OECD

Does a Warming Planet Reallly Need More Coal? #StopAdani 

Australia Debates: Does Warming Planet Really Need More Coal?

By JACQUELINE WILLIAMS

October 14, 2017
Australia Debates:

An enormous expansion at Abbot Point, Australia’s most northern deep water coal port, is planned as part of a controversial mining project.
David Maurice Smith for The New York Times
ABBOT POINT, Australia — In a desolate corner of northeastern Australia, about 100 miles from the nearest town, a grassy stretch of prime grazing land sits above a vein of coal so rich and deep that it could be mined for decades.
The Australian government is considering a proposal to build one of the world’s largest coal mines in this remote locale, known as the Galilee Basin, where acacia and eucalyptus trees grow wild between scattered creeks.
An Indian conglomerate, the Adani Group, has asked for a taxpayer-financed loan of as much as $800 million to make the enormous project viable, promising to create thousands of jobs in return.
But the plan has met intense opposition in Australia and abroad, focusing attention on a question with global resonance: Given the threat of climate change and the slowing global demand for coal, does the world really need another giant mine, especially at the public’s expense?
Adani has proposed building six open-cut pits and five underground complexes capable of producing as much as 66 million tons of coal a year. New infrastructure to support the mine — a rail line to the coast and an expanded port — would also make it economically feasible to extract coal from at least eight additional sites in the Galilee Basin.
That could more than double coal output in Australia, which already produces more coal than any other nation except China, the United States and India. About 88 percent of the 487 tons of coal mined in Australia is exported.

Mick Derrick, center, a volunteer from the North Queensland Conservation Council, conducting a survey in Townsville, Queensland, about the proposed Adani coal mine.
David Maurice Smith for The New York Times
For many environmentalists, what happens in this mining case is a test of the world’s commitment to fighting climate change. Its failure would register as an unmistakable sign of an international shift away from the fossil fuels behind climate change. But if Australia agrees to subsidize the mine — even though several commercial banks have shunned it — the project would demonstrate the lasting allure and influence of the coal industry.
“How it can be constructed — at a time when the whole world is committed to move away from fossil fuels — is madness that most people just can’t understand,” said Geoffrey Cousins, president of the Australian Conservation Foundation.
The project, known as the Carmichael mine, has provoked strong resistance in part because of its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, a natural wonder that is already dying because of overheated seawater blamed on climate change. Adani plans to deliver most of the coal to India on shipping routes that critics say would further damage the ecosystem of the world’s greatest system of reefs.
The debate over the mine has dominated headlines in Australia for months and fueled one of the most fervent environmental campaigns in the nation’s history. Protests have grown in size and frequency, and polls show Australians who oppose the mine outnumber those who support it by more than two-to-one.
A group of Indigenous Australians is also challenging Adani’s claim to the land.
But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull supports the project, and it just needs financing to proceed. A government agency established to support private-sector infrastructure investment is reviewing Adani’s loan request, and the company has said it is also lining up money overseas.
“This is a tipping point,” said Maree Dibella, a coordinator of the North Queensland Conservation Council, referring to the mine’s role in the global campaign against coal.

The Collinsville coal mine, the oldest in Queensland. Proponents of a new mine say it would bring thousands of jobs to Queensland.
David Maurice Smith for The New York Times
Around the Galilee Basin, where a population of less than 20,000 is scattered across an area the size of Britain, opinion is divided.
Bruce Currie, a cattle farmer who lives near the site and has traveled to India to investigate Adani’s record, said he is worried the mine will drain too much groundwater, calling it “yet another burden our small business has to bear.”
Several hours drive north in Collinsville, one of the area’s oldest mining communities, Roderick Macdonald, 57, a retired miner, said Adani had come to the town promising to build mining camps and employ local people.
“From what I can hear and see, Mr. Adani’s going to do nothing for this town,” Mr. Macdonald said, referring to Gautam Adani, the billionaire founder and chairman of the company.
But others in the region are more hopeful. Mining accounts for as much as 7 percent of the Australian economy, and the northeastern state of Queensland, where the Galilee Basin lies, has suffered a downturn in recent years because of slowing demand for natural resources, especially from China.
“I need jobs for Queenslanders,” said the state’s premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, of the Adani proposal.


Roderick Macdonald, a retired miner in Collinsville, Queensland. “From what I can hear and see,” he said, the proposed coal mine project would “do nothing for this town.”
David Maurice Smith for The New York Times
Towns along the coast have been vying for potential contracts with the mine for maintenance work, construction and other services. “People are really rooting for this because of the economy,” said Stephen Smyth, a local union leader, who started working in underground mines at 17.
The Carmichael mine, he added, is “offering that thing of hope, hope for a better life, secure employment and better wages so people can live a reasonable life.”
Adani has said the project will create as many as 10,000 jobs in the region. But a consultant hired by Adani said the employment claim was overstated in court testimony given in a case where a conservation group was looking to block the mine. Critics have also noted that other mines in Australia may need to scale back production if Carmichael opens, meaning job losses elsewhere.
A host of Australian celebrities — including the rock band Midnight Oil — and international groups have urged Mr. Turnbull to kill the project, arguing that such a large mine would violate Australia’s commitment in the Paris climate accord to work to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
In April, Mr. Turnbull met with Mr. Adani and later told reporters that the mine “will create tens of thousands of jobs,” adding, “Plainly, there is a huge economic benefit from a big project of this kind, assuming it’s built and it proceeds.”
If Adani and other mines in the Galilee Basin go ahead and reach maximum production, coal from the region would release as much as 700 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, or nearly as much as Germany generates in emissions, according to a study by Greenpeace.


Coal awaiting export at the Abbot Point port.
David Maurice Smith for The New York Times
Australia has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, but the coal it sells to India and other countries would not be counted in its total.
It is unclear if India even needs the extra coal. After years of big increases in coal consumption, the growth rate slowed last year as the nation has improved energy efficiency and shifted to solar, wind and hydropower. India’s coal-fired power plants are running below 60 percent of capacity, a record low, experts say.
That has raised questions about the economics of the Carmichael mine. Australia’s four largest banks have publicly ruled out financing it, and analysts have argued that the mine would face stiff competition from local sources of coal in India and elsewhere.
Globally, coal consumption actually decreased by 1.7 percent in 2016, according to a BP report on energy trends, leading the company to declare that “the fortunes of coal appear to have taken a decisive break from the past.”
Critics worry Adani could default on the government’s loan or flood the market, lowering prices worldwide and allowing coal to make a comeback as an energy source.
The Adani Group’s business record has also drawn scrutiny. The conglomerate, whose interests span natural resources, logistics, energy and agriculture, has faced allegations in India of environmental degradation, money laundering and bribery, but it has denied any illegal activity.


Mike Brunker, a member of the Whitsunday Regional Council, supports the coal mine, viewing it as a potential creator of much needed jobs in the area.
David Maurice Smith for The New York Times
Adani leased about 460 square miles of land in the Galilee Basin nearly a decade ago. It can take two to three days to get to the site from the coast, with the last leg of the trip on unpaved roads. Surveying, soil testing and design work has begun, including on an airstrip, mining camp, access roads and the rail link, said Ron Watson, a spokesman for Adani Australia.
Coal from the mine would be transported by rail about 240 miles through grazing land to Abbot Point, the nation’s most northern deep water coal port, which is already used to ship coal to China, Japan and South Korea. Adani has signed a 99-year lease of the port and plans an expansion that would allow it to double the amount of coal going through.
From the air, the piles of coal and equipment at Abbot Point are a striking contrast with the turquoise waters of the Coral Sea. The closest coral of the Great Barrier Reef is just 12 miles away.
A 30-minute drive southeast from Abbot Point is the seaside town of Bowen, where parts of the Nicole Kidman epic “Australia” was filmed a decade ago during better times. Now, the streets are dotted with “For Sale” signs beyond the main drag.
“We had miners living in the high parts of town,” or the most expensive neighborhoods, said Mike Brunker, who represents Bowen in the Whitsunday regional council and is a supporter of the mine for the jobs it is projected to bring. “That was the boom time. They had to leave, they had to go to other mines, or they’ve just gone broke.”
Further up the coast is Townsville, home to Adani’s headquarters in Australia, where protesters sometimes congregate and residents exemplify the conflicts felt by many in the region.
“You don’t know what’s good for us,” one man snapped at an environmental activist conducting a survey recently.
Not too long after, another resident told the activist, “I oppose the mine even though I applied for a job.”

Press link for more: NYTimes.com

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Investing in the age of #ClimateChange #StopAdani 

Countries who’ve signed the Paris Climate Agreement are looking for ways to curb carbon emissions
Marija Kramer is Head of Responsible Investment Business at Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS). 

She is responsible for all aspects of responsible investing (RI) offerings, including policy development, as well as research and data screening services covering more than 13,000 global companies for institutions seeking to fully integrate ESG into their investment decision-making.

 Kramer also oversees new product development and strategic alliances in all regions of the world where RI solutions are delivered to ISS clients.

Christopher P. Skroupa: Have we reached a tipping point for mainstream investors on the issue of climate change?
Marija Kramer: I would say so. Unprecedented votes this year on climate change resolutions at some of the largest energy companies, including Exxon Mobil, would suggest mainstream institutions have crossed the Rubicon on the materiality of climate change.

 So it’s not just leading climate scientists who agree that the release of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere contribute to climate change.

What we’re seeing now is that investors are focused on how a changing climate brings two highly impactful risks: transition and physical.

 Transition risks are linked to the political commitment to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

 For example, a government may choose to introduce a tax on greenhouse gas emissions that could leave several companies with unburned fossil fuel assets but support the emergence of renewable energy technologies. 

These policy and technology-related changes could directly affect the value of an investor’s portfolio.
Physical risks are linked to extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts or hurricanes that arise as a result of global temperature rises, with proponents of this argument pointing to recent storms that hit Texas, Florida and the Caribbean islands as evidence of this. 

The financial losses that can be felt by these hurricanes, alongside the more obvious humanitarian and environmental devastation triggered by the events, are materially significant for global investors far more so today than ever before.

Skroupa: How does the landmark Paris Climate Accord affect investors?
Kramer: With the adoption of the Paris Climate Accord at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) in December 2015, there is a global consensus to combat climate change. 

It is the world’s first legally binding commitment to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with a stretch target of 1.5°C.
Part of the agreement includes ensuring that financial flows are consistent with the 2-degree target. 

Meeting this target requires a global effort to shift capital from carbon-intensive to low-carbon industries, but also heavily invest in energy-efficiency in the former. 

Significant investments in renewable energy, smart-grids and energy-efficient storage systems will be needed as well as a fade out of fossil fuel subsides.

Some countries are considering using carbon pricing, taxes and cap and trade systems as financial mechanisms to curb emissions.

 The net effect of this is that many investors are beginning to measure the carbon exposure of their portfolios and, where needed, rebalancing portfolios to offset the presence of high carbon-emitters with companies that have lower greenhouse gas emissions or are on a path to reduce them in the future.
Skroupa: How can investors manage climate-related risks and opportunities?
Kramer: Performing a carbon footprint analysis is the first step for investors who want to understand their portfolios’ impact on the climate and vice versa. 

A carbon footprint analysis shows a portfolio’s carbon emissions based on the ownership it has of the underlying investments.
For example, if an investor owns 1% of a company, the investor also owns 1% of the company’s carbon emissions and the portfolio footprint is the total of these ‘owned’ emissions. 

The analysis shows where the largest exposures are located (specific companies and sector-wide), which can in turn trigger an internal conversation around the strengths and limitations of the current investment strategy.
The next step would be to add more information to the analysis to determine if the investments are on a 2-degree pathway. 

Innovative tools, such as Climetrics, a climate impact rating for funds, also provide investors with much needed insight on the climate change impact of funds’ portfolio holdings, as well as asset managers’ own applications of climate impact as an investment and governance factor.
Skroupa: As an ESG data, analytics, research, and advisory provider, how is ISS supporting investors in the age of climate change?
Kramer: ISS-Ethix supports investors globally with developing and integrating responsible investing policies and practices into their strategy, and execute upon these policies through engagement and voting.

 Our climate solutions enable investors to understand what climate change means for their investments by providing timely data and actionable intelligence on climate change risk and its impact on investments.
ISS-Ethix can also provide reports that enable investors to understand their carbon footprint and wider climate impact, complying with disclosure frameworks such as the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, the California Department of Insurance’s Coal Disclosure, Article 173 of the French Energy Transition Law, the Montreal Pledge and specific guidelines for investors in other jurisdictions.
The transition to a low-carbon economy requires a massive transformation, including transition efforts to be made by global capital markets. Faced with this new reality, investors have to start asking themselves the following questions: Will my current investments make sense in a 2-degree world, and how can I spot the largest risks and opportunities in the transition to a low-carbon economy?

Press link for more: Forbes

9 Images show #ClimateChange impacts #StopAdani 

Nine Pictures That Show How Climate Change Is Impacting Earth
by Victor Tangermann on September 16, 2017 

IN BRIEF
The latest satellite data from NASA that showcases the effects of climate change paints a sobering picture. Here’s how far we have come and how much work there is to be done.

Record-breaking hurricanes have affected millions of people across North and Central America, devastating floods have taken away millions of homes, and wildfires on the west coast have wreaked havoc on the lives of millions more. The natural disasters of 2017 have raised a lot of questions about human involvement and the dire consequences of climate change caused by human activity on our planet. Even though its effects have made themselves apparent, there are many who don’t believe climate change is real, or at least that humans have nothing to do with it.
Earlier this year, NASA released a series of images titled Images of Change to show just how drastic an effect human activity has had on Earth in the last fifty or so years. They tell a story of melting glaciers, receding ice shelves, floods, and other natural disasters. They all provide evidence that climate change is very real and happening right now. It is time to take the hard, photographic evidence seriously. and learn from our past mistakes.
Tuvalu and the Rising Sea Levels


Image Credit: Ashley Cooper/Contributor/Getty Images

This image was taken in 2007, showing a town submerged in water on the Funafuti Atoll. Its population of more than 6,000 people has been battling with the direct consequences of rising sea levels. Residents of the capital Tuvalu have seen very frequent flooding in populated areas due to the fact that it is at most 4.57 meters (15 feet) above sea level. Dubbed one of “the most vulnerable Pacific Ocean islands,” its residents have to make the ultimate choice: leave the islands or deal with the consequences.
The Larsen C Ice Shelf


Image Credit: NASA/John Sonntag

This 112.65km (70 mile) long, 91.44 meter (300 feet) wide crack in the Antarctic Peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf was photographed in November 2016. As a direct result of the split, a piece of an ice shelf the size of Delaware collapsed. The more than 1 trillion ton ice slab broke away from the Larsen C shelf around the 10th of July, 2017, decreasing it by more than 12%.
Rising Bedrock in Greenland


Image Credit: ESA/Sentinel-2/Copernicus Sentinel

Environmental scientists have concluded in recent studies that the Greenland Ice Sheet is rising as ice melts; as the ice that sits on top of the outer crust of the Earth melts, the crust underneath rises up. Measuring this change is giving scientists valuable insight into the changing sizes of ice sheets and how this eventually leads to rising sea levels.
Hurricane Harvey


Image Credit: @Space_Station/Twitter

This image was taken from the International Space Station on August 25, 2017. The disastrous consequences of Hurricane Harvey wreaking havoc on central Texas saw a huge amount of media coverage. However, when it came to drawing links between the storm and climate change, the reporting was far more subdued. Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist from the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in an interview with The Atlantic: “the human contribution can be up to 30 percent or so of the total rainfall coming out of the storm.” But the trend of tying storms of this scale to human activity is still emerging.
Flooding of the Ganges River


Image Credit: NASA

These satellite images are part of an ongoing series of images called Images of Change released by NASA in 2017. In addition to images related to climate change, the series also looks at how urbanization and natural hazards are changing our planet. The two images above show the drastic effect the 2015 flood had on the Ganges River in eastern and central India. Over six million people were affected by it, and at least 300 people lost their lives.
Arctic Sea Ice Decline


Image Credit: NASA

The last three decades have not been kind to the thick, older layers of sea ice in the Arctic. A study published by the American Geophysical Union in 2007 already noted a sharp decline of the Arctic Sea ice between 1953 and 2006. The last couple of winters have shown record lows in the amount of wintertime Arctic Sea ice.
“This older, thicker ice is like the bulwark of sea ice: a warm summer will melt all the young, thin ice away but it can’t completely get rid of the older ice. But this older ice is becoming weaker because there’s less of it and the remaining old ice is more broken up and thinner, so that bulwark is not as good as it used to be,” says Walt Meiter, a sea researcher from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
Increase of Sun’s Energy Absorbed in the Arctic


Image Credit: NASA

Since 2000, NASA has been using its satellites to measure the solar radiation absorbed in the Arctic. Since records began in 2000, the rate has increased by 5% — notably, the only region on our planet to see a change. Due to this increase, the ice melts sooner in the spring, and more older, thicker sea ice is lost permanently.
Glacier Melt in Alaska

Image Credits: U.S. Geological Survey/NASA

 The Northwestern Glacier in Alaska retreated an estimated 10 kilometers (6 miles) out of view. The small icebergs that can be seen in the foreground have retreated almost entirely throughout the decades.
Air Pollution in London


Image Credit: Barry Lewis/Getty Images

Commuters can be seen crossing the London Bridge on March 15, 2012 — a day with record-breaking levels of air pollution due to dirty air from the north, traffic fumes, and a lack of moving air. According to the World Health Organization, “92% of the world population was living in places where the WHO air quality guidelines levels were not met,” and three million premature deaths were caused by ambient air pollution worldwide in 2012.

Summer Could Be One Long Heatwave 2C #ClimateChange #Auspol #StopAdani 

Summer Could Be One Long Heatwave If Planet Hits Increase of 2 Degrees C


How heatwaves will change around the world for every 1°C increase in global average temperatures
Heatwaves will become a daily occurrence over summer in some regions even if global warming is kept to 2°C.
Summer in some regions of the world will become one long heatwave even if global average temperatures rise only 2°C above pre-industrial levels and certain regions may become close to unliveable if temperatures increase by 5°C.
Even with just a 1.5°C increase in global temperatures there are significant changes to the length, intensity, and frequency of heatwaves in every part of the world.
That’s the finding of new research by Dr. Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science published Sept. 27 in Scientific Reports that divides the globe into 26 regions and looks at how heatwaves will change with every 1°C rise in global temperatures.

When all the regions are combined, for every 1°C of warming during summer the researchers found there would likely be:
An extra 14.8-28.2 heatwave days.

Heatwaves would be 3.4-17.5 days longer.

The peak intensity of heatwaves will increase 1.2°C-1.9°C. 

But it’s when the researchers drilled down to the region-by-region level that the most startling changes appeared.
“We were particularly surprised by the alarmingly fast increase in heatwave days in the tropics where some regions transition to an almost constant heatwave state with just a 2°C rise,” said Perkins-Kirkpatrick.
“We also found that even with just a 1.5°C increase in global temperatures, almost all regions started to experience heatwave events every four years that once only occurred every 30 years.

 If global temperatures were to rise by 5°C such events would occur every year.”


By dividing the globe into 26 distinct regions, the research also highlighted the wide variation in heatwave responses across the world. 

There was a much sharper increase in peak temperatures of heatwaves over the Mediterranean and Central Asia.
Meanwhile, tropical regions saw many more additional heatwave days and longer continuous heatwaves than other parts of the world.
The only decline to appear across the research was the number of discrete heatwave events in two regions, Central America and Eastern Africa. 
But this was not good news because these regions also saw the greatest increase in heatwave days.
Effectively what had once been two heatwaves had now merged into one long heatwave.
“This study is yet another wake-up call to policymakers that we need to act on limiting the rise in global average temperatures due to human-caused climate change,” Kirkpatrick said. 

“Without prompt action, there could be disastrous consequences for many regions around the world.”

Press link for more: Lab Manager

Midnight Oil Join Fight to #StopAdani #Auspol #Qldpol 

MIDNIGHT Oil will kick off their Australian reunion tour with a musical protest against the Adani mine and threats to the Great Barrier Reef’s survival next week.
The activist rockers will stage the Oils at the Reef concert in Cairns on October 6 to support research into the damage suffered by the treasured natural wonder.

All proceeds from Midnight Oil’s ‘Oils at the Reef’ concert will go towards scientific research aimed at protecting the reef. 

The band will direct all proceeds from the show at the Tank Arts Centre to nonpartisan scientific research organisation called Great Barrier Reef Legacy.
The Oils haven’t been quiet about drawing attention to environmental causes on their Great Circle world tour.
They performed on the famous Rainbow Warrior in Brazil in April to protest mining at the mouth of the Amazon River.


Midnight Oil will be touring Australia with their ‘The Great Circle 2017’ reunion tour. Picture: Jenny EvansSource:News Corp Australia
“Midnight Oil have always used our music to talk about things we believe are important,” Peter Garrett said.
“We believe the future of the Great Barrier Reef is clearly on the line. We’re at the eleventh hour for our most important natural asset.
“As the largest living organism in our world the reef is a treasure of extraordinary beauty itself but it’s also a symbol of greater questions we all have to answer.”

Midnight Oil frontman and politician Peter Garrett is fighting to protect the Great  Barrier Reef.
“Some parts of the reef are already being killed off by catastrophic climate change and other parts would be damaged by bad federal government policy that prioritises short term corporate profit above all else.
“So we’re looking forward to getting together with our friends in Cairns and all doing our bit to share some information, provoke more conversation and make change while there’s still time.”

The Great Circle world tour has already ticked off more than 50 concerts in 16 countries and will end with a victory lap around Australia, starting in Alice Springs on Monday and finishing at the Domain in Sydney on November 17.


Locals protest the Adani coal mine. Photographer: Liam KidstonSource:News Corp Australia
Tickets for the Oils at the Reef concert go on sale at 10am on Wednesday, with a limit of two per person.
The concert will form the backdrop for radio and television specials by Triple M and Foxtel’s MAX to spotlight the battle for the reef’s survival.
“The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most beautiful and intricate ecosystems,” drummer Rob Hirst said.

The threat to the Great Barrier Reef ‘should be a concern of all Australians’ says Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst.Source:Supplied
‘“It’s also a magnet for tourists, and a major contributor to the local economy so the fact that it’s under threat from climate change and unsustainable development should concern all Australians.
“We believe we should support the work of scientists and listen to them when it comes to what we should do to protect this precious environment.”

Press link for more: News.com.au

The Truth About Souring Power Prices #auspol #climatechange 

The truth about soaring power prices: wind and solar not to blame.
By ABC business editor Ian Verrender 


Between them, however, competition kahuna Rod Sims and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week demolished an old chestnut about renewable energy: it is not the cause for the recent spike in electricity prices.
In fact, according to both, it has had very little impact.
For the past decade or more, we’ve been bombarded with the message from a vocal but powerful minority within Parliament and the broader community that the switch to renewable energy has made Australia uncompetitive, crippled our industry and driven power prices higher.


The real issue is that, fundamentally, they don’t believe climate change is real or that humans have adversely affected the planet.
Having spent so long denying science and rejecting the overwhelming body of evidence, they’re now being forced to ignore economics; that renewables have become a cheaper longer term power source.
Coal is the future, they argue.

Coal-fired generators have no future here


Much of the debate about our future power generation has become mired in political point scoring and simplistic arguments designed to inflame and outrage, writes Ian Verrender.

That’s simply not a view shared by the power generators, whose primary motivation is to turn a profit and stay in business, or the banks who must finance them.
Nor is it a view shared by BHP, the nation’s biggest company that built a large part of its wealth on coal exports.
Last week, it confirmed it was reviewing its membership of the Minerals Council of Australia because of “materially different positions” on issues such as a Clean Energy Target and climate change.
Technical innovation around renewable energy generation has seen costs plummet.
So much so that US investment bank Goldman Sachs — hardly a standard bearer for radical ideology — now argues that, rather than pushing power costs higher, renewable energy is the cheapest form of power generation.

 More on that later.
The truth about the power price spike
As the theatre over keeping open the creaking Liddell coal-fired power station in NSW’s Hunter Valley played an encore last week, the ACCC boss and the PM delivered a few sobering nuggets.
First, there was Rod Sims at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday: “Forty-one per cent of the increase in electricity prices over the last 10 years has been in network costs and we keep forgetting that.”
He went on: “Those poles and wires that run down your street are the main reason you are paying too much for your electricity.”
Video: Rod Sims addressed the National Press Club on “Australia’s Gas and Electricity Affordability Problem” (National Press Club)

According to Mr Sims, extra retail charges account for 24 per cent of the higher prices while higher generation costs as a result of a failure to invest make up 19 per cent of the price hikes.
Green energy initiatives contribute just 16 per cent to the recent price hikes.
On Thursday in Brisbane, responding to questions, the PM concurred, explaining that “particularly for retail customers, the largest single part of your bill is the network costs.”
“That’s the poles and wires basically,” he said.
Gas, not coal, will fix prices
The short-term fix to Australia’s soaring electricity prices is to fix the gas crisis, but long-term fix it’s greater investment in renewables and energy storage, writes Ian Verrender.

But then he elaborated on the more immediate issues, particularly around generation and the changes that have been foisted upon consumers.
“In terms of the green schemes, they do have a cost but it is a relatively small cost,” he said.
“Gas is the biggest single fact at this point in time.”
What does gas have to do with it? As the PM explained, the electricity price is set by the last generator to come into the stack.
It’s what economists call the marginal cost of production. You might be to meet half the demand at low price. But it is the expensive bit at the end that determines how much a producer will charge everyone.
When it comes to electricity, gas is that last final element.
“It is peaking power,” the PM said. “The increase in the gas price has increased the cost of electricity.”
The gas debacle

Gas prices haven’t just increased. They have quadrupled.
And the tragedy is that Australia, with one of the greatest reserves of gas on the planet, now charges its households and businesses far more to use that energy than the countries to which we export.
Gas forgotten in energy debate
As politicians continue trading barbs over the merits of renewable energy versus coal-fired power generation, missing from the debate these days has been the role of gas.

With the continued reversal of policy on carbon pricing and climate change, the unofficial industry consensus was to build solar and wind generation with gas-fired back-up to shore up reliability; a decision affirmed by the chief scientist Alan Finkel in his report on how to cope with future challenges.
But three major export terminals were built at Curtis Island just off Gladstone in Queensland, with Santos building a plant that required far more gas than to which it had access.
To fulfil its export contracts, it began sourcing gas previously destined for the domestic market.
That forced the price of domestic gas sky high just as a global glut sent international prices crashing.
It’s now cheaper to buy Australian gas in Asia. A fortnight ago, gas from West Australia’s giant Gorgon project was sold to India at $8.70 a gigajoule. East coast gas sells here for $17.50.
That’s why the Federal Government has shanghaied gas producers like Santos to direct export gas back into the local market.
If Australians could get the same deal on our gas that Indians have secured, our electricity would be much cheaper.
Renewables or coal: What is the cheapest?
 A line chart showing the price of LCOE dropping dramatically since 1983.


When it comes to cost, coal lobbyists usually refer to the subsidies doled out to the renewable sector to argue the industry wouldn’t exist if it had to stand on its own.
That’s a valid point. But it overlooks two things; the vast billions handed out to the coal industry and the increasing competitiveness of renewables.
Every coal fired generator in Australia was built, not just partially subsidised, entirely with taxpayer funds.
When they were privatised, many were given state owned coal mines with contract prices way below market, effectively a further subsidy.
Then there are the health costs.
A health study in the Latrobe Valley last year identified much higher respiratory and asthma admissions to hospital than the Victorian average while life expectancy was significantly lower than the state average.
But it is the cost of energy generation where the game really is changing.
As the Goldman Sachs graphs above show, renewable energy costs have plunged by up to 70 per cent since 2009 and will be the cheapest form of generation in Europe this year and in the US within eight years on a levelised cost basis.
When the cost of installation is taken into account, however, the story changes.

Wind and solar are much cheaper. Not only is the fuel free and faces no regulatory risk — in the form of a carbon price — but the technology is simpler and quicker to install.
Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel went one step further. He factored the extra costs of adding gas or battery backup to ensure stability or baseload power in the system.
Wind still came out cheapest, with solar only marginally more expensive than black coal.


Renewable plants can be built within one to three years while coal-fired plants take between four and seven years to build.
Putting aside arguments about climate change, the main problem with coal-fired electricity is that the numbers no longer stack up.
It’s too expensive, it has much higher regulatory risks and renewable technology is rapidly advancing.
It will take more than a taxpayer subsidy to build one here. It will need a full taxpayer handout. And it will result in more expensive power bills.
Coal is simply a form of stored solar energy. New technology has delivering cleaner, more efficient and cheaper ways to directly harvest solar energy to power our lives.
Don’t expect that innovation to stop.

Press link for more: ABC.NET.AU

We need a new language. #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol 

Climate optimism has been a disaster. 

We need a new language – desperately | Ellie Mae O’Hagan
Ellie Mae O’HaganThursday 21 September 2017 23.24 AEST

 A flooded home in Houston, with tattered US flag


A flooded home in Houston. ‘Major parts of the dominant global superpower have been decimated by two Katrina-dwarfing storms in less than a month.’ Photograph: David J Phillip/AP

In 1988, when the scientist James Hansen told a senate committee that it was “time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here”, those who took him seriously assumed that if they just persisted with emphasising that this terrible fact would eventually destroy us, action would be taken.

 Instead, the opposite happened: when confronted with the awful reality of climate change, most people tended to retreat into a panglossian vision of the future, or simply didn’t want to hear about it.

A lot of work has been done since to understand why climate change is so uniquely paralysing, most prominently by George Marshall, author of the book Don’t Even Think About It. 

Marshall describes climate change as “a perfect and undetectable crime everyone contributes to but for which no one has a motive”. 

Climate change is both too near and too far for us to be able to internalise: too near because we make it worse with every minute act of our daily lives; too far because until now it has been something that affects foreign people in foreign countries, or future versions of ourselves that we can only conceive of ephemerally.

It is also too massive. 

The truth is if we don’t take action on climate change now, the food shortages, mass migration and political turmoil it will cause could see the collapse of civilisation in our lifetimes. 

Which of us can live with that knowledge?
It’s not surprising, then, that some years ago climate activists switched to a message of optimism.

 They listened to studies that showed optimism was more galvanising than despair, and they began to talk about hope, empowerment, and success stories.

 They waited for some grand extreme weather event to make the final pieces fall into place. 

Maybe the submerging of New Orleans would be it; maybe some of the rich white people who were battered by Hurricane Sandy would use their privilege to demand action. 

Maybe Harvey or Irma – or now Maria – would cause us to snap out of our stupor. 

It hasn’t happened.

Instead what I think a message of optimism has done is create a giant canyon between the reality of climate change and most people’s perception of it.

 An optimistic message has led to complacency – “people are saying it’s doable so it will probably be fine” – and championing success stories has convinced people that the pathetic, threadbare action taken by governments so far is sufficient.

 I’ve lost count of the sheer number of politically engaged, conscientious people I’ve met who have simply no idea how high the stakes are.

It may be that if the time for a mass movement is not now, there won’t be one

The fact is, nobody knows how to solve the riddle of persuading the public to demand action on climate change.

 I certainly don’t have the answers.

 But I do think we need to contemplate that something is going disastrously wrong here – that perhaps it’s time to get back to the drawing board and rethink how we talk about climate change.
Two significant things have happened since that senate committee hearing in 1988: the first is the Paris agreement in 2015 to try to limit warming to 1.5C – research out this week shows this is still possible. 

The second is that major parts of the dominant global superpower have been decimated by two Katrina-dwarfing storms in less than a month. 

Circumstances have changed in the past 30 years: climate change is a material fact now, and we have a specific target to aim for, to limit the damage it will cause.
‘We have to challenge the pervasive silence on climate change.’ George Marshall, the author of Don’t Even Think About It, speaks at a Guardian event.

A new campaign could centre on the demand for governments to meet the 1.5C target, emphasising how dire the consequences will be if we don’t.

 People don’t need to imagine what climate change looks like any more: they can see it in the sea water that has enveloped the islands of the Caribbean, the drowning houses in Houston, the communiques from those who couldn’t escape, and prepared themselves to lose everything.

 In Britain we’ve seen floodwater inundate entire villages; a pub that became a thoroughfare for a swollen river. 

This is what catastrophe on our doorsteps looks like, and perhaps it’s time we link these images to climate change with as much gusto as the fossil fuel industry denies it.
Could the language of emergency work?

 It has never been tried with as much meteorological evidence as we have now, and we’ve never had a target as clear and unanimous as the one agreed in Paris. 

The one thing I know is that the events of the last few months have changed the game, and this is the moment to start debating a new way to talk about climate change. 

It may be that if the time for a mass movement is not now, there won’t be one.

• Ellie Mae O’Hagan is an editor at openDemocracy, and a freelance journalist

Press link for more: The Guardian

Coastal Cities Are Increasingly Vulnerable #ClimateChange #StopAdani 

Coastal Cities Are Increasingly Vulnerable, and So Is the Economy that Relies on Them
Gregory Unruh September 07, 2017

sept17-07-490535380

There was a time a decade or two ago when society could have made a choice to write off our massive investment in a fossil fuel-based economy and begin a policy driven shift towards a cleaner renewable infrastructure that could have forestalled the worst effects of climate change.

 But the challenges of collective action, a lack of political courage, and the power of incumbent pecuniary interests to capture the levers of power meant we did not. 

The bill is now coming due.

That means that many of our great, low-lying coastal cities are what we call “stranded assets.” 

GreenBiz founder Joel Makower defines a stranded asset as “a financial term that describes something that has become obsolete or nonperforming well ahead of its useful life, and must be recorded on a company’s balance sheet as a loss of profit.”

 Makower was talking about Exxon and other companies that built their businesses on the combustion of climate changing fossil fuels, not cities. 

But the concept easily transfers from businesses built on carbon to cities threatened by carbon’s impact.

Consider Miami.

 An invaluable, irreplaceable cultural jewel that will be stranded, both figuratively and literally, by climate change.
How can an entire metropolis that encompasses the lives, culture, and wellbeing of millions be considered “nonperforming?”

 The physical installations, infrastructures, and architecture upon which Miami are founded were built on what we now can see as a flawed assumption.

 An assumption of permanence.

 That the sea’s surface would stay as it had for the entirety of human experience.

 That Atlantic hurricane season would send infrequent storms of knowable magnitude that we could prepare for and ride out. 

It was that perception of permanence and predictability that underlay urban planning and shaped of tens of thousands of investment decisions that fostered billions of dollars of wealth in Miami.

 As long as nothing disturbs that perception, value will continue to accrue on paper.

 But if the perception of permanence that underlies those expectations is undercut, market value will disappear. 

Value is in the eyes of the buyer… until its not.

Climate change in general, and sea level rise in particular, are hard for us to see.

 The tides that surround Miami are elevating at a rate of centimeters per year. 

It is a slow motion train wreck that will be measured in decades, not seconds.

 For now, Miami property buyers don’t see it. 

A 2017 survey found that the majority of property buyers (over two-thirds) don’t ask even their brokers about the implications of climate change and sea level rise on the properties they are buying.

But for those willing to look, the impacts of sea level rise are already evident. 

So-called “sunny day flooding”, (i.e tidal flooding or flooding that occurs without the rain) is already occurring predictably in many parts of Miami, inundating streets, blocking traffic, killing lawns, corroding infrastructure and cars, contaminating groundwater, and reversing sewage systems. 

As sea level rise worsens, the inescapable conclusion is that some point Miami will be inundated and unlivable. 

Absent a civil engineering miracle, the entire city will become a stranded asset that society will have to write off. 

And it’s not alone: Reuters estimates at least $1.4 trillion in property is sitting within 700 feet of the U.S. shoreline, but the number is much probably larger.
When the irrational exuberance about the value of coastal real estate pops and thousands of buyers collectively mark down those assets, it will make the housing bubble of ten years ago look like a small blip.
The consequences will reverberate through the economy, through society and through the political landscape. 

Depending on what Hurricane Irma does, we could get a sobering preview of what that will look like. 

We have already seen the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, a city that was also built on the flawed founding assumption of permanence. 

Houston’s city planners and businesses also ignored warnings as far back as 1996 that climate change would bring exactly the kind of disaster they city is currently suffering today. 

It’s hard to blame them. 

We’ve all ignored the warnings.

We can’t anymore.

 Business leaders and politicians need to begin wrapping their heads around the big idea that climate change may mean huge financial losses in the world’s great coastal metropolises.

Press link for more: Harvard Business Review

Systematic failure #ClimateChange #StopAdani 

Climate change, Migration, Capitalism. Solutions for systemic failure. 

Part 1: Systemic failures
Introduction
David Wallace-Wells’ recent article The Unhabitable Earth in New York Magazine has been read by hundreds of thousands. 

“It is, I promise, worse than you think,” the first sentence reads.

 There is no doubt that many readers have been shocked by the avalanche of sober information that the author presents in order to make the point that it is, indeed, worse, much worse, than most of us think.

 In fact, without exaggeration, it is even worse than Wallace-Wells portrays the situation because – but this is inevitable when trying to achieve the impossible by capturing the main dangers of climate change in one article – some essential papers have been left unaddressed, for example the Friedrich and the Hansen papers.
There are also some mistakes.

 For example, Wallace-Wells writes that:
“The most exciting research on the economics of warming has (…) come from Hsiang and his colleagues (…) who offer some very bleak analysis of their own: 

Every degree Celsius of warming costs, on average, 1.2 percent of GDP (…) 

This is the sterling work in the field, and their median projection is for a 23 percent loss in per capita earning globally by the end of this century (resulting from changes in agriculture, crime, storms, energy, mortality, and labor.)

 Tracing the shape of the probability curve is even scarier:

 There is a 12 percent chance that climate change will reduce global output by more than 50 percent by 2100, they say, and a 51 percent chance that it lowers per capita GDP by 20 percent or more by then, unless emissions decline” 
This is not what Hsiang, Burke and Miguel are saying (see here and here for a FAQ-list about the Nature article in question). Hsiang et al. point out that climate change will make the world economy smaller than it would be without climate change – not that it will make the world economy of the future smaller than it is now.
How large will the economy be in 2100?

 According to the OECD, the total output of the global economy will grow at three percent for the next 50 years . As Dolan explains, projecting that rate to the end of the century would make global real GDP about fourteen times higher in 2099 than in 2010.

 Hsiang et al. use several estimates of growth rates, including one that assumes that per capita GDP in each country will grow from 2010 to 2099 at the same rate it grew from 1980 to 2010.

 Their results imply an average annual growth rate of 2.35 percent, which would make per capita global GDP about eight times higher in 2099 than in 2010.

 As Ed Dolan explains, based on these estimates, if climate change cuts real GDP by 23 percent relative to what it otherwise would be, total output of the global economy would still be eleven times larger than it is today, using the OECD estimate for growth.

 And, as Dolan writes, with the method used by Hsiang et al., per capita GDP in 2099, with climate change, would be more than six times higher in 2099 than in 2010.
Burke has posted online complete country-by-country growth estimates. 

The chart shows the ratio of estimated 2099 GDP per capita to 2010 GDP per capita for 165 countries without climate change (blue dots) and with climate change (red dots). 

The points are arranged along the horizontal axis according to 2010 GDP per capita, so for each country, the blue dot lies directly above or below that same country’s red dot.

 Climate change is on average detrimental to GDP, except for 38 of the 165 countries.

 The biggest “winners” are Mongolia, Finland, Iceland, and Russia. 

The biggest losers are countries that were hot to begin with and grew slowly in the base period, with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates faring worst of all.
Dolan

Figure 1: Projected 2099 GDP per capita with and without climate change according to Burke (Source: Ed Dolan, Niskanen Center). 
Not that I believe this. Look at what Ed Dolan writes:
“(I)t is hardly surprising that these models (…) see the likely future as one with both continued global warming and continued economic growth. (…) (T)here is a fundamental causal relationship between the two. The standard models are built on the premise that economic activity is the principle source of the carbon emissions that drive climate change (…). Given the structure of the models, then, if the economy were to begin shrinking rather than growing, then other things equal, climate change itself would slow”. 
But this is a cardinal misunderstanding: there will be no other things equal, not only because of the delay phenomenon (if we stop emitting carbon dioxide today, temperature will still rise for a long time), but also, and more importantly, because, man-made climate change (Anthropogenic Climate Disruption, ACD) compromised (and continues to compromise) the capacity of the Earth system to capture CO2, while at the same time man-made warming causes the Earth system to increasingly emit CO2 and methane.


 This means that the “standard models” are wrong, because the premise they are built upon is wrong: “economic activity” is no longer the only important source of carbon emissions.

 The estimate is that about 50% of total global fossil fuel emissions over the past 100 years have been absorbed by the land and oceans. 

If the sinks are exhausted or overwhelmed or shallow marine sediment outgassing and permafrost melting occurs, it is possible that, in the worst case scenario, a 50% reduction in the use of fossil fuels (not that there is a realistic strategy to achieve this) would have no effect on the growth rate of atmospheric CO2.

This is how serious the situation is.
To make it worse than you think it is, given the above: it is not that we are making progress. 

As a world, we do not. 

Fossil fuels accounted for 81% of the world’s energy consumption in 1987.

 Incredibly, thirty years and twenty one international climate change conferences later the figure is the same: 81% And forget ‘clean coal.’ Clean coal is as feasible as it is unaffordable.

Certainly, some countries have made substantial progress. But as a world, the “business-as-usual” scenario is the progress. And this will not change, at least not for as long as, as Flassbeck writes, the current oil price remains lower than in 1974 – a fact that is not well-known and of which the consequences are unfathomable.
Systemic failures

The United Nations recently released a report warning us that we will likely see upward of 50 million climate refugees within the next decade.

 They were wrong.

 Today, the estimate of displaced persons because of ACD is in excess of 65 million. 

There is no doubt that this is only the beginning of a much bigger, almost unfathomable, change. 

In 2014, the IPCC suggested that up to 700 million people currently living in low-lying coastal zones – 438 million in Asia and 246 million in the least developed countries – will be directly at risk to threats of climate change in the 21th Century. 

According to a new study by Geisler et al. the figure could be 1.4 billion by 2060 and 2 billion by the end of the century. 

What are global policy-makers doing?
Logically enough, the low lying islands, coastal regions, large river deltas and underdeveloped regions are most in danger of catastrophic change.

 According to a report from the World Bank (2014; updated 2015), 30 percent of arable land risks disappearing in Africa and 26% in Asia by 2030.


According to this report, massive floods will occur in some areas, as well as massive reductions in fish catch, there will be prolonged and severe droughts in Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia, agricultural yields and nutritional quality will drop (in combination with growing populations), there will be sea-level rise, the destruction of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, the increasing acidification of oceans, increasing under-nourishment, increases in childhood stunting.

 Malaria and other easily preventable or curable diseases will prove lethal for many.

 As Wallace-Wells reminds us, for every degree increase in temperature, the malaria parasite reproduces ten times faster.
In sub-Saharan Africa more than 60 million people who are already going hungry are likely to see their situation worsen due to increasing drought, other ACD impacts and threat multipliers such as uprooted communities, ethnic and/or religious strife, semi-failed and failed states, rising fundamentalism, conflicts within and wars between states.
Problems by no means only occur in developing countries.

 In Europe, desertification is creeping up north year by year. 

Cities such as Madrid and Barcelona are suffering water shortages during summer.

 The drought destroys the livelihoods of rural communities, both to the south and to the north of the Pyrenees. Desertification is taking place in the south of Italy, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania. 

By the end of the century, two out of three people living in Europe will be affected by heat waves, coastal floods and other weather-related disasters, largely due to global warming and climate change, according to a study published in the Lancet Planetary Health.

 Overall, weather-related disasters are expected to cause 152,000 deaths a year in Europe between 2071 and 2100, jumping from 3.000 weather disaster-related deaths a year between 1981 and 2010.

A study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that four hundred cities in the U.S. are going to be swamped by rising sea levels, no matter what mitigation measures are taken to decrease carbon dioxide emissions.

No one knows how to react to the migration crises that will result from ACD.

 There are no plans, although it is glaringly obvious that within one generation tens of millions of people will flee their regions.

 That will only be the start. 

These people will be displaced persons in their own country or end up in refugee camps. 

International law does not recognize the existence of ecological refugees. 

It protects indigenous people, but once the ecosystem collapses, there is no protection.
This is bitterly, indeed, insanely unfair, especially since poor countries, which bear the biggest burden, contributed historically the least to climate change. 


The number of those impoverished, malnourished, and deprived of fundamental needs such as security, health care, and education totals in the hundreds of millions.

 Under current international law, climate-induced, cross-border migration triggers little, if any, protection or assistance mechanisms. 

The truism that ungoverned spaces attract terrorist networks does not need to be repeated.
The ‘best’ (sic) European policy-makers seem to be capable of is continuing to adhere to the Geneva Convention, while at the same time trying to differentiate between motives: political asylum seekers in; economic immigrants out.

 As if this makes sense, as if it is possible. 

This is now called the problem of ‘mixed migration’ . 

However, it is clear that we will not do this well: the future will see more restrictions, the further hollowing-out of the right to asylum, while voices – by far not only from the extreme Right – go up and speak louder by the day to ‘close off’ all ‘entry-points,’ such as the Mediterranean and the Balkan route (see here).
The human tragedy will get worse, much worse. 

According to Geisler et al. from the Department of Development Sociology at Cornell, in the year 2100, two billion people – about one-fifth of the world’s population – could become climate change refugees. 

Those who once lived on coastlines will face displacement and resettlement bottlenecks as they seek habitable places inland. 

The Earth’s population is expected to top 9 billion people by 2050 and climb to 11 billion people by 2100.
Geisler et al. write that:
“The colliding forces of human fertility, submerging coastal zones, residential retreat, and impediments to inland resettlement is a huge problem.

 We offer preliminary estimates of the lands unlikely to support new waves of climate refugees due to the residues of war, exhausted natural resources, declining net primary productivity, desertification, urban sprawl, land concentration, ‘paving the planet’ with roads and greenhouse gas storage zones offsetting permafrost melt”.
Feeding that population will require more arable land as swelling oceans consume fertile coastal zones and river deltas. 

Clearly, those who talk about “closing off” the Mediterranean and other “entry points” or paying off despots of countries at the border of the European continent to keep immigrants out are dreaming. 

It will not work and it should not, because it is inhumane.
That population growth, in itself, is not the problem, can be made clear by a few simple figures.

 Currently, the world population is some 7 billion.

 Of those 7 billion, some 30% is either mal-nourished, under-nourished or lives under conditions of famine, notwithstanding the fact that, today, the world produces enough food to feed in excess of 12 billion people. 

It is therefore not ‘physical limits’ that are the problem, it is the political economy of the global system, or, more prosaic, the fact that agriculture is in the hands of the Nestles, the Monsanto’s and the Cargills of this world which means that everyone can eat who can pay of it, as Amartya Sen Sen explained a long time ago. 

Climate change affects food security on both the national aggregate and the individual level. For food security to exist, Sen’s ‘three As’ – availability, accessibility and affordability – need to be present.

Food security depends on domestic production, imports and food aid. Climate change affects all of them.
How will this work?

 As Wallace-Wells explains, the basic rule for staple cereal crops grown at optimal temperature is that for every one degree Celsius of warming, yields decline by 10 percent.

 Some estimates run as high as 15 or even 17 percent.


 This means that, if average global temperature will be four degrees warmer at the end of the century – this is by no means an extravagant or unrealistic expectation any longer, the contrary is true – we may have as many as 40 percent more people to feed and 40 percent less cereal output. 

Proteins, Wallace-Wells writes, are still way worse, as it takes 16 calories of grain to produce one single calorie of hamburger meat, butchered from a cow that spent her life polluting the environment by farting and belching methane and producing nitrates.
Many – plant physiologists among them – point out that this sort of math is too simple, too childish even, that it is only valid for regions already at peak growing temperature, and even then. 

Theoretically, climate change will make growing corn in Greenland or in Northern Russia easier. 

I do not want to criticise Wallace-Wells and I hope his article reaches a lot more people, but his reference (to Rosamond Naylor and David Battisti) does not prove what he is saying. 

However, as far as I can tell, what Wallace-Wells is saying is true: the tropics are already too hot to efficiently grow grain, and those places where grain is produced today are at optimal growing temperature, which means that even small warming will push them down the slope of declining productivity. 

To this has to be added that it is impossible to move croplands up north some hundreds of miles because the soil is unsuitable to grow these crops there. It seems that it takes centuries to produce optimally fertile dirt – the couple of centimetres of top soil we depend upon for our life.
What, then, will happen?

 By 2080, without dramatic reductions in emissions – and, again, there is not one single credible sign that such reductions will become a reality – southern Europe will be in permanent extreme drought. 

The drought will be worse than the American dust bowl, the human misery of which has been immortalised in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Countries like Iraq, Iran, Syria and Pakistan will see their agricultural production plummeting. 

This, in fact, will be true for all the MENA (Middle East and North African) countries.

 The demographic evolution in each in these countries is the mirror image of most of their European counterparts: rapid population growth.


 Drought will wreck – this is, make impossible – agriculture in some of the most densely populated parts of Australia, in sub-Saharan Africa, in South America, where, in some countries such as Peru and Bolivia, conditions are already critical, and China.

 In a future not too far away, none of these places, which today still produce much of the world’s food, will be reliable sources of anything. 

Add to this that climate change will decrease the growth potential of most countries on earth and that food prices will spike. 

These changes will likely lead, or at least contribute, to a reconfiguration of global political and economic hegemony, with all risks that this will entail.
There is, and this has been going on for years now, not one month in which I do not learn about a problem which is new to me and which turns out to be incredible serious. 

Often enough, it then transpires that this problem is not being addressed, that it does not find its way into the IPCC reporting or to computer modelling.
It is, for example, of course not only drought. 

According to a new study from MIT, climate change in Pakistan, Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka could be so severe that temperatures and humidity may exceed the upper levels of human survivability.


We are talking about extreme conditions of a crescent-shaped region where 1.5 billion people live. 

The researchers used data on climate that identifies variations in terrain and vegetation down to 10 square miles (ca. 25 square km) and fed it into global circulation models to produce detailed computer simulations.

 The resulting predictions showed extremes in so-called wet-bulb temperatures in South Asia. 

Wet-bulb temperatures (WTs) hotter than 35 degrees Celsius make it impossible for the body to dissipate heat naturally.
Although WT temperatures today typically do not exceed ca. 31°C, they nearly reached the threshold (35°C) in the summer of 2015, when an extreme heat wave hit Iran and parts of the Persian/Arabian Gulf.

 Not very much of the land in and around the area of the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula is devoted to agriculture, fewer people live in this region than in South Asia and they tend to be wealthier. 

But WT temperatures could pass the threshold in parts of north-eastern India and most of Bangladesh during seasonal heat waves.

 Eltahir’s models predicted that the second-hottest wet-bulb temperatures would occur in South Asia.

 These scorching conditions would occur over land, where one-fifth of the world’s population lives and where many more people are vulnerable because they are poor and work outside.

As we need protein, it makes sense to look at fish.

 Here too, there is a plethora of problems.

 To name just one, according to an article in Global Change Biology, warmer waters as a result of climate change could shrink the size of fish by 20 to 30 percent.

William Cheung from the University of British Columbia explains the mechanism: fish, being cold blooded animals, are not able to regulate their body temperatures. When the waters they live in become warmer their metabolism accelerates and they require more oxygen to sustain their body functions. 

The problem is that the surface area of the gills, where oxygen is gathered, does not grow at the same rate as the rest of the body, so the fish stops growing prematurely and, with it, our food supply diminishes.
A new study in Science projects that climate change will increase the amount of nitrogen ending up in US rivers and other waterways by 19 percent on average over the remainder of the century — and much more in hard-hit areas such as the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin (up 24 percent) and the Northeast (up 28 percent). And that is not counting likely increases in nitrogen inputs from more intensive agriculture, or from increased human population (see here).
Eva Sinha (from Stanford) et al. took historical records of nitrogen runoff as a result of rainstorms over the past few decades, recorded by the US Geological Survey. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that there will be no change in the amount of nitrogen being added to the environment, they calculated how much additional nitrogen would be leached out of farm fields and washed down rivers solely because of extreme weather events and increased rainfall predicted in most climate change scenarios. As Sinha et al. write:
“Anticipated changes in future precipitation patterns alone will lead to large and robust increases in watershed-scale nitrogen fluxes by the end of the century for the business-as-usual scenario” (see here).
More on this can be read here. Nitrogen creates dead zones, for example in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Pacific and inland waterways, lakes and other freshwater bodies where toxic blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) bloom (this is also a problem in Sweden, where more rain decreases the amount of drinking water). This problem is being exacerbated by warmer temperatures and increased rainfall associated with climate change. Efforts to protect the water supply may not work in the future because climate change introduces many new uncertainties about hydrology, stratification, and nutrient dynamics (see here). One such bloom in the western end of Lake Erie forced the city of Toledo in Ohio, to cut off the water supply temporarily to 500.000 residents in 2014. The same happened in China’s Lake Taihu in 2007, leaving 2.3 million people without water (see here). In the United States, a 2015 study found evidence of blue-green algae blooms in 62 percent of the 3,100 U.S. counties surveyed and concluded that these blooms were “significantly related to the risk of non-alcoholic liver disease death” (see here).
In fact, the nitrogen problem is enormous. Atmospheric nitrogen – from intensive farming and livestock operations, power plants, road traffic, and other sources – now gets deposited everywhere, making soils more fertile. That has the paradoxical effect of reducing plant diversity by displacing native species adapted to nutrient-poor soils (this also happens in Sweden where the invasive Lupinus is displacing native plants).
According to Sinha, climate change means that it will be necessary to cut agricultural nitrogen use in the Mississippi River Valley not by 32 percent, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now proposes, but by almost double that amount (see here), which will – perhaps – be accomplished by genetically engineered cereals and laboratory cultured meat. But the challenge will be far greater in the developing world, particularly Asia. India is especially vulnerable because it has one of the fastest-growing populations. As climate change multiplies the rate of nitrogen runoff, they may increasingly find their water undrinkable (see here).
And so on and so forth.
“The uncomfortable truth,” Istvan Meszaros argued many years ago, “is that if there is no future for a radical mass movement in our time, there can be no future for humanity itself.” What is more, those who want to stand up need to do it now. It is not only a question of cooperation. We can all very well cooperate to make our ultimate demise a reality. We need to stand up for humanity as a whole. All the rest is betrayal. In this normative position, lies the kernel of a “solution” that I will explain in Part 2.
Let’s take a break for now and read the news about Irma, the second “once in 500 years” storm in a week. It seems that two more are on their way.

Press link for more: Flassbeck Economics

Climate Change is an existential risk. 

Human-induced climate change is an existential risk to human civilisation: an adverse outcome that would either annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential.

Special precautions that go well beyond conventional risk management practice are required if the “fat tails” — the increased likelihood of very large impacts — are to be adequately dealt with.

 The potential consequences of these lower-probability, but higher-impact, events would be devastating for human societies.

The bulk of climate research has tended to underplay these risks, and exhibited a preference for conservative projections and scholarly reticence, albeit increasing numbers of scientists have spoken out in recent years on the dangers of such an approach.


Climate policymaking and the public narrative are significantly informed by the important work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

 However, IPCC reports also tend toward reticence and caution, erring on the side of “least drama”, and downplaying more extreme and more damaging outcomes. 

 Whilst this has been understandable historically, given the pressure exerted upon the IPCC by political and vested interests, it is now becoming dangerously misleading, given the acceleration of climate impacts globally.

 What were lower-probability, higher-impact, events are now becoming more likely.

This is a particular concern with potential climatic “tipping points” — passing critical thresholds which result in step changes in the system — such as the polar ice sheets (and hence sea levels), and permafrost and other carbon stores, where the impacts of global warming are non-linear and difficult to model at present.


 Under-reporting on these issues contributes to the “failure of imagination” that is occurring today in our understanding of, and response to, climate change.

If climate policymaking is to be soundly based, a reframing of scientific research within an existential risk-management framework is now urgently required.

 This must be taken up not just in the work of the IPCC, but also in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations if we are to address the real climate challenge.

Current processes will not deliver either the speed or the extent of change required.

Three decades ago, when serious debate on human-induced climate change began at the global level, a great deal of statesmanship was on display. 

 There was a preparedness to recognise that this was an issue transcending nation states, ideologies and political parties which had to be addressed proactively in the long-term interests of humanity as a whole, even if the existential nature of the risk it posed was far less clear cut than it is today.


As global institutions were established to take up this challenge, such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and the extent of change this would demand of the fossil-fuel-dominated world order became clearer, the forces of resistance began to mobilise.

 Today, as a consequence, and despite the diplomatic triumph of the 2015 Paris Agreement , the debate around climate change policy has never been more dysfunctional, indeed Orwellian.
In his book 1984, George Orwell describes a double-speak totalitarian state where most of the population accepts “the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. 

 By lack of understanding they remained sane.”
Orwell could have been writing about climate change and policymaking. 

 International agreements talk of limiting global warming to 1.5–2°C, but in reality they set the world on a path of 3–5°C.


 Goals are reaffirmed, only to be abandoned. 

 Coal is “clean”. 


 Just 1°C of warming is already dangerous, but this cannot be said. 

 The planetary future is hostage to myopic national self-interest. 

 Action is delayed on the assumption that as yet unproven technologies will save the day, decades hence. 

 The risks are existential, but it is “alarmist” to say so.

 A one-in-two chance of missing a goal is normalised as reasonable.

Climate policymaking for years has been cognitively dissonant, “a flagrant violation of reality”.

 So it is unsurprising that there is a lack of a understanding amongst the public and elites of the full measure of the climate challenge. 

 Yet most Australians sense where we are heading: three-quarters of Australians see climate change as catastrophic risk and half see our way of life ending within the next 100 years.

Politics and policymaking have norms: rules and practices, assumptions and boundaries, that constrain and shape them. 

 In recent years, the previous norms of statesmanship and long-term thinking have disappeared, replaced by an obsession with short-term political and commercial advantage Climate policymaking is no exception.

Since 1992, short-term economic interest has trumped environmental and future human needs.  

The world today emits 48% more carbon dioxide (CO2 ) from the consumption of energy than it did 25 years ago, and the global economy has more than doubled in size.

 The UNFCCC strives ” to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner”, but every year humanity’s ecological footprint becomes larger and less sustainable.

 Humanity now requires the biophysical capacity of 1.7 planets annually to survive as it rapidly chews up the natural capital.

A fast, emergency-scale transition to a post-fossil fuel world is absolutely necessary to address climate change. But this is excluded from consideration by policymakers because it is considered to be too disruptive. 

 The orthodoxy is that there is
time for an orderly economic transition within the current short-termist political paradigm. 

 Discussion of what would be safe –– less warming that we presently experience –– is non-existent. 

 And so we have a policy failure of epic proportions.

Policymakers, in their magical thinking, imagine a mitigation path of gradual change, to be constructed over many decades in a growing, prosperous world.

 The world not imagined is the one that now exists: of looming financial instability; of a global crisis of political legitimacy; of a sustainability crisis that extends far beyond climate change to include all the fundamentals of human existence and most significant planetary boundaries (soils, potable water, oceans, the atmosphere, biodiversity, and so on); and of severe global energy sector dislocation.

In anticipation of the upheaval that climate change would impose upon the global order, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was established by the UN in 1988, charged with regularly assessing the global consensus on climate science as a basis for policymaking.

 The IPCC Assessment Reports ( AR ), produced every 5–6 years, play a large part in the public framing of the climate narrative: new reports are a global media event.

 AR5 was produced in 2013-14, with AR6 due in 2022. 

 The IPCC has done critical, indispensable work of the highest standard in pulling together a periodic consensus of what must be the most exhaustive scientific investigation in world history. 

 It does not carry out its own research, but reviews and collates peer-reviewed material from across the spectrum of this incredibly complex area, identifying key issues and trends for policymaker consideration.

However, the IPCC process suffers from all the dangers of consensus-building in such a wide-ranging and complex arena.

 For example, IPCC reports, of necessity, do not always contain the latest available information.

 Consensus-building can lead to “least drama”, lowest-common-denominator outcomes which overlook critical issues. 

 This is particularly the case with the “fat-tails” of probability distributions, that is, the high-impact but relatively low-probability events where scientific knowledge is more limited. 

 Vested interest pressure is acute in all directions; climate denialists accuse the IPCC of alarmism, whereas climate action proponents consider the IPCC to be far too conservative. 

 To cap it all, the IPCC conclusions are subject to intense political oversight before being released, which historically has had the effect of substantially watering-down sound scientific findings.

These limitations are understandable, and arguably were not of overriding importance in the early period of the IPCC.

 However, as time has progressed, it is now clear that the risks posed by climate change are far greater than previously anticipated. 

 We have moved out of the twilight period of much talk but relatively limited climate impacts. Climate change is now turning nasty, as we have witnessed in 2017 in the USA, South Asia, the Middle East and Europe, with record-breaking heatwaves and wildfires, more intense flooding and more damaging hurricanes.


The distinction between climate science and risk is now the critical issue, for the two are not the same.

 Scientific reticence — a reluctance to spell out the full risk implications of climate science in the absence of perfect information — has become a major problem. 

 Whilst this is understandable, particularly when scientists are continually criticised by denialists and political apparatchiks for speaking out, it is extremely dangerous given the “fat tail” risks of climate change.

 Waiting for perfect information, as we are continually urged to do by political and economic elites, means it will be too late to act.

Irreversible, adverse climate change on the global scale now occurring is an existential risk to human civilisation.

 Many of the world’s top climate scientists quoted in this report well understand these implications — James Hansen, Michael E. Mann, John Schellnhuber, Kevin Anderson, Eric Rignot, Naomi Oreskes, Kevin Trenberth, Michael Oppenheimer, Stefan Rahmstorf and others — and are forthright about their findings, where we are heading, and the limitations of IPCC reports.

This report seeks to alert the wider community and leaders to these limitations and urges change to the IPCC approach, and to the wider UNFCCC negotiations. It is clear that existing processes will not deliver the transformation to a low-carbon world in the limited time now available.
We urgently require a reframing of scientific research within an existential risk-management framework. This requires special precautions that go well beyond conventional risk management. 

 Like an iceberg, there is great danger “In what lies beneath”.

Press link for more: What lies beneath Report