Netherlands

This Isn’t “The New Normal #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol 

This Isn’t ‘the New Normal’ for Climate Change — That Will Be Worse
David Wallace-Wells

October 11, 2017 10:12 am


A Fountaingrove Village homeowner surveys her destroyed home she and her husband have owned for four years, on October 9, 2017, in Santa Rosa, California. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

It’s been a terrifying season for what we used to call natural disasters.

For the first time in recorded history, three hurricanes arose simultaneously in the Caribbean. 

Harvey and Irma ravaged a series of islands then turned north and hit the U.S. mainland. 

Days later came Maria, the third storm this season to register among the top-four most devastating hurricanes in dollar terms to ever make landfall in the U.S. (Maria seems likely to be remembered as among the worst humanitarian disasters America has ever seen, with 40 percent of Puerto Rico still without running water, power out for likely six months, and native agriculture devastated for a full year.)


 For years, we’ve conceived of climate change in terms of sea level, meaning it was often possible to believe its devastating impacts would be felt mostly by those living elsewhere, on the coasts; extreme weather seems poised to break that delusion, beginning with hurricanes. And then the unprecedented California wildfires broke out over the weekend, fueled by the Diablo Winds, killing 17 already and burning through 115,000 acres across several counties by Wednesday, casting even the sky above Disneyland in an eerie postapocalyptic orange glow and lighting up satellite images with flames visible from space.

 The smoke was visible from there, too.
It is tempting to look at this string of disasters and think, Climate change is here. 

Both hurricanes and wildfires are made worse by warming, with as much as 30 percent of the strength of hurricanes like Harvey and Maria attributable to climate change, and wildfire season both extended and exacerbated by it. 

As the journalist Malcolm Harris put it blithely on Twitter, “There didn’t used to be a major natural disaster every single day.”

What that means is that we have not, at all, arrived at a new normal. 

It is more like we’ve taken one step out on the plank off a pirate ship.

But the truth is actually far scarier than “welcome to the new normal.”

 The climate system we have been observing since August, the one that has pummeled the planet again and again and exposed even the world’s wealthiest country as unable (or at least unwilling) to properly respond to its destruction, is not our bleak future. 

It is, by definition, a beyond-best-case scenario for warming and all the climate disasters that will bring. 

Even if, miraculously, the planet immediately ceased emitting carbon into the atmosphere, we’d still be due for some additional warming, and therefore some climate-disaster shakeout, from just the stuff we’ve put into the air already. 

But of course we’re very far from zeroing out on carbon, and therefore very far from stalling climate change.

 A recent debate has centered around the question of whether it is even conceivably possible for the planet to pull up short of one-point-five degrees Celsius of warming, which means, at the absolute very least, we have 50 percent more warming to go (since we’re at about one degree already). But even most optimistic experts expect we’ll at least hit two degrees, and possibly two-point-five or even three. 

That means as much as 200 percent more warming ahead of us.

 And what that means for extreme weather and climate disasters is horrifying.

Watch: How Climate Change Is Creating More Powerful Hurricanes
Of course, there is also an enormous variance in weather, and we shouldn’t expect, say, that next year’s hurricane season will be necessarily as bad as this one, or worse, or that next year’s wildfire season will be as bad as this one, or worse, even as the planet continues to warm.

 We are probably dealing with a lot of bad luck in 2017 (and that’s not even counting the earthquakes, unrelated to climate, that shook Mexico last month, reducing whole neighborhoods to rubble). But, over time, the trend lines are inarguable: Climate change will give us more devastating hurricanes than we have now, and more horrible wildfires, as well as more tornadoes and droughts and heat waves and floods.
What that means is that we have not, at all, arrived at a new normal.

It is more like we’ve taken one step out on the plank off a pirate ship. 

Perhaps because of the exhausting false debate about whether climate change is “real,” too many of us have developed a misleading impression that its effects are binary. 

But global warming is not “yes” or “no,” it is a function that gets worse over time as long as we continue to produce greenhouse gas. 

And so the experience of life in a climate transformed by human activity is not just a matter of stepping from one stable environment into another, somewhat worse one, no matter how degraded or destructive the transformed climate is.

 The effects will grow and build as the planet continues to warm: from one degree to one-point-five to almost certainly two degrees and beyond.

 The last few months of climate disasters may look like about as much as the planet can take. 

But things are only going to get worse.

Press link for more: NYMag.com

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#Irma & #Harvey should kill all doubt #climatechange is real. 

Irma and Harvey should kill any doubt that climate change is real

By By Michael E. Mann, Susan J. Hassol and Thomas C. Peterson

As we begin to clean up from Hurricane Harvey, the wettest hurricane on record, dumping up to 50 inches of rain on Houston in three days, and await landfall of Irma, the most powerful hurricane on record in the open Atlantic Ocean, people are asking: What is the role of human-induced climate change in these events, and how else have our own actions increased our risks?

Fundamental physical principles and observed weather trends mean we already know some of the answers — and we have for a long time.
Hurricanes get their energy from warm ocean waters, and the oceans are warming because of the human-caused buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, primarily from the burning of coal, oil and gas.

 The strongest hurricanes have gotten stronger because of global warming.

 Over the past two years, we have witnessed the most intense hurricanes on record for the globe, both hemispheres, the Pacific and now, with Irma, the Atlantic.

We also know that warmer air holds more moisture, and the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere has increased because of human-induced global warming.

 We’ve measured this increase, and it has been unequivocally attributed to human-caused warming. 

That extra moisture causes heavier rainfall, which has also been observed and attributed to our influence on climate. 

We know that rainfall rates in hurricanes are expected to increase in a warmer world, and now we’re living that reality.

And global warming also means higher sea levels, both because ocean water expands as it warms and because ice in the mountains and at the poles melts and makes its way into oceans.

 Sea level rise is accelerating, and storm surge from hurricanes rides on top of higher seas to infiltrate further into our coastal cities.
Heavier rain and higher sea levels can combine to compound flooding in major hurricanes, as the deluges cause flooding that must drain to the sea but can’t do so as quickly because of storm surges. 

Sadly, we saw this effect in play in the catastrophic flooding from Harvey.


We don’t have all of the answers yet. 

There are scientific linkages we’re still trying to work out. 

Harvey, like Hurricane Irene before it in 2011, resulted in record flooding, because of a combination of factors. 

Very warm ocean temperatures meant more moisture in the atmosphere to produce heavy rainfall, yes. 

But both storms were also very slow-moving, nearly stationary at times, which means that rain fell over the same areas for an extended period.
Cutting-edge climate science suggests that such stalled weather patterns could result from a slowed jet stream, itself a consequence — through principles of atmospheric science — of the accelerated warming of the Arctic. 

This is a reminder of how climate changes in far-off regions such as the North Pole can have very real effects on extreme weather faced here in the Lower 48.
These linkages are preliminary, and scientists are still actively studying them. But they are a reminder that surprises may be in store — and not welcome ones — when it comes to the unfolding effects of climate change.

Which leads us, inevitably, to a discussion of policy — and, indeed, politics. Previous administrations focused on adapting to climate change, with an eye to what the planet would look like in the future. 

But events such as Harvey, and probably Irma, show that we have not even adapted to our current climate (which has already changed because of our influence).
The effects of climate change are no longer subtle. 

We are seeing them play out before us here and now. 

And they will only worsen if we fail to act.
The Trump administration, however, seems determined to lead us backward. 

In recent months, we have witnessed a dismantling of the policies put in place by the Obama administration to

 (a) incentivize the necessary move from climate-change-producing fossil fuels toward clean energy, 

(b) increase resilience to climate change effects through sensible regulations on coastal development, and

 (c) continue to fund basic climate research that can inform our assessments of risk and adaptive strategies.

 Ironically, just 10 days before Harvey struck, President Trump rescinded flood protection standards put in place by the Obama administration that would take sea level rise and other climate change effects into account in coastal development plans.

And as Trump kills policies that would reduce the risks of climate disasters, our nation continues to support policies that actually increase our risks.

 For example, without the taxpayer-subsidized National Flood Insurance Program, banks would be less likely to provide mortgages for rebuilding houses in locations that have been flooded before, sometimes repeatedly. 

And the flood insurance program is itself underwater: badly in debt and set to expire at the end of this month unless Congress finds a way to keep it afloat, just as billions of dollars in claims from Harvey come pouring in.
Harvey and Irma are sad reminders that policy matters. At a time when damage from climate change is escalating, we need sensible policy in Washington to protect the citizens of this country, both by reducing future climate change and preparing for its consequences. We should demand better of our leaders.

Press link for more: Washington Post

Sue The Bastards #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol 

Sue the Bastards
L. Hunter Lovins, Contributor President Natural Capitalism Solutions, Professor of Sustainable Management Bard MBA

When flood waters rose in Houston and Hurricane Harvey spread eastward to already battered regions of the Gulf coast, the urgent priority was preservation of life, evacuation of those threatened and long-term care of the displaced. 

The unfolding tragedy that is Harvey has already killed dozens, with more to come. 

Cost estimates rose from $30 billion before the storm, to $75 billion, as the severity became obvious, to over $100 billion. 

Harvey will certainly exceed Katrina, the previous record holder, costing up to one percent of U.S. GDP.


As usual, Americans reached deep to lend sympathy, understanding and practical assistance. 

As always, groups like the Red Cross stepped up, offering Text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10
But is anyone responsible for Harvey?
When the Deep Horizon well blew out, no one questioned that the parties who killed eleven people and spewed oil across the Gulf of Mexico would be held to account. 

The only question was how much. 

BP’s costs for taking a $500,000 short cut was in the neighborhood of $62 billion, although they offset many of the fines against taxes.


Damage from storms has routinely been considered an “Act of God.” 

Legal dictionaries define this as, “An event that directly and exclusively results from occurrence of natural causes that could not have been prevented by the exercise of foresight or caution; an inevitable accident.”
But is that true of Harvey?
The ultra warm waters of the Gulf and the tendency of storms now to move very slowly—the warming arctic is unable to maintain the jet stream that previously blew such storm away from the hot Gulf that fuels them—clearly contributed to the billions in damage. 

These, we now know, are results of global warming.

Several California communities recently tired of blaming God and sued the oil and coal companies claiming THEY caused the climate change that forecasts warned would devastate their communities in years to come.

 Global warming, they said, could have been prevented.

 They’re right: my first book on how to do this was in 1981.

 Since then many of us have shown that energy efficiency and renewable energy is cheaper than burning the fossil fuels that drive climate change, and that it would be better business to go green and just solve the crisis.


Marin and San Mateo Counties, and the city of Imperial Beach carried the argument further.

 Using the work of my colleague Richard Heede who showed that just 90 companies are responsible for two thirds of human caused global warming, they decided if you can name the creators of the harm, you ought to be able to sue them.

Wake up to the day’s most important news.
The governments argued, “37 coal, oil, and gas companies including Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Peabody Energy, knew about the harm their products posed to the planet and continued to undermine and obfuscate the dangers of climate change.”

The suit faces challenges.

 Peabody, once the world’s largest coal company, promptly claimed its recent bankruptcy shields it from such liability. 

Interestingly, it did not deny that it might have been liable, only that its early recognition of the unviability of its business model now enabled it to duck any ongoing responsibility. Mighty neighborly….
For arcane legal reasons (preemption by the Federal government limits people’s ability to sue) previous efforts to hold companies liable have failed. 

When the Inuit village being eaten by rising sea levels sought federal damages, they were told that only the legislative and executive branches could deliver relief.
But what if Congress and the Child-in-Chief are bought and paid for advocates for the fossil industry? 


Maybe suing is the only way to bring accountability to our system. 

Yes, apportioning blame will be tricky.

 And yes, every one of us is to blame every time we fire up a car or board an airplane.

 But we’ll already be paying the costs through our tax dollars. 

Isn’t it time that those who have made billions keeping us all addicted to oil pay their share?

Framing their case to mimic the successful public nuisance suits that forced tobacco companies to settle and pay damages for the public costs imposed on taxpayers to treat smokers, and filing in state court, may enable California plaintiffs to overcome the hurdles that derail federal law suits. 

Still, they must prove that any particular defendant is responsible for their specific harm, especially when the damage they allege is only anticipated.
But Harvey’s harm is all too real, compounding daily with creeping mold, exploding chemical plants, loss of water supplies, and the threat of disease. 

Harvey has already forced the release of millions of pounds of chemicals from oil operations spread across Houston. 

One Exxon facility collapsed, releasing 13,000 pounds of nastiness including benzene, a known carcinogen.

And the challenge of dealing with global warming is only beginning. As meteorologist Eric Holthaus put it, “Harvey is what climate change looks like.”
“In all of U.S. history,” he stated, “There’s never been a storm like Hurricane Harvey…. Houston, as it was before Harvey, will never be the same again.”
He points out that Harvey is the third 500-year flood to hit the Houston area in three years. A storm like Harvey should not happen more than once in a millennium. 

The week before, 1,200 people died in floods also triggered by record rainfall across India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Futurist Alex Steffen calls our tendency to deny threats like climate change “predatory delay”—it adds inevitable risk to the system.

 Legal liability is supposed to impose a measure of responsibility on parties with the capacity do damage. 

But if no one can be held liable, what will stop the catastrophe?
Holthaus warns, “It’s up to the rest of us to identify this behavior and make it morally repugnant….The symbolism of the worst flooding disaster in U.S. history hitting the sprawled-out capital city of America’s oil industry is likely not lost on many. 

Institutionalized climate denial in our political system and climate denial by inaction by the rest of us have real consequences. 

They look like Houston.”

Press link for more: Huffington Post

A toolkit to save the world. #auspol #StopAdani #education 

A toolkit to save the world: five skills you’ll need to fight climate change
15 Aug 17

Kevin Rudd described global warming as “the greatest moral challenge of our generation,” but that’s too simple.

 It’s the greatest economic, political, social, cultural, environmental and scientific challenge of our time.

A silver bullet won’t be found in a scientist’s laboratory, the halls of Parliament, nor a community activist’s meeting.
Nope, it’ll take a coordinated effort from researchers, corporations, politicians, innovators and communities to tackle climate change.

This is precisely why social scientists are poised to play such a crucial role. People with the breadth of understanding and skills to navigate and coordinate all of these moving parts will be absolutely crucial.
So with that in mind, here are five of the instruments in a social scientist’s toolkit that we’ll need to fight this real and present danger.
Data Analysis

It sounds dry, but data analysis strikes at the very heart of the climate change debate. 

The interpretation of global temperature data is the major flashpoint for the conversation, and so understanding and communicating this information will only become more important over time.
On top of this, big data is proving to be crucial in the response to global warming.
Microsoft’s mind-boggling Madingley project is a real-time virtual biosphere – ie. a simulation of all life on earth. It creates a simulation of the global carbon cycle and predicts how it will impact everything from pollution to animal migration to deforestation.
Political leadership

Leaders with a deep understanding of socio-political structures and forces will be needed to enact change on a legislative and global level.
The recent failure of the Paris Accord shows just how important negotiation and diplomacy will be in order to get countries from around the world to work together.

This not only involves political guile, but also communication skills, cultural knowledge and courage to make difficult but necessary decisions.
Research and innovation

Without technological transformation in some of the world’s biggest industries, we won’t stand a chance.
Existing alternative energy sources such as solar and wind need to become more efficient, and fledgeling technologies like ocean, hybrid and bio energies need to develop to support ever-increasing energy demands.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has famously framed climate change as an issue of economic competitiveness and innovation.
The countries and businesses that are more successful at producing new energy technologies and practices will thrive.
The rest will fall behind.
Corporate leadership

With this in mind, leadership in the corporate sector naturally has a massive role to play. Far swifter and more meaningful change can come from within a business than when it’s mandated by government regulations.
Business models will need to be forward-thinking, not relying on traditional methods of production, and change company cultures in the process.

A recent example of this sort of industry leadership is Volvo who announced they will cease production of purely internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2019.
Communication skills

Professor Andrew J. Hoffman from the University of Michigan perfectly articulated the state of the “toxic” climate change debate:
“On the one side, this is all a hoax, humans have no impact on the climate and nothing unusual is happening.
“On the other side, this is an imminent crisis, human activity explains all climate changes, and it will devastate life on Earth as we know it. Amidst this acrimonious din, scientists are trying to explain the complexity of the issue.”
As a society we’ll need to reach some sort of meaningful consensus on the issue. From the boardroom to Twitter, we’ll need opinion leaders who can navigate the clashing world views that dictate how we view the science.
It won’t be easy, but it is necessary.
Clearly, climate change and many other global concerns are multi-faceted issues that necessitate a range of approaches and perspectives.
It’s for this very reason that Griffith University’s Dr Ben Fenton-Smith believes “there is no question that social scientists are going to be in huge demand in the next 20–30 years.
“As our use of data, technology and information increases, we are going to need social scientists to make sense of it.”
Complex problems have complex solutions.


Griffith University is introducing a brand new Bachelor of Social Science to develop the next generation of Aussie leaders keen to tackle the biggest issues facing the world today. Head over here to find out about this exciting new degree.

Press link for more: Techly.com.au

100% Renewables Needed “As Fast As Humanly Possible” #StopAdani #auspol 

Bill McKibben: ‘100% Renewables Needed ‘As Fast as Humanly Possible’

By Jake Johnson
“Given the state of the planet,” wrote 350.org founder Bill McKibben in his new feature piece for In These Times, it would have been ideal for the world to have fully transitioned its energy systems away from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable sources “25 years ago.”

But we can still push for the “second best” option, McKibben concluded. To do so, we must move toward wind, solar and water “as fast as humanly possible.”
The transition to 100 percent renewable energy is a goal that has gained significant appeal over the past decade—and particularly over the past several months, as President Donald Trump has moved rapidly at the behest of Big Oil to dismantle even the limited environmental protections put in place by the Obama administration. 

Trump also withdrew the U.S. from the Paris agreement, a move McKibben denounced as “stupid and reckless.”


“Environmental groups from the Climate Mobilization to Greenpeace to Food and Water Watch are backing the 100 percent target,” McKibben wrote, as are many lawmakers, U.S. states and countries throughout the world.
Given the climate stance of both the dominant party in Congress and the current occupant of the Oval Office, McKibben noted that we shouldn’t be looking toward either for leadership.
Rather, we should look to states like California and countries like China, both of which have made significant commitments to aggressively alter their energy systems in recent months.

The newest addition to the push for renewables is Maryland, which is set to announce on Thursday an “urgent” and “historic” bill that, if passed, would transition the state’s energy system to 100 percent renewables by 2035.
McKibben also pointed to individual senators like Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who in April introduced legislation that would transition the U.S. to 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2050. The bill will not pass the current Congress, “but as a standard to shape the Democratic Party agenda in 2018 and 2020, it’s critically important,” McKibben argued.
“What Medicare for All is to the healthcare debate, or Fight for $15 is to the battle against inequality, 100 percent renewable is to the struggle for the planet’s future,” McKibben wrote. “It’s how progressives will think about energy going forward.”

Previously a fringe idea, the call for 100 percent renewables is “gaining traction outside the obvious green enclaves,” McKibben added. This is in large part because technology is such that a move toward 100 percent renewable energy “would make economic sense … even if fossil fuels weren’t wrecking the Earth.”
“That’s why the appeal of 100% Renewable goes beyond the left,” McKibben wrote. “If you pay a power bill, it’s the common-sense path forward.”
Writing for Vox last week, David Roberts noted that “wind and solar power are saving Americans an astounding amount of money” already.
“[W]ind and solar produce, to use the economic term of art, ‘positive externalities’—benefits to society that are not captured in their market price,” Roberts wrote. “Specifically, wind and solar power reduce pollution, which reduces sickness, missed work days, and early deaths.”
For these reasons, and for the familiar environmental ones, 100 percent renewables is no longer merely an “aspirational goal,” McKibben argued. It is “the obvious solution.”
“No more half-measures … Many scientists tell us that within a decade, at current rates, we’ll likely have put enough carbon in the atmosphere to warm the Earth past the Paris climate targets,” McKibben concluded. “Renewables—even the most rapid transition—won’t stop climate change, but getting off fossil fuel now might (there are no longer any guarantees) keep us from the level of damage that would shake civilization.”

Press link for more: Eco watch

Renewables Could Eliminate 99% of CO2 Emissions by 2050 #auspol #StopAdani

A New Roadmap to Renewable Dependence Could Eliminate 99% of CO2 Emissions by 2050

Far-Reaching and Inclusive
Setting goals to reduce carbon emissions and then figuring out a way to achieve those goals is difficult for any country.

 Now, imagine doing that for not just one nation but 139 of them.
That’s the enormous task a team of researchers led by Stanford University environmental engineer Mark Jacobson decided to take on. 

He and his colleagues built a roadmap for 139 countries across the globe that would lead to them relying solely on renewable energy by 2050, and they’ve published that plan today in Joule.
renewable energy solar energy wind energy water energy


Image Credit: The Solutions Project

The 139 countries weren’t picked arbitrarily. 

The researchers chose them because data on each was publicly available through the International Energy Agency. Combined, the chosen nations also produce more than 99 percent of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.
To develop their roadmap, the researchers first analyzed each country. 

They looked at how much raw renewable energy resources each one has, and then they determined the number of wind, water, and solar energy generators needed for that country to reach 80 percent renewable energy dependence by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.


The researchers also calculated the amount of land and rooftop area such power sources would require, as well as how a transition to renewables could reduce each nation’s energy demand and costs. 

Aside from the energy sector, the team also took into account the transportation, heating/cooling, industrial, and agriculture/fishing/forestry industries of each of the 139 countries while creating their roadmap.

“Aside from eliminating emissions and avoiding 1.5 degrees Celsius [2.7 degrees Fahrenheit] global warming and beginning the process of letting carbon dioxide drain from the Earth’s atmosphere, transitioning eliminates 4-7 million air pollution deaths each year and creates over 24 million long-term, full-time jobs by these plans,” Jacobson said in a press release.

“What is different between this study and other studies that have proposed solutions is that we are trying to examine not only the climate benefits of reducing carbon but also the air pollution benefits, job benefits, and cost benefits,” he added.
Benefits Beyond the Climate
As each of these 139 countries is unique, their paths to 100 percent renewable energy are necessarily unique as well. 

For instance, nations with greater land-to-population ratios, such as the U.S., the E.U., and China, have an easier path to renewable dependence and could achieve it at a faster rate than small but highly populated countries surrounded by oceans, such as Singapore.
For all countries, however, the goal is the same: 100 percent dependence on renewables.

According to the study, this transition would lessen worldwide energy consumption as renewables are more efficient than their fossil fuel-powered counterparts.
It would also result in the creation of 24 million long-term jobs, reduce the number of air pollution deaths by 4 to 7 million annually, and stabilize energy prices.

 The world could potentially save more than $20 trillion in health and climate costs each year.
And these 139 nations now know exactly what they need to do to reach this goal and all the benefits that come with it.
“Both individuals and governments can lead this change.

 Policymakers don’t usually want to commit to doing something unless there is some reasonable science that can show it is possible, and that is what we are trying to do,” Jacobson explained. 

“There are other scenarios. 

We are not saying that there is only one way we can do this, but having a scenario gives people direction.”
For co-author Mark Delucchi from the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, the study sends a very clear message: “Our findings suggest that the benefits are so great that we should accelerate the transition to wind, water, and solar, as fast as possible, by retiring fossil-fuel systems early wherever we can.”

Press link for more: Futurism.com

What should you say to a climate change skeptic? #StopAdani #auspol 

What should you say to a climate change skeptic?
Mira Abed
Climate change

Greenhouse gases are released from a factory in Australia. (Dave Hunt / European Pressphoto Agency)
We’ve all been there: The perfectly innocuous conversation you’ve been having at a friend’s party or your kid’s soccer game devolves into an argument about climate change.

 Suddenly, you realize you’re talking to a climate change skeptic.
You want to help your acquaintances see the light. But how?
We asked climate scientists and communicators how to have constructive discussions about climate change.

 They offered both general advice about how to engage and specific information to rebut doubters’ claims.
Start by looking for common ground. 

We all depend on the same planet for our survival, and all of us want a good outcome, said Richard Alley, a geoscientist at Penn State University who studies abrupt changes in the climate.
Also, recognize that there’s a grain of truth in most of the arguments put out by climate skeptics — or at least an intriguing question that climate scientists have considered at some point. 

Acknowledging the merits of these ideas often leads to more productive discussions, said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.
Read on and you’ll be ready when the next unexpected debate comes your way.
Beware of cherry-picking
In many cases, so-called evidence against climate change is drawn from a zoomed-in picture, like data taken from a short time period or a single geographical location. It’s not that the information is wrong — it may just be taken out of context.
Climate scientists emphasize the need to look at global data over long periods to understand it in context and see larger trends. For example, it’s easy to pick an exceptionally hot year — like 1998 — and point out that the average global temperature was only 0.1° Celsius warmer than in 2008, a relatively cool one. But all this example shows is that there are fluctuations from year to year.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen exponentially in the last century.


Atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen exponentially in the last century. (NASA)

What really matters, climate scientists say, is that the global average temperature is on a rising trend. 

NOAA’s 2016 climate report shows that every year since 1977 has been warmer than the 20th century average.

 This means the Earth is retaining more heat over time.
Always ask skeptics about the data their argument is based on.

 If it’s from an isolated location or a small chunk of time, it may not be representative of the bigger picture.
Greenhouse gases are the key
When looking for something to blame for rising temperatures, skeptics tend to focus on natural factors that can shift over time, such as the intensity of the sun, the amount of volcanic activity or changes in Earth’s orbit. 

They may even acknowledge the role of certain man-made pollutants like ozone or aerosols.
But all of these factors are dwarfed by the impact of greenhouse gases.
When we burn fossil fuels in cars, planes and power plants, the hydrocarbon molecules in the fuel break down to produce carbon dioxide and water. 

Both are then released into the atmosphere.
Emissions spew from a large stack at a coal-fired power plant in Newburg, Md.


Emissions spew from a large stack at a coal-fired power plant in Newburg, Md. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Carbon dioxide (CO2) and some other small molecules, such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxides (NOx), are known as greenhouse gases because they absorb and trap light from the sun as well as infrared radiation coming from the Earth’s surface. 

Both are converted into heat by these gases that warms the air — much like a greenhouse does.
Carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas by far, Alley said. 

Every time the climate has changed in ways that scientists can measure, carbon dioxide has had something to do with it, he said.
The NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York modeled the impact of a variety of natural and industrial factors on global temperature. They found that only carbon dioxide levels predicted the temperature increase we’ve seen in recent decades. This visualization from Bloomberg makes it easy to see.
Methane and nitrous oxides actually have more powerful greenhouse effects than carbon dioxide — but carbon dioxide has a larger overall influence because we’re releasing so much more of it. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, carbon dioxide accounted for 82% of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2015.
Humans are responsible for the surge in carbon dioxide
Where did all that carbon dioxide come from? 

When looking at the concentrations of CO2 over time, “nothing interesting happened until we started burning coal,” Schmidt said.
That’s when atmospheric CO2 really picked up — and it’s increased exponentially ever since.
According to data compiled by the Goddard Institute, carbon dioxide was at an atmospheric concentration of 291 parts per million in 1880. 

It had risen to 311 ppm by 1950 and to 370 ppm by 2000.

 NOAA’s reported global annual average reached 402 ppm in 2016.

Carbon dioxide concentration changes throughout the year. 

Climate change skeptics often point out that volcanic eruptions and decaying plants also send carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But multiple studies have shown that human activity produces at least 60 times more carbon dioxide than volcanoes do each year. And while it’s true that plants produce more carbon dioxide than humans, they clean up after themselves — and even pick up some of our slack.
This is one reason the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher in the winter than in the summer. Plants come with their own carbon sinks – they produce carbon dioxide when they die and decay, but new plants also absorb it from the air as they grow.
You can’t blame warming on the sun
Climate change deniers say the sun is the obvious source of the planet’s heat. After all, it’s constantly bathing us in 173,000 terawatts of energy. That’s about 10,000 times more than enough to meet the entire world’s annual energy needs.
But solar activity has actually decreased since 1950, experts said. This means that if nothing else had changed, we would be experiencing a cooling cycle right now.
Solar energy output varies slightly over an 11-year cycle, and that does have an effect on temperature. But these effects are much clearer in the stratosphere than in the lower atmosphere, Schmidt said, and the solar cycle doesn’t significantly affect surface temperatures on Earth.
A Salvation Army hydration station sign sits in the midday sun as the temperature climbs to a near-record high in Phoenix.

A Salvation Army hydration station sign sits in the midday sun as the temperature climbs to a near-record high in Phoenix. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Typically, solar activity and temperature move together: When one rises, the other does too. So when we see solar activity and temperature moving in opposite directions, as has happened recently, we know that something else is going on.
Other factors are also encouraging cooling right now, several experts said, including an increase in reflective aerosols like sulfates and nitrates in the atmosphere. These block some heat from reaching the Earth’s surface.
If not for these cooling influences, our planet would be warming even more rapidly.
This is not a normal part of a natural cycle
Climate change has occurred naturally in the past. But that doesn’t mean natural causes are responsible this time.
Alley pointed out the logical flaw in this oft-repeated argument: It’s like saying that since wildfires sometimes begin with natural events like lightning strikes they can never be caused by a wayward campfire.
The climate doesn’t change unless it’s forced to change. And during the 20th century, there weren’t any natural events powerful enough to account for the changes scientists are documenting.
“Human fingerprints are all over this,” said John Cook, a cognitive scientist who studies beliefs about climate change at George Mason University.
And just because the climate has changed before doesn’t mean we want it to happen again — especially this quickly. In the past, rapid changes were usually pretty hard on living creatures that didn’t have enough time to adapt to their new conditions. That doesn’t bode well for us.
Don’t be fooled by Antarctic sea ice
For a several years in the early part of the decade, the amount of sea ice extending from Antarctica set new records, peaking at 7.72 million square miles (an area more than twice as large as the United States).
Climate change skeptics say this is inconsistent with a warming planet. But they ignore the fact that the vast majority of sea ice is decreasing. (Remember the warning about cherry-picking?) Even in Antarctica, it has been losing ground rapidly since 2014 and has now sunk to a record low.
Arctic sea ice hasn’t varied as widely in recent years. According to a report released in 2014 by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society in London, the yearly minimum Arctic sea ice extent in the summer has decreased by 40% since 1978. This could be the least icy the Arctic has been in almost 1,500 years, the report noted. Some researchers say that Arctic summers could be completely ice-free by 2030.
Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica passes through Victoria Strait while transiting the Northwest Passage connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans earlier than had ever been recorded.

Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica passes through Victoria Strait while transiting the Northwest Passage connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans earlier than had ever been recorded. (David Goldman / Associated Press)

Richard Somerville, a climate scientist who spent many years at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, points out that sea ice is highly variable.
“It’s not simple — the ice doesn’t just melt when the temperature falls below 32° Fahrenheit,” he said. “It gets blown around by the winds and carried around by the currents, and it gets blown or carried to regions that are either more prone to melting or less prone to melting.”
He likens sea ice trends to the stock market: Although it fluctuates from year to year, the overall trend can be seen when we look at long time periods — and now it’s a downward one. Focusing on short-term changes misses this bigger truth, he said.
The take-home message is that sea ice is complicated, so be careful not to jump to conclusions — in either direction. For example, the collapse of an iceberg that broke off from Antarctica in July has not been definitively tied to climate change.
Recognize that this is a political debate, not a scientific one

Skeptics like to say that scientists don’t agree on climate change, but the truth is that the consensus is overwhelming.
A whopping 97% of climate scientists share the view that climate change is happening now and that human activity is to blame.
Greenpeace activists in Spain protest President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

Greenpeace activists in Spain protest President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. (Mariscal / European Pressphoto Agency)

It’s important to understand where science ends and politics begins. To boost your chances for success, make a point of separating the two, Somerville said. Many people are not suspicious of the science, but rather of the consequences associated with climate change.
“There’s no such thing as a Democratic or Republican thermometer,” Somerville said. We can agree on what the science says, even if we have different political ideas, he added.
Understand why people may be misinformed
According to a recent poll conducted by researchers at Yale and George Mason University, only half of the American public realizes that a majority of climate scientists agree on climate change. Only 13% of those polled were aware that the degree of scientific consensus is upwards of 90%.
A number of factors have led to this widespread misunderstanding, Cook said.
First, some industry groups who oppose environmental regulation have made a concerted effort to confuse the public about climate change.
Additionally, media reports tend to include two sides to every story, including those about climate change. But that implies that both sides have equal weight, even when they don’t.
Finally, the sheer volume of climate change information is daunting, and many Americans don’t have the time or energy to sort fact from fiction. “Because there’s so much noise, people tend to disengage,” Cook said.
And finally, know when to cut your losses
As with any contentious issue, you have to realize when you’re talking to someone who just wants to argue.
“If that’s the case, just stop.” Schmidt said.
mira.abed@latimes.com
Twitter: @mirakatherine

Press link for more: LA Times.com

A Billion Climate Migrants by 2050 #ClimateChange #StopAdani #Auspol #Refugees 

Climate Migrants Might Reach One Billion by 2050
By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 21 2017 (IPS) – Imagine a world with as many as one billion people facing harsh climate change impacts resulting in devastating droughts and/or floods, extreme weather, destruction of natural resources, in particular lands, soils and water, and the consequence of severe livelihoods conditions, famine and starvation.


Although not yet based on definite scientific projections, the proven speed with which the process of climate change has been taking place, might lead to such a scenario by 2050. 

If so, 1 in 9 human beings would be on the move by then.
Currently, forecasts vary from 25 million to 1 billion environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis, with 200 million being the most widely cited estimate, according to a 2015 study carried out by the Institute for Environment and Human Security of the United Nations University.

“This figure equals the current estimate of international migrants worldwide.”
Other specialised sources estimate that “every second, one person is displaced by disaster.” 

On this, the Oslo-based Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reports that in 2015 only, more than 19.2 million people fled disasters in 113 countries. 

“Disasters displace three to ten times more people than conflict and war worldwide.”
One Person Displaced Every Second

As climate change continues, adds NRC, it will likely lead to more frequent and severe natural hazards; the impact will be heavy, warns this independent humanitarian organisation providing aid and assistance to people forced to flee.
“On average, 26 million people are displaced by disasters such as floods and storms every year. 

That’s one person forced to flee every second.” See: Climate Victims – Every Second, One Person Is Displaced by Disaster
For its part, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) also forecasts 200 million environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis. Many of them would be coastal population.

In an interview to IPS, the IOM Director General William Lacy Swing explained that political crises and natural disasters are the other major drivers of migration today.
“We have never had so many complex and protracted humanitarian emergencies now happening simultaneously from West Africa all the way to Asia, with very few spots in between which do not have some issue.”

The UN specialised body’s chief added “We have today 40 million forcibly displaced people and 20 million refugees, the greatest number of uprooted people since the Second World War.” See: Q&A: Crisis and Climate Change Driving Unprecedented Migration
Droughts, Desertification
Another warning comes from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which estimates that some 135 million people may be displaced by 2045 as a result of desertification.
Up to 12 million hectares of productive land become barren every year due to desertification and drought alone, which is a lost opportunity to produce 20 million tons of grain, adds the Bonn-based Convention secretariat.
Meantime, the increase in droughts and flash floods that are stronger, more frequent and widespread is destroying the land – the Earth’s main fresh water store, according to UNCCD.
“Droughts kill more people than any other single weather-related catastrophe and conflicts among communities over water scarcity are gathering pace. Over 1 billion people today have no access to water, and demand will increase by 30 per cent by 2030.”
On the other hand, getting sustainable energy to all represents one of the biggest development challenges of the 21st century, it continues.
“Research suggests that 1.4 billion people — over 20 per cent of the global population — lack access to electricity, and that at least 2.7 billion people — some 40 cent of the global population — rely on the traditional use of biomass for cooking.”
In short, land, water and energy as resources are all pillars of our survival and of sustainable development.
“They stand or fall together. To be sustainable and in particular to reach poor rural populations, we need to enhance supply, access and security across all three pillars, at the same time, while supporting global climate ambitions.”
National Security, Migration
On this, based on the UN Environment Programme’s 2009 study “From Conflict to Peace-building. The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment,” UNCCD reminds that 40 per cent of all intrastate conflicts in the past 60 years are linked to the control and allocation of natural resources.
“The exposure of more and more poor people to water scarcity and hunger opens the door to the failure of fragile states and regional conflicts. Non-state actor groups are increasingly taking advantage of large cross-border migration flows and abandoned lands.”
Where natural assets including land are poorly managed, warns the Convention, violence might become the dominant means of resource control, forcing natural resource assets out of the hands of legitimate government.
Meanwhile, the number of international migrants worldwide has been on the rise. According to the International migration report (2015), their number has continued to grow rapidly over the past fifteen years reaching 244 million in 2015, up from 222 million in 2010 and 173 million in 2000.
Losing productive land is driving people to make risky life choices, says UNCCD, adding that in rural areas where people depend on scarce productive land resources, land degradation is a driver of forced migration.
Africa is particularly susceptible since more than 90 per cent of economy depends on a climate-sensitive natural resource base like rain-fed, subsistence agriculture.
“Unless we change the way we manage our land, in the next 30 years we may leave a billion or more vulnerable poor people with little choice but to fight or flee.”

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Systemic Change our only hope. #StopAdani #auspol 

By Richard Heinberg.

Systemic Change Driven by Moral Awakening Is Our Only Hope
Our core ecological problem is not climate change.

It is overshoot, of which global warming is a symptom.

Overshoot is a systemic issue.

Over the past century-and-a-half, enormous amounts of cheap energy from fossil fuels enabled the rapid growth of resource extraction, manufacturing and consumption; and these in turn led to population increase, pollution and loss of natural habitat and hence biodiversity.

The human system expanded dramatically, overshooting Earth’s long-term carrying capacity for humans while upsetting the ecological systems we depend on for our survival.

Until we understand and address this systemic imbalance, symptomatic treatment (doing what we can to reverse pollution dilemmas like climate change, trying to save threatened species and hoping to feed a burgeoning population with genetically modified crops) will constitute an endlessly frustrating round of stopgap measures that are ultimately destined to fail.

The ecology movement in the 1970s benefitted from a strong infusion of systems thinking, which was in vogue at the time (ecology—the study of the relationships between organisms and their environments—is an inherently systemic discipline, as opposed to studies like chemistry that focus on reducing complex phenomena to their components).

As a result, many of the best environmental writers of the era framed the modern human predicament in terms that revealed the deep linkages between environmental symptoms and the way human society operates.

Limits to Growth (1972), an outgrowth of the systems research of Jay Forrester, investigated the interactions between population growth, industrial production, food production, resource depletion and pollution.

Overshoot (1982), by William Catton, named our systemic problem and described its origins and development in a style any literate person could appreciate.

Many more excellent books from the era could be cited.
However, in recent decades, as climate change has come to dominate environmental concerns, there has been a significant shift in the discussion.

Today, most environmental reporting is focused laser-like on climate change, and systemic links between it and other worsening ecological dilemmas (such as overpopulation, species extinctions, water and air pollution, and loss of topsoil and fresh water) are seldom highlighted.

It’s not that climate change isn’t a big deal. As a symptom, it’s a real doozy.

There’s never been anything quite like it, and climate scientists and climate-response advocacy groups are right to ring the loudest of alarm bells. But our failure to see climate change in context may be our undoing.

Why have environmental writers and advocacy organizations succumbed to tunnel vision?

Perhaps it’s simply that they assume systems thinking is beyond the capacity of policy makers. It’s true: If climate scientists were to approach world leaders with the message, “We have to change everything, including our entire economic system—and fast,” they might be shown the door rather rudely.

A more acceptable message is, “We have identified a serious pollution problem, for which there are technical solutions.”

Perhaps many of the scientists who did recognize the systemic nature of our ecological crisis concluded that if we can successfully address this one make-or-break environmental crisis, we’ll be able to buy time to deal with others waiting in the wings (overpopulation, species extinctions, resource depletion and on and on).
If climate change can be framed as an isolated problem for which there is a technological solution, the minds of economists and policy makers can continue to graze in familiar pastures.

Technology—in this case, solar, wind and nuclear power generators, as well as batteries, electric cars, heat pumps and, if all else fails, solar radiation management via atmospheric aerosols—centers our thinking on subjects like financial investment and industrial production.

Discussion participants don’t have to develop the ability to think systemically, nor do they need to understand the Earth system and how human systems fit into it.

All they need trouble themselves with is the prospect of shifting some investments, setting tasks for engineers and managing the resulting industrial-economic transformation so as to ensure that new jobs in green industries compensate for jobs lost in coal mines.
The strategy of buying time with a techno-fix presumes either that we will be able to institute systemic change at some unspecified point in the future even though we can’t do it just now (a weak argument on its face), or that climate change and all of our other symptomatic crises will in fact be amenable to technological fixes.

The latter thought-path is again a comfortable one for managers and investors.

After all, everybody loves technology.

It already does nearly everything for us. During the last century it solved a host of problems: it cured diseases, expanded food production, sped up transportation and provided us with information and entertainment in quantities and varieties no one could previously have imagined.

Why shouldn’t it be able to solve climate change and all the rest of our problems?

Of course, ignoring the systemic nature of our dilemma just means that as soon as we get one symptom corralled, another is likely to break loose.

But, crucially, is climate change, taken as an isolated problem, fully treatable with technology?

Color me doubtful.

I say this having spent many months poring over the relevant data with David Fridley of the energy analysis program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Our resulting book, Our Renewable Future, concluded that nuclear power is too expensive and risky; meanwhile, solar and wind power both suffer from intermittency, which (once these sources begin to provide a large percentage of total electrical power) will require a combination of three strategies on a grand scale: energy storage, redundant production capacity and demand adaptation.


At the same time, we in industrial nations will have to adapt most of our current energy usage (which occurs in industrial processes, building heating and transportation) to electricity.

Altogether, the energy transition promises to be an enormous undertaking, unprecedented in its requirements for investment and substitution.

When David and I stepped back to assess the enormity of the task, we could see no way to maintain current quantities of global energy production during the transition, much less to increase energy supplies so as to power ongoing economic growth.

The biggest transitional hurdle is scale: the world uses an enormous amount of energy currently; only if that quantity can be reduced significantly, especially in industrial nations, could we imagine a credible pathway toward a post-carbon future.

Downsizing the world’s energy supplies would, effectively, also downsize industrial processes of resource extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and waste management.

That’s a systemic intervention, of exactly the kind called for by the ecologists of the 1970s who coined the mantra, “Reduce, reuse and recycle.”

It gets to the heart of the overshoot dilemma—as does population stabilization and reduction, another necessary strategy.

But it’s also a notion to which technocrats, industrialists, and investors are virulently allergic.
The ecological argument is, at its core, a moral one—as I explain in more detail in a just-released manifesto replete with sidebars and graphics (“There’s No App for That: Technology and Morality in the Age of Climate Change, Overpopulation, and Biodiversity Loss”).

Any systems thinker who understands overshoot and prescribes powerdown as a treatment is effectively engaging in an intervention with an addictive behavior.

Society is addicted to growth, and that’s having terrible consequences for the planet and, increasingly, for us as well.

We have to change our collective and individual behavior and give up something we depend on—power over our environment.

We must restrain ourselves, like an alcoholic foreswearing booze. That requires honesty and soul-searching.
In its early years the environmental movement made that moral argument, and it worked up to a point.

Concern over rapid population growth led to family planning efforts around the world. Concern over biodiversity declines led to habitat protection. Concern over air and water pollution led to a slew of regulations.

These efforts weren’t sufficient, but they showed that framing our systemic problem in moral terms could get at least some traction.
Why didn’t the environmental movement fully succeed?

Some theorists now calling themselves “bright greens” or “eco-modernists” have abandoned the moral fight altogether.

Their justification for doing so is that people want a vision of the future that’s cheery and that doesn’t require sacrifice.

Now, they say, only a technological fix offers any hope.

The essential point of this essay (and my manifesto) is simply that, even if the moral argument fails, a techno-fix won’t work either.

A gargantuan investment in technology (whether next-generation nuclear power or solar radiation geo-engineering) is being billed as our last hope. But in reality it’s no hope at all.
The reason for the failure thus far of the environmental movement wasn’t that it appealed to humanity’s moral sentiments—that was in fact the movement’s great strength. The effort fell short because it wasn’t able to alter industrial society’s central organizing principle, which is also its fatal flaw: its dogged pursuit of growth at all cost. Now we’re at the point where we must finally either succeed in overcoming growthism or face the failure not just of the environmental movement, but of civilization itself.
The good news is that systemic change is fractal in nature: it implies, indeed it requires, action at every level of society.

We can start with our own individual choices and behavior; we can work within our communities.

We needn’t wait for a cathartic global or national sea change.

And even if our efforts cannot “save” consumerist industrial civilization, they could still succeed in planting the seeds of a regenerative human culture worthy of survival.
There’s more good news: Once we humans choose to restrain our numbers and our rates of consumption, technology can assist our efforts.

Machines can help us monitor our progress, and there are relatively simple technologies that can help deliver needed services with less energy usage and environmental damage.

Some ways of deploying technology could even help us clean up the atmosphere and restore ecosystems.
But machines can’t make the key choices that will set us on a sustainable path.

Systemic change driven by moral awakening: it’s not just our last hope; it’s the only real hope we’ve ever had.

Press link for more: Eco watch

Hope is essential to save the planet. #StopAdani #auspol 

We saved the whale. The same vision can save the planet | Susanna Rustin
Susanna RustinFriday 18 August 2017 16.00 AEST

 

Illustration by Mark Long

“Hope is essential – despair is just another form of denial,” Al Gore said last week, in an interview to promote the sequel to his 2006 climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth. 

As well as the very bad news of Donald Trump’s science-denying presidency, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, which opens in the UK today, brings good news: the plummeting cost of renewable electricity and the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

K

In 2017, denial of the facts of climate change – and myriad linked dangers including air and ocean pollution, famine and a refugee crisis the likes of which we can hardly imagine – is in retreat, with the Trump administration the malignant exception. 

Virtually all governments know that climate change is happening, and polls show most people do too – with those living in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa particularly worried.

 The question is not whether global warming is happening, but what we are going to do about it. 

There are, and need to be, many answers to this. 

Gore believes the solutions to climate change are within reach, if people can only find the political will to enact them.

 Even if how to whip up sufficient zeal to make this happen remains a puzzle, his essential message is one of optimism.


Others are less sanguine. 

A widely shared article by David Wallace-Wells in New York magazine last month sketching out some worst-case scenarios included an interview with pioneering climate scientist Wally Broecker, now 84, who no longer believes even the most drastic reductions in carbon emissions are sufficient to avert disaster. 

Instead, he puts his hopes in carbon capture and geoengineering. 

Others oppose anything that smacks of a techno-fix, believing the very idea that human ingenuity can get us out of this mess is yet another form of denial.
The human reaction – or lack of one – to climate change is a subject of interest in itself.

 The novelist Amitav Ghosh wrote The Great Derangement, a book about why fiction writers mostly ignore the subject, and argued that the profound alteration of Earth’s climate is difficult to think about. 

Wallace-Wells, in New York magazine, refers to “an incredible failure of imagination”. 

Politics, supposed to help us make sense of the world, has sometimes been more hindrance than help: is climate change really an inconvenient truth, because it means we have to give up eating beef and taking long-distance flights, or a too-convenient truth for anti-capitalists who want to bring down the financial system?
Such left-right binarism, and the relentlessly partisan nature of US politics, is surely why Gore now prefers to frame climate change more as a “moral” issue than as a political one. 

But the clearest and simplest message from his decade of advocacy is the need for action at every level. 

Such action takes many forms, ranging from protests against the Dakota Access pipeline in the US to anti-fracking demonstrations in Lancashire. 

This year the Guardian in conjunction with Global Witness is documenting the deaths of people all over the world who are killed while attempting to defend the environment from damage or destruction.

In a similar vein, the Natural History Museum has chosen its revamped central hall to showcase a key moment for environmental activism. 

When it was first announced that Dippy the dinosaur would be replaced with a blue whale skeleton that had previously hung quietly among the mammals, there were grumbles.

 But a month after its grand reopening in the presence of royalty and Sir David Attenborough, the revamped museum is a smash hit with more than 115,000 visitors a week.
Partly this is because the installation of the skeleton brings Alfred Waterhouse’s 1870s terracotta building, with its marvellous moulded monkeys, back to life in the most magnificent way. 

Whereas visitors once mostly stuck to the ground floor until they joined the procession to the dinosaurs, the aerial position of the whale bones now draws people upstairs. From an overcrowded lobby, Hintze Hall has been raised into a wondrous public space.
But the whale, which died as a result of being stranded off the coast of Ireland in 1891, is more than a 19th-century relic. 

What the museum has done by giving this vast, dead creature such prominence is to issue a warning and a call to action. 

And it makes no bones about this: “Rescued from the brink of extinction in the 1960s, the blue whale is a symbol of hope for the future of the natural world,” says the information panel. 

“Threats such as marine pollution and climate change linger – the blue whale remains a vulnerable and endangered species.”


Like the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, which stopped growing after a 1987 treaty phased out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), whale conservation is one of the global environmental movement’s greatest success stories. 

Blue whales were critically endangered, until activists persuaded governments to legislate to save them, and the museum’s new exhibit is called Hope.
Optimism alone won’t halt climate change, or prevent further extinctions. 

But like Gore, the director of the Natural History Museum, Michael Dixon, and his colleagues understand that the most vital currency of the environmental movement is hope.

 With the knowledge we now have of climate change’s likely consequences, the alternative is nihilism.
• Susanna Rustin is a Guardian columnist

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