Rotterdam

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Bushfires linked to #ClimateChange #auspol 

During the period 1973-2009, the area burned in southeast Australia has increased in seven out of eight forest biomes (Bradstock et al. 2014).

 Since the start of the 21st century, large and uncontrollable fires destroyed 500 houses in Canberra in 2003, bush fires in Victoria in 2009 claimed 173 lives and destroyed over 2,000 houses, and in 2013 large fires in Tasmania destroyed nearly 200 properties and forced the evacuation of hundreds of people from the Tasman Peninsula.

The West Australia town of Yarloop, located on the coast south of Perth, experienced
one of Australia’s worst bush fires in 2016. 


Smoke from the Yarloop fire Photo John Pratt 

With minimal warning, the fires reached Yarloop and destroyed the entire town centre (ABC 2016a).

 121 homes were destroyed and approximately 67,000 hectares of land were burned (ABC 2016a). 

The fire was so intense that it created its own weather system, causing rainfall and triggering extensive lightning. 

The bush fire occurred during a strong El Niño event, bringing warmer and drier weather to western Australia (BoM 2016d), in addition to the long-term trend of a warming climate.

The impacts of a changing climate on bushfire regimes are complex. 

A fire needs to be started (ignition), it needs something to burn (fuel), and it needs conditions that are conducive to its spread (weather) (Bradstock et al. 2014)

While a fire must be ignited (by humans or lightning), the main determinants of whether a fire will take hold are the condition of the fuel and the weather, which are linked. 

The influence of climate change on the amount and condition of
the fuel is complex. 

For example, increases
in rainfall may dampen the bushfire risk
in one year by keeping the fuel load wetter, but increase the risk in subsequent years
by enhancing vegetation growth and thus increasing the fuel load in the longer term.

It is clear, however, that climate change is driving up the likelihood of dangerous re weather. 

At higher temperatures, fuel is ‘desiccated’ and is more likely to ignite and to continue to burn (Geoscience Australia 2015). 

In addition, fires are more likely to break out on days that are very hot, with low humidity and high winds – that, is high fire danger weather (Clarke et al. 2013).

Heatwaves are becoming hotter, longer and more frequent, which is contributing to an increase in dangerous bushfire  weather. 

Also, over the past several decades in the southeast and southwest of Australia, there has been a drying trend characterised by declining rainfall and soil moisture (CSIRO and BoM 2014). 

Contributing to this drying trend is a southward shift of fronts that bring rain to southern Australia in the cooler months of the year (CSIRO and BoM 2015). 

In very dry conditions, with relative humidity less than around 20%, fuel dries out and becomes more ammable (BoM 2009). Jolly et al. (2015) and Williamson et al. (2016) highlighted that the combination of droughts and heatwaves contribute significantly to particularly bad fire seasons in Australia’s southeast. 

A study into forested regions of Australia found that, in the majority of cases, years with drought conditions resulted in a greater area of burned land (Bradstock et al. 2014).

Press link for full report: Climate Council

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The world is looking to China for #climate leadership. #auspol #science 


President of China Xi Jinping. Credit: Michel Temer Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
By Alissa de Carbonnel
BRUSSELS, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Faced with a U.S. retreat from international efforts to tackle climate change, European Union officials are looking to China, fearing a leadership vacuum will embolden those within the bloc seeking to slow the fight against global warming.
While U.S. President Donald Trump has yet to act on campaign pledges to pull out of the 2015 Paris accord to cut greenhouse gas emissions, his swift action in other areas has sparked sharp words from usually measured EU bureaucrats.

When Trump’s former environment adviser, until the president’s inauguration this month, took to a stage in Brussels on Wednesday and called climate experts “urban imperialists”, a rebuke from Britain’s former energy minister drew applause from the crowd packed with EU officials.
But with fault lines over Brexit, dependence on Russian energy and protecting industry threatening the bloc’s own common policy, some EU diplomats worry Europe is too weak to lead on its own in tackling climate change.
Instead, they are pinning their hopes on China, concerned that without the backing of the world’s second-biggest economy support for the global pact to avert droughts, rising seas and other affects of climate change will flounder.
“Can we just fill the gap? No because we will be too fragmented and too inward looking,” one EU official, involved in climate talks, told Reuters. “Europe will now be looking to China to make sure that it is not alone.”
The EU’s top climate diplomat Miguel Arias Canete will travel to Beijing at the end of March, EU sources said. Offering EU expertise on its plans to build a “cap-and-trade” system is one area officials see for expanded cooperation.
Enticed by huge investments in solar and wind power in economies such as China and India, Germany, Britain and France are seeking closer ties to gain a share of the business.
But hurdles stand in the way of an EU clean energy alliance with China after the two sides narrowly averted a trade war in 2013 over EU allegations of solar panel dumping by China.
“We need to embrace the fact that China has invested very heavily in clean energy,” Gregory Barker, climate change minister to former British Prime Minister David Cameron, told Reuters on the sidelines the environment conference in Brussels organised by conservative politicians.
“If America won’t lead then it’s clear that China will.”
‘WE LOST A MAJOR ALLY’

China’s partnership with former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration helped get nearly 200 countries to support the Paris climate change pact in 2015.
That agreement, which looks to limit the rise in average global temperature to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels, entered into force late last year, binding nations that ratified to draft national plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But despite Beijing’s green policy drive, propelled by domestic anger over smog and the environmental devastation wrought by rapid economic growth, some EU officials are sceptical it can pull as much weight as the United States on climate issues.
“We will make a lot of noises (about allying with China), but let’s be honest we lost an ally – a major one,” a senior EU energy diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “China’s biggest issues are domestic … It’s clean water, air and food.”
When the United States last took a step back on climate diplomacy, giving up on the 1997 Kyoto protocol on CO2 emissions under former U.S. President George W. Bush, Europe assumed leadership of global negotiations to cap planet warming.
It is among the first now to legislate on how to spread the burden among its member nations of its promise to cut emissions by 40 percent by 2030.
Talks are tough, though, particularly for coal-dependent nations such as Poland, and EU officials fear climate scepticism in the Trump administration may slow efforts.
“This may give the perfect excuse to a number of countries like Poland,” another EU official said. “The deal has always been that we move when the big players (the United States and China) move.”
Others are more sanguine, saying a U.S. retreat would dent, but not destroy, the current global momentum in tackling climate change – not least because cities, businesses and civil society are driving for change as much as governments.
“If the U.S. doesn’t play the game, that’s a problem. But it’s a trade problem,” an EU diplomat said. “Maybe European business will win out.”
To date, there has been no sign that any other country is preparing to pull out of the Paris agreement. Days after Trump’s election, almost 200 nations at the Marrakesh annual U.N. talks agreed a declaration saying that tackling climate change was an “urgent duty”.

Press link for more: Scientific American

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Clean Coal is a Dirty Lie #Auspol 

When the industry talks about “clean coal,” it is referring to a range of technologies that burn coal more efficiently, and pollution controls that remove some of the nastiest pollutants from the smokestack.

Yet even the most efficient coal-fired power plants only operate at around 44% efficiency, meaning that 56% of the energy content of the coal is lost. 

These plants emit 15 times more carbon dioxide than renewable energy systems and twice as much CO2 as gas-fired power plants.

Pollution controls can remove sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides, PM2.5 and mercury from the smokestacks. However, installing these pollution controls can add hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of a new coal plant, making them more expensive than other renewable options, and discouraging their adoption. Today many countries continue to build new coal plants and run existing coal plants without modern pollution controls, seriously affecting the health of their citizens.
While pollution controls can remove a lot of the toxic waste from the smokestake, these toxins end up in the coal ash. This ash is stored in waste ponds or landfills which leach sulfur dioxide and heavy metals into surface and groundwater. Studies in the United States show an increase in water pollution after installation of scrubbers on coal plants.


The coal industry advocates that carbon capture and storage (CCS) can reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. 

However, CCS is an unproven technology which has not yet been implemented at a large-scale fossil fuel plant. 

The greatest barrier to CCS is its economic viability. 

Between 25-40% more coal would be required to produce the same amount of energy using this technology. 

Consequently, more coal would be mined, transported, processed and burned, increasing the amount of air pollution and hazardous waste generated by coal plants. 


The cost of construction of CCS facilities and the “energy penalty” would almost double the costs of electricity generation from coal, making it economically unviable.
Furthermore, there are considerable questions about the technical viability of CCS. 

It is unclear whether CO2 can be permanently sequestered underground and what seismic risks underground storage poses.
Ultimately, coal cannot be considered “clean” when you factor in the air and water pollution generated by coal mining, preparation, transport and combustion. Pollution from the coal life cycle harms human health and the environment. 

Clean coal is a dirty lie.

Press link for more: End Coal

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Economist Sounds the Alarm on #ClimateChange #auspol 

A Climate Change Economist Sounds the Alarm
Some people who study climate change believe that addressing it later — when economic growth has made humanity wealthier — would be better than taking drastic measures immediately. Now, though, one of this group’s most influential members appears to have changed his mind.

In the early 1990s, Yale’s William Nordhaus was among the first to examine the economics of reducing carbon emissions. Since then, he and colleagues have mixed climate physics with economic modeling to explore how various policies might play out both for global temperatures and growth. 

The approach attempts to weigh, in present-value terms, the costs of preventative measures against the future benefit of avoiding disaster.


Nordhaus has mostly argued for a small carbon tax, aimed at achieving a modest reduction in emissions, followed by sharper reductions in the medium and long term.

 Too much mitigation now, he has suggested, would damage economic growth, making us less capable of doing more in the future. 

This view has helped fossil fuel companies and climate change skeptics oppose any serious policy response.

In his latest analysis, though, Nordhaus comes to a very different conclusion. 

Using a more accurate treatment of how carbon dioxide may affect temperatures, and how remaining uncertainties affect the likely economic outcomes, he finds that our current response to global warming is probably inadequate to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above their pre-industrial levels, a stated goal of the Paris accords.


Worse, the analysis suggests that the required carbon-dioxide reductions are beyond what’s politically possible. For all the talk of curbing climate change, most nations remain on a business-as-usual trajectory. Meanwhile, further economic growth will drive even greater carbon emissions over coming decades, particularly in developing nations.
Nordhaus deserves credit for changing his mind as the results of his analyses have changed, and for focusing on the implications of current policies rather than making rosy assumptions about the ability of new technologies to achieve emission reductions in the future. 

Many other analyses — including those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — don’t demand such realism.

Nonetheless, the shift in his assessment is stark. For two decades, the advice has been to do a little but mostly hold off. Now, suddenly, the message is that it’s too late, that we should have been doing a lot more and there’s almost no way to avoid disaster.
Perhaps the main lesson is that we shouldn’t put too much trust in cost-benefit calculations, the standard economic recipe for making policy decisions. 

In the case of climate change, they are inherently biased toward inaction: It’s easy to see the costs of immediate emissions reductions, and much harder to quantify the benefits of avoiding a disaster likely to materialize much farther in the future. By the time the nature and impact of that disaster become clear, it may be too late to act.

Press link for more: Bloomberg.com

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Strong evidence human-caused climate change intensified heat waves #auspol

Scientists: Strong evidence that human-caused climate change intensified 2015 heat waves
Human-caused climate change very likely increased the severity of heat waves that plagued India, Pakistan, Europe, East Africa, East Asia, and Australia in 2015 and helped make it the warmest year on record, according to new research published today in a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

The fifth edition of Explaining Extreme Events from a Climate Perspectiveoffsite link presents 25 peer-reviewed research papers that examine episodes of extreme weather of 2015 over five continents and two oceans. It features the research of 116 scientists from 18 countries analyzing both historical observations and changing trends along with model results to determine whether and how climate change may have influenced the event.
The strongest evidence for a human influence was found for temperature-related events — the increased intensity of numerous heat waves, diminished snowpack in the Cascades, record-low Arctic sea ice extent in March and the extraordinary extent and duration of Alaska wildfires.

“After five years of the BAMS Explaining Extreme Events report, we’re seeing mounting evidence that climate change is making heat waves more extreme in many regions around the world,” said lead editor Stephanie C. Herring, a scientist with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. “As we get better at distinguishing the influence of climate change from natural variability, the local significance and impacts of this global phenomenon are becoming clearer.”
Evidence of climate change in 2015 flooding, fires – and sunshine
Numerous other events of 2015 were made more extreme by climate change, the report found. The probability of “sunny day” tidal flooding events in the Miami area, like the one that inundated coastal areas that September, has risen 500 percent since 1994, according to one study. Human-induced climate change likely contributed to the record high intensity of west North Pacific typhoons and the record amount of winter sunshine in the United Kingdom.

But researchers found no evidence of an overall climate change signal in the delayed onset of the Nigerian spring rainy season or in the extreme daily rainfall totals that inundated Chennai, India in December. There was likewise no evidence that the extreme cold winter conditions over the northeast United States in 2015 were made more likely by human-induced climate change.
Lessons learned over the past five years
More than 100 papers examining extreme events have been accepted for publication in this special report since its inaugural issue in 2012. These studies take a place-based and event-specific approach to identifying the role of climate change, and answer the question of how much a particular recent event’s likelihood of recurrence or intensity has changed relative to the past.
While there’s mounting evidence in the role of climate change in amplifying the severity of heat waves, evidence of a climate change signal has not been found in a majority of extreme precipitation studies published in this special edition, Herring said.

However, she cautioned that the lack of clear evidence of a climate signal did not necessarily mean climate change played no role in an event. A “null” result could mean the event fell within the bounds of natural variability. It could also mean that the framing of the research question or the method of analysis chosen requires further refinement and development.
Identifying analytical methods that work better than others
Contributing authors choose the event they wish to study, so the new studies are neither a random sample nor a comprehensive survey of extreme weather events. They do illustrate how various methods can be applied to extreme event analysis, she said, and in cases where multiple groups look at the same event, the relative skill of different approaches can be compared.
“With this report, we continue to document scientists’ growing ability to identify how climate change influences today’s weather,” said Jeff Rosenfeld, editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, which independently conducts the peer reviews for studies included in this special report. “These accessible and brief papers show the scientific community and the public that once seemingly impossible insights about climate impacts are now within the capability of timely, rigorous science.”
Five NOAA scientists served as editors of Explaining Extreme Events of 2015 from a Climate Perspective: Herring, James Kossin, and Carl Schreck III of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information along with Martin P. Hoerling and Andrew Hoell with NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory. Peter A. Stott with the UK Met Office Hadley Centre also served as an editor.

Press link for more: Kokomoperspective.com

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Is it Game Over on the Climate? #auspol

Is it game over on the climate?

By Bill McKibben

One possibility is, we’ve lost. It’s a real possibility, and we should consider it carefully instead of ignoring it because it’s emotionally unpalatable.
I think the argument would go like this: The idea that humans would move quickly enough off coal and oil and gas to salvage the planet’s climate was always a long shot. When I wrote the first book on all of this back in 1989, I interviewed a political scientist who said “it’s the problem from hell,” with so many interests at odds, and so much money invested in the status quo, that it was hard to see a real path forward.

And that was back when we thought global warming would roll out somewhat slowly — when we feared the consequences that would unfold in the second half of this century. 

The scientists, it turns out, had been much too conservative, and so “ahead of schedule” became the watchword for everything from polar melt to ocean acidification. Already, only 17 years into the millennium, the planet is profoundly changed: half the ice missing from the polar north, for instance, which in turn is shifting weather patterns around the globe.

That galloping momentum of warming (building on itself, as white ice gives way to blue ocean and as fires in drought-stricken forests send clouds of carbon aloft) scares me. It should scare everyone; for a decade now, it has threatened to take this crisis beyond the reach of politics. To catch up with the physics of climate change we’d need a truly stunning commitment to change, an all-out, planetwide decision to push as hard as we’ve ever pushed to spread clean energy and shut down the dirty stuff.

The closest we’ve gotten to that — and in truth, it wasn’t all that close — was the Paris Agreement, that went into effect last November 4. It committed all the nations of the world to holding the planet’s temperature increase to as close to 1.5 degrees Celsius as possible, and by all means below 2 degrees. It lacked enforcement mechanisms and strict timetables, but it did at least signal the planet’s willingness to go to work. And it helped conjure up the counter-momentum that was beginning to take hold: renewable energy was suddenly outpacing fossil fuel in many places. Carbon emissions were starting to stabilize.

Four days later, Donald J. Trump was elected.
He has promised, of course, to scrap the Paris accords, but even if he doesn’t do that, he and his team will do all they can to slow that building momentum. And since pace is everything here, that might well be enough. Our not-verygood in-any-event chance just got much, much harder.
But — and I say this with a certain weary sadness — the chances have not gotten so much harder that one can justify giving up. There definitely are days when I wish one could simply say “that’s that” and walk away, and since I don’t live next to a refinery I suppose I have that luxury. Doing so would require, however, ignoring a few realities that shouldn’t be ignored.
One is the almost unbelievable fall in the price of renewable energy, which is continuing apace. Each passing month brings cheaper solar panels, more efficient wind turbines, more powerful batteries at lower cost, shinier electric cars. The pieces are there, and in a few spots they’re actually being used: If Denmark can generate half its power from the wind, then so can lots of other places. If India can build the world’s largest solar farm in a matter of months, then there’s no reason others couldn’t follow. The engineering breakthroughs of the last decade have made rapid conversion technologically plausible; as Mark Jacobson and his Stanford team have demonstrated, you can make the numbers work — they’ve shown stateby state that getting to 80 percent clean power in the U.S. by 2030 isn’t easy, but it is possible.

The other reality is darker, but no less real: Global warming will happen on a spectrum. It’s not like everything is okay up to 2 degrees, and then everything is hell. Hell is breaking loose now, and we’re barely past 1 degree. Two degrees will be exponentially tougher — but 3 degrees will be exponentially tougher than that. The battle never really ends: You just keep falling back to the next redoubt, finding some new weapon with which to fight, yielding no more ground than you must. We’re never going to reach the point where it can’t get any worse. It can get worse, and it will if we don’t battle.


Where, then, will the battle be fought?
To some degree, in Washington. That’s been the center of the environmental fight these last eight years, with defeats (cap-and-trade) and victories (the Keystone XL pipeline) and constant, focused lobbying. In fact, we’ve lost at least as much as we’ve won: Even as we greet the Trump disaster, it’s important to account honestly for the Obama years, when America passed Russia and Saudi Arabia as the greatest oil and gas nation on earth. Yes, good organizing helped break the back of the coal industry, but that carbon-spewing anthracite was mostly replaced by methane leaking fracked gas; depending on how you count the warming effect of that CH4, it’s entirely possible America’s greenhouse gas emissions went up during the Obama era. Still, D.C. was a place you could stand and fight: Obama had promised to do something about climate change, and you could try and hold him to that promise.

Trump has promised just the opposite, and there’s no real leverage to hold over him. As his Cabinet appointments have made entirely clear, he’s going to gut the EPA and turn the Department of Energy into a playground for the oil industry. (And who knows what he and Rex Tillerson and Vladimir Putin are cooking up for Russia.) At least for now, there’s only defense to be played, but defense is half of any game. If the filibuster remains in place and the Democrats can round up 40 votes, the worst damage can perhaps be avoided. That’s why we’ll muster and march: After the inauguration weekend’s Women’s March, a giant climate justice gathering on April 29 figures to be the next crucial date on the movement calendar. My guess, however, is that most of the action will be outside the Beltway in the next few years — that Sacramento and Albany will be capitals of almost equal significance as we struggle to keep the energy revolution going. California is the world’s sixth largest economy, and it has begun to prosper from a tide of clean energy investment; success there will help drive investment in the right direction. New York is halfway into the most ambitious utility restructuring plan on the continent. Assuming that Gov. Andrew Cuomo stays the course (and as a pol with an eye on bigger things, that seems a reasonable bet), the Empire State will demonstrate what a modern energy system might look like. That won’t turn off the dirty power plants in the rest of the country
— they’ve been granted a reprieve by Trump’s election — but it will keep Wall Street paying attention. And even across the middle of the country, sense keeps breaking out. Iowa is largely windpowered now; even Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich, recently refused to scrap renewable energy targets.
In this new landscape, the large, sprawling, diverse climate movement that has sprung up in the last decade can push the process in many useful ways.


Take, for instance, the ongoing battles against new fossil fuel infrastructure, exemplified in the last few years by the battles over the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. Those were crucial fights, and only in part because they slowed the construction of particular pipelines. They also scrambled the investment thinking of multinationals, banks, and investors. Canada’s tar sands, for instance, may have been dealt a fatal blow by the various pipeline battles — even if they’re eventually built, billions of dollars in new mining operations were deferred or canceled in the meantime. The idea that tar sands output would triple or quadruple has vanished; even Exxon is facing the likely need to write off its investment in the north.
The battle waged at Standing Rock over the Dakota Access pipeline was a particularly powerful chapter in this fight, and not just because it made crystal clear to the larger public what many of us have known for years: that frontline communities, and in particular Native Americans, are leading much of this struggle. Standing Rock also demonstrated that most of the nation’s (and many of the planet’s) big banks were still in the business of underwriting fossil fuel. That means new targets, and ones vulnerable to consumer pressure — the bank-lobby sit-ins that have taken place across the country are just the first wave, I’d wager.

In fact, the fossil fuel divestment movement will see a new surge of organizing. It’s already enormous, the biggest campaign of its kind in history, with endowments and portfolios worth more than $5 trillion pulling out of some or all of the fossil fuel stocks. And it’s already done damage — as Peabody Coal went bankrupt, it explained to the SEC that damage from the divestment campaign was one big reason. Now it becomes an even more compelling place to act: With the system jammed in D.C., the pressure will inevitably build elsewhere. And increasingly, divestment campaigners are taking on iconic targets, places like the Nobel Foundation or the planet’s great museums, making the case that our culture simply can’t survive the coming meltdown.
That’s crucial, because in the end the real fight is not over a pipeline or a windmill or even a carbon tax. The real fight — all real fights — are over the zeitgeist. They’re about who controls the vision of the future.
Donald Trump and his band of fellow travelers won the vision battle by staring backwards — the key word in their ballcap slogan is “again,” and understandably, because the world around us is scary. It’s much nicer (at least for white people) to pretend we don’t have to deal with reality, that we can somehow turn things back to an earlier day.
But defying reality is a hard trick, day in and day out. Mother Nature is doing her best to break the spell all the time— sooner or later, even distracting presidential tweets can’t crowd out the brute actuality of drought and flood and heat. And there’s a gentle reality that’s spreading as well: Each solar panel means someone else seeing firsthand what the new world might look like.
The zeitgeist can’t be rewritten by environmentalists alone. Though there’s no technical reason why environmental protection should be a “progressive” idea, it’s clear that in our day and age the Republican Party and the conservative movement have chosen to go with the fossil fuel industry. (They’ve been bought, and they’ve stayed bought). That leaves those who care about the climate standing with those who care about the poor, about racial justice, about immigrants, about peace. And at bottom that’s the right fit: A renewably powered world would be far more localized, democratic and fair. It’s the opposite of planet Koch in every way.
Which means, in turn, that one goal of our fight must simply be to break the power of Trumpism and all that it represents. If you want good news, here it is: Trump and his crew have pushed all their bets onto fossil fuel. There’s no Obama-esque hedging and half measures. Which means that if they fall, then climate denial should fall with them. Fossil fuel worship should fall with them. Their backward-looking vision should tumble down around them.
That’s if they fall. We’ve got our work cut out for us.
Bill McKibben is an author and environmental leader who lives in Ripton.

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Extreme Climate events cost Europe £400 billion #auspol 

Cost of climate change grows steadily in Europe

Extreme climate events cost Europe €400 billion between 1980 and 2013, a report by the European Environment Agency has found. And the cost is rising. EurActiv’s partner Journal de l’Environnement reports


“Climate change poses increasingly severe risks for ecosystems, human health and the economy in Europe,” the European Environment Agency’s (EEA) four-yearly report, published on Wednesday (25 January), stated.


Extreme climate events, such as flooding and heatwaves, are among the most obvious effects of climate change. According to the EEA, the combined cost of these episodes to 33 European countries reached €393 billion between 1980 and 2013.
The single most costly natural catastrophe was the flooding that hit Europe in 2002 (€20bn), followed by the summer heatwave of 2003 (€16bn) and Storm Lothar in the winter of 1999 (€14bn).
Most damage in Germany, Italy and France


The three worst-affected countries in absolute terms were Germany (€79bn), Italy (€60bn) and France (€53bn). In terms of GDP, extreme climate events caused the most damage in the Czech Republic over the 33-year period (0.24%), followed by Croatia (0.2%) and Hungary (0.18%). France’s losses between 1980 and 2013 were worth 0.9% of GDP.
But the bill is growing steadily.

 From €7.6 billion per year in the 1980s, it rose to €13.7 billion per year in the 2000s. This increase could be down to a combination of rising populations and increased development in at-risk areas, as well as the increasing intensity of climatic events.

Press link for more: euractiv.com

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Most talked about climate papers in 2016 #science #climatechange #auspol 

Every year, thousands of scientific journal papers are published by researchers across the world, but only a tiny proportion make it into the pages of the newspapers.
Using Altmetric, we’ve compiled a list of the 25 most talked-about climate papers of 2016. You can see the Top 10 in our infographic above (zoomable version here).
Altmetric scores academic papers based on how many times they’re mentioned in online news articles and on social media platforms. You can read more about how the Altmetric scoring system works in last year’s article.
Top of the table

The highest scoring article of the year, with an Altmetric tally of 2,716, is the Nature paper “Contribution of Antarctica to past and future sea-level rise”, by Prof Robert DeConto of the University of Massachusetts and Dr David Pollard of Penn State University.
Published in March, the study found that Antarctica has the potential to contribute more than a metre of sea level rise by 2100 and more than 15 metres by 2500, if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated.

The paper had more coverage in the news than another other climate paper published in 2016. It was featured in 386 news stories and was covered by – among 271 outlets in total – the BBC, Guardian, MailOnline, Independent, Huffington Post, New York Times, Washington Post and the New Yorker.
The study made a particular splash in the US after further analysis, published in August by estate agent firm Zillow, highlighted that 1.8m of sea level rise by 2100 could put two million American homes underwater.

The paper – not the news stories – was also tweeted from 369 accounts and posted on 16 Facebook walls. Overall, the paper’s score puts it in the top 5% of all journal articles in the Altmetric database.
Runner-up

In second place is “Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change”, by lead author Dr Marco Springmann from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food at the University of Oxford.
This paper was published in March in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), which also landed a paper in second place in last year’s list.
The research found that a worldwide switch to diets that rely less on meat and more on fruit and vegetables could reduce global mortality by up to 10% and food-related greenhouse gas emissions by up to 70% by 2050.

The paper’s overall Altmetric score of 1,981 includes 203 new stories from 156 news outlets, as well as 660 tweets from 627 users. This paper scored highest for Facebook, with 115 wall posts from 109 people.
Part of the popularity of the paper stems from being referenced in a press release for the “Kickstart Your Health Rochester” programme in which doctors in New York encouraged local residents to adopt a vegan diet for three weeks in May to improve their health.
Third place

Coming in third is another PNAS paper, “Temperature-driven global sea-level variability in the Common Era,” by lead author Dr Robert Kopp of Rutgers University.
The study compiled the first-ever estimate of global sea level change over the last 3,000 years. Their headline finding – that the speed of rising seas in the 20th century was faster than during any of the previous 27 centuries – generated headlines around the world, from the Boston Globe and Bangkok Post to Le Monde and the Hindu.
With a total score of 1,800, this paper appeared in 228 news stories from 186 outlets, was tweeted by 200 users, and posted on 21 Facebook walls.
Just missing out on the medals

In fourth place, published at the very beginning of 2016, is “The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene” in Science.
This study presented evidence that the impact of humans on the Earth is so severe and so enduring that the geological time period since the mid-20th century should be declared the “Anthropocene”.
This paper was one of the most tweeted about in our Top 25, with 904 tweets from 853 users, reaching a potential of more than three million followers.
The Anthropocene was also the subject of a feature article in Carbon Brief in October, which explored the history of the idea and the debate among geologists on whether they will formally inscribe a new epoch into their books.

In fifth is a paper that sounds like it could be the plot of a James Bond film. “The abandoned ice sheet base at Camp Century, Greenland, in a warming climate”, published in Geophysical Research Letters, assessed the possible fate of a US military base built in 1959 beneath the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet.
This nuclear-powered “city under the ice” doubled as a top secret site to study the feasibility of deploying missiles from the Arctic. The base was abandoned in 1967, under the assumption that all its chemical, biological, and radioactive wastes would forever be preserved in ice. However, the study shows that ice sheet melt as a result of climate change could uncover these wastes by the end of the century.
Completing the Top 10

Elsewhere in the Top 10, coming sixth is “Climate change decouples drought from early wine grape harvests in France” in Nature Climate Change.
This research found that increasingly hot summers are pushing wine grapes in French vineyards to mature earlier in the year. While this could bring some good years for French wine in the near future, it doesn’t bode well for the longer term, the researchers told Carbon Brief when we covered the paper in March.
The study was the second-most covered in the news of our Top 25, presumably because the fate of wine is a subject close to the hearts of many.

The topic of the paper in ninth place is quite a hot potato in climate science. “Greening of the Earth and its drivers”, published in Nature Climate Change, showed that up to half of the Earth’s vegetation-covered land is now “greener” than it was 30 years ago – mostly caused by rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere.
But any benefits of “CO2 fertilisation” may be temporary and are outweighed by the negative consequences of climate change, one of the authors told Carbon Brief.
And while the general principles of CO2 fertilisation are known, there is still much to learn about how these processes will act in future as the world continues to warm, said Prof Richard Betts, head of climate impacts research at the Met Office Hadley Centre, in a guest post for Carbon Brief.
Completing the Top 10 is “Consequences of twenty-first-century policy for multi-millennial climate and sea-level change” in Nature Climate Change. The paper aimed to tackle the “misleading impression in the public arena” that human-caused climate change is merely a 21st century problem.
Projecting changes in temperature and sea levels for the next 10,000 years, the researchers find that greenhouse gas emissions could eventually lead to 7.5C of warming and global sea level rise of 25-52m. With such stark results, it’s no surprise that the paper caught people’s attention.
Final score

If you want a closer look at the final scores, we’ve compiled all the data for the Top 25 climate papers of 2016 here. And there’s just space for a few honourable mentions…
Just missing out on the Top 10 in 11th place is “Observed Arctic sea-ice loss directly follows anthropogenic CO2 emission” in Science. This novel study calculated that for every tonne of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere, summer sea ice cover in the Arctic shrinks by three square metres.

Number 14 on the list is “Evidence for climate change in the satellite cloud record”, published in Nature, which used satellite data to gather evidence on how cloud patterns have changed in recent decades. The findings are another “brick in the wall” that “supports our confidence in the mainstream view of climate science,” a scientist not involved in the study told Carbon Brief.
Last month, scientists from the University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project released their annual stocktake of global CO2 emissions. Their paper, “Global Carbon Budget 2016”, published in Earth System Science Data, comes in 16th for 2016.
Their figures revealed that the amount of CO2 we put into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, gas flaring and cement production has held steady for three years in a row. But it’s too early to say whether this constitutes a peak in global emissions, one of the scientists told Carbon Brief.
Elsewhere in the Top 25 are “Millions projected to be at risk from sea-level rise in the continental United States” in Nature Climate Change (21st), and “Climate change: The 2015 Paris Agreement thresholds and Mediterranean basin ecosystems” in Science (25th). You can read more about both in our coverage here and here, respectively, when the papers were originally published.
Overall, the Top 25 is made up of six papers each from journals Science and Nature Climate Change, followed by three in Nature, two each in Environmental Research Letters and PNAS, and one in each of Earth System Science Data, Geophysical Research Letters, Nature Geoscience, Progress in Human Geography, Science Advances, and The Lancet.
Top infographic by Rosamund Pearce for Carbon Brief.
Press link for more: Carbon Brief

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It’s Time To Stand Up For Climate And Civilisation! #science #democracy #auspol 

DURING HIS CAMPAIGN for president, Donald Trump promised to end action on climate change and kill the climate treaty adopted in 2015 in Paris. 


To truly understand why that’s such a big deal—perhaps the biggest deal ever—you need to think about a few things.
Yes, you need to think about the oft-repeated but nonetheless true and alarming statistics: 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded till 2015 snatched the crown—till 2016 obliterated the record. Last summer featured some of the hottest days ever reliably recorded on this planet: 128 degrees Fahrenheit in cities like Basra, Iraq—right at the edge of human endurance. Global sea ice has been at a record low in recent months.

Think about the slow, difficult, centuries-long march of science that got us to the point where we could understand our peril. 

Think of Joseph Fourier in the 1820s, realizing that gases could trap heat in the atmosphere; John Tyndall in the middle of that century, figuring out that carbon dioxide is one of those gases; and the valiant Svante Arrhenius in the 1890s, calculating by hand how the global temperature rises in lockstep with carbon dioxide levels.

 Think of Hans Suess and Roger Revelle in the 1950s, fumbling toward an understanding that the oceans would not absorb excess CO2—the first modern realization that CO2 must be accumulating in the atmosphere and hence, as Revelle put it, “human beings are now carrying out a large-scale geophysical experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past nor be reproduced in the future.” 

Think of Charles Keeling in 1958, installing the first real CO2 monitor on the side of Mauna Loa and for the first time watching the CO2 level steadily rise. 

Think of the scientists who built on that work, using satellites and ocean buoy sensors to erect a scaffolding of observations; think of the theorists who used that data and the new power of supercomputers to build models that by the 1980s had made it clear we faced great danger. 

Think of the men and women who educated those scientists and who built the institutions in which they were educated and who organized the learned societies that supported them. 

And think of the forums—like the UN and its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—that brought them together from across the planet to combine their knowledge.

The Paris accord would limit the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius—unless the incoming administration dismantles it.JONATHAN RAA/PACIFIC PRESS/LIGHTROCKET/GETTY IMAGES

All this, taken together, is one part of what we call civilization.
Now think of the men and women of the diplomatic corps, who over generations have learned to build bridges across nations, to sometimes reconcile disputes short of war. 

The Paris accord was a triumph for them, not because it solved the problem (it didn’t, not even close) but because it existed at all. Somehow 195 nations—rich and poor, those with oil beneath their sand and those that have to import it—managed to agree that we should limit the rise in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius this century and set up an intricate architecture to at least begin the process. That too is an aspect of what we call civilization.
None of this should be taken for granted. The building blocks of our common home—science and diplomacy and also civility—are hard-won, and history would indicate that they can fade fast. In fact, we now seem likely to start tossing them away based on nothing but the politically useful whim that climate change is a hoax. When Trump announced on the campaign trail that he would “cancel” the Paris agreement, it represented an assault on civilization as surely as announcing that he would jail his political opponent represented an assault on democracy. He’s backed down from the latter plan and, under pressure, said he now has an “open mind” about Paris—though his chief of staff clarified that his “default position” is that climate change is bunk. 

In any event, he has packed his transition team and cabinet with a small band of climate deniers who have blocked action for years. Already they’ve announced their intention to end NASA’s climate research, which has been a bulwark of the scientific edifice. 

If they have their way, there will be no more satellites carefully measuring the mass of ice sheets so we can track their melt, no more creative and fascinating “missions to planet Earth” that the space agency has run so successfully. We seem intent on blinding ourselves, on ripping out the smoke detectors even as the house begins to burn.
Trump’s team can’t, by themselves, change everything.

 Engineers and entrepreneurs have done their jobs magnificently over the past decade, as the price of a solar panel has fallen 80 percent. 

Because of that work, the potential for rapid change is finally at hand. 

Denmark generated nearly half its power from wind in 2015, and not because it cornered the world’s supply of breeze. Given the new economics of renewable energy, progress will continue.

 But the climate question has never been about progress per se; we know that eventually we’ll move to the sun and wind. The issue has always been about pace, and now Trump will add serious friction, quite likely shifting the trajectory of our path enough that we will never catch up with the physics of climate change. 

Other assaults on civilization and reason eventually wore themselves out—fascism, communism, imperialism.

 But there’s no way to wait out climate change, because this test has a timer on it. 

Melt enough ice caps and you live on a very different planet. 

Either we solve this soon or we don’t solve it. 

And if we don’t, then the cascading crises that follow (massive storms, waterlogged cities, floods of migrants) will batter our societies in new ways that we are ill prepared to handle, as the xenophobia of this election season showed.

Which is why we need to rise to the occasion. Not only in our day jobs but in our roles as citizens—of city, state, country, planet.

 Engineers should, by all means, keep developing the next generation of batteries; but that work is merely necessary now, not sufficient. 

We must not watch idly as Trump takes a hammer to the mechanisms of our civilization, mechanisms that can’t be rebuilt in the time we have. 

We need to resist in all the nonviolent ways that we’ve learned over the past century and in new ones that the moment suggests. 

There will be marches and divestment campaigns, pressure to be put on city halls and statehouses. We will not lack for opportunity. If many join in, then civilization will not just endure but will emerge stronger for the testing, able to face our problems with renewed vigor. At best, it’s going to be a very close call.


Bill McKibben is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and founder of global grassroots climate campaign 350.org.”

Press link for more: Wired.com

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2016 warmest on record. #science #climatechange #auspol 

Earth’s 2016 surface temperatures were the warmest since modern recordkeeping began in 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Globally-averaged temperatures in 2016 were 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit (0.99 degrees Celsius) warmer than the mid-20th century mean. 

This makes 2016 the third year in a row to set a new record for global average surface temperatures.
The 2016 temperatures continue a long-term warming trend, according to analyses by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. NOAA scientists concur with the finding that 2016 was the warmest year on record based on separate, independent analyses of the data.


Because weather station locations and measurement practices change over time, there are uncertainties in the interpretation of specific year-to-year global mean temperature differences. 

However, even taking this into account, NASA estimates 2016 was the warmest year with greater than 95 percent certainty.
“2016 is remarkably the third record year in a row in this series,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. 

“We don’t expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear.”
The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.
Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. Not only was 2016 the warmest year on record, but eight of the 12 months that make up the year – from January through September, with the exception of June – were the warmest on record for those respective months. October, November, and December of 2016 were the second warmest of those months on record – in all three cases, behind records set in 2015.
Phenomena such as El Niño or La Niña, which warm or cool the upper tropical Pacific Ocean and cause corresponding variations in global wind and weather patterns, contribute to short-term variations in global average temperature. A warming El Niño event was in effect for most of 2015 and the first third of 2016. Researchers estimate the direct impact of the natural El Niño warming in the tropical Pacific increased the annual global temperature anomaly for 2016 by 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit (0.12 degrees Celsius).  
Weather dynamics often affect regional temperatures, so not every region on Earth experienced record average temperatures last year. For example, both NASA and NOAA found the 2016 annual mean temperature for the contiguous 48 United States was the second warmest on record. In contrast, the Arctic experienced its warmest year ever, consistent with record low sea ice found in that region for most of the year.

The planet’s long-term warming trend is seen in this chart of every year’s annual temperature cycle from 1880 to the present, compared to the average temperature from 1880 to 2015. Record warm years are listed in the column on the right. Credit: NASA/Earth Observatory.Joshua Stevens.

NASA’s analyses incorporate surface temperature measurements from 6,300 weather stations, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures, and temperature measurements from Antarctic research stations. These raw measurements are analyzed using an algorithm that considers the varied spacing of temperature stations around the globe and urban heating effects that could skew the conclusions. The result of these calculations is an estimate of the global average temperature difference from a baseline period of 1951 to 1980.
NOAA scientists used much of the same raw temperature data, but with a different baseline period, and different methods to analyze Earth’s polar regions and global temperatures.
GISS is a laboratory within the Earth Sciences Division of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The laboratory is affiliated with Columbia University’s Earth Institute and School of Engineering and Applied Science in New York.
The full 2016 surface temperature data set and the complete methodology used to make the temperature calculation are available at:
http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp

Press link for more: climate.nasa.gov