Saudi Arabia

The Age of Consequences #auspol 

“We are not your traditional environmentalists.” Gen. Gordon Sullivan (Retd), Fmr. Chief of Staff, U.S. Army
Four Corners brings you the views of distinguished former members of the US military and senior policy makers who warn that climate change is not only real, it’s a threat to global security.
“I’m here today not only representing my views on security implications of climate change, but on the collective wisdom of 16 admirals and generals.” Rear Admiral David Titley (Retd), U.S. Navy
They say climate change is impacting on vital resources, migration patterns and conflict zones.

“Climate change is one of the variables that must be considered when thinking about instability in the world.” Gen. Gordon Sullivan (Retd), Fmr. Chief of Staff, U.S. Army
Rear Admiral David Titley spent 32 years in the US military. He was the US Navy’s chief oceanographer and led the Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change. He argues climate change must be acknowledged.
“Our collective bottom line judgement is that climate change is an accelerating risk to our nation’s future.” Rear Admiral David Titley (Retd), U.S. Navy
The film analyses the conflict in Syria, the social unrest of the Arab Spring, and the rise of groups like ISIS and how these experts believe climate change is already acting as a catalyst for conflict.

“This is the heart of the problem in many ways. Climate change arrives in a world that has already been destabilised.” Dr Christian Parenti
Director Jared P Scott explores how water and food shortages, drought, extreme weather and rising sea-levels can act as accelerants of instability.
“We realised that climate change would be a threat multiplier for instability as people become desperate, because they have extreme weather and the seas are rising, and there are floods in one area and droughts in another, fragile states become more unpredictable.” Sherri Goodman, Fmr. Dept Undersecretary of Defense
These Pentagon insiders say a failure to tackle climate change, conducting ‘business as usual’, would lead to profound consequences.
“It’s a very dangerous thing to decide that there is one and only one line of events heading into the future and one and only one best response for dealing with that.” Leon Fuerth, Fmr. National Security Adviser, White House ’93-’01

Press link for more: abc.net.au

The Dance of Death #climatechange #neoliberalism #auspol 

The Dance of Death

By Chris Hedges

The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build.

 They seek to destroy. 

They are agents of death. 

They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. 

Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated.

 Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished.

 Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch.

 Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. 

Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future.

 Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. 

State repression is indiscriminant and brutal.

 And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.

The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse.

 Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus.

 The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. 

Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population.

 The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.
The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war.

 President Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations. 

When the Roman Empire fell, it was trying to sustain an army of half a million soldiers that had become a parasitic drain on state resources.
“The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence.”
The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them. 

The difference now, as Joseph Tainter points out in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” is that “collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. 

No longer can any individual nation collapse. 

World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.”
Civilizations in decline, despite the palpable signs of decay around them, remain fixated on restoring their “greatness.” 

Their illusions condemn them. 

They cannot see that the forces that gave rise to modern civilization, namely technology, industrial violence and fossil fuels, are the same forces that are extinguishing it.

 Their leaders are trained only to serve the system, slavishly worshipping the old gods long after these gods begin to demand millions of sacrificial victims.
“Hope drives us to invent new fixes for old messes, which in turn create even more dangerous messes,” Ronald Wright writes in “A Short History of Progress.” “Hope elects the politician with the biggest empty promise; and as any stockbroker or lottery seller knows, most of us will take a slim hope over prudent and predictable frugality. Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism.” 
The Trump appointees—Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Rick Perry, Alex Acosta and others—do not advocate innovation or reform. They are Pavlovian dogs that salivate before piles of money. They are hard-wired to steal from the poor and loot federal budgets. Their single-minded obsession with personal enrichment drives them to dismantle any institution or abolish any law or regulation that gets in the way of their greed. Capitalism, Karl Marx wrote, is “a machine for demolishing limits.” There is no internal sense of proportion or scale. Once all external impediments are lifted, global capitalism ruthlessly commodifies human beings and the natural world to extract profit until exhaustion or collapse. And when the last moments of a civilization arrive, the degenerate edifices of power appear to crumble overnight.
Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life, Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct. The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence.

 It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including our own beings. One of these two forces, Freud wrote, is always ascendant. Societies in decline enthusiastically embrace the death instinct, as Freud observed in “Civilization and Its Discontents,” written on the eve of the rise of European fascism and World War II. 
“It is in sadism, where the death instinct twists the erotic aim in its own sense and yet at the same time fully satisfies the erotic urge, that we succeed in obtaining the clearest insight into its nature and its relation to Eros,” Freud wrote. “But even where it emerges without any sexual purpose, in the blindest fury of destructiveness, we cannot fail to recognize that the satisfaction of the instinct is accompanied by an extraordinary high degree of narcissistic enjoyment, owing to its presenting the ego with a fulfillment of the latter’s old wishes for omnipotence.”
The lust for death, as Freud understood, is not, at first, morbid. It is exciting and seductive. I saw this in the wars I covered. A god-like power and adrenaline-driven fury, even euphoria, sweep over armed units and ethnic or religious groups given the license to destroy anything and anyone around them. Ernst Juenger captured this “monstrous desire for annihilation” in his World War I memoir, “Storm of Steel.”
A population alienated and beset by despair and hopelessness finds empowerment and pleasure in an orgy of annihilation that soon morphs into self-annihilation. It has no interest in nurturing a world that has betrayed it and thwarted its dreams. It seeks to eradicate this world and replace it with a mythical landscape. It turns against institutions, as well as ethnic and religious groups, that are scapegoated for its misery. It plunders diminishing natural resources with abandon. It is seduced by the fantastic promises of demagogues and the magical solutions characteristic of the Christian right or what anthropologists call “crisis cults.”
Norman Cohn, in “The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and Its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements,” draws a link between that turbulent period and our own. Millennial movements are a peculiar, collective psychological response to profound societal despair. They recur throughout human history. We are not immune.
“These movements have varied in tone from the most violent aggressiveness to the mildest pacifism and in aim from the most ethereal spirituality to the most earth-bound materialism; there is no counting the possible ways of imagining the Millennium and the route to it,” Cohen wrote. “But similarities can present themselves as well as differences; and the more carefully one compares the outbreaks of militant social chiliasm during the later Middle Ages with modern totalitarian movements the more remarkable the similarities appear. The old symbols and the old slogans have indeed disappeared, to be replaced by new ones; but the structure of the basic phantasies seems to have changed scarcely at all.”
These movements, Cohen wrote, offered “a coherent social myth which was capable of taking entire possession of those who believed in it. It explained their suffering, it promised them recompense, it held their anxieties at bay, it gave them an illusion of security—even while it drove them, held together by a common enthusiasm, on a quest which was always vain and often suicidal.
“So it came about that multitudes of people acted out with fierce energy a shared phantasy which though delusional yet brought them such intense emotional relief that they could live only through it and were perfectly willing to die for it. It is a phenomenon which was to recur many times between the eleventh century and the sixteenth century, now in one area, now in another, and which, despite the obvious differences in cultural context and in scale, is not irrelevant to the growth of totalitarian movements, with their messianic leaders, their millennial mirages and their demon-scapegoats, in the present century.”
The severance of a society from reality, as ours has been severed from collective recognition of the severity of climate change and the fatal consequences of empire and deindustrialization, leaves it without the intellectual and institutional mechanisms to confront its impending mortality. It exists in a state of self-induced hypnosis and self-delusion. It seeks momentary euphoria and meaning in tawdry entertainment and acts of violence and destruction, including against people who are demonized and blamed for society’s demise. It hastens its self-immolation while holding up the supposed inevitability of a glorious national resurgence. Idiots and charlatans, the handmaidens of death, lure us into the abyss.

Press link for more: commondreams.com

Sea-level rise is a ‘serious threat’ #ClimateChange #auspol 

Sea-level rise poses ‘a serious threat’ to millions of Europeans, scientists warnA new study spells out the threat of sea-level rise in coastal communities.

The 1824 flooding for St. Petersburg, Russia. Once-a-century floods could become commonplace as the planet heats up. CREDIT: Public Domain
By Marlene Cimons

The kind of devastating flooding that occurs once every century along Europe’s northern coastline could become an annual event if greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb, according to a recent study published in the journal Earth’s Future.

New analysis takes into account changes in sea-level rise, tides, waves, and storm surge over the 21st century and found that climate change could prompt extreme sea levels — the maximum levels seen during major storms, which produce massive flooding — to increase significantly along the European coastline by 2100.

This scenario will likely stress coastal protection structures beyond their capacity, leaving much of the European coastline vulnerable to dangerous flooding, according to study authors.

“Unless we take different protection measures, five million people will be exposed to coastal flooding on an annual basis,” said Michalis Vousdoukas, a coastal oceanographer at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission and lead author of the study.

The study described the projected rise in extreme sea levels as “a serious threat” to coastal communities, noting, “their safety and resilience depends on the effectiveness of natural and man-made coastal flood protection.”

Kevin Trenberth, a scientist with the climate analysis section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who was not involved in this research, said the signs of extreme sea levels are already worrisome, not just in Europe, but in the United States as well. “Witness the sunshine flooding in Florida already, the flooding that shows up even with no storm on many streets any time there is a slightly high tide,” he said.

A Florida road flooded by tropical storm Arlene in 2005. Florida is especially susceptible to rising seas. Source: FEMA

“Sea level is going up because the ocean is warming and hence expanding, and because land ice — glaciers, etc. — are melting and putting more water into the ocean. But it is not the gradual rise that matters,” Trenberth said. “Rather, it is the storm surge on top of a high tide riding on top of the increase in sea level that crosses thresholds and causes things to break.”

Richard Alley, professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, who also did not take part in this study, noted that the study didn’t consider the possible collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet. “If that happens, then sea-level rise and impacts to coasts could be much higher than in this paper,” Alley said. “Rapid West Antarctic collapse could cause enough rise to make many of these other factors of secondary importance. So, the ‘worst case’ in this paper isn’t really the worst case.”

The new paper predicted that some regions could experience an even higher increase in the frequency of these extreme flooding events, specifically along the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, where the present day 100-year extreme sea level could occur as often as several times a year.

“The ‘worst case’ in this paper isn’t really the worst case.”

Information about the number of people at risk from flooding can be used to determine how large the social and economic impact of these events will be, said Marta Marcos, a researcher at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies in Spain, who was not involved in the new study. “In terms of adaptation strategies and policy-making, it is very relevant,” she said.

The researchers studied changes in extreme sea levels by 2100 under different greenhouse gas scenarios and considered how all these components — mean sea level, tides, waves, and storm surge — will be affected by climate change.

The Netherlands is particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise. Source: Pexels

If emissions continue to rise unabated throughout this century, extreme sea levels along Europe’s coastlines could increase by more than 2.5 feet, on average, by 2100. Under a more moderate situation, where greenhouse gas emissions peak in 2040, 100-year extreme sea levels still could jump by nearly 2 feet, on average, by the end of the century — with flooding events occurring every few years — according to study’s authors.

In a related study appearing in Geophysical Research Letters, scientists found that if greenhouse gases continue to rise, there could be disturbing changes by the end of the century in the energy that waves carry to the coast.

In the southern hemisphere, extreme waves could carry up to 30 percent more energy by 2100, according to the study, meaning that stronger waves will become more frequent, and have a greater impact on the coast, said Lorenzo Mentaschi, a researcher at the Joint Research Centre and lead author of the study.

The new study attributed the changes in wave energy to the intensification of weather patterns, like El Niño. The new research will be provided to European Union policymakers. The data will also be made public so it can be used by scientists, engineers, and coastal managers.

Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University, said the research once again underscored how climate change, “which has already increased the threat to our coastlines through a combination of sea-level rise and intensified coastal storms, will be catastrophic for coastal communities if we don’t reduce global carbon emissions.”

Marlene Cimons writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art & culture.

Press link for more: Think Progress

Health & #Climatechange : An Urgent Need For Action #science 

Health And Climate Change: An Urgent Need For Action


The human face of climate change is its impact on our health. 

Higher temperatures intensify air pollution and respiratory illness. 

Changing weather patterns lead to drought and then famine, while increasing rains in other areas will create the breeding ground for disease and pandemics. 

While the policy changes needed to blunt climate change are surely substantial, the cost of ignoring the science behind climate change will be felt through its harmful effects on our health. 


Recently, the CDC cancelled its Climate and Health Summit out of fear of retribution from the Trump administration.

 Working with Al Gore and others, Harvard worked to revive the meeting, which was held in Atlanta on February 16.

 This meeting reminded us that universities have a unique responsibility that we ensure a platform for key scientific issues that have a meaningful effect on people’s health. 

 Climate change is one such critical issue.


A century ago, one in three children died before age five. 

That number has been cut by 90 percent because of global investments in public health. 

Climate change, unchecked, puts these gains, and lives, at risk. 

Weather shifts from climate change will change the availability and reduce the nutritional content of food.


 The levels of protein and crucial micronutrients in key staple crops will drop, exposing billions of the world’s poorest people to worsening malnutrition. 

The gains we have made in saving the lives of children are fragile – and unlikely to withstand the challenges created by climate change unless we act now.


The effects of climate change on health will not stop with agriculture. 

Burning fossil fuels release a wide array of air pollutants that are a leading cause of asthma, heart disease, and strokes in our country and around the globe. 

Children are particularly vulnerable, and so are the elderly. 

The increasing number of heat waves is dangerous, but the interaction between high temperatures and air pollution becomes especially deadly.


The changing climate will likely shift the geographical range of insects that carry disease, including ticks carrying Lyme disease and mosquitos which carry malaria. 

The increasing number of infectious disease outbreaks such as Ebola and Zika appear to be linked, at least in part, to ongoing environmental shifts that exacerbate climate change. 

It is not hard to imagine that if we alter an ecosystem where we and other species live in equilibrium, there will be meaningful consequences.
Transitioning to energy sources that reduce carbon pollution will help the U.S. meet its commitments under the recent Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, importantly, will also benefit the health of all Americans. 

In a nation where our government already pays for the health care of our elderly and many of our children, reducing health burdens not only saves lives, but it can also be fiscally responsible. 

Our colleagues at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health recently found that the health savings to the American people from the Environmental Protection Agency’s new carbon standards will far outweigh the cost to industry within five years.
As these changes unfold, universities have a unique obligation, through research, education, and better communication, to understand and explain the impact of climate change on health and find ways to mitigate it. 

This research, at Harvard and at universities across our country, is dependent on a long-standing agreement between universities and the American people: universities will work on the most pressing issues facing our nation, and our citizens, through their government, will support that research.

 That agreement faces a serious challenge today from politicians skeptical about the science of climate change and the value of scientific investment. 


Yet it is more important than ever to renew our commitment to funding research on climate change and especially, its impact on health. 

Universities must commit to producing unbiased, high-quality data to guide decision- and policy-making, and the government should keep its commitment to supporting that work. 
Finally, it is essential that universities engage more effectively with the public regarding what the science tells us about the impact of climate change on health. Sharing data openly and transparently is crucial to helping policy-makers reach / agree on the best decisions.
This is a critical moment for our nation. 

Climate change is upon us. 

We can no longer think of it as an issue of temperature changes or sea level rises alone. 

We must remember that we will feel the effects of climate change most acutely on our health.

 We still have the time to mitigate these effects by focusing on reducing carbon pollution and slowing the warming of the planet.

 If we do, we will reap the benefits in terms of longer and healthier lives. 

 And our children will be the biggest beneficiaries.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

Carbon dioxide levels rising at record pace. #auspol #science 

Carbon dioxide levels rose at record pace for 2nd straight year | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Carbon dioxide levels measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory rose by 3 parts per million to 405.1 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, an increase that matched the record jump observed in 2015.
The two-year, 6-ppm surge in the greenhouse gas between 2015 and 2017 is unprecedented in the observatory’s 59-year record. And, it was a record fifth consecutive year that carbon dioxide (CO2) rose by 2 ppm or greater, said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
“The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age,” Tans said. “This is a real shock to the atmosphere.”
Globally averaged CO2 levels passed 400 ppm in 2015 — a 43-percent increase over pre-industrial levels. In February 2017, CO2 levels at Mauna Loa had already climbed to 406.42 ppm.

This graph shows the annual mean carbon dioxide growth rates observed at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory.

This graph shows the annual mean carbon dioxide growth rates observed at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory. Further information can be found on the ESRL Global Monitoring Division website. (NOAA)

Measurements are independently validated
NOAA has measured CO2 on site at the Mauna Loa observatory since 1974. To ensure accuracy, air samples from the mountaintop research site in Hawaii are shipped to NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, for verification. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which first began sampling CO2 at Mauna Loa in 1956, also takes independent measurements onsite.
Emissions from fossil-fuel consumption have remained at historically high levels since 2011 and are the primary reason atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing at a dramatic rate, Tans said. This high growth rate of CO2 is also being observed at some 40 other sites in NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
The greenhouse effect, explained
Carbon dioxide is one of several gases that are primarily responsible for trapping heat in the atmosphere. This “greenhouse effect” maintains temperatures suitable for life on Earth. Increasing CO2 levels trap additional heat in the atmosphere and the oceans, contributing to rising global average temperatures.
Atmospheric CO2 averaged about 280 ppm between about 10,000 years ago and the start of the Industrial Revolution around 1760.

Press link for more: NOAA

Why Trump is an Existential Threat #auspol #climatechange #science

One of the Most Famous Scientists in the World Just Explained Why Trump Is an Existential Threat

SochAnam/Getty Images
This story was originally published by New Republic and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Earlier this month, thousands of scientists from around the world came together for their favorite nerd fest:

 The annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest scientific organization and publisher of the renowned Science journals.

 There were panels on everything from climate change to robots, hornless cows to honeybees.

 But this year’s meeting was different than any other in its 168-year history, for one reason: Donald Trump was president. And scientists were freaking out.


“I haven’t seen anything like it in my many decades in science and science watching,” Dr. Rush Holt, the president of AAAS and executive publisher of the Science journals, told the New Republic.
Most scientists are uncomfortable talking politics because their work needs to be perceived as objective rather than partisan. But ever since America elected a president who’s made scientifically inaccurate statements on everything from vaccines to climate change, more and more scientists are stepping into the spotlight to stand up for their profession. That includes Holt, who announced Wednesday that AAAS would partner with the March for Science, an Earth Day rally with the primary goal of preserving and promoting evidence-based policymaking.
In a conversation with the New Republic, Holt—who is also a former U.S. Congressman—talked about the unprecedented level of political anxiety among American scientists, and how those scientists should navigate these murky waters.

TNR: We’ve reached this point where scientists are being thrown into the political spotlight, which I imagine is deeply uncomfortable for a lot of people in this profession. You just came from your annual conference, where thousands of scientists in attendance. What is the level of concern you observed from them about the Trump administration, and politics in general?
“The level of concern and anxiety among scientists—and I guess I’d say the science-friendly public—about the place of science in society in government, has gone beyond concern to anxiety.”
RH: The level of concern and anxiety among scientists—and I guess I’d say the science-friendly public—about the place of science in society in government, has gone beyond concern to anxiety. I haven’t seen anything like it in my many decades in science and science watching.
It used to be when that, when scientists in the hallways would talk about being worried about the state of science, what they really meant was, they were worried about the funding for their research. That’s not so much what we’re hearing now, although I do think scientists don’t realize what Congress seems to have in store for non-defense discretionary spending.
TNR: So you’re saying the concern among scientists has gone from, “will I get funding,” to something more existential.
RH: Existential might even be the right word. The concern now is whether policymakers even understand the meaning of evidence. Whether there is any truth to this descriptor of “fact-free era.” Whether policy is going to be made more and more in the absence of scientific input. There seems to be a concern about whether the public appreciation of science has eroded to a point where it has removed science from public debate and public decision making. Whether the public has come to regard evidence as optional.

TNR: You’ve only been at the head of AAAS some 2014, but compared to other years, was there a lot of political talk at this year’s annual meetings?
RH: That was the main hallways discussion, as well as discussion that broke out in panels on various scientific topics. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve also never seen as much of a spontaneous upsurge now of scientists and science-loving members of the public who want to defend science. We see that in the March for Science.
TNR: Regarding the march, though, some people have expressed concern that it’s going to politicize science even further. That it’s going to make science into a partisan issue.
RH: Well, the March for Science is not just a march. It’s a public education effort. It is a children’s science festival. It is emblematic of this public upsurge of interest in defending the idea of science. That’s really unusual. It’s also a rare opportunity for scientists to help get out the message of just how valuable, how powerful science is and how important it is—how it’s more important to lives of nonscientists than to the job of scientists.
TNR: So you don’t think that a march that will likely have politically-oriented signs will undermine science?
RH: There is a sense that science and politics are incompatible. I don’t think so at all. I think it’s important that scientists take great pains to make sure that ideology and personal bias and wishful thinking do not contaminate the collection and analysis and evidence. One must not politicize science. But the converse is not necessarily true. There’s no reason why scientists can not go into the public sphere. In fact, I would argue they should.
TNR: Does that mean you think more scientists should be running for political office?
RH: It doesn’t necessarily mean running for office. Every citizen, scientists included, has some obligation to be involved in public affairs and politics. I do think that in recent months I’ve seen a lot more public-directed attention from scientists. More and more scientists have called me up—strangers for the most part—who say, “I’m thinking about running for office. You’ve done it, how do you do it.” And I say, “just do it.”
TNR: Do you think all this concern is just because of Trump?
RH: Actually, the concerns that I heard raised at the annual meeting seemed to be rooted in trends that began years ago, quite independent of Donald Trump. It is true that when people are appointed to positions and talk without any appreciation or understanding of scientists, well, that gets scientists worried. And when public officials talk about alternative facts, people who have devoted their careers to trying to uncover facts are dismayed. But this type of rhetoric has been present in politics for some time.
TNR: Where do you think the conversation about science in policymaking needs to go from here? What needs to be done to communicate the stakes of an anti-science government?
RH: So much of this discussion in recent weeks and months has not been about specific issues, but about the place of science and science-based evidence in general. The phrase I hear most—more often than genetic engineering or nuclear power or anything like that—is “evidence-based decision-making.” I hear that phrase over and over.
There needs to be a public dawning—and it is beginning to dawn on some members of the public—that how science is practiced actually makes a difference in their lives. If evidence becomes optional, if ideological assertions or beliefs are just as good as scientifically vetted evidence, then their quality of life suffers. I think that’s dawning on people. There’s a level of concern unlike anything I’ve seen.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

Press link for more: motherjones.com

Climate Change impact irreversible #auspol #wapol 

Climate change impact on Australia may be irreversible, five-yearly report says

The Tarkine wilderness area in Tasmania

An independent review of the state of Australia’s environment has found the impacts of climate change are increasing and some of the changes could be irreversible.
The latest State of the Environment report, a scientific snapshot across nine areas released by the federal government every five years, says climate change is altering the structure and function of natural ecosystems in Australia, and is affecting heritage, economic activity and human wellbeing.
It warns climate change will result in “location specific vulnerabilities” and says the most severe impacts will be felt by people who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
Record high water temperatures caused “widespread coral bleaching, habitat destruction and species mortality” in the marine environment between 2011 and 2016, it says.

The minister for energy and the environment, Josh Frydenberg, was due to release the report card on Tuesday morning.
In a column for Guardian Australia, Frydenberg says the report indicates the impact of changing weather patterns is being felt in the ocean, on the Great Barrier Reef and on land, affecting biodiversity and species habitat.
“While carbon emissions per capita have declined from 24.1 tonnes in 2011 to 22.2 tonnes in 2015 and energy efficiency improvements are reducing electricity demand, the report makes clear that, for the world to meet its Paris goals, there is much more to do,” Frydenberg says.


The minister says the report makes clear Australia needs to prepare for changes in the environment and “put in place a coordinated, comprehensive, well-resourced, long-term response”.
He warns that failure to do so “will have a direct and detrimental impact on our quality of life and leave a legacy to future generations that is inferior to the one we have inherited”.
The minister says the report presents the government with a mixed picture. “Good progress has been made in the management of the marine and Antarctic environments, natural and cultural heritage and the built environment – while pressures are building in relation to invasive species, climate change, land use and coastal protection,” he says.
Frydenberg says the doubling of Australia’s population in the past 50 years and growing urbanisation “have all combined to contribute to additional pressures on the environment”.
Australia’s heavily populated coastal areas are under pressure, as are “growth areas within urban environments, where human pressure is greatest”, the report finds.
Grazing and invasive species continue to pose a significant threat to biodiversity.
“The main pressures facing the Australian environment today are the same as in 2011: climate change, land use change, habitat fragmentation and degradation, and invasive species,” the report’s summary says. “In addition, the interactions between these and other pressures are resulting in cumulative impacts, amplifying the threats faced by the Australian environment.
“Evidence shows that some individual pressures on the environment have decreased since 2011, such as those associated with air quality, poor agricultural practices, commercial fishing, and oil and gas exploration and production in Australia’s marine environment.
“During the same time, however, other pressures have increased — for example, those associated with coal mining and the coal-seam gas industry, habitat fragmentation and degradation, invasive species, litter in our coastal and marine environments, and greater traffic volumes in our capital cities.”

The report criticises the lack of “an overarching national policy that establishes a clear vision for the protection and sustainable management of Australia’s environment to the year 2050”.
It points to poor collaboration, gaps in knowledge, data and monitoring and a lack of follow-though from policy to action.
“Providing for a sustainable environment both now and in the future is a national issue requiring leadership and action across all levels of government, business and the community,” it says. “The first step is recognising the importance and value of ecosystem services to our economy and society.
“Addressing Australia’s long-term, systemic environmental challenges requires, among other things, the development of a suite of stronger, more comprehensive and cohesive policies focused on protecting and maintaining natural capital, and ongoing improvements to current management arrangements.”
Late last year, the government established a review of its Direct Action climate policy. The current policy has been widely criticised by experts as inadequate if Australia is to meet its international emissions reduction targets under the Paris climate change agreement.
Shortly after establishing the review, Frydenberg ruled out converting the Direct Action scheme to a form of carbon trading after a brief internal revolt. Many experts argue carbon trading would allow Australia to reduce emissions consistent with Paris commitments at least cost to households and businesses.
The Direct Action review still allows for the consideration of the potential role of international carbon credits in meeting Australia’s emissions reduction targets – a practice Tony Abbott comprehensively ruled out as prime minister – and consideration of a post-2030 emissions reduction goal for Australia.
The review also requires an examination of international developments in climate change policy, which is code for an assessment of what is happening on global climate action in the event the US pulls out of the Paris climate agreement.
The New York Times reported last week that the White House was fiercely divided over Trump’s campaign promise to cancel the Paris agreement.
Its report said Trump’s senior strategist Steve Bannon wanted the US to pull out of the Paris agreement but Bannon’s stance was being resisted by the new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who are concerned about the diplomatic fallout.
The Turnbull government has already indicated that it intends to stay the course with the Paris agreement, and has argued it would take the US four years to withdraw from the deal under the terms of ratification.
But if the US withdraws from Paris, internal pressure inside the Coalition will intensify, and the prime minister will face calls from some conservatives to follow suit.
In his column for Guardian Australia, Frydenberg says the Coalition is doing good work on the environment and the conservative parties in Australia have been responsible for establishing legislation such as the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, and programs such as the Natural Heritage Trust and the first mandatory Renewable Energy Target.
“The task now is to build on this proud Coalition tradition and to use this report to continue the good work the Turnbull government is already doing across so many areas of environmental policy,” he says.

Press link for more: The Guardian

Indonesia acts to fight #ClimateChange #auspol 

United States President-elect Donald Trump may have labelled climate change a hoax, but that has not stalled the momentum behind last month’s United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco.

Less than one year after its adoption, the Paris climate agreement has entered into force, with some 175 countries already on board. 

The next step will be to begin implementing the commitments each country has made. 


In South-east Asia in particular, regional cooperation will be critical to address certain issues that transcend national boundaries.
One of the largest obstacles to climate change efforts in South-east Asia remains Indonesia’s forest and peatland fires. Though these fires are perhaps most notorious as the source of the annual haze that blankets our region, they should rightly be framed as a global concern about carbon emissions.
To put things into perspective, Indonesia’s 2015 fires produced the equivalent of 1,750 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MtCO2e), which is almost the same amount emitted by Indonesia’s entire economy in an average year (1,800 MtCO2e).
Hence, it is heartening that Indonesia has shown resolve in addressing the issue.

 The reduction in fires this year must be credited to not only wetter weather, but also the political will and concerted efforts of the government of President Joko Widodo.
At the peak of the haze crisis last year, Mr Widodo visited South Sumatra to understand the fires first-hand and subsequently established the Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) in January 2016. 

The BRG has been charged with coordinating the restoration of 2.1 million hectares of degraded peatland across Indonesia by 2020.
Following orders by Mr Widodo to “get very tough” on errant companies, Indonesian police have arrested more than double the number of individuals in forest fire cases this year compared with last year.
The Indonesian government is also responding faster to fires, enabled by the early declaration of a state of emergency in six provinces. These efforts have been commended by regional leaders, including Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr Masagos Zulkifli.
Such measures were crucial in the immediate aftermath of the fires. But the true challenge comes in figuring out how to tackle this complex problem in the long term.
One pressing issue is the ongoing debate over the most appropriate way to restore degraded peatland. Comprised of partially decayed organic matter, peatland is often drained to grow oil palm, acacia trees for pulp and paper, and other agricultural crops. But drained peat is highly flammable during the dry season, resulting in fires that can take months to extinguish.
Some parties contend that the only sustainable way to restore degraded peatland is to rewet, reforest and protect the entire landscape. Otherwise, fires that start on agricultural lands may easily spread into protected areas, destroying intact forests.
Worse still, protected forest will continue to be affected by drainage from surrounding agricultural areas. Drainage causes peatland to subside, causing the land to become flooded and unusable in the long term.
Other parties argue that it is unrealistic to reforest large peatland areas that already contain thousands of villages and extensive industrial plantations, which generate a great deal of employment and economic benefit.
They also point to the fact that there is still a limited market for native peatland crops that do not require drainage — such as jelutong, sago and illipe nut — compared with more commonly grown crops such as oil palm and areca nut.
It appears that the Indonesian government’s approach is to strike a balance between these competing concerns. On Dec 1, Mr Widodo signed a regulation that banned new clearing of peatland for crop cultivation.
Plantations will also be required to set a minimum ratio between cultivation and conservation areas, and lay down guidelines for the proper management of peatland plantations. BRG has plans to rewet areas set aside for conservation and improve their fire readiness by installing wells and monitoring systems.
Now, Indonesia faces the challenge of harmonising these standards across its 12.9 million hectares of peatland, which is likely to be a complex and time-consuming process. In the meantime, the scale and urgency of peatland restoration will require the support of parties from outside Indonesia.
Firstly, collaboration is required to improve and disseminate knowledge about peatland, which remains an under-researched subject. The UN meeting in Marrakech saw the launch of the Global Peatlands Initiative (GPI), the largest international collaboration on peatland to date, which aims to share scientific knowledge to develop local capacity for peatland management. Indonesia is one of the founding members of the GPI.
Closer to home, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, the World Resources Institute Indonesia and other leading non-governmental organisations in Asean recently organised the Regional Peat Restoration Workshop in Jakarta, which showcased ongoing restoration efforts in order to share learning points with others conducting similar projects.
Secondly, peatland restoration is expensive and will require financial support from other countries. Funding is especially needed to scale up current projects, many of which are still small-scale and experimental, so that they cover entire peat landscapes. This will maximise impact and minimise the conflicts that often result between multiple, smaller projects.
One recently-launched initiative to provide such funding is the Tropical Landscapes Finance Facility. A joint effort between BNP Paribas, ADM Capital and the United Nations Environment Programme, the facility has mobilised over US$1.1 billion (S$1.59 billion) of investments to reverse land degradation, prevent unwise land conversion and improve revenues for small farmers.
Western donors, most notably Norway, have also pledged about US$135 million to support the BRG. Others in the international and regional community can and should add their support.
In the longer term, Indonesia’s strategy involves changing the legal rights for industrial plantations to turn them into ecosystem restoration concessions that finance the restoration of forests and peatlands through the sale of carbon credits, among other methods.
The international community plays a crucial role in developing the market and providing the demand for such credits.

Climate change is rightly seen as an issue that affects all countries. 

Now that Indonesia has taken several important steps to prevent the return of fires, it is vital that other countries begin supporting its efforts.
Though approaches may differ, there is a need to recognise that we are working towards the same goal and that there are significant areas of overlap to work on. The need is urgent and we must not lose the valuable momentum that has been built up so far behind forest and peatland restoration.

Press link for more:ClimateChange.searca.org

We need Left & Right to fix #climatechange 

Why Democrats and Republicans are Both Right on Climate.
Two very different action plans from opposite sides of the aisle could be even more effective if both are implemented.

Over the past two years, two thoughtful, innovative, and dramatically different plans to address global warming have been presented to the American public by the Democratic and the Republican Parties. 

Both plans would move the nation significantly toward a sustainable future.

The first, the Clean Power Plan (CPP), introduced by President Obama, calls on states to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector by 32 percent below their individual 2005 baselines by 2030. 

The CPP further makes $8 billion available to retrain and aid coal-workers and their families. 

This is a sizeable transition fund for an industry now valued in total at less than $50 billion, a tenth of what it was just a few decades ago.

The second, the Carbon Dividend Plan (CDP) was recently proposed by the Climate Leadership Council which is headlined by former Republican Secretaries of State James Baker and George Schultz, as well as former Treasury Secretary Paulson, two former Chairmen of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and a Chairman of the Board of Walmart.

 The CDP calls for a modestly rising carbon tax, with dividends paid directly back to American families amounting to roughly $2,000 per year for a family of four.

Both plans have a great deal to like. 

The home run strategy for American job creation and industrial leadership is to implement both the CPP and the CDP.

The federal government estimates that the CPP will yield climate benefits to the U. S. economy of $20 billion, and health benefits of $14-34 billion, and to each year avoid 3,600 premature deaths, 1,700 heart attacks, 90,000 asthma attacks, and 300,000 missed work and school days.

 With so many of these illnesses in lower-income areas and in minority communities, the CPP is of tremendous benefit to poorer Americans and to the national budget as well.

 To be fair, some, but not all, of these benefits would also come from the CDP, although they are less clear-cut because emissions reductions could come from other sectors of the economy beyond electricity.

The CDP includes a provision for boarder taxes on foreign imports from nations that do not implement some form of carbon pricing, presumably with a dispensation for the world’s poorest nations.

Together the CPP and the CDP build a vibrant, intensely job-creating energy sector that would be far larger than either plan accomplishes alone. 

The CPP does not pit one state against each other, but pushes each state to develop its own carbon reduction plan.

 Both red and blue states are finding this easier and more profitable than previously imagined.

 The power sector reduced its carbon emissions 21 percent between 2005-2015, primarily by switching from coal to gas.

 It is well on the way to complying with the Clean Power Plan.

The CPP will accelerate the transition to money-saving energy efficiency, and to a job-rich renewable energy sector. 

Countries such as China, Bangladesh, Denmark, Germany Kenya, Korea, and Portugal have seen tremendous manufacturing and job growth as they made their electricity sectors more diverse, clean, and job-producing.


As innovations spread in the energy sector, the benefits of the CDP come into play. 

The carbon dividend to U. S. families is estimated by the U. S. Treasury to directly benefit financially the poorest 70 percent (some 223 million people) of Americans. 

A federal infrastructure investment would further stimulate this deal, bringing jobs to the capital-intensive energy sector across the country.

Of equal or greater importance, however, is the fact that the U. S. and EU energy sectors are growing by less than 1 percent per year, but in many other nations energy demand is growing by 5 percent per year or more.

 The CDP pushes other countries to adopt carbon policies, making them ready markets for the products that the invigorated U. S. energy sector will deliver.

Because the energy industry is about systems integration, not simply individual technology components, countries need company partners that are expert and trusted to deliver integrated packages. 

This is a hallmark of the U. S. energy sector, from the complex and extensive oil and gas industry, to companies like Bechtel and Johnson Controls, to the fastest growing part of the U. S. economy, the clean energy innovators.

The real beauty of the two proposals is how well they can work together for the benefit of all Americans, and at the same time, the global environment.

Daniel M. Kammen is a professor of energy at the University of California, Berkeley, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, and Science Envoy for the U. S. State Department. Twitter: @dan_kammen; URL: http://rael.berkeley.edu

Scientists can win the war on #Science #ClimateChange #auspol

Scientists can win the war on science — by speaking out

The Stand Up for Science Rally in Boston. CREDIT: Josh Landis
By Jeremy Deaton
Scientists have historically stayed above the political fray, but now that researchers face regular attacks under the Trump administration, many are planning to fight back.
And it’s creating a rift within the scientific community. Some scientists believe their work should speak for itself. Others say academics need to stand up for evidence-based inquiry — particularly where the fate of the planet is concerned. The March for Science, planned for April 22 on the National Mall, has drawn both sharp criticism and enthusiastic praise from scientists.
In the midst of this debate, newly published research has come down on the side of the outspoken. Not only do climate scientists have the public’s trust, they also have considerable latitude to advocate for climate action, a new study finds.

The Stand Up for Science Rally in Boston. CREDIT: Josh Landis

Researchers at George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication found that scientists remain credible even after making public statements that support climate action.
In the study, more than 1,200 participants read one of six Facebook posts from a fictional scientist, Dr. Dave Wilson, and then rated his credibility. The posts represented varying levels of advocacy.
At the low end, Wilson simply described a recent finding, noting that CO2 levels are on the rise. At the high end, he pressed for action on climate change without endorsing a particular course of action. In two other statements, he advocated for specific policies — calling for emissions limits on coal-fired power plants in one instance and more nuclear power in the other.

The Stand Up for Science Rally in Boston. CREDIT: Josh Landis

Readers regarded Wilson as no less credible after reading five of the six statements. Only after reading the statement on nuclear power did they regard him as less credible. Researchers said this suggests that scientists can advocate for climate action so long as they stop short of endorsing specific policies.
Conservatives rated Wilson as less credible than liberals did. Past research has shown those on the right tend to receive scientific statements about climate change more skeptically than their counterparts on the left. But the scientist’s statements did not further diminish his credibility — or the credibility of the scientific community — among conservatives.
These findings are especially notable given public attitudes towards climate scientists.
In the United States, seven in 10 people, including a majority of adults in every congressional district, trust scientists for information about climate change. 

A recently updated interactive tool from researchers at Yale and George Mason University breaks down public opinion on climate change by state, county, and congressional district.

 Its findings align with past research showing that climate scientists are the most trusted source of information about global warming.

But despite trusting scientists for information about climate change, the public remains largely unaware of what scientists actually think about the issue.
Less than half of Americans know that scientists agree broadly agree about the causes of climate change.

 Study after study has shown that 97 percent of climate scientists believe that human activity is driving the warming trend.

Research shows that when people understand the scientific consensus, they are more likely to be concerned about global warming. 

Complicating matters is the fact that Americans rarely speak about climate change. 

Despite the overwhelming urgency of the issue, only around a third of adults talk about it occasionally. 

A similar proportion never talk about it at all.

Clearly, there is ample room for scientists to drive a public conversation about climate, to explain that researchers agree on the urgent need for action and to encourage policymakers — and the public — to tackle the carbon crisis.
Recently, there has been a shift in the scientific community, as researchers organize gatherings, like the March for Science, in response to the Trump administration’s repeated attacks on evidence-based research. 

Last week, scientists in Boston led a rally during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes addressed those assembled, urging researchers to stand up to Trump.

“There have been many conversations in the scientific community about whether a rally is the right response,” said Oreskes.

 “We did not politicize our science. 

We did not start this fight. 

Our science has been politicized by people who are motivated to reject facts because those facts conflict with their worldview, their political beliefs or their economic self-interest.”
The assembled scientists and their supporters, armed with signs that read “stand up for science” and “bring back facts,” greeted her words with cheers and applause. Oreskes concluded with a forceful plea for scientists to advocate for their work — an act that cannot be discredited by those in power.
“It is not political to defend your colleagues. 

It is not political to defend your home. 

It is not political to stand up for science.”

Press link for more: Think Progress