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Climate Change the hidden Catalyst #Auspol 

Climate change is taking an obvious physical toll on earth: from depleted farmland to the rise of toxic pollution to the degradation of long-stable ecosystems to the disappearance of biodiversity and endangered species. 

But looking beyond the physical, experts are also trying to sound the alarm about the quieter, more insidious effects of climate change: namely, that global warming is threatening the emotional health of humans worldwide. 
“We see a sense of despair that sets in as inevitably Mother Nature, who we think of as our nurturing force, tells us we’re not going to be able to survive the conditions she’s set for us,” Dr. Lise Van Susteran, a practicing psychiatrist and expert on the dangers of climate change on mental health, told CBS News. 
Dr. Van Susteran presented on this topic earlier this month at the Climate & Health Meeting in Atlanta, a conference that looked at climate change through the lens of public health. 

Former Vice President Al Gore organized the meeting when, days before President Trump’s inauguration, a long-planned Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) summit on the topic was abruptly cancelled.

Extreme weather, extreme trauma, extreme aggression

Study after study shows that climate change has led to an increased burden of psychological disease and injury worldwide, particularly in developing countries. 
What’s behind this link? 

For starters, climate change has normalized extreme weather events. 

These events, including floods, tornadoes, fires, drought, and sea level rise, are known to trigger mental health problems including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, the abuse of alcohol and drugs, and more.

Extreme weather has a particularly disturbing link to increased aggression. 

In 2013, researchers from Princeton University and the University of California-Berkeley found that even slight spikes in temperature and precipitation have increased the risk of personal violence and social upheaval throughout human history. 
 

The researchers found that just one standard-deviation shift in heat or rainfall increases the risk of a riot, civil war or ethnic conflict by an average of about 14 percent. A similarly sized uptick in heat or rain triggers a 4 percent increase in person-on-person violence like rape, murder and assault. 
With projections that the Earth may warm between three and four degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, the researchers warned that climate change is almost certainly the precursor to more human conflict in the near future.
Global warming is a particularly corrosive force in some farming economies, where overheating, unpredictable weather, new invasive species, and land losses are sinking communities into extreme poverty and creating a breeding ground for violent conflict.  
For millions, the effects of climate change are so severe that leaving home is the only option for survival.

 Thirty-two million people fled their homes because of extreme weather in 2012 alone, according to the United Nations. 

Escaping hazards ranging from mudslides to drought, climate refugees add more stress to an already dire refugee situation worldwide. According to the UN, the world is currently witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.
As climate refugees become more and more common, refugee laws lag behind: none of the existing international or regional refugees law mechanisms specifically addresses climate refugees, the UN says. 
Problems can affect anyone, anywhere

Climate change is triggering mental health problems beyond just developing countries and conflict zones. 
In cities, babies who are exposed in the uterus to higher levels of urban air pollutants (known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety and depression down the line, Columbia University researchers found in 2012. 

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are the chemicals come from burning fossil fuels. 

 

“Climate anxiety” can cripple individuals regardless of their geography, privilege, or vulnerability to the effects of climate change, Dr. Van Susteran said. Joining with other mental health professionals, she is one of the founders behind the Climate Psych Alliance, a new coalition trying to raise awareness about the links between climate change and clinical trauma. 
“You can see how desperate, angry, despairing people are,” she said. “It’s a legitimate response to what people see as inaction, intentional inaction… Whether we know it or not, whether you accept it or not, everyone experiences climate anxiety.”
Seen through a certain lens, inaction on global warming meets the criteria of child abuse for future generations, she said.
“When children believe their parents didn’t do something right, or did something wrong, they spend a whole lifetime feeling abandoned. What in the world are future generations going to think or feel when they know that action could have been taken?” 
Climate change: the hidden catalyst

In the age of an unstable climate, the link between natural disasters and psychological trauma is “under-examined, underestimated and not adequately monitored,” Italian researchers assessed in a January study in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. That research gap is particularly worrisome in Africa, German researchers said in a paper published last year. 
Climate change is often the hidden catalyst — the fuel behind war, displacement and collapsed economies that doesn’t make it into the headlines.
Syria’s civil war, for instance, is most frequently framed as an entrenched political conflict. Closer examination shows that’s far from the full story: in fact, the country’s six-year conflict is rooted in a devastating drought. Earnings depleted and Syrian farmers moved to overcrowded cities, where political corruption and public health crises helped foment bloody revolution. 
Climate change carries enormous political risk for the 21st century, Dr. Van Susteran warned. 
“In times of peril and scarcity, people regress,” she said. “They turn to what they perceive as strong leaders to protect them, and are willing to give up their freedoms and values in exchange for perceived security.”

Press link for more: cbsnews.com

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The Slow Confiscation of Everything #auspol 

The Slow Confiscation of Everything

By Laurie Penny 


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

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

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

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

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

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

What have you got to lose? 

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

Next week? 

Have you looked at the Dow Jones lately? 

Have you turned on the news? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 The world is on fire. 

Might as well build that pipeline. 

Might as well have that coffee.

But what world is on fire? 

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

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

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

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

Those changes are important. 

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

The past swept away along with the future. 

The deletion of collective memory. 

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

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

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

 Of course we are afraid. 

We were afraid of the Bomb. 

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

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

The first difference is that it’s definitely happening. 

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

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

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

Climate change is species collapse by a thousand cuts. 

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

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


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

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

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

There are no pyrotechnics. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s apocalypse will be unevenly distributed.

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

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

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

Money would no longer matter. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press link for more: The Baffler.com

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Carbon Capture & Storage (Clean Coal) is a myth. #auspol 

It’s a frigid day for Mississippi, and Barbara Correro’s oven-warmed kitchen is packed with women – neighbors who’ve gathered to share their opinions and dish the latest gossip. 

Correro does her community organizing the Southern way: a hearty meal, complete with gold-rimmed china plates and pitchers of sweet tea; there’s also coconut cake, pecan pie, and pralines.

It’s a small army of naysayers and rabble-rousers, and some feel a little concerned about giving me their names. (“This is where I’m getting all the oranges and eggs thrown at me in town,” said local resident Claudia Rowland with a nervous laugh.) 

Other locals I meet email me later to request anonymity. 

Now that the Kemper County landscape is so radically transformed, resistance can feel futile – and unpopular: There’s just no stopping it now.
Barbara Correro, in her kitchen.

Still, these locals have their doubts. 

Water, for instance, is on everyone’s mind: “Kemper County is known for its water,” Correro says. 

Mississippi Power’s property buts up against Chickasawhay Creek, which runs through her backyard.

 Chickasawhay Creek runs to Okatibbee Lake, a nearby reservoir where many Kemper County residents fish. 

Mississippi Power maintains that the plant is a “zero liquid discharge facility” and that “none of the water used to generate electricity will end up in surrounding streams and rivers.” 

That does not apply to rainwater that falls on site, however, and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has nevertheless granted the facility water discharge permits naming those very bodies of water.

“This permit is just an emergency permit for extraordinary situations,” says Harry Wilson, who does permitting for the MDEQ. 

“They’re a consumer of water — they don’t need to release water. 

I would consider the coal entity’s permits to be quite restrictive.” 

But nobody in the room believes that any time there’s a heavy rain, it won’t just wash the plant’s byproducts into the river. 

Nobody in the room believes that the hazardous chemicals to be isolated at the plant – sulfuric acid, anhydrous ammonia – are being effectively captured prior to combustion; they only know the chemicals are going to be manufactured and trucked along local roads, and that anhydrous ammonia is a key ingredient in both fertilizer and powerful homemade bombs. 

And many express misgivings about the land reclamation practices at the Red Hills lignite mine to the north, pointing to puny pine trees and desert-like conditions. 

“No matter how much topsoil they put back, it will be contaminated,” argues resident Ginger McKee.

The company has done little to assuage their fears.

 There were a handful of safety meetings and there were hearings in Jackson, but, says local resident Jennifer Pletcher, “It’s like, ‘Thank you very much, your three minutes are up, we appreciate you telling us how you feel, and see you later.’”

And none of this touches the broader concerns about the plant that have nothing to do with its impacts on local land, air, and water.

 Pletcher points out that Mississippi Power’s federal grants and tax write-offs only require it to attempt to build the carbon-capturing equipment. 

According to an analysis by carbon policy consulting group Element VI, both the DOE’s Clean Coal Power Initiative and IRS code section 48A, under which the plant has received $412 million in tax breaks, use vague language such as “intent to capture and geologically sequester,” “plans to capture and sequester,” and “includes equipment which separates and sequesters.” 

If the price of CO2 sales doesn’t exceed the cost of carbon capture, analysts argue, Southern Company has very little incentive to keep its promises; it only has to prove that it tried. (“We are both confident in and committed to our plan to capture 65 percent of CO2 produced by the plant,” a Mississippi Power representative wrote in an email.) 

It takes about 20 to 30 percent more coal, in the end, to power a coal plant that aims to clean up after itself.
Then, there’s what many critics – including oilman Thomas Blanton – call the project’s biggest irony: The carbon captured from the plant will be used to extract more fossil fuels.

 An integral part of the Kemper project’s financial plan is to sell its captured CO2 to companies that will use it to coax oil out of decades-old wells using a process called ” enhanced oil recovery.” 

According to Mississippi Power’s website, it has contracted with two companies, Denbury Resources and Midstream Treetop Services, to send the CO2 down a 61-mile pipeline. 

 The plan: “to find oil that was previously unreachable.”


So far, nearly every CCS power plant in the world bases its financial survival on this tactic. 

According to a Denbury Resources petroleum engineer, enhanced oil recovery can keep more CO2 under the ground than a barrel of oil will put back into the atmosphere.

 But even his calculation leaves slim margins: at best, about 65 percent of what’s gained from carbon storage is cancelled out by burning the additional oil.

Complicating all this, too, is the fact that capturing carbon requires energy, which means producing more carbon. 


It takes about 20 to 30 percent more coal, in the end, to power a coal plant that aims to clean up after itself.

Carbon dioxide should, theoretically, stay in the ground where it is “sequestered.” 

Geologists have been researching carbon storage for some time, and feel confident that CO2 can be safely stored in the tiny pores of sandy, salty rock that are tucked under impermeable shale formations thousands of feet underground.

 “The first concern people have is, ‘isn’t it all going to leak back out?’” says Curtis Oldenburg, a senior scientist and program lead for the Geologic Carbon Sequestration Program at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

 “But that’s really, really unlikely. 

If done properly, safe sites can be found and CO2 can be stored effectively and indefinitely – I have no doubt about that.”

Some researchers are nevertheless beginning to doubt: In January, geophysicists at MIT found that CO2 injected deep underground stays in a “more tenuous form” than previously thought, which means “it remains mobile and it can possibly return back to the atmosphere.”

The devil is in the details, Oldenburg concedes, particularly when those details are man-made.

 “The big concern when it comes to leakage is not the natural system,” he says. “It’s the wells.”

When it mixes with water, carbon dioxide is corrosive – it dissolves iron and steel.

 Industry giants such as Baker Hughes have developed corrosion inhibitors to prevent leaks and blowouts, but Thomas Blanton, who owns several oilfields, thinks it’s pointless.

 “All these applications leak,” he says. 

“Carbon dioxide sequestration in an oil field is science fiction standing squarely on the shoulders of a myth.”

In Mississippi, one of the largest fines the Department of Environmental Quality leveraged in the last decade was against Denbury Resources for an uncontrolled carbon dioxide blowout in 2011. 

The metal casing on an abandoned well in an oilfield near Yazoo City, about 40 miles north of Jackson, had been stripped, and the 2,000-foot hole spewed carbon dioxide, drilling mud, and other chemicals for 37 days.

 The CO2, heavier than air, settled in adjacent valleys and suffocated deer and other wildlife. 

Local neighborhoods were evacuated, several workers were sent to area hospitals, and Denbury placed a 24-hour ambulance on site while workers toiled to clean up the mess.

Denbury Resources has been responsible for a handful of similar blowouts in Louisiana and elsewhere in Mississippi.

 In 2013, carbon dioxide bubbled up in a water well near the Heidelberg oil field, where the Kemper facility’s CO2 is to be pumped. 

The field is in the center of town, and buts up against the fenceline at Heidelberg High School.

Press link for more: exp.grist.org

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Clean Coal is an OXYMORON #auspol 

‘Clean coal’ is an oxymoron


Rep. Ralph Watts’ Iowa View piece [Trump can bring back coal, Jan. 27] tries to support the continued use of coal by using Trump’s success to justify junk science and the status quo. 

The EPA and the open-minded can see the truth in climate change, and that we should make every effort to save our planet. 


It is ludicrous to save jobs for coal miners but in the process speed up climate change, which is caused by increasing levels of CO2 from the burning and processing of fossil fuels. 

The level of CO2 in our atmosphere has gone from 280 to 400 parts per million in my lifetime.

 That number had not been above 280 in 400,000 years.


I am a mechanical engineer and worked for our local utility on various projects at coal-fired power plants for 35 years. Clean coal is almost an oxymoron. 

To be completely pollution-free, the CO2 from burning coal would have to be captured and disposed of, and that is expensive and requires a lot of power and equipment.


Trump and his fellow travelers will set our environmental programs back more than the the four years he may be be in office. 

The effects of climate change are minor now, but the weather changes and possible anarchy 20 years from now won’t be nice. 

I’m glad I won’t be here to see it. 

What’s sad is it could be prevented.
— Tom Benge, Bettendorf

Press link for more: Desmoine Register

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Have we all gone coal crazy? #auspol 

By Charlotte Wood

Have we gone coal crazy?

Whist temperatures climbed above 47 degrees last week, our Treasurer brandished a lump of coal in Parliament, singing its praises before the chamber. 


As hundreds of bats dropped dead from their trees in the extreme heat, our Attorney General moved to amend the Native Title Act so that Traditional Owners can’t defend their land from monstrous mining projects like Adani’s mega coal mine.

 Whilst the NSW Fire Commissioner warned that weather conditions were worse than those that preceded the Black Saturday Fires, our Government suggested that Australia’s largest public pot of clean energy funding could be made available to fund coal. 

And as climate experts warn that global warming could reach catastrophic levels by the end of the century, Australia successfully bullied the $10 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to keep investing in coal.

This is just a snapshot of our Government’s regressive stance on climate change over the past fortnight alone. 

How on earth did we get where 90% of Australians expect our Government to take action on the greatest moral challenge of our time yet our politicians are instead doubling down on coal and backing away from climate action like their life depends on it?

One can’t help but think it might have something to do with the cosy relationship between our politicians and the big polluters. 

As Naomi Klein famously said: “it’s hard to tell where the Australian Government ends and the coal industry begins.”

 Indeed, the revolving door between Canberra and the mining industry is a well oiled one. 

It’s no coincidence that the Mineral’s Council is one of the closest buildings to Parliament House, nor that we have documented almost 200 incidences of revolving door syndrome, where a senior mining industry official pops up in a senior Minister or bureaucrat’s office, as the Minister or head of department themselves, or vice versa.


Think Minerals Council Policy Chief Sid Marris who was just appointed Turnbull’s climate energy advisor. Or how about the Deputy Director of the Liberal Party who took up the role of External Relations Director for coal seam gas company Metgasco or Australia’s lead negotiator for the Kyoto Protocol who became the Australian Coal Association. The list is endless.
With connections as cosy as this, it’s no surprise that for every dollar the fossil fuel industry gives our politicians, they get $2000 back in the form of taxpayer handouts. 

This is despite survey after survey showing that Australians don’t want their hard-earned cash propping up the polluters and would rather have it fund health, education and renewables.
Amidst this backdrop, it should come as no surprise that our Government would fight so hard to help Indian mining company Adani build what would be Australia’s largest new coal project in Queensland, even when it is patently clear that the mine will lock in runaway global warming, devastate the Great Barrier Reef and provide only a small fraction of the jobs offered by renewables at 21 times the price.
In reflecting upon all of this, the first analogy that springs to mind is that of a junkie. The harder the side-effects of their habit stare them in the face, the tighter the addiction grips. 
The fear of losing the high compels them to cling harder than ever to the very thing that will destroy not only them but everyone around them.
Just like a junkie, our Government and the coal industry are increasingly confronted with the impacts of their fossil fuel addiction.

 Last year, it was the die off of vaste swathes of the Great Barrier Reef, an ecosystem so precious it has come to define Australia’s natural beauty to the rest of the world, not to mention providing employment for almost 70,000 Australians. Last week it was freakish temperatures, so hot you could fry an egg on the bonnet of a car, so hot that hundreds of bats literally fried to death, and so hot it strained our hospitals and pushed our energy grid to the limits.

This was a heatwave fuelled by the choices our politicians make every day to ignore the science as they dig deep for the mining lobby and throw our collective fate to the increasingly ferocious wind. And yet, rather than respond to these resounding alarm bells, our politicians and the big polluters are instead praising louder and clinging harder to the black rocks, fumes and oily goo that is trashing our future.
Scientist’s worst predictions of what might come next from this attachment to fossil fuels are increasingly dire.

 Where 3-4 degrees of warming by the end of the century was once forecast, we’re now facing down the possibility of a world that is 7 degrees warmer than it is now. 

Such a world would be so unlike today’s that it doesn’t bear thinking about if you want to retain your mental health.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. As Australia’s politicians and coal barons are working hard to meet these terrifying milestones, the rest of the world is leaving us behind.
China, the world’s largest energy market, is moving rapidly away from fossil fuels, with plans to invest almost $500 billion in renewables by 2020. 


More than half of Latin America’s energy came from renewables in 2016. In Europe, almost 90% of newly installed energy last year came from renewables.

 And the vast continent that is Africa is increasingly turning to large-scale solar and wind projects to meet the needs of its rapidly growing population and to address crippling poverty, prompting predictions it could become a renewable energy superpower. Even across the pond, New Zealand already generates 80% of its energy from renewables.
But most importantly, this mass global energy shift is backed up by the support of millions of people around the world, taking action at every level. 

The global climate movement boasts millions of active supporters, who populate every facet of public life, from bureaucracies and banks to schools and streetsides. They span cities and regional towns, on every continent on earth. They are not divided by class, creed or colour, gender, age or postcode.
They have organised in their communities to move institutions worth $7 trillion AUD to divest from fossil fuels, turned out millions in the streets, halted multi-million dollar coal mines, gas hubs and oil pipelines, shut down fossil fuel company headquarters, won bold policies and legislation to cut pollution, and are building thousands of community-led clean energy solutions from the ground up. They are not funded by dirty cash like the big polluters but are instead driven by their vision of a better world and compassion for their fellow citizens and the natural beauty of this planet we call home.
And though these times are tough, the future will be made by people like these. They are too many in number, too strong in conviction for our politicians to ignore.
So as the right spreads hate and Australian politicians dig us deep into a climate mess, we should take solace from the fact that, behind the headlines, fake facts and radio shock jocks, millions of people are busily building a different future, fuelled by clean energy and kindness. 

The history books will remember not those who let themselves be lured by the highest fossil fuel bidder but those who, without fear or favour, rolled up their sleeves, laced up their boots and fought for a better world.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

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

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

By Dr Joe Romm 

Carbon pollution is destabilizing both the Arctic and Antarctic.

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

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

Climate Reanalyzer image via Washington Post.

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

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

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

CREDIT: NASA

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

Press link for more: Think Progress.org

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Rise Up For The Climate! #auspol 

Earth Week’s climate change plea

Photo: reb gro@Flickr

The University of Manchester’s Students’ Union launched Earth Week with a panel discussion, including campaigners Asad Rehman, from Friends of the Earth, and Martin Empson, from Campaign Against Climate Change.
Asad Rehman began with an enlightening speech about the effects of climate change on developing countries, and how intertwined the cause is with that of the #NoBanNoWall campaign. 

It is estimated that roughly 70,000 people die due to climate change related issues each year, but millions more are displaced from their homes and seek refuge elsewhere. 


It is estimated that 1 person every second is displaced from their homes as a result of drought, flood, or other climate change related disasters. 

So just as you have refugees of war, you have refugees of climate change.
What makes matters worse, is it is beyond their control. 

10 per cent of the richest countries are responsible for 50 per cent of the carbon emissions.

 Asad uses the analogy, “climate change is like the Titanic, and we’ve hit the proverbial iceberg. 

But it is the richer countries that are the people getting on the boats, whilst the poor and locked in the cabin.”
It is therefore not surprising that those who are feeling the effect of climate change-induced famine or other natural disasters are seeking refuge and help from us. 

But rather than villainising them as ‘economic migrants’, they need and deserve our legal protection.
It is because of this injustice that Asad stressed that we must rebuild a system of justice, and give a face to millions that don’t have a voice. 


We have a social responsibility to support causes such as Friends of the Earth and Campaign Against Climate Change to “build bridges, not walls”.

 Although we may not see the damage we cause, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Martin Empson elaborated that the way you can help such causes is to just get involved. 

Currently protests are everywhere and are certainly making the public’s voice heard, but he stressed that you should take part in all movements to do your bit. 

Or if that, sign a petition, write to your local MP or donate to make sure something is done.
Everyone wants to protest Trump right now, but we need to ensure the environmental and migration movements work together to positively reinforce each other and make their voices louder. 

By doing this, Martin claims we can “create a positive agenda that creates hope”.

Press link for more: Manunion.com

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Renewable Energy with or without #ClimateChange #auspol 

Renewable Energy With or Without Climate Change

By Steven Cohen

Executive Director, Columbia University’s Earth Institute

The new administration in Washington is dominated by fossil fuel interests and has resumed the mantra of “Drill, baby, drill!.” 

Deep sea drilling, mining in protected and sometimes fragile environments, mountaintop removal, fracking, and massive pipeline projects are all back on the table.

 It’s America first, fast, and fossil-fueled. 

Meanwhile, Germany goes solar, China is investing major resources in renewable energy, and homeowners all over America are saving big money with rooftop solar arrays.


Burning fossil fuels is bad for the environment.

 Extracting it, shipping it, and burning it all damage the planet. 

Since almost all human activity damages the planet though, the question is, how much?

 How irreversible? 

And can we achieve the same ends with less damage? 

This last question is one of the arguments for renewable energy.

 Our economic life is built on energy. 

It has made human labor less important, human brainpower more important, and made it possible for us to live lives our great-grandparents could not have imagined. 

The energy use is not going away; most people like the way they live.

 But our use of energy needs to be made more efficient and less destructive.
Even without environmental destruction such as ecosystem damage and climate change, renewable energy is clearly the next phase of human technological evolution. 

Just as we went from human-pulled carts to animal labor and from animals to fossil fuels, the next step is electric vehicles powered by renewable energy stored in high-tech batteries. 


Part of the argument for renewables is price. 

Even without damaging the environment, and even though the technology of fossil fuel extraction is advancing rapidly, fossil fuels are finite. 

That means over time they become less plentiful. 

That time may or may not come soon, but it will come. 

Demand will continue to rise but at some point supply will drop and prices will soar.

 The technology of extracting and storing energy from the sun will become cheaper over time. We have already seen this with computers and cell phones. The price of energy from the sun remains zero, and human ingenuity and the advance of technology is inevitable. 


Someone soon is going to solve the problem of generating and storing renewable energy. 

If done correctly, the leader of that effort will be the Bill Gates or Steve Jobs of the next generation.
The nation that develops renewable energy that is cheaper than and as reliable as fossil fuels will dominate the world economy. 

Reducing climate change and air pollution is a beneficial byproduct of this technology, but cheaper and more reliable energy is the main outcome. 


In the past century, America’s research universities and national laboratories, funded by the federal government and often by the military, have been an engine of technological innovation: transistors, semi-conductors, satellite communications, mini computers, GPS, the internet… The list is virtually endless.
America’s scientific research dominates because it is competitive but collaborative, creative, free, peer-reviewed, and because our immigration policy and quality of life has always allowed us to recruit the best scientists from all over the world. 

Every top science department in this country is global by birth. 

We need to maintain this research capability for our own sake and for the world’s. 

Other nations may have education systems that test better, but American education and lifestyles promote creativity and innovation. 

Today, some of our best minds are working on energy: nanotechnology applied to solar cells and batteries, wind energy, geothermal, carbon capture and storage, and innovations hard to explain to nonscientists like me.

 This research is largely funded by the federal government and its defunding would be an act of national economic suicide. 


It also requires recruitment and collaboration from nations all over the world. 

An “America First” approach is self-defeating here. 

The benefits of these new technologies will not be “shared” or given away, but sold by companies like Apple, Microsoft and Tesla—or at least the next decade’s versions of these companies.
It is unfortunate, outdated, and a little idiotic to allow energy policy to be dominated by the fossil fuel industry.

 It’s an industry with a fabulous present and a declining future.

 It’s not going away anytime soon, but then again, Kodak thought that people would always want to print all their photos; AT&T used to run the telegraphs; IBM stopped making laptop computers. 

Technology marches on, and companies, even great ones, are often bought, sold, transformed or destroyed.
Climate change requires renewable energy. 

But so do does an expanding economy highly dependent on inexpensive, reliable energy. 

Technological innovation and globalization has allowed America’s economy to grow while pollution is reduced. 

The damage from fossil fuels is global and so the urgency of its replacement should be apparent. 

But since it is clearly not apparent in our congress, there remains a good argument for making our energy system renewable, decentralized, computer-controlled, and updated for the 21st century. 


We need energy too much to leave it in the hands of companies that are more concerned with protecting their sunk costs than in updating our outmoded energy system.
To update our energy system we need to fund more basic and applied energy research. 

This is a difficult time for America’s research universities, as scientists fear that the federal grant support they compete for will either shrink or disappear. 

Science spending is a tiny proportion of the federal budget, but it has enormous multiplier effects throughout the economy. 

Students are trained to conduct research. 

Knowledge is developed that in many cases will eventually be commercialized. 

The benefits dramatically outweigh the costs. 

And the federal role cannot be replaced by companies focused on quick results or even private philanthropy. Even the largest private foundations in the world cannot reach the funding scale of the U.S. federal government. 

Better knowledge of the causes of climate change, better understanding of climate impacts and adaptation strategies, and the basic science that will lead to renewable energy breakthroughs all require federal funding.
In a political world where facts themselves have become open to dispute, peer-reviewed, competitive science holds out the hope of retaining and advancing the scientific base for economic development. 

Virtually all of the economic growth America has enjoyed over the past two centuries has been the direct result of technological innovation. 

Much of that innovation takes place in businesses that find ways to monetize the new knowledge and technologies that are developed in government-funded laboratories. The relationship between university and national lab basic research and commercial innovation is well known. 

Cutting that funding would be foolish.
If America sacrifices its scientific leadership and institutions because of the political views of scientists or out of an anti-intellectual bias, our ability to compete in the technological, global, brain-based economy will be impaired. 

Coupled with limits on immigration, defunding science will virtually guarantee that some other nation or nations will fill the vacuum we will leave behind. An America without well-funded, well-functioning research universities is a nation in decline.
Climate change is a test of the vibrancy of that science establishment. 

Will we continue to learn more about climate impacts and methods of adaptation built on risk assessments and impact models? 

Will we develop and implement the technologies needed to maintain economic growth while reducing greenhouse gases? In the past, we were able to take on these grand challenges, from polio and cancer treatment to building a global communications network.
While renewable energy will go a long way to addressing the climate change issue, its development does not require a concern for climate change. 

The argument for renewable energy is that it is the logical next phase of technological development.

 It is being held back in this country by fossil fuel subsidies, propaganda, and politics. That appears to have accelerated under our new president. 

But looking back to old industries and old energy technologies for economic growth is a losing strategy. Looking forward to a new, cleaner, and sustainable energy system is a much better idea, no matter what you think about climate models and climate science.
Follow Steven Cohen on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/StevenACohen

Press Link for more:Huffington Post

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Climate Change impact on mammals & birds ‘greatly under-estimated’ #auspol 

Climate change impact on mammals and birds ‘greatly under-estimated’
An international study published today involving University of Queensland research has found large numbers of threatened species have already been affected by climate change. 
Associate Professor James Watson of UQ’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Wildlife Conservation Society said the team of international researchers found alarming evidence of responses to recent climate changes in almost 700 birds and mammal species.
“There has been a massive under-reporting of these impacts,” he said.
“Only seven per cent of mammals and four per cent of birds that showed a negative response to climate change are currently considered ‘threatened by climate change and severe weather’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.”
Associate Professor Watson said the study reviewed the observed impacts of climate change on birds and mammals using a total of 130 studies, making it the most comprehensive assessment to date on how climate change has affected well-studied species.
“The results suggested it is likely that around half the threatened mammals (out of 873 species) and 23 per cent of threatened birds (out of 1272 species) have already responded negatively to climate change,” he said.
Lead author Michela Pacifici, of the Global Mammal Assessment Program at Sapienza University of Rome, said this implied that these species had a high probability of being negatively affected by future climatic changes.
Associate Professor Watson said the study clearly showed that the impact of climate change on mammals and birds had been greatly under-estimated and under-reported.



Flying foxes killed by heatwave last weekend in Chinchilla NSW
“This under-reporting is also very likely in less studied species groups. We need to greatly improve assessments of the impacts of climate change on all species right now,” he said.
“We need to communicate the impacts of climate change to the wider public and we need to ensure key decision-makers know significant change needs to happen now to stop species going extinct.
“Climate change is not a future threat anymore.”
The research, published in Nature Climate Change, involved researchers from UQ, Sapienza University of Rome, University College London, the Zoological Society of London, Birdlife International, the University of Cambridge, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Media: Associate Professor James Watson, james.watson@uq.edu.au, 0409 185 592.

Press link for more: University of Queensland

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Climate Change is a threat to Peace & Security #auspol 

by Halvard Buhaug
Despite rapid scientific progress, firm knowledge about the societal consequences of global warming remains limited.
•What are the implications of climate change for peace and security?
•Should we expect more wars and more political instability as the world heats up?

The real concerns linked to climate change are not about shrinking glaciers, eroding coastlines, or changes in precipitation patterns. Nor, strictly speaking, are they about coral bleaching, phenological changes, or species migration.
The primary grounds for concern relate to the consequences these physical changes will have for societal development and prosperity, including human well-being and physical security.
It is somewhat discomforting, then, that there is considerably deeper scientific understanding of the impacts humans have on the climate system than of the effects of climate change on human activity.
There is an obvious and articulated need for more systematic research into the societal consequences of global warming. In response to this need, PRIO has initiated a number of new research projects in recent years targeted specifically at the security implications of climate change. 

This article discusses some of these implications.
A young but growing field of research
Existing research into the empirical relationship between climate fluctuations and armed conflict has resulted in weak, and to some extent contradictory, findings. 

The Human Security chapter in the Fifth Assessment Report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summarizes the situation as follows: “Some of these [studies] find a weak relationship, some find no relationship, and collectively the research does not conclude that there is a strong positive relationship between warming and armed conflict.”
At the same time, this is a young and rapidly growing field of research. 

Until now, most published studies have tested only direct effects and have taken little account of variations in societies’ sensitivity to meteorological conditions. 

However, it seems unlikely that a given climatic shock, such as growing season drought, should have the same effect on communities across different ecological zones and socio-economic contexts, but this is an implicit assumption in many of the studies.
Price shocks have a certain effect
A new wave of more nuanced and plausible studies is now emerging.

 Some of these depart from testing the effects of climate change directly and instead consider indirect and conditional relationships, for example via adverse weather impacts on agricultural production or food prices.

Indeed, in the case of food-price shocks, we are beginning to see the contours of a systematic association with urban uprisings.

 Several studies suggest that rising food-prices contributed to triggering the initial waves of protest during the Arab Spring of 2011, and although the protests primarily evolved around political issues, high bread prices facilitated the mobilization of the masses.
That said, it is unclear what these findings can tell us about the effect of climate change, since extreme weather is only one – and seldom the most important – driver of consumer prices of food. Price shocks have a certain effect
Agricultural income shocks have little effect
So, what about income shocks caused by harvest loss?

 We know that poverty and weak economic development are key causes of many armed conflicts, and in developing countries farming and livestock husbandry are the largest modes of livelihood and significant sources of both government and household revenue.

 In 2015, we published a study that investigated the extent to which weather-induced variations in agricultural production explained outbreaks of political violence in Africa. 

As one would expect, harvest volumes were found to correlate strongly with levels of precipitation, especially in areas with steppe climates, such as the Sahel, where lack of rain results in significantly lower yields. 

However, our analysis lent little support to the hypothesis that a severe drop in agricultural income, in turn, increases the risk of conflict – not even in models that allowed the shock effect to vary with political and economic conditions.
Divergent findings on violence and resource scarcity

While drought and failing harvests thus seem to have a limited role in explaining outbreaks of conflict, there is more to suggest that weather patterns may affect dynamics of violence in areas of chronic instability, although the findings are not always consistent here either. 

For example, we see that levels of inter-group violence in Kenya drop in periods when resources are increasingly scarce, which is the opposite of what the traditional scarcity thesis suggests. 

At the same time, we have found that conflicts in rural India tend to escalate when income from farming falls.
How can we explain these contradictory findings?
Partly they may be due to systematic differences in cultural, socio-economic, and institutional conditions between the Kenyan and Indian countryside that affect the vulnerability to rapid environmental changes. 

Some of the differences in findings may also be because communal conflicts, such as those we find in Kenya, follow a different logic than conventional rebel-government fighting.
Drought is associated with an increased likelihood of prolonged violence
In a new study published in PNAS last fall, we conducted an actor-oriented analysis of the correlation between local drought and conflict involvement among rural groups in Asia and Africa since 1989.

 Drawing on high-resolution meteorological, ecological, and demographic data, we were able to measure drought severity specifically for the growing season for the dominant crop in each group’s agricultural areas, which we linked to georeferenced conflict event and actor data.

 Moreover, we allowed the estimated effect of drought on conflict to vary as a function of local agricultural activity as well as economic and ethno-political marginalization.

 A comprehensive set of statistical models indicated a weak and inconsistent effect of drought on the risk of a new conflict outbreak. 

However, and in line with the results from India, we found that drought is associated with an increased likelihood of prolonged violence, especially for politically excluded groups in the least developed countries. 

This finding is indicative of a reciprocal relationship; while drought may facilitate sustained resistance, violent conflict makes the local population more vulnerable to environmental changes, implying a vicious circle of economic marginalization and political instability.
An under-researched field
Although most states and societies have managed to adapt to recent environmental changes, there is no guarantee that this will continue
Although conflict research thus far has uncovered mostly weak and partially contradictory effects of climate variability on conflict, we are still far from being able to conclude about the relationship between nature and security. 

First, this is still an under-researched field with clear limitations, but also promising opportunities for future research. Second, we have only just begun to observe the physical effects of human-induced warming.

 Although most states and societies have managed to adapt to recent environmental changes, there is no guarantee that this will continue. 

Moreover, future climate changes are expected to have measurable impacts on economic activity well beyond the agricultural sector, as well as on settlement patterns and migration in many parts of the world, and thereby accentuate the effects of existing population growth and urbanization. 

These processes may have significant social and political consequences that societies hitherto have not experienced.
What now?
Given some assumptions, it is nonetheless possible to envisage how things may turn out in the future.

 In the first study of its kind, we simulated the incidence of civil war until the year 2100 along a set of shared socio-economic pathways (SSPs), which have been developed as a supplement to traditional climate change scenarios.

 There are three quantified aspects of development in these five scenarios that are of particular relevance to armed conflict risk: population growth; economic growth (GDP); and growth in human capital (education).

 The simulations revealed that SSP1 (‘sustainability’) and SSP5 (‘conventional development’) are associated with the lowest frequencies of conflict, since both are based on high growth in education and GDP and moderate population growth. 

The two pathways differ in that SSP1 assumes a high level of investment in renewable energy and technology and more sustainable food consumption, which is consistent with a low-emissions scenario. 

The most pessimistic socio-economic scenarios suggest a fragmented (SSP3) and unequal (SSP4) world with clear limitations on economic and social development, especially for the least developed countries with medium to high population growth.

Figure 2 shows the simulated results for the world as a whole and for various geographical regions. 

According to these models, the incidence of conflicts will remain low in Europe and North America, while there are major differences in conflict density between the scenarios for other regions.

 To be clear, these simulations are not intended to be actual predictions in the way that weather forecasts and early warning models are, but rather a tool for analyzing and visualizing implications for peace and security of a range of assumptions about climate change and societal development.
Armed conflicts are political failures
So, will climate change lead to more wars in the future?

 It is, of course, impossible to give a precise answer to this question. 

But based on what we know today, there is little reason to expect that wilder, wetter, drier and warmer weather or rising sea levels by themselves will become the most significant causes of conflict in the foreseeable future.

 Armed conflicts are more than anything else a symptom of political failure, both in terms of creating or allowing social conditions that provide fertile ground for widespread suffering and grievances (such as extreme poverty, inequality, oppression or corruption) and in terms of contributing to, or failing to prevent, social conflicts and protests escalating to the use of military violence.
There is no deterministic connection between drought, loss of livelihood, misery, and unrest
Although some have claimed that the severe drought in northern Syria and the resultant migration to cities in the years leading up to the protests in 2011 were significant causes of the civil war, there is no deterministic connection between drought, loss of livelihood, misery, and unrest. 

Fifty years of misgovernment, economic stagnation, and arbitrary exercise of government authority formed the basis for the Syrian popular uprising, and the preceding upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt led the Syrian opposition to believe that the same could be achieved in Syria.

 Was the drought a sufficient precondition for rebellion? 

Not at all. Was it a necessary ingredient in the cocktail of factors that motivated and enabled the first wave of protests? Probably not. 

On the other hand, Syria most likely would have avoided its current tragic situation if the al-Assad regime had responded to the initial demonstrations in a restrained and responsible manner.
Vulnerability is driven by non-climate-related factors
As the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report makes clear, climate change will contribute to intensifying existing challenges for vulnerable communities by inhibiting agricultural productivity, reducing access to freshwater, making heatwaves more intolerable, and threatening physical infrastructure. 

These trends imply relative, not absolute, impacts on societal development in the sense that other factors are held constant. In other words, things will get worse in the absence of countermeasures, innovation, and substitution.
 However, history has shown that it makes little sense to assume status quo when considering societal changes over a half century or longer.

 For example, despite a marked and worrying increase in the frequency of extreme weather events and simultaneous population growth in recent decades, there is no contemporaneous increase in the number of deaths caused by these natural disasters. The reason is obvious: societies have become more able to cope with extreme weather events through better preparedness and improved response.
The modal response to negative environmental changes blends cooperation, innovation, and peaceful conflict management – not violence and instability
While the impact of climatic events on violence and instability is modest, the significance of the reverse relationship should not be underestimated: Violent conflicts and wars are among the most important drivers of environmental vulnerability. 

Accordingly, an important challenge for future research will be to try to understand how extreme weather and environmental changes interact with policy formation, and to discover what institutional and socio-economic conditions are best suited to minimize challenges related to human-induced climate change. 

Likewise, it is useful to remind ourselves that the modal response to negative environmental changes blends cooperation, innovation, and peaceful conflict management – not violence and instability. 

This is another topic with great potential for more research that could help facilitate transfer of insights and experience about ‘what works’ to societies that traditionally have struggled to achieve efficient and peaceful management of resource competition and environmental stress.

Press link for more: Blogs.prio.org