recovering from a disaster.

Press link for more: The Guardian.com

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Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050! #auspol 

By Drew Hansen

Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050
Capitalism has generated massive wealth for some, but it’s devastated the planet and has failed to improve human well-being at scale.
• Species are going extinct at a rate 1,000 times faster than that of the natural rate over the previous 65 million years (see Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School).
• Since 2000, 6 million hectares of primary forest have been lost each year. That’s 14,826,322 acres, or just less than the entire state of West Virginia (see the 2010 assessment by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN).
• Even in the U.S., 15% of the population lives below the poverty line. For children under the age of 18, that number increases to 20% (see U.S. Census).
• The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 (see United Nations’ projections).

Capitalism is unsustainable in its current form. (Credit: ZINIYANGE AUNTONY/AFP/Getty Images)
How do we expect to feed that many people while we exhaust the resources that remain?
Human activities are behind the extinction crisis. Commercial agriculture, timber extraction, and infrastructure development are causing habitat loss and our reliance on fossil fuels is a major contributor to climate change.
Public corporations are responding to consumer demand and pressure from Wall Street. 

Professors Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg published Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations last fall, arguing that businesses are locked in a cycle of exploiting the world’s resources in ever more creative ways.
“Our book shows how large corporations are able to continue engaging in increasingly environmentally exploitative behaviour by obscuring the link between endless economic growth and worsening environmental destruction,” they wrote.
Yale sociologist Justin Farrell studied 20 years of corporate funding and found that “corporations have used their wealth to amplify contrarian views [of climate change] and create an impression of greater scientific uncertainty than actually exists.”

Corporate capitalism is committed to the relentless pursuit of growth, even if it ravages the planet and threatens human health.
We need to build a new system: one that will balance economic growth with sustainability and human flourishing.
A new generation of companies are showing the way forward. They’re infusing capitalism with fresh ideas, specifically in regards to employee ownership and agile management.
The Increasing Importance Of Distributed Ownership And Governance
Fund managers at global financial institutions own the majority (70%) of the public stock exchange. 

These absent owners have no stake in the communities in which the companies operate. 

Furthermore, management-controlled equity is concentrated in the hands of a select few: the CEO and other senior executives.
On the other hand, startups have been willing to distribute equity to employees. 

Sometimes such equity distribution is done to make up for less than competitive salaries, but more often it’s offered as a financial incentive to motivate employees toward building a successful company.
According to The Economist, today’s startups are keen to incentivize via shared ownership:
The central difference lies in ownership: whereas nobody is sure who owns public companies, startups go to great lengths to define who owns what. 

Early in a company’s life, the founders and first recruits own a majority stake—and they incentivise people with ownership stakes or performance-related rewards. 

That has always been true for startups, but today the rights and responsibilities are meticulously defined in contracts drawn up by lawyers. 

This aligns interests and creates a culture of hard work and camaraderie.
 Because they are private rather than public, they measure how they are doing using performance indicators (such as how many products they have produced) rather than elaborate accounting standards.
This trend hearkens back to cooperatives where employees collectively owned the enterprise and participated in management decisions through their voting rights. 

Mondragon is the oft-cited example of a successful, modern worker cooperative. 

Mondragon’s broad-based employee ownership is not the same as an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. 

With ownership comes a say – control – over the business. 

Their workers elect management, and management is responsible to the employees.

Press link for more: Forbes.com

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Scientists get a sobering picture of where we are headed. #climatechange #auspol 

By Nicola Jones

Last year marked the first time in several million years that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 passed 400 parts per million. 

By looking at what Earth’s climate was like in previous eras of high CO2 levels, scientists are getting a sobering picture of where we are headed.
Last year will go down in history as the year when the planet’s atmosphere broke a startling record: 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide. 

The last time the planet’s air was so rich in CO2 was millions of years ago, back before early predecessors to humans were likely wielding stone tools; the world was a few degrees hotter back then, and melted ice put sea levels tens of meters higher.

“We’re in a new era,” says Ralph Keeling, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s CO2 Program in San Diego. “And it’s going fast. 

We’re going to touch up against 410 pretty soon.”
There’s nothing particularly magic about the number 400.

 But for environmental scientists and advocates grappling with the invisible, intangible threat of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, this symbolic target has served as a clear red line into a danger zone of climate change.
When scientists (specifically, Ralph Keeling’s father) first started measuring atmospheric CO2 consistently in 1958, at the pristine Mauna Loa mountaintop observatory in Hawaii, the CO2 level stood at 316 parts per million (ppm), just a little higher than the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm. 

400 was simply the next big, round number looming in our future.
But as humans kept digging up carbon out of the ground and burning it for fuel, CO2 levels sped faster and faster toward that target. 

In May 2013, at the time of the usual annual maximum of CO2, the air briefly tipped over the 400 ppm mark for the first time in several million years. 

In 2014, it stayed above 400 ppm for the whole month of April. 

By 2015, the annual average was above 400 ppm. 

And in September 2016, the usual annual low skimmed above 400 ppm for the first time, keeping air concentrations above that symbolic red line all year.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere have risen rapidly since measurements began nearly 60 years ago, climbing from 316 parts per million (ppm) in 1958 to more than 400 ppm today.

 (Levels a few centuries ago held steady at about 280 ppm.)


Concentrations of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere have risen rapidly since measurements began nearly 60 years ago, climbing from 316 parts per million (ppm) in 1958 to more than 400 ppm today. SCRIPPS INSTITUTION OF OCEANOGRAPHY

Global temperatures have risen in parallel, with 2016 standing as the hottest year since records started in 1880: 2016 was about 1.1 degrees C (2°F) warmer than pre-industrial levels. 

The 2015 Paris Agreement, the latest international climate treaty, is aiming to keep the global temperature increase well below 2 degrees C, and hopefully limit it to 1.5 degrees.

At the current rate of growth in CO2, levels will hit 500 ppm within 50 years, putting us on track to reach temperature boosts of perhaps more than 3 degrees C (5.4°F) — a level that climate scientists say would cause bouts of extreme weather and sea level rise that would endanger global food supplies, cause disruptive mass migrations, and even destroy the Amazon rainforest through drought and fire.
Each landmark event has given scientists and environmentalists a reason to restate their worries about what humans are doing to the climate.

 “Reaching 400 ppm is a stark reminder that the world is still not on a track to limit CO2 emissions and therefore climate impacts,” said Annmarie Eldering, deputy project scientist for NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 

“Passing this mark should motivate us to advocate for focused efforts to reduce emissions across the globe.
THE MODERN MEASURE
Back in the 1950s, scientist Charles David Keeling (Ralph Keeling’s father) chose the Mauna Loa volcano site to measure CO2 because it is a good spot to see large atmospheric averages. 

Rising to 3,400 meters (11,155 feet) in the middle of the ocean, Mauna Loa samples an air mass that has already been well mixed from the inputs and outputs of CO2 far below and far away. 

And the site, being a volcano, is surrounded by many miles of bare lava, helping to eliminate wobbles in the measurement from the “breathing” of nearby plants.
The start of Keeling’s effort was well timed: the 1950s was also when man-made emissions really began to take off, going from about 5 billion tons of CO2 per year in 1950 to more than 35 billion tons per year today.

 Natural sources of CO2, from forest fires to soil and plant respiration and decomposition, are much bigger than that — about 30 times larger than what mankind produces each year. 

But natural sinks, like plant growth and the oceans, tend to soak that up. 

The excess produced by mankind’s thirst for energy is what makes the CO2 concentration in the air go up and up. Once in the air, that gas can stay there for millennia.
The so-called Keeling Curve that plots this rise has an annual wiggle because the entire planet inhales and exhales like a giant living being. 

In the Northern Hemisphere (where the Mauna Loa observatory is based, and also where most of the planet’s landmass and land-based plants sit), the air in spring is filled with the CO2 released by soil microbes in the thawing snow, and by autumn the CO2 has been vacuumed up by a burst of summer plant life; hence the annual high in May and low in September.
While Mauna Loa has become the global standard for CO2 levels, measurements taken in other places have confirmed the Mauna Loa results. 

NOAA’s network of marine surface stations, and even a monitoring station in the remote, pristine Antarctic, all passed the 400 ppm hurdle in 2016. 

NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 shows the planet hovering around 400 ppm, with variation from one place to another, mainly thanks to atmospheric circulation patterns.
Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are now above 400 parts per million year-round globally.

Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 surpassed 400 ppm at the South Pole last year.

Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are now above 400 parts per million year-round globally [left], and last year surpassed 400 ppm at the South Pole. NOAA

THE LONG VIEW
In the big picture, 400 ppm is a low-to-middling concentration of CO2 for the planet Earth.
Some 500 million years ago, when the number of living things in the oceans exploded and creatures first stepped on land, the ancient atmosphere happened to be rich with about 7,000 ppm of carbon dioxide.

 Earth was very different back then: the Sun was cooler, our planet was in a different phase of its orbital cycles, and the continents were lumped together differently, changing ocean currents and the amount of ice on land. 

The planet was maybe as much as 10 degrees C (18°F) warmer than today, which might seem surprisingly cool for that level of greenhouse gas; with so many factors at play, the link between CO2 and temperature isn’t always easy to see. 

But researchers have confirmed that CO2 was indeed a major driver of the planet’s thermostat over the past 500 million years: large continental ice sheets formed and sea levels dropped when the atmosphere was low in CO2, for example.
Thanks to earth-shaking, slow-moving forces like plate tectonics, mountain building, and rock weathering — which absorb CO2 — atmospheric concentration of CO2 generally declined by about 13 ppm per million years, with a few major wobbles. 

As large plants evolved and became common about 350 million years ago, for example, their roots dug into the ground and sped up weathering processes that trap atmospheric carbon in rocks like limestone. This might have triggered a massive dip in CO2 levels and a glaciation 300 million years ago. That was eventually followed by a period of massive volcanic activity as the supercontinent ripped apart, spewing out enough CO2 to more than double its concentration in the air. 

CO2 levels over the last 400 million years. 


The last time CO2 levels were as high as today’s was about 3 million years ago. 

At right are different projections of future CO2 levels from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; under the worst-case scenario, CO2 concentrations would rise to 2,000 ppm by 2500 from 400 ppm today.

CO2 levels over the last 400 million years. The last time CO2 levels were as high as today’s was about 3 million years ago. FOSTER ET AL/DESCENT INTO THE ICEHOUSE

The last time the planet had a concentration of 300 to 400 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere was during the mid-Pliocene, 3 million years ago — recently enough for the planet to be not radically different than it is today. Back then, temperatures were 2 degrees C to 3 degrees C (3.6 to 5.4°F) above pre-industrial temperatures (though more than 10 degrees C hotter in the Arctic), and sea levels were at least 15-25 meters higher. Forest grew in the Canadian north and grasslands abounded worldwide; the Sahara was probably covered in vegetation. Homo habilis (aka “handy man”), the first species in the Homo line and probably the first stone-tool users, got a taste of this climate as they arrived on the scene 2.8 million years ago. (Homo sapiens didn’t show up until 400,000 years ago at the earliest.)
To find a time when the planet’s air was consistently above 400 ppm you have to look much farther back to the warm part of the Miocene, some 16 million years ago, or the Early Oligocene, about 25 million years ago, when Earth was a very different place and its climate totally dissimilar from what we might expect today.
There’s a lot of debate about both temperatures and CO2 levels from millions of years ago. But the evidence is much firmer for the last 800,000 years, when ice cores show that CO2 concentrations stayed tight between 180 and 290 ppm, hovering at around 280 ppm for some 10,000 years before the industrial revolution hit. (There have been eight glacial cycles over these past 800,000 years, mostly driven by wobbles in the Earth’s orbit that run on 41,000 and 100,000 year timescales). This is the benchmark against which scientists usually note the unprecedented modern rise of CO2.
Frighteningly, this modern rise of CO2 is also accelerating at an unusual rate. 


In the late 1950s, the annual rate of increase was about 0.7 ppm per year; from 2005-2014 it was about 2.1 ppm per year. 
Concentrations of atmospheric CO2 soared in recent decades as industrialized nations continued to pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and emissions in developing nations rose steeply. As this chart shows, the annual rate of CO2 increase in the early 1960s was about 0.7 ppm a year, compared to 2.1 ppm per year from 2005 to 2014.

Concentrations of atmospheric CO2 soared in recent decades as industrialized nations continued to pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and emissions in developing nations rose steeply. NOAA/SCRIPPS INSTITUTION OF OCEANOGRAPHY

Paleo records hint that it usually takes much longer to shift CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere; although researchers can’t see what happened on time frames as short as decades in the distant past, the fastest blips they can see were an order of magnitude slower than what’s happening today. These were typically associated with some major stress like a mass extinction, notes Dana Royer, a climatologist at Wesleyan University. During the end-Triassic extinction 200 million years ago, for example, CO2 values jumped from about 1,300 ppm to 3,500 ppm thanks to massive volcanic eruptions in what is now the central Atlantic. That took somewhere between 1,000 to 20,000 years. Today we could conceivably change our atmosphere by thousands of parts per million in just a couple of hundred years. There’s nothing anywhere near that in the ice core records, says Keeling.
FUTURE SCENARIOS
Though 400 seems a big, scary number for now, CO2 concentrations could easily pass 500 ppm in the coming decades, and even reach 2,000 by 2250, if CO2 emissions are not brought under control.
Predicting future CO2 levels in the atmosphere is complicated; even if we know what will happen to man-made emissions, which depends on international policies and technological developments, the planet’s network of natural sources and sinks is vast and interlinked. Some plants grow faster in a carbon-rich world; deforestation takes some plants out of the equation; the ocean stores different amounts depending on its temperature and circulation.
If you completely ignore the questions of what society might do to curb emissions, and what the planet might do to suck them up, and just look purely mathematically at where the Keeling Curve is going, levels cross 500 ppm around 2050.
The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report from 2013 made a more realistic estimate of what might happen, and what the temperature outcome would be.
In the IPCC’s most pessimistic scenario, where the population booms, technology stagnates, and emissions keep rising, the atmosphere gets to a startling 2,000 ppm by about 2250. (All the IPCC scenarios presume that mankind’s impact on the atmosphere levels out by 2300.) That gives us an atmosphere last seen during the Jurassic when dinosaurs roamed, and causes an apocalyptic temperature rise of perhaps 9 degrees C (16°F).
In the next-most-pessimistic scenario, emissions peak around 2080 and then decline, leading to an atmosphere of about 700 ppm and probable temperature increases of more than 3 degrees C.
In the most optimistic scenario, where emissions peak now (2010-2020) and start to decline, with humans actually sucking more carbon out of the air than they produce by 2070, the atmosphere dips back down below 400 ppm somewhere between 2100 and 2200 and the temperature increase is held under 1 degrees C in the long term. 
Projected concentrations of CO2 under different emissions scenarios, extending to the year 2500.


Projected temperature increases under different emissions scenarios, extending to the year 2500.

These graphs from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show projected concentrations of CO2 [left] and projected temperature increases under different emissions scenarios, extending to the year 2500. IPCC

SLOWING DOWN
If man-made emissions were to magically drop to zero tomorrow, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere would start to level out immediately — but it would probably take about a decade to detect this slowdown against the background of the natural carbon cycle, according to Keeling.
Even with zero emissions, getting back to pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm is “sort of a 10,000-year proposition,” says Keeling. Atmospheric concentrations would drop relatively quickly at first, as the surface ocean sucked up a good chunk of the excess carbon in the air (that would take on the order of 100 years); then some atmospheric carbon would work its way into the deeper ocean (in about 1,000 years); then the planet’s carbon cycle — for example, the weathering of rocks — would soak up most of the rest over about 10,000 years.
It’s encouraging to see that, since 2014, total emissions have stayed basically flat despite continued growth in the global economy, mainly thanks to reduced coal burning in China. But steady emissions are a far cry from reduced emissions, zero emissions, or even “negative emissions” (where humanity uses technology to soak up more than we emit). 
​Real emissions plotted against the IPCC’s projections of CO2 emissions and temperature increases through 2100. Emissions-reduction pledges made by various nations at the U.N. Paris climate conference in 2015 will likely lead to a temperature rise by 2100 of roughly 3 degrees C, exceeding the U.N. target of holding increases below 2 degrees C.

Real emissions plotted against the IPCC’s projections of CO2 emissions and temperature increases through 2100. GLOBAL CARBON PROJECT

The non-profit Global Carbon Project estimates that the planet’s current trajectory of emissions is on track to meet the national commitments made as part of the Paris Agreement up to 2030, but not to meet the long-term goal of stabilizing the climate system below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. So that puts us somewhere in the middle zone of the IPCC’s projections; right now it’s hard to tell which long-term path we are heading for, although the most optimistic scenario — with emissions starting to decline significantly in the next few years — is arguably out of reach.
“If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted… CO2 will need to be reduced… to at most 350 ppm,” Columbia University climate guru James Hansen has said. We sailed past that target in about 1990, and it will take a gargantuan effort to turn back the clock.

 Nicola Jones

Nicola Jones is a freelance journalist based in Pemberton, British Columbia, just outside of Vancouver. With a background in chemistry and oceanography, she writes about the physical sciences, most often for the journal Nature. She has also contributed to Scientific American, Globe and Mail, and New Scientist and serves as the science journalist in residence at the University of British Columbia. 

Press link for more: E360.yale.edu

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Rapid warming sets the stage for ‘societal collapse’ #auspol #climatechange

Rapid warming and disintegrating polar ice set the stage for ‘societal collapse’

By Dr Joe Romm 

Carbon pollution is destabilizing both the Arctic and Antarctic.

A crack in Antarctics’s Larsen C ice shelf has grown sharply in recent months. CREDIT: NASA.
The Arctic and Antarctic are seeing an accelerated collapse of both sea and land ice.
When you add in Trump’s aggressive agenda to undo both domestic and global climate action, we are facing the worst-case scenario for climate change — and one new study finds that the worst case is “societal collapse.”
The unprecedented drop in global sea ice we reported on last month has continued. Arctic sea ice reached a new record low, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) reports.

Compared to the record low set in January 2016, last month’s new record low Arctic sea ice extent was smaller by the size of Wyoming.
Climate models have long predicted that if we keep using the atmosphere as an open sewer for carbon pollution, the ice cap would eventually enter into a death spiral because of Arctic amplification — a vicious cycle where higher temperatures melt reflective white ice and snow, which is replaced by the dark land or blue sea, which both absorb more solar energy, leading to more melting.
That’s why the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the planet. And last week saw another monster Arctic heat wave with temperatures a stunning 50°F (28°C) above normal.

Climate Reanalyzer image via Washington Post.

This is the third monster Arctic heat wave this winter. “I’ve been looking at Arctic weather and climate for 35 years and I’ve never seen anything like the warming conditions we’ve been seeing this winter,” NSIDC director Mark Serreze told Inside Climate News earlier this month.
NOAA reported in December that Arctic air temperatures in 2016 were “by far” the highest since 1900. The chart below shows the extreme polar warmth in 2016 (in yellow) and again in 2017 (red).

Air temperatures north of 80 degrees latitude for 2017 (red), compared to 2016 (yellow), and the long-term average (blue). Credit: Zack Labe/ Danish Meteorological Institute

It bears repeating that what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. Arctic amplification drives more extreme weather in North America, while accelerating both Greenland ice sheet melt (which causes faster sea level rise) and the defrosting of carbon-rich permafrost (which releases CO2 and methane that each cause faster warming).
At the same time, Antarctica is seeing record loss of sea ice and the land-based ice sheet (which contains enough frozen water to raise sea levels some 200 feet).
A major crack in the Larson C ice shelf “grew 17 miles in the last two months,” the New York Times reported last week. Here’s a close up of the crack:

CREDIT: NASA

Floating ice shelves don’t add to sea level rise directly. But “they buttress land ice and keep it inland,” NASA explains. Therefore, when a shelf becomes destabilized and disintegrates, “glaciers that feed it can flow more quickly out to sea — a process that directly increases sea level.”
Humanity is playing with fire, literally. Fossil fuel combustion and other human activity now overwhelm all of the natural cycles that have driven slow climate changes in the past. According to a new study, we are “causing the climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces.”
If we fail to change course sharply, the study warns we risk “abrupt changes in the Earth System that could trigger societal collapse.”
Tragically, the president has pledged to kill domestic and global climate action, and his team is a den of deniers. If Trump succeeds in destroying the Paris climate deal, the world’s last best hope to sharply slow global warming, then we are headed toward an unbounded worst case scenario for our children and the next 50 generations.

Press link for more: Think Progress.org

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We Must Close All Coal Power Plants To Meet Climate Change Goals #auspol

The EU Must Close All Coal Power Plants by 2030 to Meet Climate Change Goals

A new investigation suggests that if the European Union hopes to meet its climate change goals, it must close all coal power plants by no later than 2030.


Climate Analytics, the research institute responsible for this finding, reports that in order to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global temperature rise less than two degrees Celsius, Europe must phase out all of its 315 coal-fired power stations by the 2030 deadline. 

Allowing the stations to run to the end of their natural lives just isn’t an option, they claim.
Not only that, but the EU must take immediate steps in order to stay on track to meet temperature control goals.

 The executive summary of this report notes:
To stay within the Paris Agreement temperature limit, a quarter of the coal-fired power plants already operating in the EU would need to be switched off before 2020; a further 47% should go offline by 2025. 

If the EU is to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement, any investments in new plants and most investments in existing power plants will not be recovered by investors.
Climate Analytics arrived at these stark warnings by projecting current fossil fuel trends and estimating the EU’s carbon budget, as well as predicting what they will be by 2050. With this information, the group could evaluate if the figures matched up, or if there was a discrepancy — and there was.

With a projection that the EU’s carbon budget will be around 6.5 GtCO2 by 2050 — and assuming that coal-fired power plants continue to be in operation as planned until that time — the EU will exceed its CO2 emissions budget by 85 percent.
Obviously these figures only serve as projections. 

Nevertheless, the report indicates that by phasing out coal aggressively, the targets set during the Paris Agreement could still be met.
“We find the cheapest way for the EU to make the emissions cuts required to meet its Paris Agreement commitments is to phase out coal from the electricity sector, and replace this capacity with renewables and energy efficiency measures,” Paola Yanguas Parra, a lead author of the report, stated.


While nearly all EU nations will need to take swift action, the report highlights calls on Poland and Germany – two nations with the largest number of coal power plants — to lead the charge.
Although the EU as a whole should provide incentives and financial support to help Germany and Poland achieve these targets, progress in this area appears doubtful.


The Guardian reports:
Germany is postponing its coal phase-out plans until after elections later this year. 

Poland, which is preparing a legal challenge to the EU’s climate policy, argues that it can plant trees to offset coal emissions, and one day apply experimental carbon capture and storage technology (CCS).
Poland’s attempts at carbon sink have been discussed and debated at great length.

 While undoubtedly there are benefits to using and maintaining forests as one form of CO2 reduction, researchers remain unconvinced that the system will reach a balance. 

Instead, this report emphasizes that there is a more straightforward route: simply closing coal power stations.
There are several actions that the EU can take to improve its progress toward emission caps and temperature increase reduction.

 The report highlights how increasing the affordability of renewable energy has led to a significant shift toward greener energy in the past decade — something that can be further supported as we work toward target reductions.


Furthermore, stricter environmental regulations in the form of a clear phase-out schedule and supporting policies would ensure that coal fire plants are not kept alive. 

There is a particular concern that the UK, despite committing to CO2 reduction targets — and specifically, to a coal phaseout — could end up not meeting those goals due to soft regulation allowing coal power stations to stay open.
With the UK parliament looking to trigger Brexit soon, there is even more scrutiny on the UK government to ensure it does not further reduce its environmental commitments.
Regardless of the specific initiatives that EU chooses to institute, one fact becomes abundantly clear from this report: if the world is to hit temperature reduction targets, we cannot keep using fossil fuels as we have been doing. 

While this fact far from new, it’s worth repeating. 

Indeed, the world as we know it may depend on it.

Press link for more: care2.com

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Urgent Climate Threats To Public Health #auspol 

Experts meet to address ‘urgent’ climate threats to public health

Climate change-related droughts in Samburu County, Kenya have placed extra pressure on pastoralists, who must travel further to find pasture for their animals. 

This pressure has intensified competition for resources and violence between local groups such as the Samburu and Turkana peoples. (Edward Harris, Africa Progress Panel/Flickr)

Environmental health experts are gathering at the Carter Center in Atlanta this week to openly discuss the public health response to climate change, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention abruptly canceled the event last month over what some said were fears of running afoul of the U.S. president.
“I’m looking forward to a thorough exchange of the latest science and best practices regarding climate change and health,” former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health Howard Frumkin said in an email to Humanosphere. 

“That will include data on what the risks are, on how to protect people from those risks, on what health co-benefits result from tackling climate change, and on how best to communicate this to the public and to decision-makers.”
The CDC provided no explanation when it canceled the event last month, but several of the event’s scheduled speakers told Washington Post that the government agency did not want to run afoul of a president who has called climate change a “hoax” and nominated climate change skeptics to his Cabinet.


“I was disappointed,” Frumkin said of the cancellation. 

“Climate change is an urgent public health challenge. 

 Whenever a public health challenge gets politicized – whether it’s influenza, heart disease, sexual behavior, violence, climate change, to name a few – that can interfere with discovering and implementing effective science-based solutions.”
This week’s meeting is organized by nongovernmental groups: the American Public Health Association (APHA), Harvard Global Health Institute, the University of Washington Center for Health and the Global Environment, and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and his education and advocacy group the Climate Reality Project.
The organizers stressed the urgency of developing a public health response to climate change in a statement released last month, emphasizing that 2016 was the third consecutive hottest year on record, and that 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001.


Mounting evidence indicates that climate change will soon pose major health risks to people around the world – particularly the world’s poorest – and threatens to undermine decades of progress in global health and development.
Among these threats are millions more deaths caused by extreme heat; weather extremes including severe storms, droughts and flooding; worsening air quality; more frequent outbreaks of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks; longer allergy seasons; increased spread of some infectious diseases; and reduced quantity and quality of food crops.
Climate change has also led to conflicts and population displacement, which in turn introduce a range of mental and physiological health threats. Experts say such threats will intensify and that new ones will appear in coming years.
The Carter Center’s climate and health meeting will be free, and admission will be on a first-come-first-serve basis. Organizers said they anticipate a packed room of around 200 people, including scientists, public health officials and policymakers.

Press link for more: Humanosphere.org

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Climate Council: Key Findings #auspol #Science

Key Findings

 1. Climate change is infuencing all extreme
weather events in Australia.

› All extreme weather events are now occurring in an atmosphere that is warmer and wetter than it was in the 1950s.

› Heatwaves are becoming hotter, lasting longer and occurring more often.

› Marine heatwaves that cause severe coral bleaching and mortality are becoming more intense and occurring more often.

› Extreme fire weather and the length of the fire season is increasing, leading to an increase in bush fire risk. 

› Sea level has already risen and continues to rise, driving more devastating coastal ooding during storm surges.


 2. Some of the most severe climate impacts the world has experienced have occurred in 2016.

 › Arctic sea ice reached its lowest annual extent on record while record sea surface temperatures drove the worst coral bleaching event in the Great Barrier Reef’s history. G

› Tropical Cyclone Winston was the most intense cyclone to hit Fiji on record, while Hurricane Otto was the southernmost hurricane to hit Central America on record. 

› Canada experienced its costliest wild fire in history in Fort McMurray, forcing the evacuation of almost 90,000 people.

 › The US state of Louisiana experienced 1-in-500 year rains that brought severe flooding leading to 30,000 rescues and 13 deaths.  


3 .Across Australia, extreme weather events are projected to worsen as the climate warms further.

› Extreme heat is projected to increase across the entire continent, with significant increases in the length, intensity and frequency of heatwaves in many regions.

› The time spent in drought is projected to increase across Australia, especially in southern Australia.

 Extreme drought is expected to increase in both frequency and duration.

› Southern and eastern Australia are projected to experience harsher fire weather.

› The intensity of extreme rainfall events is projected to increase across most of Australia.

› The increase in coastal flooding from high sea level events will become more frequent and more severe as sea levels continue to rise.



4. The impacts of extreme weather events will likely become much worse unless global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced rapidly and deeply. 

› Burning of coal, oil and gas is causing temperatures to rise at unprecedented rates and is making extreme weather events more intense, damaging and costly.

› Major emitters including China and the European Union are leading action on climate change, but Australia is lagging well behind and is on track to even miss its very weak target of a 26-28% reduction in emissions by 2030.

› Australia is expected to do its fair share to meet the global emissions reduction challenge by cutting its emissions rapidly and deeply.

› Phasing out ageing, polluting coal plants and replacing them with clean, efficient renewable energy sources such as wind and solar is imperative for stabilising the climate and reducing the risk of even worse extreme weather events.


Press link for full report: Climate Council