Sea Ice

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

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

76 Women on a Glacier are changing the World #IWD #auspol #science 

76 women on a glacier are changing the world
“We’re going to keep fighting to ensure climate progress is made.”

The women of Homeward Bound. CREDIT: Anne Christianson
By Molly Taft
Heidi Steltzer’s job, as she puts it, is “hiking where no one else will go.” 

As a mountain and polar ecologist studying rare plants, she’s accustomed to traveling to breathtaking Arctic vistas to chase flora along mountain ridges.
But watching glaciers calve on her first trip to Antarctica last December was a one-of-a-kind experience for the scientist. “You kind of want to see it,” she said.

 “Even though you know it’s not a good thing, you kind of want to be there.”
As she watched the great icebergs float by the boat in Neko Harbor, another member of Steltzer’s trip waved her arm at the scene, as if summoning a force to shave the glaciers surrounding them.
“Can you imagine if any one of us had that kind of power to see ice calve when you wanted to see it?” laughed Steltzer. “But at the same time, we knew, collectively — we do have that power. 

You can’t say these specific glaciers are definitively calving because of human action.

 But these events continuing to happen is consistent in that system, and consistent with what we know about human activity and climate change.”


Heidi Steltzer. CREDIT: Anne Christianson

Steltzer’s colleagues were more knowledgeable than your average gaggle of tourists. 

The travelers on her trip were all scientists, and several of them focus specifically on climate change.

 What’s more, her 75 companions on the three-week trip were all women, bound together on the largest-ever, all-female expedition to Antarctica. 

The trip was the focal point of a year-long leadership development program called Homeward Bound, which aims to groom 1,000 women with science backgrounds over the next ten years to influence public policy and dialogue.
While women made up more than 50 percent of the US workforce in 2016, they represented only 24 percent of workers in STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math. 

Representation in public policy is even worse: Women hold less than 23 percent of parliamentary positions worldwide, and less than 20 percent of Congress is female. 

The founder of Homeward Bound told Reuters that inspiration came from the trip from hearing two scientists joke that a beard was a requirement to land an Antarctic research leadership role.


The women of Homeward Bound. CREDIT: Anne Christianson

The problem of female leadership in STEM isn’t a new one. When Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University and a leading U.S. climate voice, was a second-year undergraduate physics student, the head of the department called her into his office to ask how the program could help encourage her career as a female physicist.
“My mentors in science from day one have all been male,” she recalled. “I’ve learned a lot from them and I’ve been incredibly encouraged and supported by them. But at the same time, there have been differences between us.”


Katharine Hayhoe. CREDIT: Katharine Hayhoe

Lifestyle and family changes, Hayhoe emphasized, provide a particular sticking point between the genders in STEM. “As I got older, I started to realize how big the gap was between colleagues who basically had a spouse who managed everything full time,” she said. “They could just, at the drop of the hat, leap on an airplane and be off to a meeting, versus a mother who, before you do anything, you’ve got to do all the laundry, freeze the meals, figure out who is picking the kids up from schools. At this point, if someone asks me to do something at the drop of the hat, the answer is no — and this still happens to me today.”
Steltzer echoed similar experiences. “At one point in time, women were present in equal measures to myself at a peer level,” she said. “But now that I’m in my early 40s, an associate professor, in many environments I’m in there are fewer women. There are ways we can do better.”


The polar plunge at Neko Bay. CREDIT: Sarah Brough

She pointed out that the perception of “good old boys’ clubs” in male-dominated fields may just be men connecting with each other over shared experiences. Getting a group of female scientists together can create a collaborative, experience-based atmosphere that can be difficult for women to find at home. “Homeward Bound created for us women a space and a place where we feel connected to one another.”
For Anne Christianson, a younger Homeward Bounder, the trip took on special importance for her work. Christianson is completing a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, and her dissertation focuses on how climate change disproportionately affects women in developing countries. She points out that, while it was easy to see the consequences of climate change watching glaciers in Antarctica, it’s important to keep in mind how climate change threatens women around the globe.
“We have these cascading impacts [of climate change] on women that simply aren’t seen in men,” Christianson said. “Women generally don’t have enough capital to build our own resilience to climate change.”

Press link for more: Think Progress

Connecting with Climate Science #auspol

Connecting with climate science
Protecting science-based policymaking requires engaging the public, not politicians. 

Cultural institutions and the arts provide non-partisan platforms for communication that can connect scientific climate change data to people’s lives.
A rapid stream of policy changes and an unprecedented public reaction marked the first weeks of the Trump presidency.

 In response to signs from the Trump administration that they plan to muzzle government researchers, cut grant funding, and reverse science-based policies, a March for Science is being organized for Earth Day (22 April 2017) in Washington DC and around the world (http://go.nature.com/2kOWpXm). 


However, there are concerns that a March for Science will only reinforce the view held by sceptics that the research itself is politicized.

 Writing in The New York Times, coastal geologist Robert Young argued that to effect change, scientists need to work harder to communicate with the general public, not politicians, about the scientific evidence and how it relates to people’s lives. 

“We need storytellers, not marchers.”
Incorporating climate change into cultural experiences can engage the public and change the conversation. 

In this issue’s Feature (page 168), Sonja van Renssen explores the myriad ways the arts are being used to communicate the oftentimes-abstract impacts of climate change and the underlying scientific data. 

For instance, photorealistic depictions of iconic coastal cities under 2 °C and 4 °C warming scenarios provoke stronger emotional responses than simply knowing that sea level rise could be between 7–10 metres; films that allow viewers to actually see a city’s daily carbon emissions (pictured) and musical compositions based on climate data4, 5may better capture aspects of the data’s meaning that are not easily “grasped from a static scientific graph, like very large quantities or changes over time. These artistic renderings bridge the gap between knowing the facts and understanding them.

CARBON VISUALS, WWW.CARBONVISUALS.COM

As museum advisor Morien Rees writes in a Commentary (page 166), “how and where communication is achieved is as important as what is communicated”. He argues that museums are ideal venues to address the challenges of climate change communication because of their unique ability to foster dialogue across disciplines, making complex global issues locally relevant. 

For instance, his own museum in Norway is working with climate researchers and national park rangers to create an exhibit within the Varanger Peninsula National Park (http://go.nature.com/2lPpY8P) to highlight the impact of climate change on park wildlife. 

In a similar vein, the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg, Canada, has an award-winning exhibit (http://go.nature.com/2ksDwG0) that integrates virtual reality and video simulation technology and pure water science to draw attention to the problems facing Lake Winnipeg due to climate change and the actions required to save it.
Climate change is often presented as an issue for scientists and policymakers, which can make it easy for the public to remain disconnected.

 Both van Renseen and Rees discuss ways in which cultural experiences of climate change can complement major international policy and scientific events to turn passive observers into active participants. 

For example, van Renssen highlights ArtCop21, a global climate art festival that included 551 cultural events and exhibits across 54 countries in the four months preceding the 2015 UN climate conference. 

These musical, literary, theatrical, and visual arts events connected people to the climate problem and the importance of the Paris meeting. Rees proposes that a similar international event should accompany publication of the next IPCC report. Rather than passively learning about the contents from traditional news media, the public could be provided with opportunities to actively engage with the report content through a coordinated global dissemination project designed and executed by the international museum sector.

Indeed, the museum sector already has a cooperative international infrastructure in place that can be mobilized to this end.
The communication divide between scientists and the public, and the influence of political ideology on perceptions of science, is not limited to research topics like climate change that are themselves politically polarizing. For example, a 2016 poll conducted by Research!America (http://go.nature.com/2kpbyQr) found that 81% of respondents could not name a living scientist. #actuallivingscientist subsequently went viral on 3 February 2017 and was used by scientists to explain who they are and what they do in 140 characters

While it seemed to respond to the problem of people lacking awareness of scientists, it is not clear that this has done more than unite the scientific community — people who do not know a living scientist are unlikely to be following one on social media. This falls short of the personal public engagement that Robert Young envisions, and does little to overcome the perception that climate change is a partisan issue. Museums and galleries provide impartial platforms to disseminate climate and science messages beyond the echo chamber, but scientists can contribute by thinking about new ways to make their data accessible and personally meaningful.

Press link for more:Nature.com

Massive Permafrost thaw in Nortwest Canada. #ClimateChange #auspol 

Huge slabs of Arctic permafrost in northwest Canada are slumping and disintegrating, sending large amounts of carbon-rich mud and silt into streams and rivers. 

A new study that analyzed nearly a half-million square miles in northwest Canada found that this permafrost decay is affecting 52,000 square miles of that vast stretch of earth—an expanse the size of Alabama.

According to researchers with the Northwest Territories Geological Survey, the permafrost collapse is intensifying and causing landslides into rivers and lakes that can choke off life downstream, all the way to where the rivers discharge into the Pacific Ocean.
Similar large-scale landscape changes are evident across the Arctic including in Alaska, Siberia and Scandinavia, the researchers wrote in a paper published in the journal Geology in early February. The study didn’t address the issue of greenhouse gas releases from thawing permafrost.

 But its findings will help quantify the immense global scale of the thawing, which will contribute to more accurate estimates of carbon emissions.


Sink hole in Siberia

Permafrost is land that has been frozen stretching back to the last ice age, 10,000 years ago.

 As the Arctic warms at twice the global rate, the long-frozen soils thaw and decompose, releasing the trapped greenhouse gases into the air.

 Scientists estimate that the world’s permafrost holds twice as much carbon as the atmosphere.


Melting Permafrost in Siberia 
The new study was aimed at measuring the geographical scope of thawing permafrost in northwest Canada. 

Using satellite images and other data, the team studied the edge of the former Laurentide Ice Sheet, a vast expanse of ice that covered two-thirds of North America during the last ice age. 

The disintegration of the permafrost was visible in 40- to 60-mile wide swaths of terrain, showing that, “extensive landscapes remain poised for major climate-driven change.” 
“Things have really taken off. 

Climate warming is now making that happen. 

It’s exactly what we should expect with climate change,” said Steven V. Kokelj, lead scientist on the Canadian mapping project. 

“And the maps that we produced clearly indicated it’s not just a random pattern. 

We’re sort of connecting dots here for the scientific community.”
Other global evidence of similar large-scale permafrost changes have recently been documented in Siberia, where scientists with the Permafrost Laboratory at the University of Sussex (UK) are monitoring another rapidly growing scar in the earth. 

More than a half-mile of once-frozen ground has collapsed 280-feet deep, according to their study published in in the journal Quaternary Research in February.

 The researchers said they expect to see the rolling tundra landscape transform, including the formation of large new valleys and lakes.
Similar signs are evident in coastal Arctic areas, where thawing permafrost and bigger waves are taking 60- to 70-foot bites of land each year, according to researchers with the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. 

Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change in January, AWI scientists warned about collapsing coastlines and urged more research, with input from policymakers and native communities.
University of Alberta scientists Suzanne Tank, who was not involved in the new study, said that the release of sediments from the new slumps in the Canadian permafrost has significant ecological implications.

 The pulses of silt, mud and gravel make streams murkier and limit growth of aquatic plants at the base of the food chain. Exactly how that affects other species, including fish, is the subject of ongoing research.
Scientists know thawing permafrost unlocks carbon.

 But according to Tank, most of the carbon in the Canadian melting is being released quickly as coarse particles that aren’t converted to CO2 immediately. 

But separate research by Swedish scientists suggests that the soil particles are quickly converted to heat-trapping CO2 when they are swept into the sea.
A series of studies on the National Institute of Health’s Arctic Health website documents how the widespread thaw of permafrost is already having direct impacts on people.

 Warmer water and increased sediment loads are harming lake trout, an important source of food for native communities. Changes to the land surface are also disrupting caribou breeding and migration, and in some places, the disappearing permafrost has destroyed traditional food storage cellars, researchers have found.
At lower latitudes, permafrost is the glue that holds the world’s highest mountains together by keeping rocks and soil frozen in place. Scientists are documenting how those bonds are dissolving, said Stefan Reisenhofer, a climate scientist with the Austrian Bureau of Meteorology and Geodynamics.
“We’ve seen a significant reduction in the number of ice days (those with 24 hours of sub-freezing temperatures), especially in the summer months,” said Reisenhofer, who works at a climate observatory at an elevation of 8,500 feet. “From 2010 to 2014, the number of ice days decreased by 11 in May, and 10 in June.” During that span, the mountain beneath the research station crumbled, requiring a huge investment to stabilize the outpost, he said.
Using satellite images from the European Space Agency’s Copernicus program, the Austrian researchers have shown how, similar to the findings in Canada, thawing permafrost has unleashed huge amounts of sediments below receding glaciers. Intensifying summer rainstorms have triggered huge landslides, damaging roads, power lines and water infrastructure, according to a recent evaluation of satellite images by Austrian climate researchers.
In some areas, there are new restrictions on development as the landslides grow bigger, reaching all the way to the valley floors.

Press link for more: Inside Climate.news.org

The Slow Confiscation of Everything #auspol 

The Slow Confiscation of Everything

By Laurie Penny 


A protest against EPA head Scott Pruitt. / Lorie Shaull
These days, the words of the prophets are written in whimsical chalk on the hoardings of hipster latte-mongers: “The end is nigh. Coffee helps.”

 In the days running up to the inauguration of Donald Trump, I saw this sort of message everywhere, and as panic-signals go, it’s oddly palliative. 

The idea that the Western world might soon be a smoking crater or a stinking swamp does, in fact, make me a little more relaxed about the prospect of spending five dollars on a hot drink.  
Fuck it. 

The planet, as we keep telling each other, is on fire. 

Might as well have a nice latte while we wait for the flames to slobber up our ankles. 

When you consider that some desperate barista boiled the entire philosophy of post-Fordist public relations down to its acrid essence, it would be ungrateful not to. 

What have you got to lose? 

Five dollars and your pride, in the short term, but what will those be worth next year? 

Next week? 

Have you looked at the Dow Jones lately? 

Have you turned on the news? 

On second thoughts, best not—just drink your coffee and calm down. 

Look, they’ve drawn a little mushroom cloud in the milk foam. 

It’s quite beautiful, when you think about it. 
The topic of apocalypse comes up a lot these days. 

It’s slipped into conversation as compulsively as you might mention any other potentially distressing disruption to your life plans, such as a family member’s illness, or a tax audit. 

And yet the substance of the conversation has shifted in recent weeks and months from an atmosphere of chronic to acute crisis. 

The end seems to be slightly more nigh than it was last year; we talk about the Trumpocalypse with less and less irony as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moves the Doomsday clock half a minute closer to midnight. 
Of all the despicable things the runaway ghost train of the Trump administration has done in its first ferocious weeks, the attempt to utterly destroy every instrument of environmental protection is perhaps the most permanent.

 The appointment of fossil fuel tycoons and fanatical climate change deniers to key positions in energy and foreign policy, the immediate reinstitution of the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines, the promise to pull out of the Paris Climate Pact—all moves crafted to please the oil magnates who helped put him in power—these are changes that will hasten the tick of the time bomb under civilization as we know it. 

Racist laws can eventually be overthrown, and even a cultural backslide toward bigotry and nationalism can be slowly, painfully reversed. 

We don’t get a do-over on climate change. 

The vested interests agitating to strip the planet for parts know that, too—and they plan to profit from this particular apocalypse as hard as they can.
They’re not the only ones eagerly anticipating the end times. 

Apocalyptic thinking has a long and febrile history in Western thought, and it is usually associated with moments of profound cultural change, when people found it all but impossible to envision a future they might live inside. 

The notion of armageddon as something to look forward to crops up time and again at moments of profound social unrest. 

Today, that includes legions of lonely alt-righters celebrating the advent of a new post-democratic, post-civilizational age where men will be real men again, and women will be really grateful. 


This “dark enlightenment” rumbles alongside a massive revival in millenarian end-times fanaticism among the Evangelical Christians who overwhelmingly voted for a man some of them believe is the literal antichrist who will hasten the final return of Jesus and his arse-kicking angels to sweep the righteous to their reward. 

There are many millions of people, especially in the United States, who seem to want an apocalypse—a word whose literal meaning is a great “unveiling,” a moment of calamity in which the murkiest and basest of human terrors will be mercifully swept aside. 

That gentle armageddon, however, looks unlikely to be delivered. 

Frightened, angry human beings have always fantasized about the end of the world—and institutions of power have always profited from that fantasy. 

In fact, as David Graeber notes in Debt: The First 5,000 Years, the ideal psychological culture for the current form of calamity capitalism is an apprehension of coming collapse mated bluntly with the possibility of individual escape. 

An economy driven by debt and fueled by looting and burning the resources that have sustained the species for generations would feel far more monstrous if it weren’t for the lingering suspicion that it might all be in flames tomorrow anyway.

 The world is on fire. 

Might as well build that pipeline. 

Might as well have that coffee.

But what world is on fire? 

The late comedian George Carlin had it right when he reminded us that

 “The planet is fine. The people are fucked.” 

The Earth is resilient, and will stagger on in some form until it is swallowed by the sun some four billion years from now—the world that we envision ending is Western civilization as we have come to understand it, a mere eyeblink in the long species churn of planetary history. 

Apocalyptic thinking has been a consistent refrain as the human species struggles to evolve beyond its worst impulses, but the precise form of the anticipated collapse always changes. 

Those changes are important. 

The catastrophes we are anticipating today are not the catastrophes of thirty years ago, and that distinction matters a great deal.
Climate change is this generation’s calamity, and it is similar to the nuclear threat that nurtured the baby boomers in that it promises a different sort of death from the petty disasters of war, famine, and pestilence—it promises near-total species collapse. 

The past swept away along with the future. 

The deletion of collective memory. 

This is an existential threat more profound than anything humanity has had to reckon with before except in the throes of ecstatic religious millenarianism.

 Rapture, in the Abrahamic understanding, traditionally meant immortality for the species.

 We are the first to really have to wrestle with ultimate species death, extinction in memory as well as being.

 Of course we are afraid. 

We were afraid of the Bomb. 

We’re afraid now, even though many people’s understanding of climate change hasn’t moved past the denial stage.

 It is there, however, that the similarities between the two types of apocalypse end.
Climate change is a different prospect of calamity—not just elementally but morally different from nuclear exchange in a manner which has not been properly dealt with. 

The first difference is that it’s definitely happening. 

The second is that it’s not happening to everyone. 
There will be no definite moment can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked.

For anyone who grew up in the Cold War, the apocalypse was a simple yes-no question: either it was coming, or it wasn’t. 

Many people I know who grew up before the end of the nuclear arms race describe this as oddly freeing: there was the sense that since the future might explode at any point, it was not worth the effort of planning. 

Climate change is species collapse by a thousand cuts. 

There will be no definite moment we can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked. 

Instead the fuckery increases incrementally year on year, until this is the way the world ends: not with a bang, not with a bonfire, but with the slow and savage confiscation of every little thing that made you human, starting with hope.


“In the U.S. we have a very strong sense of apocalypse that comes from puritanism, and it fed nicely into fears about the Bomb,” says Annalee Newitz, author of Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive A Mass Extinction.

 “Both kinds of apocalypse are instantaneous and there’s not much you can do about them. 

But climate change is slow and strange, sometimes imperceptible in a human lifetime. 

There are no pyrotechnics. 

Plus, we actually have a chance to intervene and prevent the worst effects of it. 

I think that’s a tough sell for people who grew up with a Bomb paradigm of apocalypse, where there’s either fiery atomic death or you’re fine. 

It’s hard to explain to people that there are probabilities and gradations of apocalypse when it comes to the environment, and there are hundreds of ways to mitigate it, from curbing emissions to preserving natural habitats and changing our agricultural practices. 

In a weird way, I think people are just now getting used to the slow apocalypse, and still don’t know how to deal with it.”
This was the unegalitarian apocalypse millennials inherited. 

If we are to define generations by their political impressions, one thing that everyone who grew up with no memory of the Cold War shares is a specific set of superstitions. 

 One of them was the consensus that neoliberalism had produced the “End of History.” 

For those of us who had not read Francis Fukuyama by the age of five, this came across as a general sense that there was no better society to hope for, no way of living on the horizon that would improve on the one we had been raised to—the nineties and the early aughts were as good as it was going to get.

 From here on in, unless we recycled and remembered to turn off the taps like the singing Saturday afternoon TV puppets urged us to, it would be slow collapse. 

Our parents, relieved of the immediate threat of atomic incineration, seemed oddly calm about that prospect.
Not half as calm, however, as our elected and unelected leaders.

 Because that’s the inconvenient truth, the other inconvenience about the world ending this way: it’s not ending for everyone.
This month, in a fascinating article for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos interviewed several multi-millionaires who are stockpiling weapons and building private bunkers in anticipation of what preppers glibly call “SHTF”—the moment when “Shit Hits The Fan.” 

Osnos observes that the reaction of Silicon Valley Svengalis, for example, is in stark contrast to previous generations of the super-rich, who saw it as a moral duty to give back to their community in order to stave off ignorance, want and social decline. 

Family names like Carnegie and Rockefeller are still associated with philanthropy in the arts and sciences. 

These people weren’t just giving out of the goodness of their hearts, but out of the sense that they too were stakeholders in the immediate future.
Cold War leaders came to the same conclusions in spite of themselves.

 The thing about Mutually Assured Destruction is that it is, well, mutual—like aid, or understanding, or masturbation.

 The idea is that the world explodes, or doesn’t, for everyone. 

How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone down, though, if the negotiating parties had known, with reasonable certainty, that they and their families would be out of reach of the fallout? 
How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone down if the negotiating parties had known that they and their families would be out of reach of the fallout?

Today’s apocalypse will be unevenly distributed.

 It’s not the righteous who will be saved, but the rich—at least for a while.

 The irony is that the tradition of apocalyptic thinking—religious, revolutionary or both—has often involved the fantasy of the destruction of class and caste. 

For many millenarian thinkers—including the puritans in whose pinched shoes the United States is still sneaking about—the rapture to come would be a moment of revelation, where all human sin would be swept away. 

Money would no longer matter. 

Poor and privileged alike would be judged on the riches of their souls. 

That fantasy is extrapolated in almost every modern disaster movie—the intrepid survivors are permitted to negotiate a new-made world in which all that matters is their grit, their courage, and their moral fiber. 
A great many modern political currents, especially the new right and the alt-right, are swept along by the fantasy of a great civilizational collapse which will wash away whichever injustice most bothers you, whether that be unfettered corporate influence, women getting above themselves, or both—any and every humiliation heaped on the otherwise empty tables of men who had expected more from their lives, economic humiliations that are served up and spat back out as racism, sexism, and bigotry. 

For these men, the end of the world sounds like a pretty good deal. 

More and more, it is only by imagining the end of the world that we can imagine the end of capitalism in its current form. This remains true even when it is patently obvious that civilizational collapse might only be survivable by the elite.
When it was announced that the Doomsday Clock had moved closer to midnight, I panicked for an entire day before realizing that, like a great many people, I didn’t know what the Doomsday Clock actually was.

 In case you were wondering, it’s not actually a real clock. 

It’s a visual representation of certain scientists’ estimation of how close human society is to catastrophe, published on the front cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1947—a genius exercise in metonymy and public relations conceived in an age when the problem was not that people were panicking about the end of the world, but that they weren’t panicking enough. 

There is no sympathetic magic at play: if a drunk sub-editor got into the layout program and moved the portentous second hand all the way to Zero Hour on a whim, no rockets would fire of their own accord. 

This apocalypse is still within our power to prevent—and that starts with abandoning the apocalyptic mindset.
It is hard to outline the contours of a future you have never been allowed to imagine—one that is both different from today but accessible from it, too. 

The best we have been permitted to hope for is that the status quo be scraped to the edges of the present for as long as it lasts—a vote to run the knife around the empty jar of neoliberal aspiration and hope there’s enough to cover our asses.

 If people cannot imagine a future for themselves, all they can measure is what they’ve lost. 

Those who believe in the future are left, as they always were, with the responsibility of creating it, and that begins with an act of faith—not just that the future will be survivable, but that it might, somehow, maybe, be an exciting place to live. 
“Every ruthless criticism of current politics should be tied in some way to an example of how we could do things better,” said Newitz. “I realize that’s a tall order, especially when positive visions often feel like wishful thinking rather than direct action. Nevertheless we need to know what we are fighting for to retain our sense of hope. We need maps of where we are going, not just fire to burn it all down.”

Press link for more: The Baffler.com

We’re at War to save the planet! #auspol #climatechange #science 

By Paul Mason

It hits you in the face and clings to you. 

It makes tall buildings whine as their air conditioning plants struggle to cope.

 It makes the streets deserted and the ice-cold salons of corner pubs get crowded with people who don’t like beer. 

It is the Aussie heatwave: and it is no joke.

Temperatures in the western suburbs of Sydney, far from the upmarket beachside glamour, reached 47C (117F) last week, topping the 44C I experienced there the week before.

 For reference, if it reached 47C in the middle of the Sahara desert, that would be an unusually hot day.
For Sydney, 2017 was the hottest January on record. 

This after 2016 was declared the world’s hottest year on record. 

Climate change, even in some developed societies, is becoming climate disruption – and according to a UN report, one of the biggest disruptions may only now be getting under way.

El Niño, a temperature change in the Pacific ocean that happens cyclically, may have begun interacting with the long-term process of global warming, with catastrophic results.
Let’s start by admitting the science is not conclusive. 

El Niño disrupts the normal pattern by which warm water flows westwards across the Pacific, pulling the wind in the same direction; it creates storms off South America and droughts – together with extreme temperatures – in places such as Australia. 

It is an irregular cycle, lasting between two and seven years, and therefore can only be theorised using models.
Some of these models predict that, because of climate change, El Niño will happen with increased frequency – possibly double. 

Others predict the effects will become more devastating, due to the way the sub-systems within El Niño react with each other as the air and sea warm.
What cannot be disputed is that the most recent El Niño in 2015/16 contributed to the extreme weather patterns of the past 18 months, hiking global temperatures that were already setting records.

 (Although, such is the level of rising, both 2015 and 2016 would have still been the hottest ever without El Niño.) 

Sixty million people were “severely affected” according to the UN, while 23 countries – some of which no longer aid recipients – had to call for urgent humanitarian aid. 


The catastrophe prompted the head of the World Meteorological Association to warn: 

“This naturally occurring El Niño event and human-induced climate change may interact and modify each other in ways that we have never before experienced.”
The warning was enough to prompt the UN to issue a global action plan, with early warning systems, beefed-up aid networks and disaster relief preparation, and calls for developing countries to “climate proof” their economic plans.
Compare all this – the science, the modelling, the economic foresight and the attempt to design multilateral blueprint – with the actions of the jackass who runs Australia’s finance ministry.

Scott Morrison barged into the parliament chamber to wave a lump of coal at the Labor and Green opposition benches, taunting them: 

“Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared. 

It’s coal. 

It was dug up by men and women who work in the electorate of those who sit opposite.” 

Coal, argues the Australian conservative government, has given the economy “competitive energy advantage for more than 100 years”. 

Labor and the Greens had called, after the Paris climate accord, for an orderly shutdown of the coal-fired power stations that produce 60% of the country’s energy.
The Aussie culture war over coal is being fuelled by the resurgence of the white-supremacist One Nation party, led by Pauline Hanson, which is pressuring mainstream conservatives to drop commitments to the Paris accord and, instead, launch a “royal commission into the corruption of climate science”, which its members believe is a money-making scam.
All over the world, know-nothing xenophobes are claiming – without evidence – that climate science is rigged. 

Their goal is to defend coal-burning energy, promote fracking, suppress the development of renewable energies and shatter the multilateral Paris agreement of 2015.


Opposition to climate science has become not just the badge of honour for far-right politicians like Ukip’s Paul Nuttall.

 It has become the central tenet of their appeal to unreason.
People facing increased fuel bills, new taxes on methane-producing cattle farms, dimmer light bulbs and the arrival of wind and wave technologies in traditional landscapes will naturally ask: is this really needed? 

Their inner idiot wishes it were not. 

For most of us, the inner rationalist is strong enough to counteract that wish.

What distinguishes the core of the rightwing populist electorate is its gullibility to idiocy-promoting rhetoric against climate science. 

They want to be harangued by a leader who tells them their racism is rational, in the same way they want leaders who tell them the science behind climate change is bunk.


Well, in Australia, people are quickly finding out where such rhetoric gets you: more devastating bushfires; a longer fire season; more extreme hot days; longer droughts. And an energy grid so overloaded with demands from air conditioning systems that it is struggling to cope.
And, iIf the pessimists among climate scientists are right, and the general rise in temperature has begun to destabilise and accentuate the El Niño effects, this is just the start.
The world is reeling from the election victory of Donald Trump, who has called climate science a hoax.

 Dutch voters look set to reward Geert Wilders, whose one-page election programme promises “no more money for development, windmills, art, innovation or broadcasting”, with first place in the election. 

In France, 27% of voters are currently backing the Front National, a party determined to take the country out of the Paris accord, which it sees as “a communist project”.
The struggle against the nationalist right must, in all countries, combine careful listening to the social and cultural grievances of those on its periphery with relentless stigmatisation of the idiocy, selfishness and racism of the leaders and political activists at its core.
It’s time to overcome queasiness and restraint. 

We, the liberal and progressive people of the world, are at war with the far right to save the earth. 
The extreme temperatures and climate-related disasters of the past 24 months mean this is not some abstract struggle about science or values: it’s about the immediate fate of 60 million people still recovering from a disaster.

Press link for more: The Guardian.com

Carbon Tax a Market Based solution for #ClimateChange #auspol 

This GOP-Backed Carbon-Tax Plan
Purist objections scuttled Washington State’s market-friendly carbon tax plan in November. 

Let’s not let that happen at the national level.

By Charles Komanoff


Progressives Need to Get Over Themselves and Support This GOP-Backed Carbon-Tax Plan

Carbon-tax haters can relax. 

The proposal for a national carbon tax released on February 8 by high-level Republicans, including über-GOP consigliere James Baker, isn’t going anywhere. 

Financially and ideologically, the American right is wedded to carbon fuels. 

Trumpism runs on and reeks of them. 

Predictably, not a single Republican in Congress, and no one in the White House, has uttered a single positive word about the new carbon-tax plan.
Nevertheless, the proposal’s intended audience may not be Beltway Republicans but rather those ordinary Americans, majorities in both parties, who say they want action on climate, and who therefore might yet figure in the political equation over climate policy. 

That group includes progressives. 

We should pay attention: Carbon taxes matter.
Our long-building climate crisis is already materializing as drowned coasts, punishing droughts, vanishing glaciers—and political upheaval. 

At its root is a century-old lie: market prices for gasoline and other fossil fuels that do not factor in the damage from burning them.

A clean-energy revolution is at last underway, with wind power, solar electricity, and energy efficiency becoming not only cheaper by the day but also easier to deploy. 

Still, the clean-energy transition will be slowed until prices of coal, oil, and gas reflect their true environmental costs. 

A carbon tax could do that, if designed properly.
How carbon taxes work is simple enough, at least in theory.

 Fuel use is infinitely varied and intricately woven into society in ways that regulations such as auto-mileage standards can’t fully reach. 

Clear price signals, on the other hand, can be a nearly magic wand to help billions of invisible hands rapidly reduce and replace fossil fuels.


But with a carbon tax come difficult choices about the vast revenue it will generate. 

Carbon taxing had a test run at the ballot box last November in the state of Washington, and it ended badly.
Progressives can’t just walk away from carbon taxes, the policy tool with the best chance of catching fire globally.

On November 8, voters in the Evergreen State rejected by a nearly 3-to-2 margin what would have been the nation’s first statewide carbon tax.

 A win for “Initiative 732” would have given the United States a carbon-tax beachhead, like Canada’s British Columbia, which has had a small but successful carbon tax since 2008.
Remarkably, the decisive factor in defeating I-732 may not have been money from Big Carbon or even popular aversion to higher taxes, since the initiative was tailored to keep Washingtonians’ tax burden unchanged. 

What doomed I-732 was a fissure within the climate movement, with centrist economists and other policy wonks in favor of the initiative and progressive greens opposed.
Stated briefly, climate activists in Washington split over opposing answers to two key questions: 

What are carbon taxes for, and who gets to design them?
Carbon taxes can cut emissions in two ways.

 As noted above, they raise the price of carbon fuels, thereby worsening their competitive position vis-à-vis cleaner fuels. 

In addition, the tax revenues raised by a carbon tax can be invested in clean-energy infrastructure such as public transit and community solar.
The first path—the “price pull” of boosting market prices of carbon fuels—is what dazzles economists. 

The second route—the “revenue push” of investing in green infrastructure—appeals to many ordinary folks, especially on the left. 

Some progressives actively distrust policies that lean hard on price signals, partly for fear that workers in dirty industries will be penalized as investment migrates to cleaner alternatives.
The stakes are higher now than ever.

For decades, reactionary forces in the United States have been able to block seemingly every new public endeavor by labeling it “tax and spend.”

 The Washington State carbon-tax proponents believed they had an antidote:

 Don’t allow the government to spend the revenues from the carbon tax; rather, use those revenues to reduce other taxes. 

The political assumption seemed to be that going “revenue neutral,” though it might frustrate the left—bye-bye, public investment—could placate the right or at least capture the center. 

And so Carbon WA, as the advocates of I-732 called themselves, fashioned its ballot initiative around cuts to the state’s regressive sales tax.
Progressive greens recoiled. 

The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, a state umbrella group of environmental-justice organizations and mainstream allies, blasted I-732 for starving green jobs and ignoring front-line communities. 

So did nationally prominent progressive leaders like Naomi Klein and Van Jones. 

The measure’s electoral chances, which were never good, could not withstand this split. 

On Election Day, as Hillary Clinton was besting Trump in Washington State by half-a-million votes, the carbon tax was rejected, 59 percent to 41 percent.
But progressives can’t just walk away from carbon taxes. 

Carbon taxes are the only policy tool that, by slashing demand in a rapid, predictable way, divests our economy from fossil fuels and enables governments, business, and consumers to make investments in the transition to clean energy. 

Carbon taxes also have the best chance of catching fire globally.

The carbon tax James Baker brought to the Trump White House on February 8 on behalf of the new Climate Leadership Council has a lot in common with I-732: 

The Council’s proposal is also avowedly revenue neutral.

 But rather than lowering an existing tax, it relies on a so-called tax-and-dividend model: 

As the state of Alaska does with oil revenues, revenues from the Council’s national carbon tax would be returned equally to all American households in quarterly “dividends” digitally deposited in Social Security accounts. 

The tax would start at $40 per ton of carbon dioxide.
Earmarking all of the revenue to these dividends creates the political will to raise the tax every year, since the dividends rise in tandem with the tax rate. 

Ramping up the tax by $5 a year would shrink the use of carbon fuels so drastically that, by my calculations, US carbon emissions in 2030 would be 40 percent less than they were in 2005 (a standard baseline year).
Government policy revolves around trade-offs, and on balance James Baker’s carbon tax is worth supporting.

Yet this progress comes with a catch. 

The council would phase out much of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority over greenhouse gases and would outright repeal President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to cut emissions from electricity generation. 

It would also immunize fossil-fuel companies from lawsuits for damages done by their products—lawsuits such as those bound to arise from the revelations that ExxonMobil and other companies knew for decades about the climate damages their products cause, and lied about it.
But government policy revolves around trade-offs, and on balance the council’s carbon tax is worth supporting.

 After all, well over 80 percent of the Clean Power Plan’s targeted reductions for 2030 were already achieved by the end of 2016. 

Thus trading away the Clean Power Plan for a tax that could scour fossil fuels from the entire economy is like swapping an aging ballplayer for the next superstar.
Of course, some people will not see it that way, particularly traditional green groups that helped write the laws and regulations that cleaned up the nation’s air and water.

 Some will regard the council’s trade as a ploy to undo the EPA’s authority to protect not just climate—where it may be largely ineffectual anyway—but public health.
With Republicans tightly lashed to climate denial, the value of Baker’s carbon-tax proposal may be less as a gateway to legislation and more as a spur for progressives and other citizens to take a clear look at carbon pricing.

Will progressives trust the verdict of economists that a revenue-neutral carbon tax can drive the energy transition so long as the tax level is high enough? 

Or do we support carbon taxes only if the revenues are invested in the clean-energy transition? 

If so, how do we craft a spending program that reconciles the claims of competing interests? 

And what is our blueprint for building political power to enact such a carbon tax, when “tax” remains a dirty word in national politics?


Clear majorities of Americans want climate action.

 Remarkably, some polls have even found that majorities of Americans support carbon taxes like the Climate Leadership Council’s proposal. 

With the Democrats’ national defeats last November, the failure of climate activists to unite on the Washington state referendum is looking like an unforced error of cruel proportions. 

We can’t afford to repeat that mistake at the national level.

Press link for more: The Nation.com

No Time for Coal Salesmen during the #Climate Emergency #auspol

‘We are facing a climate emergency that requires the strongest action’ | The New Daily

By Quentin Dempster 

Climate science authorities may be about to confirm that global warming is already trending beyond the dangerous milestone of 2 degrees celsius.
The latest data has yet to be submitted and subjected to peer review, but Climate Council chairman Professor Tim Flannery told The New Daily that if the predictions proved true, governments world wide might have to review all policy options with a greater urgency than ever before.

Professor Flannery said the current budget for mitigation action world wide would be insufficient to constrain global temperature increases to below 2C.
“It’s clear that we are already on a trajectory that will take us past 2 degrees. We are facing a climate emergency that requires the strongest action,” Prof Flannery said.
The Paris climate change treaty, now ratified by 131 out of 197 participating countries, commits nations to monitored but voluntary efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to constrain warming to no more than 2C, preferably 1.5C.


Although carbon dioxide emissions from China and the US are reported to be flat-lining, scientific confirmation that global warming is already trending beyond 2C would signal a future increase in extreme weather events.
This would be accompanied by further coral bleaching, degradation of ecosystems and biodiversity, species extinction, ice melt, land inundation and ocean acidity.

 Additionally, the heightened threat of famine would make food security a global imperative.

Trump could derail efforts
Although the Turnbull government has ratified the Paris agreement, a US withdrawal – as President Donald Trump has promised – would be confronting for all treaty participants.
Under the Paris treaty all ratifying countries are committed for three years and must give one year’s notice of withdrawal.
The Barack Obama White House ratified the Paris treaty last year but Mr Trump campaigned to withdraw the US from its emissions reduction obligations and to refurbish America’s coal, shale oil and energy industries.
Prime Minister Turnbull has not yet reacted to any potential US withdrawal. One response could be tariff barriers on US products imposed by all Paris treaty participants.
Donald Trump CIA


Donald Trump has flagged a US withdrawal from international climate change agreements. Photo: Getty

US Republican Mr Bob Inglis, who will address the National Press Club in Canberra next Wednesday, called on Mr Trump’s new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to urge the president to act on a carbon tax for the US to rein in emissions.
Mr Inglis was joined by Republican elder statesmen including James Baker and George Schultz to implement a $US40 a ton carbon tax, with the revenue flowing immediately to every American via quarterly social security cheques.
The radical initiative was supportively acknowledged by former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
There’s still hope – and progress
One of Mr Inglis’ scientific informants was Dr Scott Heron of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has a base in Townsville, Queensland.
NOAA now provides real time monitoring of ocean temperatures which is aiding mitigation efforts for coral reefs world wide.
Dr Heron told The New Daily that while he was not confident the climate change crisis would be defeated, he hoped the 1987 Montreal Protocol to ban CFCs indicated that, when unified, nations could take effective action.
The protocol took 13 or 14 years of argument and push back from chemical companies producing chlorofluorocarbons, then used in refrigeration and propellent spray cans, but latest data indicated the hole in the ozone layer was now retracting and would be substantially diminished by 2040.

Press link for more: The New Daily

Carbon Capture & Storage (Clean Coal) is a myth. #auspol 

It’s a frigid day for Mississippi, and Barbara Correro’s oven-warmed kitchen is packed with women – neighbors who’ve gathered to share their opinions and dish the latest gossip. 

Correro does her community organizing the Southern way: a hearty meal, complete with gold-rimmed china plates and pitchers of sweet tea; there’s also coconut cake, pecan pie, and pralines.

It’s a small army of naysayers and rabble-rousers, and some feel a little concerned about giving me their names. (“This is where I’m getting all the oranges and eggs thrown at me in town,” said local resident Claudia Rowland with a nervous laugh.) 

Other locals I meet email me later to request anonymity. 

Now that the Kemper County landscape is so radically transformed, resistance can feel futile – and unpopular: There’s just no stopping it now.
Barbara Correro, in her kitchen.

Still, these locals have their doubts. 

Water, for instance, is on everyone’s mind: “Kemper County is known for its water,” Correro says. 

Mississippi Power’s property buts up against Chickasawhay Creek, which runs through her backyard.

 Chickasawhay Creek runs to Okatibbee Lake, a nearby reservoir where many Kemper County residents fish. 

Mississippi Power maintains that the plant is a “zero liquid discharge facility” and that “none of the water used to generate electricity will end up in surrounding streams and rivers.” 

That does not apply to rainwater that falls on site, however, and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has nevertheless granted the facility water discharge permits naming those very bodies of water.

“This permit is just an emergency permit for extraordinary situations,” says Harry Wilson, who does permitting for the MDEQ. 

“They’re a consumer of water — they don’t need to release water. 

I would consider the coal entity’s permits to be quite restrictive.” 

But nobody in the room believes that any time there’s a heavy rain, it won’t just wash the plant’s byproducts into the river. 

Nobody in the room believes that the hazardous chemicals to be isolated at the plant – sulfuric acid, anhydrous ammonia – are being effectively captured prior to combustion; they only know the chemicals are going to be manufactured and trucked along local roads, and that anhydrous ammonia is a key ingredient in both fertilizer and powerful homemade bombs. 

And many express misgivings about the land reclamation practices at the Red Hills lignite mine to the north, pointing to puny pine trees and desert-like conditions. 

“No matter how much topsoil they put back, it will be contaminated,” argues resident Ginger McKee.

The company has done little to assuage their fears.

 There were a handful of safety meetings and there were hearings in Jackson, but, says local resident Jennifer Pletcher, “It’s like, ‘Thank you very much, your three minutes are up, we appreciate you telling us how you feel, and see you later.’”

And none of this touches the broader concerns about the plant that have nothing to do with its impacts on local land, air, and water.

 Pletcher points out that Mississippi Power’s federal grants and tax write-offs only require it to attempt to build the carbon-capturing equipment. 

According to an analysis by carbon policy consulting group Element VI, both the DOE’s Clean Coal Power Initiative and IRS code section 48A, under which the plant has received $412 million in tax breaks, use vague language such as “intent to capture and geologically sequester,” “plans to capture and sequester,” and “includes equipment which separates and sequesters.” 

If the price of CO2 sales doesn’t exceed the cost of carbon capture, analysts argue, Southern Company has very little incentive to keep its promises; it only has to prove that it tried. (“We are both confident in and committed to our plan to capture 65 percent of CO2 produced by the plant,” a Mississippi Power representative wrote in an email.) 

It takes about 20 to 30 percent more coal, in the end, to power a coal plant that aims to clean up after itself.
Then, there’s what many critics – including oilman Thomas Blanton – call the project’s biggest irony: The carbon captured from the plant will be used to extract more fossil fuels.

 An integral part of the Kemper project’s financial plan is to sell its captured CO2 to companies that will use it to coax oil out of decades-old wells using a process called ” enhanced oil recovery.” 

According to Mississippi Power’s website, it has contracted with two companies, Denbury Resources and Midstream Treetop Services, to send the CO2 down a 61-mile pipeline. 

 The plan: “to find oil that was previously unreachable.”


So far, nearly every CCS power plant in the world bases its financial survival on this tactic. 

According to a Denbury Resources petroleum engineer, enhanced oil recovery can keep more CO2 under the ground than a barrel of oil will put back into the atmosphere.

 But even his calculation leaves slim margins: at best, about 65 percent of what’s gained from carbon storage is cancelled out by burning the additional oil.

Complicating all this, too, is the fact that capturing carbon requires energy, which means producing more carbon. 


It takes about 20 to 30 percent more coal, in the end, to power a coal plant that aims to clean up after itself.

Carbon dioxide should, theoretically, stay in the ground where it is “sequestered.” 

Geologists have been researching carbon storage for some time, and feel confident that CO2 can be safely stored in the tiny pores of sandy, salty rock that are tucked under impermeable shale formations thousands of feet underground.

 “The first concern people have is, ‘isn’t it all going to leak back out?’” says Curtis Oldenburg, a senior scientist and program lead for the Geologic Carbon Sequestration Program at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

 “But that’s really, really unlikely. 

If done properly, safe sites can be found and CO2 can be stored effectively and indefinitely – I have no doubt about that.”

Some researchers are nevertheless beginning to doubt: In January, geophysicists at MIT found that CO2 injected deep underground stays in a “more tenuous form” than previously thought, which means “it remains mobile and it can possibly return back to the atmosphere.”

The devil is in the details, Oldenburg concedes, particularly when those details are man-made.

 “The big concern when it comes to leakage is not the natural system,” he says. “It’s the wells.”

When it mixes with water, carbon dioxide is corrosive – it dissolves iron and steel.

 Industry giants such as Baker Hughes have developed corrosion inhibitors to prevent leaks and blowouts, but Thomas Blanton, who owns several oilfields, thinks it’s pointless.

 “All these applications leak,” he says. 

“Carbon dioxide sequestration in an oil field is science fiction standing squarely on the shoulders of a myth.”

In Mississippi, one of the largest fines the Department of Environmental Quality leveraged in the last decade was against Denbury Resources for an uncontrolled carbon dioxide blowout in 2011. 

The metal casing on an abandoned well in an oilfield near Yazoo City, about 40 miles north of Jackson, had been stripped, and the 2,000-foot hole spewed carbon dioxide, drilling mud, and other chemicals for 37 days.

 The CO2, heavier than air, settled in adjacent valleys and suffocated deer and other wildlife. 

Local neighborhoods were evacuated, several workers were sent to area hospitals, and Denbury placed a 24-hour ambulance on site while workers toiled to clean up the mess.

Denbury Resources has been responsible for a handful of similar blowouts in Louisiana and elsewhere in Mississippi.

 In 2013, carbon dioxide bubbled up in a water well near the Heidelberg oil field, where the Kemper facility’s CO2 is to be pumped. 

The field is in the center of town, and buts up against the fenceline at Heidelberg High School.

Press link for more: exp.grist.org