R&D

Coastal Cities Are Increasingly Vulnerable #ClimateChange #StopAdani 

Coastal Cities Are Increasingly Vulnerable, and So Is the Economy that Relies on Them
Gregory Unruh September 07, 2017

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There was a time a decade or two ago when society could have made a choice to write off our massive investment in a fossil fuel-based economy and begin a policy driven shift towards a cleaner renewable infrastructure that could have forestalled the worst effects of climate change.

 But the challenges of collective action, a lack of political courage, and the power of incumbent pecuniary interests to capture the levers of power meant we did not. 

The bill is now coming due.

That means that many of our great, low-lying coastal cities are what we call “stranded assets.” 

GreenBiz founder Joel Makower defines a stranded asset as “a financial term that describes something that has become obsolete or nonperforming well ahead of its useful life, and must be recorded on a company’s balance sheet as a loss of profit.”

 Makower was talking about Exxon and other companies that built their businesses on the combustion of climate changing fossil fuels, not cities. 

But the concept easily transfers from businesses built on carbon to cities threatened by carbon’s impact.

Consider Miami.

 An invaluable, irreplaceable cultural jewel that will be stranded, both figuratively and literally, by climate change.
How can an entire metropolis that encompasses the lives, culture, and wellbeing of millions be considered “nonperforming?”

 The physical installations, infrastructures, and architecture upon which Miami are founded were built on what we now can see as a flawed assumption.

 An assumption of permanence.

 That the sea’s surface would stay as it had for the entirety of human experience.

 That Atlantic hurricane season would send infrequent storms of knowable magnitude that we could prepare for and ride out. 

It was that perception of permanence and predictability that underlay urban planning and shaped of tens of thousands of investment decisions that fostered billions of dollars of wealth in Miami.

 As long as nothing disturbs that perception, value will continue to accrue on paper.

 But if the perception of permanence that underlies those expectations is undercut, market value will disappear. 

Value is in the eyes of the buyer… until its not.

Climate change in general, and sea level rise in particular, are hard for us to see.

 The tides that surround Miami are elevating at a rate of centimeters per year. 

It is a slow motion train wreck that will be measured in decades, not seconds.

 For now, Miami property buyers don’t see it. 

A 2017 survey found that the majority of property buyers (over two-thirds) don’t ask even their brokers about the implications of climate change and sea level rise on the properties they are buying.

But for those willing to look, the impacts of sea level rise are already evident. 

So-called “sunny day flooding”, (i.e tidal flooding or flooding that occurs without the rain) is already occurring predictably in many parts of Miami, inundating streets, blocking traffic, killing lawns, corroding infrastructure and cars, contaminating groundwater, and reversing sewage systems. 

As sea level rise worsens, the inescapable conclusion is that some point Miami will be inundated and unlivable. 

Absent a civil engineering miracle, the entire city will become a stranded asset that society will have to write off. 

And it’s not alone: Reuters estimates at least $1.4 trillion in property is sitting within 700 feet of the U.S. shoreline, but the number is much probably larger.
When the irrational exuberance about the value of coastal real estate pops and thousands of buyers collectively mark down those assets, it will make the housing bubble of ten years ago look like a small blip.
The consequences will reverberate through the economy, through society and through the political landscape. 

Depending on what Hurricane Irma does, we could get a sobering preview of what that will look like. 

We have already seen the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, a city that was also built on the flawed founding assumption of permanence. 

Houston’s city planners and businesses also ignored warnings as far back as 1996 that climate change would bring exactly the kind of disaster they city is currently suffering today. 

It’s hard to blame them. 

We’ve all ignored the warnings.

We can’t anymore.

 Business leaders and politicians need to begin wrapping their heads around the big idea that climate change may mean huge financial losses in the world’s great coastal metropolises.

Press link for more: Harvard Business Review

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Wake up call: We need to act now on #ClimateChange #auspol 

Wake-Up Call: Asia-Pacific Needs to Act Now on Climate Change
Hans Joachim SchellnhuberAugust 11, 2017

An interview with Founding Director of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

From L) Nobel prize winners French climatologist Jean Jouzel, German physicist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, French physicist Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and French physicist Serge Haroche pose outside the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris. 
Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images
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“The Asian countries hold Earth’s future in their hands. 

If they choose to protect themselves against dangerous climate change, they will help to save the entire planet.” 

That’s how Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a leading climate change researcher and founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, sees it.


He made the comments recently during the launch of a new report from the Asian Development Bank and its research institute. 

The report, A Region at Risk: The Human Dimensions of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific, presents the latest research on the dire consequences of climate change in Asia and the Pacific under a business-as-usual scenario.


Schellnhuber spoke with ADB about the climate-related challenges facing Asia and the Pacific.
Asian Development Bank: What are the main impacts of climate change foreseen under the business-as-usual scenario?
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber: First of all, one needs to get a sense of what it really means. 

We talk about 4 to 6 degrees of warming—planetary warming, so the global average—by 2100 if we do business-as-usual. 


Think of the global mean temperature as your body temperature. 

If you have 2 degrees warming in your body you have fever. 

Six degrees warming means you are dead. 

That’s the metaphor to use for the planet. 

That means with 4 to 6 degrees warming our world would completely change. The world as we know it would disappear.
Maybe it’s most clearly understood in terms of sea level rise. 

One degree warming means at least 3 to 4 meters’ sea level rise; 2 degrees warming would mean 7 or 8 meters’ rise. 

This would simply mean that many of the low-lying island states would disappear. 

Their home would be destroyed. We need to do everything to avoid that.

ADB: How will climate change impact individuals?
Schellnhuber: Just a week ago in Asia you had temperatures of 54 degrees centigrade in Pakistan and in Iran. 

We can calculate that with 5 to 6 degrees global warming you would create uninhabitable zones on this planet. 

There would be regions, in particular in Asia, where you could not survive in the open without air conditioning physiologically. 

Temperatures would hit 60 degrees and it simply would mean that you would have no-go areas.

 Now think of slums, where people do not have air conditioning now. 

There will be places where you cannot work and you cannot survive.


So it is really about, “Can you survive under climate change?” And the answer is, “No”— at least in certain regions in Asia.
ADB: The report also anticipates significant climate-related migration.
Schellnhuber: What we are really worried about is migration and conflict. In the end, all these knock-on effects will heavily impact on national security and international migration. It might mean that hundreds of millions of people will be displaced because of global warming; and you have to accommodate them.
We in Europe just had this experience. In Germany in particular, we have taken up a million refugees. Believe me, this is very hard to digest. Now, we are talking about a million being absorbed by one of the richest countries in the world. Think of hundreds of millions of people being absorbed by poor people, by poorer countries.
If people are displaced in Bangladesh they will generally go to West Bengal in India, for example. If Tuvalu gets inundated, people will hop to the next island. They will not buy a business class ticket and go to Los Angeles.
Digesting, absorbing major migration waves is a challenge I think most of the current nations will not be able to meet. So let’s avoid it.
ADB: What are the implications for business and the regional economy?
Schellnhuber: We often make this joke that the first law of capitalism is, “Don’t kill your customers!” If you kill your customers, you cannot do business. But in a more sober way you can look at the various sectors, agriculture, fisheries, and so on.
For fisheries, climate change comes with ocean acidification. Half of the CO2that we put into the air by burning fossil fuels is absorbed by the oceans. If this isn’t stopped, under a business-as-usual scenario oceans will get so acidic that the coral reefs will dissolve virtually.
Now one-third of marine productivity—including the top predators, fish—is created in the corals. So, the marine business will just be destroyed. The same is true for tourism: If you have no corals you will have no people going to the coral reefs. The Great Barrier Reef, for example, is at stake as well as the Coral Triangle.
We did a study, and this is in the report, of how global supply chains will be disrupted or even interrupted by extreme events. When there were the big floods in Thailand, for example, a sort of wave was created all over the planet. First the computer industry in Japan was hit, and ultimately in the U.S. and so on. You have knock-on effects, cascades of impacts. To put it in one sentence: Climate change is really bad for business.
ADB: How should governments, business, and citizens respond?
Schellnhuber: First, you have to recognize the problem.

 Our report is a wake-up call. 

If you read it you get scared.

 But you need to be scared because the future would be very bleak if we just do business-as-usual. 

Once you know there is a big problem, then you have to assess how the various nations and regions will be affected.

Even 2 degrees warming will deliver a completely new world. 

You have to find out what are you going to do in Vietnam, what are you going to do in South India, in Kazakhstan, in Uzbekistan. 

What needs to happen in Tuvalu and Vanuatu?
First, try to provide the evidence and based on that you can do good projects. But you have to do it within a strategic framework. I would urge ADB to first come up with a differentiated assessment of the situation and then go in and implement best practice and act on the best proposals.
ADB: Do you see any silver lining?
Schellnhuber: People feel there is a trade-off between development and climate protection, but that’s not true. As our report makes clear, if you do not stabilize the climate you will actually destroy the good prospects for development. And if you take climate action in a clever way you will create new opportunities for doing business.
I will give you just one example: The modern society was based on the use of fossil fuels. The industrial revolution started 200 years ago in England and Scotland. 

This was based on using, in a clever way, coal and later gas and oil. But now this model has come to an end.


This may just push us into adopting a new model for growth. Solar energy is abundant in Asia, for example. It is free. The sun is shining without any charge. I think the climate issue is giving us the right push to go into a new industrial model and that will be built on renewables, recycling, a circular economy, and the better use of resources.
In a way, it’s an eye-opener. Because we almost destroyed our civilization through the externality of climate change, we wake up and say, “Oh, there is an even better model of doing sustainable business.”
I think we will have another industrial revolution, even a bigger one. And it will be the most important modernization project in the 21st century. The opportunity is there. Let’s do new business, better business involving more people, and as a nice side effect we will save the planet.
This interview first appeared on the Asian Development Bank’s website.

Press link for more: Brink News

Earth too hot for humans! 

A must read in the New York Magazine today.
http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/climate-change-earth-too-hot-for-humans.html

Climate Change: The Science 

By Justin Gillis
The issue can be overwhelming. 

The science is complicated. 

Predictions about the fate of the planet carry endless caveats and asterisk.

We get it.
So we’ve put together a list of quick answers to often-asked questions about climate change. 

This should give you a running start on understanding the problem.

1. How much is the planet warming up?

2 degrees is actually a significant amount.

As of early 2017, the Earth had warmed by roughly 2 degrees Fahrenheit, or more than 1 degree Celsius, since 1880, when records began at a global scale.

 That figure includes the surface of the ocean. 

The warming is greater over land, and greater still in the Arctic and parts of Antarctica.

The number may sound low. 

We experience much larger temperature swings in our day-to-day lives from weather systems and from the changing of seasons. 

But when you average across the entire planet and over months or years, the temperature differences get far smaller – the variation at the surface of the Earth from one year to the next is measured in fractions of a degree. 

So a rise of 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 19th century is actually high.
The substantial warming that has already occurred explains why much of the world’s land ice is starting to melt and the oceans are rising at an accelerating pace.

 The heat accumulating in the Earth because of human emissions is roughly equal to the heat that would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs exploding across the planet every day.


Scientists believe most and probably all of the warming since 1950 was caused by the human release of greenhouse gases.

 If emissions continue unchecked, they say the global warming could ultimately exceed 8 degrees Fahrenheit, which would transform the planet and undermine its capacity to support a large human population.
2. How much trouble are we in?

For future generations, big trouble.

The risks are much greater over the long run than over the next few decades, but the emissions that create those risks are happening now.

 This means the current generation of people is dooming future generations to a more difficult future. 

How difficult?
Over the coming 25 or 30 years, scientists say, the climate is likely to resemble that of today, although gradually getting warmer, with more of the extreme heat waves that can kill vulnerable people. 

Rainfall will be heavier in many parts of the world, but the periods between rains will most likely grow hotter and drier. 

The number of hurricanes and typhoons may actually fall, but the ones that do occur will draw energy from a hotter ocean surface, and therefore may be more intense. 

Coastal flooding will grow more frequent and damaging, as is already happening.

Longer term, if emissions continue to rise unchecked, the risks are profound. 

Scientists fear climate effects so severe that they might destabilize governments, produce waves of refugees, precipitate the sixth mass extinction of plants and animals in the Earth’s history, and melt the polar ice caps, causing the seas to rise high enough to flood most of the world’s coastal cities.
All of this could take hundreds or even thousands of years to play out, but experts cannot rule out abrupt changes, such as a collapse of agriculture, that would throw civilization into chaos much sooner. Bolder efforts to limit emissions would reduce these risks, or at least slow the effects, but it is already too late to eliminate the risks entirely.
3. Is there anything I can do about climate change?

Fly less, drive less, waste less.

You can reduce your own carbon footprint in lots of simple ways, and most of them will save you money. 

You can plug leaks in your home insulation to save power, install a smart thermostat, switch to more efficient light bulbs, turn off the lights in any room where you are not using them, drive fewer miles by consolidating trips or taking public transit, waste less food and eat less meat.
Perhaps the biggest single thing individuals can do on their own is to take fewer airplane trips; just one or two fewer plane rides per year can save as much in emissions as all the other actions combined.

 If you want to be at the cutting edge, you can look at buying an electric or hybrid car, putting solar panels on your roof, or both.

If you want to offset your emissions, you can buy certificates, with the money going to projects that protect forests, capture greenhouse gases and so forth. 

Some airlines sell these to offset emissions from their flights. You can also buy offset certificates in a private marketplace, from companies such as TerraPass; some people even give these as holiday gifts. 

In states that allow you to choose your own electricity supplier, you can often elect to buy green electricity; you pay slightly more, and the money goes into a fund that helps finance projects like wind farms.
Leading companies are also starting to demand clean energy for their operations. You can pay attention to company policies, patronize the leaders, and let the others know you expect them to do better.
In the end, though, experts do not believe the needed transformation in the energy system can happen without strong state and national policies.

 So speaking up and exercising your rights as a citizen matters as much as anything else you can do.


4. What’s the optimistic case?

Several things have to break our way.

In the best case that scientists can imagine, several things happen: Earth turns out to be less sensitive to greenhouse gases than currently believed; plants and animals manage to adapt to the changes that have already become inevitable; human society develops much greater political will to bring emissions under control; and major technological breakthroughs occur that help society to limit emissions and to adjust to climate change.
Some technological breakthroughs are already making cleaner energy more attractive. 

In the United States, for instance, coal has been losing out to natural gas as a power source, as new drilling technology has made gas more abundant and cheaper; for a given amount of power, gas cuts emissions in half. In addition, the cost of wind and solar power has declined so much that they are now the cheapest power source in a few places, even without subsidies.

Unfortunately, scientists and energy experts say the odds of all these things breaking our way are not very high. 

The Earth could just as easily turn out to be more sensitive to greenhouse gases as less.

 Global warming seems to be causing chaos in parts of the natural world already, and that seems likely to get worse, not better. 

So in the view of the experts, simply banking on rosy assumptions without any real plan would be dangerous. They believe the only way to limit the risks is to limit emissions.

5. Will reducing meat in my diet really help the climate?

Yes, beef especially.

Agriculture of all types produces greenhouse gases that warm the planet, but meat production is especially harmful — and beef is the most environmentally damaging form of meat. Some methods of cattle production demand a lot of land, contributing to destruction of forests; the trees are typically burned, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Other methods require huge amounts of water and fertilizer to grow food for the cows.
The cows themselves produce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that causes short-term warming. Meat consumption is rising worldwide as the population grows, and as economic development makes people richer and better able to afford meat.
This trend is worrisome. Studies have found that if the whole world were to start eating beef at the rate Americans eat it, produced by the methods typically used in the United States, that alone might erase any chance of staying below an internationally agreed-upon limit on global warming. Pork production creates somewhat lower emissions than beef production, and chicken lower still. So reducing your meat consumption, or switching from beef and pork to chicken in your diet, are moves in the right direction. Of course, as with any kind of behavioral change meant to benefit the climate, this will only make a difference if lots of other people do it, too, reducing the overall demand for meat products.
6. What’s the worst case?

There are many.

That is actually hard to say, which is one reason scientists are urging that emissions be cut; they want to limit the possibility of the worst case coming to pass. 
Perhaps the greatest fear is a collapse of food production, accompanied by escalating prices and mass starvation. It is unclear how likely this would be, since farmers are able to adjust their crops and farming techniques, to a degree, to adapt to climatic changes. But we have already seen heat waves contribute to broad crop failures. A decade ago, a big run-up in grain prices precipitated food riots around the world and led to the collapse of at least one government, in Haiti.
Another possibility would be a disintegration of the polar ice sheets, leading to fast-rising seas that would force people to abandon many of the world’s great cities and would lead to the loss of trillions of dollars worth of property and other assets. In places like Florida and Virginia, towns are already starting to have trouble with coastal flooding.  
Scientists also worry about other wild-card events. Will the Asian monsoons become less reliable, for instance? Billions of people depend on the monsoons to provide water for crops, so any disruptions could be catastrophic. Another possibility is a large-scale breakdown of the circulation patterns in the ocean, which could potentially lead to sudden, radical climate shifts across entire continents.
7. ​Will a technology breakthrough help us?

Even Bill Gates says don’t count on it, unless we commit the cash.

As more companies, governments and researchers devote themselves to the problem, the chances of big technological advances are improving. But even many experts who are optimistic about technological solutions warn that current efforts are not enough. For instance, spending on basic energy research is only a quarter to a third of the level that several in-depth reports have recommended. And public spending on agricultural research has stagnated even though climate change poses growing risks to the food supply. People like Bill Gates have argued that crossing our fingers and hoping for technological miracles is not a strategy — we have to spend the money that would make these things more likely to happen. 
8. How much will the seas rise?

The real question is not how high, but how fast.

The ocean is rising at a rate of about a foot per century. That causes severe effects on coastlines, forcing governments and property owners to spend tens of billions of dollars fighting erosion. But if that rate continued, it would probably be manageable, experts say.
The risk is that the rate will accelerate markedly. If emissions continue unchecked, then the temperature at the Earth’s surface could soon resemble a past epoch called the Pliocene, when a great deal of ice melted and the ocean rose by something like 80 feet compared to today. A recent study found that burning all the fossil fuels in the ground would fully melt the polar ice sheets, raising the sea level by more than 160 feet over an unknown period. Many coastal experts believe that even if emissions stopped tomorrow, 15 or 20 feet of sea-level rise is already inevitable.
The crucial issue is probably not how much the oceans are going to rise, but how fast. And on that point, scientists are pretty much flying blind. Their best information comes from studying the Earth’s history, and it suggests that the rate can on occasion hit a foot per decade, which can probably be thought of as the worst case. Even if the rise is much slower, many of the world’s great cities will flood eventually. Studies suggest that big cuts in emissions could slow the rise, buying crucial time for society to adapt to an altered coastline.
9. Are the predictions reliable?

They’re not perfect, but they’re grounded in solid science.

The idea that Earth is sensitive to greenhouse gases is confirmed by many lines of scientific evidence. For instance, the basic physics suggesting that an increase of carbon dioxide traps more heat was discovered in the 19th century, and has been verified in thousands of laboratory experiments.
Climate science does contain uncertainties, of course. The biggest is the degree to which global warming sets off feedback loops, such as a melting of sea ice that will darken the surface and cause more heat to be absorbed, melting more ice, and so forth. It is not clear exactly how much the feedbacks will intensify the warming; some of them could even partly offset it. This uncertainty means that computer forecasts can give only a range of future climate possibilities, not absolute predictions.
But even if those computer forecasts did not exist, a huge amount of evidence suggests that scientists have the basic story right. The most important evidence comes from the study of past climate conditions, a field known as paleoclimate research. The amount of carbon dioxide in the air has fluctuated naturally in the past, and every time it rises, the Earth warms up, ice melts and the ocean rises. A hundred miles inland from today’s East Coast of the United States, seashells can be dug from ancient beaches that are three million years old, a blink of an eye in geologic time.
These past conditions are not a perfect guide to the future, because humans are pumping carbon dioxide into the air far faster than nature has ever done. But they show it would be foolish to assume that modern society is somehow immune to large-scale, threatening changes. 
10. Why do people question the science of climate change?

Hint: ideology.

Most of the attacks on climate science are coming from libertarians and other political conservatives who do not like the policies that have been proposed to fight global warming. Instead of negotiating over those policies and trying to make them more subject to free-market principles, they have taken the approach of blocking them by trying to undermine the science.
This ideological position has been propped up by money from fossil-fuel interests, which have paid to create organizations, fund conferences and the like. The scientific arguments made by these groups usually involve cherry-picking data, such as focusing on short-term blips in the temperature record or in sea ice, while ignoring the long-term trends.
The most extreme version of climate denialism is to claim that scientists are engaged in a worldwide hoax to fool the public so that the government can gain greater control over people’s lives. As the arguments have become more strained, many oil and coal companies have begun to distance themselves publicly from climate denialism, but some are still helping to finance the campaigns of politicians who espouse such views.
11. Is crazy weather tied to climate change?

In some cases, yes.

Scientists have published strong evidence that the warming climate is making heat waves more frequent and intense. It is also causing heavier rainstorms, and coastal flooding is getting worse as the oceans rise because of human emissions. Global warming has intensified droughts in regions like the Middle East, and it may have strengthened a recent drought in California.
In many other cases, though, the linkage to global warming for particular trends is uncertain or disputed. That is partly from a lack of good historical weather data, but it is also scientifically unclear how certain types of events may be influenced by the changing climate.
Another factor: While the climate is changing, people’s perceptions may be changing faster. The Internet has made us all more aware of weather disasters in distant places. On social media, people have a tendency to attribute virtually any disaster to climate change, but in many cases there is little or no scientific support for doing so.
12. Will anyone benefit from global warming?

In certain ways, yes.

Countries with huge, frozen hinterlands, including Canada and Russia, could see some economic benefits as global warming makes agriculture, mining and the like more possible in those places. It is perhaps no accident that the Russians have always been reluctant to make ambitious climate commitments, and President Vladimir V. Putin has publicly questioned the science of climate change.
However, both of those countries could suffer enormous damage to their natural resources; escalating fires in Russia are already killing millions of acres of forests per year. Moreover, some experts believe countries that view themselves as likely winners from global warming will come to see the matter differently once they are swamped by millions of refugees from less fortunate lands.
13. Is there any reason for hope?

If you share this with 50 friends, maybe.

Scientists have been warning since the 1980s that strong policies were needed to limit emissions. Those warnings were ignored, and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were allowed to build up to potentially dangerous levels. So the hour is late.
But after 20 years of largely fruitless diplomacy, the governments of the world are finally starting to take the problem seriously. A deal reached in Paris in late 2015 commits nearly every country to some kind of action. President Trump decided in 2017 to pull the United States out of that deal, saying it would unfairly burden American businesses. But other countries are promising to go forward with it anyway, and some states and cities have defied Mr. Trump by adopting more ambitious climate goals.
Religious leaders like Pope Francis are speaking out. Low-emission technologies, such as electric cars, are improving. Leading corporations are making bold promises to switch to renewable power and stop forest destruction.
What is still largely missing in all this are the voices of ordinary citizens. Because politicians have a hard time thinking beyond the next election, they tend to tackle hard problems only when the public rises up and demands it.
14. How does agriculture affect climate change?

It’s a big contributor, but there are signs of progress.

The environmental pressures from global agriculture are enormous. Global demand for beef and for animal feed, for instance, has led farmers to cut down large swaths of the Amazon forest.
Brazil adopted tough oversight and managed to cut deforestation in the Amazon by 80 percent in a decade. But the gains there are fragile, and severe problems continue in other parts of the world, such as aggressive forest clearing in Indonesia.
Scores of companies and organizations, including major manufacturers of consumer products, signed a declaration in New York in 2014 pledging to cut deforestation in half by 2020, and to cut it out completely by 2030. The companies that signed the pact are now struggling to figure out how to deliver on that promise.
Many forest experts consider meeting the pledge to be difficult, but possible. They say consumers must keep up the pressure on companies that use ingredients like palm oil in products ranging from soap to lipstick to ice cream. People can also help the cause by altering their diets to eat less meat, and particularly less beef.
15. Will the seas rise evenly across the planet?

Think lumpy.

Many people imagine the ocean to be like a bathtub, where the water level is consistent all the way around. In fact, the sea is rather lumpy — strong winds and other factors can cause water to pile up in some spots, and to be lower in others.
Also, the huge ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica exert a gravitational pull on the sea, drawing water toward them. As they melt, sea levels in their vicinity will fall as the water gets redistributed to distant areas.
How the rising ocean affects particular parts of the world will therefore depend on which ice sheet melts fastest, how winds and currents shift, and other related factors. On top of all that, some coastal areas are sinking as the sea rises, so they get a double whammy.
16. What are ‘carbon emissions?’

Here’s a quick explainer.

The greenhouse gases being released by human activity are often called “carbon emissions,” just for shorthand. That is because the two most important of the gases, carbon dioxide and methane, contain carbon. Many other gases also trap heat near the Earth’s surface, and many human activities cause the release of such gases to the atmosphere. Not all of these actually contain carbon, but they have all come to be referred to by the same shorthand.
By far the biggest factor causing global warming is the burning of fossil fuels for electricity and transportation. That process takes carbon that has been underground for millions of years and moves it into the atmosphere, as carbon dioxide, where it will influence the climate for many centuries into the future. Methane is even more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, but it breaks down more quickly in the air. Methane comes from swamps, from the decay of food in landfills, from cattle and dairy farming, and from leaks in natural gas wells and pipelines.
While fossil-fuel emissions are the major issue, another major creator of emissions is the destruction of forests, particularly in the tropics. Billions of tons of carbon are stored in trees, and when forests are cleared, much of the vegetation is burned, sending that carbon into the air as carbon dioxide.
When you hear about carbon taxes, carbon trading and so on, these are just shorthand descriptions of methods designed to limit greenhouse emissions or to make them more expensive so that people will be encouraged to conserve fuel.

Press link for more: NY Times

If we burn all the coal we heat the planet by 8C #StopAdani

On our current trajectory, climate change is expected to intensify over the coming decades. 


If no policy actions are taken to restrict GHG emissions, expected warming would be on track for 8.1°F (4.5°C) by 2100. 

Strikingly, this amount of warming is actually less than would be expected if all currently known fossil fuel resources were consumed. 

Were this to occur, total future warming would be 14.5°F (8°C), fueled largely by the world’s vast coal resources.
The United States will not be insulated from a changing climate. 

If global emissions continue on their current path, average summer temperatures in 13 U.S. states and the District of Columbia would rise above 85°F (29.4°C) by the end of the 21st century, well above the 76 to 82°F (24 to 28°C) range experienced by these same states during the 1981–2010 period (Climate Prospectus n.d.). 

Climate change will lead to increased flooding, necessitating migration away from some low-lying areas; it will also lead to drought and heat-related damages (Ackerman and Stanton 2008).
There is no question that the United States has begun to make important progress on climate change. 

U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2016 were nearly 15 percent below their 2005 peak, marking the lowest level of emissions since 1992 (EIA 2017a). 

The drop was largely driven by recent reductions in the electric power sector, where inexpensive natural gas is displacing more carbon-intensive coal-fired generation and renewables like wind and solar are slowly gaining market share.


However, large challenges remain.

 Avoiding dangerous future climate change will require reductions in GHG emissions far greater than what have already been achieved.

 Though progress in reducing emissions associated with electric power provides cause for optimism, developments in other sectors are less encouraging.

 In particular, transportation recently surpassed electric power generation as the largest source of U.S. emissions and is projected to be a more important contributor in coming years. 

Transportation CO2 emissions have increased despite strengthened fuel efficiency standards that aim to reduce emissions, suggesting that a review of this policy is warranted.


Moreover, climate change is a global problem. 

Recent gains in the United States have been offset by rising emissions elsewhere in the world. 

In past decades, most global emissions originated in the developed nations of Europe and North America. 

However, new GHG emissions are increasingly generated by China, India, and other developing economies, where economic growth and improving living standards are highly dependent on access to reliable, affordable energy. 

Today, that largely means coal. 



As economic and population growth surges in these countries, GHG emissions will rise accordingly; as a result, global emissions will continue to rise despite stabilization in Europe and the United States.
Numerous technologies—from nuclear power and carbon capture and sequestration to cheaper renewables and energy storage—hold considerable promise for addressing the global climate challenge.

 Yet current economic conditions do not favor the large-scale implementation of these technologies in developed or developing countries. 

Rapidly deploying these solutions on a large scale would almost certainly require some combination of expanded research and development (R&D) investments and carbon pricing, the policy interventions recommended by economic theory.
It remains uncertain whether policy makers around the world will be successful in responding to the threat of climate change. 

The consensus view of the scientific community is that future warming should be limited to 3.6°F (2°C) (Jones, Sterman and Johnston 2016).

 Achieving that target would require much more dramatic actions than have been implemented globally, with global CO2 emissions falling to near zero by 2100.
The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution and The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago aim to support broadly shared economic growth. 

This jointly written document provides useful context for a discussion of the dangers to the economy posed by climate change and the policy tools for addressing those dangers. 

Given the immense threat that climate change represents, it is crucial that policy makers implement efficient solutions that minimize climate damages from our use of energy.

Press link for more: Brookings.edu

Frydenberg’s carbon capture pipe dream. #StopAdani #Auspol 

By Paul Bongiorno


Frydenberg’s carbon capture pipe dream

Back in 2008 under the perennially polluted grey skies of Beijing, then prime minister Kevin Rudd took a busload of press gallery journalists to the 800 megawatt coal-fired power station in the suburb of Gaobeidian.

 The purpose: to see a functioning pilot program in carbon capture.
On top of the smoke stacks was a device capturing 3000 tonnes of carbon and sulphur gases a year – 2 per cent of the plant’s emissions. 

“A small beginning,” Rudd conceded. 

The $4 million Australian-funded program was developed with the co-operation of the CSIRO. 

A seasoned reporter asked one of the scientists what happened to the captured pollutants. 

The media pack was taken around the corner of the plant, where there was an exhaust outlet. “We let it go,” was the answer. 

The scientist explained that working out how to store the stuff was another project.
It still is.

So it was with some bemusement that some of the old hacks who were on that trip greeted Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg’s announcement that he would remove the legislative prohibition on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to allow it to support investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS). 

The very optimistic minister said such technology could reduce emissions by up to 90 per cent.
ONE CCS PLANT VISITED BY THE ENERGY MINISTER – PETRA NOVA IN TEXAS – COST $US1 BILLION.

 IT’S TOUTED AS THE WORLD’S MOST SUCCESSFUL OPERATION, YET IT CAPTURES ONLY ABOUT 6 PER CENT OF THE OUTPUT OF ITS ADJACENT POWER STATION.

According to its mandate, the $10 billion so-called Green Bank must lend funds to viable projects that would lead to a healthy return on investment.

 Indeed the CEFC – which the Liberals under Tony Abbott wanted to abolish – has been very successful in funding renewable energy projects that have turned a nice profit for taxpayers.
Frydenberg quite reasonably argues that excluding the Green Bank from investing in technology that would deliver clean coal as a reliable energy source is not incompatible with its original mission.

 Except the Greens insisted the Gillard government exclude anything to do with coal from the bank’s mandate. 

“Renewables are the future” was their firm conviction, then and now: taxpayers should invest in the future and leave coal to the billionaires who profit from it to pay their own way in seeking to keep it commercially feasible.
Labor’s Bill Shorten says the government’s announcement is nothing more than kite flying: “It seems like they’re trying to feed some red meat to the right wing of the Liberal Party. 

I think the government needs to explain what is a viable project they want to invest in?”

 Indeed, earlier on the day of the Frydenberg announcement the prime minister told the Coalition party room there would be no price on carbon, ruling out both an emissions trading scheme or an emissions intensity scheme, both of which he once supported and one or other of which business is urging the government to implement.

Seven years ago Malcolm Turnbull’s assessment of CCS was that it was an industrial pipedream. 

He said it was sobering that “as of today, there’s not one industrial-scale coal-fired power station using carbon capture and storage – not one”. 

Both sides of politics had reached the same conclusion about its viability.

 Labor began withdrawing funds from research and the Abbott government shut down Rudd’s $1.7 billion Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships program. 

Industry had lost interest. 

Treasurer Joe Hockey returned nearly half a billion dollars of funds allocated to it back to the budget.
This week Frydenberg pointed out that government has invested $590 million in CCS and said it is now being successfully employed in three overseas power plants. 

But a closer look shows the lessons learnt from those plants mean its use has already peaked.

 The proponents of these plants are on the record stating they won’t be investing in any more.

 Renewables entrepreneur Simon Holmes à Court told the ABC that exponential cost blowouts and disappointing results are the rule.


One plant visited by the energy minister – Petra Nova in Texas – cost $US1 billion. 

It’s touted as the world’s largest and most successful operation, yet it captures only about 6 per cent of the output of its adjacent power station. 

That’s “an incredibly low bang for buck”, concludes Holmes à Court. 

Another CCS plant targeted to cost $US2 billion will open three years late and with an incredible final bill of $US7.5 billion.
Holmes à Court agrees with Frydenberg that CCS has a role to play in cutting emissions in industrial processes such as cement or steel production. 

Carbon can be captured in these cases for about $15 to $30 a tonne.

 “So with a healthy carbon price, those projects make sense,” he says. 

And there’s the rub. 

The very government wanting to be a champion of CCS for industry is denying it any incentive to spend a cent pursuing it. It’s commercially cheaper to keep polluting. 

Industry may get away with that but finance markets are now pricing climate change into lending for major energy projects. 

Bloomberg New Energy Finance earlier this year costed CCS coal at $352 a megawatt hour, compared with wind and solar at between $61 and $140 megawatts an hour.
It’s little wonder that experts can’t see private industry investing in new coal-fired power stations without substantial government input. 

But none of this seems to deter the resources and Northern Australia minister, the Nationals’ Matt Canavan. 

With an eye on the Queensland election probably later this year, he sees votes in talking up a new coal-fired power station for Townsville and in giving a leg-up to the giant Adani Carmichael coalmine in the nearby Galilee Basin. 

While Labor parts company on the power station, it has one foot on both sides of the barbed-wire fence when it comes to the Adani mine.

The politics here is excruciating. 

One Labor strategist says there are different fault lines on the Adani project. 

One running from Cairns down the coast is hostility fuelled by fears for the Great Barrier Reef and the 50,000 jobs dependent on it. 


The other fault line runs from Townsville to Gladstone and inland. 

Here support for the project is strong – its hyped promise of thousands of jobs is beguiling in a region of high unemployment. 

Then from Gladstone south all the way to Tasmania support is weak to hostile.
But no matter what voters think of the project, they are overwhelmingly against any taxpayer funds bankrolling the Indian billionaire Gautam Adani. 

Research by the advocacy group GetUp! 

in marginal seats in Queensland and elsewhere has found resolute opposition to any government loan. 

Paul Oosting from GetUp! says opposition ranges from 70 to 86 per cent depending on the seat. 

He has mobilised dozens of his 350,000 members to make 50,000 scripted phone calls into marginal seats in Queensland and around the nation.


It sort of worked with the Palaszczuk Labor government.

 Much to the delight of Adani, the premier organised a royalties pause. 

The miner will be given 60 years to pay the tax, although he will attract an interest charge for any delay. 

That puts all the risk on taxpayers if the project fails to perform as promised or Adani’s labyrinthine company structure for the mine collapses. 

With some companies registered in the Cayman Islands the existence of a lucrative escape hatch for Adani cannot be ruled out.
Ominously, Indian newspapers are reporting Adani is under pressure to sell its Australian assets. 

The Reserve Bank of India is worried about a looming debt crisis and is pressuring banks to demand repayment of loans worth billions of dollars. 

The influential Hindu newspaper noted that the Standard Chartered Bank recalled loans of $2.5 billion from Adani and that “global lenders have backed out from funding the $US10 billion coalmine development project.

 State Bank of India also declined to offer a loan despite signing an MoU [memorandum of understanding] to fund the group with $1 billion”. 

What all of this means for Adani’s bid to get a concessional billion-dollar loan from the federal government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility is not yet known. 

It should make it highly unlikely, but given the zealotry of Canavan and his leader Barnaby Joyce for the project such concerns are a mere bagatelle.

Federal Labor’s stand is in line with the GetUp! research, maintaining that no taxpayer dollars should be thrown at the Carmichael mine. 

In that Shorten has the support of Adani’s commercial rivals such as BHP, the Hunter Valley miners and the huge coal port of Newcastle. 

They all say the project should stand or fall on its merits and that it’s not the role of government to use public money to undercut them.
Again we have seen Turnbull’s need for pragmatic appeasement of the conservatives in his ranks undermine his brand on the environment and climate change. 

It probably goes a long way to explain why again in this week’s opinion polls he is still deep in negative territory for approval of his performance and Labor’s lead looks entrenched.
The resignation of Dr Peter Hendy from the inner sanctum of the prime minister’s offices is being read by some in the Liberal Party as a sign the government’s days are numbered. 

The economist, long-time Liberal apparatchik and former MP is planning to hang up his shingle as a consultant.

 “He wants to cash in on his contacts while they are still in power,” was one explanation. Another was: “Peter’s been around a long time and knows when a vote is cemented in.”
On that view Hendy is not waiting to see if the handful of pro-Adani seats in Queensland will be enough to save the federal government. 

Its chances are up in smoke and out the chimney – like the Beijing carbon capture pilot project.

Press link for more: The Saturday Paper

Trump is more honest about climate inaction than Turnbull #StopAdani #auspol

Donald Trump is more honest about climate inaction than Malcolm Turnbull

There is a depressing honesty about Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. 

It stands in stark contrast to the hypocrisy of Malcolm Turnbull’s big talk on climate change, which is accompanied by a $1 billion subsidy for the enormous new Adani coal mine. 

At least Trump is doing what he said he would do.

Trump shows his contempt for the world’s problems by withdrawing from a global agreement on the basis that he doesn’t think it’s in his nation’s interest, while Turnbull shows his contempt by remaining in that same agreement while funding the construction of a new coal mine that will still operate in 2080. 

Which is worse?
Trump’s climate call
US President Donald Trump has withdrawn America from the Paris climate change agreement, but Australia will not follow according to the energy minister.
The “business case” for Turnbull’s coal line from the Adani mine to the Great Barrier Reef is that five other major coal mines will also be built in the Galilee basin.

 In the words of Resources Minister Matt Canavan, “what I’d expect to see, with the federal government wanting to open the Galilee basin, is that the rail line’s open access that other mines can use it and that we can, by building, connecting up a new coal basin in our country, create wealth, not just in one individual project but right across the board, that’s what we’d like to see”. 

Combined with the Adani mine, the other mines Canavan referred to would together produce 300 million tonnes of coal a year.


To put Turnbull’s coal expansion plans into context, Australia is already the world’s largest coal exporter. 

At 388 million tonnes in 2015-16, we have a larger share of the traded coal market than Saudi Arabia has of the world oil market. 

And the Australian government hopes to facilitate a doubling of our coal exports.
Think about that. 

Australia is a signatory to an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero in 33 years’ time.

 And Turnbull wants to subsidise the opening-up of a new coal basin in the hope that it will export an extra 300 million tonnes of coal a year. 

I’d take Trump’s denial over Turnbull’s deception any day.

The Coalition clearly takes the adage that, if you are going to tell a lie, tell a big one quite seriously. 

Having decided to adopt a bizarre “pro-coal, pro-climate” public position, it has set out to abuse language, policy and taxpayers’ money to design a bridge between the multiple sandcastles it is building in the air. 

Take this week’s announcement that more taxpayers’ money will potentially be invested in “carbon capture and storage”.

Like cold fusion, and healthy cigarettes, coal-fired power stations that can capture their pollution and pump it safely underground have promised big and delivering nothing for decades. 

But such fantasies are central to the political strategy of those who want to defend the status quo while promising change. How can Australia double its coal exports and support climate action? 

Easy! We’ll invent “clean coal”. 

The fact that taxpayers fund the coal industry cover story is just icing on the cake.

Speaking of defending that status quo, on the domestic front, the Coalition’s direct action plan is reaching its use-by date and the Turnbull government is faced with the impending arrival of a new report by Chief Scientist Professor Alan Finkel. 

It’s the latest in a string of government reviews of the need for a long-term climate policy that can actually put some pressure on polluters to reduce their emissions rather than put putting pressure on the budget to buy emission reductions.
Donald Trump announces the US will withdraw from the Paris climate change accord.


Donald Trump announces the US will withdraw from the Paris climate change accord.

The Chief Scientist’s problem is not the scientific or economic challenges of building a new electricity grid based on new generation and storage technologies. 

Those problems are easy compared to the linguistic and political “barriers” to bringing our energy system into the 21st century.
Obstacle No. 1 is that the Coalition can’t possibly introduce a simple and effective carbon tax. The idea that a government would introduce a tax to discourage a harmful activity has become anathema to the “good economic managers” in the Coalition, even if it is economics 101. And even if Tony Abbott increased tobacco taxes to discourage smoking.


Climate protesters 

Obstacle No. 2 is the Coalition’s inability to introduce anything that “looks like a carbon tax”. 

This apparently rules out any notion of emissions trading, in which a government sells a limited number of tradable permits to polluters. 

Needless to say, the Coalition has never described the tradable free-to-air TV licences it sells as a “television tax” although, hey, who knows, maybe that’s coming next.
Obstacle No. 3: you can’t propose a scheme like an emissions intensity scheme (or EIS) in which the government never raises a cent. 

Under an EIS, the government sets a target level of “emission intensity” and any electricity generators whose emissions intensity (tonnes of CO2 per unit of electricity produced) is above the target must buy “credits” from generators whose intensity is below the target. 

Needless to say, the notion you can’t slug some industry participants who misbehave is odd coming from a government that just introduced a “bank levy” on the big banks.
Australia has a larger share of the traded coal market than Saudi Arabia has of the world oil market.
So what might Finkel advise? 

If we start from the assumption that, these days, “independent reviews” take the arbitrary and self-imposed political constraints of governments seriously, it’s unlikely he’ll strongly recommend any of the simple and effective options described above.
A fourth option is a low emissions target (or LET) to augment, or replace, the effective renewable energy target (RET). The RET, first introduced by John Howard, requires electricity retailers to source a fixed amount of electricity from renewables. It helped drive down the cost of renewable energy and, according to modelling commissioned by Tony Abbott, lowered electricity costs, too. The only “problem” with the RET is that, in setting aside a minimum market share for renewables, it sets a maximum market share for fossil-fuel generators. While the Nationals like to lead the charge against the “distortionary” RET, they are the driving force behind the NSW laws that force drivers to buy petrol blended with a fixed proportion of ethanol.

 

While the RET specifies that electricity retailers must buy energy from wind and solar, a LET could potentially require electricity generators to source their “low emission” electricity from gas or nuclear as well. 

While including gas and nuclear on the list of eligible sources of “clean” fuels is an obsession for some who think that climate policy should be “technology neutral”, the reality is the high cost of gas and nuclear energy probably means that a LET and a RET are similar policy beasts. 

Needless to say, many of those who say renewables should need to compete without subsidies on a “level playing field” are strategically silent about the Commonwealth subsidies required to open up the Galilee coal basin.
The fact is the acronym by which our climate policy is known is far less significant than the ambition, and legislative detail, on which it is based. 

Put simply, there is more room for variation within the possible climate policies than there is between them.
Trump’s clear repudiation of the US’s commitment to tackle climate change and Turnbull’s cynical pretence of support for climate action both point to the same obvious conclusion. 

Until the world stops building new coal mines and stops building new coal-fired power stations, the world’s emissions will continue to grow. 

Everything else is just a cover story for our failure to act.

Richard Denniss is The Australia Institute’s chief economist. Twitter: @RDNS_TAI

Press link for more: Canberra Times

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

March for Science! Today is the day to stand up for #Science 

Today is our chance to show support for science.

All over the planet people will be marching for universal values of science.

Find out where and when in your locality and join the scientists. 

Universal Literacy

A well-informed community is essential to a free and successful society. 

We support education to promote broad public knowledge and discussion of scientific work. 

As professionals, parents, and community-engaged volunteers, we enthusiastically contribute our time and expertise to helping children and students of all ages engage with the physical universe and biological world.

Open Communication

Publicly-funded scientists have a responsibility to communicate their research and public outreach and accessibility of scientific knowledge should be encouraged. 

Communication of scientific findings and their implications must not be suppressed.

Informed Policy

Public policy should be guided by peer-reviewed evidence and scientific consensus. 

Public policy must enable scientists to communicate their publicly-funded research results, and must support literacy in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Stable Investment

A long-term, strategic approach to investment in scientific research and development is essential for driving true innovation. 

Government commitment to stable science funding policy will deliver solutions to complex challenges, promoting prosperity for all.


Our acknowledgment

Science belongs to everyone. It should be pursued for the benefit of all people and for the health of the environment we depend upon.
At March for Science Australia we acknowledge the traditional custodians of the Australian continent, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and pay our respects to ancestors and Elders both past and present.
We recognise that science and scientific pursuits have been used in the past to disenfranchise many minority groups. We are committed to the promotion of science, now and in the future, as an endeavour which all persons have the right to pursue and enjoy the fruits of, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, religion or lack thereof, political affiliation, or socioeconomic status.
Diversity has strengthened and enriched scientific inquiry, and the inclusion of all peoples and the promotion of equal opportunity and training within science should be a goal pursued by scientists and non-scientists alike.

Press link for more: March for Science Australia

The Crazy Climate Technofix #auspol 

by Mark White
Illustrations by Bren Luke 
Earth’s climate has been edging towards a scene usually reserved for a post-apocalyptic movie.

 Some posit geoengineering as a radical fix to climate change.

 Others say the risks are too high and its proponents mad. 

Welcome to the debate where science fiction meets climate science.

If you visit a block of land near the West Australian dairy town of Harvey in a few years’ time, you will see a few pipes sticking out of the ground, a solar panel and an aerial for communications devices. 

There may be a hut and some room for parking.
These will be the only visible signs of the South West Hub project, designed to test the feasibility of pumping megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the vast Wonnerup sandstone layer, a kilometre-and-a-half deep beneath the Jarrah-Marri trees on the surface.
The gas will be liquefied in a nearby compressor building – an anonymous farm shed – and transported to the injection site via underground pipes.
Wonnerup is an example of carbon capture and storage, one of a suite of technologies known as geoengineering, or climate engineering.
Geoengineering is a mixed bag, but the idea involves large-scale interventions at the level of the whole planet, with the goal of fixing the climate.

 It’s tricky, dangerous, and largely considered “fringe science”.
The proposals come in two main flavours. 

One is carbon dioxide removal, which strips the gas from the atmosphere and slowly restores atmospheric balance.

 A mix of techniques would be needed: hundreds of factories like Wonnerup, billions of new trees and plants, plus contentious technologies such as artificially encouraging the growth of plankton.
The second is solar radiation management, intended to cool the Earth by stopping the sun’s heat from reaching the planet’s surface. 

That can be achieved by pumping minute particles into the atmosphere, but carries the risk of killing billions of people.
Right now, we don’t have the tools or the knowledge to deploy these fixes. 

But some prominent climate scientists argue that as carbon emissions continue to rise, geoengineering will have to be employed to avoid catastrophic climate change.
 

Last December’s meeting of world leaders in Paris produced a voluntary agreement to try to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5C over pre-industrial levels, and to not exceed 2C – the widely agreed level of devastating heat increase.

 But agreement and actual efforts didn’t seem to go hand in hand.

“The roar of devastating global storms has now drowned the false cheer from Paris,” a team of 11 climate scientists wrote in a January letter to The Independent, “and brutally brought into focus the extent of our failure to address climate change. 

The unfortunate truth is that things are going to get much worse.”
University of Cambridge Professor Peter Wadhams says: “Other things being equal, I’m not a great fan of geoengineering, but I think it absolutely necessary given the situation we’re in. 

It’s a sticking plaster solution. 

But you need it, because looking at the world, nobody’s instantly changing their pattern of life.”
Since then, temperatures have been soaring month after month, we’ve learned that the Great Barrier Reef is in extremely poor health and bleaching rapidly, while new quests continue to unearth more fossil fuels.
As we’re failing to keep the planet pleasant and habitable for future generations, could we instead fix the climate with technology? 
With geoengineering?
Debate about geoengineering in Australia is “almost being avoided”, according to Professor David Karoly, a noted atmospheric scientist at the University of Melbourne.

 He is a member of the Climate Change Authority, which advises the federal government, and was involved in preparing the 2007 IPCC report on global warming.
“There’s very little discussion on it in terms of government circles, there’s very little research on it, there’s very little discussion of it in what might be called mainstream science,” Professor Karoly says.

Policymakers are including geoengineering in their plans, but many technologies are still unproven and potentially dangerous.
“You’ll generally find among climate scientists that almost all are opposed to geoengineering,” says Professor Jim Falk, of the University of Melbourne’s Sustainable Society Institute. 

“They’re already pretty concerned about what we’ve done to the climate and don’t want to start stuffing around doing other things we only half-understand on a grand scale.”
When the US National Academy of Science launched a report last year analysing geoengineering options, committee head Marcia McNutt, a geophysicist, was asked if any should be deployed. 

She replied “Gosh, I hope not”.
The report considered carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management so risky it used the term “climate intervention” instead of geoengineering, arguing the term “engineering” implied a level of control that doesn’t exist.
But the IPCC has considered scenarios where such engineering would be necessary: its 2014 assessment report mentions bio-energy carbon capture and storage (known as BECCS), where plant fuel is burned and the resulting carbon dioxide buried.
And the Paris Agreement noted there would be need for a “balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases” in 2050-2100.
“A few years ago, these exotic Dr Strangelove options were discussed only as last-ditch contingencies,” wrote Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change, of the Paris talks in Nature magazine.
“Now they are Plan A.”
 

The term “geoengineering” raises the spectre of a James Bond villain cackling in his lair and planning to make volcanoes erupt at the push of a button. And that’s quite fitting, given that one approach to solar radiation management consists of mimicking the fallout from such giant explosions.
Treating the problem like an outlandish movie script may be the only way of comprehending the scale of the challenge. To reduce atmospheric CO2 levels by 1ppm – approaching the volume needed to stabilise global temperature – requires the withdrawal of 18 gigatonnes of gas, the equivalent of 18,000 South West Hub plants running for a year.
Tim Flannery, the former Australian of the Year who helped raise the profile of climate change, is vocal in supporting some geoengineering approaches. He prefers the less-toxic term “Third Way technologies”, based on the Earth’s natural processes.
Flannery says those which work at the gigatonne scale – the only ones which will dent the problem – may take decades to be developed.
“The only way you can get to a Paris-like outcome is by slamming hard on emissions,” he says, “reducing them as fast as humanly possible as well as investing now in these technologies that’ll give you these gigatonne gains in 20 or 30 years time.”
”The question for most of these technologies is – we don’t know if they work. But we need them to work.”
Flannery says solar-radiation management approaches should be treated with great caution, as they mask the problem: they will reduce the temperature, but not affect rising CO2 levels, leaving the oceans ever more acidic. That could see a catastrophic loss of reefs and oceanic life, devastating the aquatic food chain.
Ironically, one of the reasons the atmosphere isn’t already at a 2C warming mark, says Professor Karoly, is due to the aerosols already in the atmosphere – an unintentional form of solar radiation management.
He says the current best estimate of stabilising the temperature at that level, with a 50 per cent likelihood, is for a carbon equivalent reading of 420-480ppm. The current figure is 481ppm, and rising at 3ppm per year.
Solar radiation management – deliberate and large scale – might buy time in an emergency, says Flannery. “There’s a broad highway to hell that’s easy to go down and it’s really cheap, relatively. It’s instantly effective, nations can do it unilaterally and it gives you a lower temperature.
“But there’s a narrow, crooked, winding path to heaven which is the carbon reduction stuff. It’s at a very early stage, but that actually does solve the problem.”

Once we capture carbon, it can actually be used productively. American researchers have produced carbon nanofibres from atmospheric carbon dioxide – initially only 10g per hour, but they are convinced it could scale.
There could be vast baths of molten chemicals across large swathes of the Sahara Desert, powered by solar radiation, forming layers of a valuable building material on submerged electrodes.
A research project at a California university has gone further, manufacturing a building material dubbed CO2NCRETE from captured carbon dioxide. A pilot plant at Australia’s University of Newcastle is investigating whether a similar process, combining excess CO2 from an Orica plant with minerals to form building materials, has commercial potential.
Flannery is interested in desktop studies on carbon-sucking seaweed and algae, as well as research reporting that carbon dioxide can be made to fall as snow over the Antarctic.

Picture this: the temperature plummeting well below freezing until a blizzard of dry ice cascades onto the barren plains below, each cuboctahedral flake representing a miniscule improvement in carbon levels, to be stored safely – somehow – from warming into a gas and re-entering the air.
“We’re at very, very early days,” Flannery warns. “Various approaches have different favourable aspects to them, but I don’t think any of them are anything like a silver bullet.”
Flannery’s championing of unorthodox technologies – even as avenues for research – isn’t shared by many high-profile climate change campaigners. David Karoly calls Flannery’s interest “surprising”. He deems ideas such as dry ice snowfall in Antarctica as “rather technofix solutions”.
“How do you get sufficient CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it?” asks Professor Karoly. “It’s probably the most inhospitable environment in the world and he’s talking about – if you work out what this equates to, it’s a mountain higher than Everest, the size of a soccer field every year.”
The Paris target of a 1.5C rise is “virtually impossible” without new technologies, he says, which “have not been proved either commercially viable or without major harm”.
“My concern is, the cure might be substantially worse than the disease.”
Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University, who wrote about geoengineering in his 2013 book Earthmasters, is more blunt.
“The schemes [Flannery] proposes are real pie-in-the-sky stuff, way out there,” he says. “He seems to have been sucked in by a kind of strange techno-promise that’ll get us out of this.”

Australian geoengineering research lags far behind the world leaders in the US, UK and Germany. It’s limited to a handful of scientists in Sydney and Hobart, and our major achievement is helping to halt commercial oceanic geoengineering.
The federal government, via its Direct Action policy, focuses on carbon sequestration without the crazy technofix label. Instead it backs land-use practices such as planting new forests, and prioritises soil enhancement, mangrove protection and rainforest recovery.
“There was an enormous groundswell of support for these activities in Paris,” a spokesperson for the Department of the Environment says. “Other actions [in the geoengineering field] would have an enormously high safety bar to cross and are a long way from proof.”
Meanwhile, CSIRO looks set to embark on an expansion of its geoengineering research program, both at land and sea. In a recent memo to staff announcing 350 job cuts at the organisation, CSIRO head Larry Marshall nominated “climate interventions (geo-engineering)” as one area in which it would seek a “step change” in knowledge.
“CSIRO is currently working through the detail of our future climate adaptation and mitigation research, and will include research relevant aspects of onshore and offshore geo-engineering. The scale and scope of this research is still to be determined,” a CSIRO spokesperson told SBS.

 
Jim Falk categorises geoengineering proposals along various lines, including how big a project needs to be for credible deployment, how big an impact it would have, whether it is reversible, what governance is required, how much it would cost, and the risks involved.
“Then you can say different proposals have different footprints,” Falk says, “and depending on the footprint you can suggest what sort of barriers you would want for their regulations before you would allow an experiment to take place.”
Unlike attempts to reduce global carbon emissions – where everyone must do their part for action to be effective – what scares scientists about solar radiation management is the relative ease of one person launching a planet-wide experiment.
Spraying sulphate particles into the atmosphere from aircraft or balloons is known to reduce temperatures. It mimics what happens when volcanic ash blankets the atmosphere.
There would be spectacular sunsets as solar rays interact with the particles, with brilliant red eddies splashing the evening sky, similar to those in Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream.
And it has been costed at just $US10 billion a year.
One test in August 2008 was conducted on land 500km southeast of Moscow by Yuri Izrael, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s science advisor. He and his team rigged aerosol sprays on a helicopter and car chassis, measuring how solar radiation was retarded at heights up to 200 metres.
“China might decide to pump a load of sulphur into the atmosphere and not tell anyone about it,” says Rosemary Rayfuse, a Law professor at UNSW and a global authority on regulating geoengineering. “Or Australia could do it. Anybody could. That’s the other problem – it’s so easy to do.”
Billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson could step forward, says Anita Talberg, a PhD student in the governance of climate engineering at the University of Melbourne. Both support geoengineering and have funded research.
“They could just decide suddenly, ‘I could do enough benefit for the poor and vulnerable in the world, I could just do it and save them from the climate crisis.’”
Such a move could be catastrophic, most immediately due to the risk of drought in the tropics, devastating the food security of billions of people. Those colourful sunsets are projected to see lower rainfall.
The sky will bleach white during the day, while ozone depletes in the tropics – where most of the world’s population live. As the temperature falls, levels of UV radiation will rise, leading to an upsurge in skin cancers.

Professor Andy Pitman, of the Climate Change Research Centre in Sydney, is a member of the World Climate Research Program.
The only role he sees for sulphate injection is alongside steep cuts in carbon emissions. “If people are talking about it as a substitute for that, the technical term you’d use is ‘cloud cuckoo land’.”
But he hopes it’s never necessary.
“God, I hope not. We have a well-studied problem called global warming – we’re not sure of every detail – that would breach every ethics experiment on the planet if you proposed it as an experiment.
“All those problems relate to solar radiation management and I’d suggest any country that tried it at any significant level would find itself in every court in the world.”
There are smaller-scale approaches, he says, without the “ethical problems”. One is painting roofs white to reflect sun, a backyard approach anyone can try, and which would help cool interiors during hot summer days.
Another is genetically modified crops with a higher reflectivity, with variations as simple as leaves that are hairier or have a waxier coating.
Harvard University’s Professor David Keith is leading more research into solar radiation management, arguing in a 2015 paper that the technique could be used in a “temporary, moderate and responsive scenario”.
“Even if we make deep emissions cuts, it might be that the benefits of solar geoengineering outweigh the risks,” he tells SBS. “Or maybe not. To know, we have to decide to learn more.”
 

The belief in a technical solution – that because we have to find something, we will – has psychological roots in an effect known as ‘optimism bias’, says Melbourne psychologist Dr Susie Burke, who has expertise on issues relating to the environment, climate change and natural disasters.
“It’s intrinsic to humans to be optimistically biased,” she says, “and it’s great because it gets us out of bed in the morning and gives us a healthy motivation. But with respect to climate change, it means we end up minimising our personal risk and even risks that pertain to us – and believing the worst problems will happen to other people, somewhere else or into the future.”
She adds, “With the general population who are struggling to make significant changes to their lifestyle, deep down there is a belief that someone, somewhere will come up with something to solve the problem.”
Even talking about geoengineering carries the risk of “moral hazard”, that a solution to rocketing carbon emissions means they can continue unabated. That scenario troubles many.
“There’s a moral hazard in not discussing these things as well,” says Tim Flannery, “because we know we’re going to need them.”
The worst-case scenario – international agreements fail to stop emissions from rising – would force the use of extreme measures. Clive Hamilton thinks sulphate injection is the most likely use of geoengineering, though not yet.
“If we have a series of years where there are catastrophic droughts, heatwaves and hurricanes which cause massive impacts in several countries – also tipping points, so permafrost is now irreversibly melting – what kind of political and geostrategic environment are we going to be facing?” he asks.
“I think in that kind of scenario – which is not just possible but fairly likely – certain scientists promising they can rapidly reduce the earth’s temperature within a year or two are going to start looking increasingly attractive to some nations.”
Andy Pitman says that could lead to war: “You can imagine a situation – and it’s not too far-fetched – where country X starts a major campaign around sulphur injections into the atmosphere, country Y’s rainfall dramatically declines and is going into serious long-term famine, and that instigated a military response.”
And if carbon emissions continued to rise, the sulphate injection would have to be continuous. Otherwise, the particles would drop out of the atmosphere, leading to a sudden, highly disruptive jump in temperature.
If a war, say, or a pandemic was responsible for the break in sulphate injection, the compounding effects could be existential. 

Talking of human extinction in such a scenario is not too far-fetched.

 
The possibilities are less apocalyptic for some form of carbon capture and storage. 

Clive Hamilton identifies land being used by the likes of BECCS – bio-energy carbon capture and storage – to capture carbon as one of the main changes in geoengineering in the last few years.
Plants and trees would be grown for fuel, and the resulting carbon emissions from power generation would be stored away. There’s an example of this in Illinois at an ethanol production plant.
But there are questions over BECCS, not least that “no such economic process [is] available at this point and there may never be”, says Jim Falk.
The sheer amount of land needed is staggering, too. 

In a February 2016 paper in Nature,environmental scientist Philip Williamson estimated that one-third of the world’s arable land (430-580 million hectares of crops) would need planting for BECCS use to limit the temperature rise to 2C by 2100.

This would accelerate deforestation and, given “not unrealistic” assumptions, see carbon emissions actually increase.
Oliver Munnion, of the UK-based BioFuelwatch website, argues that BECCS is more dangerous than solar radiation management.

 “It’s the most outrageous,” he says. “It’s also the favoured approach amongst policy-makers, scientists and industry.
“The idea that we’d harm proven carbon sinks – forests and soils – to create an unproven and untested carbon sink underground is the antithesis of what climate policy should be geared towards.”
The problem facing geoengineering advocates is that most dangerous schemes are possible, but need to be used as a last resort, while the most promising schemes aren’t possible at scale. 

Even if they were, the numbers quickly turn ugly.
In the Nature article, Philip Williamson estimated that growing seaweed as a carbon pool would use nine per cent of the world’s oceans, with unknown environmental impacts.
Utilising the simple solar-radiation management tool of laying a reflective rock on the ground to reduce carbon levels by 12 per cent would need 1-5 kg/sqm of rock to be applied to 15-45 per cent of the earth’s surface, at a total cost of US$60-600 trillion.

That means an area of land at least the size of the old Soviet Union would have to be set aside and the global economy bankrupted.
The further you look, the more improbable geoengineering concepts become. A presentation to the 2016 American Meteorological Conference on Atmospheric Science called for lasers in the sky to microwave and neutralise methane clouds (another greenhouse gas).
UNSW Law professor Rosemary Rayfuse recalls one UK project looking at increasing the reflectivity of the oceans by making white foam, which had to persist for at least three months: “They were proposing to cover the oceans in meringue, which I thought was rather funny!”
David Karoly calls the idea of hanging mirrors in space to reflect sunlight “just stupid”, calculating the need for one million square kilometres of alfoil. Flannery agrees: “Anything that masks the problem, and lets people think they’ve solved it, is a danger.”
Cutting carbon emissions drastically, and now, would start to solve the problem. But that isn’t happening. Campaigners such as Tim Flannery are crossing their fingers that carbon-scrubbing technology we need to take us on “the narrow winding path to heaven” is developed in time.
If neither happens, we’ll be heading down the “broad highway to hell” of having to rely on solar radiation management, where the devil we don’t know is better than a climate gone rogue.
The effects of pumping simulated volcanic fallout into the atmosphere could dwarf the biggest eruptions in history. Start preparing for vivid red sunsets – and an uncertain future

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