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Decarbonising Australia’s Energy Sector Within One Generation

The transition to a 100% renewable energy system by 2050 is both technically possible and economically viable in the long term.

This report presents two scenarios for transitioning towards a decarbonised energy system and a reference case based on current policies. 

The Advanced Renewables scenario is the focus of this report as it is the most ambitious scenario, resulting in a renewable electricity system by 2030 (for stationary energy) and a fully renewable energy system by 2050.

 The key results of the Advanced Renewables scenario are presented below, and discussed in detail in report alongside the Renewables and Reference scenarios.

Power Sector

• The supply of electricity is 100% renewable by 2030 for stationary power.

 • By 2035 97% of total electricity demand (including electrified transport) is supplied by renewables.

• Energy productivity doubles by 2030.

• All coal power plants shut down by 2030.

• Firm capacity remains at today’s level of approximately 75% throughout the entire scenario period.

Transport Sector

• The supply of energy is 41% renewable by 2035, 64% by 2040 and 100% by 2050.

• Australia is independent from oil imports within one generation.

Industry Sector

• The supply of energy is 50% renewable by 2035 and 100% by 2050.

• Electricity use doubles by 2050 to replace direct fuel consumption.

Primary Energy

• 41% of energy use across all sectors is renewable by 2030, 59% by 2035, 75% by 2040 and 96% by 2050.

Cost Analysis

 New capital investment in the power sector would almost entirely (99%) be directed to renewables and cogeneration until 2050.

• This results in higher investment costs of $800 billion out to 2050, compared to $150 billion in the Reference scenario.

 A large part of the additional investment in renewable power generation capacity goes towards meeting increased demand from the transport and heating sectors (as those sectors switch over to electricity), and towards generating synthetic fuels for use in those sectors.

• Because renewable technologies have no ongoing fuel costs, power sector fuel savings of $340 billion and transport fuel savings of $400 billion more than compensate for the higher investment costs, a net saving of $90 billion.

• The combined power and transport fuel cost savings would cover around 110% of the capital investment cost.

 New renewable power generation needed for a 100% renewable energy system can therefore be financed by fuel cost savings before 2050.

Press link for more: UTS.EDU.AU

Climate change is going to be very bad for the global economy #auspol 

Climate change is going to be very bad for the global economy

Extreme heat, it turns out, is very bad for the economy. Crops fail. People work less, and are less productive when they do work.
That’s why an increase in extremely hot days is one of the more worrisome prospects of climate change.
To predict just how various countries might suffer or benefit, a team of scientists at Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, have turned to historical records of how temperature affects key aspects of the economy.
When they use this data to estimate how various countries will fare with a warming planet, the news isn’t good.
The average global income is predicted to be 23% less by the end of the century than it would be without climate change. But the effects of a hotter world will be shared very unevenly, with a number of northern countries, including Russia and much of Europe, benefiting from the rising temperatures.
The uneven impact of the warming “could mean a massive restructuring of the global economy,” says Solomon Hsiang, a professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at Berkeley, one of the researchers who have painstakingly documented the historical impact of temperature. Even by 2050 (see map), the variation in the economic fates of countries is striking.
Because poorer countries, including those in much of South America and Africa, already tend to be far hotter than what’s ideal for economic growth, the effect of rising temperatures will be particularly damaging to them. Average income for the world’s poorest 60% of people by century’s end will be 70% below what it would have been without climate change, conclude Hsiang and his coauthors in a recent Nature paper. The result of the rising temperatures, he says, “will be a huge redistribution of wealth from the global poor to the wealthy.”
Change in gross domestic product per capita relative to a world without global warming
Hotter weather is just one of the effects of climate change; shifts in rainfall and an increase in severe weather like hurricanes are among the others.
But by analyzing temperatures alone, Hsiang and his coworkers have provided more precise estimates of how climate change could affect the economy. It turns out, Hsiang says, that temperature has a surprisingly consistent effect on different economic inputs: labor supply, labor productivity, and crop yields all drop off dramatically between 20 °C and 30 °C.
“Whether you’re looking at crops or people, hot days are bad,” he says. “Even in the richest and most technologically advanced nation in the world, you will see [the negative effects],” he says, citing data showing that a day over 30 °C in an average U.S. county costs each resident $20 in unearned income. “It’s real money.”
The number of days above 95 °F (35 °C) will rise dramatically in many parts of the United States if climate change continues unabated
Of course, the idea that hot temperatures affect agriculture and the way we work and feel is not new. Indeed, Hsiang points to studies done in the early 20th century on the optimum temperatures for factory workers and soldiers. But he and his colleagues have quantified how changes in temperature alter overall economic productivity for entire countries.
Hsiang and his coworkers examined both the annual economic performance in each country and the average yearly temperatures from 1960 to 2010. Then they used advanced statistical techniques to isolate temperature effects from other variables, such as changes in policies and financial cycles. Such analysis, he says, is possible because much more historical data is available, and computational power has increased enough to handle it. Then, by using climate models to project future temperatures, the researchers were able to estimate economic growth over the rest of the century if these historical patterns hold true.
Hsiang has also looked at how hot temperatures affect social behaviors and health, concluding that they increase violence and mortality (see charts). What he calls his “obsession” with the social effects of temperature can be traced to his training in the physical sciences. Temperature plays an essential and obvious role in chemistry and physics, but its effects on society and human behavior have been less appreciated.
And yet, as his recent work has confirmed, the climate “is fundamental to our economy,” says Hsiang. Now he’s hoping to provide new understanding of just how an increasingly hot world will affect our future prosperity.
Press link for more: Business insider.com

Science battles conservative politics. #auspol A fight for our survival.

In the two decades since Ben Santer helped write a landmark international report linking global warming and human activity, he’s been criticized by politicians, accused of falsifying his data and rewarded with a dead rat on his doorstep. 
He describes it as “background noise,” and he tries to tune it out as he presses forward with his research from a dim office the size of a walk-in closet at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory east of San Francisco. But the presidential election could crank up the volume for Santer and his colleagues: As federal government scientists, their new boss will be President-elect Donald Trump, who once described global warming as a hoax.

“Imagine, if you will, that you devoted your entire career to doing one thing. Doing it as well as you possibly can,” Santer said. “And someone comes along and says everything you’ve done is worthless.” 
Trump’s victory sent shockwaves through the environmental community, but fears are particularly heightened among scientists who are employed by the federal government or rely on the data it generates. There are concerns that younger generations may avoid working for U.S. agencies or decide not to focus on climate change because they don’t see a future working in the field.
The election may have already had a chilling effect: Some working in national laboratories declined to speak about the impact the next administration could have on research they consider to be crucial to the fate of the planet. 
Santer has responded differently. Although he’s soft-spoken in person, the 61-year-old scientist has become more vocal over the years in hopes of beating back claims that climate change isn’t real. Noticing the grim mood in his office after the election, Santer wrote an essay that he forwarded to friends to post online. 
“This is not the time for despair,” wrote Santer, who is as meticulous with his words as colleagues say he is with his research. “It’s time for leaving the sidelines and entering the public arena.”
Perhaps, he said, incoming officials can still be convinced of the science to which he’s dedicated his life. 
“Maybe there are people in the new administration who are willing to sit down and be educated and have a conversation,” Santer said. “I have to hope that there are those people.”
While Trump has pledged to keep an “open mind” when it comes to addressing climate change, he’s also expressed doubt about the scientific consensus on the topic. His choice to lead the Department of Energy, which oversees national laboratories like the one where Santer works, is former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who once suggested abolishing the department altogether. He’s also described climate science as a “contrived phony mess.” 

Scientists have viewed other actions by the Trump transition team with alarm, such as a request for the names of department employees who have worked on climate issues.
“They can do a lot of damage in a short period of time,” said Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. The organization is working on a secure channel for government employees to report alleged attempts by the incoming administration to interfere with their research.
Scientists also worry they’ll lose critical information streams from federal agencies such as NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where Trump and congressional Republicans will manage personnel and determine funding. 
“In the current administration there is support … for climate science, and a respect for its findings,” said Michael Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University. “I fear both will simultaneously evaporate in an anti-science presidential administration.”
A spokesman for Trump’s transition team did not respond to a request for comment about whether or how the federal government will support climate change research under the new administration.
National laboratories could prove to be a flashpoint in the brewing tug-of-war between California and Trump. Although Livermore is better known for its nuclear weapons research, there are also 50 researchers, computer scientists and software engineers focused on climate change, with $16 million in federal funding backing them.
“They’re concerned that they could be blacklisted,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin), whose district includes Livermore. Swalwell wrote a letter with 26 congressional colleagues pledging to protect scientists in national laboratories, perhaps with legal action. 
Because the laboratory is managed in a partnership with the University of California, Gov. Jerry Brown has promised to protect their work as president of the Board of Regents.
“I am going to say, ‘Keep your hands off. That laboratory is going to pursue good science,’ ” Brown said in a Dec. 14 speech at a science conference in San Francisco.
“And, if Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite,” he added. “We’re going to collect that data.”
Santer has spent years examining that data. His specialty is “fingerprinting,” or identifying the causes of global warming. For example, an increase in the sun’s output could increase the planet’s temperatures, but in a different way than greenhouse gas emissions from cars and factories.
The ultimate prize, he said, is “the sense that maybe once or twice in your scientific career, you got one tiny piece of the puzzle that nobody else in the world has.”
Follow live coverage of the presidential transition »
Santer went to Madrid in 1995 to help write the second report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which said that “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.” 
“That sentence changed my life,” Santer said. He went on to become a MacArthur fellow and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Santer also became a target, as industry-backed groups attacked his research.
The goal of these campaigns is to “create the appearance that there’s still a ‘scientific debate’ over the existence of global warming,” said Erik Conway, the co-author of “Merchants of Doubt,” which chronicled attempts by industry to undermine scientific findings. “And that debate has been over within science since the 1990s. What the fossil fuel lobby doesn’t want is the public debate to shift from science to solutions, because solving man-made global warming means the end of their current business models.”
It was a disorienting experience for Santer, who remembers his first time testifying before Congress as terrifying.
“It did not feel comfortable or natural for me to be in public settings,” he said.
But instead of retreating, Santer decided to speak out more, viewing that as part of his responsibility as a climate scientist. He said he tailored a research paper to combat attempts by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to cast doubt on whether the planet was significantly warming. 
But Santer knows the playing field is uneven. While his research gets published in scientific journals, politicians are invited on popular late-night shows, like when Cruz chatted about climate change with Seth Meyers in March 2015.
“I would love to have set the record straight on Late Night with Seth Meyers,” Santer deadpanned.
Santer said scientists need to push against misinformation, even if it comes from the federal government that issues their paychecks. And communication is key, he said.
“Why do you think ‘Make America Great Again’ worked?” Santer said. “My theory is the repetition. A simple message, repeated again and again and again.”
He added, “There’s an important lesson there for climate scientists. Somehow we’ve got to find an equally effective way of communicating the message again and again and again.”

Press link for more:  LATimes

Corporate climate risk is all about turning a profit, not fixing the problem #auspol #ClimateChange

Climate change poses a major threat to the future of humanity. Extreme weather, rising seas, ocean acidification and biodiversity collapse will undermine many of the systems on which we depend. 

We’ve even seen a recent example of this, with South Australia’s storm and blackout illustrating the vulnerability of our society to extreme weather.

Risk has become a central construct for how businesses should respond to climate change. As Hank Paulson, former Secretary of the US Treasury has argued, “climate change is not only a risk to the environment but it is the single biggest risk that exists to the economy today”.
The G20 is currently investigating how companies are exposed to climate risk, and how they disclose that risk to consumers.
However, instead of dealing with the larger problem of rapid and systemic decarbonisation, most businesses construct climate risk solely through the lens of profitability and market opportunity.
As part of a broader study into corporations and the climate crisis, we recently published an article in the journal Organization exploring how corporations have responded to climate risks.
What is risk?
Risk management has become a central feature of corporate language. Risk was translated into management in the 1990s after catastrophes and scandals such as the collapse of Barings Bank and the Brent Spar controversy at Shell.
The core assumption here is that risk is somewhere outside the company: it just has to be found and captured. The perception is that corporations are exposed to a variety of objective risks that can be managed through rational decision-making. This might include cost–benefit analysis based on probabilities and consequences. The aim is to make uncertainty manageable.
How companies construct risk involves a number of processes. In relation to climate change, companies seek to break up a complex concept into smaller parts that can be addressed by specific corporate practices and policies. These include:
physical risks such as the potential for extreme weather events such as storms, droughts and fires to impact upon business operations (most evident amongst resource, energy and manufacturing companies with vulnerable infrastructure and supply chains)
regulatory risk, including the potential for governments to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and implement carbon taxes and cap and trade mechanisms
market risks, such as new disruptive, low-carbon technologies that challenge established business models (such Tesla’s reinvention of electric vehicles and mass production of battery storage)
reputational risks, such as the threat of negative customer or community perceptions of companies’ environmental impacts (such as growing consumer awareness of environmentally harmful products such as palm oil or fossil-fuel based energy).
To address these risks, companies seek to minimise the threats and maximise the opportunities. These include practices such as scenario planning and retrofitting infrastructure for extreme weather events, engaging politically and lobbying for better regulation, scanning the market for competitive threats, investing in R&D for new “green” products, and actively marketing and branding themselves as “green” businesses.
However, for corporations to prosper from climate change, the risks associated with it have to be meaningful in a business sense. They have to be able to be valued in monetary terms. For instance, putting a price on carbon means emissions can be factored into business strategies, which then stimulate investments in “green” energy and technologies.
As one manager in a financial services organisation confided to us: “The easiest thing to do, is to go carbon trading. There’s a way to make money!”
These risk framings are then institutionalised through corporate roles and practices (such as pricing carbon internally, restructuring activities to identify new products and markets, and actively managing customer and employee perceptions of corporate activities).
As another sustainability manager outlined: “My job is to keep their risk as low as possible … from regulatory right through to perception and reputation.”
But risk is more complex than that
However, these risk constructions often fail to fully account for the physical and political complexities of climate change.
In insurance for example, the reliance on historical climate models often fails to account for new and extreme weather events. As one senior manager explained:
I mean most people didn’t think it hailed in Melbourne until last year (2010). There was another one in Perth, you know it was classic. It was known in the industry as “unmodelled risk”, which means there isn’t a detailed model of the risk that you can use to price it. Perth – hail in Perth was unknown. I mean completely unknown.

Moreover, consumers, employees and communities often surprise companies and wrong-foot corporate risk modelling.
For instance, despite the claims by financial institutions that they are “sustainability” leaders by reducing their carbon emissions and encouraging corporate clients to adopt more climate friendly practices, NGOs and critics have emphasised how these statements conflict with continued investments in fossil-fuel based energy projects.
This has culminated in a global movement of fossil-fuel divestment which undermines the social legitimacy of these investments.
Corporate risk constructions also exclude non-market understandings which underpin personal and social identity. For example, energy companies which promote coal-seam gas as a cleaner energy source have been caught off guard by vehement political battles with agricultural landholders and communities objecting to fracking as a harmful activity. Here, community and environmental concerns collide with corporate risk calculations, which focus on profitability and the opportunity of increasing commodity prices.
By ignoring these factors, and constructing risk in a way that maximises opportunities and profit, corporations emphasise a vision of human mastery over nature. Like latter-day wizardry, corporate risk calculations suggest that markets and capital can, not only control the natural world, but somehow anticipate it.
These risk calculations downplay the need for radical change and emphasise “business as usual”. Ironically, the devastating environmental change that is supposedly being anticipated and managed by corporate risk management is locked in to an ever more terrifying degree.

Press link for more: theconversation.com

Climate Change, Our Children’s Future and the “Oh Sh*t” Moment #Auspol

Governments from around the world gathered in Morocco over the last two days to discuss how to increase ambition on climate change action. Countries responsible for 90% of the world’s CO2 emissions have submitted their reduction plans in advance of the Paris climate meeting later this year, and their collective efforts still add up to a whole lot of climate change – well over the 2° C limit world leaders set for themselves. As ministers were discussing long-term goals and review periods to ensure the Paris agreement doesn’t lock in low ambition for the long-term, I couldn’t help but wonder whether they fully, deeply realized the implications of what they were doing.
Rolling Stone’s recent interview with President Obama underscores the importance of what it means to truly experience the ramifications of climate change. By that I mean to have the “oh, shit” moment described in the article – the kind of moment that hits you over the head like a sledgehammer. A moment that makes you forever remember where you were when you experienced it, like remembering where you were on 9/11.
Jeff Goodell: “Al Gore once told me that he thinks that everyone who cares deeply about climate change has had what he called an “oh, shit” moment when they realized what’s at stake. What was your “oh, shit” moment?”

President Obama: “Well, I did grow up in Hawaii. And the way that you grow up in Hawaii is probably surprisingly similar to the way some folks grew up here in the Arctic Circle. There are traditions that are very close to the land — in Hawaii, the water — and you have an intimate awareness of how fragile ecosystems can be. There are coral reefs in Hawaii that, when I was growing up, were lush and full of fish, that now, if you go back, are not.

And so I don’t think that there was a eureka moment. In my early speeches in 2007-2008, we were already talking about this and making it a prominent issue. What’s happened during my presidency is each time I get a scientific report, I’m made aware that we have less time than we thought, that this is happening faster than we thought. And what that does for me is to say that we have to ring the alarm louder, faster.”

Reading this, I have to admit my first reaction was, “Aha, that explains it, he never had the ‘oh shit’ moment.” Being aware that ecosystems are fragile is one thing; understanding that climate change is not simply an environmental problem but the defining challenge of his generation is something else entirely. Perhaps I am being unfair. President Obama has taken extraordinary measures to lower US CO2 emissions, especially considering the congressional hand he was dealt.
But it’s nowhere near enough, and I can’t help wonder what more he might have done if he’d experienced a life-changing moment. Would he still have allowed the massive expansion of leases for new coal production on federal land? Would he have given Shell leave to explore for oil in the Chukchi Sea? Might he have killed the Keystone XL pipeline years ago? In other words, would he have abandoned his “all of the above” energy strategy in favor of one that leads us more quickly to a 100% renewable energy future?
We’ll never know, nor will we know how many other government leaders realize that their climate policies – the actions they take to curtail their nations’ greenhouse gas emissions – will be the single most important yardstick for how they will be judged by history.

I remember my own such moment, and how it changed my life. It was the summer of 1988, and I was a proud new mother. One day after work my husband turned to me and said “I’m afraid the world’s not going to be a very nice place when our girl grows up.” He had just received a detailed scientific briefing on climate change and was visibly shaken. I’d known about the issue for some time as I had majored in environmental studies in college. But when he told me about the emerging scientific consensus that we were heading for much deeper trouble than anyone had realized, I burst into tears. Like every new mother I had sworn on everything I held holy that I would keep my child safe. And I was devastated when I realized what that promise would mean in a warming world.
But that realization also made me determined to do whatever I could to defy the odds. And even though the odds have only worsened in the meantime, I remain hopeful.
The latest global energy scenario produced by Greenpeace and the Global Wind Energy Council provides a roadmap for safeguarding our children’s future. And guess what? Their forecasts over the last 15 years have been shown in an independent analysis to have been the most reliable – the ones to have most accurately predicted what eventually came to pass – when compared with the more conservative projections of the International Energy Agency, the US Energy Information Administration, Bloomberg New Energy Finance and many others. We have gone much faster than most analysts had predicted, and we can go much faster still.
Now that my kids have grown up, and the impacts of climate change are being seen all over the world, I can barely imagine the changes they will experience in their lifetimes. Hopefully one of those changes will be the total transition to a world fueled by clean, renewable energy.
As World Bank President Jim Kim said recently, “My son will live through a 2, 3 or maybe even 4 degree Celsius warming. We cannot keep apologizing to our children for our lack of action. We must change course now.” Let’s hope that each and every government leader experiences that defining moment, when they decide to do whatever it takes to protect our children’s future.

Press link for more: Kelly Rigg | huffingtonpost.com

New NASA videos show stark ice loss from Earth’s ice sheets #Auspol #ClimateChange

The US space agency, NASA, yesterday released brand new images showing the pace of ice loss from Earth’s two vast ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica.
The amount of ice lost from the frozen expanses at the very north and south of the planet is accelerating, say the scientists, and together have helped raise global sea level by more than 7cm since 1992.

The Greenland ice sheet covers approximately 1.7m square kilometres (660,000 square miles), an area almost as big as Alaska. At its thickest point, the ice sitting on top of the land is more than 3km deep.
Since 2004, Greenland has been losing an average of 303bn tonnes of ice every year, according to NASA data, with the rate of loss accelerating by 31bn tonnes per year ever year.

The stunning video images above come from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE ) twin-satellite. The satellites orbit the poles, measuring changes to the Earth’s land and water masses and work out differences in the planet’s gravitational field every 30 days. 

Some of the ice lost from Greenland is as result of the huge glaciers melting. But most of it is down to warming air overhead directly melting the surface of the ice sheet. A NASA press release accompanying yesterday’s data explains:
“Greenland’s summer melt season now lasts 70 days longer than it did in the early 1970s. Every summer, warmer air temperatures cause melt over about half of the surface of the ice sheet – although recently, 2012 saw an extreme event where 97% of the ice sheet experienced melt at its top layer.”
Greenland officially reaches the end of the summer melt season next week, when scientists will be able to say how 2015 has compared with previous years in terms of the speed of ice loss.
Changing ocean currents and temperatures are also melting the Greenland ice sheet from the bottom up, scientists say. A new three-year NASA project called Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG ) aims to get a better handle on how the rate of ice loss compares to surface melting.

Covering nearly 14m square kilometres (5.4m square miles), Antarctica is more than eight times the area of Greenland. The continent is also losing ice, though less quickly than its northern counterpart. Antarctica has lost, on average, 118bn tonnes of ice per year since 2004, compared to Greenland’s 303bn tonnes.

The Larsen-B ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula collapsed in 2002, releasing more than 3,200 square kilometres (1,250 square miles) of ice in the space of a month, say NASA scientists. Recent research suggests the Larsen-C ice shelf is at risk of following suit.
West Antarctica grabbed the headlines last year when scientists discovered glaciers in the Amundsen bay were already collapsing. The process was likely to be unstoppable, said scientists, potentially adding several metres to sea levels over the course of many centuries.

Sea level rising
As ice on land melts, it raises global sea levels. On top of the contribution from melting ice sheets and glaciers, sea water expands as it gets warmer, raising sea levels further still.
NASA scientists have been measuring the height of the surface of the ocean in detail since 1992, first with the Topex/Poseidon satellite and later with its successors, Jason-1 and -2.
Together with the GRACE satellites and the ARGO network of more than 3,000 ocean sensors, scientists now have a good idea of how sea levels are changing.
Globally, sea level has risen by about 19cm since the start of the 20th century, 7.4cm in the last 20 years alone. About a third of that is from warming water, the rest from melting land ice, say the NASA scientists.
Differences in sea level rise from one place to another are largely down to ocean currents and natural cycles such El Niño and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, explains Josh Willis, oceanographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and chief scientist behind the coming Jason-3 satellite mission.
But that looks set to change, he says. Scientists predict meltwater from ice sheets will overtake natural cycles to become the most significant contributor to overall sea level change.
Our Future
So, how much more can we expect sea levels to rise?
Steve Nerem, head of NASA’s sea level team, says what we’ve seen so far from the ice sheets is just the beginning. He says:
“Given what we know now about how the ocean expands as it warms and how ice sheets and glaciers are adding water to the seas, it’s pretty certain we are locked into at least 3 feet [91cm] of sea level rise and probably more.”
The question is whether it will happen over the course of this century or longer, says Nerem.
This is at the upper end of the range of 52-98cm by 2100 put forward in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013, assuming emissions stay very high (RCP8.5). But if the ice sheets collapse altogether, we can expect a lot more than that, says Tom Wagner, scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. He says:
“We’ve seen from the paleoclimate record that sea level rise of as much as 10 feet [3m] in a century or two is possible, if the ice sheets fall apart rapidly.”
Scientists have a lot more information about Earth’s ice sheets now than they did a decade or so ago.

Press link for more including videos: Roz Pidcock | carbonbrief.org

Why The Pope Just Met With Dozens Of Mayors About Climate Change (And Human Trafficking) #Auspol

As mayors from more than 60 of the world’s major cities convened on Tuesday, their reason for gathering — addressing “modern slavery and climate change” — was already somewhat unusual. Environmental and human trafficking activists have hosted high-level talks in the past, but this conference managed to pull together leaders from some of the world’s largest population centers to discuss human rights and how to implement effective green policies at the local level — an impressive political feat.

But there was something else peculiar about the meeting: Attendees weren’t cloistered inside the well-worn atriums of the United Nations or pacing the glossy halls of the EU Parliament. Instead, they were huddled behind the ancient walls of Vatican City, where they gathered as part of a climate change-themed conference sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

“We want sustainable development, without excluding the extremely poor,” said Monica Fein, the mayor of Rosario, a city in Pope Francis’ home country of Argentina. “We fundamentally want to leave our children and future generations with a planet that isn’t contaminated.”

To be fair, the location of the conference, while atypical, isn’t totally unexpected. The gathering comes a little over a month after the release of Laudato Si’, a nearly 200-page papal encyclical from Pope Francis focused primarily on climate change issues. Aimed at fellow believers, the document debunked conservative theological claims against protecting the environment and outlined a moral argument for why the world’s Catholics have an obligation to help protect the planet. It was also well-received among climate scientists, who lauded its surprisingly robust engagement with peer-reviewed research.

But outside of its purported theological impact, the document’s real power came from its often unapologetically political language, which hinted at a broader agenda: Namely, a call for real-world policies that can address our changing environment.

“Many signs indicate that [the effects of climate change] could worsen if we continue with current models of production and consumption,” the document read, according to an initial translation conducted by ThinkProgress. “Therefore it is urgent to develop policy so that in the coming years, we drastically reduce carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gas emissions, by, for example, replacing fossil fuels and developing renewable energy sources.”

Tuesday’s convening is one of the first tangible expressions of this sentiment, with the Vatican actively positioning itself as a central organizing force in the fight for climate justice. By gathering climate-conscience mayors from Europe, South America, the United States, and even Iran, the Holy See is slowly crafting a global coalition of partner cities united in their support for helping stem the effects of climate change.

In fact, the 60-plus mayors attending the conference — many of whom are not themselves Catholic — appeared ready to give the pope’s message political teeth. According to the Associated Press, attendees are set to sign a declaration that “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality and its effective control is a moral imperative for humanity.”

“The [pope’s] encyclical is not a call to arms. It is a call to sanity.

“The [pope’s] encyclical is not a call to arms,” New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said in an address to the conference. “It is a call to sanity.”

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who also attended the conference and who once enrolled in a Jesuit seminary, agreed.

“This intervention by the pope is appropriate and absolutely essential to wake people up to the dangers of climate change and to the value of seeing human beings as part of nature and dependent on nature as opposed to be adversaries of each other,” Brown said, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

But the gathering — and, by extension, the Pope’s greater agenda — isn’t limited to technical discussions of carbon emissions. The framing of the conference, which is titled “Modern Slavery and Climate Change: The Commitment of the Cities,” makes the case that climate change causes, or is inextricably connected to, a litany of other global issues such as human trafficking.

“Today we are facing two tragic emergencies that are related in different ways: the climate change crisis and the new forms of slavery,” the conference website reads. “As a matter of fact, global warming is one of the causes of poverty and forced migration, which are breeding grounds for human trafficking, forced labour, prostitution and organ trafficking.”

Indeed, human trafficking is a common risk for immigrants traveling to places like the United States. Female migrants are routinely captured and sold into sex slavery by gangs while journeying northward through remote sections of Mexico and elsewhere. Most currently make the dangerous trek to escape violence in their home countries, but studies conducted by NASA and others show that impending droughts in Central America — where denizens already endure some of the harshest effects of climate change — could create a “new dustbowl,” forcing thousand to flee and likely expanding the scope of the sex-trafficking industry.

At the conference, Toni Chammany, the mayor of Kochi, India, warned that a similar situation is primed to impact his home country. He pointed to India’s ongoing drought, which is forcing farmers to relocate to cities and “pushing them into the dark dungeons of slavery.”

By discussing these two issues at the same conference, the Vatican seems to be signaling that climate change will be the moral fiber that connects its larger global agenda for years to come, which includes addressing issues of economics, immigration, and prisoner’s rights. This will likely prove important come September, when Francis is scheduled to address both the United Nations and a joint session of Congress.

“Laudato Si’ is about much more than caring for nature; we cannot separate care for human beings from everything else,” Francis reportedly said in an address to the conference Tuesday afternoon.

The pontiff also told the assembly that he has “a lot of hope” major climate talks later this year in Paris, France will result in a bold deal to reduce global warming.

Press link for more: Jack Jenkins | thinkprogress.org

Lord Stern: ‘Why Are We Waiting? The Urgency & Promise of Tackling Climate Change’

If we continue with our reckless burning of fossil fuels, there will be widespread war and conflict this century, warns Lord Nicholas Stern, the distinguished chairman of the Grantham Institute on climate change, whilst speaking before a packed auditorium at the London School of Economics on Wednesday.
Former chief economist at the World Bank, and author of a seminal paper on the economics of climate change, Stern certainly understands a thing or two about risk.

“Two centuries of scientific enquiry indicate that the risks from a changing climate over the next hundred years are immense. There is a strong possibility that hundreds of millions of people would have to move. History tells us that this carries serious risks of severe and extended conflict.”

“So, the science has given us the most difficult problem we could possibly have,” argues Stern. And, since his landmark paper came out nearly 10 years ago:
“The science has got riskier, emissions have gone up faster than we thought. And, the effects are coming through, like the melting of the Arctic ice, much quicker than we imagined. Both the science and the risks look far more worrying.”

In order to come up with a solution, Stern says that it is critical to appreciate the scale of the problem.
Each ton of carbon dioxide that it emitted into our atmosphere stays there for thousands of years. And, owing to the accumulative effect of burning oil, gas and coal since the dawn of the Industrial Age, the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has now shot past record highs. CO2 acts like giant blanket heating up the planet.
World temperatures have already risen by nearly one degree celsius, and according to the United Nations, our world is currently on track to warm by more than four degrees celsius by the turn of this century.
A 4C temperature rise will usher in changes not seen since the last Ice Age.
“So, the stakes that we are playing for are immense,” says Stern.

Press link for more: Alko Stevenson | huffingtonpost.com

The Arctic is ‘unraveling’ due to climate change, and the consequences will be global #Auspol

We often hear that climate change is radically reshaping the Arctic, a place many of us have never visited. As a result, it can be pretty hard to feel directly affected by what’s happening up in a distant land of polar bears, ice floes and something odd called permafrost.

new booklet from the  National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council wants to change that. Synthesizing much past academy work on the Arctic region, the booklet– being released just before the United States assumes the chairmanship of the eight-nation Arctic Council later this month — blazons this message: “What Happens in the Arctic Doesn’t Stay in the Arctic.”

Here are four potential ways, drawing both upon the new report and much of our prior reporting here, that changes in the Arctic will reverberate well beyond it and, in some cases, have planet wide consequences:

1. Changing Your Weather

This is controversial, but there is growing scientific research backing the still contested conclusion that changes to the Arctic are leading to changes in weather in the mid-latitudes. The basic idea is that a warmer Arctic plays games with the jet stream, the stream of air high above us in the stratosphere that carries our weather and that is driven by temperature contrasts between the mid and high latitudes.

 2. Changing What You Eat

The National Research Council booklet also notes that warming oceans could have a substantial effect on the fishing industry, which prowls the Arctic and sub-Arctic for a crucial part of its catch. “About half of the U.S. fish catch comes from subarctic waters,” notes the report.

3. Raising Sea Levels.

The melting of ice on land in the Arctic — whether from glaciers and ice caps in the Arctic, or the Greenland ice sheet — contributes to sea level rise that does not stay in the Arctic, but rather, spreads around the world. Greenland is of course the biggest potential contributor, since if it were to melt entirely, it would cause 20 feet of sea level rise.

4. Worsening Global Warming Itself.

Finally, changes in the Arctic are expected to amplify global warming itself. The principal way this could happen is through the thawing of frozen ground or permafrost, which covers much of the Arctic, and which contains huge stores of frozen carbon.

Recent scientific analysis has affirmed that Arctic permafrost is packed with carbon — some 1,330 and 1,580 gigatons worth, and that may be a low end estimate — and that over the course of the century, a substantial fraction will get released to the atmosphere. It would probably happen slowly and steadily, but it could amount to a significant contribution to overall global warming.

Last month, when we learned that Arctic sea ice had reached a new record low for its winter maximum ice extent, former deputy assistant secretary of state Rafe Pomerance said: “The Arctic is unraveling, warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet.”

It’s a powerful quotation, and as the United States takes chairmanship of the Arctic Council on April 24, you shouldn’t assume that “unraveling” is irrelevant to you. We’re all invested in the Arctic, because we’re all invested in the planet.

Press link for more: Chris Mooney | washingtonpost.com