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The Dance of Death #climatechange #neoliberalism #auspol 

The Dance of Death

By Chris Hedges

The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build.

 They seek to destroy. 

They are agents of death. 

They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. 

Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated.

 Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished.

 Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch.

 Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. 

Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future.

 Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. 

State repression is indiscriminant and brutal.

 And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.

The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse.

 Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus.

 The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. 

Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population.

 The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.
The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war.

 President Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations. 

When the Roman Empire fell, it was trying to sustain an army of half a million soldiers that had become a parasitic drain on state resources.
“The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence.”
The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them. 

The difference now, as Joseph Tainter points out in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” is that “collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. 

No longer can any individual nation collapse. 

World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.”
Civilizations in decline, despite the palpable signs of decay around them, remain fixated on restoring their “greatness.” 

Their illusions condemn them. 

They cannot see that the forces that gave rise to modern civilization, namely technology, industrial violence and fossil fuels, are the same forces that are extinguishing it.

 Their leaders are trained only to serve the system, slavishly worshipping the old gods long after these gods begin to demand millions of sacrificial victims.
“Hope drives us to invent new fixes for old messes, which in turn create even more dangerous messes,” Ronald Wright writes in “A Short History of Progress.” “Hope elects the politician with the biggest empty promise; and as any stockbroker or lottery seller knows, most of us will take a slim hope over prudent and predictable frugality. Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism.” 
The Trump appointees—Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Rick Perry, Alex Acosta and others—do not advocate innovation or reform. They are Pavlovian dogs that salivate before piles of money. They are hard-wired to steal from the poor and loot federal budgets. Their single-minded obsession with personal enrichment drives them to dismantle any institution or abolish any law or regulation that gets in the way of their greed. Capitalism, Karl Marx wrote, is “a machine for demolishing limits.” There is no internal sense of proportion or scale. Once all external impediments are lifted, global capitalism ruthlessly commodifies human beings and the natural world to extract profit until exhaustion or collapse. And when the last moments of a civilization arrive, the degenerate edifices of power appear to crumble overnight.
Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life, Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct. The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence.

 It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including our own beings. One of these two forces, Freud wrote, is always ascendant. Societies in decline enthusiastically embrace the death instinct, as Freud observed in “Civilization and Its Discontents,” written on the eve of the rise of European fascism and World War II. 
“It is in sadism, where the death instinct twists the erotic aim in its own sense and yet at the same time fully satisfies the erotic urge, that we succeed in obtaining the clearest insight into its nature and its relation to Eros,” Freud wrote. “But even where it emerges without any sexual purpose, in the blindest fury of destructiveness, we cannot fail to recognize that the satisfaction of the instinct is accompanied by an extraordinary high degree of narcissistic enjoyment, owing to its presenting the ego with a fulfillment of the latter’s old wishes for omnipotence.”
The lust for death, as Freud understood, is not, at first, morbid. It is exciting and seductive. I saw this in the wars I covered. A god-like power and adrenaline-driven fury, even euphoria, sweep over armed units and ethnic or religious groups given the license to destroy anything and anyone around them. Ernst Juenger captured this “monstrous desire for annihilation” in his World War I memoir, “Storm of Steel.”
A population alienated and beset by despair and hopelessness finds empowerment and pleasure in an orgy of annihilation that soon morphs into self-annihilation. It has no interest in nurturing a world that has betrayed it and thwarted its dreams. It seeks to eradicate this world and replace it with a mythical landscape. It turns against institutions, as well as ethnic and religious groups, that are scapegoated for its misery. It plunders diminishing natural resources with abandon. It is seduced by the fantastic promises of demagogues and the magical solutions characteristic of the Christian right or what anthropologists call “crisis cults.”
Norman Cohn, in “The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and Its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements,” draws a link between that turbulent period and our own. Millennial movements are a peculiar, collective psychological response to profound societal despair. They recur throughout human history. We are not immune.
“These movements have varied in tone from the most violent aggressiveness to the mildest pacifism and in aim from the most ethereal spirituality to the most earth-bound materialism; there is no counting the possible ways of imagining the Millennium and the route to it,” Cohen wrote. “But similarities can present themselves as well as differences; and the more carefully one compares the outbreaks of militant social chiliasm during the later Middle Ages with modern totalitarian movements the more remarkable the similarities appear. The old symbols and the old slogans have indeed disappeared, to be replaced by new ones; but the structure of the basic phantasies seems to have changed scarcely at all.”
These movements, Cohen wrote, offered “a coherent social myth which was capable of taking entire possession of those who believed in it. It explained their suffering, it promised them recompense, it held their anxieties at bay, it gave them an illusion of security—even while it drove them, held together by a common enthusiasm, on a quest which was always vain and often suicidal.
“So it came about that multitudes of people acted out with fierce energy a shared phantasy which though delusional yet brought them such intense emotional relief that they could live only through it and were perfectly willing to die for it. It is a phenomenon which was to recur many times between the eleventh century and the sixteenth century, now in one area, now in another, and which, despite the obvious differences in cultural context and in scale, is not irrelevant to the growth of totalitarian movements, with their messianic leaders, their millennial mirages and their demon-scapegoats, in the present century.”
The severance of a society from reality, as ours has been severed from collective recognition of the severity of climate change and the fatal consequences of empire and deindustrialization, leaves it without the intellectual and institutional mechanisms to confront its impending mortality. It exists in a state of self-induced hypnosis and self-delusion. It seeks momentary euphoria and meaning in tawdry entertainment and acts of violence and destruction, including against people who are demonized and blamed for society’s demise. It hastens its self-immolation while holding up the supposed inevitability of a glorious national resurgence. Idiots and charlatans, the handmaidens of death, lure us into the abyss.

Press link for more: commondreams.com

Economic cost of #climatechange are ‘massive’ #auspol #science 

Funding efforts to fight climate change is “a waste of your money,” the director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney said in a press conference today.
 But Mulvaney is dangerously wrong: in fact, experts say that that the economic costs of climate change are so massive that delayed action, or inaction, is the most expensive policy option out there.
Mulvaney was defending President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget, which cuts funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent — making good on Trump’s threat to dismantle the agency. 

“Regarding the question as to climate change, the president was fairly straightforward,” Mulvaney said.

 “‘We’re not spending money on that anymore.’”
That’s a really bad idea, for a couple of reasons. 

But first, let’s get this out of the way: there is overwhelming evidence that climate change is real, and caused by carbon emissions.

 Scientifically, the debate’s over and this is our fault — no matter how much Scott Pruitt or Ryan Zinke try to duck responsibility on behalf of humankind.
Sitting out on global warming is a bad deal for America

Second, there are big chunks of the US economy that depend on the global temperature staying put — like the agriculture and fish industries, for example. 

All told, the agriculture and food sectors account for more than $750 billion dollars of the United States’ gross domestic product, according to an EPA report.
Physicist William Happer loves to say that plants grow better when there are higher atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, but that’s only one part of the picture. 

Most plants also have specific temperature and moisture ranges. 

And as global temperatures climb, severe droughts, extreme rain and snowfall, flooding, and heatwaves have already started to increase — making it a lot harder to grow crops no matter how much they love guzzling down that CO2.
Unchecked climate change will hit farmers where it hurts
We’ve started seeing some of the consequences of climate change on agriculture already, according to a government report: high temperatures in 2011 cost meat producers more than $1 billion dollars in what the EPA called “heat-related losses.” 

Unseasonably warm evenings in 2012 caused Michigan’s cherry crop to bud too early, causing $220 million in damage. California’s record-setting drought, which was exacerbated by global warming, cost the state’s agriculture sector $603 million and 4,700 jobs between 2015 and 2016. Unchecked climate change will hit farmers where it hurts.
Let’s talk coastal property, too, since we know how much time President Trump spends at Mar-a-Lago. Florida’s in big trouble because of the sea level rise, a consequence of the warming planet. 

By 2050, between $15 billion and $23 billion of property will be underwater in the state.

 By the end of the 21st century, that could climb to between $53 billion and $208 billion, according to The Risky Business Project’s Climate Risk Assessment. 

And that’s just in Florida. 

Nationwide, The Risky Business Project estimates that anywhere from $66 billion to $106 billion of coastal real estate is probably going to hard to enjoy without a snorkel by the year 2100.
This is bad for more than just Mar-a-Lago: massive coastal flooding could also have major ripple effects on the economy, according to a report by government-sponsored mortgage company Freddie Mac. 

Coastal businesses could relocate or simply go under, taking jobs with them.

 Lenders and mortgage insurers could also suffer huge losses because, the report says, “It is less likely that borrowers will continue to make mortgage payments if their homes are literally underwater.”

 It gets worse: “Non-economic losses may be substantial as some communities disappear or unravel. Social unrest may increase in the affected areas.”
“It is less likely that borrowers will continue to make mortgage payments if their homes are literally underwater.”
Big picture, global warming could cause the global economy to plummet — leading to a 23 percent drop in gross domestic product per person by the year 2100, according to a 2015 study published in Nature.

 “We’re basically throwing away money by not addressing the issue,” Marshall Burke, an assistant professor at Stanford University, told TIME.
Even bankers agree — and they’re not known for being tree-huggers. A 2015 report published by Citigroup estimates that that climate change could cost the global economy between $2 trillion and $72 trillion between 2015 and 2060. Who else but a group of financial wonks could write something like this: “The cumulative losses to global GDP from climate change impacts (‘Inaction’) from 2015 to 2060 are estimated at $2 trillion to $72 trillion depending on the discount rate and scenario used. Lower discount rates encourage early action.”
Trump of all people should see how bad a deal it is

The Department of Defense not only acknowledges climate change, but warns that it could exacerbate “poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries.” ProPublica recently obtained an unpublished testimony by Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “Climate change can be a driver of instability and the Department of Defense must pay attention to potential adverse impacts generated by this phenomenon.”
One of the most frustrating parts of Mulvaney’s press conference is that he can just lob statements like fighting climate change is a “waste of money” out into the world — and people might believe it.

 But there are real experts out there, who spend time and money to collect data, analyze it, and publish their results before their conclusions might be somewhat accepted as something resembling fact.
Maybe politicians making claims about science they don’t understand should have to go through the scientific peer review process — even Reviewer 2 wouldn’t let Mulvaney get away with this kind of wild talk:

The most painful part?

 Even the world’s best efforts to combat climate change might not be good enough. 

But waiting to start fighting global warming — or sitting out the fight altogether — is a bad deal for America’s future. Given President Trump’s claims about his business acumen, he, of all people, should see that.

Press link for more: The Verge

Health & #Climatechange : An Urgent Need For Action #science 

Health And Climate Change: An Urgent Need For Action


The human face of climate change is its impact on our health. 

Higher temperatures intensify air pollution and respiratory illness. 

Changing weather patterns lead to drought and then famine, while increasing rains in other areas will create the breeding ground for disease and pandemics. 

While the policy changes needed to blunt climate change are surely substantial, the cost of ignoring the science behind climate change will be felt through its harmful effects on our health. 


Recently, the CDC cancelled its Climate and Health Summit out of fear of retribution from the Trump administration.

 Working with Al Gore and others, Harvard worked to revive the meeting, which was held in Atlanta on February 16.

 This meeting reminded us that universities have a unique responsibility that we ensure a platform for key scientific issues that have a meaningful effect on people’s health. 

 Climate change is one such critical issue.


A century ago, one in three children died before age five. 

That number has been cut by 90 percent because of global investments in public health. 

Climate change, unchecked, puts these gains, and lives, at risk. 

Weather shifts from climate change will change the availability and reduce the nutritional content of food.


 The levels of protein and crucial micronutrients in key staple crops will drop, exposing billions of the world’s poorest people to worsening malnutrition. 

The gains we have made in saving the lives of children are fragile – and unlikely to withstand the challenges created by climate change unless we act now.


The effects of climate change on health will not stop with agriculture. 

Burning fossil fuels release a wide array of air pollutants that are a leading cause of asthma, heart disease, and strokes in our country and around the globe. 

Children are particularly vulnerable, and so are the elderly. 

The increasing number of heat waves is dangerous, but the interaction between high temperatures and air pollution becomes especially deadly.


The changing climate will likely shift the geographical range of insects that carry disease, including ticks carrying Lyme disease and mosquitos which carry malaria. 

The increasing number of infectious disease outbreaks such as Ebola and Zika appear to be linked, at least in part, to ongoing environmental shifts that exacerbate climate change. 

It is not hard to imagine that if we alter an ecosystem where we and other species live in equilibrium, there will be meaningful consequences.
Transitioning to energy sources that reduce carbon pollution will help the U.S. meet its commitments under the recent Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, importantly, will also benefit the health of all Americans. 

In a nation where our government already pays for the health care of our elderly and many of our children, reducing health burdens not only saves lives, but it can also be fiscally responsible. 

Our colleagues at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health recently found that the health savings to the American people from the Environmental Protection Agency’s new carbon standards will far outweigh the cost to industry within five years.
As these changes unfold, universities have a unique obligation, through research, education, and better communication, to understand and explain the impact of climate change on health and find ways to mitigate it. 

This research, at Harvard and at universities across our country, is dependent on a long-standing agreement between universities and the American people: universities will work on the most pressing issues facing our nation, and our citizens, through their government, will support that research.

 That agreement faces a serious challenge today from politicians skeptical about the science of climate change and the value of scientific investment. 


Yet it is more important than ever to renew our commitment to funding research on climate change and especially, its impact on health. 

Universities must commit to producing unbiased, high-quality data to guide decision- and policy-making, and the government should keep its commitment to supporting that work. 
Finally, it is essential that universities engage more effectively with the public regarding what the science tells us about the impact of climate change on health. Sharing data openly and transparently is crucial to helping policy-makers reach / agree on the best decisions.
This is a critical moment for our nation. 

Climate change is upon us. 

We can no longer think of it as an issue of temperature changes or sea level rises alone. 

We must remember that we will feel the effects of climate change most acutely on our health.

 We still have the time to mitigate these effects by focusing on reducing carbon pollution and slowing the warming of the planet.

 If we do, we will reap the benefits in terms of longer and healthier lives. 

 And our children will be the biggest beneficiaries.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

“I don’t want to be called a climate denier” #auspol #science 

Scott Pruitt demonstrates what climate denial sounds like

“I DON’T want to be called a denier,” CNBC anchor Joe Kernen said to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Thursday morning. “I know you don’t want to be called that, either.”
But what else can one call Mr. Pruitt, after he said this to Mr. Kernan: “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don’t know that yet. . . . We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.”
That is not “skepticism,” a term that implies reasonable doubt in the face of inadequate information. That is denial of a scientific consensus built on ample evidence that gets stronger every year, and it is denial of Mr. Pruitt’s essential responsibilities as the nation’s chief environmental watchdog.

If Mr. Pruitt had merely said that it is hard to establish humanity’s effects on the climate with precision, no one could accuse him of being wrong. Scientists cannot say exactly how much warming will occur after a given amount of carbon dioxide is pumped into the atmosphere — and probably will not be able to until after the warming has occurred. But that is not evidence of no or small effect. Scientists have calculated a range of possible values for the planet’s “sensitivity” to carbon dioxide released by human activity — and it is not a comfortable one. The numbers suggest that, even if experts are far too pessimistic in their estimates, the risks of continuing to rapidly change the atmosphere’s chemistry are worryingly high and demand that every country on Earth act before doing so becomes much more expensive or impossible.
Yet Mr. Pruitt did not stick to mere misdirection about climate sensitivity. He argued, wrongly, that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that carbon dioxide is even “a primary contributor” to the climate change scientists have already measured — even though they have painstakingly ruled out alternative culprits.
In fact, the notion that greenhouse-gas emissions play a leading role in global warming is not questionable. There is still plenty of room for more research about the future manner and severity of the impact but not for denial that there is a significant impact that humans should attempt to limit.
Accepting the expert consensus is a matter of reason vs. unreason. On the side of reason are scientists armed with decades of data and the insights of basic physics, which counsel that adding heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere will trap more heat. Human fingerprints are increasingly visible in the data. Here, per CNBC’s own account of the Pruitt interview, is the joint conclusion of NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: “The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.”
It is little wonder the Trump administration is reportedly preparing to sharply cut NOAA’s budget. Ignoring data may seem easier if you collect less of it.

Press link for more: Washington Post

Carbon dioxide levels rising at record pace. #auspol #science 

Carbon dioxide levels rose at record pace for 2nd straight year | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Carbon dioxide levels measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory rose by 3 parts per million to 405.1 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, an increase that matched the record jump observed in 2015.
The two-year, 6-ppm surge in the greenhouse gas between 2015 and 2017 is unprecedented in the observatory’s 59-year record. And, it was a record fifth consecutive year that carbon dioxide (CO2) rose by 2 ppm or greater, said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
“The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age,” Tans said. “This is a real shock to the atmosphere.”
Globally averaged CO2 levels passed 400 ppm in 2015 — a 43-percent increase over pre-industrial levels. In February 2017, CO2 levels at Mauna Loa had already climbed to 406.42 ppm.

This graph shows the annual mean carbon dioxide growth rates observed at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory.

This graph shows the annual mean carbon dioxide growth rates observed at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory. Further information can be found on the ESRL Global Monitoring Division website. (NOAA)

Measurements are independently validated
NOAA has measured CO2 on site at the Mauna Loa observatory since 1974. To ensure accuracy, air samples from the mountaintop research site in Hawaii are shipped to NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, for verification. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which first began sampling CO2 at Mauna Loa in 1956, also takes independent measurements onsite.
Emissions from fossil-fuel consumption have remained at historically high levels since 2011 and are the primary reason atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing at a dramatic rate, Tans said. This high growth rate of CO2 is also being observed at some 40 other sites in NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
The greenhouse effect, explained
Carbon dioxide is one of several gases that are primarily responsible for trapping heat in the atmosphere. This “greenhouse effect” maintains temperatures suitable for life on Earth. Increasing CO2 levels trap additional heat in the atmosphere and the oceans, contributing to rising global average temperatures.
Atmospheric CO2 averaged about 280 ppm between about 10,000 years ago and the start of the Industrial Revolution around 1760.

Press link for more: NOAA

Climate Change impact irreversible #auspol #wapol 

Climate change impact on Australia may be irreversible, five-yearly report says

The Tarkine wilderness area in Tasmania

An independent review of the state of Australia’s environment has found the impacts of climate change are increasing and some of the changes could be irreversible.
The latest State of the Environment report, a scientific snapshot across nine areas released by the federal government every five years, says climate change is altering the structure and function of natural ecosystems in Australia, and is affecting heritage, economic activity and human wellbeing.
It warns climate change will result in “location specific vulnerabilities” and says the most severe impacts will be felt by people who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
Record high water temperatures caused “widespread coral bleaching, habitat destruction and species mortality” in the marine environment between 2011 and 2016, it says.

The minister for energy and the environment, Josh Frydenberg, was due to release the report card on Tuesday morning.
In a column for Guardian Australia, Frydenberg says the report indicates the impact of changing weather patterns is being felt in the ocean, on the Great Barrier Reef and on land, affecting biodiversity and species habitat.
“While carbon emissions per capita have declined from 24.1 tonnes in 2011 to 22.2 tonnes in 2015 and energy efficiency improvements are reducing electricity demand, the report makes clear that, for the world to meet its Paris goals, there is much more to do,” Frydenberg says.


The minister says the report makes clear Australia needs to prepare for changes in the environment and “put in place a coordinated, comprehensive, well-resourced, long-term response”.
He warns that failure to do so “will have a direct and detrimental impact on our quality of life and leave a legacy to future generations that is inferior to the one we have inherited”.
The minister says the report presents the government with a mixed picture. “Good progress has been made in the management of the marine and Antarctic environments, natural and cultural heritage and the built environment – while pressures are building in relation to invasive species, climate change, land use and coastal protection,” he says.
Frydenberg says the doubling of Australia’s population in the past 50 years and growing urbanisation “have all combined to contribute to additional pressures on the environment”.
Australia’s heavily populated coastal areas are under pressure, as are “growth areas within urban environments, where human pressure is greatest”, the report finds.
Grazing and invasive species continue to pose a significant threat to biodiversity.
“The main pressures facing the Australian environment today are the same as in 2011: climate change, land use change, habitat fragmentation and degradation, and invasive species,” the report’s summary says. “In addition, the interactions between these and other pressures are resulting in cumulative impacts, amplifying the threats faced by the Australian environment.
“Evidence shows that some individual pressures on the environment have decreased since 2011, such as those associated with air quality, poor agricultural practices, commercial fishing, and oil and gas exploration and production in Australia’s marine environment.
“During the same time, however, other pressures have increased — for example, those associated with coal mining and the coal-seam gas industry, habitat fragmentation and degradation, invasive species, litter in our coastal and marine environments, and greater traffic volumes in our capital cities.”

The report criticises the lack of “an overarching national policy that establishes a clear vision for the protection and sustainable management of Australia’s environment to the year 2050”.
It points to poor collaboration, gaps in knowledge, data and monitoring and a lack of follow-though from policy to action.
“Providing for a sustainable environment both now and in the future is a national issue requiring leadership and action across all levels of government, business and the community,” it says. “The first step is recognising the importance and value of ecosystem services to our economy and society.
“Addressing Australia’s long-term, systemic environmental challenges requires, among other things, the development of a suite of stronger, more comprehensive and cohesive policies focused on protecting and maintaining natural capital, and ongoing improvements to current management arrangements.”
Late last year, the government established a review of its Direct Action climate policy. The current policy has been widely criticised by experts as inadequate if Australia is to meet its international emissions reduction targets under the Paris climate change agreement.
Shortly after establishing the review, Frydenberg ruled out converting the Direct Action scheme to a form of carbon trading after a brief internal revolt. Many experts argue carbon trading would allow Australia to reduce emissions consistent with Paris commitments at least cost to households and businesses.
The Direct Action review still allows for the consideration of the potential role of international carbon credits in meeting Australia’s emissions reduction targets – a practice Tony Abbott comprehensively ruled out as prime minister – and consideration of a post-2030 emissions reduction goal for Australia.
The review also requires an examination of international developments in climate change policy, which is code for an assessment of what is happening on global climate action in the event the US pulls out of the Paris climate agreement.
The New York Times reported last week that the White House was fiercely divided over Trump’s campaign promise to cancel the Paris agreement.
Its report said Trump’s senior strategist Steve Bannon wanted the US to pull out of the Paris agreement but Bannon’s stance was being resisted by the new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who are concerned about the diplomatic fallout.
The Turnbull government has already indicated that it intends to stay the course with the Paris agreement, and has argued it would take the US four years to withdraw from the deal under the terms of ratification.
But if the US withdraws from Paris, internal pressure inside the Coalition will intensify, and the prime minister will face calls from some conservatives to follow suit.
In his column for Guardian Australia, Frydenberg says the Coalition is doing good work on the environment and the conservative parties in Australia have been responsible for establishing legislation such as the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, and programs such as the Natural Heritage Trust and the first mandatory Renewable Energy Target.
“The task now is to build on this proud Coalition tradition and to use this report to continue the good work the Turnbull government is already doing across so many areas of environmental policy,” he says.

Press link for more: The Guardian

Open Letter to President Trump on Climate Change #auspol #science

Hingham couple pens open letter to President Trump on climate change
By John and Sally Davenport Hingham Journal

As we believe you must know in your heart of hearts, human-caused climate change is not a hoax.

 Virtually no one believes that climate change is not occurring. 

The globe is warming even faster than climate scientists have predicted, particularly at the poles where the ice is melting at an alarming rate. 


The overwhelming view of the scientific community world-wide is that global climate change is being caused by humans through the burning of fossil fuels and the release into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses. (The warming effect of atmospheric carbon dioxide has been known since the mid-19th century.) 

Most climate models show that, if carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, global temperatures will rise to potentially catastrophic levels by 2100.
These scientists from all over the world do not have any political axe to grind or financial stake in whether climate change is or is not caused by humans. 

They have no interest in participating in the perpetration of a hoax. 

Even climate scientists employed by oil and gas giant Exxon Mobil were unanimous in their advice to their employer, beginning in the 1970s, that the burning of its products was causing global warming.

Studies have shown that the widespread skepticism among conservatives about human-caused climate change stems from their dislike of governmental regulation and international commitments, not from doubt about the accuracy of the climate change science. Otherwise, why would Republicans generally reject the science while Democrats do not? (Republicans and Democrats alike agree about the validity of other, politically neutral, science, such as their own doctors’ science-based medical advice).
The science must be separated from the politics.

 The political debate must not be about the validity of the science of human-caused global warming; let the climate scientists debate that.

 Rather, the political debate must be about what to do about it, ranging from nothing, to promoting renewable energy and stimulating growth of the green economy, to limiting carbon dioxide emissions, to implementing a cap and trade regime. Then there can be a healthy policy debate about the impact of such measures on the economy and their effectiveness in avoiding catastrophic climate change.

Pulling out of the Paris accord and revoking the Clean Power Plan and other measures put in place by prior administrations to curb greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change in the hope that the climate scientists are wrong or overly pessimistic is the equivalent of playing Russian roulette, with possible consequences less instantaneous but infinitely more catastrophic. Arguing about the degree of certainty in the climate change projections is like arguing about whether to play the game with five bullets in the six-shooter or just two or three.
Abandoning governmental actions to curb global warming will be a terrible legacy for you and your administration to leave to our children and grandchildren, to the country, and to the world.
John and Sally Davenport 

Press link for more: Hingham.wickedlocal.com

Climate Change the hidden Catalyst #Auspol 

Climate change is taking an obvious physical toll on earth: from depleted farmland to the rise of toxic pollution to the degradation of long-stable ecosystems to the disappearance of biodiversity and endangered species. 

But looking beyond the physical, experts are also trying to sound the alarm about the quieter, more insidious effects of climate change: namely, that global warming is threatening the emotional health of humans worldwide. 
“We see a sense of despair that sets in as inevitably Mother Nature, who we think of as our nurturing force, tells us we’re not going to be able to survive the conditions she’s set for us,” Dr. Lise Van Susteran, a practicing psychiatrist and expert on the dangers of climate change on mental health, told CBS News. 
Dr. Van Susteran presented on this topic earlier this month at the Climate & Health Meeting in Atlanta, a conference that looked at climate change through the lens of public health. 

Former Vice President Al Gore organized the meeting when, days before President Trump’s inauguration, a long-planned Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) summit on the topic was abruptly cancelled.

Extreme weather, extreme trauma, extreme aggression

Study after study shows that climate change has led to an increased burden of psychological disease and injury worldwide, particularly in developing countries. 
What’s behind this link? 

For starters, climate change has normalized extreme weather events. 

These events, including floods, tornadoes, fires, drought, and sea level rise, are known to trigger mental health problems including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, the abuse of alcohol and drugs, and more.

Extreme weather has a particularly disturbing link to increased aggression. 

In 2013, researchers from Princeton University and the University of California-Berkeley found that even slight spikes in temperature and precipitation have increased the risk of personal violence and social upheaval throughout human history. 
 

The researchers found that just one standard-deviation shift in heat or rainfall increases the risk of a riot, civil war or ethnic conflict by an average of about 14 percent. A similarly sized uptick in heat or rain triggers a 4 percent increase in person-on-person violence like rape, murder and assault. 
With projections that the Earth may warm between three and four degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, the researchers warned that climate change is almost certainly the precursor to more human conflict in the near future.
Global warming is a particularly corrosive force in some farming economies, where overheating, unpredictable weather, new invasive species, and land losses are sinking communities into extreme poverty and creating a breeding ground for violent conflict.  
For millions, the effects of climate change are so severe that leaving home is the only option for survival.

 Thirty-two million people fled their homes because of extreme weather in 2012 alone, according to the United Nations. 

Escaping hazards ranging from mudslides to drought, climate refugees add more stress to an already dire refugee situation worldwide. According to the UN, the world is currently witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.
As climate refugees become more and more common, refugee laws lag behind: none of the existing international or regional refugees law mechanisms specifically addresses climate refugees, the UN says. 
Problems can affect anyone, anywhere

Climate change is triggering mental health problems beyond just developing countries and conflict zones. 
In cities, babies who are exposed in the uterus to higher levels of urban air pollutants (known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety and depression down the line, Columbia University researchers found in 2012. 

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are the chemicals come from burning fossil fuels. 

 

“Climate anxiety” can cripple individuals regardless of their geography, privilege, or vulnerability to the effects of climate change, Dr. Van Susteran said. Joining with other mental health professionals, she is one of the founders behind the Climate Psych Alliance, a new coalition trying to raise awareness about the links between climate change and clinical trauma. 
“You can see how desperate, angry, despairing people are,” she said. “It’s a legitimate response to what people see as inaction, intentional inaction… Whether we know it or not, whether you accept it or not, everyone experiences climate anxiety.”
Seen through a certain lens, inaction on global warming meets the criteria of child abuse for future generations, she said.
“When children believe their parents didn’t do something right, or did something wrong, they spend a whole lifetime feeling abandoned. What in the world are future generations going to think or feel when they know that action could have been taken?” 
Climate change: the hidden catalyst

In the age of an unstable climate, the link between natural disasters and psychological trauma is “under-examined, underestimated and not adequately monitored,” Italian researchers assessed in a January study in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. That research gap is particularly worrisome in Africa, German researchers said in a paper published last year. 
Climate change is often the hidden catalyst — the fuel behind war, displacement and collapsed economies that doesn’t make it into the headlines.
Syria’s civil war, for instance, is most frequently framed as an entrenched political conflict. Closer examination shows that’s far from the full story: in fact, the country’s six-year conflict is rooted in a devastating drought. Earnings depleted and Syrian farmers moved to overcrowded cities, where political corruption and public health crises helped foment bloody revolution. 
Climate change carries enormous political risk for the 21st century, Dr. Van Susteran warned. 
“In times of peril and scarcity, people regress,” she said. “They turn to what they perceive as strong leaders to protect them, and are willing to give up their freedoms and values in exchange for perceived security.”

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Wind & Solar cheaper than Coal or Gas. #auspol 

A new study by energy experts from the Australian National University suggests that a 100 per cent renewable energy electricity grid – with 90 per cent of power coming from wind and solar – will be significantly cheaper future option than a coal or gas-fired network in Australia.

The study, led by Andrew Blakers, Bin Lu and Matthew Stocks, suggests that with most of Australia’s current fleet of coal generators due to retire before 2030, a mix of solar PV and wind energy, backed up by pumped hydro, will be the cheapest option for Australia, and this includes integration costs.
The report says that wind is currently about $64/MWh and solar $78/MWh, but the costs of both technologies are falling fast, with both expected to cost around $50/MWh when much of the needed capacity is built. 

With the cost of balancing, this results in a levellised cost of energy (LCOE) of around $75/MWh.
By contrast, the LCOE of coal is $80/MWh, and some estimates – such as those by Bloomberg New Energy Finance which adds in factors such as the cost of finance risk – put it much higher.
Blakers says his team did not need to dial that higher price of coal into the equation: “We don’t include a risk premium or carbon pricing or fuel price escalation or threat of premature closure because renewables doesn’t need any of this to compete,” he says.
Nor do his estimates include any carbon price, which will further tip the balance in favour of renewables.

 Nor do they include future cost reductions in wind and solar.

 “There is no end in sight to cost reductions,” Blakers says.
“Much of Australia’s coal power stations will reach the end of their economic life over the next 15 years. 

It will be cheaper to replace these with renewable energy.”

The two key outcomes of this modelling is that the additional cost of balancing renewable energy supply with demand on an hourly basis throughout the year is relatively small: $A25-$A30/MWh (US$19-23/MWh), and that means that the overall cost of a wind and solar dominated grid is much lower than previous estimates.
Indeed, the ANU team suggest that less storage is needed than thought. 

The optimum amount of pumped hydro is 15-25 GW of power capacity with 15-30 hours of energy storage.
blakers 100This is based on more wind than solar. 

If Hwind and PV annual energy generation is constrained to be similar then higher power (25 GW) and lower energy storage (12-21hours) is optimum.
Total storage of 450 GWh +/- 30% is optimum for all the scenarios. This is equivalent to the average electricity consumed in the NEM in 19 hours.
At this stage it should be pointed out that Blakers is a long time proponent of pumped hydro, and this modelling appears designed to support that technology.


For instance, the modelling avoids any “heroic” assumptions about technologies that have not been deployed at scale – meaning battery storage and solar thermal and storage are not included, and neither is geothermal or ocean energy.
Nor does the modelling – which looks at every hour of the year based on data from 2006-2010 – assume other opportunities such as demand management, when consumers agree and sometimes get paid for reducing their load at critical moments on the grid.
The modelling shows that a large fraction of the balancing costs relates to “periods of several successive days of overcast and windless weather that occur once every few years.”
Substantial reductions in balancing costs are possible through contractual load shedding (as occurred in Tomago aluminium smelter and BHP’s Olympic Dam recently), and the occasional use of legacy coal and gas generators to charge pumped hydro reservoirs if needed.
Another option is managing the charging times of batteries in electric cars.
“Although we have not modelled dynamical stability on a time scale of sub-seconds to minutes we note that pumped hydro) can provide excellent inertial energy, spinning reserve, rapid start, black start capability, voltage regulation and frequency control,” the authors write.
Pumped hydro has become a focus of attention in recent weeks, advocated by the Coalition government and others, seemingly in the absence of any consideration about the falling costs of battery storage.
EnergyAustralia last week announced a study into a large 100MW pumped hydro facility on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsular.

 This work includes contributions from the ANU team.
So, how much does all this cost? 

The ANU team estimates $184 billion, or $152 billion at future prices of wind and solar. 

But before the Coalition and others start to hyperventilate about the billions to be spent, the ANU team also point out that this means no fuel costs in the future.
That’s why the key number is $75/MWh, which is around one third of the price that Queenslanders have been paying so far this year for their coal and gas power, making the investment in a 116MW solar farm by zinc producer Sun Metals, which is looking to expand its facility, as a good idea.
Some other interesting points from the study:
+ A sensitivity analysis has been performed on the baseline scenario by varying the following cost- components by +/- 25%: PV, wind, PHES, HVDC/HVAC, system lifetimes and discount rate. 

The effect on LCOE is less than +/- $2/MWh except for system lifetimes, for which the effect is +/- $5/MWh, and wind capital cost and discount rate, for both of which the effect is +/- $10/MWh (about 10%).
+ Large scale deployment of electric vehicles and heat pumps would increase electricity demand by up to 40%. 

Importantly these devices have large scale storage in the form of batteries in vehicles and heat/cool in water stores and the building fabric. 

This storage may substantially reduce LCOB in the future.
+ The LCOB (levellised cost of balancing) calculated in this work is an upper bound.

 A large fraction of LCOB relates to periods of several days of overcast and windless weather that occur once every few years. 

Substantial reductions in LCOB are possible through reduced capital and maintenance costs, contractual load shedding, the occasional.
+ In most scenarios the modelling meets the NEM reliability standard of no more than 0.002% of unmet load (4 GWh per year) without demand management.” 

However, in other scenarios we assume that demand management is employed during critical periods, which are typically cold wet windless weeks in winter that occur once every few years.
“During these periods the PHES reservoirs run down to zero over a few days because there is insufficient wind and PV generation to recharge them, leading to a shortfall in supply.

 The amount of PV, wind and PHES storage could be increased to cover this shortfall. However, this substantial extra investment would be utilised only for a few days every few years.”
One suggestion is to relax the reliability standards: “A portion of the savings in investment in PV, wind and PHES would be available to compensate certain consumers for partial loss of supply for a few days every few years.

 For example, reducing the overall cost of electricity supply by $2/MWh by allowing an unmet load of 336 GWh per 5 years would save $2 billion per 5 years, which is equivalent to $6,000 per unmet MWh.
Hmmm, but just imagine the headlines.

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It’s More Than Just Climate Change #auspol 

It’s More than Just Climate Change
Study shows climate change is one of many inter-related threats to natural systems and human societies, with other interconnnected factors being economic inequality, consumption and population
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (PRWEB) February 24, 2017
A recent scientific paper by a University of Maryland-led international team of distinguished scientists, including five members of the National Academies, argues that there are critical two-way feedbacks missing from current climate models that are used to inform environmental, climate, and economic policies.

 The most important inadequately-modeled variables are inequality, consumption, and population.
In this research, the authors present extensive evidence of the need for a new paradigm of modeling that incorporates the feedbacks that the Earth system has on humans, and propose a framework for future modeling that would serve as a more realistic guide for policy making and sustainable development.

The large, interdisciplinary team of 20 coauthors are from a number of universities (University of Maryland, Northeastern University, Columbia University, George Mason University, Johns Hopkins University, and Brown University) and other institutions (Joint Global Change Research Institute, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, the Institute for Global Environment and Society, Japan’s RIKEN research institute, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center).
The study explains that the Earth System (e.g., atmosphere, ocean, land, and biosphere) provides the Human System (e.g., humans and their production, distribution, and consumption) not only the sources of its inputs (e.g., water, energy, biomass, and materials) but also the sinks (e.g., atmosphere, oceans, rivers, lakes, and lands) that absorb and process its outputs (e.g., emissions, pollution, and other wastes).
Titled “Modeling Sustainability: Population, Inequality, Consumption, and Bidirectional Coupling of the Earth and Human Systems”, the article describes how the recent rapid growth in resource use, land-use change, emissions, and pollution has made humanity the dominant driver of change in most of the Earth’s natural systems, and how these changes, in turn, have critical feedback effects on humans with costly and serious consequences, including on human health and well-being, economic growth and development, and even human migration and societal conflict. However, the paper argues that these two-way interactions (“bidirectional coupling”) are not included in the current models.

The Oxford University Press’s multidisciplinary journal National Science Review, which published the paper, also highlighted the paper in a separate “Research Highlight”, pointing out that “the rate of change of atmospheric concentrations of CO2, CH4, and N2O [the primary greenhouse gases] increased by over 700, 1000, and 300 times (respectively) in the period after the Green Revolution when compared to pre-industrial rates.” See attached figure.
“Many datasets, for example, the data for the total concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases, show that human population has been a strong driver of the total impact of humans on our planet Earth. This is seen particularly after the two major accelerating regime shifts: Industrial Revolution (~1750) and Green Revolution (~1950)” said Safa Motesharrei, UMD systems scientist and lead author of the paper. “For the most recent time, we show that the total impact has grown on average ~4 percent between 1950 and 2010, with almost equal contributions from population growth (~1.7 percent) and GDP per capita growth (~2.2 percent). This corresponds to a doubling of the total impact every ~17 years. This doubling of the impact is shockingly rapid.”
“However, these human impacts can only truly be understood within the context of economic inequality,” pointed out political scientist and co-author Jorge Rivas of the Institute for Global Environment and Society.

 “The average per capita resource use in wealthy countries is 5 to 10 times higher than in developing countries, and the developed countries are responsible for over three quarters of cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from 1850 to 2000.”
“The disparity is even greater when inequality within countries is included,” added University of Maryland geographer and coauthor Klaus Hubacek.

 “For example, about 50 percent of the world’s people live on less than $3 per day, 75 percent on less than $8.50, and 90 percent on less than $23. One effect of this inequality is that the top 10 percent produce almost as much total carbon emissions as the bottom 90 percent combined.”


The study explains that increases in economic inequality, consumption per capita, and total population are all driving this rapid growth in human impact, but that the major scientific models of Earth-Human System interaction do not bidirectionally couple Earth System Models with the primary Human System drivers of change such as demographics, inequality, economic growth, and migration.
Instead of two-way coupling with these primary human drivers of change, the researchers argue that current models usually use independent, external projections of those drivers. “This lack of two-way coupling makes current models likely to miss critical feedbacks in the combined Earth-Human system”, said National Academy of Engineering member and co-author Eugenia Kalnay, a Distinguished University Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at the University of Maryland.
“It would be like trying to predict El Niño with a sophisticated atmospheric model but with the Sea Surface Temperatures taken from external, independent projections by, for example, the United Nations. 

Without including the real feedbacks, predictions for coupled systems cannot work; the model will get away from reality very quickly,” said Kalnay
In this new scientific research, the authors present extensive evidence of the need for a new paradigm of modeling that incorporates the feedbacks that the Earth System has on humans, and propose a framework for future modeling that would serve as a more realistic guide for policymaking and sustainable development.


“Ignoring this bidirectional coupling of the Earth and Human Systems can lead to missing something important, even decisive, for the fate of our planet and our species,” said co-author Mark Cane, G. Unger Vetlesen Professor of Earth and Climate Sciences at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who recently won the Vetlesen Prize for creating the first coupled ocean–atmosphere model with feedbacks that successfully predicted El Niño.
“The result of not dynamically modeling these critical Human-Earth System feedbacks would be that the environmental challenges humanity faces may be significantly underestimated. Moreover, there’s no explicit role given to policies and investments to actively shape the course in which the dynamics unfold. Rather, as the models are designed now, any intervention — almost by definition — comes from the outside and is perceived as a cost,” said co-author Matthias Ruth, Director and Professor at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University. “Such modeling, and the mindset that goes with it, leaves no room for creativity in solving some of the most pressing challenges.”
”The paper correctly highlights that other human stressors, not only the climate ones, are very important for long-term sustainability, including the need to reduce inequality”, said Carlos Nobre (not a co-author), one of the world’s leading Earth System scientists, who recently won the prestigious Volvo Environment Prize in Sustainability for his role in understanding and protecting the Amazon. ”Social and economic equality empowers societies to engage in sustainable pathways, which includes, by the way, not only the sustainable use of natural resources but also slowing down population growth, to actively diminish the human footprint on the environment.”
Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, who is not a co-author of the paper, commented: “We cannot separate the issues of population growth, resource consumption, the burning of fossil fuels, and climate risk. 

They are part of a coupled dynamical system, and, as the authors show, this has dire potential consequences for societal collapse. 

The implications couldn’t be more profound.”
This work was supported by the University of Maryland Council on the Environment 2014 Seed Grant (1357928). The authors would like to acknowledge the following grants and institutions: SM, KF, and KH: National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)–US National Science Foundation (NSF) award DBI-1052875; JR: The Institute of Global Environment and Society (IGES); GRA: Laboratory Directed Research and Development award by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which is managed by the Battelle Memorial Institute for the US Department of Energy; MAC: Office of Naval Research, research grant MURI N00014-12-1-0911; FMW: NSF award CBET-1541642; VMY: The Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET).
“Modeling Sustainability: Population, Inequality, Consumption, and Bidirectional Coupling of the Earth and Human Systems” is available at: https://academic.oup.com/nsr/article/doi/10.1093/nsr/nww081/2669331/Modeling-Sustainability-Population-Inequality and https://doi.org/10.1093/nsr/nww081; or PDF https://academic.oup.com/nsr/article-pdf/3/4/470/10325470/nww081.pdf
UMD Web Release
For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2017/02/prweb14095379.htm

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