NASA

If we burn all the coal we heat the planet by 8C #StopAdani

On our current trajectory, climate change is expected to intensify over the coming decades. 


If no policy actions are taken to restrict GHG emissions, expected warming would be on track for 8.1°F (4.5°C) by 2100. 

Strikingly, this amount of warming is actually less than would be expected if all currently known fossil fuel resources were consumed. 

Were this to occur, total future warming would be 14.5°F (8°C), fueled largely by the world’s vast coal resources.
The United States will not be insulated from a changing climate. 

If global emissions continue on their current path, average summer temperatures in 13 U.S. states and the District of Columbia would rise above 85°F (29.4°C) by the end of the 21st century, well above the 76 to 82°F (24 to 28°C) range experienced by these same states during the 1981–2010 period (Climate Prospectus n.d.). 

Climate change will lead to increased flooding, necessitating migration away from some low-lying areas; it will also lead to drought and heat-related damages (Ackerman and Stanton 2008).
There is no question that the United States has begun to make important progress on climate change. 

U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2016 were nearly 15 percent below their 2005 peak, marking the lowest level of emissions since 1992 (EIA 2017a). 

The drop was largely driven by recent reductions in the electric power sector, where inexpensive natural gas is displacing more carbon-intensive coal-fired generation and renewables like wind and solar are slowly gaining market share.


However, large challenges remain.

 Avoiding dangerous future climate change will require reductions in GHG emissions far greater than what have already been achieved.

 Though progress in reducing emissions associated with electric power provides cause for optimism, developments in other sectors are less encouraging.

 In particular, transportation recently surpassed electric power generation as the largest source of U.S. emissions and is projected to be a more important contributor in coming years. 

Transportation CO2 emissions have increased despite strengthened fuel efficiency standards that aim to reduce emissions, suggesting that a review of this policy is warranted.


Moreover, climate change is a global problem. 

Recent gains in the United States have been offset by rising emissions elsewhere in the world. 

In past decades, most global emissions originated in the developed nations of Europe and North America. 

However, new GHG emissions are increasingly generated by China, India, and other developing economies, where economic growth and improving living standards are highly dependent on access to reliable, affordable energy. 

Today, that largely means coal. 



As economic and population growth surges in these countries, GHG emissions will rise accordingly; as a result, global emissions will continue to rise despite stabilization in Europe and the United States.
Numerous technologies—from nuclear power and carbon capture and sequestration to cheaper renewables and energy storage—hold considerable promise for addressing the global climate challenge.

 Yet current economic conditions do not favor the large-scale implementation of these technologies in developed or developing countries. 

Rapidly deploying these solutions on a large scale would almost certainly require some combination of expanded research and development (R&D) investments and carbon pricing, the policy interventions recommended by economic theory.
It remains uncertain whether policy makers around the world will be successful in responding to the threat of climate change. 

The consensus view of the scientific community is that future warming should be limited to 3.6°F (2°C) (Jones, Sterman and Johnston 2016).

 Achieving that target would require much more dramatic actions than have been implemented globally, with global CO2 emissions falling to near zero by 2100.
The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution and The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago aim to support broadly shared economic growth. 

This jointly written document provides useful context for a discussion of the dangers to the economy posed by climate change and the policy tools for addressing those dangers. 

Given the immense threat that climate change represents, it is crucial that policy makers implement efficient solutions that minimize climate damages from our use of energy.

Press link for more: Brookings.edu

All Nations Agree to Restore Ocean Health #StopAdani 

All Nations Agree to Restore Ocean Health
By Suzanne Maxx
NEW YORK, New York, June 12, 2017 (ENS) – The 193 Member States of the United Nations agreed by consensus to a 14 point Call for Action that will begin the reversal of the decline of the ocean’s health at the conclusion of the first-ever United Nations Oceans Conference. The week-long conference, which closed Friday, addressed key topics for our common future with the oceans.
The Call for Action states, “We are particularly alarmed by the adverse impacts of climate change on the ocean, including the rise in ocean temperatures, ocean and coastal acidification, deoxygenation, sea-level rise, the decrease in polar ice coverage, coastal erosion and extreme weather events. 

We acknowledge the need to address the adverse impacts that impair the crucial ability of the ocean to act as climate regulator, source of marine biodiversity, and as key provider of food and nutrition, tourism and ecosystem services, and as an engine for sustainable economic development and growth. 

We recognise, in this regard, the particular importance of the Paris Agreement adopted under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.”
UN


The first-ever UN Oceans Conference in session, June 5, 2017 (Photo © Suzanne Maxx)

The oceans generate employment for over 200 million people, and are the primary source of protein for three billion people. 

The Earth is mostly water, and 97 percent of our planet’s water is in the oceans, which cover the majority of the planet’s surface.
At the opening of the conference President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji who co-organized this conference with support from Sweden, began with the unifying words, “We the people of the world…”
“In small island states like Fiji, trash will outweigh fish by 2050,” he told the 6,000 conference participants from governments, small island nations, civil societies, nongovernmental organizations, corporations and scientists.
Fijians set the stage using the native ceremonial kava ritual, and from opening to the closing the barriers that usually divide those in suits from bare chested or Hawaiian shirt-clad participants were broken down.
The barriers between those living island life with the primal intimacy of the ocean and nature, and those living in the concrete sea of urban areas seemed to melt away in a common concern for the health of the oceans.
fish on reef


Schooling fairy basslets on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest reef, now threatened by climate-induced coral bleaching and industrial development. 2007 (Photo by GreensMPs)

The Ocean Conference unpacked the Sustainable Development Goal (SGD) #14, to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine life.”
Goal 14’s targets were explored through concept papers and side events on: marine pollution, coastal ecosystems, ocean acidification, biodiversity, overfishing, marine preserves, illegal, fishing industry subsidies and the World Trade Organization, small scale artisanal fishing and economic benefits to Small Island Developing States, ocean energy, shipping, the Law of Area Boundaries of National Jurisdiction, and the Law of the Sea.
All of these topics play into the equation of ocean stewardship.
Thomson commented, “Human induced problems need human induced solutions.”
Many solutions were presented in a myriad of side events. Solutions ranged from innovative ways to clean up ocean plastics on a large scale, to re-planting coral at reef scale, to tracking whale migration using drones to better understand their needs.
A solutions panel was held every day during the conference in the media zone.
Runit Dome


Aerial view of the Runit Dome located in the crater created by the Cactus nuclear weapons test in 1958. Runit Island, Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands (Photo by U.S. Defense Special Weapons Agency)

One of the most challenging issues, the cutting of fishing subsidies, was left in the hands of the World Trade Organization.
The conference bustled with news of problems, like the Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands that is leaking radioactive nuclear waste into the South Pacific waters, a result of nuclear testing by the United States.
There were many solutions proposed such as the Seychelles no plastic law banning the use of plastic bags, bottles, plates and cutlery, and solutions from island regions who shared their approach to creating and policing Marine Protected Areas.
The Outcome document, and 1,328 Voluntary pledges registered as the conference closed create an arena for the words to take shape in actions.
The hashtag #SavetheOceans allowed the Oceans Conference to have a presence on social media.
Attention to the humanity’s role in the oceans crisis to become aware of the problems and learn about solutions was achieved. Instagram alone showed more than 56,000 ocean posts, a tide that changes the landscape of traditional media. The commitment to the SDG14 is open on-line, and all are encouraged to participate.
“Governments can’t do it alone” was stated throughout the conference by various prime ministers. This “Multi-stakeholder Partnerships” approach to allow governments to team up is a formula devised to make the UN’s efforts more effective.
It was noted in the Plenary that just half of the global military expenditure of governments would be enough to achieve all the Sustainable Development Goals.
Ocean icons like Dr. Sylvia Earle shared a panel with Trammell Crow. They offered their insights into the degradation of the oceans over the years.
Fabien Cousteau described the state of the oceans in which 90 percent of large fish species have disappeared due to overexploitation, 50 percent of corals have died where there is ever increasing acidification.
Necker Island based Sir Richard Branson explained, “While this gathering of the new [solutions] might be a tiny blip in the history of our planet, our task is to make it the world oceans day where we change our destiny.”
Thomson Maxx


UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson with ENS reporter Suzanne Maxx, June 9, 2017 (Photo by Tomas Pico / UN)

In an interview with ENS about the financial mechanisms needed to turn proposals into solutions, such as the Green Climate Fund, green bonds or carbon offsets, Thomson expressed optimism.
“It looks good,” he said. “I was in a meeting this morning with the four largest financial houses in the world actually, “The Economist” brought us together, and we were discussing that green bonds that were nonexistent not so long ago – zero. 

In 2013 there was 11 billion worth of green bonds issued. 

The bond market now is around 20 billion in bonds. The estimate for the bonds this years is 130 billion.”
He explained this exponential growth, saying, “It had to do with humanity carrying on the way they are going, ignoring sustainability, and that has changed.” 

Ocean-related bonds are on the horizon, he said. “If that is good for green bonds, then it has to be good for blue bonds.”
Brought up with no electricity until the age of 26, Thomson said, “If you are off grid, you’ve got so many renewable energy resources. In fact, if you’re off-grid it is preferable to go with all the renewable energy options, especially with the ocean.”
“There is a huge amount of off-the-grid action for rural islands, and the ocean will provide energy as well. In Fiji, we don’t have the technology or financial resources for that, but we are interested in partnerships [to generate energy] with tidal, wave action, and the gradient of ocean temperature differences.”
“I am confident that with the broad support from member states and other stakeholders with concrete actions we can save our oceans,” Thomson said.
Thomson explained, “That is basically our work plan going forward, not just us, but everybody. The next step is for the General Assembly to endorse, at its 71st session, the call for action as adopted by the Conference.”

Press link for more: ens-newswire.com

No New Fossil Fuel Development! #StopAdani #auspol 

The Sky’s Limit: No New Fossil Fuel Development
An open letter to world leaders:
One year ago in Paris, the world came together to finalize a new agreement to address the climate crisis.


 Together, countries committed to “[holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

Now, the Paris Agreement has entered into force and the time has come to fulfill the commitments made within it.
Climate impacts are already here today, as seen in the melting of the Arctic, coral bleaching in the Pacific, droughts in Africa, stronger and more frequent hurricanes and typhoons in our oceans, and new challenges day by day the world over. 



The commitment to pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5˚C was an important new goal, especially for vulnerable countries and communities who are already bearing the brunt of these ever-growing impacts of the climate crisis. 

But with this necessary ambition comes responsibility and challenge.


Analysis has now shown that the carbon embedded in existing fossil fuel production, if allowed to run its course, would take us beyond the globally agreed goals of limiting warming to well below 2˚C and pursuing efforts to limit to 1.5˚C.
The global carbon budgets associated with either temperature limit will be exhausted with current fossil fuel projects, and in fact some currently-operating fossil fuel projects will need to be retired early in order to have appropriately high chances of staying below even the 2˚C limit, let alone 1.5˚C.


With this new understanding, the challenge has never been clearer.

 To live up to the goals set forth by the Paris Agreement and to safeguard our climate for this and future generations, fossil fuel production must enter a managed decline immediately, and renewable energy must be advanced to swiftly take its place in the context of a just transition.


Therefore, we, as over 400 civil society organizations from more than 60 countries, representing tens of millions around the world, call on world leaders to put an immediate halt to new fossil fuel development and pursue a just transition to renewable energy with a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry.

We can do this.

 With a managed decline to wind down fossil fuel production that ensures a smooth and just transition to a safer energy economy, we can protect workers, protect communities, bring energy access to the poor, and ramp up renewable energy as quickly as we put an end to fossil fuels.


Since rich countries have a greater historic responsibility to act, they should provide support to poorer countries to help expand non-carbon energy and drive economic development as part of their fair share of global action, with a focus on meeting the urgent priority of providing universal access to energy. 

The good news is that renewable energy can — as it must — fill in the gap and power a clean energy future.
The world can either start now in pursuing a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry and a just transition to renewable energy, or it can delay action and bring about economic upheaval and climate chaos. 

The choice is clear.
The first step in this effort is a simple one: Stop digging. 

No additional fossil fuel development, no exploration for new fossil fuels, no expansion of fossil fuel projects. 

We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
Signed,

Press link for more: Keep it in the ground.org

Climate Change is raising likelyhood of global conflict. #auspol #StopAdani 

Each year the intelligence community puts together a “Worldwide Threat Assessment” report, and it inevitably scares the hell out of Congress and the public by detailing all the dangers facing the U.S.

 (Hint: there are a lot of them.)
This year’s report, published Thursday and discussed at a congressional hearing, makes for particularly disquieting reading.
While it focuses on the increasing danger that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program poses as well as cyberterrorism threats, one environmental concern stands out on the list: climate change.  

According to the new report, delivered to the Senate Intelligence Committee by Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence (DNI), warns that climate change is raising the likelihood of instability and conflict around the world.
This is surprising given the Trump administration’s open hostility to climate science findings. 
“The trend toward a warming climate is forecast to continue in 2017,” the report states, noting that 2016 was the hottest year on record worldwide. 

Climate scientists have firmly tied this to human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases, though the report does not make that link.


 
“This warming is projected to fuel more intense and frequent extreme weather events that will be distributed unequally in time and geography. 

Countries with large populations in coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to tropical weather events and storm surges, especially in Asia and Africa,” the report states.
The report also cites worsening air pollution in urban areas around the globe, potential water resources conflicts in places like the Middle East.

 Interestingly, the intelligence report also says that biodiversity losses from pollution, overexploitation and other causes is “disrupting ecosystems that support life, including humans.” 

“The rate of species loss worldwide Is estimated at 100 to 1,000 times higher than the natural background extinction rate, according to peer-reviewed scientific literature,” the report states.
The findings in this report are surprising considering the Trump administration’s hostility to mainstream climate science findings and policies aimed at cutting emissions of greenhouse gases that are warming the planet. 

Some agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Interior Department, have gone so far as to take down pages devoted to peer-reviewed scientific reports on climate change.
For example, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has said he does not believe that carbon dioxide is the main driver of global warming. 

This view goes against thousands of peer reviewed climate studies, as well as findings from his own agency. 

However, there is a caveat in the intelligence community’s assessment that lets Coats avoid being accused of aligning himself with the administration’s critics in the environmental community. 
“We assess national security Implications of climate change but do not adjudicate the science of climate change,” the report states. 

In other words, “We’re just telling you what’s happening, not why it’s happening.”
 
“In assessing these Implications, we rely on US government-coordinated scientific reports, peer reviewed literature, and reports produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which Is the leading International body responsible for assessing the science related to climate change.”
Past intelligence and Defense Department assessments have also warned of potentially severe blowback from global warming. For example, a 2016 report from the National Intelligence Council (NIC), which advises the DNI, found that extreme weather events have growing implications for humans, which “suggest[s] that climate-change related disruptions are well underway.”
That report also stated that climate change will cause growing security risks for the U.S. during the next several years. It was the first major intelligence review to cast climate change as a present-day security challenge, rather than a distant, far-off threat. 
The military is already experiencing global warming impacts at its bases, particularly the Navy, which is dealing with sea level rise at its facilities. 

Press link for more: Mashable.com

The Glaciers Are Going. #StopAdani #Keepitintheground #auspol #qldpol 

The Waggonwaybreen glacier in Svalbard. Photo: Andreas Weith

As can be seen above, the Waggonwaybreen glacier in Svalbard, Norway, has retreated substantially since 1900. Svalbard’s glaciers are not only retreating, they are also losing about two feet of their thickness each year. 

Glaciers around the world have retreated at unprecedented rates and some have disappeared altogether. The melting of glaciers will affect people around the world, their drinking water supplies, water needed to grow food and supply energy, as well as global sea levels.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that around the world glaciers (excluding the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets) will decrease in volume between 15 to 55 percent by 2100 even if we are able to limit global warming to under 2˚C; they could shrink up to 85 percent if warming increases much more.
In Earth’s history, there have been at least five major ice ages, when long-term cooling of the planet resulted in the expansion of ice sheets and glaciers. 

Past ice ages have been naturally set off by a numerous factors, most importantly, changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun (Milankovitch cycles) and shifting tectonic plate movements that affect wind and ocean currents.

 The mixture of gases in the atmosphere (such as carbon dioxide and methane) as well as solar and volcanic activity are also contributing factors.

 Today we are in a warm interval—an interglacial—between ice ages.

The Aletsch Glacier is the largest glacier in the Swiss Alps.

A glacier is a large accumulation of ice, snow, rock, sediment and water on land that is moving down slope under its own weight and gravity. 

Today 10 percent of Earth’s land is covered by glaciers (including Antarctica and Greenland). 

They contain 75 percent of the planet’s freshwater, storing it as ice during the cold season and releasing some of it as meltwater during summer months.

 Runoff from glaciers cools the streams below, providing habitat for plants and animals during dry periods.
More than one-sixth of the world’s population, particularly in China, India and other Asian countries, live in the basins of glacier-fed rivers and depend on them for drinking and irrigation water.
A glacier’s mass balance determines if it will advance or retreat. 

If the amount of snow and ice accumulated during winter is less than the melting that takes place in summer, the glacier is considered to have a negative mass balance and retreats. 

Today, nearly all glaciers have a negative mass balance due to global warming and changes in precipitation.


New Zealand has over 3,000 glaciers.

In New Zealand’s Southern Alps, Joerg Schaefer, a research professor at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and his colleagues chemically analyzed elements in rocks that were left uncovered when glaciers retreated 20,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age. 

They figured out how long the rocks had been exposed, then reconstructed local glacial records and compared them to other records such as Antarctic ice cores, which reveal changing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
“Glaciers seem to follow closely what happens with the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration,” said Schaefer. “Throughout our glacier chronologies, whenever the CO2 started to rise, the glaciers in New Zealand started to retreat.

 So we think that proves that there’s a very close link between greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, and glaciers. 

Which is actually very bad news, because we’re pumping so much CO2 in the air.”
Earth is actually due for a natural new ice age, explained Schaefer. 

Typically the interglacial between ice ages lasts 10,000 to 12,000 years, and we are already 12,000 years into this one.

 A natural cooling cycle should be starting, but even if it does, said Schaefer, we will not see evidence of it because humans have so altered conditions on the planet by burning fossil fuels.
Schaefer has been working on a global survey of mountain glaciers, comparing glacier retreat over the last 150 years to how glaciers behaved in the past, particularly at the end of the last ice age. “That [the transition out of the last ice age] was one of the most dramatic geological and natural changes that the Earth has seen,” he said.
“The rate of change that we see in the moment, recorded most directly and visibly by mountain glaciers, is way, way, way faster than it was at the end of the ice age,” said Schaefer. “What we have seen over the last 150 years, all over the planet, is that these mountain glaciers record a retreat corresponding to 1˚ to 1.5˚C warming over 150 years, with the biggest part of that retreat happening over the last decade. The speed with which these glaciers are retreating has exponentially speeded up…and if you compare the rate of change, nothing ever happened like that in the geological past.”


The darkened ice of the Athabasca Glacier in Canada

Humans are exacerbating glacial melt because burning fossil fuels not only releases CO2, it also emits black carbon, a tiny component of air pollution that can absorb one million times more solar energy than CO2. When black carbon falls to earth with precipitation, it darkens the snow and ice, reduces their albedo (the reflecting power of a surface), warms the snow, and speeds up melting.
Marco Tedesco, a research professor at Lamont-Doherty, is researching the processes driving glacial melt in Greenland, including albedo reduction, bare ice exposure after snow layers melt away and atmospheric circulation patterns. He is studying “feedback” mechanisms such as how melting reduces albedo and increases moisture in the air, which also warms the air. “We understand these processes,” said Tedesco. “But we don’t yet know how they interact and how much they amplify each other over time to accelerate the pace of melting. Today there are more data available, more observations from space and the ground, and better and faster models. These can help us improve our estimates and better project Greenland’s contribution to sea level rise.”
“But we know things are going in one direction and will be getting much faster in this direction. There will be more warming and more melt. All the things that could slow the melting down, like the cooling of the Arctic or more accumulation of snow in summer, are not going to happen. And even if they did, they would be short, just a bump in the road.”
Grinnell Glacier, 2009 Glacier National Park


Grinnell Glacier, 2009Glacier National Park

Here are a few examples of the glaciers we are losing.
Montana’s Glacier National Park had 150 glaciers in 1850; today there are 25.

The greater Himalayas, which contain nearly one-third of Earth’s non-polar ice, have warmed much more than the global average over the last 100 years; between 1950 and 2000, 82 percent of glaciers in western China shrank.

The Aletsch Glacier, the largest in Switzerland, retreated 1.7 miles between 1880 and 2009.

By 2000, the Furtwangler Glacier on top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania was half the size it was in 1976.

If the melting continues over the next few decades, some of the world’s most populous areas could run out of water during the dry season. For awhile, the increase in flow from melting ice and snow during the dry season will seem like a boon, but in the future, the downstream flow’s variability will increase and eventually flow could disappear altogether, impacting food production, biodiversity and economic growth.
Communities around the world rely on glacial water that has been dammed for the production of hydropower. Retreating glaciers will increase the variability of flow or decrease it, which will affect power generation.
The Rhone Glacier, 1900.


The Rhone Glacier, 1900.

France gets about 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power plants, half of which are on the Rhone River, fed by the rapidly retreating Rhone Glacier. Over the last 15 years, the Rhone River twice became so hot and water levels were so low in summer that nuclear power plants had to be shut down.
As a result of glacial melting, glacial lake outburst floods are increasing. As glaciers shrink, meltwater can form a lake that is dammed by glacial debris (ice or soil and rock) at the tongue of the glacier.
Glacial lakes in Bhutan


Glacial lakes in Bhutan

But those dams can be unstable and collapse under the pressure of more melting. Peru has experienced some of the most destructive glacial lake outburst floods; between 1941 and 1950, three such floods killed 6,000 people.
Glacial retreat can destablilize slopes, which can lead to landslides, and warming temperatures can trigger avalanches. In July 2016, two avalanches occurred in Tibet, one of which killed nine people. In October of the same year, a huge portion of the Kolka Glacier on the Russia-Georgia border broke off and, hastened by the meltwater underneath, created an avalanche that hurtled down the mountain at 150 miles per hour, killing over 100 people in the town below. The onrush lasted 7 minutes.
If all the world’s glacial ice were to melt, sea levels would rise 265 feet as the meltwater flowed into rivers and ended up in the ocean. Most sea level rise would come from Antarctica and Greenland in the Arctic, not mountain glaciers, which would contribute only about 20 inches.
Recent research about melting glaciers in the Arctic (which has been warming twice as fast as the rest of the world for the last half-century) and Antarctica suggest that the low-end projections for sea level rise made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are too low.
Miami, FL is already dealing with sea level rise


Miami, FL is already dealing with sea level rise

In its most recent report, the Panel projected that if we are able to reduce emissions significantly, sea levels could rise 11 to 24 inches by 2100; if emissions remain high, we could see a rise of 20 to 38 inches. Sea level rise will cause coastal flooding, erosion, damage to infrastructure and buildings, ecosystem changes and compromised drinking water sources.
The freshwater from glacial melt flowing into the oceans has an impact not only on sea levels, but also on ocean acidification, biological productivity and weather patterns. The amount of freshwater in the upper layers of the Arctic Ocean, which has increased 11 percent since its 1980-2000 average, could also affect circulation in the Nordic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Global Ocean Conveyor 


The Global Ocean Conveyor

The influx of freshwater could potentially disrupt or slow down the “Global Ocean Conveyer,” the regular cycling of cold water south and warm water north through the Atlantic Ocean that plays a huge part in the climate of North America and Western Europe, as well as in ocean nutrient and carbon dioxide cycles.
Pollutants like pesticides, heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants and PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, have made their way to the Arctic and Antarctica on ocean and wind currents. 

When the glaciers melt, pollutants once trapped in ice are released and can enter rivers, oceans and food webs where they bioaccumulate in marine creatures; those at the top of the food chain, like polar bears and humans, will be affected the most.
Researchers have also found living bacteria and microbes in 420,000-year-old ice cores and revived them. As glaciers melt, masses of microbes, some 750,000 years old, are released from the ice. 

When they reach the ocean, they could affect ocean chemistry and marine ecosystems, with unpredictable effects. Scientific American reported, “…the biomass of microbial cells in and beneath the ice sheet may amount to more than 1,000 times that of all the humans on Earth.”
Ongoing research is key to understanding the melting glaciers and their potential impacts on safety, water supplies, energy production and economies. “The important question for the future is going to be, when are problems going to arise as a result of the changes in glaciers,” said Tedesco. “What are the things we can tackle, understanding the time line…I’d want to know before the Netherlands is under water so that policy adjustments can be made to protect people. And projections for the impacts on cities are going to be different from the impacts on food production or on GDP.”
“We need help from political and social scientists…we have to transfer the information to policy makers to prepare for this,” said Schaefer. “We need the five- to 10-year perspective—that is our mission here at Lamont-Doherty, to preach that to everybody.”
For the latest news on glaciers:
Press link for more: blogs.ei.columbia.edu

Humans are changing the climate #auspol 

Detailed look at the global warming ‘hiatus’ again confirms that humans are changing the climateGlobal warming ‘hiatus’ explained

A new analysis in the journal Nature shows that the global warming “hiatus” may not have been quite what it seemed.

By Amina Khan

 Contact Reporter Environmental Science Climate Change Scientific Research

For years, the global warming ‘hiatus’ from 1998 to 2012 puzzled scientists and fueled skeptics looking to cast doubt on the very idea that Earth’s temperature has been on the rise, largely because of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide — and that significant policy changes would need to be made to keep that rise in check.
Recent papers have begun to chip away at the idea of the slowdown. 

Now, a new analysis in the journal Nature brings together many of those arguments to show that the hiatus may not have been quite what it seemed.
“A combination of changes in forcing, uptake of heat by the oceans, natural variability and incomplete observational coverage reconciles models and data,” the researchers from the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Switzerland wrote. “Combined with stronger recent warming trends in newer datasets, we are now more confident than ever that human influence is dominant in long-term warming.”


Below, we sort through a few of the issues with the hiatus — and the lessons scientists learned from it.
What was the hiatus, anyway?
That’s a good question. 

Part of the problem is that there doesn’t seem to be an agreed-upon definition. 

The hiatus has been defined in three main ways in the scientific literature:
A period in which there is no significant positive trend in global mean surface temperatures (when it’s essentially flat)

A shorter-term slowdown in rising temperatures compared to the preceding long-term warming trend

The rate of increase in temperatures is lower than scientific models predicted

So whether you call it the ‘hiatus’ or the ‘pause,’ both are arguably misnomers, depending on which meaning is used. 

After all, in the latter two definitions, temperatures are generally still rising — just not as much as expected. 

And depending on which definition you use, different models will be more accurate than others.
“All three of those are very different arguments …. so it often makes it fairly confusing to talk about this hiatus discussion,” said Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth and PhD student at UC Berkeley who was not involved in the paper.
“The only sort of ‘true’ definition of a hiatus would be if global warming actually stopped,” he added, “and there’s no evidence in any operational datasets today that that happened.”
Regardless of the definition, to whatever the extent the global warming slowdown existed, it’s definitely over now. 


Independent analyses by NASA and NOAA show that 2016 was the hottest year on record, marking the third year of record-breaking heat in a row. 

The causes remain linked to human produced greenhouse gas emissions.


So the hiatus is over? 

Then why do scientists care?
Scientists had to care because everyone else seemed to. 

The hiatus, which is marked from 1998 to 2012, was generally treated by climate scientists as a reflection of short-term variations that didn’t affect long-term trends.
“In leaked drafts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group I (WG1) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), the global warming hiatus was considered to be consistent with natural variability, and hence not in need of a detailed explanation,” the study authors wrote. “At the time of the first draft, there was almost no literature on the hiatus to be assessed anyway. Scientists knew from observations and models that global temperatures fluctuate on timescales of years to decades.”
But the deviation from expectations was seized upon by the media as well as global warming skeptics, the study authors noted, turning it into a political football around the time that major policy decisions about how to deal with climate change were under discussion.
“The interest of the media and public grew, and groups with particular interests used the case to question the trust in both climate science and the use of climate models,” the authors wrote.
(The Times has reported on fossil fuel companies’ support of climate skepticism.)
Those short-term trends may be considered relatively minor fluctuations — but they matter on human timescales, and they’re still poorly understood.
“Now, in 2017 … after a wave of scientific publications and public debate, and with GMSTs [global mean surface air temperatures] setting new records again, it is time to take stock of what can be learned from the hiatus,” the authors wrote.
It is time to take stock of what can be learned from the hiatus.

— Authors of the Nature study

So what did this new analysis find?
This analysis in Nature pulls together many findings in the wake of several research efforts looking to address the hiatus conundrum. Some argued that global warming predictions didn’t match the actual data during that time period because they didn’t include complex short-term climate factors that are poorly understood. Others have argued that the hiatus didn’t really exist; that it was a problem with the instrumentation or the data analysis, for example.
The new Nature paper essentially works through several examples under both of these explanations and finds that it’s a combination of the two. For example:
Regions in the Arctic, where global warming is having marked effects, are actually sparsely monitored, and different analyses try to extrapolate from that limited data set in different ways.

The definitions of a pause are faulty, especially when you consider that “the data continue to show significant warming trends when the trend length exceeds 16 years,” James Risbey and Stephan Lewandowsky, who were not involved in the paper, wrote in a commentary on it. (Risbey is with the Oceans and Atmosphere Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia; Lewandowsky is from the University of Bristol.)

The observed global mean temperature data takes into account both ocean and surface air temperatures, but model predictions have often only used air temperatures. This leads to apples-and-oranges comparisons between predictions and reality, Risbey and Lewandowsky said.

Short-term ocean dynamics patterns, such as those of El Niño, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, move and store heat in ways that lead to surface temperature fluctuations that can last years or even decades. This does not mean that the heat’s gone, just that it’s out of range of sensors. And because we don’t fully understand those patterns, and when exactly one will start and when it will end, short-term predictions can be a little off — even though they’re right in the long-term.“The models have their own El Niño events but they’re not necessarily happening at the same time as the real-world El Niño events,” Hausfather said.

Climate change models did not perfectly characterize all the right complicating factors — how much solar radiation there was in a given year, for example, or the extent of the cooling effect from volcanic activity and human-produced aerosols. When those estimates are updated to reflect what actually happened, the models get much closer to reality.

Recent studies showed the need to better account for temperature detection changes that happened as ocean temperature monitors switched from ships to buoys. The buoys may have made temperature readings look a little cooler than expected, even when they were not. (In the older method, water would be heated by the ship’s engine on its way to be measured, while the buoys would measure water temperatures in the open ocean.)

“If you do all of these things you end up getting observations that match models pretty exactly,” Hausfather said of all the mitigating factors included by the Nature study authors. “Each of these things is a little part of the divergence between models and observations.”
Another problem? Marking the beginning of the hiatus from 1998, which was a year of record-breaking heat.
“Picking a large El Niño event as the starting year, you’re necessarily going to have a lower rate of warming after that, even in a warming world,” Hausfather said.
The problem, ultimately, is that studies looking at long-term change simply aren’t especially good at predicting short-term variation. That doesn’t mean that the long-term trend isn’t there; human-caused carbon dioxide emissions continue to fuel global warming.
“In short, some data, tools and methods that were good enough when looking at longer-term climate change proved to be problematic when they were focused on the problem of explaining short-term trends,” Risbey and Lewandowsky wrote. “Small differences in GMST data that are inconsequential for climate change are amplified when short-term trends are calculated. Climate-model projections are blunt tools for the analysis of short-term trends.”
What new light does this paper shed on the hiatus?
This analysis isn’t a “bombshell,” pointed out Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University.
“The work of many groups (including our own) has shown that models and observations are consistent in terms of long-term warming, and that this warming — and recent extreme warmth — can only be explained by anthropogenic (human-caused) activity, namely the burning of fossil fuels,” Mann said in an email. “The fact that there is substantial internal variability that can mask this warming on decadal and multidecadal timescales is also something established by us in previous work.”
But it does offer a holistic explanation of all the research that has been chipping away at this climate conundrum, Hausfather pointed out.
“I think it does a really good job at tying a bow on the last five years or so of hiatus arguments,” he said.
Is there a lesson to be learned from the controversy around the hiatus?
The study authors seem to think so. For example, scientists were forced to better understand these short-term variations, which helped them pin down factors such as how sensitive the climate was to additional carbon dioxide, the dominant greenhouse gas in Earth’s atmosphere.
“As a consequence, after a surge of scientific studies on the topic, we have learned more about the ways in which the climate system works in several areas,” the authors wrote.
And then there are other evergreen lessons — particularly with respect to science and its interface with public discourse.
“Social sciences might find this an interesting period for studying how science interacts with the public, media and policy,” they wrote. “In a time coinciding with high-level political negotiations on preventing climate change, sceptical media and politicians were using the apparent lack of warming to downplay the importance of climate change…. This will not be the last time that weather and climate will surprise us, so maybe there are lessons to be learned from the hiatus about communication on all sides.”

Press link for more: LA Times.com

How to reason with a climate denier. #auspol 

How to Reason with the Climate Change Denier in Your Life

By Mary Catherine O’Connor

Everyone working to address climate change, from activists to scientists, knows that success depends in large part on their ability to convert climate change skeptics (or even straight-up deniers) into proponents for action. Most of us have someone in our lives—a family member, co-worker, or friend—whose views on climate change conflict with the latest science, and you’ve likely had some exasperating, polarizing, unconstructive conversations with them.
Philip Kitcher, an MIT professor of philosophy, and Evelyn Fox Keller, an MIT professor emerita of history and philosophy of science, have co-written a book that imagines six of those very conversations. The Seasons Alter: How to Save the Planet in Six Acts (W.W. Norton; $25) reads like six screenplays set in different locations and with two different people in each act. The dialogue—well, it probably won’t pass your sniff test. The authors describe the conversations in the book as “constructive, careful, and amicable,” but they mostly sound stiff.
Even if they don’t ring true to life, many of the book’s exchanges contain useful clues on how to unpack specific issues and work around conversational impasses. Here, culled from The Seasons Alter and other experts, are four guiding principles that could fix the way we talk about climate change.


Don’t Ignore Uncertainty
The book contains a long conversation between an activist from an environmental organization and a person with a terminal illness who is deciding where to donate his money. His conundrum is whether to support environmental initiatives, based on the predictions that climate change will harm large populations, or give to groups addressing things such as malnutrition. “Sometimes I think the real catastrophes [from climate change] aren’t that likely, and the likely effects aren’t that bad,” he says.

There’s no doubt that greenhouse gasses are causing the earth to warm, the seas to rise, and weather patterns to change. But these events aren’t happening according to a strict schedule, and scientists can’t give us a precise timeline with deadlines for action. Climate change is likely to undergird an uptick in pandemics, for example, but there’s no blueprint for preventing those. Some impacts are episodic (heat waves, increasingly severe storms) while others are constant (sea level creeps up), but all are costly. Still, proponents of inaction often use those uncertainties as talking points.
The activist does her best to present fact-based evidence that the climate movement deserves the man’s support, but she has to allow that while there is consensus on the basic mechanisms of climate change, there have been some contradictory studies. That’s how science works. It’s why peer reviews are important and why researchers keep inquiring, testing theses, and adding to the canon. Scientists who study cancer and its causes also don’t always agree, but that’s not a reason to call off cancer research funding.

The merits of a cost-benefit analysis will only go so far in arguing for action to address climate action, and in the end, the authors explain, we need to make some qualitative judgments. Acknowledge gaps in knowledge—and remember that it doesn’t defeat your purpose.
Try to Make a Connection
Managers and people who click on articles about productivity love talking about emotional intelligence. But Renee Lertzman says we need more of it in the climate debate as well. Lertzman, who calls herself a “psychosocial strategist focusing on climate and environment,” coaches NGOs, universities, and corporations on how to communicate issues related to climate change. Her bailiwick is the intersection of psychology and climate change, and Lertzman says we need to be emotionally literate in order to understand the relationship others have with climate change. A Midwest farmer, for instance, might be “concerned with staying afloat and keeping their way of life viable—there is an emotional charge there, and their response to climate change is different than an urbanite in, say, the Bay Area,” she says.
So, know your audience, suggests Lertzman. Climate change means different things to different people, and we all bring our own biases to the conversation. You might know people who believe in climate change and advocate for political action but also disavow vaccines. Clearly, not all of these opinions are rooted in science. You can counter these beliefs with data, but it is unlikely to evaporate beliefs that may be based in anxiety and distrust.

Lertzman advises “starting from a place of authentic compassion, to really attune ourselves to how scary and overwhelming these issues can be for people.” She knows that compassion tends to get a bad rap because it’s equated with letting people off the hook, but she says the opposite is true: “Anyone working in mental or public health will tell you that without compassion, we will stumble into a fight by engaging in each other’s resistance and our own interests in protecting ourselves from whatever feels threatening.”
This approach isn’t some psychobabble, either, says Lertzman. Neurology shows that compassion soothes the nervous system, while confrontation excites it. “If our limbic system—the survival part of our minds—is activated, it’s game over. If I’m feeling uneasy or anxious, I’m not even going to hear what you have to say.”


Advance the War on Atmospheric Carbon, Not on People
President Trump and others who share his dubious views on climate change have painted the climate activist movement as oppositional to American values. They cast the war on coal as a war on coal miners. While Trump is trying to roll back the Clean Power Plan, coal’s loss of competitiveness against natural gas and renewables is what really dooms the coal industry.
In one dialogue, the climate activist lays out a good argument that puts this kind of outcome in historical perspective. Workers, she says, have “found themselves displaced because of foreign competition or technological change or shifts in tastes and attitudes.” Indeed, there’s broad support among Democrats and Republicans for renewable energy as the costs of wind and solar quickly fall while their capacity to meet more of the world’s energy demands rises.

But the bigger issue is this: On both sides of the argument, things get political and emotional fast when it comes to the human impact of climate change. And oftentimes our views on climate change are shaped by those of our parents. That’s a common backstory in many of the more than 500 responses that Reddit users posted over the past month to this question: “Former climate change deniers, what changed your mind?” “I grew up actively and obnoxiously denying climate change because my dad told me it wasn’t real,” said one responder.
Others said they were raised Republican and had always seen climate change as a “liberal” issue that they could not or should not endorse. A video shown during a church service focused on the virtues of caring for the earth made one right-leaning respondent a believer.
Many former deniers said that reading about the science behind climate change and how it’s already affecting us was the catalyst for their conversion. In some cases, Reddit responders pointed to how changes in their personal lives made them believers. “I grew up ice fishing in central Illinois, and I haven’t been able to ice fish in three years. The shit ain’t right. We had tornadoes in February. I was deer hunting in a fucking T-shirt in December,” wrote one, who called himself a liberal redneck.
Know How to Navigate an Impasse
Carla Wise, a conservation biologist turned climate change activist, says the most important thing to do is to just keep having conversations about climate change, because the more we talk about it, the less it becomes a taboo issue that makes everyone uncomfortable. That’s not to say these conversations will always be easy or pleasant.
When things get dicey, Lertzman says, “I use a martial arts move, where you don’t engage directly with the opposition, you don’t argue. I might say, ‘I hear you’re saying XYZ, and I won’t challenge that, but can you help me understand? Let’s just say, hypothetically, that climate change is happening and will have this effect, what would that mean for you? Could you imagine a scenario where you are involved?’”

Lertzman says the goal of this kind of conversation is to help each other get in touch with what is true and uncover the resistance the other person is expressing, which she typically finds to be a defense mechanism.
Don’t expect to master this overnight, she says. “It’s a skill, but it’s about guiding the conversation to arrive at what is true. We’re all wired for that—to crave the truth.”

Press link for more: Outside online.com

It’s the end of the world! #climatechange #auspol #science 

It’s the end of the world and we know it: Scientists in many disciplines see apocalypse, soon

While apocalyptic beliefs about the end of the world have, historically, been the subject of religious speculation, they are increasingly common among some of the leading scientists today. 

This is a worrisome fact, given that science is based not on faith and private revelation, but on observation and empirical evidence.
Perhaps the most prominent figure with an anxious outlook on humanity’s future is Stephen Hawking. Last year, he wrote the following in a Guardian article:

Now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together. 

We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans. 

Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. 

We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it.
There is not a single point here that is inaccurate or hyperbolic.


 For example, consider that the hottest 17 years on record have all occurred since 2000, with a single exception (namely, 1998), and with 2016 being the hottest ever.

 Although 2017 probably won’t break last year’s record, the UK’s Met Office projects that it “will still rank among the hottest years on record.” Studies also emphasize that there is a rapidly closing window for meaningful action on climate change.

 As the authors of one peer-reviewed paper put it:
The next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far.


 Policy decisions made during this window are likely to result in changes to Earth’s climate system measured in millennia rather than human lifespans, with associated socioeconomic and ecological impacts that will exacerbate the risks and damages to society and ecosystems that are projected for the twenty-first century and propagate into the future for many thousands of years.
Furthermore, studies suggest that civilization will have to produce more food in the next 50 years than in all of human history, which stretches back some 200,000 years into the Pleistocene epoch.

 This is partly due to the ongoing problem of overpopulation, where Pew projects approximately 9.3 billion people living on spaceship Earth by 2050. 

According to the 2016 Living Planet Report, humanity needs 1.6 Earths to sustain our current rate of (over)consumption — in other words, unless something significant changes with respect to anthropogenic resource depletion, nature will force life as we know it to end.

Along these lines, scientists largely agree that human activity has pushed the biosphere into the sixth mass extinction event in the entire 4.5 billion year history of Earth.

 This appears to be the case even on the most optimistic assumptions about current rates of species extinctions, which may be occurring 10,000 times faster than the normal “background rate” of extinction. 

Other studies have found that, for example, the global population of wild vertebrates — that is, mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians — has declined by a staggering 58 percent between 1970 and 2012. 

The biosphere is wilting in real time, and our own foolish actions are to blame.
As for disease, superbugs are a growing concern among researchers due to overuse of antibiotics among livestock and humans.

 These multi-drug-resistant bacteria are highly resistant to normal treatment routes, and already some 2 million people become sick from superbugs each year.
Perhaps the greatest risk here is that, as Brian Coombes puts it, “antibiotics are the foundation on which all modern medicine rests. 

Cancer chemotherapy, organ transplants, surgeries, and childbirth all rely on antibiotics to prevent infections. If you can’t treat those, then we lose the medical advances we have made in the last 50 years.” Indeed, this is why Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization, claims that “Antimicrobial resistance poses a fundamental threat to human health, development and security.”
Making matters even worse, experts argue that the risk of a global pandemic is increasing. The reason is, in part, because of the growth of megacities. According to a United Nations estimate, “66 percent of the global population will live in urban centers by 2050.”

 The closer proximity of people will make the propagation of pathogens much easier, not to mention the fact that deadly germs can travel from one location to another at literally the speed of a jetliner.

 Furthermore, climate change will produce heat waves and flooding events that will create “more opportunity for waterborne diseases such as cholera and for disease vectors such as mosquitoes in new regions.” This is why some public health researchers conclude that “we are at greater risk than ever of experiencing large-scale outbreaks and global pandemics,” and that “the next outbreak contender will most likely be a surprise.”


Finally, the acidification of the world’s oceans is a catastrophe that hardly gets the attention it deserves. 

What’s happening is that the oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and this is causing their pH level to fall. 

One consequence is the destruction of coral reefs through a process called “bleaching.” 

Today, about 60 percent of coral reefs are in danger of bleaching, and about 10 percent are already underwater ghost towns.
Even more alarming, though, is the fact that the rate of ocean acidification is happening faster today than it occurred during the Permian-Triassic mass extinction. That event is called the “Great Dying” because it was the most devastating mass extinction ever, resulting in some 95 percent of all species kicking the bucket.

 As the science journalist Eric Hand points out, whereas 2.4 gigatons of carbon were injected into the atmosphere per year during the Great Dying, about 10 gigatons are being injected per year by contemporary industrial society. 

Thus, the sixth mass extinction mentioned above, also called the Anthropocene extinction, could turn out to be perhaps even worse than the Permian-Triassic die-off.
So Hawking’s dire warning that we live in the most perilous period of our species’ existence is quite robust.

 In fact, considerations like these have led a number of other notable scientists to suggest that the collapse of global society could occur in the foreseeable future. 

The late microbiologist Frank Fenner, for example, whose virological work helped eliminate smallpox, predicted in 2010 that “humans will probably be extinct within 100 years, because of overpopulation, environmental destruction, and climate change.”

 Similarly, the Canadian biologist Neil Dawe reportedly “wouldn’t be surprised if the generation after him witness the extinction of humanity.” And the renowned ecologist Guy McPherson argues that humanity will follow the dodo into the evolutionary grave by 2026. 

(On the upside, maybe you don’t need to worry so much about that retirement plan.)
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists also recently moved the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight, or doom, primarily because of President Donald J. Trump and the tsunami of anti-intellectualism that got him into the Oval Office. 

As Lawrence Krauss and David Titley wrote in a New York Times op-ed:
The United States now has a president who has promised to impede progress on both [curbing nuclear proliferation and solving climate change]. Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person. But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.
At two-and-a-half minutes before midnight, the Doomsday Clock is currently the closest to midnight that it’s been since 1953, after the U.S. and the Soviet Union had both detonated hydrogen bombs.
But so far we have mostly ignored threats to our existence that many leading risk scholars believe are the most serious, namely those associated with emerging technologies such as biotechnology, synthetic biology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. In general, these technologies are not only becoming more powerful at an exponential rate, according to Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, but increasingly accessible to small groups and even lone wolves. The result is that a growing number of individuals are being empowered to wreak unprecedented havoc on civilization. Consider the following nightmare disaster outlined by computer scientist Stuart Russell:
A very, very small quadcopter, one inch in diameter can carry a one- or two-gram shaped charge. You can order them from a drone manufacturer in China. You can program the code to say: “Here are thousands of photographs of the kinds of things I want to target.” A one-gram shaped charge can punch a hole in nine millimeters of steel, so presumably you can also punch a hole in someone’s head. You can fit about three million of those in a semi-tractor-trailer. You can drive up I-95 with three trucks and have 10 million weapons attacking New York City. They don’t have to be very effective, only 5 or 10 percent of them have to find the target.
Russell adds that “there will be manufacturers producing millions of these weapons that people will be able to buy just like you can buy guns now, except millions of guns don’t matter unless you have a million soldiers. You need only three guys,” he concludes, to write the relevant computer code and launch these drones. 
This scenario can be scaled up arbitrarily to involve, say, 500 million weaponized drones packed into several hundred semi-trucks strategically positioned around the world. The result could be a global catastrophe that brings civilization to its knees — no less than a nuclear terrorism attack or an engineered pandemic caused by a designer pathogen would severely disrupt modern life. As Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum put it in their captivating book “The Future of Violence,” we are heading toward an era of distributed offensive capabilities that is unlike anything our species has ever before encountered.
What sort of person might actually want to do this, though? Unfortunately, there are many types of people who would willingly destroy humanity. The list includes apocalyptic terrorists, psychopaths, psychotics, misanthropes, ecoterrorists, anarcho-primitivists, eco-anarchists, violent technophobes, militant neo-Luddites and even “morally good people” who maintain, for ethical reasons, that human suffering is so great that we would be better off not existing at all. Given the dual technology trends mentioned above, all it could take later this century is a single person or group to unilaterally end the great experiment called civilization forever.
It is considerations like these that have led risk scholars — some at top universities around the world — to specify disturbingly high probabilities of global disaster in the future. For example, the philosopher John Leslie claims that humanity has a 30 percent chance of extinction in the next five centuries. Less optimistically, an “informal” survey of experts at a conference hosted by Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute puts the probability of human extinction before 2100 at 19 percent. And Lord Martin Rees, co-founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at Cambridge University, argues that civilization has no better than a 50-50 likelihood of enduring into the next century.
To put this number in perspective, it means that the average American is about 4,000 times more likely to witness civilization implode than to die in an “air and space transport accident.” A child born today has a good chance of living to see the collapse of civilization, according to our best estimates.
Returning to religion, recent polls show that a huge portion of religious people believe that the end of the world is imminent. For example, a 2010 survey found that 41 percent of Christians in the U.S. believe that Jesus will either “definitely” or “probably” return by 2050. Similarly, 83 percent of Muslims in Afghanistan and 72 percent in Iraq claim that the Mahdi, Islam’s end-of-days messianic figure, will return within their lifetimes. The tragedy here, from a scientific perspective, is that such individuals are worried about the wrong apocalypse! Much more likely are catastrophes, calamities and cataclysms that cause unprecedented (and pointless) human suffering in a universe without any external source of purpose or meaning. At the extreme, an existential risk could tip our species into the eternal grave of extinction.
In a sense, though, religious people and scientists agree: We are in a unique moment of human history, one marked by an exceptionally high probability of disaster. The difference is that, for religious people, utopia stands on the other side of the apocalypse, whereas for scientists, there is nothing but darkness. To be clear, the situation is not by any means hopeless. In fact, there is hardly a threat before us — from climate change to the sixth mass extinction, from apocalyptic terrorism to a superintelligence takeover — that is inevitable. But without a concerted collective effort to avert catastrophe, the future could be as bad as any dystopian sci-fi writer has imagined.
Parts of this article draw from my forthcoming book “Morality, Foresight, and Human Flourishing: An Introduction to Existential Risks.”

Press link for more: Salon.com

Climate Change is a crime against humanity! #auspol #science 

Yes, I am a climate alarmist. Global warming is a crime against humanity | Lawrence Torcello
Most of us have wondered about the human context of past crimes against humanity: why didn’t more people intervene? 

How could so many pretend not to know? 

To be sure, crimes against humanity are not always easy to identify while they unfold.
We need some time to reflect and to analyze, even when our reasoning suggests that large scale human suffering and death are likely imminent.

 The principled condemnation of large scale atrocity is, too often, a luxury of hindsight.
I’m a climate alarmist because there is no morally responsible way to downplay the dangers that negligent policies – expected to accelerate human-caused climate change – pose to humankind.

There can be no greater crime against humanity than the foreseeable, and methodical, destruction of conditions that make human life possible – hindsight isn’t necessary.
Scientists confirm, in overwhelming consensus, the fundamental facts that make anthropogenic global warming a clear and present threat to humanity and other species.
There is no amount of ideological deception capable of altering basic physics, chemistry and biology. It is ethically untenable for intelligent people to look the other way while elected officials deny reality, and our opportunity to avoid catastrophe slips away.
We know that the continued acceleration of climate change will bring more droughts, rising seas, more extreme weather, longer forest fire seasons and destructive storm surges. This in turn would lead to more water stress, crop failures, poverty, starvation, warfare and ever worsening refugee crises.

We know that the warming already achieved is expected to displace millions of people in low lying regions. Indeed, at our current rate of warming segments of the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, will likely become uninhabitable for future generations.
This is not a problem for the distant future. People reading this right risk dying of impacts related to climate change. Anyone who claims global warming is not catastrophic is ill informed – or playing a disingenuous game of privilege. Such a person is probably white, male, living in an affluent nation, politically conservative, and of a relatively wealthy demographic.
It is a fact that those least responsible for global warming, the global poor living in the global south, are most immediately vulnerable to climate change. This reality carries profound moral implications. Whole island nations in the southern hemisphere, such as the South Pacific’s Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, and the Indian Ocean’s Maldives, are under threat from rising seas.
Citizens of these and other low-lying regions will be, or are already being, forced to assimilate to other lands. When indigenous populations are displaced and subjected to forced assimilation by outsiders exploiting resources for their own profit it constitutes a form of cultural genocide—and history teaches that the large scale displacement of cultural groups can raise the risk of physical genocide.
Consequently, if any nation were to enact policies calculated to systematically destroy cultural lands and displace native people, as climate change will, it would rightly raise international debates over genocide. It makes no difference to populations forced off their homelands whether the resource exploitation responsible is occurring in West Virginia or Papua New Guinea.
The moral, and existential, implications of human-caused climate change should by now have triggered full-scale, World War II style effort to end fossil fuel dependence and associated greenhouse gas emissions.
The global community ought to have engaged in a renewable energy “arms race” years ago. Instead, we burn away time while fossil fuel interests fund negligent campaigns of disinformation and politicians stage fake debates over the science of climate change.
Despite efforts to poison public discourse the world agreed to a plan, in 2015, which might give humanity a fighting chance to avoid catastrophic climate change.
To undo this progress now, while time is running out and physics is managing the clock, is to risk sentencing countless people to death via extreme weather, depleted resources, and associated political instability. We know the human consequences of our policies and the casual acceptance of those consequences incriminate us morally.
Pulling out of the Paris accord is not the only way that President Donald J Trump’s administration can undermine our attempts to address climate change: The United States can simply make it clear that it won’t honor its political and ethical obligations under the Paris agreement.


It is hard to imagine a clearer way to signal that message than proposing to cut research funding for climate science, gutting the climate change programs of the EPA, NASA, and NOAA, halting payments to the United Nations related to climate change, backing construction of the controversial Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, and issuing an executive order undoing the United States’ clean power plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal fired-plants.
The climate policies of the Trump administration, backed by many Republican leaders, are rooted in culpable ignorance and transparent corruption. And they place us all at risk on a scale that previous crimes against humanity never have.
Civility and fair mindedness do not require hospitality to policies that hasten the destruction of a livable planet. We don’t depend on hindsight to recognize the moral gravity of our current situation.
We will search in vain for a better reason to depose elected officials. Every legal resource to remove such leaders is justified. We can’t pretend we don’t know the nature of what is unfolding. We are witnessing a crime against humanity – and the potential prelude to future genocide.
We are the bystanders who must choose to intervene or be defined by our failure.
Lawrence Torcello is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology in the United States. He specializes in moral and political philosophy.

Press link for more: The Guardian

March for Science! Today is the day to stand up for #Science 

Today is our chance to show support for science.

All over the planet people will be marching for universal values of science.

Find out where and when in your locality and join the scientists. 

Universal Literacy

A well-informed community is essential to a free and successful society. 

We support education to promote broad public knowledge and discussion of scientific work. 

As professionals, parents, and community-engaged volunteers, we enthusiastically contribute our time and expertise to helping children and students of all ages engage with the physical universe and biological world.

Open Communication

Publicly-funded scientists have a responsibility to communicate their research and public outreach and accessibility of scientific knowledge should be encouraged. 

Communication of scientific findings and their implications must not be suppressed.

Informed Policy

Public policy should be guided by peer-reviewed evidence and scientific consensus. 

Public policy must enable scientists to communicate their publicly-funded research results, and must support literacy in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Stable Investment

A long-term, strategic approach to investment in scientific research and development is essential for driving true innovation. 

Government commitment to stable science funding policy will deliver solutions to complex challenges, promoting prosperity for all.


Our acknowledgment

Science belongs to everyone. It should be pursued for the benefit of all people and for the health of the environment we depend upon.
At March for Science Australia we acknowledge the traditional custodians of the Australian continent, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and pay our respects to ancestors and Elders both past and present.
We recognise that science and scientific pursuits have been used in the past to disenfranchise many minority groups. We are committed to the promotion of science, now and in the future, as an endeavour which all persons have the right to pursue and enjoy the fruits of, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, religion or lack thereof, political affiliation, or socioeconomic status.
Diversity has strengthened and enriched scientific inquiry, and the inclusion of all peoples and the promotion of equal opportunity and training within science should be a goal pursued by scientists and non-scientists alike.

Press link for more: March for Science Australia