Limits to Growth

To Those Who Think We Can Reform Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani Demand a #GreenNewDeal #Drought #Heatwave #Bushfire

Our only hope is to stop exploiting the earth—and its people.

A resident stands in front of a burning hill in Drafti area, about 23 miles east of Athens, Greece. (AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris)

Welcome to the future.

It feels like it, doesn’t it?

Like we have reached the end of something—of the days when the Arctic was not actually in flames, when the permafrost was not a sodden mush, when the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets were not rushing to join the quickly rising seas.

When the Darling in outback Australia was a flowing river system.

Perhaps we have also, finally, reached the end of the days when we could soothe ourselves with lies, or delusions at least; when we imagined that we were the only masters here, that we could keep taking what we wanted, and that no one would ever have to pay.

We are paying now.

Twenty eighteen was the year that temperatures scraped 90 degrees in the Norwegian Arctic; that permafrost in northern Siberia failed to freeze at all; that wildfires burned on the taiga there, as well as above the Arctic Circle in Alaska and Sweden, in the moors of northern England, in Greece, and in California, where they showed no sense of poetic restraint whatsoever and reduced a place called Paradise to ash.

23,000 fruit bats die from heat exhaustion in Cairns, Australia after record 42.9C temperatures

And where there wasn’t fire, there were floods: Hundreds died and millions were evacuated from rising waters in Japan, southern China, and the Indian state of Kerala. Venice flooded too, and Paris, where the Louvre had to close its Department of Islamic Arts, which it had consigned, ahem, to a basement. It was also the year the United Nations’ climate change body warned that, to avoid full-on cataclysm, we, the humans of planet Earth, would have just 12 years (11 now) to cut carbon emissions by 45 percent, and 32 years (31 and counting) to eliminate such emissions altogether.

Still, the weather may be the least of our problems. The fire that razed Paradise displaced 52,000 people overnight, forcing many into the ranks of California’s swelling homeless population and what passes for a safety net these days: free berths on the asphalt in a Walmart parking lot. Millions more of us will become refugees when a mega-storm drowns Miami or Manila, and when the Bay of Bengal rises high enough to swallow Bangladesh. Narendra Modi’s India is ready, and has nearly finished stretching barbed wire across the entire 2,500-mile border with Bangladesh. By conservative estimates, climate change will displace a quarter of a billion people over the next 31 years. Most will not be wealthy, and most will not be white.

We do know, at least, how we got here.

It was all that oil and coal that we burned, that we’re still burning. But that “we” is misleading.

It isn’t all of us, and never was.

As the Swedish scholar Andreas Malm recounts in Fossil Capital, his exhaustive account of the rise of the coal-powered steam engine, coal was initially embraced by a tiny subclass of wealthy Englishmen, the ones who owned the mills. They came to favor steam over hydropower in large part because it allowed them to erect factories in cities and towns—rather than submitting to the dictates of distant rivers and streams—giving them access to what we would now call a flexible workforce: masses of hungry urbanites accustomed to the indignities of factory labor, willing to toil for less, easily replaceable if they refused.

In the process these early industrialists created the illusion fundamental to the functioning of our entire economic system: the possibility of self-sustaining growth.

Machines could always move faster, squeezing more work out of fewer hands for greater and greater profits. After the Second World War, the same logic would push the transition from coal to oil: It took far less labor to get oil out of the ground and to transport it across continents, plus coal miners had an alarming tendency to strike.

From its inception, then, the carbon economy has been tied to the basic capitalist mandate to disempower workers, to squeeze the most sweat out of people for the least amount of money. For the last 200-odd years, the exploitation of the planet has been inseparable from the exploitation of living human beings.

This is why, though the alarm bells about anthropogenic warming began tolling more than half a century ago, the carbon habit has proven nearly impossible to break. Since 1990, when international climate negotiations commenced, carbon emissions have jumped by more than 60 percent. Last year, as the fires burned and the floodwaters rose, they leaped by a projected 2.7 percent. It’s almost as if someone’s profiting from our misfortune. And they are: Six of the 10 highest-earning corporations on last year’s Fortune Global 500 list made their money extracting or delivering fossil energy; two were automobile manufacturers and one—Walmart, the planet’s richest brand—relied on a system of globalized trade inconceivable without massive consumption of fossil fuels. Even on an individual level, the richest 1 percent have a carbon footprint 2,000 times larger than the poorest inhabitants of Honduras or Mozambique, countries that have contributed next to nothing to global warming and are suffering disproportionately from it. We already know well that the 1 percent do not let go of power willingly.

We are stealing our children’s future.

Nor will our political system likely be much help, even with our survival as a species at stake.
Politicians are not often good at thinking in planetary terms.
The system in which they function—national governments and international institutions alike—evolved alongside the carbon economy and has for decades functioned mainly to serve it. However enlightened their representatives may appear at climate talks, wealthy countries continue to subsidize fossil-fuel extraction—last year to the tune of $147 billion. In the United States, Trumpian climate denialism and Pelosian tepidity are two faces of the same phenomenon. Congressman Frank Pallone, who chairs the toothless committee that Pelosi resurrected to tackle climate change, announced that he plans to propose nothing more than “some oversight” of Trump’s assaults on preexisting federal programs, and that requiring committee members to reject donations from fossil-fuel industries would be “too limiting.”

Centrists continue to reassure, unshaken in the conviction that no problem exists that cannot be solved with a little technocratic fiddling. Just before he left office, Barack Obama penned an article in Science, contending that climate change “mitigation need not conflict with economic growth.” Wealthy countries, the argument goes, have already managed to reduce emissions without sacrificing growth. “Decoupling” is the magic word here. Imagine a gentle, Gwyneth Paltrowesque divorce between fossil fuels and capital, followed by a fresh romance with greener tech, perhaps a few extra therapy bills for the kids.

We need a global Green New Deal

But someone always gets hurt in a break-up. The techno-optimist dream holds together only if you hide the fact that much of the progress made by the United States and Europe came at the expense of poorer countries: As corporations off-shored manufacturing jobs over the last few decades, they sent the carbon-intensive industries with them, allowing Western consumers, at the clean end of a very dirty process, to import massive quantities of goods. The only year so far this millennium that global emissions have dropped was 2009. It took a global financial meltdown and more than a year of recession for fossil-fuel consumption to even dip.

For now, the petroligarchy is winning. Thirteen years ago, Hurricane Katrina gave us an early taste of the future they have built for us: a murderous, militarized, racialized response to human vulnerability.

Now we are living in it.

We know what their world looks like: abundance for the few behind walls and razor wire, precarity and impoverishment for the rest of us; endless prisons for endless streams of migrants, concentration camps by other names.

But there are other futures, other worlds as yet unmade.

We have only to choose ours, and to fight like hell for it—fiercely, with forms of solidarity that we have not yet been able to imagine. Solidarity not only with one another but with this planet and the many forms of life it hosts.

There is no way out of this but to cease to view the Earth, and its populations, as an endless sink of resources from which wealth can be extracted.

This is not hippie idealism but purest practicality: There is no way to preserve anything approximating the status quo without turning into monsters, or cadavers, and no way to survive that is not radical.

In this future we will need to keep our eyes open and learn to calm ourselves only with truths.

If other worlds are not yet visible, it is because they are ours to make.

Press link for more: The Nation

Advertisements

To Take Down Fossil Fuels, We Must Abandon Capitalism #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #ClimateStrike Stop Stealing our children’s future! #ExtinctionRebellion

Dahr Jamail’s latest book bears witness to the destruction of our natural world due to climate change.
Ritesh Chaudhary / Shutterstock

Dahr Jamail, staff writer at Truthout, has been writing about the global emergency of climate change for nearly a decade. In his new book, The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Destruction, which is being released today, Jamail shares his firsthand accounts of returning to beloved spaces in the natural world. He observes the drastic ways in which they’ve been destroyed due to humanity’s relentless burning of fossil fuels, and mourns over how many of them are unlikely to recover over the duration of human existence.

A million fish die in Australia’s Murray-Darling River System

Anton Woronczuk: In bearing witness to the destruction of the natural world, you write about the severe impacts of climate change on several different kinds of ecosystems and landscapes. Instead of The End of Ice,you could’ve as easily chosen The End of Rainforests, The End of Coral or The End of Coastal Cities as a relevant title for your book. Why did you decide on “ice”?

Dahr Jamail: That’s exactly right … we are in an age of loss, and the book could have had any number of titles. I landed on “ice” for two reasons. First, because that is where I personally feel the loss the most, given how much time I spend in the mountains, and where the idea of the book originated. Having lived in Alaska and spent so much time on glaciers there while climbing, that is where I saw how dramatically climate change was already unfolding back in the mid-1990s. The second reason I chose ice was because as we lose glaciers and ice fields, literally hundreds of millions, and even billions of people will be directly impacted by lack of drinking water, lack of water for irrigation for agriculture, and so much more. This is no small thing.

Record breaking drought in Australia

In your accounts about scaling glaciers in Alaska or snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, you reflect on how much has changed since you first visited them. Which was the hardest place to return to? Which was the hardest to leave?

All of it was heartbreaking, from what I see happening on Denali and other glaciers in Alaska that I have long-term relationships with, to the loss of the Great Barrier Reef. But certainly, the moment when I was out of the Great Barrier Reef, it was the last snorkel of the day, and time to head back to land, when my heart broke. It really felt like it was the last time I’d see the reef, and I was saying goodbye. I wept. That year, 30 percent of the reef died from that coral bleaching event I was witnessing. The next year, another bleaching event took out 20 percent of the reef. So, in two years, half of the single largest coral reef on the planet was wiped out from climate change-induced bleaching. That’s why I wept, knowing that was happening, and was only going to continue.

Dahr Jamail.
Via Dahr Jamail

I’m wondering if even more significant changes have occurred in some of the places you’ve written about in The End of Ice.

I could write pages about that. I was updating my scientific reports in my citations up until my final deadline for publishing, and even then, struggling to keep pace with the changes. Since then, intensely dramatic changes have happened.

One example is a study published in Nature [that] showed that over the last quarter century, the oceans have absorbed 60 percent more heat annually than estimated in the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. The study underscored that the globe’s oceans have, in fact, already absorbed 93 percent of all the heat humans have added to the atmosphere, that the climate system’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases is far higher than thought, and that planetary warming is far more advanced than had previously been grasped.

Thousands of flying foxes die from heat exhaustion Cairns Australia

To give you an idea of how much heat the oceans have absorbed: if that heat had instead gone into the atmosphere, the global temperature would be 97 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it is today. For those who think that there are still 12 years left to change things, the question posed by a sea level rise expert in my book seems painfully apt: How do we remove all the heat that’s already been absorbed by the oceans?

Two weeks after that Nature article came out, a study in Scientific Reports warned that the extinction of animal and plant species, thanks to climate change, could lead to a “domino effect” that might, in the end, annihilate life on the planet. It suggested that organisms will die out at increasingly rapid rates because they depend on other species that are also on their way out. It’s a process the study calls “co-extinction.”

A common thread throughout your book is that the fate of our ecosystems and the many ecological sites you visited has been decided. This seems to be in marked contrast with mainstream wisdom, which says that humanity can prevent a climate-induced catastrophe as long as we make major changes within a decade or so. Why do you think this discrepancy exists?

Global capitalism, neoliberal economics and the power structure depend upon things continuing as they are. The only real chance at mitigation of the impacts from climate change that are now entrenched in the climate system, would have been to abandon capitalism and enact something akin to the New Green Deal back when NASA’s James Hansen sounded the alarm about climate change to Congress in the 1980s. A radical restructuring of the entire fossil-fuel based economy means those who have all the power today would be rendered obsolete. The current hierarchy would have to be obliterated. And so, in short, power never concedes power willingly.

Press link for more: Truth Out

Are We Living Through Climate Change’s Worst-Case Scenario? #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion Demand a #GreenNewDeal

“We’re a lot closer than we should be,” one Stanford scientist warned.

Smoke and steam billow from Belchatow Power Station in Poland, the site of the UN’s 2018 climate conference.Kacper Pempel / Reuters

The year 2018 was not an easy one for planet Earth.

Sure, wind and solar energy kept getting cheaper, and an electric car became America’s best-selling luxury vehicle. But the most important metric of climatic health—the amount of heat-trapping gas entering the atmosphere—got suddenly and shockingly worse.

In the United States, carbon emissions leapt back up, making their largest year-over-year increase since the end of the Great Recession.

This matched the trend across the globe. According to two major studies, greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide shot up in 2018—accelerating like a “speeding freight train,” as one scientist put it.

U.S. emissions do remain 11 percent below their 2007 peak, but that is one of the few bright spots in the data. Global emissions are now higher than ever. And the 2018 statistics are all the more dismal because greenhouse-gas emissions had previously seemed to be slowing or even declining, both in the United States and around the world.

Many economists expect carbon emissions to drop somewhat throughout the next few decades. But maybe they won’t.

If 2018 is any indication, meekly positive energy trends will not handily reduce emissions, even in developed economies like the United States. It raises a bleak question: Are we currently on the worst-case scenario for climate change?

“We’re actually a lot closer than we should be; I can say that with confidence,” says Rob Jackson, an Earth scientist at Stanford and the chair of the Global Carbon Project, which leads the research tracking worldwide emissions levels.

Read: How to understand the UN’s dire new climate report

When climate scientists want to tell a story about the future of the planet, they use a set of four standard scenarios called “representative concentration pathways,” or RCPs. RCPs are ubiquitous in climate science, appearing in virtually any study that uses climate models to investigate the 21st century. They’ve popped up in research about subjects as disparate as southwestern mega-droughts, future immigration flows to Europe, and poor nighttime sleep quality.

Each RCP is assigned a number that describes how the climate will fare in the year 2100. Generally, a higher RCP number describes a scarier fate: It means that humanity emitted more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere during the 21st century, further warming the planet and acidifying the ocean. The best-case scenario is called RCP 2.6. The worst case is RCP 8.5.

“God help us if 8.5 turns out to be the right scenario,” Jackson told me. Under RCP 8.5, the world’s average temperature would rise by 4.9 degrees Celsius, or nearly 9 degrees Fahrenheit. “That’s an inconceivable increase for global temperatures—especially when we think about them being global average temperatures,” he said. “Temperatures will be even higher in the northern latitudes, and higher over land than over the ocean.”

This scenario could still be in the planet’s future, according to Zeke Hausfather, an analyst and climate scientist at Berkeley Earth. Since 2005, total global greenhouse-gas emissions have most closely tracked the RCP 8.5 scenario, he says. “There may be good reasons to be skeptical of RCP 8.5’s late-century values, but observations to-date don’t really give us grounds to exclude it,” he recently wrote.

Even if we avoid RCP 8.5, the less dramatic possibilities still could lead to catastrophic warming. Jackson, the Stanford professor, warned that every emissions scenario that meets the Paris Agreement’s 2-degree Celsius “goal” assumes that humanity will soon develop technology to remove carbon directly from the atmosphere. Such technology has never existed at industrial scales.

“Even some [of the scenarios] for 3 degrees Celsius assume that at some point in the next 50 years, we will have large-scale industrial activities to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere,” he said. “It’s a very dangerous game, I think. We’re assuming that this thing we can’t do today will somehow be possible and cheaper in the future. I believe in tech, but I don’t believe in magic.”

Read: No ecosystem on Earth is safe from climate change

Yet not all data suggest that we’re doomed to RCP 8.5 or equivalent amounts of warming, Hausfather cautions. If you look only at pollution from fossil-fuel burning—and not from land-use events like deforestation—then humanity’s recent record trends closer to RCP 4.5.

That’s good news, but only by comparison: RCP 4.5 still forecasts that global temperatures will rise by 2.4 degrees Celsius, enough to kill off nearly every coral reef and soar past the 2-degree target set out in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

There are a few reasons it’s hard to say which RCP comes closest to our reality. First, most of the RCPs tell roughly the same story about global emissions until about 2025 or 2030. Second, the RCPs describe emissions across the entire sweep of the 21st century—and the century mostly hasn’t happened yet. Trying to pick the most likely RCP in 2018 is a bit like trying to predict the precise depth of late-night snowfall at 4:32 a.m.

The RCP 8.5 scenario may also become less likely in years to come, even if major polluters like the United States, China, and India never pass muscular climate policy. RCP 8.5 says that the global coal industry will eventually become seven times bigger than it is today. “It’s tough to claim that … that is a business-as-usual world,” Hausfather says. “It’s certainly a possible world, but we also live in a world today where solar is increasingly cheaper than coal.”

That’s part of the reason the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will soon expand its list of standard scenarios. Its next major synthesis report, due to be published in 2021, will replace RCPs with five “socioeconomic pathways”that allow for a broader range of futures.

Jackson urged caution. “We don’t know yet what scenario we’re on,” he said. “I think most climate scientists will tell you that we’re below the 8.5 scenario. But every year that emissions increase like they have this year, it makes the 8.5 scenario more plausible.”

Jackson published his first academic paper in 1989, just a year after the NASAscientist James Hansen first warned Congress that global warming had begun in earnest. I asked whether he thought actual emissions would ever come close to RCP 8.5. 

“It’s nuts,” he said. “But I used to think a lot of things were nuts that turned out not to be nuts.”

Press link for more: The Atlantic

An ocean of evidence on global warming is our cue to take action – now #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #GreenNewDeal #auspol #qldpol

By John Church

Over 90 per cent of the heat trapped in the climate system by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations from our burning of fossil fuels is stored in the oceans. With much less variability than surface temperatures, ocean warming is one of the most important indicators of the ongoing pace of climate change.

Two new studies published last week confirm the world’s oceans are warming.

The first, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that ocean warming has accelerated since 1870.

The second, a perspective published in the prestigious iournal Science, reports studies that indicate the rate of ocean warming over recent decades is 10 per cent or more greater than the studies considered in the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment published in 2013, and that the rate has increased since 1991.

The updated observations are in agreement with the results of climate model simulations of the impacts of our continuing release of greenhouse gases.

These models show the ocean will continue to warm through the 21st century and beyond.

Greenhouse gases have a long life time in the atmosphere. Even if carbon dioxide emissions were to cease completely, atmospheric concentrations would only decrease slowly over thousands of years unless we discover a way to artificially remove them from the atmosphere.As a direct consequence, surface temperatures would remain elevated. As result of the oceans’ ability to store heat, they will continue to warm for centuries.

Decisions we make now about greenhouse gas emissions have long-term consequences for the world and Australia’s climate and sea level, and of course for the natural environment and our modern society.

Continued greenhouse gas emissions at a business-as-usual rate would result in the ocean warming accelerating through the 21st century, and a contribution to sea-level rise of about 30cm from ocean thermal expansion alone by 2100. The warmer ocean would be accompanied by warmer surface temperatures, increased frequency of climate extremes, and increased intensity of extreme rainfall events and hurricanes, with major disruptions to society.

The ice sheets are even more important for long-term sea-level change. Unabated emissions this century would commit the world to metres of sea-level rise over coming centuries. We would likely cross the threshold, well before 2100, leading to an accelerating melting of the Greenland ice sheet and a sea level rise of up to about seven metres. An acceleration of the Greenland contribution to sea level rise has already been observed.

For Antarctica, a warming ocean would lead to the decay of ice shelves and an accelerating flow of ice into the ocean, as revealed by recent observations of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The rate of sea level contribution from Antarctica is more uncertain but could equal or exceed the contribution from thermal expansion by 2100, and could be metres over coming centuries

Global average temperature is already about 1C above pre-industrial levels and we have already seen an increased frequency of coastal flooding events. Unabated emissions would see permanent inundation and a dramatic increase in the frequency of coastal flooding events, disrupting the lives of tens to hundreds of millions of people.

Urgent, significant and sustained mitigation of our greenhouse gas emissions are required if we are to meet the Paris targets of “limiting global average temperatures to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels”, and thus significantly reduce the impacts of climate change. Current mitigation “promises” are not sufficient to meet these goals, and planned mitigation is even further away. Every day we delay action makes the Paris targets more difficult to achieve.

The long time scales of the ocean means we will have to adapt to climate and sea level change resulting from past emissions. However, further sea level rises and other changes in our climate can be greatly reduced, but not eliminated, by reaching the Paris goals.

We should remember that sea levels were six to nine metres above current levels at a global average temperature about 1C above pre-industrial values.

Current Australian government figures do not indicate Australia is on track to meet our committed greenhouse gas emission mitigation target of 26 to 28 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 “in a canter”. Meeting this target will require the urgent development of an effective Australian climate policy.

Perhaps more importantly, this target is completely inadequate. To make a proportionate commitment to meeting the Paris targets, Australia needs to ratchet up our targets, as expected by the Paris agreement, and to urgently develop realistic plans to meet these targets.

Actions we take now will affect the lives of our children and grandchildren and that of future generations. We know what is required for significant mitigation and we have the knowledge and technologies to do it. What we require urgently is the will to do it.

John Church is a professor at the Climate Change Research Centre, University of NSW, and the first Australian to receive the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge in climate change award, for his work on rising sea levels.

Press link for more: SMH

Climate Change Is an Existential Crisis—It Should Be ​the Top Political Issue, Too #auspol #qldpol #Drought #Heatwave #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #StopAdani

By David Suzuki

Global warming isn’t a partisan issue—or it shouldn’t be.

The many experts issuing dire warnings about the implications of climate disruption work under political systems ranging from liberal democracies to autocratic dictatorships, for institutions including the U.S. Department of Defense, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and numerous business organizations and universities.

In 1988, when NASA scientist James Hansen reported to Congress that evidence for human-caused global warming was near undeniable, conservative politicians including the UK’s Margaret Thatcher, U.S. President George H.W. Bush and Canada’s Brian Mulroney agreed that action was needed.

In my home province of British Columbia, a right-leaning government, the British Columbia Liberal Party, introduced a carbon tax in 2008.

Now, as the evidence compels us to increasingly urgent action—the latest IPCC report says we have about 12 years to get emissions under control or face catastrophe—politicians from parties that once cared about the future are lining up to downplay or deny human-caused climate disruption and are hindering plans to address it.

The U.S. offers a sad example. When confronted with a detailed report compiled by more than 300 scientists and endorsed by a dozen different agencies, including NASA, NOAA and the defense department, that warned climate change threatens the American economy, way of life and human health, the president responded, “I don’t believe it.”

Here in Canada, politicians claim to take climate change seriously but reject plans to mitigate it without offering better alternatives. Some provincial and federal leaders are governing or building campaigns around rejection of carbon pricing, a proven tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It’s interesting, because carbon pricing is a market-based strategy, whereas the kind of government regulation that would be required in its absence is something conservative thinkers usually reject.

Meanwhile the Australian Prime Minister Loves Coal

To be fair, few politicians are emerging as climate heroes, regardless of where they sit on the political spectrum. Our federal government has some good climate policies, including carbon pricing, but is still pushing for pipelines and oil sands expansion. It’s even watered down carbon-pricing plans to appease industry.

Alberta’s NDP government has likewise implemented some good policies and encouraged clean energy development, but by promoting pipelines and the fossil fuel industry to appease a bitumen-beholden voting base that likely won’t support it anyway, the party is alienating young people and others who care about climate and the future.

In Australia Both Labor & LNP refuse to rule out opening the Adani Coal Mine

It bewilders me that so many people are opposed to environmental protection, to ensuring Earth remains habitable for humans and other life.

It doesn’t take much to see that we’ve screwed up in many ways. Climate disruption, species extinction, plastic pollution and contaminated water and air are all symptoms of our wasteful, consumer-driven lives, in which profit is elevated above all else. Prioritizing a relatively recent economic system designed when conditions were much different over the very things that keep us healthy and alive is suicidal.

Millions of fish killed in the Darling River

We can’t stop using fossil fuels or shut down the oil sands overnight. But if we don’t start somewhere, we’ll get nowhere. I and others have been writing and talking about global warming for decades, while emissions continued to rise, oil and gas development expanded and global temperatures kept climbing. There’s little evidence that governments are treating the climate emergency as seriously as is warranted, preferring to focus on short-term economic gains and election cycles instead.
As we head into an election year in Canada, we must ensure that climate and the environment are priorities for all parties. This costly crisis will bring devastation to economies, food production, human health and much more if we fail to put everything we can into resolving it.

We’ve seen major national and international efforts to confront serious threats before, regardless of the money and resources needed to do so—from defeating the Nazis in the Second World War to investing in science during the space race. These paid off in many ways, accomplishing their stated purposes and spurring numerous beneficial inventions and technologies.

Now, as humanity faces an existential crisis, we must do everything we can to push those who would represent us to truly act in our interests rather than kowtowing to a dying industry.

Climate change should be the top issue in this year’s federal election and all others.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington.

Press link for more: Eco watch

Enough of the climate blame game! #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani Demand a #GreenNewDeal #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion Stop stealing our children’s future!

Summertime, and the living seems easy.

But the fish aren’t jumping in the Darling River basin and the cotton is not as high as it would normally be in central-northern NSW and southern Queensland as horrendous drought conditions grip much of eastern Australia.

Dead fish in Darling River

How bad is it?

Eighty per cent of NSW is officially in drought.

Concerns about severity have moved well beyond the obvious and substantial impact on grazing and cropping industries.

The big worry now is the critical impact on water reserves, riverine habitats and sub-soil moisture content.

Drinking water is being trucked into Walgett because there is almost no flow in the nearby Barwon and Namoi.

South-east of Broken Hill, the Menindee Lakes, an extraordinary chain of freshwater lakes fed by the Darling, contain just three per cent of their capacity – and will probably fall dry this week as temperatures soar above 40 degrees.

Near Weir 32, a crucial water-holding and measuring station near the town of Menindee, many thousands of fish perished in recent weeks after extreme temperature changes and toxic algae blooms depleted already low oxygen levels in the water.

Fingers are being pointed up river and down in a bid to lay blame.

Cotton irrigators draw too much water, many say.

The cotton industry rejects any blame.

The water management system is a mess, say others, blaming water authorities for poorly timed and excessive releases from water-holding areas along the Darling.

Think we’ve been here before?

You’re right.

It was less than a decade ago.

The 2012 Murray-Darling Basin Plan, which was intended to resolve the complex tussle for precious water resources, has “failed at its first drought”, as a senior water researcher at the Australian Institute aptly noted.

The Bureau of Meteorology last week released data showing 2018 was Australia’s third-warmest year since a national records database was established in 1907.

The bureau says nine of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 2005.

The bureau also released a monthly drought report last week, showing vast areas of central and western NSW and central Queensland have recorded severe rainfall deficiencies for almost two years.

In some areas, this marks the driest period on record.

Here, again, we have evidence that global climate change is affecting the way we live.

Extreme weather conditions such as drought, severe storms and soaring temperatures, are causing regular disturbances and huge commercial losses in rural and city regions alike.

The insurance industry recognises it, businesses are alert to it, and the greater agricultural community has responded by changing cropping, grazing and water management practices.

So what is it with some federal members that they simply will not accept the science, or choose to ignore it?

For reasons of political power-gaming, trenchant commercial stubbornness or blind ideology, some conservatives would have you believe that climate change science is a fiction propagated by leftists.

Enough.

Our planet is warming.

Our land is drying.

Our seas are rising. And we need our leaders to confront the problem.

Bipartisan decisions must be made now to implement practical, substantial and genuine reductions in carbon emissions, and to tackle the crisis in our waterways.

Time is running out.

Press link for more: The Age

Banks should recognise the risks of #climatechange #auspol #qldpol #ClimateRisk #StopAdani #COP24

BoE governor Mark Carney is right to suggest adding global warming to stress tests

Mark Carney: any move by the Bank of England to incorporate climate risks in stress tests would be the first by a central bank of a major financial centre © Bloomberg

Most central bankers make a virtue of the narrowness of their remit, remaining circumspect on issues deemed to go beyond it.

Not Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, who, despite facing criticism for exceeding his mandate, has suggested the risks arising from climate change should form part of its annual stress tests for banks from 2019. 

The suggestion is timely.

It comes a few days after rules governing how to implement the Paris climate agreement were approved, against significant odds, by nearly 200 countries at the COP24 talks in Poland.

It is also uncontroversial — it does not require a change to the regulatory framework, but simply adds a risk to the list that banks are already meant to measure. Furthermore, the Bank of England is suggesting including climate change as an exploratory scenario, which banks can neither pass nor fail.

They are required only to scrutinise whether they are doing enough. For that reason, many climate activists will consider the proposal, much like the Paris agreement itself, does not go far enough. 

The measure should at least help to convince financial sector actors of the potential impact they face from climate issues.

The latest warnings about global warming are sobering.

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report noted that on current trends, average global temperatures are set to rise by 3-4C from pre-industrial levels by 2100.

Failure to take action to curb that rise creates multiple risks.

Extreme heat events are likely to multiply.

So, too, are the frequency and intensity of heavy rain and floods, and of droughts. 

Actions taken to mitigate climate change also carry risk.

New policies aimed at limiting average global temperature rises, in line with the Paris agreement, will make it harder for hydrocarbon-intensive industries to operate profitably.

This could leave companies with stranded assets worth billions, and the banks that lent to them with enormous unpaid debts.

Whatever the source of the risk, a core function of a central bank is to ensure that money is being safely lent. 

Lenders are moving slowly because unlike the insurance sector they are less directly exposed to the destructive power of extreme weather. But they are not immune — and should be paying more heed.

A report by insurance company Swiss Re found the total economic loss from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters nearly doubled to $337bn in 2017, from $180bn the year before.

Lloyd’s of London this year posted its first loss in six years, citing the impact of a series of natural disasters.

Axa, the large insurer, has warned that more than 4C of warming this century would make the world “uninsurable”.

The consequences for the whole financial system would then be catastrophic.

Any move by the Bank of England to incorporate climate risks in stress tests would be the first by a central bank of a major financial centre. But others are alert to climate change risks.

In 2017, the Dutch central bank published a report entitled “Waterproof?”, which concluded that financial institutions should factor in the consequences of a changing climate and the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. 

Such steps alone will not prevent the oceans rising, climate-induced mass migration or extreme weather.

Governments must develop policies and regulatory environments that change businesses’ behaviour.

The “tragedy of the horizon”, as Mr Carney puts it, is the danger that by the time climate change is recognised by enough actors to be a defining issue for financial stability, it may already be too late to manage it.

Press link for more: Financial Times

Climate change and the risk to civilisation: the doctors’ prescription #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #COP24 #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #SchoolStrike4Climate #TheDrum

By Colin Butler

The 2018 State of the Climate report, released yesterday, again highlights the risk to human wellbeing from our love affair with fossil fuels. Coal, oil and gas have underpinned the incredible advances in affluence, population size, and health since development of the steam engine. But fossil fuel use has an optimum dose, which is now well past.

We are metaphorically drowning in carbon dioxide, the invisible, odourless waste product of burning fossil fuel. As the report notes, this is increasing heatwaves, acidifying the oceans and raising the sea level. It is also lowering the micronutrient concentrations of food.

An evacuation during the November bushfires, near Mount Larcom, Queensland.

Photo: AAP

The report cites growing effects on human and animal health, including from increased fires and flooding, and says extreme heat days are rising alarmingly. This month, dozens of Australians were rescued from the Hume Highway, stranded by intense rainfall. Record heat and fire ravaged north Queensland. A third of the spectacled flying fox population died from heat, possibly exposing animal rescuers to viral diseases.

In November, San Francisco air was worse than Delhi, due to fires that ruined the Californian city of Paradise, recently home for 30,000 people.

Earlier this month, at the Katowice conference, held in the heartland of Polish coal seams, David Attenborough called climate change the greatest threat to humanity in thousands of years. He warned that, without action, “the collapse of our civilisations, and the extinction of much of the natural world, is on the horizon”.

Attenborough’s warnings have a distinguished pedigree. In 2010, Frank Fenner, the great Australian scientist who helped eradicate smallpox, warned that humans risked total extinction due to overpopulation, resource over-consumption, environmental destruction and climate change. Martin Rees, a past president of the world’s oldest scientific organisation, the Royal Society, has warned this century might be our last.

It might be comforting to dismiss these warnings as the fantasies of old men, and some wise old women, such as Jane Goodall. Optimists might argue that a rise of even 2 degrees in average global temperature is trivial, or point out that you could walk to Tasmania during the Ice Age. The sea-level rise of 10 thousand years ago was easily adapted to, and today our technological and social capacity is immeasurably greater. A fever of 2 extra degrees is uncomfortable, but we have paracetamol.

Such responses are deceptive and dangerous. The unprecedented complexity, connectivity and power of modern civilisation is also its weakness. Sea-level rise on the US east coast is already depressing the market value of homes and could help trigger a future financial crash. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation is increasingly concerned about climate change, conflict and future food security. The 2010 heatwave and drought in Russia, which led to the temporary banning of Russian wheat exports, helped spark the Arab Spring and the Syrian civil war. The Australian winter harvest of 2018 was poor, especially from the eastern states, due not only to drought, but heat, reduced soil moisture and a lengthening frost season.

But the collapse of civilisation is not inevitable. Collapse might be avoided by a strong dose of preventive medicine, such as replacing coal with wind and solar, an electric bus revolution and reduced meat consumption (also good for health).

The threat of sea-level rise … erosion at Old Bar, NSW. 

Photo: Shane Chalker

As with a real vaccine, which requires a tiny dose of something potentially harmful (technically known as an antigen) we seem to need a dose of poison (in this case fear) before we act; but too much fear is paralysing. We also need hope, such as provided by the NSW government’s recognition of our overdoseon fossil fuels.

The physical climate is changing, so fast that more and more people, including many children, can now recognise it. If we can harness the internet, new technology, and the common sense of ordinary people then we will we at least have a reasonable chance. Recognising the validity of these warnings is a vital step if we are to survive.

Colin Butler is an epidemiologist and member of the scientific advisory committee of Doctors for the Environment, Australia.

He is an honorary professor in public health at the Australian National University.

Press link for more: SMH

Will Adani’s Carmichael coal mine go ahead? #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #SchoolStrike4Climate #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateChange

Thousands of students march demanding action on climate change in Brisbane, Saturday, December 8, 2018. Picture: Glenn Hunt/AAP

It was once touted as Australia’s biggest coal mine and a mega project that would create 10,000 jobs but the oft-promised construction of Adani’s Carmichael mine still seems unlikely despite recent announcements.

Last month there seemed to be a breakthrough. After struggling to secure finance to build the mine, Adani announced it would self-fund a scaled-back version and suggested work could begin this year.

The mine was originally expected to be a $16.5 billion project but will now only cost $2 billion. It will create an estimated 1500 direct jobs during the construction phase, much less than previous claims of 10,000 direct and indirect jobs.

This week a spokeswoman for Adani Australia told news.com.au that “preparatory works at the mine site are imminent”.

“We are working with regulators to finalise the remaining required management plans ahead of coal production, some of which have been subject to two years of state and federal government review,” she said.

“This process is expected to be complete and provided by governments in the next few

weeks.”

The Australian reported on Friday that bulldozers, graders and service vehicles were sent to the site this week.

Earth moving equipment at Adani site.

However, there’s scepticism about the suggestion work on Adani’s mine is about to get started as it has made premature declarations before.

More than a year ago, in October 2017, Adani scheduled a ceremony to break ground on the coal mine’s rail link.

Adani chairman Gautam Adani was due to attend alongside then-deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce. But the ceremony was cancelled due to rain and was never rescheduled.

This was hardly surprising given a government-funded $1 billion loan it was relying on to build a 389-km rail line hadn’t yet been approved.

The Palaszczuk Government later decided to veto the loan from the federal government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility ahead of the Queensland election.

Meanwhile environmental groups have continue to wage war on the project and protests are continuing, even for the scaled-down version of the mine.

Protesters ambushed Bill Shorten at Labor’s National Conference on Sundayand the dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Dr Peter Catt said he was willing to be arrested standing in front of bulldozers to stop the Adani mine from going ahead.

Dean Dr Peter Catt at St John Anglican Cathedral.

“Both sides of politics are refusing to face the moral implications of coal expansion,” the reverend said at the event Carols for the Earth in Brisbane.

“I will join other citizens standing in front of Adani bulldozers to make political leaders take our climate crisis seriously. I’m calling on people of all faiths to take this same step.”

Concerns about the mine’s potential impact on climate change have continued to grow, particularly after a report from the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggested the use of coal-powered electricity would have to be cut to practically nothing by 2050 to keep global warming to 1.5C.

Even at 1.5C warming most of the world’s coral reefs including the Great Barrier Reef would be lost.

Meanwhile, Adani may be able to start “preparatory works” but there are a few other issues that need to be resolved before it has clear air to move forward.

MORE APPROVALS NEEDED

Adani is not required to submit a new Environment Authority application for its smaller mine but there are approvals it doesn’t yet have.

A spokeswoman for the Queensland Department of Environment and Science said “significant disturbance cannot commence until the required environmental plans for the mine are approved and in place”.

Adani has been asked to update its groundwater dependent ecosystems management plan after the CSIRO, Australia’s peak scientific organisation, identified serious flaws, according to the ABC.

The CSIRO was asked to review Adani’s plan by the Federal Department of the Environment and Energy. Geoscience Australia has also been asked to look at it.

Adani will now have to update its plans to identify the source of the aquifer of the Doongmabulla Springs Complex and measures it will take to protect the springs.

The plan must be approved before the Adani can start excavation of the first box cut, which is a small open cut that acts as an entrance to an underground mine.

The entrance to the box cut at Jabiluka Uranium Mine. Picture: Rohan Kelly. Picture: Supplied

The Queensland department spokeswoman said the state will also take the scientific reviews into consideration as part of its assessment.

“Preliminary advice from CSIRO requires Adani to update the plan,” the spokeswoman said.

She said the department had told Adani it would not continue its assessment until an updated version was submitted and noted there was no “statutory time frame” for assessment to happen.

“The Queensland Government takes environmental protections very seriously and will consider the advice of the (federal department), CSIRO and Geoscience Australia when assessing the plans,” she said.

Both the groundwater plan and a black-throated finch management plan will need to be signed off by state and federal governments.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Department of Environment and Energy told news.com.au the Carmichael biodiversity research fund mechanism would also need to be approved before Adani could start “mining operations”.

WATER WOES

The Queensland Government granted Adani a water licence last year to allow it to take up to 12.5 billion litres of water a year from the Suttor River.

The Federal Government is also required to look at projects likely to have a significant impact on water resources but Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price chose this year not to activate the “water trigger” that would have required a full environmental impact assessment.

Instead only preliminary documentation was considered.

This month the Australian Conservation Foundation launched legal action for a judicial review of this decision. No court date has yet been set.

Until this action is resolved, Adani won’t be able to take water from the Suttor River system although Adani has said this won’t stop it from starting work on the project.

ROYALTIES

Adani has yet to finalise a royalty agreement with the Queensland Government.

It had been in negotiations to allow it to defer payments for the first few years but the deal was never signed. Then in May last year the Palaszczuk Government unveiled a new policy for all developments in the Galilee and Surat Basins and the North West Minerals Province.

The new resources framework allows royalties to be deferred but insists that interest is paid and companies must also ensure “security of payment” is in place.

Eligible projects are required to provide jobs, common-user infrastructure and to have a positive impact on the state’s finances.

However, the government will only enter into an agreement with approved projects and Adani’s mine has not yet been approved.

A spokeswoman for the Deputy Premier Jackie Trad told news.com.au Adani would pay royalties like everyone else.

“No taxpayers money will go to toward this project,” she said.

NATIVE TITLE ACTION

The Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council has been fighting Adani’s indigenous land use agreement (ILUA) saying a vote to approve it had been a sham. The council disputes that 294 people voted for the agreement and only one against.

The W&J lost its legal action but is appealing the decision in the Federal Court. This week it was ordered to pay $50,000 by the end of January as part of a security of costs order to show it was capable of paying Adani’s legal costs if it lost the appeal.

The appeal was due to be heard in February but has now been delayed until May.

W&J traditional owner and lead spokesman Adrian Burragubba said for Adani to act before the appeal was decided would be to “deny our rights and open the way for a grave injustice”.

“Without our consent, the mine is not ready to proceed,” he said.

Adrian Burragubba outside the Federal Court in Brisbane, Friday, August 17, 2018. Picture: Darren England/AAP

RAIL LINE NEGOTIATIONS

Another question remains over whether Aurizon has approved Adani’s request to connect to its existing railway line.

An Adani spokeswoman said Adani had submitted a conceptual operation plan for its new narrow gauge rail line and was working through the “regulatory process”.

“Once it is complete we will commence construction of the rail line,” she said.

When asked whether an agreement had been reached, an Aurizon spokeswoman said it had to treat all requests confidentially.

“Therefore we cannot comment on any discussions that may occur with any third-party,” she said.

Continue the conversation @charischang2 | charis.chang@news.com.au

Press link for more: News.com.au

Earth Moving Equipment on route to Adani’s New Coal Mine. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion

A convoy of earth moving equipment is on route to the Adani Coal Mine.

A scaled down plan has the support of both Labor & LNP

Adani ordered to pay almost $12m for work on scrapped Carmichael rail line

Adani has been ordered to pay almost $12m owed to engineering firm AECOM for work on a scrapped rail line to the Carmichael coalmine.

A judgment in the Queensland Building and Construction commission details how “payment difficulties” emerged in a contract between AECOM and an Adani subsidiary company. The 1,862-point commission adjudicationsays Adani had “anticipated” receiving government support that did not materialise, including a $1b federal loan to build the rail link between Carmichael and the Abbot Point port.

The loan was vetoed by the Queensland government in November last year. The contract to design the rail line was suspended about six months later.

Soon after AECOM lodged a claim with the QBCC alleging it was owed $20m for the work. Adani countered by offering $325,000.

Press link for more: The Guardian

Large Galilee Basin coal projects could be in doubt with Labor EPA

THE LABOR Party may use changes to the Australian Environment Act to enforce provisions concerning the water trigger for dams and pipelines associated with large coal mines to stymie the development of coal projects being proposed for the Galilee Basin in Queensland by Clive Palmer.

Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal has two projects earmarked for the region – the Waratah Galilee Coal mine and the Galilee Coal Project (Northern Export Facility) mine.

Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin has already been approved by the federal government as has Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Coal’s proposed Alpha and Kevin’s Corner mine projects.

Shadow environment minister Tony Burke said the Labor Party would create an Australian Environment Act and establish a Federal Environmental Protection Agency, which could also impact on the development of large coal projects by making the protection of the Great Barrier Reef a priority.

“Labor will also establish a new agency, a federal EPA, with the mission to protect Australia’s natural environment,” he said.

“It will be informed by the best available scientific advice and, ensure compliance with environmental law, and have the ability to conduct public inquiries on important environmental matters.

“The new legal framework will compel the Australian government to actively protect our unique natural environment and demonstrate national leadership.”

According to Burke, Labor will establish a high powered working group of experts including scientists, environmental lawyers and public policy thinkers to refine the clear concepts that underpin this reform.

“The current environment act is now 20 years old and has never been significantly reformed,” he said.

“It is time to bring it into the 21st century.

“In 2018, it is bizarre that the national environmental law does not properly factor in climate change.

Press link for more: Mining Monthly