Harvard professor and psychoanalyst on the “antiquated” Goldwater rule and our president’s “serious mental illness”
Harvard professor and psychoanalyst on the “antiquated” Goldwater rule and our president’s “serious mental illness”
By John Church
Over 90 per cent of the heat trapped in the climate system by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations from our burning of fossil fuels is stored in the oceans. With much less variability than surface temperatures, ocean warming is one of the most important indicators of the ongoing pace of climate change.
Two new studies published last week confirm the world’s oceans are warming.
The first, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that ocean warming has accelerated since 1870.
The second, a perspective published in the prestigious iournal Science, reports studies that indicate the rate of ocean warming over recent decades is 10 per cent or more greater than the studies considered in the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment published in 2013, and that the rate has increased since 1991.
The updated observations are in agreement with the results of climate model simulations of the impacts of our continuing release of greenhouse gases.
These models show the ocean will continue to warm through the 21st century and beyond.
Greenhouse gases have a long life time in the atmosphere. Even if carbon dioxide emissions were to cease completely, atmospheric concentrations would only decrease slowly over thousands of years unless we discover a way to artificially remove them from the atmosphere.As a direct consequence, surface temperatures would remain elevated. As result of the oceans’ ability to store heat, they will continue to warm for centuries.
Decisions we make now about greenhouse gas emissions have long-term consequences for the world and Australia’s climate and sea level, and of course for the natural environment and our modern society.
Continued greenhouse gas emissions at a business-as-usual rate would result in the ocean warming accelerating through the 21st century, and a contribution to sea-level rise of about 30cm from ocean thermal expansion alone by 2100. The warmer ocean would be accompanied by warmer surface temperatures, increased frequency of climate extremes, and increased intensity of extreme rainfall events and hurricanes, with major disruptions to society.
The ice sheets are even more important for long-term sea-level change. Unabated emissions this century would commit the world to metres of sea-level rise over coming centuries. We would likely cross the threshold, well before 2100, leading to an accelerating melting of the Greenland ice sheet and a sea level rise of up to about seven metres. An acceleration of the Greenland contribution to sea level rise has already been observed.
For Antarctica, a warming ocean would lead to the decay of ice shelves and an accelerating flow of ice into the ocean, as revealed by recent observations of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The rate of sea level contribution from Antarctica is more uncertain but could equal or exceed the contribution from thermal expansion by 2100, and could be metres over coming centuries
Global average temperature is already about 1C above pre-industrial levels and we have already seen an increased frequency of coastal flooding events. Unabated emissions would see permanent inundation and a dramatic increase in the frequency of coastal flooding events, disrupting the lives of tens to hundreds of millions of people.
Urgent, significant and sustained mitigation of our greenhouse gas emissions are required if we are to meet the Paris targets of “limiting global average temperatures to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels”, and thus significantly reduce the impacts of climate change. Current mitigation “promises” are not sufficient to meet these goals, and planned mitigation is even further away. Every day we delay action makes the Paris targets more difficult to achieve.
The long time scales of the ocean means we will have to adapt to climate and sea level change resulting from past emissions. However, further sea level rises and other changes in our climate can be greatly reduced, but not eliminated, by reaching the Paris goals.
We should remember that sea levels were six to nine metres above current levels at a global average temperature about 1C above pre-industrial values.
Current Australian government figures do not indicate Australia is on track to meet our committed greenhouse gas emission mitigation target of 26 to 28 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 “in a canter”. Meeting this target will require the urgent development of an effective Australian climate policy.
Perhaps more importantly, this target is completely inadequate. To make a proportionate commitment to meeting the Paris targets, Australia needs to ratchet up our targets, as expected by the Paris agreement, and to urgently develop realistic plans to meet these targets.
Actions we take now will affect the lives of our children and grandchildren and that of future generations. We know what is required for significant mitigation and we have the knowledge and technologies to do it. What we require urgently is the will to do it.
John Church is a professor at the Climate Change Research Centre, University of NSW, and the first Australian to receive the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge in climate change award, for his work on rising sea levels.
Press link for more: SMH
It was once touted as Australia’s biggest coal mine and a mega project that would create 10,000 jobs but the oft-promised construction of Adani’s Carmichael mine still seems unlikely despite recent announcements.
Last month there seemed to be a breakthrough. After struggling to secure finance to build the mine, Adani announced it would self-fund a scaled-back version and suggested work could begin this year.
The mine was originally expected to be a $16.5 billion project but will now only cost $2 billion. It will create an estimated 1500 direct jobs during the construction phase, much less than previous claims of 10,000 direct and indirect jobs.
This week a spokeswoman for Adani Australia told news.com.au that “preparatory works at the mine site are imminent”.
“We are working with regulators to finalise the remaining required management plans ahead of coal production, some of which have been subject to two years of state and federal government review,” she said.
“This process is expected to be complete and provided by governments in the next few
The Australian reported on Friday that bulldozers, graders and service vehicles were sent to the site this week.
Earth moving equipment at Adani site.
However, there’s scepticism about the suggestion work on Adani’s mine is about to get started as it has made premature declarations before.
More than a year ago, in October 2017, Adani scheduled a ceremony to break ground on the coal mine’s rail link.
Adani chairman Gautam Adani was due to attend alongside then-deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce. But the ceremony was cancelled due to rain and was never rescheduled.
This was hardly surprising given a government-funded $1 billion loan it was relying on to build a 389-km rail line hadn’t yet been approved.
The Palaszczuk Government later decided to veto the loan from the federal government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility ahead of the Queensland election.
Meanwhile environmental groups have continue to wage war on the project and protests are continuing, even for the scaled-down version of the mine.
Protesters ambushed Bill Shorten at Labor’s National Conference on Sundayand the dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Dr Peter Catt said he was willing to be arrested standing in front of bulldozers to stop the Adani mine from going ahead.
Dean Dr Peter Catt at St John Anglican Cathedral.
“Both sides of politics are refusing to face the moral implications of coal expansion,” the reverend said at the event Carols for the Earth in Brisbane.
“I will join other citizens standing in front of Adani bulldozers to make political leaders take our climate crisis seriously. I’m calling on people of all faiths to take this same step.”
Concerns about the mine’s potential impact on climate change have continued to grow, particularly after a report from the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggested the use of coal-powered electricity would have to be cut to practically nothing by 2050 to keep global warming to 1.5C.
Even at 1.5C warming most of the world’s coral reefs including the Great Barrier Reef would be lost.
Meanwhile, Adani may be able to start “preparatory works” but there are a few other issues that need to be resolved before it has clear air to move forward.
MORE APPROVALS NEEDED
Adani is not required to submit a new Environment Authority application for its smaller mine but there are approvals it doesn’t yet have.
A spokeswoman for the Queensland Department of Environment and Science said “significant disturbance cannot commence until the required environmental plans for the mine are approved and in place”.
Adani has been asked to update its groundwater dependent ecosystems management plan after the CSIRO, Australia’s peak scientific organisation, identified serious flaws, according to the ABC.
The CSIRO was asked to review Adani’s plan by the Federal Department of the Environment and Energy. Geoscience Australia has also been asked to look at it.
Adani will now have to update its plans to identify the source of the aquifer of the Doongmabulla Springs Complex and measures it will take to protect the springs.
The plan must be approved before the Adani can start excavation of the first box cut, which is a small open cut that acts as an entrance to an underground mine.
The entrance to the box cut at Jabiluka Uranium Mine. Picture: Rohan Kelly. Picture: Supplied
The Queensland department spokeswoman said the state will also take the scientific reviews into consideration as part of its assessment.
“Preliminary advice from CSIRO requires Adani to update the plan,” the spokeswoman said.
She said the department had told Adani it would not continue its assessment until an updated version was submitted and noted there was no “statutory time frame” for assessment to happen.
“The Queensland Government takes environmental protections very seriously and will consider the advice of the (federal department), CSIRO and Geoscience Australia when assessing the plans,” she said.
Both the groundwater plan and a black-throated finch management plan will need to be signed off by state and federal governments.
A spokeswoman for the Federal Department of Environment and Energy told news.com.au the Carmichael biodiversity research fund mechanism would also need to be approved before Adani could start “mining operations”.
The Queensland Government granted Adani a water licence last year to allow it to take up to 12.5 billion litres of water a year from the Suttor River.
The Federal Government is also required to look at projects likely to have a significant impact on water resources but Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price chose this year not to activate the “water trigger” that would have required a full environmental impact assessment.
Instead only preliminary documentation was considered.
This month the Australian Conservation Foundation launched legal action for a judicial review of this decision. No court date has yet been set.
Until this action is resolved, Adani won’t be able to take water from the Suttor River system although Adani has said this won’t stop it from starting work on the project.
Adani has yet to finalise a royalty agreement with the Queensland Government.
It had been in negotiations to allow it to defer payments for the first few years but the deal was never signed. Then in May last year the Palaszczuk Government unveiled a new policy for all developments in the Galilee and Surat Basins and the North West Minerals Province.
The new resources framework allows royalties to be deferred but insists that interest is paid and companies must also ensure “security of payment” is in place.
Eligible projects are required to provide jobs, common-user infrastructure and to have a positive impact on the state’s finances.
However, the government will only enter into an agreement with approved projects and Adani’s mine has not yet been approved.
A spokeswoman for the Deputy Premier Jackie Trad told news.com.au Adani would pay royalties like everyone else.
“No taxpayers money will go to toward this project,” she said.
NATIVE TITLE ACTION
The Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council has been fighting Adani’s indigenous land use agreement (ILUA) saying a vote to approve it had been a sham. The council disputes that 294 people voted for the agreement and only one against.
The W&J lost its legal action but is appealing the decision in the Federal Court. This week it was ordered to pay $50,000 by the end of January as part of a security of costs order to show it was capable of paying Adani’s legal costs if it lost the appeal.
The appeal was due to be heard in February but has now been delayed until May.
W&J traditional owner and lead spokesman Adrian Burragubba said for Adani to act before the appeal was decided would be to “deny our rights and open the way for a grave injustice”.
“Without our consent, the mine is not ready to proceed,” he said.
Adrian Burragubba outside the Federal Court in Brisbane, Friday, August 17, 2018. Picture: Darren England/AAP
RAIL LINE NEGOTIATIONS
Another question remains over whether Aurizon has approved Adani’s request to connect to its existing railway line.
An Adani spokeswoman said Adani had submitted a conceptual operation plan for its new narrow gauge rail line and was working through the “regulatory process”.
“Once it is complete we will commence construction of the rail line,” she said.
When asked whether an agreement had been reached, an Aurizon spokeswoman said it had to treat all requests confidentially.
“Therefore we cannot comment on any discussions that may occur with any third-party,” she said.
Press link for more: News.com.au
Policymakers have severely underestimated the risks of ecological tipping points, according to a study that shows 45% of all potential environmental collapses are interrelated and could amplify one another.
“The risks are greater than assumed because the interactions are more dynamic,” said Juan Rocha of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. “The important message is to recognise the wickedness of the problem that humanity faces.”
The study collated existing research on ecosystem transitions that can irreversibly tip to another state, such as coral reefs bleaching and being overrun by algae, forests becoming savannahs and ice sheets melting into oceans.
It then cross-referenced the 30 types of shift to examine the impacts they might have on one another and human society.
Only 19% were entirely isolated. Another 36% shared a common cause, but were not likely to interact. The remaining 45% had the potential to create either a one-way domino effect or mutually reinforcing feedbacks.
Among the latter pairings were Arctic ice sheets and boreal forests. When the former melt, there is less ice to reflect the sun’s heat so the temperature of the planet rises. This increases the risks of forest fires, which discharge carbon into the air that adds to the greenhouse effect, which melts more ice. Although geographically distant, each amplifies the other.
By contrast, a one-way domino-type impact is that between coral reefs and mangrove forests. When the former are destroyed, it weakens coastal defences and exposes mangroves to storms and ocean surges.
The deforestation of the Amazon is responsible for multiple “cascading effects” – weakening rain systems, forests becoming savannah, and reduced water supplies for cities like São Paulo and crops in the foothills of the Andes. This, in turn, increases the pressure for more land clearance.
Until recently, the study of tipping points was controversial, but it is increasingly accepted as an explanation for climate changes that are happening with more speed and ferocity than earlier computer models predicted. The loss of coral reefs and Arctic sea ice may already be past the point of no return. There are signs the Antarctic is heading the same way faster than thought.
Co-author Garry Peterson said the tipping of the west Antarctic ice shelf was not on the radar of many scientists 10 years ago, but now there was overwhelming evidence of the risks – including losses of chunks of ice the size of New York – and some studies now suggest the tipping point may have already been passed by the southern ice sheet, which may now be releasing carbon into the atmosphere.
“We’re surprised at the rate of change in the Earth system. So much is happening at the same time and at a faster speed than we would have thought 20 years ago. That’s a real concern,” said Peterson. “We’re heading ever faster towards the edge of a cliff.”
The fourth most downloaded academic research of 2018 was the Hothouse Earth paper, which considered how tipping points could combine to push the global climate into an uninhabitable state.
The authors of the new paper say their work goes beyond climate studies by mapping a wider range of ecological stress points, such as biodiversity loss, agricultural expansion, urbanisation and soil erosion. It also focuses more on what is happening at the local level now, rather than projecting geo-planetary trends into the future.
“We’re looking at things that affect people in their daily lives. They’re things that are happening today,” said Peterson. “There is a positive message as it expands the range of options for action. It is not just at an international level. Mayors can also make a difference by addressing soil erosion, or putting in place social policies that place less stress on the environment, or building up natural coastal defences.”
Rocha has spent 10 years building a database of tipping points, or “regime shifts” as he calls them. He urges policymakers to adopt a similar interdisciplinary approach so they can better grasp what is happening.
“We’re trying to connect the dots between different research communities,” said Rocha. “Governments also need to look more at interactions. They should stop compartmentalising ministries like agriculture, fisheries and international relations and try to manage environmental problems by embracing the diversity of causes and mechanisms underlying them. Policies need to match the scale of the problem.
“It’s a little depressing knowing we are not on a trajectory to keep our ecosystem in a functional state, but these connections are also a reason for hope; good management in one place can prevent severe environmental degradation elsewhere. Every action counts.”
Press link for more: The Guardian
The new plan significantly boosts support for adaptation and resilience, recognizing mounting climate change impacts on lives and livelihoods, especially in the world’s poorest countries.
By ramping up direct adaptation finance to reach around $50 billion over 2021-2025, the World Bank will, for the first time, give this equal emphasis alongside investments that reduce emissions.
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MDB Alignment and a Dedicated Pavilion.
Nine MDBs – the African Development Bank Group, the Asian Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank Group, the Islamic Development Bank, the New Development Bank, and the World Bank Group – issued a declaration announcing a joint framework for aligning their activities with the goals of the Paris Agreement, reinforcing their commitment to combat climate change.
The MDBs plan to break the joint approach down into practical work on six core Paris Alignment areas, including ramping up climate finance, capacity building support for countries and other clients, and an emphasis on climate reporting. At next year’s COP25 gathering, the MDBs will report back on their progress with the six building blocks.
For the first time, the World Bank, along with six other MDBs and the CIFs shared a dedicated pavilion. The common space served as a convening and networking hub to promote, discuss and share climate solutions with global leaders, media and online influencers. It also hosted popular daily Facebook Live interviews.
A Significant Boost for Climate-Smart Development in Sectors.
For cities: A new IFC report was published which found that cities in emerging markets alone could attract more than $29.4 trillion in climate-related investments in six key sectors by 2030. It analyzed cities’ climate-related targets and action plans in six regions and identified opportunities in priority sectors such as green buildings, public transportation, electric vehicles, waste, water, and renewable energy.
For energy: According to the new RISE report, the number of countries with strong policy frameworks for sustainable energy more than tripled – from 17 to 59 – between 2010 and 2017, and many of the world’s largest energy-consuming countries have significantly improved their renewable energy regulations since 2010. A separate study found that in Poland, host country of COP24, scaling renewable energy sources could provide major benefits for the economy, health and environment. And the report, Managing Coal Mine Closure: Achieving a Just Transition for All, outlined how governments can prepare for and manage coal mine closure, particularly the social and labor impacts, and implement the transition to cleaner, less polluting energy sources.
For food and land use: From 2015-17, 51 countries provided approximately $590 billion in public support for agricultural producers. A new report examined realigning agricultural support to deliver public goods outcomes and promote climate-smart agriculture.
For Infrastructure. Low-carbon, resilient infrastructure has a central role in ensuring development, economic and climate objectives are met. A joint report with OECD and UN Environment laid out what public and private actors can do to align financial flows in infrastructure.
For Transport. A technical paper on Electric Mobility was published to help support countries ensure that climate and environmental concerns as well as regulatory, labor, and fiscal implications were taken on board as they embark on e-Mobility pathways. The report was welcomed by the Polish government who will provide support to a trust fund that will support cutting edge research on e-mobility.
For Disaster Response and Preparedness. 2017 was a stark reminder that disasters have the capacity to destroy in one day what took years to build and they inevitably place a huge financial strain on countries and poor people. A number of announcements were made, aiming to boost support for countries to minimize the impacts, manage the risks of climate change, and support them to access a wider range of financial instruments, including insurance (for instance, the InsurResilience Global partnership, the KfW contribution to the Central America and Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Program and support growing for early warning systems).
The Big Takeaway
Now that the “Paris rulebook is in place, we can move forward on bold implementation.
The big messages that will resonate clearly into 2019 are that the needs for climate action and ambition are great, the opportunities of climate-smart growth are bigger, and our commitment on climate, as the WBG, is as strong as ever.
Press link for more: World Bank
Before the 2016 midterm elections, it was a campaign slogan little known outside progressive activist circles.
Now after the election, it is supposedly supported by most American voters.
Even if many of them still said they have no idea what it was.
In only a few months, the notion of a “Green New Deal” has earned the support of not just a few dozen Democrats in Congress. It’s also backed, at least according to one new survey, by the vast majority of registered voters.
A poll conducted by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities found that 81 percent of registered voters either strongly or somewhat support the ambitious plan to reduce carbon emissions over the next decade.
Even most Republican voters — nearly two in three — said they supported the Green New Deal when it was described to them by pollsters as a plan to generate all of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources within 10 years while providing job training for those displaced from traditional energy sector jobs.
But that same survey also identified the main weakness surrounding a Green New Deal, an ambitious proposal from progressive activists to tackle climate change that has been adopted by some high-profile Democratic freshman including Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
More than four-fifths of respondents said they had heard “nothing at all” of it before being reached online by survey takers.
Those findings show that left-leaning activists have, at the very least, found an effective slogan to encapsulate the aggressive action they demand to address climate change.
But turning a mantra into law is no small task.
Ocasio-Cortez and others have outlined formidable goals, but have not yet detailed a clear way of achieving them. And the researchers warn Democrats and their climate activist allies that they should expect to see more resistance to the idea of the platform as more people learn about it and associate it one political party over another.
The phrase “Green New Deal” has existed in U.S. political discourse for at least a decade after New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman used it in a 2007 column calling for a plan to transition the American energy system from fossil fuels to renewable sources.
The name harkens back to a series of efforts to build public works and overhaul financial rules under Franklin D. Roosevelt dubbed the New Deal.
Soon after that, Van Jones, the CNN commentator who once served as President Obama’s “green jobs czar,” adopted the phrase in his 2008 book “The Green Collar Economy” to describe a plan to create thousands of low- and medium-skill jobs installing solar panels and insulating homes.
A year later, the United Nations Environment Programme picked up on the phrase when outlining a “Global Green New Deal” for reducing greenhouse gas emissions without sacrificing economic development.
But the current version was perhaps outlined best by Ocasio-Cortez.
Shortly after the election, she called for the creation of a so-called “Select Committee For A Green New Deal” in the House that would develop a plan to “dramatically expand” renewable power to meet 100 percent of the nation’s needs while creating a job guarantee program to facilitate that transition.
Since the election, young activists part of groups like the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats have staged sit-ins in the offices of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other Democratic leaders,demanding their endorsement of the committee. So far, at least 40 members of Congress have endorsed the idea of a Green New Deal.
But given House Democrats’ experience with cap-and-trade legislation when they were last in the House majority, grand gestures aimed at climate change are going to be politically divisive, even among Democrats.
Edward Maibach, director of George Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication and one of the co-authors of the survey, said it is “probably not all that surprising” few Americans outside Washington have heard of the Green New Deal.
“It’s quite a new concept and while it is certainly caught hold in in liberal progressive circles, probably not so much in much of the rest of America,” he said.
The poll, which was conducted online between Nov. 28 to Dec. 11, did not tell respondents that so far all of congressional backers of the Green New Deal are Democrats. Public opinion may calcify along party lines as the concept gains publicity and its details — including its costs — are sketched out more thoroughly.
“The Green New Deal isn’t anything yet.
It doesn’t have any guts.
It doesn’t have any inside. It doesn’t have any real specifics other than broad platitudes,” said Frank Maisano, an energy industry specialist at the law and lobby firm Bracewell.
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We need system change not climate change.
For now, the organizers of the Capitol Hill climate protests are fine with allowing the moment to fill out the details of what major climate change action would look like.
“What young people are doing here today, and what Justice Democrats and Ocasio-Cortez have been calling for, is similar to what happened in the 1930s and 1940s,” Justice Democrats’ spokesman Waleed Shahid told reporters before the protest in Pelosi’s office this month. “The original New Deal was not one policy.”
Press link for more: Washington Post
Australia is experiencing more extreme heat, longer fire seasons, rising oceans and more marine heatwaves consistent with a changing climate, according to the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO’s state of the climate report.
The report, published every two years, measures the long-term variability and trends observed in Australia’s climate.
The 2018 report shows that Australia’s long-term warming trend is continuing, with the climate warming by just over 1C since 1910 when records began.
That warming is contributing to a long-term increase in the frequency of extreme heat events, fire weather and drought.
“Australia is already experiencing climate change now and there are impacts being experienced or felt across many communities and across many sectors,” said Helen Cleugh, the director of the CSIRO’s climate science centre.
The report’s key findings include:
Australia’s fire seasons have lengthened and become more severe. In some parts of the country, the season has been extended by months.
The number of extreme heat days continues to trend upward.
There has been a shift to drier conditions in south-eastern and south-western Australia in the months from April to October.
Rainfall across northern Australia has increased since the 1970s, particularly during the tropical wet season in north-western Australia.
Oceans around Australia have warmed by about 1C since 1910, which is leading to longer and more frequent marine heatwaves that affect marine life such as corals.
Sea levels around Australia have risen by more than 20cm since records began and the rate of sea level rise is accelerating.
There has been a 30% increase in the acidity of Australian oceans since the 1800s and the current rate of change “is ten times faster than at any time in the past 300 million years”.
Karl Braganza, the bureau of meteorology’s manager of climate monitoring, said the increase in average temperature was having an impact on the frequency or amount of extremes Australia experienced in any given year.
“In general there’s been around a five-fold increase in extreme heat and that is consistent whether you look at monthly temperatures, day time temperatures or night time temperatures,” he said.
He said there had been a reduction in rainfall of 20% in south-western Australia and in some places that was as high as 26%. In south-eastern Australia, April to October rainfall had fallen by 11%.
The report also highlights an increase in the number of extreme fire danger days in many parts of Australia, particularly in southern and eastern Australia.
Braganza said there was a “clear shift” towards a lengthened fire season, more fire weather during that season and an increase in its severity.
“Often the worst fire weather occurs when you’ve had long-term drought, long-term above-average temperatures, maybe a short-term heatwave and then the meteorology that’s consistent with severe fire weather and the ability for fire to spread,” he said.
“It’s those types of compound events that are going to be most challenging going forward in terms of adapting to climate change in Australia.”
David Cazzulino, the Great Barrier Reef campaigner for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said the report confirmed what many Australians already knew about the rising risks of climate change.
“The big line around oceans warming one degree since 1910 is a huge wake-up call,” he said.
“It’s undeniable that warming oceans lead to more marine heatwaves, coral bleaching and coral mortality.”
He said the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef, and climate change policy generally, would be a key campaign issue ahead of the 2019 federal election.
“We are running out of time to keep warming to a safe degree for the reef to have a future,” Cazzulino said.
Press link for more: The Guardian
We’re stealing our children’s future.
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Australia urgently needs a Green New Deal
The Conference of the Parties 24 – or COP24, as the branding goes – opened with an emotion-grabbing call on world leaders by Sir David Attenborough.
But at the end of the first week, the mood of optimism went into a spasm when it was clear that the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, would oppose accepting the recent report by the IPCC stating that the difference between a global average heating of 1.5°C and 2°C is the difference between two very different worlds that climate change will deliver.
Of course, whether we accept a report or not does not change its validity.
In fact, in a UK Met Office presentation at the COP, Dr. Richard Betts stated that currently, we are on track for around 3.3°C, a death knell for many of the world’s poorest people and a likely scenario of the collapse of the global economy, agriculture and general human well being.
Professor John Schellnhuber, a German climate scientist speaking at the same session as Betts, started his talk with the following: “If you thought this conference can deliver on [the less safe] 2°C then you have been fooled!”
All this brings us back to that tawdry slogan smeared like cream across the British Pavilion. Green may indeed be great but to imply in any way that we are honouring our Paris Agreement commitments is a barefaced lie.
This lie was made very explicit to me by British climate scientist, Professor Kevin Anderson.
He passed the stand and said: “Why don’t you go and ask them about the new Clair Ridge oil platform coming online, that the Energy and Clean Growth Minister, Claire Perry, has been celebrating?
“That is something like 50,000 tonnes of CO2 every single day from that one platform in the North Sea. They expect it to have 640 million barrels of recoverable oil for the duration of its life, equal to a quarter of a billion tonnes [of CO2 pollution].”
This is the same government who continues in its efforts to pursue shale gas from fracking, while at the same time refusing to back renewable energy projects such as the tidal energy project in Swansea, and placing a moratorium on onshore wind power, despite record growth.
It is not only the low-carbon energy potential that they have thrown out of the window, but it is also the lead position we have held in these industries that attract investments, leading to more jobs and a brighter future.
In this context, it is hard to see how Green Is Great, or even the open bragging of The Climate Change Act can be more than barefaced lying, both to the British people and again here at COP to delegates looking for hope in a dark place.
Road to hell
The fossil fuel energy pathway this government is locking us into for decades to come will contribute significantly to shattering the myth that we will avert dangerous climate change.
Combined with all the lies of other developed nations, including those in Scandinavia, Germany, and Canada, not to mention China and India, our global emissions are set to keep rising and with it, the cost to all life on Earth.
This was expressed in the morning while talking to the scientist, Christoph Thiel from Greenpeace: “we don’t just have a climate change problem, we are also into the first human caused mass extinction!”
People like me
People like me feel a sense of sadness and anger when Russia or the US deny obvious truths, especially on existential issues such as climate change. Yet, in reality, there is very little difference between what UK policy is doing underlying banners such as Green Is Great. The reason they can get away with it is because we all know they are doing it and choose to turn a blind eye in case it impacts our own way of life.
There is now clear evidence that the top 10 percent of society’s highest emitters are responsible for 50 percent of global emissions. Kevin Anderson raised this point numerous times over various presentations both in and out of the COP. Within this group emissions from flying drastically impact our individual carbon footprints and Anderson cites frequent flying as being emblematic of the kind of lifestyle that speaks much louder than rhetoric on climate action:
“The airports are full of frequent fliers, who are the wealthy people in our society. Emissions across the board are being driven by a relatively small cohort of very high emitters.
“At the global level, we know that 50% of emissions come from 10 percent of the population and it looks like the UK is not dissimilar to that, nor is the US. In the US the top one percent emit around 300-350 tonnes of CO2 pollution [per person] each year, and yet the average in the US is around 23 tonnes. In the EU, it’s nearer 13 tonnes. But I bet you there are a lot of poorer people in the EU who are running well below the average at about 4-8 tonnes!”
Axis of Evil?
All of this sheds light on why the UK, US, and pretty much all other governments in developed nations, ignore their Paris Agreement commitments and focus on the job of keeping us in the profligate and destructive lives that we have become accustomed too.
At an individual level, it is the choices that we make every day that collectively make up the staggering true cost of climate change. As Anderson puts it:
“Emissions relate very closely to income and that is because we use a lot more energy, but also then, above a certain threshold, it means we consume lots more goods. That stuff uses lots of energy; the raw material, the manufacturing of it, and then to import it.”
The consequences of every decision
Scientists have created a set of carbon budgets that tell us how much carbon we can emit depending on whether we are aiming to achieve a global warming of 1.5ºC, 2ºC, or anywhere over 3.3ºC. These budgets are very tight and, yet, this year global emissions rose 2.7 percent – much larger than last years 1.6 percent.
After 24 years of COP’s, to achieve an international agreement that no one is honouring, and the wealthy people, who have the power to change, are ignoring, is a disgrace. The decisions I make going forward, from flying to eating meat, or air freighted avocados, they all consume another part of that carbon budget that is rightly the property of the poorer people in the global society, who have emitted virtually nothing but face the worst consequences.
In addition, careful consideration should be given to our children and grandchildren who will have to try and live in the environmental mess that we have created for them. It should not surprise anyone as to why they are taking to the streets and will continue to do so as the crisis worsens.
Anderson ends leaving this question hanging in the air: “What’s worse, Russia, America, and Saudi Arabia being honest about their rejection of the science, or us, lying about it so we can go on doing what we are doing?”
Press link for more: The Ecologist
During a recent episode of the ABC’s Q&A program, former Liberal minister Amanda Vanstone claimed “emissions are coming down” in Australia.
Her comment came a few days before a major UN climate summit, COP24, held in Katowice, Poland.
Other panellists on Q&A contradicted Ms Vanstone, saying emissions were rising.
This prompted many viewers of the program to call on RMIT ABC Fact Check to investigate Ms Vanstone’s claim.
Ms Vanstone’s claim is misleading.
Latest federal government figures suggest that although greenhouse gas emissions have fallen over the past 10 years, emissions started trending upwards again about four years ago.
The upturn, since 2014, has coincided with the Abbott government’s removal of the carbon tax.
Also, while emissions from electricity production have been falling, the decrease has been outweighed over the past four years by rising emissions in other sectors of the economy, such as transport, where emissions are associated with increased LNG production for export.
Emissions can be measured in different ways: for example, as total emissions or emissions per capita or per GDP.
In the past year, Australia’s total emissions have been rising. But emissions per capita or per dollar of real GDP have been falling, mainly due to Australia’s rapid population growth.
However, it is worth noting that Australia’s progress in cutting emissions under its international obligations (the Paris Agreement) is measured by changes in total emissions rather than by other measures.
As one expert put it: “The atmosphere doesn’t care how many people are contributing to emissions; it’s the total quantity of emissions that matters.”
Ms Vanstone made her claim during a discussion on Q&A about a protest by Australian schoolchildren titled ‘Strike 4 Climate Action‘.
She was speaking about the climate policies of Australia’s two major political parties, and in the broader context of greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on the environment, as perceived by young people.
Ms Vanstone did not specify which kind of emissions she was talking about. Nor whether she was referring to simple totals or ratios.
Fact Check invited her to clarify this. She said she had not been expecting to talk about emissions: “I can’t tell you that I had a particular tight construct in my head at the time,” she said.
“I think I was just making a general remark about emissions generally over a long period of time.”
Fact Check considers it reasonable to assume that her claim refers to Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions over the past 10 years — the length of time examined by the Government’s most recent report on emissions.
Ms Vanstone is not alone in claiming emissions in Australia are decreasing, though other speakers have been more specific.
Liberal senator Linda Reynolds, also on Q&A, said carbon emissions per capita and by GDP were at their lowest levels in 28 years.
Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price also highlighted this low in a press release announcing the Government’s latest quarterly emissions data.
Nonetheless, she acknowledged that total emissions had risen over the year to June 2018.
Others have also pointed to the rise in total emissions.
Labor senator Lisa Singh, another of the recent Q&A panelists, argued that “emissions have continued to go up since 2011”.
And on ABC radio the same week, Richie Merzian, the climate and energy director for think tank the Australia Institute said: “For the last four years, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have been increasing.”
The Australian Department of the Environment and Energy collects and publishes a series of reports and databases, known as the National Greenhouse Accounts.
The accounts track greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 onwards, and fulfil Australia’s international reporting obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Kyoto Protocol.
Quarterly reports, released as part of the accounts, track total emissions as well as emissions by sector, per capita and per GDP.
The latest report, released three days before Ms Vanstone’s Q&A appearance, provides estimates of Australia’s national inventory of greenhouse gas emissions up to the June quarter of 2018.
The report examines emissions produced by eight sectors: electricity, stationary energy, transport, fugitive emissions (for example, leakages), industrial processes and product use, agriculture, waste, and land use, land use change and forestry.
The report shows emissions in the electricity sector have fallen by 3.6 per cent in the year to September 2018.
This was driven by a 13 per cent reduction in brown coal supply and a corresponding 14 per cent increase in supply derived from renewable sources, it says.
But emissions from other sectors, such as transport, have been rising.
Hugh Saddler, an honorary associate professor at ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy, told Fact Check:
“Significant increases in emissions from petroleum and diesel consumption in transport, and gas consumption associated with LNG, have outweighed the decrease in emissions from the electricity sector.”
Over the year to June 2018, Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions rose in each quarter, according to the report.
Specifically, seasonally adjusted total emissions rose 1.3 per cent in the June quarter and by 0.6 per cent in the year to June 2018.
While emissions have fluctuated over the past four years, they have been trending upwards since late 2014, as the graph below shows. The data shows emissions have risen 5 per cent over this time.
Emissions touched their lowest point in March 2013, but have since rebounded to 2011 levels.
Under the Paris Climate Agreement, Australia has committed to a reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions of between 26 per cent and 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.
According to the national greenhouse audit, total emissions are down 11.7 per cent on 2005 (the Paris Agreement base year) and 7.5 per cent since 1990 (the base year for Kyoto Protocol calculations).
As shown above, total greenhouse emissions when measured quarterly over the past year, or by trend data over the past four years, have been rising.
So, why are some people arguing that emissions are going down?
Because, when emissions are measured per capita or per dollar of GDP, they are lower. This is because Australia is experiencing rapid population growth.
The Department of the Environment and Energy highlights this fall in both the preface to its latest quarterly greenhouse report and on its website.
The report states that emissions per capita and the emissions intensity of the Australian economy were at their lowest levels in 28 years, falling 37 per cent and 60 per cent respectively since 1990.
Put simply, no.
Dr Saddler said focusing on emissions per capita was meaningless, since the measure used in international agreements was the more crucial total emissions.
“The atmosphere doesn’t care how many people are contributing to emissions; it’s the total quantity of emissions that matters,” he said.
Professor David Karoly, an internationally recognised expert on climate change, said the emissions per capita was a useful measure when it allowed for country by country comparisons.
“The Australian per capita share at the moment is higher than any other developed country in the world — higher than the US. Yes, it’s coming down, but it is still the highest.”
Both Dr Saddler and Professor Karoly confirmed the fall in emissions per capita and GDP were due to rapid population growth in Australia.
Professor Karoly said if Amanda Vanstone’s claim was made in reference to total Australian emissions, “they are going up”.
He noted that the start of the recent rebound in emissions from mid-2014 coincided with the dumping of the carbon tax by the Abbott government in July of that year.
Professor Mark Howden, the director of ANU’s Climate Change Institute, told Fact Check: “I think it is correct to say that Australian emissions were coming down, but are now rising steadily.”
He said an argument could be made that emissions have come down, given they are lower now than at their peak between 2005 and 2008.
“However, this is a problematic argument,” he said.
“Under the current mix of policies and economic activities, emissions are clearly not coming down but instead are rising steadily.”
Pep Canadell, a senior principal research scientist in the CSIRO Climate Science Centre, and the executive director of the Global Carbon Project, suggested that 1990 was a good reference year for gleaning a long-term view of changes to emissions.
“Good annual data only starts from 1990, which is the reference year of the Kyoto Protocol and why the Government started the good quality data then,” Dr Canadell said.
Emissions per capita have fallen 37 per cent since 1990.
However, Dr Canadell added:
“Given Ms Vanstone’s statement is present tense, I disagree [that emissions are falling]. According to the data, emissions have been going up since 2013, with ups and downs, and, if anything, accelerating recently.”
Press link for more: ABC
By Umair Ifran
Umair covers climate change, energy, and the environment.
Before joining Vox, Umair was a reporter for ClimateWire at E&E News in Washington, DC, where he covered health and climate change, climate policy, business, and energy trends.
In 2016, he received a Sasakawa Peace Foundation fellowship to report on Japan’s energy sector, economy, and culture. In 2014, he was awarded the Arthur F. Burns fellowship to cover Germany’s energy transition.
UPDATE, December 15: International climate change negotiators announced late Saturday that they have reached an agreement at COP24 in Poland.
The text charts a path forward for countries to set tougher targets for cutting greenhouse gases under the Paris climate agreement, as well as stronger transparency rules for countries in disclosing their emissions.
However, nations still couldn’t reach an accord on how to use markets to limit carbon dioxide.
Those discussions will continue next year.
Read on for the context around these negotiations and why environmental groups, governments, and private companies were so concerned about the outcome of this conference.
An agreement between 200 nations at a major international climate change conference in Katowice, Poland, is taking longer than expected.
The two-week meeting was supposed to wrap Friday. But as of Saturday, a full compilation of the Paris Agreement rulebook had been released, but a final deal still hadn’t been announced as critical details remained up for debate.
Stop Adani protest at Australian Labor Party Conference Today
Under the 2015 accord, countries set out to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2100 at most, with a preferred target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
However, the original pledged cuts in greenhouse gas emissions would not put the world anywhere near meeting these targets.
So the agreement included provisions for countries to meet regularly and ramp up their ambitions, all of which are voluntary. COP24 is the first time since Paris that countries are actually talking with each other about going beyond their initial commitments. That’s why this meeting is so important. That’s also why scientists and activists are pushing for even more ambitious commitments to reduce emissions in the final days of the negotiations.
“If the Paris agreement is actually going to live up to that model of voluntary bottom-up commitments, … ongoing ratcheting down of those commitments, then it has to happen at this first moment,” said Lou Leonard, senior vice president for climate and energy at the World Wildlife Fund, by phone from Katowice. “And if it doesn’t happen at this first moment, then it will call into question whether this ratcheting will actually work.”
Time to stop opening new coal mines
The outcome of the negotiations became increasingly uncertain after President Trump in 2017 announced he would withdraw the United States from the accord.
For an agreement that hinges so much on cooperation and good faith, the worry was that without the US, the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, the deal would fall apart, that other countries would weaken their ambitions or sign an agreement so full of loopholes as to be useless.
For delegates, the goal is to nail down critical details, like how to verify that countries are actually progressing in cutting greenhouse gases, creating market mechanisms to control emissions, and coming up with ways to help developing countries finance a transition to cleaner energy sources.
It turns out countries are making some progress in tracking their emissions, but are still struggling with many of the financial issues associated with mitigating climate change. It’s yet another example of the tension between the threat of rising average temperatures and the fears of economic strain that hinder ambition in cutting greenhouse gases.
The literal and metaphorical backdrops of the COP24 negotiations highlight the enormousness of the challenge. Katowice is in the heart of Poland’s coal country and the conference is sponsored in part by Polish coal companies. The conference venue is literally festooned with coal.
Press link for more: VOX