Philippines

The Adani mine will kill Millions! #StopAdani #Auspol #Qldpol 

This is not rhetoric: approving the Adani coal mine will kill people.
Rarely have politicians demonstrated better their ignorance of the risks and opportunities confronting Australia than with Barnaby Joyce, Matt Canavan and other ministers’ recent utterances on Adani and Galilee Basin coal, along with their petulant foot-stamping over Westpac’s decision to restrict funding to new coal projects.

 Likewise, Bill Shorten sees no problem in supporting Adani.
The media are no better; discussion instantly defaults to important but secondary issues, such as Adani’s concessional government loan, the project’s importance to the economy, creating jobs for north Queenslanders and so on.
The Adani mine by itself will push global temperatures above the threshold increase of 2 degrees.


The Adani mine by itself will push global temperatures above the threshold increase of 2 degrees. Photo: Robert Rough

Nowhere in the debate is the critical issue even raised: the existential risk of climate change, which such development now implies. 

Existential means a risk posing large negative consequences to humanity that can never be undone.

 One where an adverse outcome would either annihilate life, or permanently and drastically curtail its potential.

This is the risk to which we are now exposed unless we rapidly reduce global carbon emissions.
In Paris in December 2015, the world, Australia included, agreed to hold global average temperature to “well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees”, albeit the emission reduction commitments Australia tabled were laughable in comparison with our peers and with the size of the challenge.

Dangerous climate change, which the Paris agreement and its forerunners seek to avoid, is happening at the 1.2-degree increase already experienced as extreme weather events, and their economic costs, escalate.

 A 1.6-degree increase is already locked in as the full effect of our historic emissions unfolds.
Our current path commits us to a 4 to 5-degree temperature increase.


 This would create a totally disorganised world with a substantial reduction in population, possibly to less than one billion people from 7.5 billion today.
The voluntary emission reduction commitments made in Paris, if implemented, would still result in a 3-degree increase, accelerating social chaos in many parts of the world with rising levels of deprivation, displacement and conflict.
Adani Group founder Gautam Adani with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.


Adani Group founder Gautam Adani with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. 

It is already impossible to stay below the 1.5-degree Paris aspiration.

 To have a realistic chance of staying below even 2 degrees means that no new fossil-fuel projects can be built globally – coal, oil or gas – and that existing operations, particularly coal, must be rapidly replaced with low-carbon alternatives. 

Further, carbon-capture technologies that do not currently exist must be rapidly deployed at scale.
Climate change has moved out of the twilight period of much talk and limited action. 

It is now turning nasty.

 Some regions, often the poorest, have already seen major disasters, as has Australia.


 How long will it take, and how much economic damage must we suffer, particularly in Queensland, before our leaders accept that events like Cyclone Debbie and the collapse of much of the Great Barrier Reef are being intensified by man-made climate change? 

Of that there is no doubt, nor has there been for decades. 


The uncertainties, regularly thrown up as reasons for inaction, relate not to the basic science but to the speed and extent of climate impact, both of which have been badly underestimated.
The most dangerous aspect is that the impact of fossil-fuel investments made today do not manifest themselves for decades to come. 

If we wait for catastrophe to happen, as we are doing, it will be too late to act. 

Time is the most important commodity; to avoid catastrophic outcomes requires emergency action to force the pace of change. 

Australia, along with the Asian regions to our north, is now considered to be “disaster alley”; we are already experiencing the most extreme impacts globally.


In these circumstances, opening up a major new coal province is nothing less than a crime against humanity. 

The Adani mine by itself will push temperatures above 2 degrees; the rest of the Galilee Basin development would ensure global temperatures went way above 3 degrees. 

None of the supporting political arguments, such as poverty alleviation, the inevitability of continued coal use, the superior quality of our coal, or the benefits of opening up northern Australia, have the slightest shred of credibility. 

Such irresponsibility is only possible if you do not accept that man-made climate change is happening, which is the real position of both goverment and opposition.

Nowhere in the debate is the critical issue even raised: the existential risk of climate change.
Likewise with business.

 At the recent Santos annual general meeting, chairman Peter Coates asserted that a 4-degree world was “sensible” to assume for planning purposes, thereby totally abrogating in one word his responsibility as a director to understand and act on the risks of climate change. 

Westpac’s new climate policy is a step forward, but fails to accept that no new coal projects should be financed, high-quality coal or not. 

The noose is tightening around the necks of company directors. 

Personal liability for ignoring climate risk is now real.

Yet politicians assume they can act with impunity. 

As rumours of Donald Trump withdrawing from the Paris agreement intensify, right on cue Zed Seselja and Craig Kelly insist we should do likewise, without having the slightest idea of the implications.

The first priority of government, we are told, is to ensure the security of the citizens. 

Having got elected, this seems to be the last item on the politician’s agenda, as climate change is treated as just another issue to be compromised and pork-barrelled, rather than an existential threat.

We deserve better leaders.


 If the incumbency is not prepared to act, the community need to take matters into their own hands.


Ian Dunlop was an international oil, gas and coal industry executive, chairman of the Australian Coal Association and chief executive of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. 

He is a member of the Club of Rome.

Press link for more: SMH.COM

Why hasn’t the world become more sustainable? #StopAdani #Auspol 

In 1992, more than 170 countries came together at the Rio Earth Summit and agreed to pursue sustainable development, protect biological diversity, prevent dangerous interference with climate systems, and conserve forests.

 But, 25 years later, the natural systems on which humanity relies continue to be degraded.

So why hasn’t the world become much more environmentally sustainable despite decades of international agreements, national policies, state laws and local plans? 

This is the question that a team of researchers and I have tried to answer in a recent article.
We reviewed 94 studies of how sustainability policies had failed across every continent.

 These included case studies from both developed and developing countries, and ranged in scope from international to local initiatives.


Consider the following key environmental indicators. Since 1970:
Humanity’s ecological footprint has exceeded the Earth’s capacity and has risen to the point where 1.6 planets would be needed to provide resources sustainably.
The biodiversity index has fallen by more than 50% as the populations of other species continue to decline.
Greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change have almost doubled while the impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent.
The world has lost more than 48% of tropical and sub-tropical forests.
The rate at which these indicators deteriorated was largely unchanged over the two decades either side of the Rio summit. Furthermore, humanity is fast approaching several environmental tipping points. If crossed, these could lead to irreversible changes.
If we allow average global temperatures to rise 2℃ above pre-industrial levels, for example, feedback mechanisms will kick in that lead to runaway climate change. 

We’re already halfway to this limit and could pass it in the next few decades.

What’s going wrong?
So what’s going wrong with sustainability initiatives? 

We found that three types of failure kept recurring: economic, political and communication.
The economic failures stem from the basic problem that environmentally damaging activities are financially rewarded.

 A forest is usually worth more money after it’s cut down – which is a particular problem for countries transitioning to a market-based economy.
Political failures happen when governments can’t or won’t implement effective policies. 

This is often because large extractive industries, like mining, are dominant players in an economy and see themselves as having the most to lose. 

This occurs in developed and developing countries, but the latter can face extra difficulties enforcing policies once they’re put in place.


Communication failures centre on poor consultation or community involvement in the policy process. Opposition then flourishes, sometimes based on a misunderstanding of the severity of the issue. It can also be fed by mistrust when communities see their concerns being overlooked.
Again, this happens around the world. A good example would be community resistance to changing water allocation systems in rural areas of Australia. 

In this situation, farmers were so opposed to the government buying back some of their water permits that copies of the policy were burned in the street.
These types of failure are mutually reinforcing. 

Poor communication of the benefits of sustainable development creates the belief that it always costs jobs and money. 

Businesses and communities then pressure politicians to avoid or water down environmentally friendly legislation.
Ultimately, this represents a failure to convince people that sustainable development can supply “win-win” scenarios. As a result, decision-makers are stuck in the jobs-versus-environment mindset.
What can we do?
The point of our paper was to discover why policies that promote sustainability have failed in order to improve future efforts. 

The challenge is immense and there’s a great deal at stake.

 Based on my previous research into the way economic, social and environmental goals can co-exist, I would go beyond our most recent paper to make the following proposals.
First, governments need to provide financial incentives to switch to eco-efficient production. 

Politicians need to have the courage to go well beyond current standards.

 Well-targeted interventions can create both carrot and stick, rewarding eco-friendly behaviour and imposing a cost on unsustainable activities.
Second, governments need to provide a viable transition pathway for industries that are doing the most damage.

 New environmental tax breaks and grants, for example, could allow businesses to remain profitable while changing their business model.


Finally, leaders from all sectors need to be convinced of both the seriousness of the declining state of the environment and that sustainable development is possible. 

Promoting positive case studies of successful green businesses would be a start.
There will of course be resistance to these changes. 

The policy battles will be hard fought, particularly in the current international political climate.

 We live in a world where the US president is rolling back climate policies while the Australian prime minister attacks renewable energy.

Press link for more: WEFORUM

NATO general “Climate Change poses a global security risk” #auspol 

By Timothy Gardner

Climate change poses a global security threat that all countries must fight together, a NATO general said on Wednesday, as U.S. President Donald Trump nears a decision on whether to pull out of the Paris climate deal.
The comments were the strongest yet from the U.S.-European military alliance about the importance of upholding the Paris accord. 

They come amid lingering tensions between the leadership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Trump, who at one point called NATO “obsolete”.

“There is a huge necessity that the U.N. continues to involve all nations and coordinate the action of all nations,” to fight climate change, General Denis Mercier, NATO’s supreme allied commander for transformation, told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Norfolk, Virginia.
“If one nation, especially the biggest nation … if they do not recognize a problem, then we will have trouble dealing with the causes,” of climate change, said Mercier.
Though he did not single out any country by name, the United States is the world’s biggest economy and the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China.
Trump, a Republican, is weighing whether the United States should stay in the Paris climate agreement, a deal struck by nearly 200 countries in 2015 to limit global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and to provide funds to poor countries dealing with the effects of climate change. [L8N1I56C4]
Trump has complained that the United States was treated unfairly in the agreement because it would pay more than other countries to fight global warming. He is expected to decide in the next week or two on whether the country will leave the pact, or stay in with reduced commitments. [nW1N1GA00N]
His Democratic predecessor, former President Barack Obama, had pledged a 26 percent to 28 percent cut in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels, by 2025.


NATO’s duty when it comes to climate change is to try to predict its impacts on geopolitical stability, said Mercier, who is French. He said risks include rising seas, water scarcity and the opening of access to resources in the Arctic – all of which he said are likely to bring about new conflicts that could involve the 28 NATO countries.
A global effort to stem climate change could help the world avoid some of these crises and conflicts, he said.
“It’s not too late, but it is time,” he added.

Norfolk, home to the world’s largest naval base, already faces severe risks from rising sea levels. The main road to U.S. Naval Station Norfolk has experienced chronic flooding, and electric and water utilities supporting the base are threatened every time the waters rise.
“In some circles many public policy makers do not want to use (the words) global warming or climate change, but the reality is we are experiencing it, Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Alexander told reporters on the sidelines of the conference.
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have fallen recently due to a switch from coal to natural gas and renewables in generating electricity. But many climate experts fear that if Washington leaves the Paris accord, or adjusts down its commitments, other countries could follow suit and global emissions could surge.
Many companies including ExxonMobil Corp, Microsoft Corp, and Arch Coal Inc, have urged the United States to stay in the Paris agreement, in part to retain their global competitiveness.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; editing by Richard Valdmanis and Tom Brown)

Press link for more: Reuters.com

Climate Change Impact on Health #auspol 

By John Abraham

Medical scientists report on the impact climate change is having on health

A Russian woman wears a face mask to protect herself from acrid smoke while walking in central Moscow on August 9, 2010. Air pollution from a heatwave-fueled forest fire smog caused hundreds of extra deaths each day compared to a normal period.

As a climate scientist, I spend time and energy studying how fast the Earth is warming and what is causing the warming. This knowledge helps us predict what the future will look like. But, what most people are interested in is, “how will it affect me?”


Some impacts we are pretty clear about, like the impacts related to sea level rise, increased storms and heavy precipitation, and increased drought and heat waves – particularly the impacts these events have on the economy. But climate change will affect us personally as well (by personally, I mean our physical person).

In fact, climate change is already affecting personal human health around the world. This subject was the focus of a summary report just published by the Medical Society Consortium. What I really liked about this report is that it breaks down some of the key impacts by region. Unfortunately, the report is limited in scope to the USA. However, the general conclusions and trends can be illuminating for people outside the USA as well.

What was also welcome is that this report was prepared by physicians (not climate scientists) of major medical societies and the conclusions are based on the best available and current information of both the climate and health fields.
So what did they find? Perhaps most importantly they find that climate change is already affecting our health. This isn’t a future problem for the next generation. It is a problem that is present and growing. They also report that some populations are more susceptible to climate change effects. Among the most vulnerable groups are children, student athletes, pregnant women, elderly, people with chronic health conditions, and the impoverished. A third key takeaway is that the problems will get much worse as climate change continues.
The study reports that if you live on the West Coast, wildfires, extreme temperatures, poorer air quality, extreme weather events, and agricultural risks are occurring. On the East Coast, you can add vector-borne diseases as a risk area. The central USA region is also similarly being affected.
As you dig deeper into the report, you learn about how these various climate-related features are affecting health. Each factor is dealt with by three questions: 

1) What is happening?

 2) How does it harm our health?

 3) Who is being harmed?
For instance, with respect to extreme weather, the report correctly notes that the frequency and severity of some weather events such as heavy downpours, floods, droughts, and major storms are increasing. 

This harms our health because these events can cause direct injury and death as well as displacement. 

Extreme weather can also harm vital infrastructure like communication systems, homes, and reduce the availability of clean water and food. Finally, extreme weather can lead to acute outbreaks of infectious disease while at the same time reducing access to health care.
Air pollution is another example area. 

Climate change is affecting air quality in many ways, including increasing chemical reactions in surface air (air we breathe), increasing pollen, and leading to more forest fires. 

Lower air quality obviously affects people with breathing problems (such as asthma and allergies). It can prolong the pollen seasons and worsen allergy symptoms. 

Less obvious effects like increased humidity and more heavy rainfalls can exacerbate air-quality problems indoors through mold growth for instance. 
One issue I was not aware of was the threat of climate change to nutrition. 

Increases in carbon dioxide actually result in a lowered nutritional value of grown food such as wheat, rice, barley, and potatoes. 

This occurs because plants produce less protein and more sugars/starches in a carbon rich atmosphere. Plants also are less effective at taking in essential soil minerals. 

This is all in addition to the threats to our food system by droughts and extreme weather. 

We’ve certainly seen very severe droughts in the USA (2011 in Oklahoma and Texas, 2012 in Midwest USA, and 2012–2016 in California) that have caused severe problems in the agricultural industries.
This report was written in an easy-to-understand manner. It is accessible and authoritative. It also gets to the issue people are most concerned about – the impact of climate change in their lives. I encourage anyone who is interested to download and read this document at the link above.

Press link for more: The Guardian

Humans are changing the climate #auspol 

Detailed look at the global warming ‘hiatus’ again confirms that humans are changing the climateGlobal warming ‘hiatus’ explained

A new analysis in the journal Nature shows that the global warming “hiatus” may not have been quite what it seemed.

By Amina Khan

 Contact Reporter Environmental Science Climate Change Scientific Research

For years, the global warming ‘hiatus’ from 1998 to 2012 puzzled scientists and fueled skeptics looking to cast doubt on the very idea that Earth’s temperature has been on the rise, largely because of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide — and that significant policy changes would need to be made to keep that rise in check.
Recent papers have begun to chip away at the idea of the slowdown. 

Now, a new analysis in the journal Nature brings together many of those arguments to show that the hiatus may not have been quite what it seemed.
“A combination of changes in forcing, uptake of heat by the oceans, natural variability and incomplete observational coverage reconciles models and data,” the researchers from the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Switzerland wrote. “Combined with stronger recent warming trends in newer datasets, we are now more confident than ever that human influence is dominant in long-term warming.”


Below, we sort through a few of the issues with the hiatus — and the lessons scientists learned from it.
What was the hiatus, anyway?
That’s a good question. 

Part of the problem is that there doesn’t seem to be an agreed-upon definition. 

The hiatus has been defined in three main ways in the scientific literature:
A period in which there is no significant positive trend in global mean surface temperatures (when it’s essentially flat)

A shorter-term slowdown in rising temperatures compared to the preceding long-term warming trend

The rate of increase in temperatures is lower than scientific models predicted

So whether you call it the ‘hiatus’ or the ‘pause,’ both are arguably misnomers, depending on which meaning is used. 

After all, in the latter two definitions, temperatures are generally still rising — just not as much as expected. 

And depending on which definition you use, different models will be more accurate than others.
“All three of those are very different arguments …. so it often makes it fairly confusing to talk about this hiatus discussion,” said Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth and PhD student at UC Berkeley who was not involved in the paper.
“The only sort of ‘true’ definition of a hiatus would be if global warming actually stopped,” he added, “and there’s no evidence in any operational datasets today that that happened.”
Regardless of the definition, to whatever the extent the global warming slowdown existed, it’s definitely over now. 


Independent analyses by NASA and NOAA show that 2016 was the hottest year on record, marking the third year of record-breaking heat in a row. 

The causes remain linked to human produced greenhouse gas emissions.


So the hiatus is over? 

Then why do scientists care?
Scientists had to care because everyone else seemed to. 

The hiatus, which is marked from 1998 to 2012, was generally treated by climate scientists as a reflection of short-term variations that didn’t affect long-term trends.
“In leaked drafts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group I (WG1) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), the global warming hiatus was considered to be consistent with natural variability, and hence not in need of a detailed explanation,” the study authors wrote. “At the time of the first draft, there was almost no literature on the hiatus to be assessed anyway. Scientists knew from observations and models that global temperatures fluctuate on timescales of years to decades.”
But the deviation from expectations was seized upon by the media as well as global warming skeptics, the study authors noted, turning it into a political football around the time that major policy decisions about how to deal with climate change were under discussion.
“The interest of the media and public grew, and groups with particular interests used the case to question the trust in both climate science and the use of climate models,” the authors wrote.
(The Times has reported on fossil fuel companies’ support of climate skepticism.)
Those short-term trends may be considered relatively minor fluctuations — but they matter on human timescales, and they’re still poorly understood.
“Now, in 2017 … after a wave of scientific publications and public debate, and with GMSTs [global mean surface air temperatures] setting new records again, it is time to take stock of what can be learned from the hiatus,” the authors wrote.
It is time to take stock of what can be learned from the hiatus.

— Authors of the Nature study

So what did this new analysis find?
This analysis in Nature pulls together many findings in the wake of several research efforts looking to address the hiatus conundrum. Some argued that global warming predictions didn’t match the actual data during that time period because they didn’t include complex short-term climate factors that are poorly understood. Others have argued that the hiatus didn’t really exist; that it was a problem with the instrumentation or the data analysis, for example.
The new Nature paper essentially works through several examples under both of these explanations and finds that it’s a combination of the two. For example:
Regions in the Arctic, where global warming is having marked effects, are actually sparsely monitored, and different analyses try to extrapolate from that limited data set in different ways.

The definitions of a pause are faulty, especially when you consider that “the data continue to show significant warming trends when the trend length exceeds 16 years,” James Risbey and Stephan Lewandowsky, who were not involved in the paper, wrote in a commentary on it. (Risbey is with the Oceans and Atmosphere Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia; Lewandowsky is from the University of Bristol.)

The observed global mean temperature data takes into account both ocean and surface air temperatures, but model predictions have often only used air temperatures. This leads to apples-and-oranges comparisons between predictions and reality, Risbey and Lewandowsky said.

Short-term ocean dynamics patterns, such as those of El Niño, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, move and store heat in ways that lead to surface temperature fluctuations that can last years or even decades. This does not mean that the heat’s gone, just that it’s out of range of sensors. And because we don’t fully understand those patterns, and when exactly one will start and when it will end, short-term predictions can be a little off — even though they’re right in the long-term.“The models have their own El Niño events but they’re not necessarily happening at the same time as the real-world El Niño events,” Hausfather said.

Climate change models did not perfectly characterize all the right complicating factors — how much solar radiation there was in a given year, for example, or the extent of the cooling effect from volcanic activity and human-produced aerosols. When those estimates are updated to reflect what actually happened, the models get much closer to reality.

Recent studies showed the need to better account for temperature detection changes that happened as ocean temperature monitors switched from ships to buoys. The buoys may have made temperature readings look a little cooler than expected, even when they were not. (In the older method, water would be heated by the ship’s engine on its way to be measured, while the buoys would measure water temperatures in the open ocean.)

“If you do all of these things you end up getting observations that match models pretty exactly,” Hausfather said of all the mitigating factors included by the Nature study authors. “Each of these things is a little part of the divergence between models and observations.”
Another problem? Marking the beginning of the hiatus from 1998, which was a year of record-breaking heat.
“Picking a large El Niño event as the starting year, you’re necessarily going to have a lower rate of warming after that, even in a warming world,” Hausfather said.
The problem, ultimately, is that studies looking at long-term change simply aren’t especially good at predicting short-term variation. That doesn’t mean that the long-term trend isn’t there; human-caused carbon dioxide emissions continue to fuel global warming.
“In short, some data, tools and methods that were good enough when looking at longer-term climate change proved to be problematic when they were focused on the problem of explaining short-term trends,” Risbey and Lewandowsky wrote. “Small differences in GMST data that are inconsequential for climate change are amplified when short-term trends are calculated. Climate-model projections are blunt tools for the analysis of short-term trends.”
What new light does this paper shed on the hiatus?
This analysis isn’t a “bombshell,” pointed out Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University.
“The work of many groups (including our own) has shown that models and observations are consistent in terms of long-term warming, and that this warming — and recent extreme warmth — can only be explained by anthropogenic (human-caused) activity, namely the burning of fossil fuels,” Mann said in an email. “The fact that there is substantial internal variability that can mask this warming on decadal and multidecadal timescales is also something established by us in previous work.”
But it does offer a holistic explanation of all the research that has been chipping away at this climate conundrum, Hausfather pointed out.
“I think it does a really good job at tying a bow on the last five years or so of hiatus arguments,” he said.
Is there a lesson to be learned from the controversy around the hiatus?
The study authors seem to think so. For example, scientists were forced to better understand these short-term variations, which helped them pin down factors such as how sensitive the climate was to additional carbon dioxide, the dominant greenhouse gas in Earth’s atmosphere.
“As a consequence, after a surge of scientific studies on the topic, we have learned more about the ways in which the climate system works in several areas,” the authors wrote.
And then there are other evergreen lessons — particularly with respect to science and its interface with public discourse.
“Social sciences might find this an interesting period for studying how science interacts with the public, media and policy,” they wrote. “In a time coinciding with high-level political negotiations on preventing climate change, sceptical media and politicians were using the apparent lack of warming to downplay the importance of climate change…. This will not be the last time that weather and climate will surprise us, so maybe there are lessons to be learned from the hiatus about communication on all sides.”

Press link for more: LA Times.com

Fuzzy Thinking Won’t Save The Planet #Science #auspol 

The Oxford Dictionary nominated post-truth as the Word of the Year in 2016. 

 Rather than objective facts, politicians promote alternative facts, emotion and personal beliefs as the basis for public debate. 

This spells disaster to a scientist like Brian Schmidt who says we can’t solve the world’s pressing problems without a renewed respect for evidence and expertise.


Professor Brian Schmidt, Nobel Laureate, cosmologist and ANU Vice-Chancellor.
Professor Schmidt delivered the annual Manning Clark lecture : Evidence and expertise in a post-truth world.
Recorded on 3 March 2017 .

Listen Here: ABC Big Ideas

I have been writing this blog for nearly four years, I have always tried to promote science and highlight the limits to growth that our planet can support. 

I have often included news on the challenges we face such as global poverty and climate change in a economic system that demands continuous growth. 

Today I listened to this lecture delivered by Professor Brian Schmidt, he mentions an annual growth of over 100 million people per year, on an already over loaded planet. 

In one hour he covers the journey I have been on, including the importance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.


If human civilisation is to continue Professor Schmidt says we have five years left to get our act together.

I urge all who read my blog to listen to this speech and act as if your life depended on it. 

Because the Professor thinks it does 
John Pratt 

 

It’s the end of the world! #climatechange #auspol #science 

It’s the end of the world and we know it: Scientists in many disciplines see apocalypse, soon

While apocalyptic beliefs about the end of the world have, historically, been the subject of religious speculation, they are increasingly common among some of the leading scientists today. 

This is a worrisome fact, given that science is based not on faith and private revelation, but on observation and empirical evidence.
Perhaps the most prominent figure with an anxious outlook on humanity’s future is Stephen Hawking. Last year, he wrote the following in a Guardian article:

Now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together. 

We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans. 

Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. 

We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it.
There is not a single point here that is inaccurate or hyperbolic.


 For example, consider that the hottest 17 years on record have all occurred since 2000, with a single exception (namely, 1998), and with 2016 being the hottest ever.

 Although 2017 probably won’t break last year’s record, the UK’s Met Office projects that it “will still rank among the hottest years on record.” Studies also emphasize that there is a rapidly closing window for meaningful action on climate change.

 As the authors of one peer-reviewed paper put it:
The next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far.


 Policy decisions made during this window are likely to result in changes to Earth’s climate system measured in millennia rather than human lifespans, with associated socioeconomic and ecological impacts that will exacerbate the risks and damages to society and ecosystems that are projected for the twenty-first century and propagate into the future for many thousands of years.
Furthermore, studies suggest that civilization will have to produce more food in the next 50 years than in all of human history, which stretches back some 200,000 years into the Pleistocene epoch.

 This is partly due to the ongoing problem of overpopulation, where Pew projects approximately 9.3 billion people living on spaceship Earth by 2050. 

According to the 2016 Living Planet Report, humanity needs 1.6 Earths to sustain our current rate of (over)consumption — in other words, unless something significant changes with respect to anthropogenic resource depletion, nature will force life as we know it to end.

Along these lines, scientists largely agree that human activity has pushed the biosphere into the sixth mass extinction event in the entire 4.5 billion year history of Earth.

 This appears to be the case even on the most optimistic assumptions about current rates of species extinctions, which may be occurring 10,000 times faster than the normal “background rate” of extinction. 

Other studies have found that, for example, the global population of wild vertebrates — that is, mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians — has declined by a staggering 58 percent between 1970 and 2012. 

The biosphere is wilting in real time, and our own foolish actions are to blame.
As for disease, superbugs are a growing concern among researchers due to overuse of antibiotics among livestock and humans.

 These multi-drug-resistant bacteria are highly resistant to normal treatment routes, and already some 2 million people become sick from superbugs each year.
Perhaps the greatest risk here is that, as Brian Coombes puts it, “antibiotics are the foundation on which all modern medicine rests. 

Cancer chemotherapy, organ transplants, surgeries, and childbirth all rely on antibiotics to prevent infections. If you can’t treat those, then we lose the medical advances we have made in the last 50 years.” Indeed, this is why Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization, claims that “Antimicrobial resistance poses a fundamental threat to human health, development and security.”
Making matters even worse, experts argue that the risk of a global pandemic is increasing. The reason is, in part, because of the growth of megacities. According to a United Nations estimate, “66 percent of the global population will live in urban centers by 2050.”

 The closer proximity of people will make the propagation of pathogens much easier, not to mention the fact that deadly germs can travel from one location to another at literally the speed of a jetliner.

 Furthermore, climate change will produce heat waves and flooding events that will create “more opportunity for waterborne diseases such as cholera and for disease vectors such as mosquitoes in new regions.” This is why some public health researchers conclude that “we are at greater risk than ever of experiencing large-scale outbreaks and global pandemics,” and that “the next outbreak contender will most likely be a surprise.”


Finally, the acidification of the world’s oceans is a catastrophe that hardly gets the attention it deserves. 

What’s happening is that the oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and this is causing their pH level to fall. 

One consequence is the destruction of coral reefs through a process called “bleaching.” 

Today, about 60 percent of coral reefs are in danger of bleaching, and about 10 percent are already underwater ghost towns.
Even more alarming, though, is the fact that the rate of ocean acidification is happening faster today than it occurred during the Permian-Triassic mass extinction. That event is called the “Great Dying” because it was the most devastating mass extinction ever, resulting in some 95 percent of all species kicking the bucket.

 As the science journalist Eric Hand points out, whereas 2.4 gigatons of carbon were injected into the atmosphere per year during the Great Dying, about 10 gigatons are being injected per year by contemporary industrial society. 

Thus, the sixth mass extinction mentioned above, also called the Anthropocene extinction, could turn out to be perhaps even worse than the Permian-Triassic die-off.
So Hawking’s dire warning that we live in the most perilous period of our species’ existence is quite robust.

 In fact, considerations like these have led a number of other notable scientists to suggest that the collapse of global society could occur in the foreseeable future. 

The late microbiologist Frank Fenner, for example, whose virological work helped eliminate smallpox, predicted in 2010 that “humans will probably be extinct within 100 years, because of overpopulation, environmental destruction, and climate change.”

 Similarly, the Canadian biologist Neil Dawe reportedly “wouldn’t be surprised if the generation after him witness the extinction of humanity.” And the renowned ecologist Guy McPherson argues that humanity will follow the dodo into the evolutionary grave by 2026. 

(On the upside, maybe you don’t need to worry so much about that retirement plan.)
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists also recently moved the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight, or doom, primarily because of President Donald J. Trump and the tsunami of anti-intellectualism that got him into the Oval Office. 

As Lawrence Krauss and David Titley wrote in a New York Times op-ed:
The United States now has a president who has promised to impede progress on both [curbing nuclear proliferation and solving climate change]. Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person. But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.
At two-and-a-half minutes before midnight, the Doomsday Clock is currently the closest to midnight that it’s been since 1953, after the U.S. and the Soviet Union had both detonated hydrogen bombs.
But so far we have mostly ignored threats to our existence that many leading risk scholars believe are the most serious, namely those associated with emerging technologies such as biotechnology, synthetic biology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. In general, these technologies are not only becoming more powerful at an exponential rate, according to Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, but increasingly accessible to small groups and even lone wolves. The result is that a growing number of individuals are being empowered to wreak unprecedented havoc on civilization. Consider the following nightmare disaster outlined by computer scientist Stuart Russell:
A very, very small quadcopter, one inch in diameter can carry a one- or two-gram shaped charge. You can order them from a drone manufacturer in China. You can program the code to say: “Here are thousands of photographs of the kinds of things I want to target.” A one-gram shaped charge can punch a hole in nine millimeters of steel, so presumably you can also punch a hole in someone’s head. You can fit about three million of those in a semi-tractor-trailer. You can drive up I-95 with three trucks and have 10 million weapons attacking New York City. They don’t have to be very effective, only 5 or 10 percent of them have to find the target.
Russell adds that “there will be manufacturers producing millions of these weapons that people will be able to buy just like you can buy guns now, except millions of guns don’t matter unless you have a million soldiers. You need only three guys,” he concludes, to write the relevant computer code and launch these drones. 
This scenario can be scaled up arbitrarily to involve, say, 500 million weaponized drones packed into several hundred semi-trucks strategically positioned around the world. The result could be a global catastrophe that brings civilization to its knees — no less than a nuclear terrorism attack or an engineered pandemic caused by a designer pathogen would severely disrupt modern life. As Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum put it in their captivating book “The Future of Violence,” we are heading toward an era of distributed offensive capabilities that is unlike anything our species has ever before encountered.
What sort of person might actually want to do this, though? Unfortunately, there are many types of people who would willingly destroy humanity. The list includes apocalyptic terrorists, psychopaths, psychotics, misanthropes, ecoterrorists, anarcho-primitivists, eco-anarchists, violent technophobes, militant neo-Luddites and even “morally good people” who maintain, for ethical reasons, that human suffering is so great that we would be better off not existing at all. Given the dual technology trends mentioned above, all it could take later this century is a single person or group to unilaterally end the great experiment called civilization forever.
It is considerations like these that have led risk scholars — some at top universities around the world — to specify disturbingly high probabilities of global disaster in the future. For example, the philosopher John Leslie claims that humanity has a 30 percent chance of extinction in the next five centuries. Less optimistically, an “informal” survey of experts at a conference hosted by Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute puts the probability of human extinction before 2100 at 19 percent. And Lord Martin Rees, co-founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at Cambridge University, argues that civilization has no better than a 50-50 likelihood of enduring into the next century.
To put this number in perspective, it means that the average American is about 4,000 times more likely to witness civilization implode than to die in an “air and space transport accident.” A child born today has a good chance of living to see the collapse of civilization, according to our best estimates.
Returning to religion, recent polls show that a huge portion of religious people believe that the end of the world is imminent. For example, a 2010 survey found that 41 percent of Christians in the U.S. believe that Jesus will either “definitely” or “probably” return by 2050. Similarly, 83 percent of Muslims in Afghanistan and 72 percent in Iraq claim that the Mahdi, Islam’s end-of-days messianic figure, will return within their lifetimes. The tragedy here, from a scientific perspective, is that such individuals are worried about the wrong apocalypse! Much more likely are catastrophes, calamities and cataclysms that cause unprecedented (and pointless) human suffering in a universe without any external source of purpose or meaning. At the extreme, an existential risk could tip our species into the eternal grave of extinction.
In a sense, though, religious people and scientists agree: We are in a unique moment of human history, one marked by an exceptionally high probability of disaster. The difference is that, for religious people, utopia stands on the other side of the apocalypse, whereas for scientists, there is nothing but darkness. To be clear, the situation is not by any means hopeless. In fact, there is hardly a threat before us — from climate change to the sixth mass extinction, from apocalyptic terrorism to a superintelligence takeover — that is inevitable. But without a concerted collective effort to avert catastrophe, the future could be as bad as any dystopian sci-fi writer has imagined.
Parts of this article draw from my forthcoming book “Morality, Foresight, and Human Flourishing: An Introduction to Existential Risks.”

Press link for more: Salon.com

Why I March #ClimateChange #auspol 

Why I March: Climate Change And Migration Have Everything To Do With Each Other

By Thanu Yakupitiyage 

It’s pretty ironic that among Donald Trump’s first policies on his agenda were a crackdown on immigrant communities, followed by the dismantling of climate and environmental protections.

 By rolling back the little progress the U.S. has made on climate change ― as well as slashing the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency and lifting a moratorium on federal coal leases ― Trump’s administration is sending a global message: the U.S. (a country that considers itself a leader) will not meet any commitment to bring down greenhouse gas emissions or invest in clean energy jobs. 

Meanwhile, the world is warming at an alarming rate, with each year hotter than the last. And while the planet warms and more climate-related disasters take place ― droughts get longer, rain patterns shift, land becomes infertile, food and water become scarce, and sea levels rise ― more and more people are migrating due to climate change impacts. These are often the world’s poorest people, from regions that have done the least to contribute to the severity of the climate crisis.

By disregarding the necessity for bold action on climate change, the Trump administration and climate deniers everywhere (the United States, China, India, and Russia have the highest emission rates) are ensuring that communities across the globe continue to be displaced and have no choice but to migrate for their own survival.
While Trump and many in his administration throw brown and black immigrants under the bus using hateful and racist isolationist tactics, calling for “Muslim Bans” and empowering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deport millions with little to no due process, his administration’s short-sighted and deliberate decisions to invest in the fossil fuel industry means that he is effectively aiding the process of creating more migrants.

It is estimated that by 2050, there will be 200 million people displaced by climate change-related impacts. According to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre, since 2008, an average of 26.4 million people per year have been displaced from their homes by disasters brought on by natural hazards. Climate change causes migration, and people migrate to flee the impacts of climate change on their homelands.
Make no mistake: people should have the right to migrate no matter what. 

However, the majority of migration happens because people need access to a better life.

 If there is no way for them to live in their homelands ravaged by climate change and other socio-economic impacts, they are left with no choice but to move.
In the United States, people in the Gulf are already being internally displaced due to rising sea levels.

We see this all over the world.

 In the United States, people in the Gulf are already being internally displaced due to rising sea levels. 

Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, home to the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, has lost 98% of its land and most of its population to coastal erosion and rising sea levels since 1955. 

The population of the island is now down to less than 85 residents from the previous hundreds. In January 2016, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funded The Isle de Jean Charles Resettlement Project, the first allocation of federal dollars to move 400 tribe members struggling with the impacts of climate change to inland locations. (This year, the Trump Administration is proposing to slash the HUD budget by 6 billion).
In Mexico, farmers have been dealing with severe drought for decades, leading to a loss of agricultural productivity.

 The outcome?

 More rural Mexicans are migrating to the United States for better futures.

 One study found climate change-driven changes to agricultural livelihoods have impacted the rate of emigration to the United States, estimating that by 2080, climate change-induced migration from Mexico could be up to $6.7 million. Another study argues that undocumented migration to the U.S from rural Mexico very much has to do with climate change and the declining livelihoods of farmers facing droughts and lack of rainfall.
And while many factors have led to the conflict in Syria, some argue that severe drought that started in 2006, worsened by a warming climate, drove Syrian farmers to abandon their crops and flock to cities, helping trigger the civil war. It is widely acknowledged, including by the Pentagon, that climate change acts as a threat multiplier, intensifying conflict and war. The United Nations estimates that there are over five million Syrian refugees now. Within his first 100 days in office, Donald Trump made two attempts to ban refugee resettlement to the U.S from Syria as part of his “Muslim Ban.”
The climate crisis has been decades in the making, but it’s worsening each day that politicians and their fossil fuel ilk sow doubt about its existence. Meanwhile, many Western nations are seeing a rise in xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment at the same time as the displacement of people hits a record high. The road ahead requires that we collectively do what’s right – we must stand up for the rights of migrants everywhere who deserve dignity and respect as they seek better lives for themselves and their families, as we build bold and just solutions to the climate crisis.
That’s why these major actions in the upcoming days are so important. On April 29th, I’ll join tens of thousands in the Peoples Climate March in Washington D.C. There are over 314 sister marches across the United States and around the world. On the 100th day under the Trump administration, we will surround the White House and put forward our vision to build bold solutions for climate, jobs, and justice. Together with a broad spectrum of communities including indigenous peoples, workers, immigrants, and communities of all backgrounds, we understand that mitigating the climate crisis is a matter of social, economic, racial, gender, and immigrant justice.
Then on May 1st, workers and immigrants everywhere will participate in the annual International Workers Day. In light of the assaults on immigrant communities in the United States, this May Day is of particular importance. (Here are just some of the events taking place.) We will harness the energy of the climate march back into our communities to build local solutions and to stand in solidarity with immigrants. We will resoundingly say, “No Ban, No Wall, No Raids,” and push back against a white supremacist and anti-immigrant agenda that aims to divide people, disrespecting the very workers that help uplift America.
There is hope. We’ve seen people fearlessly stand up for justice and it’s imperative that we keep up the momentum. Communities around the world are advocating for more clean energy solutions such as solar paneling and wind power, as well expanding green jobs. We saw the power of inspirational indigenous-led movements like #NoDAPL that called on thousands to push back against destructive pipeline projects. And thousands rose to the occasion to protect and defend immigrants impacted by Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban, as well as to continue to push back against unjust deportations through creating sanctuary spaces.
The clock is ticking for our planet and our communities. Only by seeing these issues as inherently connected can we rise up to demand a fair and just world.

Press link for more: Huffingtonpost.com

Arctic Ice Melt Could Cost Trillions by 2100 #auspol 

Arctic Ice Melt Could Cost The World Trillions Of Dollars By 2100

By Chris Di’Angelo
WASHINGTON — Climate change, driven by greenhouse gas emissions, is causing the Arctic to warm “faster than any other region on Earth,” according to a new international assessment. 

The thaw there is expected to have “major consequences for ecosystems and society,” potentially costing tens of trillions of dollars by the end of this century.
“The Arctic is showing clear evidence of evolving into a new state before mid-century,” with warmer, wetter and more variable conditions, according to the report from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program.
By the late 2030s, the report suggests the Arctic could be completely free of summer sea ice, likely resulting in more extreme weather in southern latitudes. 

Without immediate action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the melting of land-based Arctic ice could raise global sea levels an estimated 10 inches by 2100, threatening coastal communities around the globe. 
“The changes are cumulative, and so what we do in the next five years is really important to slowing down the changes that will happen in the next 30 or 40 years,” James Overland, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and an author of the report, said during a media briefing Tuesday.

 “The emphasis on action and immediacy is one of the key findings [of the report].”
It’s yet another terrifying reminder of what’s in store if humans continue with business as usual. 

Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images
A polar bear looks for food at the edge of the pack ice north of Svalbard, Norway.

The new report adds to the findings of the 2011 “Snow, Water, Ice, Permafrost in the Arctic” study, also coordinated by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program.

 Dozens of scientists contributed to the latest assessment, which mainly covers the five years from 2011 to 2015.
The cumulative cost of the changes unfolding in the Arctic could range from $7 trillion to $90 trillion by 2100, researchers found. 
The 200-plus page report calls on governments around the world to take immediate action to cut carbon emissions and to follow through on commitments made as part of the historic Paris climate pact. 

Such steps could stabilize Arctic temperatures in the later half of the century and prevent nearly 8 inches of additional sea level rise, according to the report. 
“The main message that’s coming through in this report, the main message we’d like to convey, is that over the timescale of the next 50 to 100 years, human actions can make a difference in the trajectory of the Arctic climate system,” contributing author John Walsh, a chief scientist at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska, said in a video accompanying the report.

 “The way the cryosphere — ice and snow — will respond to climate change will depend a lot on the emissions scenarios, which basically are determined by human actions.” 


The assessment comes as President Donald Trump moves to roll back Obama-era policies aimed at reducing the United States’ carbon footprint and fighting climate change. 

Trump previously vowed to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, in which nearly 200 countries committed to cut carbon emissions (there is some indication that cooler heads may prevail).

 He has also dismissed climate change as “bullshit” and a “hoax.” And he has given encouragement to those who support oil and gas development in Arctic waters. 
Margaret Williams, managing director of the World Wildlife Fund’s Arctic Program, said the new report underscores the urgency of reining in emissions and allowing only sustainable development in the Arctic.
“An intact Arctic is critical to our future, but the planet’s air conditioner is in jeopardy,” Williams, who was not involved in the study, said in a statement. “The staggering pace of Arctic warming reinforces the need for scientists to continually engage policymakers and the public about these changes. Smart Arctic policy will come from sound science and shared responsibility.” 
Earlier this month, the International Union for Conservation of Nature called on world leaders to safeguard the Arctic from such threats as oil development and shipping. It highlighted seven marine areas worthy of protection.
This weekend, on Trump’s 100th day in office, thousands of Americans are expected to descend on Washington, D.C., to participate in the People’s Climate March, a demonstration against the president’s environmental policies.

Press link for more: Huffingtonpost.com

Climate Change “The biggest opportunity in the world” #auspol 

Climate change offers huge investment opportunity: experts

By Sophie Hares

TEPIC, Mexico (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Climate change should be grasped as an opportunity to attract vast capital flows into low-carbon investments, create jobs and spur economic growth, rather than viewed as a money-absorbing burden, top officials and experts said.

Yet while trillions of dollars are potentially available for climate investments and countries like India are blazing a trail in bringing cheap solar power to millions, making sure the world’s poorest benefit will prove a major challenge, a World Bank meeting heard late last week.

“It’s the biggest opportunity in the history of the world – it’s the biggest investment opportunity, but we have to have a clear vision, we have to have policy leadership… to bring the world community together to get the financing that is needed to move the momentum more quickly,” former U.S. Vice President Al Gore told the discussion.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said financing climate action could offer a more lucrative home for $8.5 trillion in negative interest rate bonds, $24.5 trillion in very low-yielding government-type bonds and a further $8 trillion in cash, though a clear strategy still needed to be hammered out.
“Quite apart from what you think about climate change, there are opportunities for investments that will give you higher yield than any of those investments in which over $40 trillion is sitting right now,” Kim said.
Swedish Minister for Finance Magdalena Andersson said her country – which introduced a carbon tax 25 years ago – had combined significant emissions cuts with economic growth.
“We really need to mainstream climate policies in all investments and all political decisions,” she said. “But we know that the most cost-effective way of getting investments in the right direction… is to put a price on carbon.”
In the United States, 70 percent of new electricity generation capacity last year came from solar and wind, noted Gore, outlining an opportunity to create a global industry based on clean energy sources, retrofitting buildings and adopting sustainable agriculture and forestry.
“What the world needs is the vision that the solution to our global economic malaise is precisely the solution to the climate crisis,” said Gore, who thought the United States was more than 50 percent likely to remain in the Paris climate change agreement.
SOCIAL JUSTICE
The key is how to unlock financing for economic growth that also brings climate benefits, according to former U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres.
Friday’s launch of a $2 billion green bond fund backed by the International Finance Corporation and asset management firm Amundi could help drive climate investments in developing countries, she added.
“Thinking that climate action is expensive and a burden, and is a responsibility, is so five minutes ago,” she said. “The exponential growth of technologies and the drop in prices (have) made this the best opportunity – and this is (the) story of growth of this century.”
Following China’s lead, countries like India are utilising solar power to “leapfrog” expensive electrification programmes and roll out cheap, clean supplies to those without access to power, the experts said.
Ensuring the world’s poorest countries can tap investment to develop climate-resilient infrastructure and agriculture remains crucial, said the World Bank’s Kim.
“The poor say we have the boot of climate change on our necks every day,” he said.
The world is already dealing with crises linked to climate change pressures, from famine in Africa to Louisiana declaring a state of emergency due to coastal erosion, noted the panel.
“We cannot forget the social justice element of climate action,” said Kim. “We’ve got to maintain our focus and make sure it doesn’t all go towards fancy new technology, but (is) going towards, for example, making sure that every time it rains, people don’t lose their homes.”
(Reporting by Sophie Hares; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit news.trust.org/climate)

Press link for more: Reuters.com