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The world has decided bottom-up is the way it’s going to stop #climatechange #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #EndCoal

The world has decided bottom-up is the way it’s going to stop climate change

Michael J. Coren

AP Photo/Kaweewit Kaewjinda

Old school climate action.

At the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this week, the crisp Pacific air was filled with promises of less carbon.

No one making those promises mentioned national governments.

Ten new states and cities joined an alliance to phase out coal.

Zero-emissions vehicle targets were adopted by 26 cities, states, regions, and businesses.

The Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment was endorsed by three dozen businesses and governments.

India’s $20.7 billion Mahindra Group is going carbon neutral, while strict, independently-verified carbon limits were embraced by 76 companies, including Adobe and Dell.

This all comes on the heels of California passing a bill to use 100% emissions-free electricity by 2045, and governor Jerry Brown’s even more ambitious (if less binding) executive order committing the state to carbon neutrality over the same timeframe. (Browse the “overwhelming” number of announcements streaming out of the summit here.)

With the US government all but out of the game (for now), the action is going local.

The world seems to have decided that bottom-up is the way to stop climate change. “It’s remarkable seeing what is actually happening on the ground,” says David Waskow of the World Resources Institute. “It’s a network model for taking climate action.”

AP Photo/Eric Risberg

California Gov. Jerry Brown, left, and Michael Bloomberg at the Global Action Climate Summit on Sept. 13.

But is it enough?

Governor Brown and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg argue it’s close.

The two lead America’s Pledge, a local climate action group with more than 3,000 U.S. cities, states, businesses and other groups attempting to deliver on America’s goal of a 26% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2025 under the Paris Agreement.

(Despite president Donald Trump’s pledge to withdraw the US from the agreement, he can’t legally do so until November 2020).

America’s Pledge now claims it’s within “striking distance” of fulfilling the US climate commitment.

The group hopes enough momentum at every level of society may stymie federal efforts to stop progress on slowing climate change.

Much of the San Francisco summit, in fact, was styled as a showcase for what can be done in the face of recalcitrant, or merely unambitious, national governments.

This “all hands on deck” strategy is now gathering steam.

It could lower global emissions by an additional third (15 to 23 gigatons of CO2-equivalent per year) compared to national policies alone, according to an analysis (pdf) by researchers from Yale University, NewClimate Institute, and the Dutch government.

While not enough on its own, researchers say it’s the only way the world can slash enough emissions to keep the planet “well below” the 2°C increase by mid-century mark that scientists warn spells climate disaster.

This shift in strategy is evident on the international stage as well.

The first major climate pact, the Kyoto Protocol, sought to hammer out a nation-to-nation agreement imposing global standards.

Although 37 industrialized nations signed on (the US signed, but never ratified), the pact was not a resounding success, and subsequent diplomatic attempts to tighten emissions have often floundered.

In the intervening years, negotiators have accepted that the purely top-down process is not working.

Today’s targets are now voluntary, collective and formulated by each nation to reach a common goal.

That was instrumental in pushing the Paris Agreement over the finish line in 2015.

Signed by 195 countries responsible for 97% of global emissions, the agreement did not force everyone to adopt uniform targets, but set an overall goal (a temperature rise of no more than 2°C) allowing nations to haggle over how to reach it collectively.

Nationally determined contributions, aligned with national priorities, were submitted.

Richer countries generally adopted tougher quantifiable targets, while poorer countries could take appropriate actions over “business-as-usual” scenarios.

Major emitters committed $100 billion by 2020 to help finance this transition.

A legally-binding, international monitoring process allows everyone to track progress, so countries can then renew, and tighten, their commitments every five years.

Groups like the National Resources Defense Council admit the Paris Agreement doesn’t “solve” climate change, but puts the world on a safer climate trajectory with a virtuous cycle of rising ambition over time.

Scientists say, in order to avoid the danger zone, GHG emissions must peak by 2020, and then steadily decline until the world is on a sharply declining emissions trajectory by 2030.

Ultimately, net CO2 emissions should fall to zero by the end of this century (pdf). Global efforts will only be enough to reach this goal if local, state and regional actions pick up most of the slack, according to researchers (pdf).

San Francisco is a start.

Press link for more: QZ.COM

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#Migration and #ClimateChange Need to Be Tackled Together | UNFCCC #Refugees #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #EndCoal #RiseForClimate @scheerlinckeva

Climate change is drastically redrawing our world, leading to unprecedented human displacements and exposing humanity to increasing levels of insecurity.

The shrinking window of action must aim to achieve two inseparable goals: to sustainably manage our environment and to safeguard everyone’s dignity, rights, and livelihoods.

In this article, first published by Project Syndicate, Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program and William Lacy Swing, Director General of the United Nations Migration Agency, explain how important it is to provide safe migration while addressing its causes.

Making Migration Safe for Climate Nexus – Erik Solheim & William Lacy Swing

Humanity is on the move.

We are living in an era of unprecedented mobility of ideas, money, and, increasingly, people.

The sheer size of the human population, combined with how we consume resources, is profoundly reshaping our world.

While our “take-make-dispose” economic model has created wealth for hundreds of millions of people in many countries, reducing global poverty significantly, it has also left too many behind.

Crucially, it exposes future generations to immense social, economic, and environmental risks. And perhaps the most important risk stems from filling the atmosphere with greenhouse gases at a rate higher than at any time in the last 66 million years.

One billion people alive today are migrants, having moved within or beyond their national borders.

They have done so for a variety of complex reasons, including population pressure, a lack of economic opportunities, environmental degradation, and new forms of travel.

Combined, these factors are contributing to human displacement and unsafe migration on an unprecedented scale. And the levels of both will only rise as the effects of climate change gradually erode millions of people’s livelihoods.

Climate change is fundamentally redrawing the map of where people can live.

Food supplies are being disrupted in North Africa’s Sahel region and Central America; and water stress and scarcity are growing worse in North Africa and the Middle East. Somalia, for example, is experiencing more frequent droughts.

Iraq is battling more frequent heat waves. Unprecedented storms and floods have battered the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

As the abnormal becomes the new normal, scarcities, zero-sum competition, and mass displacements will become more common.

But there is good news to report on two fronts.

First, we are making major strides in building resilience to extreme weather.

In the 1970s, Bangladesh lost hundreds of thousands of people to extreme flooding. Today, the fatalities from similar occurrences, while no less tragic, are far fewer in number. We are getting better at coping with disasters.

Second, for the first time in history, the international community is coming together to build a framework to manage international migration.

Intergovernmental negotiations started in February 2018 with the aim of adopting a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM). And last month, the United Nations General Assembly finalized the GCM, which heads of state are now expected to adopt at a high-level conference in Marrakesh this December.

The GCM promises to provide a sound framework for taking action that addresses climate-driven migration. But now we must ensure that it is implemented.

The GCM represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to set in place an internationally-agreed system for managing safe and orderly migration. As such, it has the potential to improve the lives and prospects of tens of millions of people. Once it is formally adopted, we will need to ensure that the new framework maximizes the benefits of international travel and exchange, while also addressing the concerns that many people have with unregulated migration.

Finally, and most important, we will have to do everything possible to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions drastically. That is the only way to keep the Earth’s temperature within 2°C of preindustrial levels – the threshold at which spiraling feedback loops could trigger runaway climate change.

The recent report that atmospheric carbon dioxide now exceeds 410 parts per million should serve as a wake-up call.

We urgently need to become more resource-efficient, by adopting sustainable consumption and production methods, and by fundamentally altering our economic model.

The window for action is quickly closing.

Climate change and environmental degradation are creating unacceptable levels of human insecurity. If our environment is sustainably managed, we will have a better chance of upholding migrants’ dignity, rights, and prospects.

These two goals are inseparable, and the organizations that we lead are ready to support the efforts of the world’s governments to achieve them. The year 2018 presents us with a unique opportunity to think and plan for the decades ahead, by stepping up action on both migration and the environment.

As we set in place a framework to provide for safe, regular, and orderly migration, we must harness our creativity to address its causes. Above all, we need far-sighted world’s leaders with the will to fix a problem that is already upon us, and that is entirely of our own making.

Press link for more: UNFCCC

We won’t save the Earth with a better kind of disposable coffee cup. #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateChange #RiseForClimate #StopAdani #EndCoal Demand #ClimateAction

We won’t save the Earth with a better kind of disposable coffee cup | George Monbiot

George MonbiotThu 6 Sep 2018 15.00 AEST

We must challenge the corporations that urge us to live in a throwaway society rather than seeking ‘greener’ ways of maintaining the status quo

Illustration: Ben Jennings

Do you believe in miracles?

If so, please form an orderly queue. Plenty of people imagine we can carry on as we are, as long as we substitute one material for another.

Last month, a request to Starbucks and Costa to replace their plastic coffee cups with cups made from corn starch was retweeted 60,000 times, before it was deleted.

Those who supported this call failed to ask themselves where the corn starch would come from, how much land would be needed to grow it, or how much food production it would displace.

They overlooked the damage this cultivation would inflict: growing corn (maize) is notorious for causing soil erosion, and often requires heavy doses of pesticides and fertilisers.

The problem is not just plastic: it is mass disposability.

Or, to put it another way, the problem is pursuing, on the one planet known to harbour life, a four-planet lifestyle.

Regardless of what we consume, the sheer volume of consumption is overwhelming the Earth’s living systems.

Don’t get me wrong. Our greed for plastic is a major environmental blight, and the campaigns to limit its use are well motivated and sometimes effective. But we cannot address our environmental crisis by swapping one overused resource for another. When I challenged that call, some people asked me, “So what should we use instead?”

The right question is, “How should we live?” But systemic thinking is an endangered species.

Part of the problem is the source of the plastic campaigns: David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series. The first six episodes had strong, coherent narratives but the seventh, which sought to explain the threats facing the wonderful creatures the series revealed, darted from one issue to another.

We were told we could “do something” about the destruction of ocean life.

We were not told what.

There was no explanation of why the problems are happening and what forces are responsible, or how they can be engaged.

Amid the general incoherence, one contributor stated: “It comes down, I think, to us each taking responsibility for the personal choices in our everyday lives.

That’s all any of us can be expected to do.” This perfectly represents the mistaken belief that a better form of consumerism will save the planet.

The problems we face are structural: a political system captured by commercial interests, and an economic system that seeks endless growth.

Of course we should try to minimise our own impacts, but we cannot confront these forces merely by “taking responsibility” for what we consume.

Unfortunately, these are issues that the BBC in general and David Attenborough in particular avoid.

I admire Attenborough in many ways, but I am no fan of his environmentalism.

For many years, it was almost undetectable.

When he did at last speak out, he avoided challenging power – either speaking in vague terms or focusing on problems for which powerful interests are not responsible.

This tendency may explain Blue Planet’s skirting of the obvious issues.

The most obvious is the fishing industry, which turns the astonishing life forms the rest of the series depicted into seafood.

Throughout the oceans, this industry, driven by our appetites and protected by governments, is causing cascading ecological collapse.

Yet the only fishery the programme featured was among the 1% that are in recovery. It was charming to see how Norwegian herring boats seek to avoid killing orcas, but we were given no idea of how unusual it is.

Even marine plastic is in large part a fishing issue.

It turns out that 46% of the Great Pacific garbage patch – which has come to symbolise our throwaway society – is composed of discarded nets, and much of the rest consists of other kinds of fishing gear.

Abandoned fishing materials tend to be far more dangerous to marine life than other forms of waste. As for the bags and bottles contributing to the disaster, the great majority arise in poorer nations without good disposal systems. But because this point was not made, we look to the wrong places for solutions.

From this misdirection arise a thousand perversities.

One prominent environmentalist posted a picture of the king prawns she had bought, celebrating the fact that she had persuaded the supermarket to put them in her own container rather than a plastic bag, and linking this to the protection of the seas. But buying prawns causes many times more damage to marine life than any plastic in which they are wrapped.

Prawn fishing has the highest rates of bycatch of any fishery – scooping up vast numbers of turtles and other threatened species. Prawn farming is just as bad, eliminating tracts of mangrove forests, crucial nurseries for thousands of species.

We are kept remarkably ignorant of such issues. As consumers, we are confused, bamboozled and almost powerless – and corporate power has gone to great lengths to persuade us to see ourselves this way.

The BBC’s approach to environmental issues is highly partisan, siding with a system that has sought to transfer responsibility for structural forces to individual shoppers.

Yet it is only as citizens taking political action that we can promote meaningful change.

The answer to the question “How should we live?” is: “Simply.” But living simply is highly complicated.

In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the government massacred the Simple Lifers.

This is generally unnecessary: today they can safely be marginalised, insulted and dismissed. The ideology of consumption is so prevalent that it has become invisible: it is the plastic soup in which we swim.

One-planet living means not only seeking to reduce our own consumption, but also mobilising against the system that promotes the great tide of junk.

This means fighting corporate power, changing political outcomes and challenging the growth-based, world-consuming system we call capitalism.

As last month’s Hothouse Earth paper, which warned of the danger of flipping the planet into a new, irreversible climatic state, concluded: “Incremental linear changes … are not enough to stabilise the Earth system.

Widespread, rapid and fundamental transformations will likely be required to reduce the risk of crossing the threshold.”

Disposable coffee cups made from new materials are not just a non-solution: they are a perpetuation of the problem. Defending the planet means changing the world.

• George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

Press link for more:The Guardian

Call for investors to step up action on #climaterisk #Divest @aistbuzz #Superannuation #ClimateChange #auspol Don’t be a fossil fool. #StopAdani #EndCoal

Call for investors to step up action on climate risk

Ruth Williams4 September 2018 — 10:22am

Investors have been urged to “step up the pressure” on companies to act on climate change as annual meeting season approaches, with a report arguing corporate Australia is paying lip-service to the issue.

Environmental non-profit Market Forces says many of Australia’s 100 biggest listed companies are continuing to take a “superficial” approach to disclosure and action on climate change and emissions, despite warnings by regulators and lawyers of potential business and legal risks.

Almost 40 per cent of companies examined had increased emissions over the past year, Market Forces said.

Photo: Bloomberg

Market Forces research, to be released on Tuesday, suggests that of 74 ASX100 companies in sectors dubbed “high risk” for climate change impacts – as defined last year by a G20-led task force on climate risk disclosure – only 55 per cent identified climate change as a material business risk, and more than 80 per cent did not have a plan to reduce their own emissions.

Almost 40 per cent of ASX100 companies studied had increased their emissions over the past year, the Market Forces research said.

The NGO – which is affiliated with Friends of the Earth – has urged investors to “escalate” climate change as an issue in their discussions with companies, and divest shaes in companies that are “unable or unwilling” to align with the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

“There is a growing recognition of climate risk, but few companies are actually undertaking the hard yards to fully address the issue,” Market Forces analyst Will van de Pol said.

The Market Forces research comes as the new Morrison government grapples with internal divisions on its approach to climate change, emissions and the Paris agreement. New Defence Minister Marise Payne is attending the Pacific Islands Forum this week where climate change is expected to be a major topic of discussion.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) and deputy Josh Frydenberg have grappled with internal divisions on carbon emissions.

Photo: Mark Graham/Bloomberg

It also comes as regulators consider how climate change may impact the financial system, with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) assessing how ASX300 companies disclose climate change risks, and the Council of Financial Regulators – which includes ASIC, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), the Reserve Bank and federal Treasury – creating a working group on the issue.

ASIC has said company directors should take seriously warnings that they risk future legal action if they fail to consider risks related to climate change.

Risky business

A third of companies studied “explicitly encourage” emissions reductions through their executive or director bonus schemes, Market Forces said, a number that had doubled since Market Forces’ last examined the issue in March.

Related Article

But just three companies – South32, AGL and Stockland – had started reporting climate risks in line with the so-called “TCFD” rules nailed down by the G20’s task force last year, which have been endorsed by major companies and investors.

Another four companies – Commonwealth Bank, BHP, Westpac and ANZ – “came close” to fully adopting the TCFD recommendations, Market Forces said, while others had promised to do so for their 2019 reporting.

The TCFD recommendations are anchored on the Paris agreement’s pledge to keep global warming to well below 2 degrees. In July, the Australian Securities Exchange’s corporate governance council – in proposed new guidelines – said companies should boost their disclosure of climate change risk, including reporting with the TCFD rules if they had “material exposure”.

The Market Forces research found that while 65 per cent of companies studied unequivocally accepted climate science, 27 per cent were unclear in their language and 8 per cent had not formally acknowledged the science of climate change.

In June, research from the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors found that 22 ASX200 companies had adopted or promised to adopt the TCFD rules while 10 more were “reviewing” them.

AGM focus

Mr van de Pol pointed to South32 as a company that was “getting it right, coupling detailed climate risk disclosures with action to reduce exposure”.

But he questioned why ASX Ltd was not following the suggestions of its own corporate governance council in not disclosing detailed climate risk information, saying the listed company was exposed to climate risk because “high risk-exposed mining, materials and big financial companies dominate the ASX”.

ASX Ltd said it was “difficult to conclude” the company had a material exposure to listed companies directly at risk to climate change, given ASX Ltd was a “diverse, service-based organisation”. The technology sector was its fastest growing sector, it said.

It would comply with the corporate governance council’s recommendations on an “if not why not” basis once they were finalised, ASX Ltd said.

Whitehaven Coal was among the lowest-scoring companies in the Market Forces research, which found that the coal miner – a vocal proponent of “High Energy Low Emission” (HELE) coal fired-power stations – had not disclosed any risks it may face from climate change or listed it as a material business risk.

Market Forces has launched shareholder resolutions against Whitehaven Coal ahead of its AGM in October, calling on the company to ensure its strategy was “consistent” with the Paris agreement. The vote would be a “litmus test” on investors’ willingness to push companies on climate, Market Forces said.

Whitehaven has said it will recommend shareholders vote against the resolutions. “We are not going to pre-empt the proceedings of the AGM,” a Whitehaven spokesman said when asked for comment. “We will recommend shareholders not support resolutions requisitioned by shareholders representing 0.0016 per cent of the company’s shares on issue for the sole purpose of supporting Market Forces’ ongoing anti fossil fuels campaign.”

It did not comment on Market Forces’ research.

In the past two years, Market Forces has coordinated a series of shareholder resolutions pushing companies including QBE, Santos and Oil Search to disclose more about climate risks. None of the resolutions have been successful, but they have won the backing of some major investors, with the QBE resolution in May attracting more than 18 per cent support.

The step up in the number of such agenda items, from Market Forces and others, has met with frustration from some boards and the body representing investor relations professionals, partly due to the time and resources they say it takes for companies to deal with them. Companies targeted have urged shareholders not to vote for them.

Press link for more: SMH

Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050 #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #EndCoal #Neoliberalism is a suicide cult. #Drought #Heatwave #Bushfire #Famine #Poverty #ClimateChange

Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050

Drew Hansen12:54 pm

Capitalism has generated massive wealth for some, but it’s devastated the planet and has failed to improve human well-being at scale.

• Species are going extinct at a rate 1,000 times faster than that of the natural rate over the previous 65 million years (see Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School).

• Since 2000, 6 million hectares of primary forest have been lost each year. That’s 14,826,322 acres, or just less than the entire state of West Virginia (see the 2010 assessment by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN).

• Even in the U.S., 15% of the population lives below the poverty line. For children under the age of 18, that number increases to 20% (see U.S. Census).

• The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 (see United Nations’ projections).

Capitalism is unsustainable in its current form. (Credit: ZINIYANGE AUNTONY/AFP/Getty Images)

How do we expect to feed that many people while we exhaust the resources that remain?

Human activities are behind the extinction crisis. Commercial agriculture, timber extraction, and infrastructure development are causing habitat loss and our reliance on fossil fuels is a major contributor to climate change.

Public corporations are responding to consumer demand and pressure from Wall Street. Professors Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg published Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations last fall, arguing that businesses are locked in a cycle of exploiting the world’s resources in ever more creative ways.

“Our book shows how large corporations are able to continue engaging in increasingly environmentally exploitative behaviour by obscuring the link between endless economic growth and worsening environmental destruction,” they wrote.

Yale sociologist Justin Farrell studied 20 years of corporate funding and found that “corporations have used their wealth to amplify contrarian views [of climate change] and create an impression of greater scientific uncertainty than actually exists.”

Corporate capitalism is committed to the relentless pursuit of growth, even if it ravages the planet and threatens human health.

We need to build a new system: one that will balance economic growth with sustainability and human flourishing.

A new generation of companies are showing the way forward. They’re infusing capitalism with fresh ideas, specifically in regards to employee ownership and agile management.

The Increasing Importance Of Distributed Ownership And Governance

Fund managers at global financial institutions own the majority (70%) of the public stock exchange. These absent owners have no stake in the communities in which the companies operate. Furthermore, management-controlled equity is concentrated in the hands of a select few: the CEO and other senior executives.

On the other hand, startups have been willing to distribute equity to employees. Sometimes such equity distribution is done to make up for less than competitive salaries, but more often it’s offered as a financial incentive to motivate employees toward building a successful company.

According to The Economist, today’s startups are keen to incentivize via shared ownership:

The central difference lies in ownership: whereas nobody is sure who owns public companies, startups go to great lengths to define who owns what. Early in a company’s life, the founders and first recruits own a majority stake—and they incentivise people with ownership stakes or performance-related rewards. That has always been true for startups, but today the rights and responsibilities are meticulously defined in contracts drawn up by lawyers. This aligns interests and creates a culture of hard work and camaraderie. Because they are private rather than public, they measure how they are doing using performance indicators (such as how many products they have produced) rather than elaborate accounting standards.

This trend hearkens back to cooperatives where employees collectively owned the enterprise and participated in management decisions through their voting rights. Mondragon is the oft-cited example of a successful, modern worker cooperative. Mondragon’s broad-based employee ownership is not the same as an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. With ownership comes a say – control – over the business. Their workers elect management, and management is responsible to the employees.

REI is a consumer cooperative that drew attention this past year when it opted out of Black Friday sales, encouraging its employees and customers to spend the day outside instead of shopping.

I suspect that the most successful companies under this emerging form of capitalism will have less concentrated, more egalitarian ownership structures. They will benefit not only financially but also communally.

Joint Ownership Will Lead To Collaborative Management

The hierarchical organization of modern corporations will give way to networks or communities that make collaboration paramount. Many options for more fluid, agile management structures could take hold.

For instance, newer companies are experimenting with alternative management models that seek to empower employees more than a traditional hierarchy typically does. Of these newer approaches, holacracy is the most widely known. It promises to bring structure and discipline to a peer-to-peer workplace.

Holacracy “is a new way of running an organization that removes power from a management hierarchy and distributes it across clear roles, which can then be executed autonomously, without a micromanaging boss.”

Companies like Zappos and Medium are in varying stages of implementing the management system.

Valve Software in Seattle goes even further, allowing employees to select which projects they want to work on. Employees then move their desks to the most conducive office area for collaborating with the project team.

These are small steps toward a system that values the employee more than what the employee can produce. By giving employees a greater say in decision-making, corporations will make choices that ensure the future of the planet and its inhabitants.

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Press link for more: Forbes

World leaders who deny #climatechange should go to mental hospital – Samoan PM #StopAdani #EndCoal #auspol #qldpol

World leaders who deny climate change should go to mental hospital – Samoan PM

Tuilaepa Sailele berates leaders who fail to take issue seriously, singling out Australia, India, China and the US

By Kate Lyons

Climate change denial is ‘utterly stupid’, said Samoa’s PM. Photograph: chameleonseye/Getty Images

The prime minister of Samoa has called climate change an “existential threat … for all our Pacific family” and said that any world leader who denied climate change’s existence should be taken to a mental hospital.

In a searing speech delivered on Thursday night during a visit to Sydney, Tuilaepa Sailele berated leaders who fail to take climate change seriously, singling out Australia, as well as India, China and the US, which he said were the “three countries that are responsible for all this disaster”.

“Any leader of those countries who believes that there is no climate change I think he ought to be taken to mental confinement, he is utter[ly] stupid and I say the same thing for any leader here who says there is no climate change.”

Speaking at the Lowy Institute, just days before the beginning of the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru, the Samoan prime minister seemed to take a swipe at Australia’s commitment to minimising the impact of climate change, which he called the “single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and wellbeing peoples of the Pacific”.

“While climate change may be considered a slow onset threat by some in our region, its adverse impacts are already felt by our Pacific islands peoples and communities,” said Sailele. “Greater ambition is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade and Pacific island countries continue to urge faster action by all countries.”

Sailele said addressing climate change required “political guts” from leaders. “We all know the problem, we all know the causes, we all know the solutions. All that is left would be some political courage, some political guts to get out and tell the people of your country, ‘Do this, this, this, or there is any certainty of disaster.’

Sailele’s speech comes as leaders of Pacific nations are preparing to meet at the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru next week, where Australia is expected to face questions about its emissions targets.

Australia’s new prime minister, Scott Morrison, is under pressure from some members of his party to abandon Australia’s commitment to reducing emissions under the Paris agreement.

His immediate predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, was due to attend the forum, but Morrison has announced he is sending his new foreign minister, Marisa Payne, a move the opposition Labor party condemned as “an insult to our neighbours” as well as “a serious strategic mistake”.

Saliele’s speech also touched on China’s rising influence in the Pacific, saying the region had become “an increasingly contested space”. “The big powers are doggedly pursuing strategies to widen and extend their reach, inculcating a far-reaching sense of insecurity.”

Press link for more: The Guardian

Trump Coal Plan Will Kill 1,400 Americans a Year #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ClimateChange #AirPollution

Trump Administration Says Trump Coal Plan Will Kill 1,400 Americans a Year

By Jonathan Chait

Donald Trump. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Coal is a dirty fuel.

Not only does it contain far more carbon than other energy sources, it also contains other kinds of pollutants.

The non-carbon pollution effects are a crucial cause of coal’s decline.

It’s why Chinese cities, so choked with pollution that you can barely breath outside, are phasing out coal.

The Obama administration helped drive coal plants out of business by regulating those pollution sources more strictly.

Trump’s energy plan, unveiled last night, is to deregulate coal in hopes of staving off its demise.

Trump justifies the policy on the grounds that coal miners are wonderful people, windmills kill (and are somehow killed by) birds, and climate science is a hoax.

Melt the glaciers to own the liberals. But there’s an important side effect to his pro-coal policy: keeping more coal-fired plants around means keeping more of the other kinds of pollution around in addition to carbon dioxide.

The New York Times peered into the internal documents written by Trump’s own Environmental Protection Agency, and it finds the additional pollution will kill a projected 1,400 Americans a year.

As the EPA delicately puts it, “Implementing the proposed rule is expected to increase emissions of carbon dioxide and the level of emissions of certain pollutants in the atmosphere that adversely affect human health.” But killing 1,400 Americans a year is the price we have to pay rather than live with wind turbines that will kill a fraction of a percent of the bird population.

Press link for more: NYMAG.COM

Josh Frydenberg Australia’s Minister for Environment loves coal.

How Coal Kills

Pollution from coal-fired power plants can be hazardous to the health of those living nearby.

Coal combustion plants account for more than half of Americans’ electric power generation.

According to Coal’s Assault on Human Health, a report by the non-profit Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), coal combustion releases mercury, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and other substances known to be hazardous to human health.

The report evaluates the impacts of coal pollution on our respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems and concludes that air pollutants produced by coal combustion contribute to asthma, lung cancer, congestive heart failure and strokes.

“The findings of this report are clear: While the U.S. relies heavily on coal for its energy needs, the consequences of that reliance for our health are grave,” says Alan Lockwood, a principal author of the report and a professor of neurology at the University at Buffalo.

The PSR report further illustrates the adverse effects of the mining of coal on the environment, water and human health. Coal mining leads U.S. industries in fatal injuries, and miners have suffered prolonged health issues, such as black lung disease, which causes permanent scarring of the lung tissues. Surface mining destroys forests and groundcover, leading to flooding and soil erosion. Mountaintop removal mining—used widely across southern Appalachia—can bury streams with rubble and, in turn, harm aquatic ecosystems.

Waterways may also become contaminated due to the storage of post-combustion wastes from coal plants, also known as “coal ash.” There are 584 coal ash storage sites in the United States, and toxic residues have migrated into water supplies at dozens of them.

“Coal ash is a silent killer,” says Barbara Gottlieb, director of environment and health at PSR. “Communities are drinking contaminated water laced with toxic chemicals that poison humans.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, coal plants can reduce sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide and greenhouse-gas emissions by using biomass as a supplemental fuel in existing coal boilers.

A Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report says that tree limbs and tops normally left behind after timber harvesting operations, and otherwise unmarketable materials like dead, damaged and small-diameter trees, can be collected for biomass energy use. Income from selling biomass can pay for or partially offset the cost of forest management treatments needed to remove invasive species or reduce the threat of fires.

Utilities like New Hampshire’s Northern Wood Power are taking a lead in putting biomass energy to work in their power plants. In 2006, the company replaced a 50-megawatt coal-burning boiler in Portsmouth with one that uses wood chips and other wood materials for fuel. The result has been a reduction in coal use by more than 130,000 tons annually, reduced air emissions by more than 400,000 tons annually and the development of a thriving wood chip market for New Hampshire’s forest industry.

Retrofitting coal-fired power plants to burn biomass makes sense for utilities trying to be greener while keeping their existing facilities productive, but environmental leaders stress that the federal government should provide more incentives for switching over to even greener energy sources like solar or wind.

Press link for more: Scientific American

Freak weather, explained #Drought #Heatwave #Wildfire #Flood #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateChange Join the dots @SciNate #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

Climate change is not only hiking up temperatures, but changing the dynamics of weather itself.

Stefan Rahmstorf8/16/18, 1:40 PM CET

We’ve all become increasingly used to reports of extreme weather over the past few years. But this summer’s raft of dramatic weather events is significant: Not only does it show what warming can do, it points to the potential large-scale trouble that lurks in the disruption of the planet’s winds and ocean currents.

In the past few months alone, we’ve seen extreme heat in Western Europe, Canada, Alaska, the western United States, Texas, Japan and Algeria, which set a new temperature record for Africa. Greece, Scandinavia, California and Siberia all suffered through drought and wildfires, while Japan, the U.S., Europe and India were hit with devastating floods. The human toll and harvest losses are still being tallied.

That global warming leads to more heat extremes is not rocket science and has been confirmed by global data analysis. We’re seeing five times more monthly heat records — such as “hottest July on record in California” — now than we would in a stable climate.

As part of this pattern, we can expect more heat drying out soils and causing more drought and wildfires. We also expect to see more extreme rain, given that a warmer atmosphere can take up and then release more moisture. A global increase in rainfall records has also been documented in weather station data.

But there is something more interesting going on here too.

2018 was a whopping 4.3 degrees above the average value of the first 30 years in which data was measured.

It’s not just that the weather is doing what it always does, except at a higher temperature level. Rather, there is growing evidence that the dynamics of weather itself are changing.

Let’s take a look at a concrete example. In my home town Potsdam, near Berlin — which boasts a high-quality weather station with uninterrupted homogeneous data since 1893 — April was the warmest April since measurements began, and May was the warmest May. Although June and July did not set any new records — those were recorded in 2003 and 2006 — they were also among the warmest. Just how extraordinary the current hot weather anomaly really is can best be seen when looking at the period between April and July.

We see a steady climate warming of around 2 degrees Celsius in the smooth climate curve since 1980, in parallel to global warming but twice as fast. This is typical of continental areas; ocean areas warm less due to heat storage and evaporation. We also see that 2018 was a whopping 4.3 degrees above the average value of the first 30 years in which data was measured, and nearly 2 degrees above the smoothed climate curve. This is by far the largest outlier relative to the climate curve. What’s going on?

A naive way to estimate the contribution of climate change to the high temperatures goes something like this: The smoothed curve shows the effect of global warming, and the scattering of the grey bars around this curve is the random variations of the weather. Accordingly, slightly more than half of the 4.3 degrees would be due to global warming, the rest to weather.

That’s not a bad first estimate, but it likely underestimates the contribution of climate change.

Not only is the current outlier by far the biggest, there is growing evidence that the “rest of the weather” is not just random but has already been altered by climate change too.

This is currently one of the hottest topics in climate research. The basic idea is that the jet stream — a band of high winds around the Northern Hemisphere that significantly influences our weather in the mid-latitudes — is changing.

This phenomenon has been confirmed by data: Researchers showed in 2015 that the jet stream has actually slowed down significantly in recent decades and undulates more. The cause is probably the strong warming of the Arctic, as the jet stream is driven by the temperature contrast between the tropics and the Arctic. Because this temperature difference is getting smaller and smaller, the jet stream is weakening and becoming less stable.

The weaker summer circulation means fewer weather changes, so the weather is becoming more persistent.

Climate change does not just mean that everything is gradually getting warmer | Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP via Getty Images

A certain wave pattern in the jet stream, meandering from north to south, settles for a long time and brings heat and drought or continuous rain, depending on where you are in this pattern. Such a persistent jet stream pattern has played an important role in the weather extremes of recent weeks, connecting the extremes around the Northern Hemisphere.

But the atmosphere is not the only player that can change its flow patterns. The ocean circulation may also have played a role, in particular the Gulf Stream System.

Researchers have shown that particularly cold surface water in the subpolar North Atlantic favors summer heat in Europe, again by changing the pattern of highs and lows in the atmosphere and thus the undulations of the jet stream. This happened in the “summer of the century” in 2003 and the heat wave of 2015.

The reality of global warming is catching up with us fast, and no longer an issue for future generations.

That year even saw the coldest temperatures on record in the subpolar Atlantic — the only region on Earth that has defied global warming and cooled instead. Such cold in the North Atlantic is occurring more and more frequently because the Gulf Stream System is weakening, as has been predicted by climate models in response to global warming.

Climate change does not just mean that everything is gradually getting warmer: It is also changing the major circulations of our atmosphere and ocean. This is making the weather increasingly weird and unpredictable.

The reality of global warming is catching up with us fast, and no longer an issue for future generations. We will need to prepare for more unpleasant surprises in the coming years, and we need to urgently cut down emissions to prevent further destabilizing our climate system.

Stefan Rahmstorf is professor of physics of the oceans and head of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He is the recipient of the 2017 Climate Communication Prize of the American Geophysical Union.

Press link for more: Politico.eu

Bernie Sanders: “We must act on #ClimateChange “#auspol #qldpol #nswpol #Drought #Heatwave #Wildfire @SciNate Join the dots #ClimateCrisis #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) criticized Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Monday for saying that the debate over California’s wildfires has “nothing to do with climate change.”

Sanders, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016 and is one of the Senate’s most progressive members on climate change, said the wildfires should show how serious a threat global warming is.

“No, Secretary Zinke. The record-breaking wildfires in California have everything to do with climate change,” Sanders tweeted, responding to a report in The Hill on Zinke’s remarks to a Sacramento television station. “We must confront the reality that climate change is already destroying tens of thousands of lives, and take concrete steps to avoid its worst consequences.”

Time to heat-proof our cities. #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

What would a heat-proof city look like?

Philip OldfieldWed 15 Aug 2018 15.00 AEST

If you’ve felt uncomfortably hot in a city this summer, chances are it’s not just because of the weather.

Look around any urban centre and you’ll see the built environment itself exacerbates summer temperatures.

Vehicles stuck in traffic emitting heat.

Airconditioners pumping waste heat into the air.

Concrete and asphalt across almost every surface, absorbing and radiating the sun’s rays. Urban canyons formed between tall buildings, trapping heat at the street level.

All these factors contribute towards a phenomenon called the “urban heat island” effect, which results in cities being up to 10C hotter than the surrounding countryside.

How do we to tackle this?

A typical response on a hot day might be to turn up the aircon. But this fuels a vicious circle of heating the outdoors to cool the indoors, making external spaces more uncomfortable still, and at a significant cost. Airconditioning currently accounts for around one-fifth of building-related global electricity usage, or 2.5 timesthe total electricity use in Africa.

• A thermal imaging photograph of Sydney shows high surface temperatures of asphalt roads and buildings, with lower temperatures in the shade

With a warming climate and rapid population growth in hotter, increasingly wealthy countries, our use of airconditioning is set to skyrocket in what the International Energy Agency calls a “looming cold crunch”. They estimate that the energy needed for cooling buildings will triple by 2050 – a growth equivalent to the current electricity demand in the USA and Germany combined.

In the US heatwaves kill more people on average than any other natural disaster

Yet our disproportionately warm cities do not simply pose an energy challenge. Ultimately, urban temperature presents us with life-or-death situations; an increase in mortality and strokes is reported when temperatures head above 25C. In the US heatwaves kill more people on average than any other natural disaster, while in the UK heat-related deaths are set to increase 257% by 2050 and 535% by 2080. And it is not just an issue in hot countries – in Moscow an estimated 11,000 people died due to a heatwave in 2010.

With the frequency and intensity of heatwaves increasing we need to urgently tackle the excess heat we face both inside our buildings, and in our cities’ outside spaces. Fortunately, there are many ways in which we can mitigate the urban heat island effect – while also creating more attractive places to live, work and play.

Gardens in the sky

As is obvious to anyone who has sat under a tree on a hot day, vegetation can be a powerful tool in the fight against excessive city heat. Not only does greenery provide shade, it stimulates evapotranspiration, the process by which water evaporating from plants’ leaves reduces the adjacent air temperature.

Many cities recognise the value of parks and trees for urban cooling, not to mention residents’ psychological wellbeing, but few have embraced greenery to the extent of Singapore. The city-state embarked on its ambitious “garden city” plan in 1967 through intensive tree-planting and the creation of new parks. As the population grew and buildings got taller, the focus shifted to include skyrise greenery encompassing “skygardens”, vertical planting and green roofs.

Today Singapore accommodates 100 hectares (240 acres) of skyrise greenery, with plans to increase this to 200 ha by 2030 – an area equivalent to Regent’s Park. This growth is fuelled by building regulations such as the Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-Rises (Lush) policy. Lush requires any new building to include areas of greenery equivalent to the size of the development site. These can be at ground level or at height, and often include luxuriantly planted balconies, shaded skygardens and vertical green walls – which can help cause temperatures to drop by 2-3ºC.

• Green buildings in Singapore

Many new buildings go far beyond the minimum required. The Oasia Hotel, designed by WOHA Architects, accommodates greenery across virtually every surface. Wrapped in a dramatic 200m-tall planted trellis, the building almost drips with vegetation, and is wildly at odds with the corporate steel and glass of many urban structures.

“We’ve almost created, in some ways, the notion of a huge tree in the city,” says Wong Mun Summ, Founding Director at WOHA. “[It’s] a device in the city that really supports a thriving eco-system three-dimensionally in a very dense environment.” The result is a building that accommodates greenery equivalent to 11 times its own footprint. As well as cooling, such abundant vegetation contributes many other benefits too – absorbing pollutants from the air, producing oxygen and creating a calming, natural setting within the hyper-dense city.

Reflective roofs

If we are to make cities cooler we must also change the materials they’re built from. Urban areas are dominated by dark and hard materials – concrete, asphalt, paving – most of which absorb, rather than reflect, solar radiation. According to Australia’s Corporate Research Centre for Low Carbon Living, conventional paving can reach temperatures up to 67C and conventional roofs up to 50–90C on a hot day.

Such temperatures can have significant health impacts. According to Arthur Rosenfeld of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, living on the top floor of a building with a dark roof was identified as a risk factor of mortality in the 1995 heatwave in Chicago. “Government has a role to ban or phase out the use of black or dark roofs, at least in warm climates, because they pose a large negative health risk,” he said.

The best way to overcome this is to use cool coatings– typically lighter pigments in asphalt or white-coloured coatings applied to roads, roofs and facades, which reflect more solar energy away from the city.

• Trials of a reflective road coating in Los Angeles

The New York Cools Roofs initiative, for example, has seen more than 500,000m² of roof space covered in a white reflective coating, saving an estimated 2,282 tonnes of CO2 per year from cooling emissions. Cool roofs are installed at no cost in public buildings, for non-profit organisations and in affordable housing. In other buildings free labour for installation is offered by the city with the owner just paying for the materials.

It may sound simple, but the results can be significant – research by Nasa has suggested a white roof could be 5.5C (42ºF) cooler than a typical black roof on the hottest day of the New York summer.

In Los Angeles, it’s roads, not roofs, that arethe challenge. More than 10% of the city’s land area is black asphalt, which absorbs up to 95% of the sun’s energy, contributing to the urban heat island. The city is responding by painting roads in a white-coloured sealant with a high reflectivity, at a cost of $40,000 per mile. Initial measurements suggest a reduction in temperature of 10-15ºF, though one road was found to be as much as 23F cooler after painting.

Water: a tool to cool

Water has been used as a tool to cool cities for centuries. The 14th century palace of Alhambra, for example, housed courtyards with pools and arching fountains, stimulating the evaporation of water and cooling the hot, dry Andalusian air.

The contemporary heat-proof city could follow suit, accommodating ponds, pools, fountains, sprinklers and misting systems to cool outdoor spaces.

Chongqing is known as one of the “three furnaces” of the Yangtze River Delta, given its long hot summers. To provide moments of relief, the city is experimenting by using water misters at local bus stops. These spray clouds of water chilled to 5-7C, cooling the air as well as the waiting passengers.

Combining water with other urban cooling strategies can yield significant temperature reductions. The University of New South Wales, the CRCLCL and Sydney Water studied the urban heat island effect in western Sydney, where temperatures can often be 6–10C hotter than the coastal regions of the city little more than 15 miles away and found that adding water features and cool coatings would reduce cooling requirements by 29–43% and lower the overall average air temperature by 1.5C. Temperatures taken adjacent to water features were up to 10C lower, the study found.

Dynamic shades

One of the challenges in keeping the built environment cool is overreliance on fully-glazed facades. Many windows permit desirable natural light and views but can mean buildings trap unwanted heat in summer and don’t retain it in winter. We can easily design shading systems to protect buildings from the sun, but for the best possible results, these shading systems need to move in tune with the local weather and the path of the sun.

A radical example is in Abu Dhabi, where summer temperatures rise as high as 48C and buildings need to be shielded from the harsh desert sun. The Al Bahr Towers take inspiration from a Middle Eastern shading device known as a mashrabiya. Historically, these are wooden screens, patterned with Islamic geometry to allow for filtered light and views while protecting inhabitants from the intensity of the sun. But the modern mashrabiya in the Al Bahr Towers move to create a dramatic, adaptable façade, estimated to reduce the building’s CO2 emissions by 20%.

• The exterior of Al Bahr towers in Abu Dhabi

A building management system operates 1,049 hexagon-shaped shades, opening and closing them like flowers. Their movements follow the sun, shading the parts of the building in direct sunlight but opening up to allow for natural light as the sun moves by.

The result is a constantly changing and adapting façade, one that reflects daily and seasonal patterns of weather, climate and occupation and responds to changing needs of heat and light. Adaptable buildings and infrastructure like this one, which can morph to respond to different seasons and weather events, will be crucial in the future battle to keep cool and comfortable in a warming climate.

Press link for more: The Guardian