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We must bridge generational divide to prevent climate & budget crises #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange Intergenerational Debt #Neoliberalism

Progressives must bridge the generational divide to prevent climate and budget crises

BY PAUL BLEDSOE AND BEN RITZ, OPINION CONTRIBUTORS

Amid the daily drama of President Trump‘s tweets and scandals, it can be hard to focus on the most important issues for our future.

An unfortunate consequence of this purposeful turmoil is that few serious solutions are being offered for addressing two of the greatest threats facing the United States: runaway climate change and unsustainable budget policies.

The resignation of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt may end his days of plundering the environment and public treasury, but the Trump administration will continue doing both even in his absence, risking long-term national well-being for temporary political benefits.

It’s critical that progressives offer credible alternatives, especially if they hope to inspire younger voters who will bear the burden of these problems, because we cannot afford to dither on either issue much longer.

We speak from experience.

One of us is a baby boomer who has spent most of his career working on energy and climate policy; the other is a millennial focused on the federal budget.

Although our two fields may seem unrelated, both these existential challenges require our generations to work together to solve.

Our leaders have been warned about the climate crisis for more than a generation.

Thirty years ago last month, NASA scientist James Hansen first testified before Congress noting the irrefutable relationship between growing carbon dioxide emissions and rising temperatures.

Since then, global average temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions have increased relentlessly, leading to enormously expensive climate change impacts around the world.

Just last year, Hurricane Harvey and other major storms made worse by climate change devastated the US costing federal taxpayers over $130 billion so far.

The longer we wait to stem rising temperatures, the higher these costs will grow.

The Long-term Budget Outlook recently published by the Congressional Budget Office tells a similar story.

The gap between federal revenues and spending is growing at an alarming rate, requiring the government to borrow more each year to cover the difference.

If current policies remain in place, the national debt relative to the size of the economy could rocket past the record-high level reached just after World War II as soon as 2029.

From then onward, the federal government will be stuck spending over $1 trillion every year just to pay interest on the debt, making the growing budget deficit increasingly difficult to close the longer we wait.

Both our climate and our budget problems stem in large part from a moral failure by baby boomers.

Rather than investing in their children’s future via sustainable energy and fiscal policies, boomers emitted greenhouse gases and cut their own taxes with reckless abandon, while promising themselves generous retirement benefits paid-for by future workers.

Now millennials will be stuck with a debt and a climate that are far more dangerous than in previous generations.

The two problems exacerbate one another.

As climate change worsens, hundreds of billions each year will need to be spent each year on adaptation and disaster relief, making it that much harder to reduce future budget deficits.

Conversely, the federal government will find it increasingly difficult to invest in technologies to combat climate change when so much of tax revenue is pre-committed to servicing our debt and paying for past promises.

Alas, the Republican-controlled government in Washington (like the LNP government in Australia) has made both problems much worse.

Party leaders deny or ignore the overwhelming scientific consensus around climate change, with the president calling it a “hoax” while his administration is pushing to replacing the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with a pro-pollution alternative that props up dying industries at the expense of our planet and economy.

The GOP exhibits the same pattern of willful ignorance on the federal budget: just recently, National Economic Council Chairman Larry Kudlow erroneously claimed that the deficit is falling even as it does the exact opposite – a problem which was made worse by the $2 trillion tax cut Republicans enacted at the end of last year without making any serious effort to pay for it.

Democrats and Labor have to do better.

Just as the far right wants to play chicken with our climate, some on the far left want to play chicken with our national debt.

Neither is a risk worth taking.

Democrats must resist the far left’s calls to pursue expensive expansions of social insurance programs before making our current obligations financially sustainable.

When it comes to climate change, most of the party understands the need for action but has yet to coalesce around practical approaches for solving the problem that would attract rather than alienate swing voters.

Democrats must realize there is little value in having the moral high ground, on either climate or the budget, without the political power to implement solutions.

The responsibility for making these changes thus lies with voters as much as their leaders, and both of our respective generations must do our part to promote responsible solutions.

Baby boomers need to accept responsibility for the unresolved problems they leave millennials and be willing to contribute to solutions.

But millennials need to take ownership of their future by showing up at the polls and making these challenges core voting issues.

Young voters already overwhelmingly support Democrats – it’s time they show up and demand Democrats support them in return by addressing the two greatest threats to our future prosperity.

Paul Bledsoe is strategic advisor for the Progressive Policy Institute, and Ben Ritz is the director of PPI’s Center for Funding America’s Future.

Press link for more: The Hill

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What Climate Change Looks Like In 2018 #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

What Climate Change Looks Like In 2018

Christie Aschwanden

A man cools off in the spray of a fire hydrant during a heatwave in Philadelphia this month.

Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images

It’s only July, but it has already been a long, hot spring and summer.

The contiguous U.S. endured the warmest May ever recorded, and in June, the average temperature was 1.7 degrees Celsius (3.0 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average. Iowa, New Mexico and Texas set record highs for their minimum temperatures in June, and as of July 3, nearly 30 percent of the Lower 48 was experiencing drought conditions. And it’s not just the U.S. During the first five months of 2018, nearly every continent experienced record warm temperatures, and May 2018 marked the 401st consecutive month in which temperatures exceeded the 20th century average.

Climate change, in other words, is not a hypothetical future event — it’s here.

We’re living it. And at a major science conference this month, some of the world’s leading climate scientists said it was changing our world in ways beyond what they’d anticipated.

“The red alert is on,”

Laurent Fabius, who was president of the 2015 international climate change negotiations in Paris, told an audience last week at the EuroScience Open Forum, Europe’s largest interdisciplinary science meeting.

As of 2015, global temperatures had risen about 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. “It’s a race against time,” Fabius said, and the political challenge is to avoid acting too late.

A draft of a forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that leaked earlier this year concludes that global temperatures are on track to rise in excess of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by about 2040. The 2015 Paris climate agreement set limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius as a sort of stretch goal, with the less ambitious target being 2 degrees Celsius.

The IPCC report, which is expected to be released in October, says that even if the pledges made under the Paris agreement are fulfilled, warming will still exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The report also says that the differences between the present day and just 0.5 degrees more warming are “substantial increases in extremes,” including hot temperatures, “heavy precipitation events” and extreme droughts.

We don’t have to look to the future to see what climate change can do.

At the EuroScience Open Forum, Camille Parmesan,1 a professor and member of IPCC, discussed her research showing that 90 percent of the 490 plant species examined at two sites, one in Washington, D.C., the other in Chinnor in the U.K., are responding to climate change in measurable ways.

Some plants she’s studied require winter chilling to thrive, and that’s a problem, because winter is warming more than spring.

And temperatures aren’t rising uniformly. Areas at higher latitudes are warming faster than other places, and that has allowed outbreaks of infections from Vibrio, a bacteria genus that thrives in warm waters, to happen in places like the Baltic Sea area. “We’ve underestimated the impact of climate change thus far,” Parmesan said.

The accelerating consequences of climate disruption will be a major theme when COP24, the next iteration of the climate conference that produced the Paris agreement, meets in Poland in December. Another focus of discussion will be the progress that each country has made toward its “nationally determined contributions,” the voluntary goals for reducing emissions that nations set for themselves in Paris. Progress is not in line with these goals in many countries, Fabius said. “Germany is not fulfilling its [NDCs], and in France last year, CO2 emissions were up,” he said.

If decision-makers can’t agree on politics, they might be persuaded by economics, said Thomas Stocker, a climate scientist and a longtime member of IPCC. De-carbonizing our energy systems is “the biggest opportunity in the 21st century,” he told the EuroScience Open Forum.

Some local and state governments in the U.S. are exploring that opportunity. “The Trump White House is not just failing to do climate,” Parmesan said. “It’s doing its best to stop every advance we’ve made in the last 20 years, but what’s happening is a reaction from the ground level up that’s countering that national-level resistance.” (The White House did not respond to FiveThirtyEight’s request for comment.) As an example, she pointed to Georgetown, Texas, a city north of Austin. The electric company there is owned by the city, which has just switched to 100 percent renewable energy. “The mayor is quite conservative, and he got mad when people said it was for climate change,” she said. “He said, ‘No, no — it just makes economic sense.’”

Press link for more: Five Thirty Eight

Great Barrier Reef coral recovery slows significantly over 18-year period #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange

Great Barrier Reef coral recovery slows significantly over 18-year period

Nick Kilvert

Over the last three decades the Great Barrier Reef has been hit by a series of intense cyclones, bleaching, crown of thorn starfish outbreaks and flood events that have caused well-documented, but reparable damage.

Scientists have hoped that an extended period of benign conditions would allow the natural processes of reef restoration to flourish, and many of the hardest-hit regions to return to a healthier, more colourful and biodiverse state.

But a new study of coral-recovery rates based on 18 years of data and published in Science Advances today, found the ability of many corals to bounce back after disturbance has significantly slowed down.

Although recovery rates were variable between different reef patches and coral types, the researchers found the overall recovery rate of corals across the Great Barrier Reef declined by an average of 84 per cent between 1992 and 2010.

Following acute disturbance events like cyclones, coral recovery was hindered by poor water quality and high temperature, according to lead author Juan-Carlos Ortiz from the University of Queensland, and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

“We noticed that…water quality played a significant role in that reduction in recovery rate,” Dr Ortiz said.

The study looked at data from more than 90 primarily mid-shelf and offshore reefs, comparing the rate of recovery following disturbance events.

“We noticed for the first time a very large decline in the ability of the reef to recover from disturbances over those 18 years,” he said.

The research team classified corals into six groups based on their growth forms. Although all groups showed an overall decline in recovery rate, two groups — the Montipora and branching Acropora both “went into negative”.

What that means is they continued to decline even after the disturbance had ceased.

While increased disturbance events are expected as the impacts of climate change ramp up, the slowed recovery time is a concerning compounding factor.

“It is exacerbating the problem. The assumption that we were working on was that naturally reefs recover fast,” Dr Ortiz said.

Although the results paint a grim picture of the trajectory of the reef, the researchers say there are some very positive things that can be taken from their findings.

The reefs furthest offshore receive less runoff from the catchment area, and because they are generally buffered by deeper water, are less susceptible to short-term fluctuations in temperature.

Although the study only analysed data from up until 2010, Dr Ortiz said there was a period without significant disturbance to the reef following Cyclone Yasi in 2011.

“On the offshore reefs like the Swains, where they are least affected by water quality issues from land … they did recover really fast,” he said.

“Which suggests that this trend is reversible.”

Tackling climate change is vital

In short, the researchers said both improving the water quality of runoff from the reef catchment area and addressing climate change can help reverse the reef’s decline.`

But trying to improve conditions on the reef without tackling climate change is like putting “band-aids on arterial wounds”, according to James Cook University’s Associate Professor Jodie Rummer, who was not involved in the study.

“We definitely need to be controlling problems with water quality and problems with crown of thorns, but first and foremost we need to deal with the big problem,” Dr Rummer said.

“What it does come down to is warming. Everything else just makes it worse, but warming is the primary concern.”

Dr Rummer, who will be presenting some of her work at a two-day reef symposium in Brisbane this week, has been studying sharks in French Polynesia and on the Great Barrier Reef.

Although French Polynesia is a declared shark sanctuary, she said their numbers are still suffering.

“Even the best protected marine parks, shark sanctuaries, and marine sanctuaries are not immune to climate change. We saw that when the reef started bleaching in 2016,” she said.

“I was at Lizard Island, and that’s some of the most pristine parts of the Great Barrier Reef, protected from so much activity, and still, climate change killed it.”

Federal Government pledges cash for farmer ‘champions’

Key to improving the Great Barrier Reef catchment is preventing large-scale deforestation.

Deforestation destabilises soil and increases the sediment and nutrient load carried to the reef during heavy rains, smothering corals and encouraging algal growth.

But the latest Great Barrier Reef catchments report from the Queensland Audit Office shows more than 1.2 million hectares were cleared in Queensland between 2012 and 2016, and nearly 40 per cent of that was cleared in the reef catchment area.

Despite committing $500 million to protecting the reef in the budget, the Federal Government came under fire earlier this year when it granted approval for the clearing of 2,000 hectares of bushland at Kingvale Station, which drains into reef-fringed Princess Charlotte Bay in North Queensland.

This week, the Federal Government committed $3.5 million to help sugarcane farmers “improve fertiliser use and efficiency” in the catchment. That is on top of $3.7 million committed by the Queensland Government.

The investment will help minimise nitrogen-pollution runoff entering the reef, according to a statement from Assistant Minister for the Environment Melissa Price.

“Optimising the rate of fertiliser application helps sugarcane farmers to increase their profitability, while minimising nitrogen pollution run-off entering the reef,” Ms Price said.

Press link for more: ABC.NET.AU

Who will pay to protect our cities from rising seas? #auspol #qldpol

A public nuisance

By Patrick Parenteau

Since most American state and local governments are cash-strapped, cities and counties fear that they won’t be able to afford all the construction it will take to protect their people and property.

So some communities in California are in a bid to force them to foot the bill. Recently, , when it sued 21 oil and gas companies “for knowingly contributing to climate change and the catastrophic consequences to the State and its residents, economy, eco-system, and infrastructure”.

Does it make sense to hold the industries responsible for global warming liable for the price – in dollars and cents – that everyone will have to pay to adapt to a changed climate?

I believe climate liability cases like these have merit.

The local governments asking the courts to intervene allege that higher sea levels brought about by climate change are a public nuisance.

That may sound odd at first, but I believe that is fair to say. It is also the legal basis on which similar liability lawsuits have been filed before.

The sea level along California’s coasts may have risen about 8 inches in the past century. Scientists project that they may rise by as much as 55 inches by the end of this century.

That worst-case scenario would put nearly half a million people at risk of flooding by 2100, and threaten $100bn in property and infrastructure, including roadways, buildings, hazardous waste sites, power plants, parks and tourist destinations.

Superstorm Sandy caused over $60bn in damage along the New Jersey and New York coasts. Several researchers have concluded that sea level rise and a warming ocean played a major role in making that storm so catastrophic.

The Trump administration has released a national climate change assessment, confirming that extreme weather events – storms on steroids – are becoming more frequent and intense.

If anything, characterising these catastrophes as a public nuisance is an understatement.

A question about jurisdiction

Oakland and San Francisco both sued five of the world’s largest oil companies in state court, asserting claims based on California’s own nuisance law. They are seeking billions of dollars for an abatement fund.

But Chevron, one of the five oil majors being sued, objected and sought to transfer the San Francisco and Oakland lawsuit to a federal district court, where Judge William Alsup recently dismissed the case.

Still, it wasn’t a clear win for oil companies.

Alsup accepted the scientific consensus that the defendants’ line of business is driving climate change and therefore poses a clear and present danger to coastal communities and others. But in his ruling, he also questioned whether it’s “fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded”.

And while the judge also acknowledged that federal courts have the authority “to fashion common law remedies for claims based on global warming”, he opted to “stay his hand in favor of solutions by the legislative and executive branches”. In other words, he said it’s up to Congress and the White House to figure out whether oil companies ought to pay to, say, move San Francisco’s airport to higher ground.

Even if prospects for federal action on this front are next to nil for the foreseeable future, given the Trump administration’s warm embrace of oil, gas and coal, this is no legal dead end. I believe that Oakland and San Francisco will surely file an appeal to the 9th Circuit, which could rule differently.

Even more importantly, there is another case pending that is taking a different course. The counties of Marin and San Mateo and the City of Imperial Beach, California, are also suing oil companies with similar climate liability claims. Judge Vince Chhabria sees things differently than Alsup and ruled that state law, not federal law, should prevail.

He has ordered that case back to state court, a move that Chevron, BP, ExxonMobil and the other oil company defendants are trying to prevent.

In addition to coastal communities concerned about rising sea levels, several Colorado counties filed their own climate liability cases in April 2018. Those lawsuits allege that oil companies should be held responsible for the higher temperatures now reducing the state’s snowpack. Getting less snow is jeopardising Colorado’s agriculture, water supply and ski industry.

Several legal precedents

I maintain that these cases do belong in state court because there are many relevant legal precedents.

U.S. courts have repeatedly held manufacturers liable for the damage their products wreak, especially when those companies knew full well that their products, used as intended, would cause that harm.

The biggest precedent is the tobacco industry’s 1998 settlement with the states, which called for companies to pay out $246bn over the next 25 years.

In addition, there have been many judgments against oil companies and other corporations responsible for manufacturing a potentially cancer-causing chemical called MTBE that used to be a common gasoline additive and has contaminated public water supplies.

And a panel of California judges ordered paint companies to pay more than $1bn to help get lead out of housing that remains contaminated decades after the government banned lead-laced paint. The companies are vowing to take the case to the Supreme Court if they can.

Currently, another new kind of liability lawsuit is emerging against opioid manufacturers. Ohio and at least six other states are seeking damages to help cover the expense of dealing with widespread addiction from the allegedly irresponsible marketing of prescription painkillers – which it says the companies should have known were being abused.

Exxon knew

As for the oil industry, it has evidently known for 60 years or longer that burning fossil fuels would eventually overheat the planet, with monumental consequences.

Rather than alert the public and engage in good-faith discussions to address the problem, oil majors like Exxon sought to mislead and deny what they knew about the risks of fossil fuels. Furthermore, the fossil fuel industries have sought to block any meaningful federal climate response by donating vast sums to the political campaigns of candidates who promised to oppose the requisite policies.

In a perfect world, the nation’s elected leaders at all levels of government would be hard at work passing laws and establishing programs to confront the existential threat of climate change and to help communities prepare for the unavoidable impacts that are already baked into the system.

Alas, that is not the case. The courts are the last line of defense in this epic struggle to deal with the effects of climate change – including the astronomically expensive costs of moving housing, businesses, schools and other structures out of harm’s way.

Patrick Parenteau, Professor of Law, Vermont Law School.

Press link for more: City Metric

Heatwaves around the world. #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #Longman

Heatwave sees record high temperatures around world this week

From Europe to Africa, extreme and widespread heat raises climate concerns in hottest La Niña year to date on record

Jonathan Watts

Record high temperatures have been set across much of the world this week as an unusually prolonged and broad heatwave intensifies concerns about climate change.

The past month has seen power shortages in California as record heat forced a surge of demand for air conditioners. Algeria has experienced the hottest temperature ever reliably registered in Africa. Britain, meanwhile, has experienced its third longest heatwave, melting the roof of a science building in Glasgow and exposing ancient hill forts in Wales.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the rising temperatures were at odds with a global cyclical climate phenomena known as La Niña, which is usually associated with cooling.

“The first six months of the year have made it the hottest La Niña year to date on record,” said Clare Nullis of the WMO.

Taiwan is the most recent place to report a new high with a temperature of 40.3C in Tianxiang on Monday. This followed a flurry of other anomalies.

Last week, a weather station at Ouargla in Algeria’s Sahara Desert, reported a maximum temperature of 51.3C on 5 July, the highest temperature reliably recorded in Africa.

Even when the sun goes down, night is not providing the cooling relief it once did in many parts of the world. At Quriyat, on the coast of Oman, overnight temperatures remained above 42.6C, which is believed to be the highest “low” temperature ever recorded in the world. Downtown Los Angeles also saw a new monthly July minimum overnight record of 26.1C on 7 July.

Globally, the warmest year on record was in 2016, boosted by the natural climate cycle El Niño. Last year, temperatures hit the highest level without that amplifying phenomenon. This year, at the other cooling end of the cycle, is continuing the overall upward trend.

Swathes of the northern hemisphere have seen unusually persistent warmth due to strong, persistent high pressure systems that have created a “heat dome” over much of Eurasia.

“What’s unusual is the hemispheric scale of the heatwave,” said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “It’s not just the magnitude in any one location but that high temperatures are being seen over such a large area.”

Northern Russia’s exceptionally sunny weather – seen on TV by billions thanks to the World Cup – has caused wildfires that affected 80,000 hectares of forest near the Krasnoyarsk region, which reported daily anomalies of 7C above average. The Western Siberian Hydromet Center has issued storm warnings after temperatures of more than 30C for five days. Climate watchers fear this will accelerate the melting of permafrost, releasing methane – a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

People cool off in the water on Huntington Beach during record heat in California. Photograph: Ringo Chiu/ZUMA Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

In California, daytime records were also set last week at Chino (48.9C), Burbank airport (45.6C) and Van Nuys airport (47.2C). In Canada, at least 54 deaths have been attributed to the prolonged heatwave and high humidity in Quebec. Montreal saw a new record high temperature of 36.6C on 2 July.

In Europe, the WMO has warned of droughts, wildfires and harvest losses after the second hottest June on record. Over the past two weeks, records have been set in Tbilisi (40.5C), Shannon (32C), and Belfast (29.5C)

Britain has cooled slightly in the past two days, after 17 days of temperatures over 28C. This was the third longest heatwave on record, following the record 19-day run in 2013 and the famous summer of 1976, when there were two prolonged spells of 18 days and 15 days. Dean Hall of the UK’s Met Office said Britain’s temperatures were forecast to rise again over the coming week.

The concern is that weather fronts – hot and cold – are being blocked more frequently due to climate change. This causes droughts and storms to linger, amplifying the damage they cause. This was a factor in the recent devastating floods in Japan, where at least 150 people died after rainfall up to four times the normal level.

Floods in Kurashiki city, western Japan. More than 150 people have died in the country following torrential rain. Photograph: Jiji Press/EPA

Paolo Ruti of the WMO said it was difficult to ascribe any one weather event to climate change, but that recent high temperatures, intense rains and slow-moving fronts were in line with forecasts of how rising emissions will affect the climate.

“Recent analysis suggests that anthropogenic forcing might indeed affect the characteristics of summer blocking events in the Euro-Asia sector, in particular leading to longer blocking episodes,” he said.

Extreme weather events have buffeted much of the world over the past 12months, from the “Day Zero” drought in Cape Town to the abnormally powerful hurricanes Harvey and Irma that buffeted the east coast of the US and Caribbean.

Underscoring the link, a new report from scientists at the World Weather Attribution group indicates that manmade climate change and its effect on rainfall made the recent Cape Town drought three times more likely.

Press link for more: The Guardian

Japan floods a warning of #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #NoNewCoal #StopAdani #Longman

Japan floods a warning for a changed climate

Kumuda Simpson

The scenes in Japan in the wake of torrential rain that has caused landslides and widespread flooding are heartbreaking.

The rains have been described as unprecedented, and the death toll has continued to rise as emergency workers and volunteers search for those who are still missing.

While some people have been able to return to their homes, many of the people who were ordered to evacuate remain displaced.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has committed millions of dollars to aid recovery.

The planet has already warmed.

To continue to ignore or downplay this should no longer be acceptable.

Japan has experienced more than its fair share of disasters, including the devastating tsunami in 2011 that caused the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Scenes this week of flooded landscapes with the roofs of houses just visible above the water are eerily reminiscent of the horrific aftermath of the 2011 tsunami.

However, the recent rain and flooding have different lessons for us.

Extreme weather events such as this are very likely to become increasingly common as a result of climate change and the continued warming of the planet.

Heatwaves, bush fires, intense typhoons and cyclones, sea-level rise, flooding, and drought will all increase in both intensity and frequency unless we keep global warming below 1.5–2 degrees Celsius. Even if we keep global warming below 2 degrees we are still likely to face a significantly less stable or predictable climate than the one most of us grew up with.

In response to extreme heat and precipitation events across Asia, Europe, America, and the Middle East during June and July, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change stated that:

Episodes of extreme heat and precipitation are increasing as a result of climate change. Although it is not possible to attribute the individual extreme events of June and July to climate change, they are compatible with the general long-term trend due to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases.

In the same week as the disaster in Japan, record hot temperatures were registered across California, with Disneyland soaring to 45 degrees Celsius on 12 July.

In Australia, the state of New South Wales continued to be affected by one of the worst droughts in recent history.

In Muscat, Oman, in June, the temperature didn’t drop below 42 degrees for more than 24 hours. Reports of record-breaking extremes and violent “once in a hundred year” storms are becoming commonplace.

We need to talk about climate change

In media coverage of all these events, climate change is only occasionally mentioned, and often just in passing.

There is a reluctance to talk about climate change in the wake of tragedy, particularly when linking a specific weather event to climate change is complex. Establishing a direct causal link involves complex scientific modelling and analysis of data, with results that are often nuanced rather than clear-cut.

The conclusion is often that while floods and droughts have always occurred, climate change is making their occurrence more frequent.

Yet the argument over whether or not this particular drought or that particular storm was directly and indisputably caused by the warming planet is counterproductive.

Instead, it is imperative that we shift the conversation away from a debate about climate change that all too often becomes politicised either though omission or oversimplification. We must focus on what these events can teach us about the kinds of climate-related risks we face in the near future, and how unprepared we are for them.

The tragedy in Japan should serve as a particularly alarming indicator of the kinds of challenges even the most disaster-prepared country faces.

Japan has a highly developed disaster early-warning system, one that was utilised before the worst of the flooding and landslides caused so much devastation.

Early analysis suggests that a combination of urban development and land use in floodprone areas; human complacency in the face of evacuation orders, or an inability to evacuate safely; the sudden onset of torrential rains; and Japan’s unique geography interacted in such a way that the human toll has been unacceptably high.

The Center for Climate and Security recently released a report titled A Responsibility to Prepare. It argues that we face a future of unprecedented risks as a result of climate change. Yet we also possess a unique capacity to predict some of these risks and prepare to deal with them.

This will involve more than just early-warning systems or financial aid to rebuild after disasters. It will involve paying attention to the unanticipated consequences of climate change and the human and institutional factors that make resilience or adaptability possible. As researcher Joshua Busby has argued:

the disruption to the Earth’s climate will ultimately command more attention and resources and have a greater influence on the global economy and international relations than other forces visible in the world today.

Our first responsibility should be mitigation.

The Paris Agreement must be upheld, and strengthened. Failure to radically cut global carbon emissions will mean disasters such as the one unfolding in Japan will become the new normal.

Our second responsibility is to learn from the past and present, and be prepared for a future in which extreme weather events will challenge even the wealthiest, most developed states, and will be devastating for the poorest and least developed. The global climate is changing, and the planet has already warmed. To continue to ignore or downplay this should no longer be acceptable.

Press link for more: Lowy Institute

Conservation isn’t winning. Extinction is. #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #NoNewCoal #StopAdani

Conservation isn’t winning. Extinction is.

by Erik Vance

Erik Vance is a science writer based in Baltimore.

The northern white rhino isn’t going out with the thundering charge that it’s due. It won’t go out in a blaze of glory, fighting a pride of lions, as would befit such an inspiring creature. It’s going to die sad and old, withering away under armed guard in central Kenya while dozens of scientists — and millions of other humans around the world — look on, helpless.

It’s not that scientists have given up on the animal.

They haven’t.

But even the researchers who are pouring immense resources into technology to preserve the subspecies, which recently lost its last male, acknowledge that we are past the point of no return.

If you feel like you’ve heard this story before, you have.

It’s the same way the western black rhino and Vietnamese Javan rhino went out.

It’s the same story as the Chinese river dolphin, the Pinta Island tortoise (including the famous “Lonesome George”) and the passenger pigeon.

And if you’re tired of hearing it, that’s too bad. Because dozens of iconic species are lining up to join them. You see, the stories we have seen in recent years — where a species tilts ominously toward extinction and scientists rush in at the last second to save them — that used to be the exception.

Today, it’s the new normal.

Modern conservation is increasingly about maintaining insanely thin populations with shallow gene pools. Not only is this expensive and often futile, but also it undermines the whole point of wildlife management.

Last year, I spent six months writing about the doomed vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise and rarest marine mammal. I was struck by two things: first, how preventable the mess was.

Only 12 Vaquita left

Mexico has been focused on the vaquita since the early 1990s, and yet its policies have only served to inflame locals and encourage poachers, who catch the animal in their nets while chasing a valuable fish for traditional Chinese medicine.

Second, everything changes when a population gets too low.

In the past, managing for a species such as a spotted owl or a bald eagle wasn’t really about that species but about the ecosystem in which it lives — such as preserving old-growth forests or getting rid of toxic chemicals.

But if a species gets down to just a couple dozen individuals, a whole new problem emerges: genetics. Scientists need to be careful with breeding to stave off health problems. When Florida panthers dropped to about 20, scientists were forced to breed them with Texas cougars.

This saved the subspecies but also changed it forever.

Red wolves dropped to even lower numbers, but a targeted captive breeding program brought them back to a couple hundred (pretty inbred) animals. Will that be a problem? Are there so-called lethal alleles — fatal genes that sometimes pop up in very small populations — that will cause them to suddenly die? Should we go in and edit their genes to fix what inbreeding has done, as experts are trying with the pink pigeon? Or maybe, as has been argued with tigers, we should just change the classification of the animals so that there are fewer subspecies and thus fewer barriers to carting them across a continent to refresh the gene pool.Because all it takes is one bad season or one disease (or one mistake while transporting them, as we saw with black rhinos this week) to cripple the species.

Seeing a trend?

These are profoundly disturbing choices.

In the old days we used to worry about how many acres were needed to maintain a species and whether a corridor might keep animals connected.

Today we have to figure out if there is a gene that will kill off the entire population before we can get them all into zoos and breed them in test tubes.

And we’re still not sure how living in captivity for generations on end might change an animal. In 1987, when biologists put every California condor in captivity to save the species, it was front-page news for years. Today, there are about 200 species of birds alone in similar endangered straits.

This is not to blame the environmental community or take away from the accomplishments of biologists and activists across the globe. (We have them to thank for rebounding bald eagles, Siberian tigers, giant pandas and all the southern rhinos.) But they are just no match for all the things pushing animals toward extinction.

When I was a kid, my first exposure to science writing was a magazine called Zoobooks that would profile different animals.

I remember being baffled as to why so many were endangered. But I also remember being comforted by the magazines themselves. It meant people would do something. Orangutans will be just fine; Zoobooks was on the case.

But as someone who has been covering this topic for years now, I can tell you, it probably won’t be fine.

Conservation is not winning. And even when it does, like with the red wolves near Kitty Hawk, N.C. , it still loses.

This was an animal that successfully returned from just 14 individuals. But in a story eerily similar to the vaquita, local and national politics forced local managers to all but give up on the animal.

My Zoobooks used to tell me that when an animal goes extinct, it’s one more step toward our own extinction. But I know this isn’t true. Humans don’t need pink pigeons or rhinos to survive.

This isn’t about saving humans, or even animals. It’s about saving our humanity.

Press link for more: Washington Post

#ZeroHour It’s Time for a Revolution #auspol #qldpol #NoNewCoal #StopAdani #ClimateChange #Longman

These Young Climate Justice Advocates Say It’s Time for a Revolution

On July 21, youth climate marchers will converge on Washington and around the country to demand a better future.

Yvette Cabrera

Cheryl Diaz Meyer for HuffPost

Jamie Margolin of Seattle, Washington, left, is an environmental activist who co-founded Zero Hour with Nadia Nazar of Baltimore, Maryland, right. With a team of volunteers, they are preparing for the first Youth Climate March in Washington, D.C.

Jamie Margolin can’t remember a time in her life when climate change wasn’t a crisis. The signs were everywhere, from the disappearing sea life in the 16-year-old’s hometown of Seattle, to the climate-related disasters in Colombia where her mother’s family lives.

“When you’re growing up with all this beautiful wildlife around you, it gives you a better idea of what you want to protect,” said Margolin, who will start 11th grade this fall. “And also it’s more painful when, for example, things go wrong, when you see that that habitat is being destroyed.”

Margolin said she wanted to take action when she was younger, but avoided it because the problem was so terrifying. But Donald Trump’s election spurred her to action.

“As young people, we find ourselves in this really awkward place in history where we are going to be alive for the worst effects of climate change, but we’re not old enough to make the decisions right at that tipping point where they need to be made,” she said.

She joined Plant-for-the-Planet, a youth initiative to fight the climate crisis. But Margolin had bigger plans. The 2017 Women’s March on Washington, D.C., planted a seed in her mind for a similar youth march to end “business as usual on climate change,” but she knew it would be a big undertaking.

Then the summer of 2017 happened ― the hottest and driest summer on record in Seattle, compounded by suffocating, smoke-filled air from wildfires throughout the region. Margolin also attended a summer leadership program at Princeton University and met teens from around the globe, including places already affected by rising sea levels like the Marshall Islands.

“I read that the Marshall Islands are sinking, but then suddenly [these students are] your friends, and they’re like ‘Yeah, my house got flooded the other day,’ and I was like ‘Oh, damn,’” said Margolin.

She decided to mobilize a youth climate march in Washington, D.C., on July 21, and along with three fellow teen co-founders, launched the organization Zero Hour to emphasize the urgency needed to act on climate change.

A diverse group of students is spearheading the march. They’ve created a platform shared exclusively with HuffPost that recognizes the environmental impact of climate change on marginalized communities such as indigenous, homeless, queer and trans people, communities of color, and people with disabilities.

Cheryl Diaz Meyer for HuffPost

Elsa Mengistu of Greensboro, North Carolina, 16, Nadia Nazar of Baltimore, Maryland, 16, and Mikaela Hutchinson, of Hunterdon, New Jersey, 15, left to right, prepare for the first Youth Climate March.

“You really can’t fight for climate justice without fighting all of these other systems of oppression, because those systems of oppression are why we’re here in the first place,” said Margolin. More than 40 groups have endorsed the movement, including the global grassroots climate organization 350.org, which described the upcoming event as the largest youth-of-color-organized climate march in U.S. history.

“As the Trump administration disregards the dignity and human rights of young people and their families, we have a responsibility to stand with youth who are fighting to protect our collective future and prevent the worst impacts of climate change,” said May Boeve, 350.org’s executive director, in a statement announcing the endorsement last month.

High among the movement’s principles is the goal of ensuring that youth voices are not just heard, but are at the center of the conversation around how climate change will be addressed. Youth have historically shifted culture toward progress, Zero Hour states in its principles.

“When you’re young, you don’t really have power, and you question the world around you,” said Margolin. “You haven’t been trained in most systems, and so you question what’s being forced on you.”

Zero Hour co-founder Nadia Nazar, of Baltimore, Maryland, said she thought she could wait until she was older to take action on climate change, but the more learned about issues like species extinction, the more she realized she couldn’t wait.

“If one person can make a difference and if I could get my community to get on board and to become a global movement, then I could make a difference just like anyone else can,” said Nazar, 16.

Cheryl Diaz Meyer for HuffPost

Nadia Nazar creates artwork to be used by marchers.

Nazar designed and sold T-shirts to raise $600 to help save endangered elephants, a symbolic cultural touchstone in India, where her family is from. She also organized and participated in clean-ups along the beaches and river shoreline in the Chesapeake Bay as part of the youth outreach work she does for Kairali of Baltimore, a cultural roots organization that connects immigrants from Kerala, India, her parent’s home state.

Her firsthand encounters with the devastation that’s laying waste to the sea animals in the bay led Nazar to conclude that her environmental activism couldn’t wait.

“There’s just so much death in the bay, and if the fish are dying, the fisherman can’t fish and create their business and they lose their livelihood,” said Nazar, who has grown up visiting and learning from the researchers at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology where her mom, a marine biologist, works. “The whole bay is just really polluted and not doing very well.”

For Zero Hour, the July 21 march in Washington and accompanying sister marches across the country and world are just the beginning. The group’s three-day event will include an art festival and a day dedicated to lobbying members of Congress to sign the Zero Pledge to take action to “meaningfully address the climate crisis and protect the future of the youth.”

The students’ platform — which, for example, calls for the elimination of all fossil fuel subsidies, as well as for taxing corporations that have historically emitted the most greenhouse gases — will also guide their actions long after the march is over.

The organizers see their work as an interconnected movement that’s both global and local. They also plan to engage their local and state officials, and encourage residents to come up with climate solutions.

“There has to be revolution in, really, the way we live. You can’t take down climate change without taking down rampant consumerism and all of these other oppressive systems,” said Margolin. “It’s more about the larger human change that has to happen. I always like to say that we’re not just fighting climate change, we’re fighting for human change.”

Cheryl Diaz Meyer for HuffPost

Jair Carrasco, center, shows new posters to Jamie Margolin and Nadia Nazar.

This includes upholding democracy and supporting voting rights, and challenging the power of the fossil industry, said Margolin, who is also part of a lawsuit the advocacy group Our Children’s Trust filed against the Washington state government over climate change. Lawsuits can take time to wind through the court system, Margolin said, and Zero Hour doesn’t want to limit the group’s work to just one system.

“Kids are suing the government, we’re marching, we’re lobbying, we’re just pretty much just getting down and just begging them: Can I not have a world that’s totally falling apart?” said Margolin.

People often ask what she wants to do when she grows up, but making those decisions is tough when climate change is a factor in that future, said Margolin.

“Everything is on the line, so it’s very hard to plan your future assuming that everything is going to be the same when you know it’s not,” she said. “It’s really scary, especially for a young person who is looking into what I want to do with my life … I just want to have a world to grow up in where I can live my life and not have to worry about such existential fears.”

Press link for more: Huffington Post

Australia’s Climate Policy is disgraceful! #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #NoNewCoal #StopAdani #Longman We’re stealing our children’s future

There has been no improvement in Australia’s climate policy settings over the last year, and the 2018 CAT assessment confirms all previous assessments that its emissions are set to far exceed its Paris Agreement NDC target for 2030.

We rate the NDC target itself “Insufficient“, with a level of ambition that—if followed by all other countries—would lead to global warming of over 2°C and up to 3°C. In addition, if all other countries were to follow Australia’s current policy settings, warming could reach over 3°C and up to 4°C (“highly insufficient”).

While the Federal Government continues to maintain, most recently in its “2017 Review of Climate Change Policies”, that Australia is on track to meet the 2030 target, the Climate Action Tracker is not aware of any factual basis, published by any analyst or government agency, to support this.

To the contrary, Australia’s emissions are increasing, and the latest projection published by the government at the same time as the Climate Policies Review shows that emissions are still projected to grow instead of leading to a reduction in line with the 2030 target.

While the Federal Government continues to promote coal as a solution to energy security issues, downplay renewable energy and obfuscate on its climate policies, the reality on the ground at the state level, public opinion and across the business sector in Australia, is very different.

The Federal Government is proposing an electricity sector emissions reduction pathway with proportional reductions to the overall emissions reductions, contrary to independent advice and analysis that shows the electricity sector needs to and can reduce emissions faster than other sectors such as industry or agriculture.

All states and territories (except Western Australia) now have strong renewable energy targets and/or zero emissions targets in place (Climate Council, 2017) Victoria has recently introduced legislation. South Australia is widely seen as a global leader with uncertainty about the continuation of policy in South Australia with the recent change in government (The Guardian, 2018a): it has one of the highest shares of variable renewable energy, with 48% share of wind and solar total generation in 2017) (IEEFA, 2018), the world’s largest lithium ion battery, and innovative projects for renewable hydrogen and virtual power plants. Households across Australia are massively deploying small-scale solar (the 15% share of households deploying solar PV is among the highest in the world (ESAA, 2015)) and increasingly combining this with battery storage, and public opinion (Essential, 2017) is supportive of renewable energies and climate policy.

The federal government of Australia decided not to accept the recommendations of the 2017 Finkel-Review (commissioned by Federal and State governments) to adopt a Clean Energy Target. It has instead proposed an alternative instrument: a reliability obligation and an emissions reduction target on energy retailers and a small number of large electricity users (so-called National Energy Guarantee, NEG) (COAG Energy Council, 2018; Energy Security Board, 2018).

The electricity sector emissions reduction pathway suggested by the government (26–28% reduction from 2030 levels from 2005) is not consistent with the Paris Agreement, as its reductions only track the (already insufficient) 2030 reductions proposed for the entire Australian economy, whereas the electricity sector needs to—and can—reduce emissions faster (Hare et al., 2017). Other suggested elements such as the inclusion of domestic and international offsets, and the possibility of delaying emissions reductions—increase both the risk of slowing down investments in renewable energy below business as usual, and the risk of locking-in carbon intensive fossil fuel infrastructure (coal and gas) (Jotzko & Mazouz, 2017) (Energetics, 2018).

The Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF)—the so-called “centrepiece” of the Australian Government’s policy suite to reduce emissions—does not set Australia on a path to meeting its targets as has been reiterated in the latest review by the (Climate Change Authority, 2017). Instead of introducing new policies to address the structural change needed (CCA 2017), the government is now considering allowing international units to be used for compliance. In addition, the recently-established safeguard mechanism risks counteracting the emissions reductions the ERF is supposed to deliver and further undermining the achievement of the 2030 target (Reputex, 2018) by increasing emissions allowances for large industry facilities.

Australia ratified the Paris Agreement on 6 November 2016. Its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), includes a target of reducing GHG emissions, including land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF), by 26–28% below 2005 levels by 2030. This target is equivalent to a range of around 1% to 3% above 1990 levels of GHG emissions excluding LULUCF in 2030.

Press link for more: Carbon Action Tracker

Banks Pivot Toward Greener Finance #ClimateAction @ElliottShayne CEO @ANZ_AU #Divest #ClimateChange #NoNewCoal #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Some of Europe’s largest banks are unveiling plans to lend and manage money in greener ways as pressure mounts to account for risks associated with climate change.

“It is coming, it’s a trend that’s started,” said Louis Douady, head of corporate social responsibility at Natixis SA in Paris. “The intention is to adapt our balance sheet to climate transition, so clearly we want to have a change in our business mix.”

Financial institutions are beginning to get on board with the global fight against climate change, a movement that was until recently the territory of non-profit organizations and environmentalists.

Natixis, UBS Group AG and ING Groep NV are among lenders unveiling large-scale environmental finance and investing initiatives as central banks and regulators step up their warnings on climate risk.

Natixis is working on a new color-coded indicator that will be applied to about 60 percent of its activities to encourage more climate-friendly business.

The system, due to start by year-end, uses shades of green, brown or neutral to reflect a transaction’s risk weighting on the bank’s balance sheet. The greener the project, the lighter the risk.

‘Game Changer’

UBS recently introduced a sustainable investing strategy to its wealth management arm in Switzerland, the U.K. and the Asia Pacific region that has amassed more than 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) from investors in the first six months of the year.

“Demand for sustainable and impact investing has undeniably been on the rise in recent years,” said James Purcell, head of alternative and sustainable investments at UBS. “The game changer has been the realization that this investment strategy does not mean sacrificing returns.”

The strategy is to invest in cross-asset portfolios that include World Bank bonds, green bonds and environmental, social and governance-focused equity funds. The wealth manager expects the approach to generate returns comparable with its conventional strategies.

ING in Amsterdam is writing sustainability-linked loans where the cost of capital fluctuates depending on the environmental impact of the borrower. The bank can knock off between 5 and 10 percent of the cost if the company improves its sustainability metrics, according to Leonie Schreve, global head of sustainable finance at ING.

To date it has completed more than 15 such transactions, including a 1 billion-euro loan to electronics company Koninklijke Philips NV.

Banks are still trailing asset managers such as pension funds and insurance companies in putting climate concerns into action. Institutional investors with $68.4 trillion under management have already signed up to the Principles for Responsible Investment, pledging to incorporate environmental, social and governance factors, known as ESG, into their investment decisions.

Several have also begun to divest from fossil fuel holdings, from insurers such as AXA SA to the Church of England and Oxford University’s endowment.

Press link for more: Bloomberg