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

What Climate Change Looks Like In 2018

Christie Aschwanden

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

Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images

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

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

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

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

“The red alert is on,”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press link for more: Five Thirty Eight

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The global heat wave that’s been killing us #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #Longman

A heat wave is ravaging countries around the world. Although many celebrate sunny days, wildfires, wasted crops and health problems are some of the many disastrous consequences hot weather can have.

Most of us enjoy sunny days and complain on rainy ones — yet behind the clear skies lies a less pleasant reality. Since June 2018, numerous regions around the world have been facing infernal temperatures, which have caused wildfires, ruined crops and killed hundreds of people.

The hottest year ever recorded was 2016, due to a combination of global warming and a strong El Niño episode. Despite 2018 experiencing the opposite climate event, La Niña — which tends to cool temperatures — June has ranked as one of the hottest months on record.

A heat wave describes a period of at least five days with a temperature of 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) above the average.

Extremely hot individual days can be a one-off, which doesn’t always have a link to heat waves or global warming.

However, a trend is clear: As a result of climate change, we can expect more extreme and frequent heat waves. Clare Nullis, media officer World Meteorological Organization, confirmed this to DW.

Ruined crops are among the consequences of the global heat wave

The heat hits

For a south European person, 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) is nothing special. But that definitely is hot for people in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where the normal temperature in June doesn’t exceed 20 degrees.

On June 28, Glasgow reached its hottest June day ever, with 31.9 degrees Celsius, and the Irish town of Shannon its highest temperature ever recorded at 32 degrees.

Germans have enjoyed — or suffered — temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius for most of May and June. In the country of Georgia, July 4 made history with 40.5 degrees Celsius.

North America has not escaped the suffocating wave either. Denver and Los Angeles were among several cities in the United States that tied or broke heat records.

Montreal, in Canada, recorded the highest temperature in 147 years of record-keeping on July 2. The heat wave there killed more than 70 people.

Thermometers in Japan, Russia and Algeria, among other places, were also on fire. On July 5, the Ouargla weather station in Algeria’s Sahara Desert reported the highest reliable temperature ever recorded in Africa: 51.3 degrees Celsius.

In a climate change scenario, extreme heat waves may occur “as often as every two years in the second half of the 21st century,” Vladimir Kendrovski, technical officer for climate change and health for the World Health Organization (WHO) regional office for Europe, told DW.

Too hot to survive

“Heat waves have caused much higher fatalities in Europe in recent decades than any other extreme weather event,” Kendrovski pointed out.

High temperatures increase the level of pollutants in the air, as they speed up the rate of chemical reactions. This increases the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Substances like pollen, which can cause asthma, are also higher in extreme heat, WHO said.

Unusually high temperatures at night disturb restful sleep, preventing the body from recovering from daytime heat.

Vulnerable groups such as young children and the elderly suffer the most, Simone Sandholz, associate academic officer at the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security, told DW. Most victims of extreme heat live in densely populated urban areas, where ventilation is scarce, she added.

Heat and humidity form a particularly deadly combination for humans, Nullis said. Up to 70 people may have died in Montreal as a result of the persistent heat wave and high humidity. In a recent three-day weekend, 14 people died in Japan, while more than 2,000 were sent to hospitals for heat exhaustion or insolation.

Hot weather coupled with humidity is also a perfect setting for insects to thrive. In England, helpline calls for insect bites almost doubled in early July.

But this is particularly worrisome for countries vulnerable to diseases such as malaria or dengue — that is, vector-borne diseases — transmitted by the bite of species such as mosquitoes, ticks or blackflies.

“Vector-borne diseases are associated with climate change, due to their widespread occurrence and the vectors’ sensitivities to their environments,” Kendrovski said. Mosquitos like Aedes aegypti are spreading into new regions due at least in part to rising temperatures.

And if you’ve ever felt it was so hot your brain doesn’t work, science says you could be right. Hot weather can make your thinking more than 10 percent slower, a new study shows.

Another study in New York City schools suggested that “upwards of 510,000 exams that otherwise would have passed received failing grades due to hot temperature, affecting at least 90,000 students.”

Extreme heat increases the risk of deadly diseases, such as malaria

A complex circle

Wildfires are another sad result of unusually sunny days, and lack of rainfall has caused large fires in the UK, Sweden and in Russia, where 80,000 hectares of forest have been devastated this season.

Farmers and crops are further victims of heat waves and droughts. In the UK, growers of peas and lettuce have struggled to meet demand due to low yields and crop failure this growing season; wheat, broccoli and cauliflower are also on the list of crops affected by the weather.

In Germany, farmers have resigned themselves to a much lower grain harvest due to the heat and dryness.

“We will again have a harvest that is far below the average,” Joachim Rukwied, president of the German Farmers Association (DVB), said in a statement. Some farmers have opted to destroy the crops instead of trying to harvest them, he added.

Access to air conditioning and cooling systems, though vital in a warmer world, can be part of a vicious cycle. Increasing use of cooling devices, currently powered largely by fossil fuels, would further contribute to climate change — and therefore rising temperatures.

Time to adapt

If health systems were better prepared and coordinated with meteorological systems, health problems from heatwaves and hot weather could largely be prevented, Kendrovski points out. “That’s the good news,” he said.

Sandholz highlighted the role of adequate urban planning to reduce heat impacts in urban areas. Simple changes, such as building out green zones or creating wind corridors, could make a huge difference.

We should not understimate the heat, Sandholz concluded.

Unusually dry

In northeastern Germany, there has been hardly any rainfall in recent months. The country’s weather service says Saxony-Anhalt received just 15 liters of rainfall per square meter — roughly a quarter of the average. Across Germany, there were just 50 liters of rainfall per square meter, half of the usual amount. Mecklenburg-West Pomerania received more sunshine than any other German state.

Unpredictable weather

The little rain that fell came down very unevenly across Germany. In May, the country’s weather service warned of potential forest fires in parts of Lower Saxony. Meanwhile in southwestern Germany, some towns faced torrential rains that flooded cellars and roads, such as here in Fischbach, Rhineland-Palatinate.

Date 18.07.2018

Author Irene Banos Ruiz

Press link for more: DW.COM

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

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

Nick Kilvert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Which suggests that this trend is reversible.”

Tackling climate change is vital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Federal Government pledges cash for farmer ‘champions’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press link for more: ABC.NET.AU

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

A public nuisance

By Patrick Parenteau

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

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

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

I believe climate liability cases like these have merit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A question about jurisdiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Several legal precedents

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exxon knew

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

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

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

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

Patrick Parenteau, Professor of Law, Vermont Law School.

Press link for more: City Metric

Expanding ‘dead zone’ in Arabian Sea raises climate change fears #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

Dead zones are areas of the sea where the lack of oxygen makes it difficult for fish to survive.

Image: 123RF/Allan Swart

In the waters of the Arabian Sea, a vast “dead zone” the size of Scotland is expanding and scientists say climate change may be to blame.

In his lab in Abu Dhabi, Zouhair Lachkar is labouring over a colourful computer model of the Gulf of Oman, showing changing temperatures, sea levels and oxygen concentrations.

His models and new research unveiled earlier this year show a worrying trend.

Dead zones are areas of the sea where the lack of oxygen makes it difficult for fish to survive and the one in the Arabian Sea is “is the most intense in the world,” says Lachkar, a senior scientist at NYU Abu Dhabi in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

“It starts at about 100 metres and goes down to 1,500 metres, so almost the whole water column is completely depleted of oxygen,” he told AFP.

Dead zones are naturally occurring phenomena around the world, but this one appears to have mushroomed since it was last surveyed in the 1990s.

Lachkar and other researchers are worried that global warming is causing the zone to expand, raising concerns for local ecosystems and industries including fishing and tourism.

‘Very scary for climate’

The discovery was made possible by the use of robotic divers, or “sea gliders”, deployed in areas researchers could not access — an undertaking by Britain’s University of East Anglia in collaboration with Oman’s Sultan Qaboos University.

The findings of the 2015 to 2016 study were released in April and showed the Arabian Sea dead zone had worsened in size and scope.

And unlike in the 1996 measurements, when the lowest levels were limited to the heart of the dead zone — midway between Yemen and India — now the dead zone extends across the sea.

“Now everywhere is the minimum, and it can’t go much lower,” the lead researcher Bastien Queste told AFP.

At NYU Abu Dhabi, Lachkar explains the Arabian Sea dead zone appears to be stuck in a cycle where warming seas are depleting the oxygen supply which in turn is reinforcing the warming.

This, he says, “can be very scary for climate”.

Ports from Mumbai to Muscat look out onto the Arabian Sea, making it a critical body of water.

These coastal hubs and the populations beyond them will be affected by further expansion of the dead zone.

Fish, a key source of sustenance in the region, may find their habitats compressed from deep underwater to just beneath the surface, putting them at risk of overfishing and extreme competition.

“When oxygen concentration drops below certain levels, fish cannot survive and you have massive death,” says Lachkar.

To carry out his data-heavy modelling, Lachkar relies on a sprawling supercomputer centre which cost several million dollars to set up — a testament to local priorities to research climate change.

‘Stick to science’

The UAE in 2016 renamed its Ministry of Environment and Water as the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, further evidence of the regional desire to meet this global challenge head-on.

“I think it is an important topic for different reasons, not only scientific reasons, but also economic,” says Lachkar from his Centre for Prototype and Climate Modelling.

“Fishing is an important source of revenue and it’s directly impacted by the oxygen,” he said.

Even coral reefs and, by extension, tourism could be affected.

Down the hall from his research facility is the complementary Centre for Global Sea Level Change, where researchers like Diana Francis study the worldwide impact of the problem.

The issue was at the top of the global agenda in 2015, when the world hammered out a deal in Paris to cut carbon emissions.

But the landmark agreement received a blow last year, when President Donald Trump announced he would be pulling the United States out of the accord.

“It is very disappointing, because a major country is not putting effort in the same direction as the others,” says Francis of the decision.

“But our role is to stick to science, be pragmatic and try to advance our understanding of the climate,” she says.

“Politics change over time,” Francis tells AFP. “But science does not.”

Press link for more: Times Live

#ClimateChange will force us to redefine economic growth. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #NoNewCoal #Longman

Climate change will force us to redefine economic growth

World Economic Forum

Last Friday, Pope Francis called for nothing less than “a financial paradigm shift” in order to tackle climate change.

His comments, made at a conference hosted by the Vatican and uniting business people, policy-makers of different stripes, indigenous leaders, academics and young people, could not be more timely: humanity is at a turning point. But when it comes to the economy, if handled sensibly and without delay, this turning point does not have to be a breaking point.

Over the past 70 years, the world has seen remarkable advances that are unprecedented in its history.

These include an increase in average life expectancy around the world from around 40 to around 70 years, a rise in income per capita by a factor of around four, and huge declines in the number of people living in absolute poverty.

One result of this has been a near trebling of the global population as fewer people die early deaths. These outcomes have in large measure been fostered by a spirit of internationalism, international collaboration and a functioning international economic order, all created after the second world war.

At the same time as this record growth in our numbers and wealth, we have seen fundamental changes in our natural capital, including the atmosphere, oceans, forests, glaciers, rivers and biodiversity. In 142 tropical countries, for instance, the overall area of natural forest declined by 11% between 1990 and 2015. Oceans have recorded a 30% increase in acidity since the start of the industrial revolution, and acidity is projected to increase to a pH level that the oceans have not experienced for more than 20 million years.

At the same time, indoor and outdoor air pollution were responsible for an estimated 6.5 million premature deaths in 2015. Air pollution is particularly threatening for children, and is especially prevalent in large, rapidly developing countries such as India and China.

The next two decades will be decisive.

They will determine whether we suffer severe and irreversible damage to livelihoods and the natural world or whether, instead, we set off on a more attractive path of sustainable and inclusive economic development and growth.

It is clear from the science of climate change that we must cut emissions by at least 30% in the next two decades to avoid dangerous levels of warming.

If we go on emitting greenhouse gases at current rates for the next two decades, then it is likely that we will far exceed a 3°C increase in average global surface temperature compared with the late 19th century – the usual benchmark.

A rise of 3°C would be extremely dangerous, taking us to a temperature we have not seen on this planet for around 3 million years.

Remember that modern Homo sapiens has been here for only around a quarter of a million years. A warming of this magnitude could transform where we could live, severely damage livelihoods, displace billions of people and lead to severe and extended conflict. And we risk considerably higher temperatures than that if we do not radically change how we produce and consume. Delivery on the global agenda to curb emissions, at scale and with urgency, is now crucial.

We must do that during a period of two decades, during which the world economy is likely to roughly double, and infrastructure more than double. Given the need to cut emissions by 30%, it is clear that we must act now to change radically the relationship between our economic activity and the damage to the environment it causes.

The economics of that change is compelling. For instance, it is now cheaper in many countries to generate electricity from renewable sources than from fossil fuels. Since 2006, the costs for solar power modules has fallen by 79%, and since 2010 the prices of batteries for storage of power have fallen by 72%.

We can build a new form of growth and poverty reduction that is clean, sustainable and inclusive. It is an economic path that is much more attractive, robust and lasting. The world is starting to realise the attractiveness of the new growth model, as well as the risks of unmanaged climate change. We can see what needs to be done, that it can be done, and that it is very attractive. If we act wisely, we can create cities in which we can move and breathe, ecosystems that are robust and fruitful, and living standards that can continue to rise. The alternative route would lead to severe disruption and poverty for many.

There is no horse race between climate responsibility and economic development. But we must build the political will, and quickly, to take the strong decisions that are necessary.

His Holiness the Pope is showing extraordinary leadership in trying to bridge the gap between moral obligation and will to act. He leads us in recognizing the combination of urgency and opportunity in the crisis we now face. He serves as an outstanding and crucial example to those of us in the secular world. Only by combining political and moral leadership, together with social movements and sound economics, will the necessary decisions be taken with the urgency that is now required.

Professor Nicholas Stern is chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics.

Press link for more: EWN.CO

The new renewable energy bridge #India #China #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #auspol #qldpol

The new renewable energy bridge

Atul Aneja

This time, the stars could not have been better aligned. China had accumulated excess stock of renewable energy hardware.

Too many factories were churning out solar panels and wind turbines to fulfill Beijing’s clean energy dreams.

Workers installing solar panels at a floating solar plant in Huainan, Anhui province, China, in December 2017.   | Photo Credit: CHINA STRINGER NETWORK

The Chinese government had earlier declared that it intended to spend a whopping $360 billion on renewable energy wherewithal, such as solar panel and wind turbines, by 2020.

On the demand end, energy-hungry India was positioning itself to absorb a significant portion of this surplus.

Renewable energy has continued to remain one of the top items on New Delhi’s power and environmental agenda. “The driving force is the Paris climate agreement,” said Sanjay Sharma of Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), referring to the deal which set limits to greenhouse gas emissions, with 2020 as the starting point.

Speaking at a Beijing seminar on renewable energy, he stressed that India was looking at 2030, when renewables would cover 40% of the country’s total installed capacity. Consequently, clean energy targets were being revised. By 2022, India has plans to develop 100 GW of renewable energy.

China’s own plans to funnel copious doses of renewable energy into its energy mix have been rattled over the last few years. An economic slowdown has reduced overall energy demand, resulting in growing accumulation of excess capacity. Besides, the resistance from the coal lobby has also proved unusually hardy. The trade war with the U.S., which many anticipate will dry up exports of renewables to America, is adding further pressure on the Chinese energy producers, forcing them to seek new markets. “Under these difficult circumstances, India offers a natural lifeline to Chinese manufacturers of renewable energy products,” said an Indian official, who did not want to be named.

India’s fault lines

During the brainstorming in Beijing, India’s own fault lines in the renewable energy domain were also exposed. For instance, the chronic problem of land acquisition at home was forcing Indian planners to consider wider use of water as a platform for floating solar panels. “We can use reservoirs or even backwaters as in Kerala or in Lakshadweep for floating solar PV projects,” said Y.B.K. Reddy, deputy general manager at SECI. He pointed out that three months ago, a team of Indian experts had been sent to tap Chinese expertise in this field. “The team visited the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydro project, on the Yangtze river. It has a massive reservoir ideally suited for floating renewable energy projects,” remarked Mr. Reddy.

The delegation also went to a plant in China’s Anhui province, where solar floats were being built on an industrial scale. Mr. Reddy also spotlighted that India was seeking Chinese expertise for developing “hybrid projects”, where solar and wind energy would be combined. “We need to co-locate and combine wind and solar capacities on land as well as water. Complementary battery storage may be necessary to ensure uninterrupted supply of power to the grid.”

As the candid back and forth between Indian and Chinese technocrats and business people accelerated, it became evident that the mood has changed markedly over the last one year. There is now buzz that in the backdrop of the Wuhan summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in April, the moment has finally arrived to ignite the engine of China-India trade, commerce and investments.

Atul Aneja works for The Hindu and is based in Beijing

Press link for more: The Hindu

#StopAdani & save 12,500 jobs #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange

Developing new Galilee Basin coalmines will cost 12,500 jobs, analysis shows

Exclusive: Australia Institute modelling reveals the best way to protect coal jobs in other regions is to stop Galilee developments

Ben Smee

Developing new coalmines in the Galilee Basin would cost 12,500 jobs in existing coalmining regions and replace only two in three workers, modelling by the Australia Institute shows.

Job creation has long been an aggressive rallying call for supporters of Adani’s Carmichael megamine and other proposals in the untapped Galilee Basin, which combined would produce 150m tonnes of thermal coal each year.

But the Australia Institute report concludes that even if Australia’s thermal coal exports increase, and the world does not act on climate change, highly automated new mines in the Galilee would on balance cost the industry jobs.

The modelling is based on 2017 analysis by consultants Wood Mackenzie, who work closely with the mining industry. Wood Mackenzie said huge volumes of coal mined in the Galilee would curtail established operations in the Hunter Valley, Bowen Basin and Surat Basin regions.

If the Galilee was to produce 150m tonnes of coal a year, then existing regions would likely curtail production by 115m tonnes a year.

The Australia Institute has now modelled the likely job gains and losses from the development of the Galilee. The institute’s director of research, Roderick Campbell, said the level of mechanisation likely at new mine developments meant there would be an overall negative impact on coalmining jobs, even if export volumes increased.

Campbell said the best way to protect coal jobs was to stop the development of the Galilee. It’s understood that view is shared by many in the resources sector, where some existing miners believe their interests are best served by restricting supply and maintaining near-record export prices.

“Put simply, new mines, in new coal basins, destroy jobs in existing coal regions,” Campbell said.

“Existing coal regions like the Hunter Valley and Bowen Basin can continue to employ significant numbers of coalminers for some years, even as the world moves away from coal. But if governments are determined to subsidise automated new mines into new coal regions they will hasten the demise of existing coal jobs.”

The Australia Institute based its conclusions on the Queensland government’s jobs numbers for the Adani Carmichael mine, which would make it the second most efficient coalmine per tonne in Australia. It was assumed other new mines in the Galilee Basin used similar levels of automation and new technology.

“Due to automation and remote control, many of the jobs created in the development of mining in the Galilee Basin are likely to be in major cities, rather than near to the mines themselves,” the report said.

The Australia Institute discussion paper said the Hunter Valley in NSW would lose 9,000 jobs if the Galilee was developed, based on its modelling of the Wood Mackenzie analysis.

In Queensland the Bowen Basin, which is partly insulated from an increase in the supply of thermal coal because it produces a large amount of the world’s coking coal, would lose 2,000 jobs, and the Surat Basin would shed 1,400 workers. The predicted job losses were compared to a scenario where the Galilee Basin was not developed by 2035.

“Building new coalmines in the Galilee Basin would reduce the overall coal workforce by between 2,680 and 5,800 mine workers in the coming decades,” Campbell said.

It’s in Queensland’s interest not to flood the [coal] market … because the only result is it will drive down prices

Mining and gas companies have recently launched a missive against the “tofu tyrants” they say are costing Queensland jobs by opposing new resources developments.

Campbell said a “just transition” for coal workers could be best achieved by restricting the development of new highly automated mines.

The impact of those mines on the existing industry would be more severe if the world acts to curb the use of fossil fuels, as envisaged by the Paris agreement.

The International Energy Agency has predicted “the end of the boom years for coal” and a halving of global demand by 2040 under a scenario that assumed a Paris agreement baseline.

Tim Buckley, an energy market analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, told Guardian Australia last month that in light of the IEA’s prediction that coal demand would halve, any moves to develop new coal resources would hurt existing miners.

“If we myopically expand new capacity, that will only inevitably mark the end of high prices,” he said.

“It’s in our national interest to have an orderly retreat from coal. Ironically, it’s in the interest of the incumbent industry too. It’s in Queensland’s interest not to flood the market … because the only result is it will drive down prices.

“That maximises the royalties to the Queensland government. It maximises the profits to coal companies. It also allows decent wages to the workers.”

Press link for more: The Guardian

So far the Dodos are winning in the U.S. & Australia #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #NoNewCoal #StopAdani #Longman

Republicans try to save their deteriorating party with another push for a carbon tax

Dana Nuccitelli

The Republican Party is rotting away. The problem is that GOP policies just aren’t popular.

Most Americans unsurprisingly oppose climate denial, tax cuts for the wealthy, and putting children (including toddlers) in concentration camps, for example.

The Republican Party has thus far managed to continue winning elections by creating “a coalition between racists and plutocrats,” as Paul Krugman put it.

The party’s economic policies are aimed at benefitting wealthy individuals and corporations, but that’s a slim segment of the American electorate.

The plutocrats can fund political campaigns, but to capture enough votes to win elections, the GOP has resorted to identity politics. Research has consistently shown that Trump won because of racial resentment among white voters.

While that strategy has worked in the short-term, some Republicans recognize that it can’t work in the long-term, and they’re fighting to save their party from extinction.

Can a carbon tax save the GOP?

Climate change is one of many issues that divides the Republican Party.

Like racial resentment, climate denial is a position held mostly by old, white, male conservatives.

There’s a climate change generational, ethnic, and gender gap.

61% of Republicans under the age of 50 support government climate policies, compared to just 44% of Republicans over 50.

Similarly, a majority of Hispanic- and African-Americans accept human-caused global warming and 70% express concern about it, as compared to just 41% of whites who accept the scientific reality and 50% who worry about it.

But the plutocratic wing of the GOP loves fossil fuels.

Republican politicians rely on campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry, and quid pro quo requires them to do the industry’s bidding.

It might as well be called the Grand Oil Party.

There is no other reason why the GOP should not unify behind a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

This free market, small government climate policy – which taxes carbon pollution and returns all the revenue to American households – is indeed supported by many conservatives.

A group of Republican elder statesmen created a coalition called the Climate Leadership Council to build conservative support for a revenue-neutral carbon tax. They’re now backed by Americans for Carbon Dividends (AfCD), led in part by former Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott with a renewed effort to build support for this policy.

AfCD recently released polling results showing that 55% of Americans believe US environmental policy is headed in the wrong direction (29% say it’s on the right track), 81% of likely voters including 58% of Strong Republicans agree the government should take action to limit carbon emissions, and by a 56% to 26% margin (including a 55% to 32% margin among Strong Republicans), Americans support a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

It’s not a wildly popular policy proposal, but it does have broad bipartisan support. It’s also a smart way to curb climate change with minimal economic impact, and in fact with a massive net economic benefit compared to unchecked climate change. That’s why economists overwhelmingly support a carbon tax.

The GOP was on the wrong side of history on civil rights and gay marriage and has paid the price, having largely become the party of old, straight, white men. Climate change is a similarly critical historical issue, but one that will directly impact every single American. Some smart Republicans recognize that the party can’t afford to be on the wrong side of history again on this issue.

Racial politics slapped a band-aid on the GOP’s gaping wound

Donald Trump managed to win the presidency in 2016 by stoking racial resentment among white Americans, but still lost the popular vote by a margin of nearly 3 million, and Republicans have only won the presidential popular vote once in the past two decades. They’re winning elections by relying on structural advantages (gerrymandering and weighting of rural votes), voter suppression, and mobilizing older white voters.

Trump seems to be doubling down on the latter strategy ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, for example by claiming that illegal immigrants are “infesting” America and by putting immigrant children in concentration camps. While only 25% of Americans support separating immigrant children from their parents, 49% of Republicans favor the policy. It’s a recipe for turning out the racist base (who also tend to be climate deniers), but not for winning a general election. Especially over the long-term as America becomes less white and as younger, more tolerant Americans become a larger proportion of the electorate.

When asked about the child concentration camps at a press conference, Senator David Perdue (R-GA) made the connection between the GOP coalition of plutocrats and racists, telling reporters:

we came here to talk about a crisis. Your job is to inform the American people, our job is to provide solutions. … God help us if we don’t solve this debt crisis. This is the No. 1 topic in America today … I want to make sure that the few minutes that we have didn’t get hijacked by the current shiny object of the day. [The national debt] is the current crisis in America.

The national debt might be less of a crisis had the GOP not added well over $1tn to the deficit in order to give wealthy Americans a tax cut. But apparently, it’s now a greater crisis than the American government taking immigrant children from their parents and putting them in concentration camps, or the existential threat posed by climate change. In other words, GOP priority #1 is further enriching plutocrats, priority #2 is reducing the national debt by cutting programs that help non-plutocrats; keeping families together and preserving a livable climate fall somewhere down the list.

Outside of the Republican base, these are unpopular priorities and policies. But as Katie Arrington, who recently beat Climate Solutions Caucus member Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) in a primary put it, “We are the party of President Donald J. Trump.” That’s a party that can only win races that are decided by white racial resentment. It’s a party that, given demographic changes, has become an endangered species.

Some Republicans are trying to save the party by embracing smart policies like a revenue-neutral carbon tax. But so far, the party dodos are winning.

Press link for more: The Guardian

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

Heatwave sees record high temperatures around world this week

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

Jonathan Watts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press link for more: The Guardian