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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.”

Press link for more: Relief web

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

Press link for more: The Guardian

Eat salmon to ward off air pollution. #StopAdani #auspol 

Eat salmon to ward off air pollution
Time to hit the omega-3 … Beijing citizens wearing respiratory masks during a smog alert, December 2016.

A healthy diet can reverse the effects of fine-particulate matter, say experts


Image: REUTERS/Jason Lee

More than 90% of people worldwide have to breathe polluted air.

 Fossil fuels are the primary cause. 


The people most likely to suffer are those who live in crowded places where the shift to cleaner forms of transportation and energy has not happened or is happening too slowly. 

This is particularly evident in some areas of Asia, where smog hangs over cities and seeps into the countryside, and even into people’s homes.
Air pollution contains fine particulate matter that can enter the body and get into the lungs, causing respiratory and cardiovascular issues such as asthma attacks and irregular heartbeat, increased oxidative stress and inflammation, and chronic disease like diabetes and cancer.

 In fact, air pollution is responsible for more 7 million premature deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization: the single largest environmental health risk.


   

The only viable long-term solutions are accelerating the transition to a low fossil carbon economy and reversing climate change.

 But what can people do in the meantime to protect their health?
According to recent studies, your nutritional intake might come to the rescue. 

Researchers have found that good nutrition can fend off air-related illness and may even reverse the negative effects of fine particulate matter. If you’re one of the billions of people waiting for a breath of fresh air, that means you may want to up your vitamin intake.
Professor Jinzhuo Zhao, from Fudan University School of Public Health, China, who studies the impact of a particulate matter called PM 2.5 and explores nutritional solutions, says: “The findings of a number of human studies are encouraging and a good basis for further work to determine optimal combinations of nutrients to prevent or reduce the impact of particulate matter on different aspects of health.”
Some of the top nutrients thought to make a difference are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids like omega-3, as well as vitamins C and E. Oily fish like salmon is a great source of omega-3, which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Vitamins C and E, which are found in many fruits and vegetables, nuts and vegetable oil, are powerful antioxidants that help the body fight free radicals and restore its regular inflammatory response. For people who don’t get enough vitamins through food (and many of us don’t), supplements are a good source of health-boosting nutrients.
Of course, vitamins and omega-3 are only part of a solution. 

This does not reduce the responsibility of polluters, nor of law-makers and authorities who must legislate and enforce policies that stop pollution. 

It means that governments, scientists and the private sector should work together and continue research in this area because improving nutrition is easy and inexpensive, and it may be one way to help the billions of people who are waiting with bated breath, sometimes quite literally, for air pollution to stop.

Press link for more: World Economic Forum

The planet’s worse case climate scenario. #StopAdani #Auspol 

The planet’s worst-case climate scenario: ‘If not hell then a place with a similar temperature’
Aug 12, 2017, 2:53 AM

If we don’t cut greenhouse gas emissions, we’ll see more deadly heat waves, acidic oceans, and rising seas.


At this point, the planet will warm no matter what — but we can still prevent it from getting too bad.

Environmentalist and author Bill McKibben told Business Insider that without intervention, the world would be: “If not hell, then a place with a similar temperature.”

The world is almost certainly going to warm past what’s frequently considered a critical tipping point.
A recent study pointed out that we have just a 5% chance of keeping the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius, the upper limit the Paris Agreement was designed to avoid. Beyond that threshold, many researchers say the effects of climate change — like rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and intense storms — will become significantly more concerning.

But how bad could it really get? What would the planet look like if we don’t cut emissions and instead keep burning fossil fuels at the rate we are now?
Business Insider recently asked author and environmentalist Bill McKibben that question, and his description of what Earth would look like was sobering.
“If not hell, then a place with a similar temperature,” he said. “We have in the Earth’s geological record some sense of what happens when you run carbon levels up to the levels we’re running them now — it gets a lot hotter.”
Extreme as that might sound, there’s significant evidence that we’re feeling the effects of climate change already. Unchecked, the planet will get far hotter by 2100 — a time that many children alive today will see.


“Huge swaths of the world will be living in places that by the end of the century will have heat waves so deep that people won’t be able to deal with them, you have sea level rising dramatically, to the point that most of the world’s cities are drowning, the ocean turning into a hot, sour, breathless soup as it acidifies and warms,” McKibben said.
The evidence for how bad it could get
None of that is exaggeration. A recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change found that 30% of the world is already exposed to heat intense enough to kill people for 20 or more days each year. That temperature is defined using a heat index that takes into account temperature and humidity; above 104 degrees Farenheit (40 degrees C ), organs swell and cells start to break down.
Heat waves are the deadliest weather events most years , more so than hurricanes or tornadoes. In 2010, more than 10,000 people did in a Moscow heat wave. In 2003, some estimates say a European summer heat wave killed up to 70,000.
Even if we drastically cut emissions by 2100, the world will continue to warm due to the greenhouse gases that have already been emitted. That would cause the percentage of the world exposed to deadly heat for 20 or more days to rise to 48%. Under a scenario with zero emissions reductions from today, researchers estimate that 74% of the world will be exposed to deadly heat by the end of the century.
Our oceans are at risk, too. A draft of an upcoming US government report on climate change projects that even if emissions are cut to hit zero by 2080, we’ll still see between one and four feet of sea level rise by 2100. Without the cuts, it suggests that an eight-foot rise can’t be ruled out. That report also suggests that oceans are becoming more acidic faster than they have at any point in the last 66 million years. Increased acidity can devastate marine life and coral reefs, which cover less than 2% of the ocean floor but are relied upon by about 25% of marine species — including many fish that are key food sources for humans.
The key takeaway here is not that the world is doomed, however. It’s that if we don’t dramatically cut emissions soon, we’ll put the planet on course to be a much less pleasant place.
In some ways, progress towards emissions reductions is already underway. Market trends are increasing use of renewable energy sources, political movements are pushing leaders to enact new types of policies, and legal challenges to government inaction on climate are popping up around the world. The question is whether we’ll act fast enough to stave off the most dire consequences of greenhouse gas emissions.
“In order to catch up with the physics of climate change, we have to go at an exponential rate,” McKibben said. “It’s not as if this was a static problem. If we don’t get to it very soon, we’ll never get to it.”

Press link for more: Business Insider

Bleak world if the Great Barrier Reef dies. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol 

Scientist Dr Charlie Veron’s warning to Gold Coasters of a bleak world if the Great Barrier Reef dies

Dr Charlie Veron with a piece of coral named Blastomussa. Picture: Zak Simmonds
A RENOWNED scientist has painted a bleak picture of the impact on the Gold Coast if the Great Barrier Reef dies, warning of a worldwide environmental disaster that will hurt even more if rising carbon dioxide levels keep cooking the planet.
Dr Charlie Veron has urged young Gold Coasters to build multiple skills for a chaotic world, saying important fields like medicine and agriculture will be vital as carbon dioxide levels increase because of the burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal.
Even if nations stopped production of carbon dioxide, the oceans would keep heating for another 20 years, leading to a vicious pendulum ride between cyclonic storms and floods, and severe drought and bushfires.

Dead and dying staghorn coral, central Great Barrier Reef in May 2016. Credit: Johanna Leonhardt

“Half of all coral colonies on the Great Barrier Reef died over the past two years due to coral bleaching,’’ Dr Veron said.
“It’s going to be a horrible world. Young people now are going to curse the present generation for what we’ve done. We’ll have left them a planet in dire straits.’’
Known as the Godfather of Coral, Dr Veron has been hailed by the likes of high-profile British naturalist David Attenborough for his career that led to him being appointed chief scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science and to recognition as a wideranging specialist in corals and reefs.

Dr Charlie Veron was the first full-time researcher on the Great Barrier Reef and has described more than a quarter of the world’s coral species.

With several books to his name including his memoir, A Life Underwater, Dr Veron was a prominent speaker at the Byron Writers Festival at the weekend.
“The Australian public is asleep. They seem to be unaware of what’s going on,’’ he told the Gold Coast Bulletin outside the festival.
Rising levels of the otherwise rare gas carbon dioxide were increasing ocean temperatures, which were causing bleaching and killing coral reefs, putting the entire marine environment in peril.
“Australia is now the biggest coal exporter in the world,’’ he said.
“Australians are fuelling this as fast as they can through the mining of coal, which is the worst driver of this.’’
Dr Veron, who has been an outspoken critic of the proposed Adani coal mine in Central Queensland, feared the Great Barrier Reef could be gone within 15 years.

Dr Charlie Veron 

“If the Great Barrier Reef dies then you can be sure most coral reefs in the world would have died and the oceans will be in a state of ecological collapse. Nowhere is going to be exempt,’’ he said.
“We will see fishing industries collapse, for starters.
“Between a quarter and a third of all marine species have part of their life cycle in a coral reef. Taking away the reefs precipitates ecological collapse of the oceans. It’s happened twice in the past due to volcanoes releasing carbon dioxide and lava flows, but that was nothing like the amount of carbon dioxide being released now.’’
One of those mass extinctions, at the end of the Mesozoic era 65 million years ago, brought an end to the dinosaurs. The other was at the end of the Palaeozoic era about 200 million years ago, which wiped out corals.
“A lot of marine species here (in Gold Coast and Byron Bay waters) have come from the Great Barrier Reef,’’ Dr Veron said.
“The corals here have all come from the barrier reef as have all the tropical marine species. They come down the East Australia Current and colonise here. This applies to migratory fish species too.
“It’s all gloom and doom, I’m afraid.
“The science has been right.
“The sceptics now have no credibility. The deniers of climate change might as well deny Jumbo jets can fly. It’s no longer an issue of science or judgment. It’s happening.’’
Carbon dioxide was important in keeping the earth warm and keeping green plants going.
But concentrations had now reached 406 parts per million.
“But when you go over the limit it becomes a very dangerous gas,’’ he said. “It’s now reached that point.
“It’s doing this slowly. It’s like putting a jug of water on the stove. It takes a long time to equilibrate with the heat under it.
“The oceans are taking at least 20 years to equilibrate with current conditions. We have oceans that have warmed in response to carbon dioxide levels of the 1990s. (Even if carbon dioxide production stopped now) the oceans have got 20 years of warming ahead.’’

Press link for more: Gold Coast Bulletin

Climate Science Special Report. #Auspol #StopAdani

Executive Summary

Introduction

New observations and new research have increased our understanding of past, current, and
future climate change since the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA3) was
published in May 2014.

 This Climate Science Special Report (CSSR) is designed to capture
that new information and build on the existing body of science in order to summarize the
current state of knowledge and provide the scientific foundation for the Fourth National
Climate Assessment (NCA4).

Since NCA3, stronger evidence has emerged for continuing, rapid, human-caused warming of
the global atmosphere and ocean. 


This report concludes that “it is extremely likely that human
influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.

 For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation
supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”

The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes, the three
warmest years on record for the globe, and continued decline in arctic sea ice.

 These trends
are expected to continue in the future over climate (multidecadal) timescales. 


Significant
advances have also been made in our understanding of extreme weather events and how they
relate to increasing global temperatures and associated climate changes.

 Since 1980, the cost
of extreme events for the United States has exceeded $1.1 trillion, therefore better
understanding of the frequency and severity of these events in the context of a changing
climate is warranted.

Periodically taking stock of the current state of knowledge about climate change and putting
new weather extremes, changes in sea ice, increases in ocean temperatures, and ocean
acidification into context ensures that rigorous, scientifically-based information is available to
inform dialogue and decisions at every level. 


Most of this special report is intended for those
who have a technical background in climate science and to provide input to the authors of
NCA4.

 In this Executive Summary, green boxes present highlights of the main report. 

These
are followed by related points and selected figures providing more scientific details. 

The
summary material on each topic presents the most salient points of chapter findings and
therefore represents only a subset of the report’s content. 

For more details, the reader is
referred to the individual chapters. 

This report discusses climate trends and findings at several
scales: global, nationwide for the United States, and for ten specific U.S. regions (shown in
Figure 1 in the Guide to the Report)

A statement of scientific confidence also follows each
point in the Executive Summary. 

The confidence scale is described in the Guide to the Report.
 

At the end of the Executive Summary and in Chapter 1: Our Globally Changing Climate, there is also a summary box highlighting the most notable advances and topics since NCA3 and since the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

For full report press here: Climate Science Special Report

What ice cores tell us about #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol 

This is what ancient, 3km long ice cores tell us about climate change

Cracks are seen on the Fourcade glacier near Argentina’s Carlini Base in Antarctica, January 12, 2017. Picture taken January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Nicolas Misculin – RTSW9RN

The speed at which CO₂ is rising has no comparison in the recorded past.

Image: REUTERS/Nicolas Misculin

There are those who say the climate has always changed, and that carbon dioxide levels have always fluctuated.

 That’s true. But it’s also true that since the industrial revolution, CO₂ levels in the atmosphere have climbed to levels that are unprecedented over hundreds of millennia.
So here’s a short video we made, to put recent climate change and carbon dioxide emissions into the context of the past 800,000 years.

The temperature-CO₂ connection
Earth has a natural greenhouse effect, and it is really important. Without it, the average temperature on the surface of the planet would be about -18℃ and human life would not exist. Carbon dioxide (CO₂) is one of the gases in our atmosphere that traps heat and makes the planet habitable.
We have known about the greenhouse effect for well over a century. About 150 years ago, a physicist called John Tyndall used laboratory experiments to demonstrate the greenhouse properties of CO₂ gas. Then, in the late 1800s, the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius first calculated the greenhouse effect of CO₂ in our atmosphere and linked it to past ice ages on our planet.
Modern scientists and engineers have explored these links in intricate detail in recent decades, by drilling into the ice sheets that cover Antarctica and Greenland. Thousands of years of snow have compressed into thick slabs of ice. The resulting ice cores can be more than 3km long and extend back a staggering 800,000 years.
Scientists use the chemistry of the water molecules in the ice layers to see how the temperature has varied through the millennia. These ice layers also trap tiny bubbles from the ancient atmosphere, allowing us to measure prehistoric CO₂ levels directly.

 

The ice cores reveal an incredibly tight connection between temperature and greenhouse gas levels through the ice age cycles, thus proving the concepts put forward by Arrhenius more than a century ago.
In previous warm periods, it was not a CO₂ spike that kickstarted the warming, but small and predictable wobbles in Earth’s rotation and orbit around the Sun. CO₂ played a big role as a natural amplifier of the small climate shifts initiated by these wobbles. As the planet began to cool, more CO₂ dissolved into the oceans, reducing the greenhouse effect and causing more cooling. Similarly, CO₂ was released from the oceans to the atmosphere when the planet warmed, driving further warming.
But things are very different this time around. Humans are responsible for adding huge quantities of extra CO₂ to the atmosphere – and fast.
The speed at which CO₂ is rising has no comparison in the recorded past. The fastest natural shifts out of ice ages saw CO₂ levels increase by around 35 parts per million (ppm) in 1,000 years. It might be hard to believe, but humans have emitted the equivalent amount in just the last 17 years.
Before the industrial revolution, the natural level of atmospheric CO₂ during warm interglacials was around 280 ppm. The frigid ice ages, which caused kilometre-thick ice sheets to build up over much of North America and Eurasia, had CO₂ levels of around 180 ppm.
Burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, takes ancient carbon that was locked within the Earth and puts it into the atmosphere as CO₂. Since the industrial revolution humans have burned an enormous amount of fossil fuel, causing atmospheric CO₂ and other greenhouse gases to skyrocket.
In mid-2017, atmospheric CO₂ now stands at 409 ppm. This is completely unprecedented in the past 800,000 years.


The massive blast of CO₂ is causing the climate to warm rapidly. The last IPCC report concluded that by the end of this century we will get to more than 4℃ above pre-industrial levels (1850-99) if we continue on a high-emissions pathway.
If we work towards the goals of the Paris Agreement, by rapidly curbing our CO₂ emissions and developing new technologies to remove excess CO₂ from the atmosphere, then we stand a chance of limiting warming to around 2℃.
The fundamental science is very well understood. The evidence that climate change is happening is abundant and clear. The difficult part is: what do we do next? More than ever, we need strong, cooperative and accountable leadership from politicians of all nations. Only then will we avoid the worst of climate change and adapt to the impacts we can’t halt.

Press link for more: weforum.org

Sea level rise’s impacts hardest to ignore. #StopAdani #auspol 

The State of Climate Science: Sea Level Rise’s Impacts Are the Hardest to Ignore – Climate Liability News
For years, politically and financially motivated campaigns have wrapped climate science in a cloak of doubt. 

Scientists, initially caught off guard, eventually responded with a relentless barrage of peer-reviewed papers producing a collection of very specific findings that together have led to irrefutable evidence of the human fingerprints on climate change. 

In this three-part series, we’ll look at the state of the science linking human-induced climate change to environmental, human and business impacts and whether the science has grown strong enough to be successful evidence in lawsuits holding fossil fuel producers accountable for those impacts.
By Amy Westervelt

Few people are clearer on the scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change than those who study the warming, rising oceans.

 And among all of climate change’s impacts, sea level rise is the most obvious to see and quantify.
According to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global sea levels have risen by about 8 inches since 1880, the start of the industrial revolution.

 The report shows that rate is increasing, with projections of 2 to 7 more feet of rise this century, the higher number based on a high-emissions scenario in which the Greenland Ice Sheet melts completely by 2100.
A groundbreaking study led by Robert Kopp, associate professor in Rutgers’ Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, published last year in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS) quantified the extent to which human behavior has impacted sea level rise.

Kopp and his colleagues found that without human-caused global warming, global sea level would have risen by less than half the observed 20th century increase and might even have fallen. 

“The 20th-century rise was extraordinary in the context of the last three millennia – and the rise over the last two decades has been even faster,” Kopp said when the paper was published.
Ben Strauss, vice president for sea level rise and climate impacts at Climate Central, said research conducted over the past three years has been able to precisely pinpoint the human contribution to sea level rise by stripping away all other potential drivers, including natural variability, sinking land, non-emissions-related human causes, and the global cooling of the 19th century. “You need a rigorous analysis to quantify the human contribution to sea level rise, versus just quantifying total global sea rise,” he said.  
Recent research has done just that, and the results are conclusive: humans have caused the seas to rise in addition to the increases that occurred naturally.

 On average, globally, human causes have increased sea levels between 5 and 6 inches. The potential damage threatens coastal communities and infrastructure throughout the U.S., putting millions of people in harm’s way.
“In the period since 1980, atmospheric CO2 emissions attributable to man—and it doesn’t all stay in the atmosphere, some is deposited in oceans, forests, and so forth—but cumulative emissions from that period, 1980 to now, is equal to or greater than all previous emissions, going back to the pre-industrial age,” said Dan Cayan, a climate and atmospheric science researcher at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego.
“So in this relatively short period of time, we’ve almost doubled the amount of CO2 in the ecosystem.”
Cayan, who works with the state of California to determine the impacts of sea level rise and plan mitigation strategies, said both global and regional temperatures have responded accordingly. “According to most models, doubling emissions would increase temperatures in California by about 4 degrees Fahrenheit,” he said.
That might not seem like much, but it has cascading and worrisome consequences. “In California, for every degree Fahrenheit of warming, we lose about 20 percent of the spring snowpack,” Cayan said.
California will be hard hit by global climate change, as sea levels rise and coastal flooding increases. Science linking that rise to human-related CO2 emissions is now building the foundation for legal action. Lawsuits filed in July by the counties of San Mateo and Marin and the city of Imperial Beach charge some of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions – 37 fossil fuel companies – with public nuisance and negligence in an attempt to require these companies to absorb some of the costs associated with adapting to sea level rise.
Detailing the Damage
Other coastal cities may soon follow suit, pun intended. New York City has estimated its adaptation costs with respect to sea level rise at about $19.5 billion. Recent studies have attributed about $2 billion of the $12 billion in damage inflicted by superstorm Sandy in New York City alone to human contributions. That estimate was made possible in part by the research led by Kopp.
Strauss and his team have taken that research and run with it, analyzing the frequency of nuisance floods, defined as flooding that closes coastal area roads, overwhelms storm drains, and compromises infrastructure. Strauss calculated that from 1950 through 2014, 5,809 of the 8,726 nuisance flood days— two-thirds of them— would not have taken place without human-caused global sea level rise. Even using a low estimate, more than 3,500 of the flood days would not have taken place.

“Intuitively, you could say that every coastal flood should be more damaging if it starts at a higher sea level, and most attribution science focuses on the question of whether a damaging event was made more likely by climate change,” Strauss said. “But working with sea level and coastal floods you can sidestep that question entirely. You can basically say we don’t care how or why the storm happened, in fact you can even assume climate change had no role in the strength or length of the storm, and still say it did more damage because it started at a higher sea level.”
Strauss said three out of four coastal floods over the last decade in the U.S. were tipped over the balance by human-caused climate change. “They would not have exceeded the National Weather Service’s definition of a flood if you removed that human-caused sea level rise,” he said.
Strauss and his team are now working to refine work they began in 2014, quantifying the cost of the damage inflicted by human-induced sea-level rise during superstorm Sandy. By focussing on New York City, the team initially attributed about $2 billion of the $12 billion in damages to human-related sea level rise. “That was before the Kopp et al paper came out,” Strauss said. “Now we’re working with real numbers, and we’re expanding to include the tri-state area.”
Those numbers run counter to the arguments used by fossil fuel companies for decades to justify continuing and unlimited fossil fuel burning: that climate change is not driven by human activity, and even if it was, its impacts won’t be significant and won’t be felt until far in the future.
Data and Deception
That campaign to obscure the realities of climate change has come into increasing focus in recent years.
“There is growing awareness and documentation that major fossil fuel companies knew of the impacts of their products back in the 1980s and that they invested millions of dollars and time in order to sow confusion and avoid regulation,” said Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Much of that documentation has come to light in the cases brought against ExxonMobil by the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts. A timeline included in the exhibits filed as part of the California cases reveals the impact of this deception. It shows mounting scientific evidence, and transparency, around the human drivers of climate change in the 1970s and 1980s, building to the summer of 1988 when several bills targeting greenhouse gas emissions were proposed (half by Republicans). The trends shift in the early 1990s, as fossil fuel industry trade groups like the Information Council for the Environment (ICE), formed by the coal industry, and the American Petroleum Institute, begin to fund national climate change denial campaigns. In the intervening years, scientists have worked to compile data that is hard, if not impossible, to politicize or deny.  
In addition to the work Kopp and Strauss have done to pinpoint how humans have impacted sea level rise, Frumhoff and his colleagues have worked to link human-induced climate change to natural disasters and their resulting deaths. Frumhoff also points to the work of Richard Heady, which quantified the contribution of a relatively small group of companies – what Heady calls the “carbon majors” – to climate change. “Heady’s work reveals the remarkable fact that two thirds of industrial emissions are attributable to a small number of companies,” Frumhoff said.
The amount of evidence mixed with the documented deception has many drawing parallels to the tobacco cases in the 1980s and 1990s.
“One thing I’ve been struck by is that in the early days of cases being brought against tobacco, juries and judges initially ruled for industry,” Frumhoff said. “They focused on smoking as a personal choice, and so forth. Over time that changed and by the 1980s cases were beginning to be adjudicated differently and hold companies liable. But the science didn’t change, it stayed the same. What changed was the evidence – some through legal discovery – that companies were engaging in obfuscation, and it was clear that they knew what they were doing and were deliberate in their behavior.”
Frumhoff sees a similar pattern now, with even more powerful new science strengthening the argument.
“There are changes in climate science that are germane,” he said. “The fact that we have this list of a few companies that are primary contributors to climate change coming out at the same time that we have this evidence of deception from companies on climate science … it would be ironic if it weren’t also catastrophic.”  

Press link for more: climateliabilitynews

A Failure of Imagination on Climate Risk #StopAdani

A failure of imagination on climate risks
By Ian Dunlop and David Spratt

This is an extract from Disaster Alley: Climate change, conflict and risk published recently by Breakthrough.
Climate change is an existential risk that could abruptly end human civilisation because of a catastrophic “failure of imagination” by global leaders to understand and act on the science and evidence before them.


At the London School of Economics in 2008, Queen Elizabeth questioned: “Why did no one foresee the timing, extent and severity of the Global Financial Crisis?” The British Academy answered a year later: “A psychology of denial gripped the financial and corporate world… [it was] the failure of the collective imagination of many bright people… to understand the risks to the system as a whole”.
A “failure of imagination” has also been identified as one of the reasons for the breakdown in US intelligence around the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
A similar failure is occurring with climate change today.
The problem is widespread at the senior levels of government and global corporations. A 2016 report, Thinking the unthinkable, based on interviews with top leaders around the world, found that:

“A proliferation of ‘unthinkable’ events… has revealed a new fragility at the highest levels of corporate and public service leaderships. Their ability to spot, identify and handle unexpected, non-normative events is… perilously inadequate at critical moments… Remarkably, there remains a deep reluctance, or what might be called ‘executive myopia’, to see and contemplate even the possibility that ‘unthinkables’ might happen, let alone how to handle them.

 Such failures are manifested in two ways in climate policy. At the political, bureaucratic and business level in underplaying the high-end risks and in failing to recognise that the existential risk of climate change is totally different from other risk categories. And at the research level in underestimating the rate of climate change impact and costs, along with an under-emphasis on, and poor communication of, those high-end risks.

Existential risk
An existential risk is an adverse outcome that would either annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential. For example, a big meteor impact, large-scale nuclear war, or sea levels 70 metres higher than today.
Existential risks are not amenable to the reactive (learn from failure) approach of conventional risk management, and we cannot necessarily rely on the institutions, moral norms, or social attitudes developed from our experience with managing other sorts of risks. Because the consequences are so severe — perhaps the end of human global civilisation as we know it — researchers say that “even for an honest, truth-seeking, and well-intentioned investigator it is difficult to think and act rationally in regard to… existential risks”.
Yet the evidence is clear that climate change already poses an existential risk to global economic and societal stability and to human civilisation that requires an emergency response. Temperature rises that are now in prospect could reduce the global human population by 80% or 90%. But this conversation is taboo, and the few who speak out are admonished as being overly alarmist.
Prof. Kevin Anderson considers that “a 4°C future [relative to pre-industrial levels] is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable”. He says: “If you have got a population of nine billion by 2050 and you hit 4°C, 5°C or 6°C, you might have half a billion people surviving”. Asked at a 2011 conference in Melbourne about the difference between a 2°C world and a 4°C world, Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber replied in two words: “Human civilisation”.
The World Bank reports: “There is no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible”. Amongst other impacts, a 4°C warming would trigger the loss of both polar ice caps, eventually resulting, at equilibrium, in a 70-metre rise in sea level.
The present path of greenhouse gas emissions commits us to a 4–5°C temperature increase relative to pre-industrial levels. Even at 3°C of warming we could face “outright chaos” and “nuclear war is possible”, according to the 2007 The Age of Consequences report by two US think tanks.
Yet this is the world we are now entering. The Paris climate agreement voluntary emission reduction commitments, if implemented, would result in the planet warming by 3°C, with a 50% chance of exceeding that amount.
This does not take into account “long-term” carbon-cycle feedbacks — such as permafrost thaw and declining efficiency of ocean and terrestrial carbon sinks, which are now becoming relevant. If these are considered, the Paris emissions path has more than a 50% chance of exceeding 4°C warming. (Technically, accounting for these feedbacks means using a higher figure for the system’s “climate sensitivity” — which is a measure of the temperature increase resulting from a doubling of the level of greenhouse gases — to calculate the warming. A median figure often used for climate sensitivity is ~3°C, but research from MIT shows that with a higher climate sensitivity figure of 4.5°C, which would account for feedbacks, the Paris path would lead to around 5°C of warming.)
So we are looking at a greater than one-in-two chance of either annihilating intelligent life, or permanently and drastically curtailing its potential development.

Clearly these end-of-civilisation scenarios are not being considered even by risk-conscious leaders in politics and business, which is an epic failure of imagination.
Of course, the world hopes to do a great deal better than Paris, but it may do far worse. A recent survey of 656 participants involved in international climate policy-making showed only half considered the Paris climate negotiations were useful, and 70% did not expect that the majority of countries would fulfill their promises.
Human civilisation faces unacceptably high chances of being brought undone by climate change’s existential risks yet, extraordinarily, this conversation is rarely heard.
The Global Challenges Foundation (GCF) says that despite scientific evidence that risks associated with tipping points “increase disproportionately as temperature increases from 1°C to 2°C, and become high above 3°C”, political negotiations have consistently disregarded the high-end scenarios that could lead to abrupt or irreversible climate change. In its Global Catastrophic Risks 2017 report, it concludes that “the world is currently completely unprepared to envisage, and even less deal with, the consequences of catastrophic climate change”. 

Paris emissions path (in blue), not accounting for “long-term” carbon-cycle feedbacks (Climate Interactive)
Scholarly reticence
The scientific community has generally underestimated the likely rate of climate change impacts and costs. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports are years out of date upon publication. Sir Nicholas Stern wrote of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report: “Essentially it reported on a body of literature that had systematically and grossly underestimated the risks [and costs] of unmanaged climate change”.
Too often, mitigation and adaptation policy is based on least-drama, consensus scientific projections that downplay what Prof. Ross Garnaut called the “bad possibilities”, that is, the lower-probability outcomes with higher impacts. In his 2011 climate science update for the Australian Government, Garnaut questioned whether climate research had a conservative “systematic bias” due to “scholarly reticence”. He pointed to a pattern, across diverse intellectual fields, of research predictions being “not too far away from the mainstream” expectations and observed in the climate field that this “has been associated with understatement of the risks” 
 In 2007, The Age of Consequences reported:

“Our group found that, generally speaking, most scientific predictions in the overall arena of climate change over the last two decades, when compared with ultimate outcomes, have been consistently below what has actually transpired. There are perhaps many reasons for this tendency—an innate scientific caution, an incomplete data set, a tendency for scientists to steer away from controversy, persistent efforts by some to discredit climate “alarmists,” to name but a few”.

For many critical components of the climate system, we can identify just how fast our understanding is changing. Successive IPCC reports have been reticent on key climate system issues:

Coral reefs: Just a decade or two ago, the general view in the literature was that the survival of coral systems would be threatened by 2°C warming. In 2009, research was published suggesting that preserving more than 10% of coral reefs worldwide would require limiting warming to below 1.5°C. The coral bleaching events of the last two years at just 1-1.2°C of warming indicate that coral reefs are now sliding into global-warming-driven terminal decline. Three-quarters of the Great Barrier Reef has been lost in the last three decades, with climate change a significant cause.

Arctic sea ice: In 2007, the IPCC reported that late summer sea-ice was “projected to disappear almost completely towards the end of the 21st century”, even as it was collapsing in the northern summer of that year. In 2014, the IPCC had ice-free projections to 2100 for only the highest of four emissions scenarios. In reality, Arctic sea ice has already lost 70% of summer volume compared to just thirty years ago, and expectations are of sea-ice-free summer within a decade or two.  

Antarctica: In 2001, the IPCC projected no significant ice mass loss by 2100 and, in the 2014 report, said the contribution to sea level rise would “not exceed several tenths of a meter” by 2100. In reality, the Amundsen Sea of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet sector has been destabilised and ice retreat is unstoppable for the current climate state. It is likely that no further acceleration in climate change is necessary to trigger the collapse of the rest of the ice sheet, with some scientists suggesting a 3–5 metre sea-level rise within two centuries from West Antarctic melting.

Sea levels: In the 2007 IPCC report, sea levels were projected to rise up to 0.59 metre by 2100. The figure was widely derided by researchers, including the head of NASA’s climate research as being far too conservative. By 2014, the IPCC’s figure was in the range 0.55 to 0.82 metre, but they included the caveat that “levels above the likely range cannot be reliably evaluated.” In reality, most scientists project a metre or more. The US Department of Defence uses scenarios of 1 and 2 metres for risk assessments, and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides an “extreme” scenario of 2.5 metres sea level rise by 2100.

To be useful in a risk context, climate change assessments need:

a much more thorough exploration of the [high-end] tails of the distributions of physical variables such as sea level rise, temperature, and precipitation, where our scientific knowledge base is less complete, and where sophisticated climate models are less helpful. We need greater attention on the strength of uncertain processes and feedbacks in the physical climate system […] (e.g., carbon cycle feedbacks, ice sheet dynamics), as well as on institutional and behavioral feedbacks associated with energy production and consumption, to determine scientifically plausible bounds on total warming and the overall behavior of the climate system. Accomplishing this will require synthesizing multiple lines of scientific evidence […] , including simple and complex models, physical arguments, and paleoclimate data, as well as new modeling experiments to better explore the possibility of extreme scenarios.

A prudent risk-management approach for safeguarding people and protecting their ways of life means a tough and objective look at the real risks to which we are exposed, including climate and conflict risks, and especially those “fat tail” events whose consequences are damaging beyond quantification, and which human civilization, as we know it, would be lucky to survive. We must understand the potential of, and plan for, the worst that can happen and be relieved if it doesn’t. If we focus on “middle of the road” outcomes, and ignore the “high-end” possibilities, we will probably end up with catastrophic outcomes that could have been avoided.
It is not a question of whether we may suffer a failure of imagination. We already have.
Yet people understand climate risks, even as political leaders wilfully underplay or ignore them. 84% of 8000 people in eight countries recently surveyed for the Global Challenges Foundation consider climate change a “global catastrophic risk”. The figure for Australia was 75%. The GCF report found that many people now see climate change as a bigger threat than other concerns such as epidemics, population growth, weapons of mass destruction and the rise of artificial intelligence threats. GCF vice-president Mats Andersson says “there’s certainly a huge gap between what people expect from politicians and what politicians are doing”.

The same survey found 81% of the 1000 Australians polled agreed with the proposition: “Do you think we should try to prevent climate catastrophes, which might not occur for several decades or centuries, even if it requires making considerable changes that impact on our current living standards?”.

Press link for more: Climate Code Red