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Climate change has been underestimated. #auspol #science

Science has underestimated Earth’s sensitivity to CO2 changes, study finds
By Jim Shelton

April 7, 2016

Global warming

A Yale University study says global climate models have significantly underestimated how much the Earth’s surface temperature will rise if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase as expected.

Yale scientists looked at a number of global climate projections and found that they misjudged the ratio of ice crystals and super-cooled water droplets in “mixed-phase” clouds — resulting in a significant under-reporting of climate sensitivity. The findings appear April 7 in the journal Science.
Equilibrium climate sensitivity is a measure used to estimate how Earth’s surface temperature ultimately responds to changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). Specifically, it reflects how much the Earth’s average surface temperature would rise if CO2 doubled its preindustrial level. In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated climate sensitivity to be within a range of 2 to 4.7 degrees Celsius.
The Yale team’s estimate is much higher: between 5 and 5.3 degrees Celsius. Such an increase could have dramatic implications for climate change worldwide, note the scientists.
“It goes to everything from sea level rise to more frequent and extreme droughts and floods,” said Ivy Tan, a Yale graduate student and lead author of the study.
Trude Storelvmo, a Yale assistant professor of geology and geophysics, led the research and is a co-author of the study. The other co-author is Mark Zelinka of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison.

A key part of the research has to do with the makeup of mixed-phase clouds, which consist of water vapor, liquid droplets, and ice particles, in the upper atmosphere. A larger amount of ice in those clouds leads to a lower climate sensitivity — something known as a negative climate feedback mechanism. The more ice you have in the upper atmosphere, the less warming there will be on the Earth’s surface.
“We saw that all of the models started with far too much ice,” said Storelvmo, an assistant professor of geology and geophysics. “When we ran our own simulations, which were designed to better match what we found in satellite observations, we came up with more warming.”
Storelvmo’s lab at Yale has spent several years studying climate feedback mechanisms associated with clouds. Little has been known about such mechanisms until fairly recently, she explained, which is why earlier models were not more precise.
“The overestimate of ice in mixed-phase clouds relative to the observations is something that many climate modelers are starting to realize,” Tan said.
The researchers also stressed that correcting the ice-water ratio in global models is critical, leading up to the IPCC’s next assessment report, expected in 2020.
Support for the research came from the NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship Program, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Press link for more: Yale.edu

Scientists up their projections for sea level rise. #auspol 

Scientists keep upping their projections for how much the oceans will rise this century

 A 30-mile-long meltwater river runs through Petermann glacier, Greenland, on August 27, 2016. (Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post)

A report by a leading research body monitoring the Arctic has found that previous projections of global sea level rise for the end of the century could be too low, thanks in part to the pace of ice loss of Arctic glaciers and the vast ice sheet of Greenland.
It’s just the latest in a string of cases in which scientists have published numbers that suggest a grimmer picture than the one presented in 2013 by an influential United Nations body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The new Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic report presents minimum estimates for global sea level rise by the end of the century, but not a maximum. This reflects the fact that scientists keep uncovering new insights that force them to increase their sea level estimates further, said William Colgan, a glaciologist with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, who contributed to the sea level rise section.
“Because of emerging processes, especially related to the Greenland ice sheet and the Antarctic ice sheet, it now looks like the uncertainties are all biased positive,” Colgan said.
The assessment found that under a relatively moderate global warming scenario — one that slightly exceeds the temperature targets contained in the Paris climate agreement — seas could be expected to rise “at least” 52 centimeters, or 1.7 feet, by the year 2100. Under a more extreme, “business as usual” warming scenario, meanwhile, the minimum rise would be 74 centimeters, or 2.4 feet.
The new findings were published Tuesday as part of a broader overview report by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, a working group of the intergovernmental Arctic Council, which unites eight Arctic nations, including the United States, and six organizations representing the indigenous peoples of the Arctic.
It is the work of 90 scientists and 28 peer reviewers and is expected to be presented in Fairbanks, Alaska, next month at the next summit of Arctic political leaders.
The report bluntly contrasts its sea level findings with a previous 2013 report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which had put the “likely” low end sea level rise number for these two scenarios at 32 centimeters (about 1 foot) and 45 centimeters (1.5 feet) for the period between 2081 and 2100. That global body — whose high end sea level rise number for the year 2100 was just shy of one meter, or 3.2 feet — has often seen its assertions on sea level rise faulted by scientists for being too conservative.
“These estimates are almost double the minimum estimates made by the IPCC in 2013,” said the new Arctic Council report, which is dubbed a “Summary for Policymakers” because the technical report underpinning it has not yet been released.
The new Arctic report is hardly the first of late to call the IPCC’s figures into question.
An influential study of Antarctica published last year in the journal Nature suggested that the frozen continent alone could nearly double the IPCC’s sea level projections for the end of the century.
(The IPCC did concede that sea levels could be higher than its “likely” forecast in the event of a “collapse of marine-based sectors of the Antarctic ice sheet” — but it added that “there is medium confidence that this additional contribution would not exceed several tenths of a meter of sea level rise during the 21st century.”)
And since then, several other scientific documents — presumably aware of this Antarctic research — have cited the possibility of particularly extreme sea level rise by 2100, even if they cannot necessarily quantify the likelihood of it occurring.
At the close of the Obama administration, a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggested that, at least as an “extreme” case, seas could possibly rise by as much as 8 feet by century’s end.
And yet another report, prepared for the state of California and released this month by a team of climate researchers, has now also presented the possibility of extreme sea level scenarios by 2100 — albeit ones that have either a low or an unknown probability of occurring.
That document looked specifically at California coastlines, and found that for San Francisco, for instance, the “likely” range for sea level rise in the year 2100 under a high global warming scenario would be 1.6 to 3.4 feet. But it also said there was a 1-in-20 chance of 4.4 feet, a 1-in-200 chance of 6.9 feet, and even a chance, whose probability could not be estimated, of 10 feet.
“We’re learning an increasing amount about the instability of marine based ice, and the amount of marine based ice that there is in Antarctica,” said Bob Kopp, a sea level researcher at Rutgers University and one of the authors of the California report. “And as we take more of these processes into account, the extent of the things that we don’t know that much about and aren’t yet able to quantify well has become clearer.”
The report for the Arctic Council, by contrast, focuses on a growing Arctic contribution to sea level rise, rather than an Antarctic one. Antarctica has far greater potential to raise seas over all, but the Arctic report emphasizes that for now, Greenland is actually raising seas the most and that it too has a great deal of potential sea level rise to contribute.
“These estimates of higher sea level contributions from the Arctic will only add to the new, higher estimates of potential sea level contributions from Antarctica — which is not good news,” said Rob DeConto, a geoscientist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who published the aforementioned Antarctica study and also worked on the California study. He was not involved in the new Arctic report.
Here’s a figure that the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland’s Colgan provided, showing the new sea level projections for a modest and more severe warming scenario, as well as the different and changing components of sea level rise over time:

 The sources and amounts of sea level rise from 1850 to the present, and then projected to the year 2100. RCP4.5 represents a modest global warming scenario that’s not too much warmer than the goals contained in the Paris climate agreement, whereas RCP8.5 represents a more severe “business as usual” scenario (William Colgan)

The Arctic report states that Greenland, in particular, lost 375 billion tons of ice per year from 2011 through 2014, enough to single-handedly raise the global sea level by about a millimeter per year. That annual loss, the document states, is “equivalent to a block of ice measuring 7.5 kilometers or 4.6 miles on all sides.”
Meanwhile, the melting glaciers of the Alaskan, Canadian and Russian Arctic are all steadily raising seas as well and could also see their contributions grow. The report therefore estimates that 19 to 25 centimeters (0.6 to 0.8 feet) of sea level rise in this century will come from the Arctic alone, and that must be combined with all the sea level rise contributed by Antarctica, other glacier systems and the steady expansion of seawater itself as it gets warmer.
Because of the difference between the worst case and more moderate sea level rise scenarios, the report concludes that the Paris climate agreement could substantially reduce the global sea level rise seen by 2100, even though seas will still rise considerably under any scenario.
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“You have to have a deliberate and sustained implementation of Paris for 30 years before you see a significant difference in the rate of global sea level rise,” Colgan said.
The Trump administration has been divided over whether to stick with the president’s campaign pledge and withdraw the United States from that agreement. Because of the upcoming G-7 meeting in May, where Trump is likely to be pressed on climate change, many observers expect a decision relatively soon.
It is unclear how the United States may react to the new Arctic report at the upcoming Arctic council meeting — the U.S. is currently chairing the council — or whether this will also put any additional pressure on the Trump administration.
Meanwhile, scientists studying the planet’s ice and its seas continue their work.
“If you look at the history of sea level rise projections over the last 20 years, they’re going up through time,” said Colgan. “Not just because of sea level actually rising, but also because of our understanding of the processes improving through time.”

Press link for more: Washington Post

Why I March #ClimateChange #auspol 

Why I March: Climate Change And Migration Have Everything To Do With Each Other

By Thanu Yakupitiyage 

It’s pretty ironic that among Donald Trump’s first policies on his agenda were a crackdown on immigrant communities, followed by the dismantling of climate and environmental protections.

 By rolling back the little progress the U.S. has made on climate change ― as well as slashing the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency and lifting a moratorium on federal coal leases ― Trump’s administration is sending a global message: the U.S. (a country that considers itself a leader) will not meet any commitment to bring down greenhouse gas emissions or invest in clean energy jobs. 

Meanwhile, the world is warming at an alarming rate, with each year hotter than the last. And while the planet warms and more climate-related disasters take place ― droughts get longer, rain patterns shift, land becomes infertile, food and water become scarce, and sea levels rise ― more and more people are migrating due to climate change impacts. These are often the world’s poorest people, from regions that have done the least to contribute to the severity of the climate crisis.

By disregarding the necessity for bold action on climate change, the Trump administration and climate deniers everywhere (the United States, China, India, and Russia have the highest emission rates) are ensuring that communities across the globe continue to be displaced and have no choice but to migrate for their own survival.
While Trump and many in his administration throw brown and black immigrants under the bus using hateful and racist isolationist tactics, calling for “Muslim Bans” and empowering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deport millions with little to no due process, his administration’s short-sighted and deliberate decisions to invest in the fossil fuel industry means that he is effectively aiding the process of creating more migrants.

It is estimated that by 2050, there will be 200 million people displaced by climate change-related impacts. According to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre, since 2008, an average of 26.4 million people per year have been displaced from their homes by disasters brought on by natural hazards. Climate change causes migration, and people migrate to flee the impacts of climate change on their homelands.
Make no mistake: people should have the right to migrate no matter what. 

However, the majority of migration happens because people need access to a better life.

 If there is no way for them to live in their homelands ravaged by climate change and other socio-economic impacts, they are left with no choice but to move.
In the United States, people in the Gulf are already being internally displaced due to rising sea levels.

We see this all over the world.

 In the United States, people in the Gulf are already being internally displaced due to rising sea levels. 

Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, home to the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, has lost 98% of its land and most of its population to coastal erosion and rising sea levels since 1955. 

The population of the island is now down to less than 85 residents from the previous hundreds. In January 2016, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funded The Isle de Jean Charles Resettlement Project, the first allocation of federal dollars to move 400 tribe members struggling with the impacts of climate change to inland locations. (This year, the Trump Administration is proposing to slash the HUD budget by 6 billion).
In Mexico, farmers have been dealing with severe drought for decades, leading to a loss of agricultural productivity.

 The outcome?

 More rural Mexicans are migrating to the United States for better futures.

 One study found climate change-driven changes to agricultural livelihoods have impacted the rate of emigration to the United States, estimating that by 2080, climate change-induced migration from Mexico could be up to $6.7 million. Another study argues that undocumented migration to the U.S from rural Mexico very much has to do with climate change and the declining livelihoods of farmers facing droughts and lack of rainfall.
And while many factors have led to the conflict in Syria, some argue that severe drought that started in 2006, worsened by a warming climate, drove Syrian farmers to abandon their crops and flock to cities, helping trigger the civil war. It is widely acknowledged, including by the Pentagon, that climate change acts as a threat multiplier, intensifying conflict and war. The United Nations estimates that there are over five million Syrian refugees now. Within his first 100 days in office, Donald Trump made two attempts to ban refugee resettlement to the U.S from Syria as part of his “Muslim Ban.”
The climate crisis has been decades in the making, but it’s worsening each day that politicians and their fossil fuel ilk sow doubt about its existence. Meanwhile, many Western nations are seeing a rise in xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment at the same time as the displacement of people hits a record high. The road ahead requires that we collectively do what’s right – we must stand up for the rights of migrants everywhere who deserve dignity and respect as they seek better lives for themselves and their families, as we build bold and just solutions to the climate crisis.
That’s why these major actions in the upcoming days are so important. On April 29th, I’ll join tens of thousands in the Peoples Climate March in Washington D.C. There are over 314 sister marches across the United States and around the world. On the 100th day under the Trump administration, we will surround the White House and put forward our vision to build bold solutions for climate, jobs, and justice. Together with a broad spectrum of communities including indigenous peoples, workers, immigrants, and communities of all backgrounds, we understand that mitigating the climate crisis is a matter of social, economic, racial, gender, and immigrant justice.
Then on May 1st, workers and immigrants everywhere will participate in the annual International Workers Day. In light of the assaults on immigrant communities in the United States, this May Day is of particular importance. (Here are just some of the events taking place.) We will harness the energy of the climate march back into our communities to build local solutions and to stand in solidarity with immigrants. We will resoundingly say, “No Ban, No Wall, No Raids,” and push back against a white supremacist and anti-immigrant agenda that aims to divide people, disrespecting the very workers that help uplift America.
There is hope. We’ve seen people fearlessly stand up for justice and it’s imperative that we keep up the momentum. Communities around the world are advocating for more clean energy solutions such as solar paneling and wind power, as well expanding green jobs. We saw the power of inspirational indigenous-led movements like #NoDAPL that called on thousands to push back against destructive pipeline projects. And thousands rose to the occasion to protect and defend immigrants impacted by Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban, as well as to continue to push back against unjust deportations through creating sanctuary spaces.
The clock is ticking for our planet and our communities. Only by seeing these issues as inherently connected can we rise up to demand a fair and just world.

Press link for more: Huffingtonpost.com

Arctic Ice Melt Could Cost Trillions by 2100 #auspol 

Arctic Ice Melt Could Cost The World Trillions Of Dollars By 2100

By Chris Di’Angelo
WASHINGTON — Climate change, driven by greenhouse gas emissions, is causing the Arctic to warm “faster than any other region on Earth,” according to a new international assessment. 

The thaw there is expected to have “major consequences for ecosystems and society,” potentially costing tens of trillions of dollars by the end of this century.
“The Arctic is showing clear evidence of evolving into a new state before mid-century,” with warmer, wetter and more variable conditions, according to the report from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program.
By the late 2030s, the report suggests the Arctic could be completely free of summer sea ice, likely resulting in more extreme weather in southern latitudes. 

Without immediate action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the melting of land-based Arctic ice could raise global sea levels an estimated 10 inches by 2100, threatening coastal communities around the globe. 
“The changes are cumulative, and so what we do in the next five years is really important to slowing down the changes that will happen in the next 30 or 40 years,” James Overland, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and an author of the report, said during a media briefing Tuesday.

 “The emphasis on action and immediacy is one of the key findings [of the report].”
It’s yet another terrifying reminder of what’s in store if humans continue with business as usual. 

Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images
A polar bear looks for food at the edge of the pack ice north of Svalbard, Norway.

The new report adds to the findings of the 2011 “Snow, Water, Ice, Permafrost in the Arctic” study, also coordinated by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program.

 Dozens of scientists contributed to the latest assessment, which mainly covers the five years from 2011 to 2015.
The cumulative cost of the changes unfolding in the Arctic could range from $7 trillion to $90 trillion by 2100, researchers found. 
The 200-plus page report calls on governments around the world to take immediate action to cut carbon emissions and to follow through on commitments made as part of the historic Paris climate pact. 

Such steps could stabilize Arctic temperatures in the later half of the century and prevent nearly 8 inches of additional sea level rise, according to the report. 
“The main message that’s coming through in this report, the main message we’d like to convey, is that over the timescale of the next 50 to 100 years, human actions can make a difference in the trajectory of the Arctic climate system,” contributing author John Walsh, a chief scientist at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska, said in a video accompanying the report.

 “The way the cryosphere — ice and snow — will respond to climate change will depend a lot on the emissions scenarios, which basically are determined by human actions.” 


The assessment comes as President Donald Trump moves to roll back Obama-era policies aimed at reducing the United States’ carbon footprint and fighting climate change. 

Trump previously vowed to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, in which nearly 200 countries committed to cut carbon emissions (there is some indication that cooler heads may prevail).

 He has also dismissed climate change as “bullshit” and a “hoax.” And he has given encouragement to those who support oil and gas development in Arctic waters. 
Margaret Williams, managing director of the World Wildlife Fund’s Arctic Program, said the new report underscores the urgency of reining in emissions and allowing only sustainable development in the Arctic.
“An intact Arctic is critical to our future, but the planet’s air conditioner is in jeopardy,” Williams, who was not involved in the study, said in a statement. “The staggering pace of Arctic warming reinforces the need for scientists to continually engage policymakers and the public about these changes. Smart Arctic policy will come from sound science and shared responsibility.” 
Earlier this month, the International Union for Conservation of Nature called on world leaders to safeguard the Arctic from such threats as oil development and shipping. It highlighted seven marine areas worthy of protection.
This weekend, on Trump’s 100th day in office, thousands of Americans are expected to descend on Washington, D.C., to participate in the People’s Climate March, a demonstration against the president’s environmental policies.

Press link for more: Huffingtonpost.com

Earth Day: Climate Change, Conflict & Extreme Poverty #auspol 

Earth Day: Climate Change, Conflict and Extreme Poverty
By Kathleen Colson, Founder and CEO of the BOMA Project
Earth Day has become a worldwide call to action to address the many critical consequences of climate change and global warming: deforestation, species extinction, ocean acidification, rising seas, extreme weather. 

The impacts of climate change are also acutely felt in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) of Africa – over 40% of the continent. 

While residents of these regions are accustomed to extended dry seasons, the cycles of drought are now more severe. The United Nations announced in March that in East Africa, 20 million people are on the brink of starvation, a consequence of drought and severe civil conflicts, which uproot communities and disrupt the distribution of food aid by humanitarian organizations.

There is a direct causal relationship between climate change and conflict in these areas. 

As communities struggle over dwindling resources like grazing land and water, violence is too often the result.

 Meanwhile, humanitarian aid networks struggle to deliver essential supplies and services, and vulnerable populations become overwhelmed by the two-fold tragedies of famine and violence.

As a non-profit organization operating in Northern Kenya, where the government recently declared a national disaster in 23 counties due to drought, we see every day the impact that climate change has on the most vulnerable members of extreme-poverty populations—women and children.

 The result is costly humanitarian aid programs that create a cycle of dependence, treating residents as passive beneficiaries instead of participants in the building of the resilience of their communities. 

Humanitarian response is important and saves lives, but it must be coupled with proven, holistic, resilience-building programs to help people make a meaningful transition from dependence to self-reliance, even in the face of severe and frequent shocks such as climate change and conflict. 

Globally, the poverty graduation approach has been proven to break the cycle of extreme poverty and lift families into self-sufficiency.

 In the face of growing skepticism about foreign aid, and significantly reduced funds for humanitarian responses, the global community has a responsibility to invest in programs that help families withstand the impacts of climate change and build resilience in their communities. 

If we don’t, we will see repeated cycles of expensive humanitarian responses that do little to solve the long-term problem.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

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

Today is our chance to show support for science.

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

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

Universal Literacy

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

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

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

Open Communication

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

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

Informed Policy

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

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

Stable Investment

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

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


Our acknowledgment

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

Press link for more: March for Science Australia

March for Science or March for Reality?

March for Science or March for Reality?

By Laurance M. klauss

Shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump as President, it was announced that a March for Science would be held Washington DC and in a host of other cities in the United States and around the world to protest the new Administration’s apparent anti-science agenda—from denial of climate change to dismantling the EPA, to budget priorities that will cut key science programs throughout the country—and to lobby for science-based policymaking as well as support for scientific research to address the challenges of the 21st century.


Meanwhile the Trump administration’s anti-science actions continue.

 Attorney General Sessions announced just this week that he was disbanding the National Commission on Forensic Science, which advises the federal government to enhance national standards in this area.
I have no idea how the Marches for Science—now over 400 in number across the globe—will play out, and how the media will interpret them.

 A series of worrisome tweets emanating from the March for Science twitter account over the past week, following similar early statements made on the groups website that were subsequently removed, claimed that scientific research promotes violence and inequity in society. 

These have been disavowed but the variety of mixed communications from leaders of the march over the past months suggests at the very least that the organization encompasses a wide diversity of agendas.
This is not surprising. After all, the scientific community has never been a one-issue community, like, say, the anti-abortion movement.

 And the current administration is pushing so many different buttons at the same time, with various attacks on fundamental rights, privacy, diversity, and freedom of expression, that these are bound to get caught up in any movement that promotes openness and free-inquiry, the hallmarks of the scientific enterprise.
Despite any such concerns, a host major science organizations, from the American Association for the Advancement of Science to Union of Concerned Scientists, have signed on as supporters of the March, and are urging their members to join their local marches and speak out for science-based public policy on April 22.


If the event becomes a ‘March By Scientists’ rather than a March for Science—namely if it is dominated by scientists labeling themselves as such, in costumes like white lab coats, rather than by members of the general public supporting evidence-based public policy—that too could be problematic. 

The March for science could then appear as a self-serving political lobbying effort by the scientific community to increase its funding base.
Let’s imagine that this is not the case, and the organizers are wildly successful in attracting hundreds of thousands or million of marchers across the globe this coming Saturday.

 It is still reasonable to wonder what the long-term impact of the marches might be. 

After all, following the worldwide March for Women, in which millions of people marched around the world in support of women’s rights, the Trump administration reacted with a deaf ear. 

Just this past week the President signed legislation allowing states and local governments to withhold federal funding for Planned Parenthood, for example.
The situation is different in this case however, and it may have nothing directly to do with science policy, or even in those areas where science should play a key role in affecting policy.
Every week, the alternative realities invoked by the Trump administration are being demonstrated, by events, to be vacuous. 

The administration claimed it would immediately end, and then fix, problems with Obamacare, and failed miserably. Donald Trump campaigned against foreign military intervention, and this week alone initiated unilateral bombings in Syria and Afghanistan. 

Donald Trump pledged to immediately revise NAFTA, forcing Canada and Mexico to the table to make a better deal. 

Nothing has happened.
He promised Mexico would pay for a wall. 

However the first $2 billion installment for a wall was included in the budget proposal he presented to Congress, compensated by cuts in funding in key areas of science, but also in support of the arts and humanities in this country.
He promised to drain the swamp, but he removed restrictions on lobbyists entering government, and as the New York Times reported just this week, he has filled his administration with them, including individuals who are already facing conflict of interest allegations because of their former activities lobbying the organizations they now run.
He lobbied against Wall Street, but former Wall Street leaders dominate his cabinet and economic advisory groups.
He said he would release his taxes after his inauguration and has not. 

And he claimed he would immediate increase growth and the economy, but as the Wall Street Journal reported just this week, projections for growth of the economy have decreased sharply in recent months, as have retail sales, and the consumer price index.


These are just a few of the immediate and obvious inconsistencies. 

Further, as administration policies on energy and the environment take effect, citizens in communities with drinking water at risk from environmental threats will find that programs to avert further deterioration have been cut, and coal mining communities will find that the natural gas glut has much more to do with the continuing demise of coal than Obama’s efforts to improve air quality in the US by restricting coal plants, which, whatever Trump may claim, are bad for the environment. 

(Indeed as the New York Times reported this week, more than 200,000 tons of coal ash residue each year are produced by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and this has been making its way into groundwater, potentially affecting drinking water supplies, even as the EPA is now delaying compliance with rules enacted to enhance the safe storage and disposal of coal ash.).
The very essence of science, indeed that which is motivating the March for Science, involves skeptical inquiry and a reliance on empirical evidence and constant testing to weed out false hypotheses and unproductive or harmful technologies as we move toward a better understanding of reality: A willingness, in short, to force beliefs and policies to conform to the evidence of reality, rather than vice versa.


Unlike its perception among much of the public and its presentation in many schools today, science is not simply a body of facts, but rather a process for deriving what the facts are. 

This process has helped us uncover hidden secrets of the Universe that never would have been dreamed of and producing technologies that have not only been largely responsible for the standard of living enjoyed by the first world today, but have also increased lifespans around the world. 

With this process the very possibility of “alternative facts” disappears.
By providing such a constant and sharp explicit and observable contrast between policy and empirical reality, the Trump administration can encourage a new public skepticism about political assertions vs. reality, and a demand for evidence before endorsing policies and the politicians who espouse them—the very things that most marchers on April 22nd will be demanding. 

This skepticism is beginning to manifest itself in data. 

A Gallup poll result on April 17 indicated that only 45 percent of the public believe President Trump’s promises, a drop of 17 percent since February.
In this regard, it is worth remembering the words of the Nobel Prizewinning physicist, Richard Feynman, who said: For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled. 

Or, as the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick more colorfully put it: Reality is that which continues to exist even when you stop believing in it.
The Trump Administration is discovering that obfuscation, denial, and hype may work when selling real estate, but in public arena eventually reality has a way of biting you in the butt. And the public is watching. 

The March for Science may be lucky to capitalize upon a growing awareness that there is no Wizard behind the curtain. The number of marchers, their backgrounds, or even their myriad messages may not drive the success of the March. Rather, it may be driven by the harsh examples coming out every day that reality exists independent of the desires or claims of those in power. 

In this case, the greatest asset the March for Science has going for it may be Donald Trump himself.

Press link for more: Scientific American

Climate Change is a global threat to international security. #Auspol 

Terrorist groups such as the Islamic State and Boko Haram have been dominating the headlines since 2013.

 Both groups have gained international notoriety for their ruthless brutality and their rise is posing new challenges for national, regional and international security. 

Such non-state armed groups (NSAG) are not a new phenomenon. 

Today, however, we can observe an increasingly complex landscape of violent actors with a range of hybrid organisational structures, different agendas and different levels of engagement with society that set them apart from ‘traditional’ non-state actors and result in new patterns of violence.

At the same time, there has been increasing acknowledgement within the academic literature and among the policy community of the relationship between climate change and security.

 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underlined in its latest report from 2014 that human security will be progressively threatened as the climate changes. 

Analysing its impacts on fragility, an independent report for the G7 Foreign Ministers concluded that climate change is a global threat to international security. 

As the ultimate threat multiplier, it aggravates already fragile situations and may contribute to social upheaval and even violent con ict (Rüttinger et al. 2015). 

While these reports touch upon the topic of non- state armed actors, they do not specifcally and comprehensively spell out the links between climate change, fragility and these actors.
Over the past ten years, both our understanding and awareness of the links between climate change and security have increased tremendously. 

Today the UN, the EU, the G7 and an increasing number of states have classified climate change as a threat to global and/or national security (American Security Project 2014; European Commission 2008; UN Security Council 2011).

However, the links between climate change, conflict and fragility are not simple and linear. 

The increasing impacts of climate change do not automatically lead to more fragility and conflict.

Rather, climate change acts as a threat multiplier. 


It interacts and converges with other existing risks and pressures in a given context and can increase the likelihood of fragility or violent conflict. 

States experiencing fragility or conflict are particularly affected, but seemingly stable states can also be overburdened by the combined pressures of climate change, population growth, urbanization, environmental degradation and rising socio-economic inequalities (Carius et al. 2008; WBGU 2007, CNA 2007, Rüttinger et al. 2015).

In 2015, the report “A New Climate for Peace” (Rüttinger et al. 2015), commissioned by the G7 Foreign Ministries, identified seven compound climate-fragility risks that pose a serious threat to the stability of states and societies.

Local resource competition: As the pressure on natural resources increases, competition can lead to instability and even violent conflict in the absence of effective dispute resolution.

Livelihood insecurity and migration: Climate change will increase the human insecurity of people who depend on natural resources for their livelihoods, which could push them to migrate or turn to more informal or illegal sources of income.

Extreme weather events and disasters will exacerbate fragility challenges and can increase people’s vulnerability and grievances, especially in conflict-affected situations.

Volatile food prices and provision: Climate change is highly likely to disrupt food production in many regions, increasing prices and market volatility, and heightening the risk of protests, rioting, and civil conflict.

Transboundary water management is frequently a source of tension; as demand grows and climate impacts affect availability and quality, competition over water use will likely increase the pressure on existing governance structures.

Sea-level rise and coastal degradation: Rising sea levels will threaten the viability of low-lying areas even before they are submerged, leading to social disruption, displacement, and migration, while disagreements over maritime boundaries and ocean resources may increase.

Unintended effects of climate policies: As climate change adaptation and mitigation policies are more broadly implemented, the risks of unintended negative effects – particularly in fragile contexts – will also increase.

“A New Climate for Peace” is an independent report commissioned by the G7 Member States. 

The report was prepared by an independent consortium of leading research institutions, headed by adelphi, with International Alert, the Wilson Center, and the EU Institute for Security Studies, and was submitted to the G7 in April 2015.

Press link for more: Report

Climate Change As Genocide: Inaction Equals Annihilation #auspol 

Climate Change As Genocide: Inaction Equals Annihilation
Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com.
Not since World War II have more human beings been at risk from disease and starvation than at this very moment. On March 10th, Stephen O’Brien, under Secretary-General of the United Nations for humanitarian affairs, informed the Security Council that 20 million people in three African countries ― Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan ― as well as in Yemen were likely to die if not provided with emergency food and medical aid. “We are at a critical point in history,” he declared. “Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the U.N.” Without coordinated international action, he added, “people will simply starve to death [or] suffer and die from disease.”

Major famines have, of course, occurred before, but never in memory on such a scale in four places simultaneously. According to O’Brien, 7.3 million people are at risk in Yemen, 5.1 million in the Lake Chad area of northeastern Nigeria, 5 million in South Sudan, and 2.9 million in Somalia. In each of these countries, some lethal combination of war, persistent drought, and political instability is causing drastic cuts in essential food and water supplies. Of those 20 million people at risk of death, an estimated 1.4 million are young children.
Despite the potential severity of the crisis, U.N. officials remain confident that many of those at risk can be saved if sufficient food and medical assistance is provided in time and the warring parties allow humanitarian aid workers to reach those in the greatest need. “We have strategic, coordinated, and prioritized plans in every country,” O’Brien said. “With sufficient and timely financial support, humanitarians can still help to prevent the worst-case scenario.”
All in all, the cost of such an intervention is not great: an estimated $4.4 billion to implement that U.N. action plan and save most of those 20 million lives. 
The international response?

 Essentially, a giant shrug of indifference.

To have time to deliver sufficient supplies, U.N. officials indicated that the money would need to be in pocket by the end of March.

 It’s now April and international donors have given only a paltry $423 million ― less than a tenth of what’s needed.

 While, for instance, President Donald Trump sought Congressional approval for a $54 billion increase in U.S. military spending (bringing total defense expenditures in the coming year to $603 billion) and launched $89 million worth of Tomahawk missiles against a single Syrian air base, the U.S. has offered precious little to allay the coming disaster in three countries in which it has taken military actions in recent years. 

As if to add insult to injury, on February 15th Trump told Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that he was inclined to sell his country 12 Super-Tucano light strike aircraft, potentially depleting Nigeria of $600 million it desperately needs for famine relief.    
Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the U.N.

Moreover, just as those U.N. officials were pleading fruitlessly for increased humanitarian funding and an end to the fierce and complex set of conflicts in South Sudan and Yemen (so that they could facilitate the safe delivery of emergency food supplies to those countries), the Trump administration was announcing plans to reduce American contributions to the United Nations by 40%.

 It was also preparing to send additional weaponry to Saudi Arabia, the country most responsible for devastating air strikes on Yemen’s food and water infrastructure. 

This goes beyond indifference. 

This is complicity in mass extermination.
Like many people around the world, President Trump was horrified by images of young children suffocating from the nerve gas used by Syrian government forces in an April 4th raid on the rebel-held village of Khan Sheikhoun. 

“That attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me ― big impact,” he told reporters.

 “That was a horrible, horrible thing. And I’ve been watching it and seeing it, and it doesn’t get any worse than that.”

 In reaction to those images, he ordered a barrage of cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base the following day. But Trump does not seem to have seen ― or has ignored ― equally heart-rending images of young children dying from the spreading famines in Africa and Yemen.

 Those children evidently don’t merit White House sympathy.
Who knows why not just Donald Trump but the world is proving so indifferent to the famines of 2017? 

 It could simply be donor fatigue or a media focused on the daily psychodrama that is now Washington, or growing fears about the unprecedented global refugee crisis and, of course, terrorism. 

 It’s a question worth a piece in itself, but I want to explore another one entirely.
Here’s the question I think we all should be asking: Is this what a world battered by climate change will be like ― one in which tens of millions, even hundreds of millions of people perish from disease, starvation, and heat prostration while the rest of us, living in less exposed areas, essentially do nothing to prevent their annihilation?
Famine, Drought, and Climate Change

First, though, let’s consider whether the famines of 2017 are even a valid indicator of what a climate-changed planet might look like. 

After all, severe famines accompanied by widespread starvation have occurred throughout human history. In addition, the brutal armed conflicts now underway in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen are at least in part responsible for the spreading famines. 

In all four countries, there are forces ― Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabaab in Somalia, assorted militias and the government in South Sudan, and Saudi-backed forces in Yemen ― interfering with the delivery of aid supplies. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that pervasive water scarcity and prolonged drought (expected consequences of global warming) are contributing significantly to the disastrous conditions in most of them. 

The likelihood that droughts this severe would be occurring simultaneously in the absence of climate change is vanishingly small.
In fact, scientists generally agree that global warming will ensure diminished rainfall and ever more frequent droughts over much of Africa and the Middle East. 

This, in turn, will heighten conflicts of every sort and endanger basic survival in a myriad of ways. In their most recent 2014 assessment of global trends, the scientists of the prestigious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that “agriculture in Africa will face significant challenges in adapting to climate changes projected to occur by mid-century, as negative effects of high temperatures become increasingly prominent.” Even in 2014, as that report suggested, climate change was already contributing to water scarcity and persistent drought conditions in large parts of Africa and the Middle East. Scientific studies had, for instance, revealed an “overall expansion of desert and contraction of vegetated areas” on that continent. With arable land in retreat and water supplies falling, crop yields were already in decline in many areas, while malnutrition rates were rising ― precisely the conditions witnessed in more extreme forms in the famine-affected areas today.
It’s seldom possible to attribute any specific weather-induced event, including droughts or storms, to global warming with absolute certainty. Such things happen with or without climate change. Nonetheless, scientists are becoming even more confident that severe storms and droughts (especially when occurring in tandem or in several parts of the world at once) are best explained as climate-change related. If, for instance, a type of storm that might normally occur only once every hundred years occurs twice in one decade and four times in the next, you can be reasonably confident that you’re in a new climate era.

It will undoubtedly take more time for scientists to determine to what extent the current famines in Africa and Yemen are mainly climate-change-induced and to what extent they are the product of political and military mayhem and disarray. But doesn’t this already offer us a sense of just what kind of world we are now entering?
History and social science research indicate that, as environmental conditions deteriorate, people will naturally compete over access to vital materials and the opportunists in any society ― warlords, militia leaders, demagogues, government officials, and the like ― will exploit such clashes for their personal advantage. “The data suggests a definite link between food insecurity and conflict,” points out Ertharin Cousin, head of the U.N.’s World Food Program. “Climate is an added stress factor.” In this sense, the current famines in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen provide us with a perfect template for our future, one in which resource wars and climate mayhem team up as temperatures continue their steady rise.
As environmental conditions deteriorate, people will naturally compete over access to vital materials, and the opportunists… will exploit such clashes for their personal advantage.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

Scientists March For Truth. #auspol 

Scientists to take to the streets in global march for truth.

By Mark Lynas
March for Science on 22 April will see scientists and supporters at more than 500 locations stand up for evidence-based thinking.


Scientists and science supporters will take to the streets in a global March for Science on 22 April . 

What began as a small Facebook group in the US capital, Washington DC has spiralled into a global phenomenon that will now see marches and other events in more than 500 locations around the world, from Seattle to Seoul.
It is great news that so many people are prepared to stand up and defend the need for evidence-based thinking and the scientific method. 

But it is also a sad comment on our times that a March for Science is needed at all. 


Post-truth populism has infected democracies around the world, scientific objectivity is under threat from multiple sources and there seems a real danger of falling into a modern dystopian dark age.
It is clear that the old days of scientists staying in the lab, publishing papers in scholarly journals, and otherwise letting the facts speak for themselves are over. 

As the Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes reminds us: “The facts don’t speak for themselves because we live in a world where so many people are trying to silence facts.” 

In her book, Merchants of Doubt, Oreskes wrote about these efforts from the tobacco industry onwards; science denialist attempts that are paralleled in today’s climate sceptic, anti-vaccine and anti-GMO movements.


These campaigners against truth take great pains to deny the existence of scientific consensus on their different issues. 

The fact that 97% of the peer-reviewed literature on climate change supports the consensus that most of global warming is human-induced is dismissed as mere elitism. 

But as Dr Sarah Evanega, director of the Alliance for Science at Cornell, writes: “The values we defend are those of the Enlightenment, not the establishment.” 

Expertise is real, and we reject it at our peril.

Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of the March for Science, and what may prove to be its most enduring legacy, is its truly global nature. 

Science is not western; it is everywhere and for everyone. 

I have worked with Alliance for Science colleagues to help get marches off the ground in Bangladesh, Nigeria, Uganda, Venezuela, Chile and other places.

 In between long Skype calls about logistics, fundraising, and media outreach I watched the lights flash on as the number of marches on the global map kept on increasing. 

It was like watching the world light up with knowledge.
Bangladesh March for Science’s lead organiser Arif Hossain says: “I am marching to let the world know that we are united for science in Bangladesh. 

We have 160 million people to feed in the changed climate, and together we will make a better day with science and innovation.”
Although the issues of most concern vary in different locations, appreciation of the need for science is global. As Nkechi Isaac, an organiser of the March for Science in Abuja, Nigeria, says: “Science is revolutionary.

 It holds the key to constant development and improvement for addressing climate change, food shortage and challenges in medicine. Science holds the solution to our food security.”
Nigerians can testify to the tragic effects of anti-science activism. Efforts to eradicate polio in the country were held up for years because of conspiracy theories spread by those suspicious of modern medicine and vaccines. People die when science is denied.
So here’s what we will be marching for.

 It’s time to enter the post-post-truth era. 

And there is no time to lose.

• Mark Lynas is a science and environment writer and a visiting fellow at the Alliance for Science at Cornell University.

Press link for more: The Guardian