Polar vortex

Coral Reefs Fighting Climate Change #StopAdani #Auspol 

Mike Bloomberg’s New Frontier For Fighting Climate Change: Coral Reefs
Aug 12, 2017 @ 08:00 AM
50 Reefs

Great Barrier Reef (2017), Photo Courtesy of 50 Reefs
50 Reefs, a $2 million initiative funded by Michael Bloomberg, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen and the Tiffany Co. Foundation, launched a platform on Thursday to take non-divers to the world’s biggest coral reefs — without getting them wet. 

Instead of a pleasant journey of the oceanic world, however, the initiative reveals a world through 360° images on Facebook where corals from the Great Barrier Reefs to Cook Islands die rapidly and the species that rely heavily on them disappear.

While coral reefs support 25% of all marine life worldwide, they are estimated to have a value of at least $1 trillion, generating $300 to 400 billion each year through food, tourism, fisheries, and medicines, according to the Word Wildlife Fund.

 50 Reefs says that 90% of coral reefs have been dying of overfishing, pollution and climate change, and will keep on dying in the next 30 years even with the Paris Climate Agreement in place. 

The initiative is now taking its fight to Washington, D.C. to push for immediate action, despite the fact that President Trump declared in June that the U.S. is pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
“I realized most of the issues underwater are big communication challenges,” says Richard Vevers, whose nonprofit Ocean Agency is now spearheading the 50 Reefs initiative together with the University of Queensland.

 “The fact that people can’t see what’s going on underwater is a major issue,” he adds. 

Having documented the biggest global coral bleaching (dying off) event in history in the past three years, Vevers came up with an ambitious but what he calls a “manageable” project that would allow him and his team to identify reefs that are least vulnerable to climate change and then get them to reseed.

 “Corals are brilliant at essentially recovery once the environment they’re in is stabilized,” he says, “We are buying time so they can bounce back as naturally as possible.”
Upon hearing the concept of 50 Reefs, Bloomberg’s foundation reached out to Vevers in late 2016, and he showed the organization footage from his award-winning Netflix documentary, Chasing Coral, which debuted on the streaming service on July 14.

 In a time lapse video, coral reefs faded from florescent pink to white, and then to dark brown. “Their flesh is becoming clear, and you’re seeing their skeleton,” Vevers describes. Bloomberg, who is the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, is one of the largest ocean donors and donated $53 million in 2014 to address overfishing, a catalyzer of coral bleaching.
Climate change hits the oceans harder than anywhere else and coral reefs are the “frontline of climate change,” according to Vevers. “Ninety three percent of the heat goes into the ocean,” the activist says: The Great Barrier Reef lost nearly half its corals in 2016 and 2017. Yet, he sees this environmental catastrophe as an opportunity for humanity to bounce back as well. “We’ve always portrayed climate change and climate action as something negative,” he says, “That’s the wrong way of communicating it. It’s about the business opportunities and it’s about improving lives.”

Press link for more: Forbes.com

A Failure of Imagination on Climate Risk #StopAdani

A failure of imagination on climate risks
By Ian Dunlop and David Spratt

This is an extract from Disaster Alley: Climate change, conflict and risk published recently by Breakthrough.
Climate change is an existential risk that could abruptly end human civilisation because of a catastrophic “failure of imagination” by global leaders to understand and act on the science and evidence before them.

At the London School of Economics in 2008, Queen Elizabeth questioned: “Why did no one foresee the timing, extent and severity of the Global Financial Crisis?” The British Academy answered a year later: “A psychology of denial gripped the financial and corporate world… [it was] the failure of the collective imagination of many bright people… to understand the risks to the system as a whole”.
A “failure of imagination” has also been identified as one of the reasons for the breakdown in US intelligence around the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
A similar failure is occurring with climate change today.
The problem is widespread at the senior levels of government and global corporations. A 2016 report, Thinking the unthinkable, based on interviews with top leaders around the world, found that:

“A proliferation of ‘unthinkable’ events… has revealed a new fragility at the highest levels of corporate and public service leaderships. Their ability to spot, identify and handle unexpected, non-normative events is… perilously inadequate at critical moments… Remarkably, there remains a deep reluctance, or what might be called ‘executive myopia’, to see and contemplate even the possibility that ‘unthinkables’ might happen, let alone how to handle them.

 Such failures are manifested in two ways in climate policy. At the political, bureaucratic and business level in underplaying the high-end risks and in failing to recognise that the existential risk of climate change is totally different from other risk categories. And at the research level in underestimating the rate of climate change impact and costs, along with an under-emphasis on, and poor communication of, those high-end risks.

Existential risk
An existential risk is an adverse outcome that would either annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential. For example, a big meteor impact, large-scale nuclear war, or sea levels 70 metres higher than today.
Existential risks are not amenable to the reactive (learn from failure) approach of conventional risk management, and we cannot necessarily rely on the institutions, moral norms, or social attitudes developed from our experience with managing other sorts of risks. Because the consequences are so severe — perhaps the end of human global civilisation as we know it — researchers say that “even for an honest, truth-seeking, and well-intentioned investigator it is difficult to think and act rationally in regard to… existential risks”.
Yet the evidence is clear that climate change already poses an existential risk to global economic and societal stability and to human civilisation that requires an emergency response. Temperature rises that are now in prospect could reduce the global human population by 80% or 90%. But this conversation is taboo, and the few who speak out are admonished as being overly alarmist.
Prof. Kevin Anderson considers that “a 4°C future [relative to pre-industrial levels] is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable”. He says: “If you have got a population of nine billion by 2050 and you hit 4°C, 5°C or 6°C, you might have half a billion people surviving”. Asked at a 2011 conference in Melbourne about the difference between a 2°C world and a 4°C world, Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber replied in two words: “Human civilisation”.
The World Bank reports: “There is no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible”. Amongst other impacts, a 4°C warming would trigger the loss of both polar ice caps, eventually resulting, at equilibrium, in a 70-metre rise in sea level.
The present path of greenhouse gas emissions commits us to a 4–5°C temperature increase relative to pre-industrial levels. Even at 3°C of warming we could face “outright chaos” and “nuclear war is possible”, according to the 2007 The Age of Consequences report by two US think tanks.
Yet this is the world we are now entering. The Paris climate agreement voluntary emission reduction commitments, if implemented, would result in the planet warming by 3°C, with a 50% chance of exceeding that amount.
This does not take into account “long-term” carbon-cycle feedbacks — such as permafrost thaw and declining efficiency of ocean and terrestrial carbon sinks, which are now becoming relevant. If these are considered, the Paris emissions path has more than a 50% chance of exceeding 4°C warming. (Technically, accounting for these feedbacks means using a higher figure for the system’s “climate sensitivity” — which is a measure of the temperature increase resulting from a doubling of the level of greenhouse gases — to calculate the warming. A median figure often used for climate sensitivity is ~3°C, but research from MIT shows that with a higher climate sensitivity figure of 4.5°C, which would account for feedbacks, the Paris path would lead to around 5°C of warming.)
So we are looking at a greater than one-in-two chance of either annihilating intelligent life, or permanently and drastically curtailing its potential development.

Clearly these end-of-civilisation scenarios are not being considered even by risk-conscious leaders in politics and business, which is an epic failure of imagination.
Of course, the world hopes to do a great deal better than Paris, but it may do far worse. A recent survey of 656 participants involved in international climate policy-making showed only half considered the Paris climate negotiations were useful, and 70% did not expect that the majority of countries would fulfill their promises.
Human civilisation faces unacceptably high chances of being brought undone by climate change’s existential risks yet, extraordinarily, this conversation is rarely heard.
The Global Challenges Foundation (GCF) says that despite scientific evidence that risks associated with tipping points “increase disproportionately as temperature increases from 1°C to 2°C, and become high above 3°C”, political negotiations have consistently disregarded the high-end scenarios that could lead to abrupt or irreversible climate change. In its Global Catastrophic Risks 2017 report, it concludes that “the world is currently completely unprepared to envisage, and even less deal with, the consequences of catastrophic climate change”. 

Paris emissions path (in blue), not accounting for “long-term” carbon-cycle feedbacks (Climate Interactive)
Scholarly reticence
The scientific community has generally underestimated the likely rate of climate change impacts and costs. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports are years out of date upon publication. Sir Nicholas Stern wrote of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report: “Essentially it reported on a body of literature that had systematically and grossly underestimated the risks [and costs] of unmanaged climate change”.
Too often, mitigation and adaptation policy is based on least-drama, consensus scientific projections that downplay what Prof. Ross Garnaut called the “bad possibilities”, that is, the lower-probability outcomes with higher impacts. In his 2011 climate science update for the Australian Government, Garnaut questioned whether climate research had a conservative “systematic bias” due to “scholarly reticence”. He pointed to a pattern, across diverse intellectual fields, of research predictions being “not too far away from the mainstream” expectations and observed in the climate field that this “has been associated with understatement of the risks” 
 In 2007, The Age of Consequences reported:

“Our group found that, generally speaking, most scientific predictions in the overall arena of climate change over the last two decades, when compared with ultimate outcomes, have been consistently below what has actually transpired. There are perhaps many reasons for this tendency—an innate scientific caution, an incomplete data set, a tendency for scientists to steer away from controversy, persistent efforts by some to discredit climate “alarmists,” to name but a few”.

For many critical components of the climate system, we can identify just how fast our understanding is changing. Successive IPCC reports have been reticent on key climate system issues:

Coral reefs: Just a decade or two ago, the general view in the literature was that the survival of coral systems would be threatened by 2°C warming. In 2009, research was published suggesting that preserving more than 10% of coral reefs worldwide would require limiting warming to below 1.5°C. The coral bleaching events of the last two years at just 1-1.2°C of warming indicate that coral reefs are now sliding into global-warming-driven terminal decline. Three-quarters of the Great Barrier Reef has been lost in the last three decades, with climate change a significant cause.

Arctic sea ice: In 2007, the IPCC reported that late summer sea-ice was “projected to disappear almost completely towards the end of the 21st century”, even as it was collapsing in the northern summer of that year. In 2014, the IPCC had ice-free projections to 2100 for only the highest of four emissions scenarios. In reality, Arctic sea ice has already lost 70% of summer volume compared to just thirty years ago, and expectations are of sea-ice-free summer within a decade or two.  

Antarctica: In 2001, the IPCC projected no significant ice mass loss by 2100 and, in the 2014 report, said the contribution to sea level rise would “not exceed several tenths of a meter” by 2100. In reality, the Amundsen Sea of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet sector has been destabilised and ice retreat is unstoppable for the current climate state. It is likely that no further acceleration in climate change is necessary to trigger the collapse of the rest of the ice sheet, with some scientists suggesting a 3–5 metre sea-level rise within two centuries from West Antarctic melting.

Sea levels: In the 2007 IPCC report, sea levels were projected to rise up to 0.59 metre by 2100. The figure was widely derided by researchers, including the head of NASA’s climate research as being far too conservative. By 2014, the IPCC’s figure was in the range 0.55 to 0.82 metre, but they included the caveat that “levels above the likely range cannot be reliably evaluated.” In reality, most scientists project a metre or more. The US Department of Defence uses scenarios of 1 and 2 metres for risk assessments, and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides an “extreme” scenario of 2.5 metres sea level rise by 2100.

To be useful in a risk context, climate change assessments need:

a much more thorough exploration of the [high-end] tails of the distributions of physical variables such as sea level rise, temperature, and precipitation, where our scientific knowledge base is less complete, and where sophisticated climate models are less helpful. We need greater attention on the strength of uncertain processes and feedbacks in the physical climate system […] (e.g., carbon cycle feedbacks, ice sheet dynamics), as well as on institutional and behavioral feedbacks associated with energy production and consumption, to determine scientifically plausible bounds on total warming and the overall behavior of the climate system. Accomplishing this will require synthesizing multiple lines of scientific evidence […] , including simple and complex models, physical arguments, and paleoclimate data, as well as new modeling experiments to better explore the possibility of extreme scenarios.

A prudent risk-management approach for safeguarding people and protecting their ways of life means a tough and objective look at the real risks to which we are exposed, including climate and conflict risks, and especially those “fat tail” events whose consequences are damaging beyond quantification, and which human civilization, as we know it, would be lucky to survive. We must understand the potential of, and plan for, the worst that can happen and be relieved if it doesn’t. If we focus on “middle of the road” outcomes, and ignore the “high-end” possibilities, we will probably end up with catastrophic outcomes that could have been avoided.
It is not a question of whether we may suffer a failure of imagination. We already have.
Yet people understand climate risks, even as political leaders wilfully underplay or ignore them. 84% of 8000 people in eight countries recently surveyed for the Global Challenges Foundation consider climate change a “global catastrophic risk”. The figure for Australia was 75%. The GCF report found that many people now see climate change as a bigger threat than other concerns such as epidemics, population growth, weapons of mass destruction and the rise of artificial intelligence threats. GCF vice-president Mats Andersson says “there’s certainly a huge gap between what people expect from politicians and what politicians are doing”.

The same survey found 81% of the 1000 Australians polled agreed with the proposition: “Do you think we should try to prevent climate catastrophes, which might not occur for several decades or centuries, even if it requires making considerable changes that impact on our current living standards?”.

Press link for more: Climate Code Red

“Fossil fuels are dead” #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol 

‘Fossil fuels are dead’ says rail baron who hauls 800,000 carloads of coal a year
CEO of CSX won’t buy any new locomotives for coal, undercutting Trump’s claims coal can be revived.

A CSX freight train that derailed in 2012. CREDIT: AP/Patrick Semansky

There’s no future in transporting coal, says Hunter Harrison, CEO of CSX freight railroad.
Harrison told analysts on Wednesday that CSX, one of the country’s largest transporters of coal, won’t buy any new locomotives to haul the fuel. 

“Coal is not a long-term issue,” he said. 

The company currently hauls some 800,000 carloads of coal a year.
“Fossil fuels are dead,” Harrison continued.

 “That’s a long-term view. 

It’s not going to happen overnight. 

It’s not going to be in two or three years.

 But it’s going away, in my view.”
Harrison joins a chorus of experts who understand that economic reality makes President Donald Trump’s pledges to significantly expand the use of coal just empty words.

“These [coal plants] will not reopen whatever anything President Trump does,” as Bloomberg New Energy Finance explained earlier this year, “nor do we see much appetite among investors for ploughing money into U.S. coal extraction — stranded asset risk will trump rhetoric.”
Even a recent draft report for Trump’s Energy Secretary Rick Perry concluded that a large fraction of U.S. coal plants were no longer economic.

Press link for more: Think Progress

Earth too hot for humans! 

A must read in the New York Magazine today.

We’re not doing enough to meet Paris Targets #StopAdani 

Climate change efforts still ‘not nearly enough’ to meet Paris targets

A new clean energy report has a mixed outlook for the future: Wind and solar power will soar in coming decades, but we’ll still be heading toward dangerous levels of global warming. 

The big takeaway from Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s (BNEF) latest analysis is that, despite the explosive growth we’ll see in renewables — thanks to plummeting prices and improving technology — our current efforts simply aren’t sufficient to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the long-term.

This is true regardless of whether President Donald Trump pulls the United States from the international Paris Agreement on climate change, though certainly it will be even harder to reduce emissions if that happens, said Colleen Regan, a BNEF analyst who contributed to the new report.

Analysts considered existing energy policies, observed electricity prices, and price projections to forecast how the global electricity sector might look by 2040. It assumes governments and companies will build the “least-cost” power system possible.
“We see that wind and solar become some of the least-cost options in the 2020s, and that does lead to a significant amount of wind and solar build,” Regan said.
Chinese workers install solar panels in Wuhan, China.

Chinese workers install solar panels in Wuhan, China.
Image: kevin frayer/Getty Images
Those two sources alone could account for 48 percent of installed electricity capacity and 34 percent of electricity output worldwide in around two decades — up from today’s 12 percent and 5 percent, respectively, the report found.
Renewable energy as a whole could attract $7.4 trillion in global investment by 2040. That’s about three-fourths of the total $10.2 trillion that will be spent on new power generation capacity.
About one-fourth of global greenhouse gas emissions come from burning coal, oil, and natural gas for electricity and heat, making it the biggest single source of emissions.
Yet all those developments won’t be sufficient to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels, analysts said, meaning that central goal of the Paris Agreement likely won’t be met.

The BNEF report says global emissions from electricity will likely hit their peak in 2026 as governments and companies shift away from coal and toward lower-carbon sources, such as wind and solar power, in step with the promises of the agreement. 
After peaking, emissions will decline by 1 percent per year out to 2040. That’s in contrast with the International Energy Agency’s forecast, which expects emissions to steadily rise for decades to come.
Yet this rate of decline “is not nearly enough for the climate,” according to the report.
The 2-degree target is the line scientists say we can’t cross if we’re going to avoid catastrophic changes in sea level rise, extreme weather events, precipitation patterns, and other effects.

Still, the report doesn’t mean the world is locked into these projections, or that the Paris treaty is entirely futile. It just means we’ll need to devote far more time and money to fighting climate change than we do today.
And despite the monumental task, the world is already making significant progress in shifting toward a lower-carbon energy mix. In its annual report this week, energy giant BP pointed to the rapid rise of solar and wind power and the long-term decline of coal.
Solar power generation jumped 29.6 percent, while wind power grew by 15.6 percent, according to BP. Coal production, meanwhile, fell by a “whopping” 6.2 percent.
The U.S. hit its own clean energy milestone this spring. 
For the first time, monthly electricity generation from wind and solar exceeded 10 percent of total U.S. generation, based on March data, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported. That’s up from 7 percent for all of 2016.
Globally, carbon emissions have remained essentially flat for the last three years thanks to rising renewable and energy efficiency projects, and to a lesser extent because of sluggish economic growth, BP said.
Countries still have a long way to go to avoid dangerous levels of global warming. But even if we’re not moving fast enough, we’re heading in the right direction, according to these reports.

Press link for more: Yahoo.com

Let’s expose climate denial. #DailyClimateDenial #auspol 

Let’s expose everyday climate denial. Here’s how

A woman wearing a protective pollution mask walks past a billboard in Beijing

You know things are bad when it takes Donald Trump pulling the US out of the Paris agreement for climate change to be discussed during the UK election.

 His climate denial is of the extreme and obvious variety: pages were removed from the Environmental Protection Agency website explaining its causes and consequences when he came into office.

Equally if not more damaging, however, is the daily climate denial that passes mostly unremarked all around us. 

The Institute of Directors recently proposed not one, but two new airport runways for London in a report called Let’s push things forward.

It made no mention of the effect on rising emissions and a better title might have been “Let’s push things over the edge”. 

The oil company BP’s irony free sponsorship of the British Museum’s Sunken Cities exhibition merely highlighted how removed climate now is from our everyday cultural imagination.

Sometimes the denial is about failing to join the dots. 

Such as when Richard Branson rightly complained about how our “everyday actions are gravely hurting the planet”, but remained a fervent advocate of both space tourism and aviation expansion.

 Then there are the companies who know the problem only too well, but still plan their business without regard for internationally agreed climate targets.

Pick up almost any magazine and you’ll see page after page of adverts for huge SUVs and luxury cars, all with emissions unashamedly far above what is comfortably technologically possible, and with no mention of climate.

 Even the travel sections of progressive newspapers see no issue in promoting a culture of guilt-free flying.

How do you change a culture that is so embedded? 

The first step is making people aware that it’s even there. 

That can be done by calling it out whenever it’s spotted using the simple device of social media.

The idea was triggered by an invitation to address the Climate Psychology Alliance which explores issues of action and denial, and owes a debt to the campaign against everyday sexism and that to halt the phenomenon of all male panels at conferences through social shaming.
From this weekend I’ll endeavour to collect and share examples, hashtagged #DailyClimateDenial, through the Twitter account @EverydayDenial and, for now, through my thinktank’s website. 

We can be spellbound by social norms into behaving in ways that can be damaging and self-destructive.

 Yet we’ve seen radical shifts in short periods of time in attitudes to smoking, drink driving, and intolerance toward different sexual identities.
In the age of social media ideas diffuse ever more rapidly, especially when they draw attention to an accumulating and ignored wrong.

 Sometimes all it can take to break the spell is for someone to start pointing things out.

 So, the next time you see a patio heater outside a pub warming thin air and not much else, or other such acts of egregious daily climate denial, snap it, hashtag it, and share it. 

If we call out denial and change attitudes, better policy and action will surely follow.

Press link for more: The Guardian

They may change policy but climate change is still climate science. 

As you know, today the White House announced that the United States would begin the process of leaving the Paris Agreement. 

Removing the United States from the Paris Agreement is a reckless and indefensible action.

 It undermines America’s standing in the world and threatens to damage humanity’s ability to solve the climate crisis in time.  
But disappointment is not despair.
Make no mistake: if President Trump won’t lead, the American people will.
Civic leaders, mayors, governors, CEOs, investors and the majority of the business community will take up this challenge. We are in the middle of a clean energy revolution that no single person or group can stop. 

President Trump’s decision is profoundly in conflict with what the majority of Americans want from our president; but no matter what he does, we will ensure that our inevitable transition to a clean energy economy continues.  

As proof, just look at how communities like Salt Lake City, Utah and Boulder, Colorado are committing to switch to 100 percent renewable electricity. Just last month, California set a new record for clean energy use in the state, and over the past several weeks and months, major corporations and businesses from around the world reaffirmed their commitment to clean energy, the Paris Agreement, and US leadership on climate. The momentum of clean energy and climate action only continues to build, and ignoring that reality is shortsighted and wrong.
Now it’s up to us to pick up where the White House is leaving off. It’s up to us to keep this progress going full steam ahead. If you’re in the US, commit to pushing your local council or mayor to embrace renewable electricity in your community. If you’re outside the US, commit to pressuring your leaders to fulfill your country’s Paris Agreement pledge and keep the process moving.  
My friends, it’s time to fight like our world depends on it. Because it does. And because together we will win.
Al Gore

Founder and Chairman

The Climate Reality Project


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.”
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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.”

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