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Are carbon emissions coming down in Australia? #auspol #qldpol #LabConf18 #StopAdani #COP24 we urgently need a #GreenNewDeal The #ClimateCrisis is stealing our children’s future.

Photo: Former Howard government minister Amanda Vanstone says that emissions are coming down in Australia. (ABC News)

The claim

During a recent episode of the ABC’s Q&A program, former Liberal minister Amanda Vanstone claimed “emissions are coming down” in Australia.

Her comment came a few days before a major UN climate summit, COP24, held in Katowice, Poland.

Other panellists on Q&A contradicted Ms Vanstone, saying emissions were rising.

This prompted many viewers of the program to call on RMIT ABC Fact Check to investigate Ms Vanstone’s claim.

The verdict

Ms Vanstone’s claim is misleading.

Latest federal government figures suggest that although greenhouse gas emissions have fallen over the past 10 years, emissions started trending upwards again about four years ago.

The upturn, since 2014, has coincided with the Abbott government’s removal of the carbon tax.

Also, while emissions from electricity production have been falling, the decrease has been outweighed over the past four years by rising emissions in other sectors of the economy, such as transport, where emissions are associated with increased LNG production for export.

Emissions can be measured in different ways: for example, as total emissions or emissions per capita or per GDP.

In the past year, Australia’s total emissions have been rising. But emissions per capita or per dollar of real GDP have been falling, mainly due to Australia’s rapid population growth.

However, it is worth noting that Australia’s progress in cutting emissions under its international obligations (the Paris Agreement) is measured by changes in total emissions rather than by other measures.

As one expert put it: “The atmosphere doesn’t care how many people are contributing to emissions; it’s the total quantity of emissions that matters.”

The context

Ms Vanstone made her claim during a discussion on Q&A about a protest by Australian schoolchildren titled ‘Strike 4 Climate Action‘.

She was speaking about the climate policies of Australia’s two major political parties, and in the broader context of greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on the environment, as perceived by young people.

Ms Vanstone did not specify which kind of emissions she was talking about. Nor whether she was referring to simple totals or ratios.

Fact Check invited her to clarify this. She said she had not been expecting to talk about emissions: “I can’t tell you that I had a particular tight construct in my head at the time,” she said.

“I think I was just making a general remark about emissions generally over a long period of time.”

Fact Check considers it reasonable to assume that her claim refers to Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions over the past 10 years — the length of time examined by the Government’s most recent report on emissions.

What others are saying

Ms Vanstone is not alone in claiming emissions in Australia are decreasing, though other speakers have been more specific.

Liberal senator Linda Reynolds, also on Q&A, said carbon emissions per capita and by GDP were at their lowest levels in 28 years.

Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price also highlighted this low in a press release announcing the Government’s latest quarterly emissions data.

Nonetheless, she acknowledged that total emissions had risen over the year to June 2018.

Others have also pointed to the rise in total emissions.

Labor senator Lisa Singh, another of the recent Q&A panelists, argued that “emissions have continued to go up since 2011”.

And on ABC radio the same week, Richie Merzian, the climate and energy director for think tank the Australia Institute said: “For the last four years, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have been increasing.”

Measuring emissions

The Australian Department of the Environment and Energy collects and publishes a series of reports and databases, known as the National Greenhouse Accounts.

The accounts track greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 onwards, and fulfil Australia’s international reporting obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Kyoto Protocol.

Quarterly reports, released as part of the accounts, track total emissions as well as emissions by sector, per capita and per GDP.

The latest report, released three days before Ms Vanstone’s Q&A appearance, provides estimates of Australia’s national inventory of greenhouse gas emissions up to the June quarter of 2018.

The report examines emissions produced by eight sectors: electricity, stationary energy, transport, fugitive emissions (for example, leakages), industrial processes and product use, agriculture, waste, and land use, land use change and forestry.

Emissions from electricity production are falling

The report shows emissions in the electricity sector have fallen by 3.6 per cent in the year to September 2018.

This was driven by a 13 per cent reduction in brown coal supply and a corresponding 14 per cent increase in supply derived from renewable sources, it says.

But emissions from other sectors, such as transport, have been rising.

Hugh Saddler, an honorary associate professor at ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy, told Fact Check:

“Significant increases in emissions from petroleum and diesel consumption in transport, and gas consumption associated with LNG, have outweighed the decrease in emissions from the electricity sector.”

What’s going on with total emissions?

Over the year to June 2018, Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions rose in each quarter, according to the report.

Specifically, seasonally adjusted total emissions rose 1.3 per cent in the June quarter and by 0.6 per cent in the year to June 2018.

While emissions have fluctuated over the past four years, they have been trending upwards since late 2014, as the graph below shows. The data shows emissions have risen 5 per cent over this time.

Emissions touched their lowest point in March 2013, but have since rebounded to 2011 levels.

Under the Paris Climate Agreement, Australia has committed to a reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions of between 26 per cent and 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.

According to the national greenhouse audit, total emissions are down 11.7 per cent on 2005 (the Paris Agreement base year) and 7.5 per cent since 1990 (the base year for Kyoto Protocol calculations).

Why are people saying emissions are falling?

As shown above, total greenhouse emissions when measured quarterly over the past year, or by trend data over the past four years, have been rising.

So, why are some people arguing that emissions are going down?

Because, when emissions are measured per capita or per dollar of GDP, they are lower. This is because Australia is experiencing rapid population growth.

The Department of the Environment and Energy highlights this fall in both the preface to its latest quarterly greenhouse report and on its website.

The report states that emissions per capita and the emissions intensity of the Australian economy were at their lowest levels in 28 years, falling 37 per cent and 60 per cent respectively since 1990.

Are emissions per capita and per GDP useful measures?

Put simply, no.

Dr Saddler said focusing on emissions per capita was meaningless, since the measure used in international agreements was the more crucial total emissions.

“The atmosphere doesn’t care how many people are contributing to emissions; it’s the total quantity of emissions that matters,” he said.

Professor David Karoly, an internationally recognised expert on climate change, said the emissions per capita was a useful measure when it allowed for country by country comparisons.

“The Australian per capita share at the moment is higher than any other developed country in the world — higher than the US. Yes, it’s coming down, but it is still the highest.”

Both Dr Saddler and Professor Karoly confirmed the fall in emissions per capita and GDP were due to rapid population growth in Australia.

Experts assess the claim

Professor Karoly said if Amanda Vanstone’s claim was made in reference to total Australian emissions, “they are going up”.

He noted that the start of the recent rebound in emissions from mid-2014 coincided with the dumping of the carbon tax by the Abbott government in July of that year.

Professor Mark Howden, the director of ANU’s Climate Change Institute, told Fact Check: “I think it is correct to say that Australian emissions were coming down, but are now rising steadily.”

He said an argument could be made that emissions have come down, given they are lower now than at their peak between 2005 and 2008.

“However, this is a problematic argument,” he said.

“Under the current mix of policies and economic activities, emissions are clearly not coming down but instead are rising steadily.”

Pep Canadell, a senior principal research scientist in the CSIRO Climate Science Centre, and the executive director of the Global Carbon Project, suggested that 1990 was a good reference year for gleaning a long-term view of changes to emissions.

“Good annual data only starts from 1990, which is the reference year of the Kyoto Protocol and why the Government started the good quality data then,” Dr Canadell said.

Emissions per capita have fallen 37 per cent since 1990.

However, Dr Canadell added:

“Given Ms Vanstone’s statement is present tense, I disagree [that emissions are falling]. According to the data, emissions have been going up since 2013, with ups and downs, and, if anything, accelerating recently.”

Principal researchers: Sushi Das, Ellen McCutchan

factcheck@rmit.edu.au

Press link for more: ABC

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Climate change: Five things we’ve learnt from #COP24 #auspol #qldpol #LabConf18 #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #GreenNewDeal #StopAdani

Delegates to the UN climate conference in Poland have reached agreement on how to implement the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, which comes into force in 2020. What are the key points to come out of the meeting?

1. The rules are key to the game

However dull it may be, the operational rules for the 2015 Paris climate agreement will govern the way the world tackles climate change for decades to come. 

The key thing was not to unravel the carefully negotiated Paris agreement by having one set of rules for the rich countries and another one for the poor. 

By that measure the conference was a success with China showing leadership by not pushing for a return to the old ways of countries who did, and countries who didn’t.

Also helping that effort was the US.

Ensuring that the China and the US face similar regulations has long been a key of American policy. 

Keeping everyone on the same page also delighted the EU.

Climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete explained how the new rules would work.

“We have a system of transparency, we have a system of reporting, we have rules to measure our emissions, we have a system to measure the impacts of our policies compared to what science recommends.”

To keep everyone in check, the rules will also contain a compliance mechanism, which means that countries that don’t submit their reports on time will face an inquiry. 

The new regulations are “flexible” for developing countries, meaning they can sign up to the rules at a later date.

2. Science is worth fighting for

One of the biggest rows at this meeting was over a key scientific report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

A group of countries including Saudi Arabia, US, Kuwait and Russia refused to “welcome” the IPCC study. 

They merely wanted to “note” the contents. 

Efforts to find a compromise ended in failure.

However that was not the end of the matter. 

The vast majority of countries felt that acknowledging the science was critical at this conference. 

Their efforts did finally ensure that the IPCC was recognised – but many felt it was a token effort.

“That science is unsettling and it doesn’t connect it to the need to do more,” said Camilla Born from the environmental think tank E3G.

“The deal looks at it in isolation, it’s an elegant compromise but it’s not really enough.”

3. International spirit is still alive

Many countries had worried that with the rise of nationalism in many countries and the recent election of Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil’s president, the international co-operation needed to tackle climate change might be in danger. 

For many getting agreement here in Katowice was less about technical rules and more about showing that the international spirit is still alive and has teeth. 

“I think the beauty of multilateralism is that it is the effort of everybody,” said Spanish Ecology Minister Teresa Ribera.

“And what we have seen is that everybody has supported the package, no single country has decided to step down.

“It is very difficult. It is like organising a party for 200 friends, and there’s a single menu that everybody has to eat. It is not so easy but we have got it. That’s fantastic!”

4. A win for the process but not for the planet?

While negotiators have been congratulating themselves on a job well done in landing the rulebook, there are many voices here who feel that the agreement does not go far enough. 

They point to the strength of the science, and the public recognition of the impacts of climate change seen this year in heatwaves and wildfires.

Many environmental campaigners believe that Katowice was a missed opportunity for radical action.

“We have ended up here with more of a coal trade fair than a climate convention,” said Mohamed Adow from Christian Aid, referring to the efforts to promote coal by Poland and the US at this conference. 

“We haven’t acted in good faith, particularly for the young, that we takes seriously what science is telling us and we are responding to it. That message didn’t come through.

“If people think the rulebook is the way to get the world on that path, it is not robust or ambitious enough.”

5. New voices are emerging

One of the most striking things about this conference of the parties was the presence of energised young people in far greater numbers than I have ever seen them at a COP before. 

Climate change chimes with young people in a way that is sometimes missing with older people, who make up the bulk of negotiators here.

The sense that perhaps this UN process doesn’t quite connect with the modern world was summed up best by Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives and now their lead climate negotiator. 

“Almost 10 years since I was last at these climate negotiations, I must say, nothing much seems to have changed. 

“We are still using the same old, dinosaur language. Still saying the same old words.

“Still making the same tedious points.”

It would be hard to argue with this view given the shenanigans that played out at the end, when one country, Brazil, held up progress at the talks on one issue for a couple of days. 

Perhaps the most memorable image of this meeting was that of 15-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg. 

This teenager who has organised school strikes in Sweden held daily press conferences here to drive home her message that platitudes and warm words just aren’t enough anymore.

Her message was sharp and succinct.

“We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis.”

Press link for more: BBC

Until We Confront Capitalism, We Won’t solve the Climate Crisis #auspol #qldpol ##LabConf18 #GreenNewDeal #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion Infinite growth on a finite planet is a fantasy. #Neoliberalism

International climate negotiations have failed to curb runaway greenhouse gas emissions since the first UN treaty on emission reductions was adopted in 1992.

Consumer-focused solutions to climate change such as eating less meat or reducing food mileage, though important, simply won’t be enough to address the systemic nature of the crisis.

So what needs to be done to halt global warming?

Truthout spoke to Simon Pirani about his newest book, Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption, and the prospects for transitioning to a post-fossil fuel world.

Anton Woronczuk: Burning Up situates the last few decades of accelerating fossil fuel consumption alongside the social and economic history of energy production and policy.

How does this context help us understand what is driving, and what has driven, the growth of greenhouse gas emissions through today?

Simon Pirani: When people think about the threat of dangerous climate change, and decide they want to do something about it, it is not easy to work out what to do. It is clear we have to move away from fossil fuels, but not clear how. Governments claim they have solutions, which people instinctively (and rightly) disbelieve, and newspapers report simple, bullet-point proposals – such as “stop eating meat” – the effect of which is unclear.

Moving away from fossil fuels is difficult because they are so deeply embedded in economic activity, in the way that we live.

In Burning Up I hoped to make clearer how that has happened through recent history. 

Take the example of cars and urban infrastructure based on them.

There are technological drivers.

Using an internal combustion engine for motor transport was a truly remarkable innovation. But it took place in an economic and social context: the rise of American capitalism. The USA had oil resources. It had aggressive entrepreneurs who not only pioneered the use of production lines to build cars – and to help discipline and control the workers who made them – but also dreamt up sales techniques to turn the car into a marketable commodity and an object of consumerism.

By the late 20th century, the motor manufacturers had become a fearsome political lobby.

They had undermined alternative forms of transport, remade American cities to serve cars, and frustrated fuel efficiency regulation.

The American example was followed by cities across the rich world during the post war boom, and beyond it from the 1980s onwards.

It was not inevitable that motor technology would come to be used so inefficiently, or that urban transport systems would become subservient to it.

That was conditioned by the way capitalism expanded.

We need to account for technological, social, economic and political elements, to understand how fossil fuel consumption has become unsustainable.

We also need to specify what we mean by “unsustainable.” The human price paid for fossil fuels has always been high – coal miners killed down pits, urban residents’ lives cut short by air pollution.

Global warming, the nature of which only became clear to scientists about thirty years ago, has made it unsustainable in a whole new way.

You repeatedly emphasize throughout your book that energy technologies must be understood as inseparable from the social and economic systems in which they function.

What is the significance of this idea, especially when many institutions promote technological fixes, like geo-engineering or carbon capture, to the climate crisis?

Simon Pirani

The story of fossil fuel consumption growth is a story of technologies used, misused and moulded by the corporations that control them; of capitalist expansion, particularly after the second world war; and of government complicity.

Even today, most fossil fuels are used by technologies of the late 19th-century “second industrial revolution,” and their more-or-less direct successors: cars with internal combustion engines, power stations and electricity networks, urban built infrastructure, energy-intensive manufacturing, fertilizer-heavy industrial agriculture.

The technologies of the so-called “third industrial revolution” – computers and communication networks that appeared from the 1980s – have not only not helped make the economy less fuel-intensive, they have made things worse.

The internet now uses more electricity than India uses for everything – not because it could not function more efficiently, but because it has developed as a commercial rather than a collective network, loaded with commercial content.

By contrast, networked technology’s tremendous potential to make urban energy systems more efficient – to make them integrated, using multiple decentralized renewable energy sources such as wind and solar – has hardly been tapped.

Ideologies of “economic growth” and productivism have played a huge part in frustrating efforts to deal with global warming in the most effective way – by cutting fossil fuel consumption.

Enthusiasm for geoengineering is the ultimate and most extreme manifestation of such ideologies. 

Carbon capture and storage will probably never work at a large scale.

Other geoengineering techniques are outside my area of expertise, but I know that climate scientists view politicians’ enthusiasm for these techniques with huge concern.

I recently went to a seminar with researchers who worked on the IPCC report on ways of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

With reference to schemes to reflect sunlight back into space, one participant reported political pressure on scientists not to use the phrase “solar radiation management,” but rather to talk about “solar radiation modification.”

Someone wants to make it sound less like the giant, Promethean intervention in natural processes that it actually is! 

Moving away from fossil fuels will mean completely changing these technological systems, and the social and economic systems in which they are embedded.

Some people point to technological fixes to avoid talking about such deep-going change.

Common solutions promoted by some environmentalists are often framed in terms of changing individual consumption or those of populations, especially of the rich world.

Some of these include eating less (or no) meat, buying more local produce, using more public transportation, etc.

What do these solutions obscure in terms of how fossil fuels are consumed in and through societies (unequally) across the world?

For a start, focusing on rich-world hamburger eaters ignores the whole supply chain that produces such fuel-intensive, unhealthy products.

Appealing to rich-world drivers to get the bus only makes sense as part of a challenge to the whole urban transport system they depend on, that favors cars.

I try to minimize my own hamburger consumption and car use, but I don’t treat consumption as a moral issue. And it is not primarily an individual phenomenon: fuels are consumed by and through technological and economic systems.

Second, working people in the rich world spend their lives fending off the effects of elites’ encroachments on their living standards.

Under the present economic and political conditions, reducing consumption would often make their lives harder.

It needn’t do, but that’s how things stand now.

The French government wrapped up its latest attempt at austerity as a climate policy, and came unstuck.

Too bad for them.

In reality, averting global warming, working out ways to live better lives, and countering social injustice are all part of the same approach to life.

We need to work out how to express that politically. 

Look at the reaction in France to the proposed fuel tax increase.

It ignited a general revolt against neoliberal encroachments on working people’s living standards.

The government has retreated, and not only abandoned the planned tax increase, but also promised to increase the minimum wage.

Right-wing commentators have falsely claimed that the protest movement was against climate policies.

I saw no evidence of that.

While the movement is politically heterogeneous, an overarching theme is that working people are sick of being asked to pay for everything.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), established in 1992, was heralded by many as a major accomplishment in international efforts to address global warming; but you argue that Rio, and subsequent UN conferences, ensured that ecological imperatives were subordinate to economic interests.

Can you explain what this entailed and how it persisted through the Paris agreement?

Climate science has a history too.

The world’s ruling elites have long known that coal mines kill mineworkers, and cared little. But they did not know that fossil fuels were feeding into the global warming threat until the 1980s.

Only then did scientists clarify how warming happens, and the role played by greenhouse gases and fossil fuels. But once the ruling elites had the science in front of them, they fought desperately to limit the actions taken to those that reinforced, or at least did not threaten, their economic dominance.

The political expression of this was the refusal by the US and other governments to countenance the idea of binding emissions reduction targets.

This was consistent in the international climate negotiations from 1992 onwards. Another theme was that market mechanisms should be used to reduce fossil fuel consumption. This was the basis of the Kyoto protocol of 1997 and the disastrously unsuccessful emissions trading schemes it provided for.

A huge amount of political energy is expended to convince us that the international climate talks are dealing with the global warming problem.

They simply are not.

Since 1992 the annual level of greenhouse gases emissions from fossil fuel use has risen by more than half.

That is a failure.

If we don’t characterize the talks in that way, we cannot deal with the political consequences.

The 2015 Paris agreement marked the final collapse of attempts to adopt binding emissions targets.

I do not want to say the voluntary targets adopted are worthless, or that the policies adopted in some countries to achieve them are not helpful, or that serious efforts – most obviously, the substantial investment in renewable energy for electricity generation – are not being made to move away from some uses of fossil fuels. But we need to assess progress soberly and not confuse hopes with reality.

A widely celebrated proposal for a “Green New Deal” has been touted by many center-left politicians, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders and Yanis Varoufakis, as a solution to the multiple crises we face today.

What is your evaluation of it?

The “green new deal” appears to have several meanings.

It has been used by mainstream neoliberal politicians to describe an investment program, operated completely through markets, that would shift the economy away from fossil fuels.

The left-wing politicians you mention see the “green new deal” as a program of state infrastructure investment, a mobilization of resources on the scale of a war effort.

Whether such a war-type mobilization would ever be implemented in any significant capitalist country remains to be seen.

The political scientists Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright suggest in their book Climate Leviathan that there could be an international agreement between the US, China and others that would undertake such spending, but very much in the strongest countries’ neo-imperial interests, and with a big dose of geoengineering.

Obviously the left politicians’ perspectives are quite different.

In Burning Up I argued that not just a social-democratic spending program, but a much deeper-going shift to post-capitalist social relations, could provide the context for the fundamental changes in social, economic and technological systems that will be necessary to break the economy’s many-sided dependence on fossil fuels.

That’s how I see the future.

By saying that, I don’t deny the need for immediate responses. But the most noticeable immediate responses will come from governments.

If anyone tells me they are up to the job of dealing with climate change, I would point to the fact that annual global fossil fuel consumption has risen by more than 60 percent since the Rio convention was signed.

That’s the result of governments’ response.

Australian school pupils understand that simple arithmetic better than they understand politicians’ promises, which is why they went on strike in protest at inaction on climate change.

They will not be the last ones of their generation to do so.

Press link for more: Truth Out

Countries have forged a climate deal in Poland — despite Trump #auspol #qldpol #COP24 #LabConf18 #StopAdani demand #ClimateAction a #GreenNewDeal #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion

Polish students part of an international climate strike hold up signs at COP24, the United Nations conference for climate change negotiations in Katowice, Poland.
 Monika Skolimowska/Getty Images

By Umair Ifran

Umair covers climate change, energy, and the environment. 

Before joining Vox, Umair was a reporter for ClimateWire at E&E News in Washington, DC, where he covered health and climate change, climate policy, business, and energy trends. 

In 2016, he received a Sasakawa Peace Foundation fellowship to report on Japan’s energy sector, economy, and culture. In 2014, he was awarded the Arthur F. Burns fellowship to cover Germany’s energy transition.

Negotiators at COP24 in Katowice have finally reached an agreement, but key points on carbon markets are still being debated.

UPDATE, December 15: International climate change negotiators announced late Saturday that they have reached an agreement at COP24 in Poland.

The text charts a path forward for countries to set tougher targets for cutting greenhouse gases under the Paris climate agreement, as well as stronger transparency rules for countries in disclosing their emissions.

However, nations still couldn’t reach an accord on how to use markets to limit carbon dioxide.

Those discussions will continue next year.

Read on for the context around these negotiations and why environmental groups, governments, and private companies were so concerned about the outcome of this conference.


An agreement between 200 nations at a major international climate change conference in Katowice, Poland, is taking longer than expected.

The two-week meeting was supposed to wrap Friday. But as of Saturday, a full compilation of the Paris Agreement rulebook had been released, but a final deal still hadn’t been announced as critical details remained up for debate.

Stop Adani protest at Australian Labor Party Conference Today

The goal of the 24th Conference of Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is to hammer out critical the details of the Paris climate agreement.

Under the 2015 accord, countries set out to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2100 at most, with a preferred target of 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

However, the original pledged cuts in greenhouse gas emissions would not put the world anywhere near meeting these targets. 

So the agreement included provisions for countries to meet regularly and ramp up their ambitions, all of which are voluntary. COP24 is the first time since Paris that countries are actually talking with each other about going beyond their initial commitments. That’s why this meeting is so important. That’s also why scientists and activists are pushing for even more ambitious commitments to reduce emissions in the final days of the negotiations.

“If the Paris agreement is actually going to live up to that model of voluntary bottom-up commitments, … ongoing ratcheting down of those commitments, then it has to happen at this first moment,” said Lou Leonard, senior vice president for climate and energy at the World Wildlife Fund, by phone from Katowice. “And if it doesn’t happen at this first moment, then it will call into question whether this ratcheting will actually work.”

Time to stop opening new coal mines

The outcome of the negotiations became increasingly uncertain after President Trump in 2017 announced he would withdraw the United States from the accord. 

For an agreement that hinges so much on cooperation and good faith, the worry was that without the US, the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, the deal would fall apart, that other countries would weaken their ambitions or sign an agreement so full of loopholes as to be useless.

For delegates, the goal is to nail down critical details, like how to verify that countries are actually progressing in cutting greenhouse gases, creating market mechanisms to control emissions, and coming up with ways to help developing countries finance a transition to cleaner energy sources.

It turns out countries are making some progress in tracking their emissions, but are still struggling with many of the financial issues associated with mitigating climate change. It’s yet another example of the tension between the threat of rising average temperatures and the fears of economic strain that hinder ambition in cutting greenhouse gases. 

Fighting climate change is only getting harder

The literal and metaphorical backdrops of the COP24 negotiations highlight the enormousness of the challenge. Katowice is in the heart of Poland’s coal country and the conference is sponsored in part by Polish coal companies. The conference venue is literally festooned with coal.

Press link for more: VOX

#COP24 outcome misses urgency of #climatebreakdown #auspol #qldpol #LabConf18 #StopAdani demand #GreenNewDeal #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum

As the COP24 climate summit comes to an end, it is clear that governments have failed to adequately respond to the catastrophic impacts of climate change that were highlighted in the landmark IPCC report on 1.5°C.

Based on a now widely operational Paris Agreement the next two years need to be used to build far-reaching transformational partnerships and reach the level of ambition science makes clear is necessary.

COP24 failed to deliver a clear commitment to strengthen all countries’ climate pledges by 2020. At the same time, a relatively effective though incomplete rulebook for how to implement the Paris Agreement was finalised.

Limited progress was also made with regard to how financial support for poorer countries coping with devastating climate impacts will be provided and accounted for.

The EU has made welcome efforts by building alliances with other countries and finding common ground on sticking points.

It has also set a good example when, together with several other members of the High Ambition Coalition, it committed to increase its 2030 climate target by 2020, in light of the warnings of the IPCC report.

However, it has failed to convince all other governments to make the same commitment.

Germany doubled their support for the Green Climate Fund to support developing countries, but other European countries still have to do the same.

In reaction to the COP24 outcomes, Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe said:

“The weak outcome of this COP runs contrary to stark warnings of the IPCC report and growing demand for action from citizens.

Governments have again delayed adequate action to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.

The EU needs to push ahead and lead by example, by providing more support to poor countries and increasing its climate pledge before the UN Secretary General Summit in September 2019. It must be a significant increase, even beyond the 55% reduction some Member States and the European Parliament are calling for.”

ENDS

Contact:

Ania Drazkiewicz, CAN Europe Head of Communications, ania@caneurope.org, +32 494 525 738

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s leading NGO coalition fighting dangerous climate change.

With over 150 member organisations from 35 European countries, representing over 1.700 NGOs and more than 40 million citizens, CAN Europe promotes sustainable climate, energy and development policies throughout Europe.

CAN Europe members made the following statements wrapping up COP24:

Jennifer Tollmann, Climate Diplomacy Researcher, E3G said: “In the end the EU did finally step up as a bridge-builder. But we now need to see whether they can ace the real test. Will they pull their weight in closing the global emissions gap and support their climate vulnerable allies to weather the storm?”

Mattias Söderberg, Climate Advisor, DanChurchAid said: “Poor and vulnerable countries are left behind with the agreement from Katowice.

People who face loss and damage due to droughts, flooding and devastating storms are not acknowledged.

This puts more burden on those living in poverty who are affected by the worst impacts of climate change, and who in most cases have very few emissions themselves.”

Christoph Bals, Policy Director of Germanwatch said: “It’s very clear that the world expects the EU to lead in climate politics.

In the end we have seen some attempts of EU countries to play a constructive role in the high ambition coalition. But only far reaching transformational partnerships between EU members and other countries can develop the necessary geopolitical dynamics for transformation.”

Neil Makaroff, European Policy Officer of Reseau Action Climat France said: “The COP24 climate negotiations should be a wakeup call for EU countries: there is no time to waste in childish divisions.

The IPCC report clearly highlighted that our home is burning and we have a limited time to save it.

Governments should be united in engaging Europe in a more ambitious climate policy, both boosting the energy transition and ensuring that it is socially just, benefiting to all. Europeans have this special responsibility to pave the way and lead climate actions by example.”

Sven Harmeling, Global Policy Lead on Climate Change, CARE International said: “At COP24, a number of powerful countries driven by short-sighted interests pushed to abolish the ambitious 1.5°C limit and throw away the alarming findings on harmful climate impacts of the IPCC Special Report.

The most vulnerable countries, civil society and people on the ground have been leading the fight for climate justice.

While governments accomplished the task of adopting a rulebook to further the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the world now requires much faster and stronger climate action at the national level, and support for poor countries to build climate resilience.”

Sebastian Scholz, Head of Climate Policy, NABU/BirdLife Germany said: “Again at this COP civil society made their demand clear to those decide to stay within the limit of 1.5 degrees of global warming.

None the less several issues weren’t solved by the delegations.

Even the alarming findings of the IPCC Special Report weren’t properly integrated into the outcome.

The EU had a rather weak position on closing loopholes in the accounting guidelines of the rulebook.

This won’t help to limit emissions, but also incentivise the use of non sustainable biomass for energy supply, and therefore risks a further loss of biodiversity.”

Karin Lexén, Secretary General of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation said: “Two months ago, the scientific community sent an emergency message on the state of the climate crisis.

Coming to Katowice, we demanded no less than an emergency response.

This was not delivered.

Now all countries must urgently pick up the baton, do their homework and get ready to radically scale up climate action at home.

In Sweden, we demand a ban on fossil fuels by 2030.”

Otto Bruun, Climate Policy Officer, Finnish Association for Nature Conservation said: “Climate scientists have highlighted a safe option to avert climate chaos. Early retirement of fossil fuels should go hand in hand with the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems. While the governments at the Katowice conference did not produce the rulebook to match the ambition of the Paris treaty, governments must now mind the gap in ambition and increase their efforts at once. The April 2019 general election in Finland looks set be a climate election. Our collective ambition in civil society is to drive through an unforeseen and just policy shift to immediately protect and restore forest and peatland carbon sinks while retiring all fossil fuels altogether within two decades.”

Press link for more: CAN Europe

Burning Down The House: Fighting Climate Action From The Centre Will Leave Us In Ashes #auspol #qldpol #SystemChange not #ClimateChange #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion

By Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is an Australian leftwing writer, editor and former socialist activist based in Melbourne, Victoria. He is the co-author of Radical Melbourne: A Secret History and Radical Melbourne 2: The Enemy Within. He is also the author of Communism: A Love Story and Killing: Misadventures in Violence. Wikipedia

Demonstrators stand next to metal barriers around the tomb of The Unknown Soldier at The Arc of Triomphe during a protest of Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) against rising oil prices and living costs on the Champs Elysees in Paris, on December 1, 2018. (IMAGE: vfutscher, Flickr)

As the globe – and the political climate aimed at saving it – heats up, we need a different politics to tackle an entrenched problem, writes Jeff Sparrow.

Sensible centrism will doom us all.

Take Emmanuel Macron, once hailed everywhere as the savior of liberalism.

“Macron,” explained Politico in April this year, “has stepped audaciously into the vacuum created by Trump’s abdication of America’s historic role as keeper of the liberal democratic flame.”

Nor was this an anomalous view in the English-speaking world.

MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid expressed the perspective of many American Democrats, when she quipped that Macron should be running Washington.

As Salon put it, “Macron appeared to have everything that centrist Democrats could ever want in a candidate; he was young, smart and charismatic, yet also mature and pragmatic (as all centrists are, in the neoliberal worldview).

Macron also appeared to be different and innovative, like a political version of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, and claimed to be “neither left nor right,” as if to have a political ideology was to have an outdated worldview, something like using a flip phone in 2018.”

In Britain, he generated the same kind of excitement among the same kind of people, with Labourite opponents of Jeremy Corbyn enthusing over the ‘new Tony Blair’, even as a new Macron-inspired centrist party called Renew came into being.

French President Emmanuel Macron, pictured in 2018. (IMAGE: Mike Bloomberg, Flickr)

One doubts that the Boy Wonder will feature much in Renew’s further history (if indeed it has one), given that recent opinion polls, conducted in the wake of the heroic Yellow Vest rebellion revealed him to be the most unpopular leader in recent times.

With riots, blockades and protests spreading across the country, the demand for Macron’s resignation provided a central slogan uniting an often fractious movement.

But his failure represents something more than the misfire of an overhyped media personality.

It illustrates the peculiar danger posed by the ongoing infatuation of supposed progressives with the so-called ‘radical centre’.

Macron’s international boosters had presented him as the figure to stem the rise of reactionary populism in Europe, someone who would combine market-based prosperity with liberal reforms.

When, in December 2017, Trump repudiated the Paris Climate Accords, Macron launched a slick social media campaign around the slogan ‘Make the planet great again’.

To that end, he proposed a so-called ‘eco tax’ on fuel, a levy intended, he explained, to discourage car use and to raise funds for climate change mitigation.

Symptomatically, though, he provided no alternative for working class drivers in the outer suburbs, small towns and rural areas without public transport.

The meteoric rise of the Yellow Vests reflected the widespread (and accurate) perception that the fuel tax constituted another attack by a government of the rich on some of the poorest people in the country.

In many ways, the tax represented the final straw for a population long sick of austerity.

The Macron bubble had, in fact, already burst well before the Yellow Vests took over the streets.

In September, Reuters reported his popularity at a then record low, with voters “ranging from conservative pensioners to low-income workers complain[ing]his policies mostly benefit companies and the rich”.

Yellow Vests protestors, pictured in Paris on December 1. (IMAGE: Prachatai, Flickr)

Nevertheless, for those of us watching from afar, it’s worth reflecting on how centrism brought the rhetoric of environmentalism directly into conflict with the aspirations of the people, in a manner that gave ammunition to the worst denialists.

Hasn’t every right-wing demagogue, from Donald Trump to Pauline Hanson, denounced climate change as a chatter class preoccupation imposed to shackle the working man?

Thus, rather than defeating the reactionary populists, Macron provided them, via his tax, with an effective talking point, a confirmation of the perspective they’ve long argued.

As he back-pedalled, the president acknowledged what he called the tension between ‘the end of the world’ and the ‘end of the month’.

The formulation was repeated by sympathetic commentators who declared that, in the future, environmental measures must be imposed gradually, so as to ease the pain of those living payday to payday. But that argument, too, accepts the underlying frame of the far right, positing workers as innately opposed to an environmentalism that, by definition, rendered them poorer and more miserable.

In reality, it’s climate change, not climate action, that necessarily threatens ordinary people, simply because the environmental crisis can no longer be disentangled from the broader crisis of a decaying capitalism.

The catastrophic weather associated with global warming will, for instance, overwhelmingly affect those already targeted by austerity – the individuals too poor to relocate or rebuild or use aircon or take other preventative measures.

The refugees from rising seas will be indistinguishable from the victims of war and poverty; the political ruptures provoked by drought, land degradation and other environmental disasters will blend into the general instability of the 21st century.

Yellow Vest protestors in Metz, Lorraine. (IMAGE: Dmitry Dzhus, Flickr)

The tension between climate activism and the working class emerges not from the nature of the problem but from the logic of centrist solutions, which always centre on neoliberal mechanisms such as carbon taxes.

But there’s no environmental reason to rely on the market to combat fossil fuels.

A government could, after all, forcibly acquire polluting industries at the stroke of the pen, much as almost every regime nationalised parts of the economy during the Second World War.


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To put it another way, the decarbonisation of the developed nations could be presented in a program designed to extend democratic control over industry, improve working conditions and materially improve the lives of the populace.

If it’s not – if climate action instead becomes a fig-leaf for austerity – that’s because of political choice rather than necessity.

Centrists pride themselves on their political acumen.

Carbon taxes and other market mechanisms might not be ideal, they say, but they reflect the horizon of the possible. 

We must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and it’s better to do something than nothing at all.

Macron’s example demonstrates the bankruptcy of that argument.

To their credit, the Yellow Vests seem to be moving to the left rather than to the right.

Nevertheless, the French situation will inspire right-wing populists everywhere to bring climate denial to the front of their agenda, adding to the difficulty of achieving genuine environmental change across Europe and elsewhere.

The fight for climate change depends on ordinary working people.

We have more to learn from the Yellow Vests and their militancy than we do from ‘sensible centrists’, no matter how much they drape themselves in green.

Now, more than ever, climate action must become radical.

Press link for more: New Matilda

We need a #GreenNewDeal #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #SystemChange not #ClimateChange #TheDrum Infinite growth on a finite planet is a fantasy

By Ruth Kaser

Ruth Kaser is a retired Roseburg teacher. A past board member of the Douglas County Global Warming Coalition.

When the Roseburg Library opens its doors, get your hands on “The Worst Hard Time” by Timothy Egan. It is page-turner nonfiction that follows some tough, hard-luck people through the Dust Bowl.

It is a story with surprising resonance today.

Australia in the grip of record drought.

My parents grew up during those years of the Depression and the Dust Bowl. My dad farmed in Colorado, a part of the country deeply impacted by that natural, economic and human disaster.

Maybe I wasn’t listening, or dad didn’t want to burden his kids with those stories, but I had no idea the scale of misery visited largely on the poorest, least-powerful people in this country in those years.

A compelling story that resonates today, it tells of hard working people trying to realize the American dream by plowing up the prairie and planting it in wheat — acre after acre of wheat.

These people, boxed out of opportunity in the East and Far West, are encouraged to come to the southern plains.

They are enticed to farm a dry buffalo grass prairie by a government that is at a minimum ignorant of how all that plowing will impact the cattlemen who already were there, the native people who had been promised this land seen as useless, the wildlife that had flourished in its harsh environment, and ultimately the farmers themselves, who would be ruined by their own success.

It is also the story of a government which belatedly took drastic but successful action to reclaim that now ruined land by creating soil protection districts, teaching new methods of farming and planting thousands of trees as wind breaks.

That government action was opposed by hate filled politicians who blamed Jews or immigrants or nature for the disaster.

It was opposed by honorable men who feared a federal government’s power. But those who recognized the scale and potential of this horror show were tenacious and dogged and won.

Had they not been, the misery would have been even worse, and this country may have had an economy that never recovered.

We now face a worldwide disaster in climate change of even greater size and potential to cause misery to hardworking people everywhere.

Once again it is largely the result of humans and of governments either ignorant of the price of complacency or willing to sacrifice the bulk of humanity for re-election, power or wealth.

We need leaders the equal of those who then took on all the forces that said “Do nothing,” or “Do less,” and through their courage and tenacity led this country out of the dark misery of the Dust Bowl.

We need to support all those young people calling for a Green New Deal to match the New Deal of the 1930s.

We need to have the grit of the Americans who lived through watching their children die of dust pneumonia.

Americans who lost everything, surviving on wild game and pickled tumble weeds, and kept going.

If they could suffer all that and not throw up their hands in despair so that we could enjoy all the opportunity and ease we have today, surely we can use less, drive less and vote more for leaders who recognize the catastrophe on the horizon.

Somewhere all three Roosevelt’s, FDR, Teddy and Eleanor, are rooting for us to do just that.

Press link for more: NR Today

‘I don’t see any evidence’: Minister @mattjcan rejects CEOs’ carbon price push #auspol #qldpol #ClimateStrike #StopAdani #ExtinctionRevolution #ClimateChange ignored #TheDrum

Growing demands from some of the nation’s biggest miners for the Morrison government to set a price on carbon have been emphatically rejected, as federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan insists “taxes ain’t the answer”.

Mr Canavan on Wednesday gave one of the government’s strongest dismissals yet of a wave of calls from heads of major resources companies including Rio Tinto, BHP and Woodside for more decisive political action to curb carbon emissions and help transition to renewable energy.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Matt Canavan.

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

In a reversal of its historical position against emissions pricing, oil and gas producer Woodside last month emerged as the latest resources company to demand a carbon price, with its chief executive, Peter Coleman, warning the consequence of inaction was “too great”.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Melbourne Mining Club event, Mr Canavan said he acknowledged that some major resources companies had signalled support for carbon pricing, but said, “I don’t see any evidence that such a policy approach would deliver”.

“I get along very well with Peter Coleman, and [BHP’s head of mining operations] Mike Henry was sitting next to me today … we can respectfully disagree about policy approaches,” he said. “I don’t see any evidence that such a policy approach would deliver.”

Carbon pricing calls from the business community have been compounding ever since the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report set out a series of radical changes needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and avoid some of the worst effects of climate change.

BHP, the world’s largest miner, said the report demonstrated the need for stronger climate action was more critical than ever, and should be a “rallying cry” to governments to cut global emissions.

“We believe there should be a price on carbon, implemented in a way that addresses competitiveness concerns and achieves lowest-cost emissions reductions,” BHP’s head of sustainability and climate change, Fiona Wild, said in October.

Mr Canavan on Wednesday said the Morrison government was “acting in accordance with the evidence and the science” on climate change, and was on course to beat Kyoto targets by a significant margin, showing its existing “direct” approach to climate change was succeeding.

“My view is that any proposed policy to tackle climate change must deliver lower energy costs over time, not higher,” he said. “If we deliver higher energy costs we will get a political reaction, just like you see in Paris, just like we’ve seen with the carbon tax. Taxes ain’t the answer – because taxes are ultimately going to find a constituency that’s opposed to them and they won’t last long.”

The evidence is clear Matt Canavan the Price on carbon worked

In his address to the mining club on Wednesday, Mr Canavan laid out an ambitious goal to stimulate a “new mining investment boom” that could  support economic growth and tens of thousands of jobs.

Taxes ain’t the answer – because taxes are ultimately going to find a constituency that’s opposed to them and they won’t last long.

Matt Canavan

Mr Canavan said the mining boom had “come of the boil” over the past five years but, fortunately for Australia, the property sector had returned to prosperity and helped plug the gap in the economy. But as conditions in the property marketed softened, Mr Canavan said, “we should again focus” on attracting greater mining investment.

According to figures from the Office of the Chief Economist, there were 250 major resources projects across the country in some stage of planning, representing $275 billion worth of investment.

Most of these projects were in the “feasible” stage, Mr Canavan said, but just 10 per cent, representing $30 billion, were in the “committed” stage.

“The challenge for Australia and for our policy is to support as many of these projects as possible to turn them into the committed stage and ultimately completed projects,” he said.

Press link for more: SMH

Coastal Warning: An Unwelcome Messenger on the Risks of Rising Seas #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateChange demand a #GreenNewDeal #TheDrum

Marine scientist Orrin Pilkey has long been cautioning about sea level rise and the folly of building and rebuilding along coastlines.

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about why an eventual retreat from oceanfront property on the U.S. coast is inevitable.

Flooded homes in Ocean County, New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images

For six decades, Orrin Pilkey has written, taught, and preached about the beauty of barrier islands and the extraordinary risk of building in coastal floodplains. In more than 40 books, 250 scientific papers and journal articles, and countless opinion pieces, Pilkey has fashioned a vision of coasts as dynamic, living landscapes, with their own personalities, quirks and flaws, “not unlike people,” he says. 

To the extent that America has a public conscience of its coasts, it just may be the voluble marine geologist, a short, hobbit-like figure who for decades wore an unruly gray beard like the wizard Gandalf. Pilkey warned about interfering with the natural processes of shorelines and questioned developers, politicians, and engineers who helped to fill the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts with trillions of dollars of vacation houses, investment properties, and businesses, often subsidized with generous federal tax dollars. 

Orrin Pilkey

Unsurprisingly, not everyone appreciated his message. Some beach town mayors viewed Pilkey as the Antichrist. “I hate him, hate him, hate him,” bellowed the mayor of one of the largest and richest beach towns in New Jersey — this after Pilkey observed that the shoreline there was rapidly eroding. In 1991, the town council of Folly Beach, South Carolina, even passed a resolution condemning Pilkey’s research as “insulting, uninformed, and radical.” Pilkey framed the resolution and hung it on his office wall.

Now 84, the former Duke University professor is still busy and has a new bookon sea level rise coming out next August. With growing concerns about sea level rise and another year of catastrophic hurricanes (2018’s Florence and Michael), it seemed like a good time to talk with Pilkey about how his ideas have evolved over time, and what he sees as the biggest challenges ahead in an age of climate change, warming oceans, torrential rain storms, and more violent hurricanes.

Yale Environment 360: Recent reports by the United Nations and the National Climate Assessment highlight the risks of crowding the nation’s shorelines with risky property, and raise the possibility that millions may be forced to retreat to higher ground as the seas rise and hurricanes do more damage. You’ve been warning about these threats for decades, dating back to 1969, when Hurricane Camille wrecked your parents’ Mississippi retirement house. Was that a turning point in your career? 

Orrin Pilkey: Yes, the loss of my parents’ house was the point at which I realized for the first time the immense power of the sea and the need to inform the world that building next to the shoreline is almost suicidal. The recent UN report and National Climate Assessment confirmed some of my worst fears about the future threats of flooding and storms. Yet people continue to build in risky places. In Waveland, Mississippi, where my parents retired to a house with 13 feet of elevation, I saw an example of a beachfront house that was destroyed by Hurricane Camille, a replacement house destroyed again by Hurricane Katrina (2005), and the vacant lot for sale for $80,000. A loud activist voice was needed. 

“The question that needed to be answered was…Which is more important, beaches or buildings along our ocean shores?”

e360: You grew up in Washington State and were a smoke jumper for a time. How did you go from fighting fires to studying the coasts and earning a PhD in marine geology?

Pilkey: I first saw the ocean in Puget Sound as a teenager and was fascinated by the waves, the sea smells, and the infinite vistas. That love of the ocean continues to this day. But like me, I believe that many marine scientists have grown up far from the sea. The late Bruce Heezen, the father of marine geology, for example, grew up as an Iowa farm boy. 

e360: You were one of the first coastal geologists to take a public stance about building in harm’s way, arguing that armoring the coasts with seawalls, rock groins, and other defenses was not sufficient. What was your thinking at the time? 

Pilkey: I was primarily concerned that these devices were being sold as the way to save the beautiful beach cottage communities. When they didn’t work, which was the usual case, the excuse used by the engineers was that the storm that destroyed the devices was unusually severe and unexpected. It was clear that beaches were being destroyed in order to save oceanfront houses, with seawalls and other structures interfering with the natural flow of sand and accelerating erosion, and that a voice expressing that was severely needed. The question that needed to be answered from the standpoint of Americans everywhere was: Which is more important, beaches or buildings along our ocean shores?

e360: In some ways we appear to be going back to the future at the coasts. Charleston and Miami are building seawalls and giant pumps. New York City is planning for a huge surge gate. And Texans are trying to get the federal government to pay for a Dutch-style gate across the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel, in Galveston. In your view, will these steps work and, if so, for how long?

Pilkey: Protection of major cities is different from the protection of much smaller resort communities on barrier islands. Stabilizing the shoreline, that is, holding it still, may be a reasonable priority for portions of big cities, but not so for smaller tourist developments, which depend on a good beach. Hard structures, such as seawalls and groins, almost always eventually destroy the beach. Surge gates depend on the blind luck that no superstorms will occur and overtop or destroy them, and also depend on a low rate of sea level rise. Their lifetime is likely to be only a decade or two. It is also likely that many other coastal cities will clamor for a surge gate once one city has one. Can we afford construction and maintenance of these large structures in view of their questionable success? The Dutch have a small country, much of it below sea level, and there is no place to escape the coming sea level rise. Therefore, they must use extreme engineering. But Americans have plenty of room to retreat.

“Government support of beach development encourages more and more development, leading to more storm damage.”

e360: Hurricanes by far account for the costliest natural disasters in the U.S., with over $500 billion in damage in recent years, and the likelihood of even more catastrophic storms in the future. Yet Americans keep building in harm’s way, often with the aid of generous federal subsidies, including flood insurance, disaster aid, and Army Corps of Engineers’ beach repairs. Don’t these subsidies distort the risks, shifting them from private homeowners to public taxpayers, and make it harder to encourage people to retreat to higher ground?

Pilkey: Unquestionably, government support of beach development encourages more and more development, leading to more and more storm damage. The mentality is why retreat when the government is right there to help you put things back the way they were before the storm.

e360: I am thinking about Dauphin Island, off the coast of Alabama, which has been repeatedly battered by hurricanes and has received tens of millions in federal aid. After Katrina, in 2005, a few dozen homeowners wanted the government to buy their homes, so they could move inland, but there was no money. Why don’t buyouts work at the coast?

Pilkey: The western half of Dauphin Island is the least suitable location for development along the entire U.S. Gulf of Mexico. North Topsail Beach in North Carolina, is similarly vulnerable. Buyouts on Dauphin Island would make sense because serious damage has occurred there five times since 1973, mostly on the west end where all of the vacation homes are. The government would have saved money in the long run if they had purchased the damaged properties, but the extreme high price of beachfront buildings prevents the buyout approach. It’s a shame. Buying these vulnerable properties could be the first step in managed retreat.

Dauphin Island, off the coast of Alabama, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. NOAA/NWS

e360: Increasingly, coastal communities are seeing regular flooding, largely as a result of rising seas. Miami has its King Tides. Areas of Norfolk, the Outer Banks and New Jersey now routinely flood in ordinary thunderstorms. What does your recent research tell us about what’s happening and what residents can expect?

Pilkey: The flooding that is occurring along the fringes of many American communities is called sunny-day flooding or nuisance flooding. These high tides correspond to spring tides but have been raised higher by sea level rise, and are the first concrete evidence of a rising sea. The highest of these nuisance floods are called King Tides, which occur three or four times a year. As sea level rises, nuisance flooding will penetrate further and further inland, threatening more property and resulting in more flood claims.

e360: The general scientific consensus is that we can expect about 3.5 feet of additional water by the end of the century. But if the ice sheets melt or sea level rise accelerates, we could see 6 to 8.5 feet, which would be catastrophic. By some estimates, up to a trillion dollars worth of coastal property could literally be under water. Will we likely see a mass migration from the coast at some point?

Pilkey: Millions of people will be fleeing drowned cities this century. Low-lying cities, such as Miami, Charleston, and New Orleans, and many barrier island communities, especially in Florida – Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach – are likely to produce huge numbers of evacuees. Miami alone will produce 4 million climate refugees, probably well before 2100. Currently, there are no plans to accommodate these refugees in inland cities. Even places with higher elevations will be at risk. Surrounding access roads at lower elevations may flood in storms or high tides and prevent residents from reaching businesses, schools, stores, and churches.

“Ghost towns are a likely element of our coasts by the end of this century. Complete loss of some communities is not impossible.”

e360: In a few coastal resorts we are beginning to see home buyers factor sea level rise and flood risks into the price of real estate. In Miami, condos at higher elevation carry a premium. How quickly do you see real estate prices at the coast sinking, and what impact do you expect that will have on future development? 

Pilkey: I believe that we are due for a crash in the price of beachfront property. No one knows exactly when this will occur, but it is likely within a decade or two. There are already small price reductions occurring in some places. Probably sinking prices will cause a dramatic reduction in new beachfront development nationwide. Ghost towns are a likely element of our coasts by the end of this century. Complete loss of some communities is not impossible. Edingsville Beach in South Carolina, a town of 60 houses on a barrier island, disappeared in a major hurricane in 1893. Along the Holderness Coast in England, 26 towns are under water on the Continental Shelf.

e360: If you owned an oceanfront home, say in New Jersey, what would you do?

Pilkey: If I owned a house in view of the sea, I would remember that along our coastal plains, if you can see the sea, the sea can see you. If I opted to stay, I would first investigate the evacuation routes. I would want to know what the biggest storm on record did to the coast there. Very likely, I would move my home well back from the shoreline. Better yet, I would probably look into the feasibility of moving it to the mainland. One other temporary useful alternative would be to raise the building to allow storm surge to flow underneath it. Most likely, however, I would sell.

Press link for more: E360 Yale

Is a #GreenNewDeal Possible Without a Revolution? #auspol #qldpol #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #StopAdani #TheDrum #ClimateChange The end of #Neoliberalism #COP24

By Eric Levitz

A Green New Deal is the name of our desire. Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Frederick Douglass wasn’t exaggerating: Power really does concede nothing without a demand — not even a plan to make a plan to prevent the powerful’s own grandkids from perishing in the end-times.

As of few weeks ago, congressional Democrats had no clear vision for how they intended to develop a clear vision for tackling climate change.

The party’s leading 2020 contenders had put forward ambitious policies on health care, housing, criminal justice, the racial wealth gap, child care, wage stagnation, corporate governance reform, and legal ganja — but virtually nothing on the small issue of how to ensure that human civilization outlives Barron Trump.

And then Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez arrived in Washington — and brought hundreds of activists from the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats along with her.

One month and two occupations of Nancy Pelosi’s office later, the “Green New Deal” has become the hottest idea in Democratic politics.

More than 20 members of Congress have called for a select committee dedicated to developing a draft bill of the Green New Deal.

Chuck Schumer has informed Donald Trump that Democrats will not support any infrastructure bill, unless it’s a green, New Deal-esque infrastructure bill. And the political press is chock-full of headlines like, “How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Green New Deal’ Might Help Save the Planet,” and “Is the Green New Deal the Only Way Forward?

All of which has led the boldly naïve to ask, “What, exactly, is a Green New Deal?”

The answer will depend on whom you ask.

To the median Democrat, a Green New Deal is just a fancy name for an infrastructure bill that includes significant investments in renewable energy, and climate resiliency.

To the progressive think tank Data for Progress, it’s a comprehensive plan for America to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, through a combination of massive public investment in renewables, smart grids, battery technology, and resiliency; turbocharged environmental regulations; and policies that promote urbanization, reforestation, wetland restoration, and soil sustainability — all designed with an eye toward achieving full employment, and advancing racial justice.

But to the American left’s most utopian reformists, the Green New Deal is shorthand for an ambition even more sweeping.

More precisely, it is a means of conveying their vision for radical change to a popular audience, by way of analogy.

Eighty years ago, the United States was faced with a malign force that threatened to eradicate the possibility of decent civilization.

We responded by entrusting our elected government to reorganize our economy, and concentrate our nation’s resources on nullifying the Axis threat.

In the process, America not only defeated fascism abroad, but consolidated a progressive transformation of its domestic political economy.

The war effort affirmed the public sector’s competence at directing economic activity, fostered unprecedented levels of social solidarity — and, in so doing, banished laissez-faire from the realm of respectable opinion.

In the course of a decade, ideas from the far-left fringe of American thought became pillars of Establishment consensus: Very serious people suddenly agreed that it was legitimate for the state to enforce collective bargaining rights, impose steeply progressive income taxes, administer redistributive social programs, subsidize home ownership, and promote full employment.

The New Deal ceased to be a single president’s ad hoc recovery program, and became a consensus economic model.

An unprecedented contraction in economic inequality ensued; the most prosperous middle-class in human history was born.

Many contemporary leftists believe this history is worth repeating: Just as the fight against fascism facilitated a democratic transition from laissez-faire to Keynesian liberalism, so the fight for climate sustainability can shepard America out of neoliberalism, and into ecofriendly, intersectional, democratic socialism.

“The last time we had a really major existential threat to this country was around World War II, and so we’ve been here before and we have a blueprint of doing this before” Ocasio-Cortez told supporters in October. “What we did was that we chose to mobilize our entire economy and industrialized our entire economy and we put hundreds of thousands if not millions of people to work” — a mobilization that the congresswoman-elect sees as “a potential path towards a more equitable economy with increased employment and widespread financial security for all.”

The climate journalist Kate Aronoff offers this portrait of the future Green New Dealers want:

IT’S THE SPRING of 2043, and Gina is graduating college with the rest of her class. She had a relatively stable childhood. Her parents availed themselves of some of the year of paid family leave they were entitled to, and after that she was dropped off at a free child care program.

Pre-K and K-12 were also free, of course, but so was her time at college, which she began after a year of public service, during which she spent six months restoring wetlands and another six volunteering at a day care much like the one she had gone to.

Now that she’s graduated, it’s time to think about what to do with her life. Without student debt, the options are broad. She also won’t have to worry about health insurance costs, since everyone is now eligible for Medicare. Like most people, she isn’t extraordinarily wealthy, so she can live in public, rent-controlled housing — not in the underfunded, neglected units we’re accustomed to seeing in the United States, but in one of any number of buildings that the country’s top architects have competed for the privilege to design, featuring lush green spaces, child care centers, and even bars and restaurants.

….For work, she trained to become a high-level engineer at a solar panel manufacturer, though some of her friends are going into nursing and teaching. All are well-paid, unionized positions, and are considered an essential part of the transition away from fossil fuels, updates about which are broadcast over the nightly news.

This vision is compelling — and, on a substantive level, so is Ocasio-Cortez’s historical analogy. In the long run, climate change surely poses as great a threat to the United States (and to liberal democratic governance) as the Nazis ever did. And a rational response to the climate threat quite clearly requires a drastic expansion of state-economic planning, and thus, an overhaul of the American political economy — so, while we’re renovating things, why not install that Nordic welfare state we’ve been eyeing, take down some of the hideous structures white supremacy built, and pare back that overgrown financial industry?

But when viewed through a strictly political lens, the analogy breaks down.

The Axis powers posed an immediate threat to many American capitalists, and their overseas investments — while U.S. victory in the war promised corporate America a bonanza. This self-interest dampened corporate resistance to FDR’s mobilization of the war economy, which itself massively increased the leverage of American labor. Securing global hegemony for American capital required victory, and victory required maintaining labor peace in a context of full employment. Unions could deliver the latter, and thus, were in a position to demand concessions. With that leverage, they secured “maintenance of membership” rules that allowed them to count all new employees at unionized plants as members, and immediately charge them dues; as a result, a record-high 35.5 percent of the nonagricultural labor force was unionized by 1945.

By contrast, climate change poses less of an immediate threat to America’s contemporary economic elites than the Green New Deal does.

The Koch Network fears the euthanasia of the fossil fuel industry — and confiscatory top tax rates — a lot more than rising sea levels.

Thus, corporate resistance to World War II–esque state-led mobilization to combat climate change (let alone, an avowedly socialist one) is certain to be immense. And given the conservative movement’s tightening grip over the federal judiciary, and red America’s increasingly disproportionate influence over state governments and the Senate, Green New Dealers would need to defeat near-unanimous corporate opposition on a playing field sharply tilted to their rivals’ advantage.

Further, replicating FDR’s model will take more than just winning power. Consolidating the New Deal order required the Democratic Party to maintain continuous control of the White House for two decades.

Considering the contemporary partisan alignment — and existence of presidential term limits — it seems unlikely that a pro-Green New Deal governing coalition would retain power long enough to turn core aspects of its radical agenda into pillars of a new bipartisan consensus.

None of this is to suggest that the Green New Deal isn’t a worthwhile ideal.

In an era replete with dystopias, and starved for futures to believe in, Aronoff’s (modest) utopia is a welcome intervention. Rather, my intention is merely to spark discussion of the following question: If persuading a couple dozen Democrats to support a select committee to draft a Green New Deal (which many of them understand as a little more than a climate-centric infrastructure stimulus) took repeatedly occupying Nancy Pelosi’s office, what will it take to institutionalize 100 percent renewable social democracy atop the ruins of the fossil fuel industry?

In lieu of an answer to that daunting query, let me offer a take on (what I believe to be) a related one.

Earlier this week, Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress asked (in so many words) why certain progressives were cheering the yellow vests protests in France.

And on one level, Tanden’s bafflement was justified. There’s little doubt that significant portions of the French protest movement are deeply reactionary, on questions of both climate policy and immigration. And regardless of the Marcon regime’s broader failings and provocations, the fact that an ambitious effort at carbon pricing was met with an insurrection is sure to weaken the hand of anyone pushing for similar policies in other countries.

And yet, the yellow vest protests didn’t just demonstrate that carbon taxes can provoke popular backlash (at least, when paired with austerity and tax breaks for the rich) — they also served as a reminder that it is still possible for ordinary people to change political realities within their governing institutions, by practicing politics outside of them. Grassroots, social-media-powered political organizing can fuel reactionary movements and genocides; but it can also trigger teachers’ strikes.

We’re going to need carbon taxes to get where Green New Dealers wish to take us. But we’ll also need a dash of mass civil disobedience (or at least, a million millennial march or two).

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