Sea Ice

UN: Progress on Emission Reduction Too Slow #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateChange

Global Economy Improving, but Progress on Emission Reductions too Slow – UN | UNFCCC

UN Climate Change News, 18 May 2018 – A new UN report shows that whilst short-term prospects for the world economy are improving, with the world gross product expected to expand by 3.2 per cent in both 2018 and 2019, a lot more needs to be done to avert a major economic downturn linked to unchecked climate change.

The study by the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs points towards a 1.4 percent increase of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 due to a combination of accelerated economic growth, relatively cheap fossil fuels and weak energy efficiency efforts.

“While recent evidence points to progress in decoupling emissions growth from GDP growth in some developed economies, it is still manifestly insufficient. The rate of global energy efficiency gains has been slowing since 2015, reaching 1.7 percent in 2017—half the rate required to remain on track with the Paris Agreement”, say the authors of the report ‘World Economic Situation and Prospects as of mid-2018.’

Improving energy efficiency and a radical shift to low carbon for the world’s markets is integral to meeting the objectives set forth by the Paris Agreement, which aims to respond to climate change by keeping a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees C.

The authors of the report say that several steps can be taken to notably align the rate of energy efficiency gains with the goals of the Paris Agreement. These include the reform of fossil fuel subsidies and taxes, deploying renewable energy technology, and decreasing the cost of renewable energy generation.

Warnings of Climate Impacts Setting In

Man-made greenhouse gas emissions account for 2016 and 2017 being the two hottest years on record.

Evidence from the report states that a rising global average temperature could translate into a slower growth of per capita output in countries with a high average temperature, most of which are low-income countries.

The sectors of agricultural production, labor productivity, weather dependent industry, capital accumulation and human health are most at risk for disruption from an unpredictable climate.

Warmer climates create shifting rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, and an increased frequency of extreme weather events. Respectively, these events can move the locations of farmlands, endanger Small Island Developing States, and threaten large population centers.

Policy Reform Crucial to Meeting Paris Agreement Goals

The report says that a reform of fossil fuel policy could increase the rate of energy efficiency gains.

Additionally, the use of new technologies such as wind, solar, electric vehicles and battery storage is critical.

In 2017, renewables accounted for 61 percent of all newly installed net power capacity in 2017 with solar alone encompassing 38 percent.

Falling costs for solar and wind power supported the economic viability for several renewable energy projects.

But even with the newly-installed capacity, renewable energy today only accounts for 19 percent of power capacity and 12.1 percent of power generation around the globe.

At the current rate of change, the pace of power transition would take approximately 55 years for the share of renewables to reach 50 percent of earth’s total energy capacity – too late to ensure the Paris Agreement’s goals can be met.

Read the full report here


UN Call for rapid scale up of Climate Finance #auspol #UNFCCC #ClimateChange

UN Secretary-General Calls for Rapidly Scaled up Climate Finance | UNFCCC

UN Climate Change News, 15 May 2018 – UN Secretary-General António Guterres has renewed his call for governments, industry, and finance to meet the challenge of climate change through innovation, urgent action, and substantial investment.

“Investments in clean, green infrastructure need to be scaled up globally.

For that, we need leadership from the finance and investment community and by local, regional and national governments who will decide on major infrastructure plans over the coming years,” said the Secretary-General in his remarks at the Austrian World Summit in Vienna.

The International Energy Agency estimates that investment in renewable electricity last year was $242 billion, more than half of what was invested in new fossil fuel development.

The UN’s top official urged enhanced climate financing to face and address the world’s “utmost priority”. “For a full-scale transition to clean energy, we must see billions invested by 2020,” he said.

Read his full address here:

I am very pleased and very honored to be with all of you today.

I thank the government of Austria and the R20 for promoting the low-carbon infrastructure we need to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to implement the Paris Agreement and with enhanced ambition as the targets that were fixed in Paris, we all know, will not be enough.

We need to have an increased ambition in that implementation.

This is a matter of the utmost priority.

Every day, I am faced with the challenges of our troubled and complex world. But none of them loom so large as climate change.

If we fail to meet the challenge, all our other challenges will just become greater and threaten to swallow us.

Climate change is, quite simply, an existential threat for most life on the planet – including, and especially, the life of humankind.

That is why we must use all our resources to build a sense of urgency.

We must act with common purpose to raise ambition while we still have time to limit temperature rise to well below 2 degrees, and as close to 1.5 degrees as possible.

For that, we need leadership and innovation – the focus of this Summit.

Both are essential for climate action.

Today, I want to focus on solutions.

We do need a new energy revolution.

The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones.

We do not need to wait for coal and oil to run out to end the age of fossil fuels.

A great many solutions already exist or are in the pipeline.

In the past decade, prices for renewables have plummeted and investments are on the rise.

Today, a fifth of the world’s electricity is produced by renewable energy.

We must build on this.

There are plenty of examples to inspire us.

Morocco is building a solar farm the size of Paris that will power over a million homes by 2020.

Last July, China surpassed its 2020 goal of 105 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity.

A decade ago it had a mere 100 megawatts.

That’s more than a thousand-fold increase in ten years, and represents nearly one-third of global installed capacity.

In France, the government has announced a bill to end the search for and production of hydrocarbons.

In the United States, renewables are set to provide 69 per cent of new capacity by 2021, as dozens of coal plants are retired.

Just last week, Allianz, a leading insurer, announced it would refuse to cover coal-fired power plants and coal mines with immediate effect and rid itself of all coal risks.

The world is seeing a groundswell of climate action.

It is clear that clean energy makes climate sense.

But it also makes economic sense. Today it is the cheapest energy.

And it will deliver significant health benefits.

Air pollution affects nearly all of us, regardless of borders.

The World Health Organization reports that more than 80 per cent of people living in urban areas are exposed to poor – and dangerous – air quality.

In China, it is estimated that fewer deaths from improved air quality could lead to savings of nearly $340 billion dollars by 2030 – four times the cost of meeting China’s climate goals.

This, surely, is the definition of win-win-win.

Investments in clean, green infrastructure need to be scaled up globally.

For that, we need leadership from the finance and investment community and by local, regional and national governments who will decide on major infrastructure plans over the coming years.

I encourage private sector leaders here today to announce new sources of financing for clean energy projects.

The International Energy Agency estimates that investment in renewable electricity last year was $242 billion.

That is more than half of what was invested in new fossil fuel development.

That figure is promising, but remains insufficient. For a full-scale transition to clean energy, we must see billions invested by 2020.

I also encourage you to disclose your climate risk, divest from fossil fuels and forge partnerships that will invest in low-emissions resilient infrastructure.

We need to do this from the biggest cities to the smallest towns.

The opportunities are tremendous.

Some 75 per cent of the infrastructure needed by 2050 still remains to be built.

How this is done will either lock us in to a high emission future or steer us towards truly sustainable low-emissions development.

There is only one rational choice.

Let us also encourage innovative solutions to localize climate finance.

We can take inspiration from Toronto and Cape Town, which have launched their own green bonds.

I also look forward to the outcome of today’s discussions on a Subnational Climate Finance Facility for sub-Saharan Africa.

I applaud this Summit’s emphasis on city and subnational action.

We need financing to reach the people and places that need it most.

Mobilizing and equipping local governments with the capacity and financing to accelerate climate action is necessary if we are to bend the emissions curve.

Despite inspiring climate action in so many places, climate change continues to move faster than we are.

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says: “The more we disrupt our climate, the more we risk severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts.”

But it does not have to be that way.

The economics of solar and wind are on our side.

Cutting edge technologies, such as electric vehicles, or energy from algae, promise a new era of clean air and climate action.

New awareness is growing and new partnerships are being formed.

Let us build on this momentum.

Next year, as it was said, I am convening a Climate Summit to galvanize greater climate ambition.

I count on you to take ambition to new heights today and pave the way for more leadership and innovative action.

Let’s join a race to the top, a race where there are only winners.

Thank you.

Press link for more: UNFCCC

There will be floods — and We’re not ready for them #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdanih

There will be floods — and Ontario’s not ready for them

How can we prepare for worst-case-scenario storms when climate change means we can’t accurately predict what the worst-case scenario is?

Flooding in downtown Toronto in July 2013. (Dominic Chan /CP)

The audience at the Provincial Flood Forecasting and Warning Workshop sat silently as the rug was pulled out from under them.

Municipal and provincial staff — many of them forecasters and emergency managers — were gathered at a Brampton conference centre to hear Gord Miller, Ontario’s former environmental commissioner, talk about climate change. What he had to say challenged many of the established practices and assumptions that had guided their careers.

His point was this: climate change has altered the fundamentals of the weather system. All of our old predictions — which were used to build thousands of kilometres of road, drainage pipe, and sewers — are inadequate. The changes to the weather system are so profound that old models and methods can’t accurately predict what’s going to happen; new models predict catastrophes so great that preparing for them could lead to bankruptcy.

“I don’t think here in Canada we understand what’s coming,” said Miller during the talk. “We have no predictability any more. One has to look from the perspective that all culverts are undersized.

All sewers are undersized.”

When the floor at the convention centre was opened for questions, it took a moment before the crowd was ready to ask any.

They trickled in slowly.

One man noted that Hurricane Hazel — the 1954 storm that ripped across southern Ontario, leading to 81 deaths and millions of dollars in property damage — has guided the development of Toronto’s floodplain maps and infrastructure decisions ever since. Surely that would prepare the city for what was to come.

Miller pointed to the example of Hurricane Harvey, a storm that devastated Houston in August 2017. Climate change almost certainly made it more intense. Severe storms will be more intense now than they were in 1954.

Paulin Coulibaly, scientific director of FloodNet, a research consortium tackling the problem of flooding, agrees: the storms we’re facing are unlike anything that’s come before in terms of intensity and duration.

“We were relying on the historical information. Now we cannot rely on the historical information, because it is not enough to tell us what will happen in the future,” says Coulibaly. “We have to rely on future information.”

Researchers rely on climate-change projections, which vary wildly because of the complexity of the science and the lack of certainty over how much the world will reduce its carbon emissions. Coulibaly and his team are tackling the difficult task of adapting those projections into data that can guide infrastructure decisions — a process where small variations can cost millions of dollars.

* * *

Carol Solis lost everything in the flood.

It started with six inches of sewage in her basement in May 2014. And that was just the start of her problems. After the mess was cleaned up, she went on vacation; while she was away, the August 2014 storm brought 24 inches of sewage into the basement of her Burlington home, ruining thousands of dollars in clothes and possessions.

She was able to recoup some of the value of her lost possessions, but the claims process was long and arduous: the insurance paperwork took nearly two years to complete.

A storm in August 2014 brought 24 inches of sewage into the basement of Carol Solis’s Burlington home.

“It’s bad enough to have a sewage flood, but the aftermath — people don’t realize unless they’ve gone through this. I’ve had a business for years in marketing and training, and I was taken away from my business to do this, because I had to do proof of loss for the insurance company, in the meantime just trying to wrap my head around the fact that I’ve lost 80 per cent of my whole life belongings,” says Solis.

More than 6,000 homes were damaged during the storm. The City of Burlington was forced to grapple with just how something like this could have happened.

“We use the same old infrastructure that our parents did — the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, we’re still on that infrastructure,” says Dave Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

The limits of flood plans, though, were also revealed. Many infrastructure designs, including those in Burlington, are based on a 100-year storm scenario that involves 99.8 millimetres of rain in 10 hours — but that August, 191 millimetres of rain fell in the course of 10 hours on just one area of the city. The storm was less like their worst-case scenario, and more like Hurricane Hazel — a weather event so devastating, the name was retired.

The 60-minute intensity of the cell, measured by radar, was 56 millimetres per hour — Hazel’s was 53 millimetres per hour. The 2014 event dumped 170 millimetres in seven hours over 25 square kilometres, according to a report from Conservation Halton; Hurricane Hazel brought 212 millimetres in 12 hours. Although its area and duration were much smaller, the 2014 Burlington event was, at its peak, more intense than Hazel.

Hazel, Miller says, was a major hydrologic event “from a period of time, from a climate that we no longer have.”

“The hurricanes are more severe than they’ve ever been before, and severe hurricanes are occurring more frequently. One of them will go up the Mississippi Valley and hit southern Ontario, and almost certainly, it’ll be worse than Hurricane Hazel.”

Radar data showing rainfall during the August 2014 storm in Burlington. Source: Conservation Halton.

* * *

There is a wide consensus that climate change is affecting extreme weather, but the connection is still being investigated, so it’s tricky to predict weather effects with accuracy. Global climate-change models provide the best information, says Coulibaly, but scaling them down to the local level introduces uncertainty.

“The predictions are not perfect — they’re not good enough,” says Coulibaly. “The changes in the precipitation for 2020, 2030, 2050 will not be the same depending on how we behave today. If we do nothing, what we see in 2030 will be different.”

In 2005, Coulibaly and Xiaogang Shi, a hydrology researcher, were asked to study highway drainage in Ontario and evaluate how it would be affected by the increased rainfall associated with climate change.

Using global climate models downscaled to the local level, the pair produced a report that recommended that the diameter of all drainage pipes and sewers be increased by 16 per cent (for reference, a toonie is about 17.5 per cent bigger in diameter than a quarter).

“They did the calculation internally about how much it would cost them. They didn’t tell me the number, but they were very, very concerned about the cost,” says Coulibaly. “If you look at the number of structures they have to replace or upgrade, it’s huge. In general, people see a change of 10 or 15 per cent. It’s not adding 10 or 15 per cent of the money — a 10 per cent change can cost you close to 40 to 45 per cent more money.”

In other words: increasing the capacity of our storm infrastructure will break budgets that are already broken. Coulibaly and Shi’s report recommended that all drainage infrastructure be increased across a province that already has an infrastructure deficit.

Much of the province’s infrastructure falls under the jurisdiction of municipalities. In 2008, municipalities across Ontario came together to evaluate the state of their infrastructure — things like drinking water, sewage and waste disposal, roads and bridges, and public transit. They estimated that the total infrastructure deficit, based on infrastructure at the end of its lifecycle, was roughly $60 billion. That number hasn’t been comprehensively updated, but while there has been some investment, Pat Vanini, executive director of the Association of Municipalities Ontario, says, it falls well short of what’s needed.

“There’s progress, but we’re not eroding enough of that gap,” says Vanini. “If you can’t do the maintenance, it’s like if you’re doing your roof — you know what the asset’s worth to replace it, but if you let it slip and you let the ice build up or the leaves gather in the gutters, all that makes the life expectancy of the roof less.” This past spring and summer were difficult for Ontario municipalities. Heavy rains flooded roads and bridges, damaging infrastructure and adding to that tally.

“I know when I was travelling the province, the number of roads and culverts that were washed out in rural Ontario was significant. That in itself would add even more burden, because those weren’t necessarily anticipated events,” says Vanini.

Miller argues that we need to assume that all predictions are inadequate if we’re serious about preparing for climate change.

What he’s arguing will mean a seismic shift for cities everywhere. Infrastructure decisions are based on forecasting years into the future, but dramatic weather changes mean those forecasts are based on assumptions that are no longer sound. But to accept this would mean acknowledging that the work done thus far has been inadequate, and that projects currently underway are based on flawed premises. Miller suggests that in addition to designing for bigger storms, we need to expect that infrastructure will fail: buy generators to cope with power outages, purchase boats to cross flooded roads, and use sandbags to keep out advancing waters.

* * *

Researchers are still investigating how climate change is affecting storms. Temperature plays a role — each degree of warming increases air’s water capacity by 7 per cent. And the jet stream — high-level currents that encircle the Earth and carry weather systems — is changing in ways that are still being studied. Jet streams are high-altitude currents that move weather systems across the map. Sometimes, they are straight and fast; other times, they are slow and wavy. During slow and wavy periods, weather systems tend to linger, bringing long droughts or periods of heavy rainfall.

“What is changing is we’re seeing those wavy patterns more often now. They’re not something new — it’s just that we’re seeing a change in the frequency of those kinds of patterns,” says Jennifer Francis, a researcher with the Rutgers University department of marine and coastal sciences.

“Most of our infrastructure has been built to accommodate the kind of conditions that we’ve been used to for the last several decades. That might be the size of pipes used to drain stormwater from the street. They’re just too small now, because we know that we’re getting heavier downpours. When it does rain, it tends to rain harder,” says Francis.

Another significant factor is the role played by human development, which has decimated wetlands in Ontario. For example, in Toronto, Ashbridge’s Bay — formerly a large wetland on Lake Ontario — was paved over in the early 20th century to make way for industrial development.

“We think prosperity is paving it over and cementing it,” says Phillips. “That raindrop that falls on a very dry Hamilton or a very dry Toronto becomes a flood drop because it falls on a hard surface.”

Hurricane Hazel caused so much damage largely because rivers overtopped banks, and homes were built on floodplains then, says Phillips. Today, storm damage is generally the result of overloaded infrastructure — drainage pipes that aren’t big enough, water treatment plants stretched to capacity, and sewers that overflow. Concentrated, slow-moving storms are more likely to overwhelm such systems.

That’s just what happened in Solis’s basement, when raw sewage backed up as a result of torrential rains. There are devices, like sump pumps and backflow valves, that can help alleviate flooding, but those were not typically installed in older homes like hers, Solis says.

“Inadequate funding has created a $6.8 billion stormwater infrastructure deficit in Ontario. This financial gap could get even bigger in the future as population growth leads to the creation of more impermeable surfaces and, consequently, worsens runoff,” reads a 2016 report from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.

Indeed, much of the infrastructure in the province has reached the end of its design life, Coulibaly says.

“In Canada, we’re on the crossroads because most of the infrastructure is outdated,” he says. “Most of them were designed a long time ago — more than 50 years. They’re up for replacement, and we’re at the time that replacement means we replace them with a different design number. That means bringing the cost up by 25, 30 — some people say up to 50 per cent more. It’s a tough decision to make, but it’s not a decision we can hide from.”

Press link for more: TVO

#ClimateChange ‘Global existential risk” Senate Report #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Extract from Senate Report released today.

Press link for more: APH.GOV.AU

2.3 American climate security expert Ms Sherri Goodman described climate change as a ‘direct threat to the national security of Australia’, and a ‘global existential risk’.

Other submissions also recognised climate change as an existential risk, defined as ‘one that threatens the premature extinction of Earth-originating intelligent life or the permanent and drastic destruction of its potential for desirable future development’.

Mr Mark Crosweller, Director General of Emergency Management Australia (EMA), also referred to the ‘existential nature’ of climate change risks.

Climate change viewed as a current threat

2.4 The 2015 United States Department of Defense (US DoD) report mentioned in the terms of reference characterised ‘climate change as a present security threat, not strictly a long-term risk’.

Illustrating this immediacy, Ms Goodman described recent climate-related events:

…we know now that the hurricane train that has come through the United States this fall and the wildfires that we are experiencing are, in part, due to additional climate risks. And we know that the storms that you’ve been experiencing in your part of the world [Australia] now are also attributable, in part, to accelerated climate risks.

The problem also is not a distant one in the future but it’s now.

We are experiencing this in regular sunny-day flooding at military bases in the United States and in changes in the Arctic, forcing the first wave of displaced persons from villages in the Arctic.12

2.5 The Climate Council further stated the effects of climate change ‘are already contributing to increases in the forced migration of people within and between nations, as well as playing a role in heightening social and political tensions, flowing onto conflict and violence’.

2.6 A recent Australian Government report highlighted how Australia is ‘already experiencing the impacts of a changing climate, particularly changes associated with increases in temperature, the frequency and intensity of extreme heat events, extreme fire weather, and drought’.

For example, it noted ‘communities in the Torres Strait

Tourism & #climatechange a toxic combination #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Climate change is a multifaceted problem.

It roots not only in our views of the environment as a rubbish dump, but also in the indifference of material interests, shallow public scientific debates, and poor allocation of resources.

It’s complex, worldwide.

But one key driver of carbon emissions – previously overlooked – is something that we can control: the tourist industry.

Scientists have been trying to quantify the effect of tourism for decades. But a recent study suggests that our previous calculations were considering only part of the problem.

In fact, by analyzing the effect of tourism in a more holistic approach, some alarming results emerge: between 2009 and 2013 tourism and tourism-related carbon emissions increased by 20 per cent.

This number significantly escalates the contribution of tourism to global carbon emissions.

Of course, fighting tourism-related emissions is not enough.

Our planet faces multiple crises, and we need to tackle them all at the same time;.

We have already noted that the fight for poverty and against climate change should not be independent.

This is why we design our policies collectively and holistically.

We envision restoration of democracy in conjunction with sound economic policies and heavy investments in green technologies.

Join us here and contribute to our common fight!

Do you want to be informed of DiEM25’s actions? Sign up here.

Press link for more: DIEM25.ORG

Young people are angry’: the teenage activists shaping our future #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateChange

Fed up with waiting for the older generation to sort out its problems, a growing number of teenage activists are taking matters into their own hands. Here, six motivated people reveal why they’ve decided to fight for a better world

Candice PiresSun 13 May 2018 17.00 AEST

Making a difference: (from left) young activists Amika George, Ellen Jones and Shiden Tekle. Photograph: Sophia Spring for the Observer

In a political climate where most adults are inert with despair, a growing number of teenagers are responding with action. After 14 children and three adults were massacred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, it was students – not parents, teachers or political representatives – who organised themselves to campaign for changes to US gun laws. The March for Our Lives demonstration in Washington, DC on 24 March was accompanied by sister marches around the world: millions of young people supporting each other and demanding policy reform. Lead campaigner Emma González, a high-school student who now has more than 1.5m Twitter followers, made a call to arms for her peers to: “Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job.”

González is one of many teenagers shattering the stereotypes of the lazy, entitled, self-obsessed millennial. More and more teenagers are noisily questioning the world they’re inheriting and demanding things work differently. Here, we meet some of the young activists whose voices are increasingly impossible to dismiss.

Amika George, 18, London: Campaigning against period poverty

It’s sad when adults are surprised to hear a young person being politically vocal’: Amika George. Photograph: Sophia Spring for the Observer

Last spring, I was watching the news when there was a report on girls in the UK missing school because they couldn’t afford menstrual products. Some were using toilet paper, newspaper or socks. Thinking about girls my age going through this hit me hard. The report gained attention, but I felt the government was sweeping it under the carpet and we needed to pressure them to do something. So I did what felt normal to me and went online and started a petition. It calls for free menstrual products for children on free school meals. I didn’t imagine even getting 100 signatures. But in between revising for AS exams, I emailed as many people, companies and universities as I could. I asked my parents to send it around their work. My dad was a bit reluctant at first, but he did.

There’s huge embarrassment about periods, but it’s something half the world’s population will go through for a week every month. That it’s a taboo holds us back in achieving gender equality. Within two weeks, the petition reached 2,000 signatures. Comments were divided between people being shocked that this happens and others saying it affects them or their friends. Hearing that made me want to fight harder.

When the general election was announced, I emailed the parties. The Green party and Women’s Equality party both replied and included a pledge in their manifesto. I was so frustrated I couldn’t vote. Then in December we organised a protest outside Theresa May’s bedroom; more than 1,000 people came and shouted. To date, 150,000 people have signed the petition. It’s sad when adults are surprised to hear a young person being politically vocal. Young people are angry about the state of the world and a lot of us use social media to articulate that. I get asked to speak a lot.

The other morning, a TV station sent a car to school, I left for an hour, spoke on the issue and came back to a history lesson. My parents are supportive and as surprised as me that this has taken off. My dad went with me to the Women’s March, which was cool. But sometimes my mum can get annoyed if I’m doing lots of campaign stuff with exams coming up.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, 17, Colorado: Climate change activist

There is so much power in our generation’: Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. Photograph: Helen H Richardson/Denver Post/Getty Images

If someone tells me I should be in school right now, I know that they don’t see the bigger picture. Earth’s ability to support human life is falling apart and if things don’t change in the next five to 10 years, nothing’s going to matter.

I’ll finish high school, but right now this is the most important thing I can do with my time. Myself and 20 other kids are currently suing the Trump administration for violating our constitutional rights for failure to act on climate change. We originally launched it against the Obama administration a few years ago. The US government has known the fossil fuel industry is having a negative impact on our climate, yet they have been offering them subsidies and opening up land to exploration. We have just heard that we are going to trial in October.

I’m also involved in law actions and civil disobedience to stop fracking around my hometown of Boulder. In 2012, my friends and I successfully helped push for a five-year ban.

From a young age, I was aware of my part in protecting our planet. I was three or four the first time I went on a protest, and six when I started speaking at them. I was born in Colorado and have spent a lot of time in Mexico. My entire childhood was travelling, hanging out in nature and learning about my family’s indigenous heritage. My dad taught me that we have a responsibility to protect the Earth the way that our ancestors did.

I’ve spoken at the UN about my work. I was surprised how disrespectful, disconnected and sterile it was. The delegates were on their phones, not listening. They perked up when they heard I was just 15 years old. The power of me speaking wasn’t for them but for the millions of people my speech has since reached online.

The world is seeing how powerful young people are and how things are going to change. Adults on CNN and in the United States specifically, they can argue and cover gossip about Trump and his hair and porn stars. But young people are mobilising on the streets.

There’s so much power in what’s happening within our generation. We don’t have the respect we deserve, but I think it’s coming.

Shiden Tekle, 18, London: Diversity in the media

The more educated I got, the angrier I became’: Shiden Tekle. Photograph: Sophia Spring for the Observer

I’ve been racially abused since about 12, but it was never seen as an important thing to tackle. At secondary school, white children called me disgusting things, but teachers would turn a blind eye. And not just to racism, but sexism, homophobia, transphobia. There’s also internal racism in the Eritrean community. My dad is called names because he has darker skin. It all comes from preconceived ideas that black is less, or the darker you are the lower you are in terms of income, society and politics.

Because these problems weren’t taken seriously, I normalised them. But when I moved to a sixth form where the majority of students are black girls, I was surrounded by political and social consciousness. The more educated I got, the angrier I became. Last summer, I joined an organisation called the Advocacy Academy and, with a small group of people my age, we launched a campaign challenging the image and under-representation of black people in the media. We recreated iconic posters, such as Doctor Who, Titanic and Harry Potter, and made all the characters black. The campaign is rooted in personal experiences and I’ve gone from talking about things with my friends in the lunch hall to speaking about them nationally.

The Academy has revolutionised the way I think. Back in the day I definitely upheld toxic masculine identities. I’d tell myself that I didn’t cry. Challenging gender norms wasn’t of interest to me because I wanted to fit in with my friends. But I’ve learned to let go of my ego and be vulnerable so I can say what’s on my mind. It’s allowed me to take all the cold anger I have built up over years and turn it into something good. I’ve learned to become an ally to many other issues that don’t affect me directly.

After university, I don’t just want to get a really good job, buy a big house and forget about my community. I want to change something and challenge the status quo.

Muzoon Al-Mellehan, 19, Newcastle: Education for refugee children

Going to school gave me hope’: Muzoon Al-Mellehan. Photograph: Alex Telfer for the Observer

Even before the war in Syria, I wanted to change society, but I knew I needed to get educated to do that. Back then, we had a normal life. We went to school every day and saw our friends. The war started when I was 11 or 12. Going to school became difficult. There were people fighting on the ground, there would be bombing, sometimes bullets. Sometimes school was just closed because of budgets. My father is a teacher and he lost his job.

We left Syria five years ago, when I was 14. I was so worried about my future and education. We went to a refugee camp in Jordan. I didn’t expect there to be a school, but I was happy to discover a caravan with a tent and some teachers. There was no electricity. We studied computing from a book. In the winter, it got so cold it was hard to focus on the teacher.

But school gave me hope. And I started to encourage other girls and boys to go, too. I would walk from tent to tent, caravan to caravan, persuading kids and parents. I met people who thought that because we are refugees, education isn’t important any more, or that they’d continue school when they returned to Syria. I encouraged people to believe in themselves and not give up. I met kids who’d never been to school, and girls who saw marriage as their profession. Some parents told me it had nothing to do with me. I fought hard for everyone to believe that we can’t do anything without knowledge and got involved with international charities who supported me.

What’s happening in my country is not of our making and it’s not our fault that we’re losing our rights. One day, we’ll be able to return, and we need to have knowledge. After three years in Jordan, my family came to the UK. Last year I became the youngest and first refugee Unicef Goodwill Ambassador. I’m now on my way to university and am doubling my activism.

Ellen Jones, 19, London: Campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights

I’ve always had a strong sense of fairness’: Ellen Jones. Photograph: Sophia Spring for the Observer

I came out at 14. When you’re a young LGBTQ+ person and you come out, you’re put in this position where you are suddenly expected to educate your peers. I’d be in a lesson and someone would ask me an incredibly inappropriate question. People feel like they have permission to access all of you when you’re still figuring things out for yourself.

At the same time, someone in my class was sending me online anonymous, violent messages, telling me to kill myself. My school didn’t know what to do with it. At one point, they had contacted my parents, pushing me to come out to them, too, and it all became detrimental to my mental health.

I don’t come from a political family, but I’ve always had a strong sense of fairness. After coming out, I started making educational YouTube videos on LGBTQ+ issues and people watched them. I also worked with my school to establish support systems and visibility for LGBTQ+ pupils. I got together with teachers to set up a group. We held events and assemblies, and suddenly others wanted to join. I worked with the school to run surveys of the staff and students, so we knew the issues that needed addressing.

As part of a Stonewall youth programme, I started a YouTube series called Queeries. I invite anyone to submit questions, however inappropriate or silly, and I sit down with another LGBTQ+ person and we answer them. Part of that is creating space for difficult questions, but also to give others a platform. I am very aware of the fact that I am white, middle-class and able-bodied, and there are a lot of things I feel I can’t speak to. I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and autism, but campaigning is always something I’ve felt able to do.

I was happy to do the work with my school, and I know that education resources are stretched, but schools shouldn’t rely on pupils to affect change. That puts pressure on young people to challenge things adults should be addressing.

Many young people think they aren’t going to amount to anything because of all the headlines we read. But that’s designed to discredit our concerns about how the world’s being run. A lot of people in control are invested in the world as it currently stands; to suggest that things aren’t great the way they are scares them.

Emma González, 19, Florida: Gun-control activist

We are going to change the law’: Emma González. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we’re going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because we are going to be the last mass shooting. Just like Tinker v Des Moines, we are going to change the law. And it’s going to be due to the tireless effort of the school board, the faculty members, the family members and most of all the students. The students who are dead, the students still in the hospital, the students now suffering PTSD, the students who had panic attacks during the vigil because the helicopters would not leave us alone, hovering over the school for 24 hours a day.

If President Trump wants to tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association.

It doesn’t matter because I already know: $30m. And divided by the number of gunshot victims in the United States in the first one and a half months of 2018 alone, that comes out to being $5,800 each. Is that how much these people are worth to you, Trump? If you don’t do anything to prevent this from continuing to occur, that number of gunshot victims will go up and the number that they are worth will go down. And we will be worthless to you.

To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you. The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and call BS. Companies trying to make caricatures of the teenagers these days, saying that all we are is self-involved and trend-obsessed and they hush us into submission when our message doesn’t reach the ears of the nation, we are prepared to call BS.

Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.

This is an edited transcript from the speech student and activist Emma González gave at the anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale on 17 February 2018, three days after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida

Press link for more: The Guardian

Bloomberg delivers blistering critique of politicians (like Trump) who don’t accept science

By Patrick Smith

Michael Bloomberg speaks to a journalist during the One Planet Summit at the Seine Musicale on the Ile Sequin on December 12 in Boulogne-Billancourt, France. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg during a commencement speech at Rice University this weekend took a thinly-veiled swipe at “deceitful politicians” in Washington — and leaving little to the imagination about exactly who he was referring to.

In the wide-ranging speech on Saturday, the billionaire businessman lamented that “dishonesty in politics” is at unseen levels in American history. Bloomberg also touched on topics such as gun control and the economy.

But his harshest words were reserved for climate change deniers. Citing the almost unanimous consensus among scientists that human activity is contributing to Earth’s warming, Bloomberg says that citizens shouldn’t settle for politicians who reject science

Global warming, he said “is not a Chinese hoax. It’s called science — and we should demand that politicians have the honesty to respect it.”

While scientists are in agreement the impact humans have had on climate change, many politicians stubbornly refuse to accept their findings. Bloomberg did not name any specific politician, but it was more than obvious to whom he was referring.

President Trump’s denial of human-caused warming is well known, and his actions as president have only cemented his position as denier-in-chief. From pulling the U.S. from the historic Paris climate deal to ripping up environmental regulations, U.S. policy on global warming has broken with scientific consensus.

As politicians have continued attempts to cast public doubt on climate science, the evidence that Earth is warming has continued to mount. The planet continues to break heat records, with the five hottest years all occurring since 2010. And scientists have warned that without steps to reduce carbon pollution from humans, this warming will continue.

The side-effects of this warming are already affecting many Americans. As global warming contributes to the melting of polar ice caps, the subsequent sea level rise threatens to pop the trillion dollar coastal property bubble in Miami, FL. And increasing dust storms in the U.S. Southwest have led to devastating health effects on residents.

Bloomberg warned the audience that the greatest threat to the U.S. is “our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty.” In the case of climate change, he couldn’t have chosen a better subject to illustrate just how real that threat is.

Press link for more: Think Progress

The Gulf Stream has slowed. #auspol #ClimateChange #StopAdani

The ocean currents that help warm the Atlantic coasts of Europe and North America have significantly slowed since the 1800s and are at their weakest in 1600 years, according to new research my colleagues and I have conducted. As we’ve set out in a new study in Nature, the weakening of this ocean circulation system may have begun naturally but is probably being continued by climate change related to greenhouse gas emissions.

This circulation is a key player in the Earth’s climate system and a large or abrupt slowdown could have global repercussions. It could cause sea levels on the US east coast to rise, alter European weather patterns or rain patterns more globally, and hurt marine wildlife.

We know that at the end of the last major ice age, rapid fluctuations in the circulation led to extreme climate shifts on a global scale. An exaggerated (but terrifying) example of such a sudden event was portrayed in the 2004 blockbuster film The Day After Tomorrow.

Press link for more: The Conversation

Politics dominating views on climate change is made in the USA #auspol #StopAdani

The politics dominating views on climate change is made in the USA

Surveying 25 countries shows one of them is not like the others.

Scott K. Johnson – 5/9/2018, 2:42 AM

In the US, partisan political lines define a debate about climate change that does not exist among climate scientists.

It has been this way long enough that you could be forgiven for thinking that rejecting the human cause of climate change is somehow inherently conservative. But few countries beyond the US are actually having this debate despite—and this is true—being home to their own politically conservative citizens.

To find out what’s going on, Matthew Hornsey, Emily Harris, and Kelly Fielding of the University of Queensland in Australia surveyed 5,323 people in 25 countries. And the results confirmed that the US really is the weird one.

The survey asked respondents to answer questions that allowed them to be placed on four different political scales: left vs. right, liberal vs. conservative, individualist vs. communitarian, and hierarchical vs. egalitarian.

They were also asked about a handful of conspiracy theories to test a separate connection between conspiratorial thinking and the idea that climate science is a vast hoax.

The results showed that the United States was the only country with a statistically significant correlation between all four political scales and climate opinions.

In other words, placing yourself on a political spectrum provides a strong predictor of how you’ll answer questions about climate change—but only if you’re an American. The same was true for US conspiracy theorists, although a few other countries had similar correlations, including Singapore.

For political ideology, a couple other countries were within shouting distance of the US.

Australia and Canada had statistically significant (but weaker) correlations on three of the four scales. Brazil comes next, with correlations on two of the four scales. Despite hosting some prominent and politically active climate “skeptics,” the UK actually had zero significant correlations.

Enlarge / Correlations between different scales and opinions on climate change.

Hornsey et al/Nature Climate Change

The researchers note that Australia, Canada, Brazil, and the US have something in common—they are among the highest in greenhouse gas emissions per person.

This could be a coincidence, but the researchers say that “it may be that per capita carbon emissions is a proxy for vested interests around climate change, both collectively (in terms of the fossil fuel industry’s investment in that country) and individually (in terms of the perceived sacrifices and changes that citizens feel they need to make to live a low-carbon lifestyle).”

The differences between countries tell us that climate “skepticism” is essentially a cultural phenomenon rather than inherent to certain political ideologies.

As research like that done by the Cultural Cognition Project has shown, cultural identities became entangled with climate change in the United States—something that hasn’t happened with most other scientific topics.

How does that entanglement happen?

It seems to involve cultural leaders pushing an idea that can take hold throughout that cultural group.

For most topics, there’s nobody influential pushing these ideas, so they fail to “go viral.”

To the researchers, that’s encouraging—or at least more encouraging than the alternative.

There are only a few countries where climate science is truly tangled up with political identities, and the US is the exception rather than the rule.

In most places, conservative political groups are just as likely as liberal ones to want to do something about climate change.

Nature Climate Change, 2018. DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0157-2  (About DOIs).

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What genuine, for real, no-bullshit ambition on climate change would look like. #auspol #StopAdani

What genuine, for real, no-bullshit ambition on climate change would look like

New scenarios show how to hit the most stringent targets, with no loopholes.

David Roberts

A new dawn of ambition, or something.


What would it take to really tackle climate change? No delays, no gimmicks, no loopholes, no shirking of responsibility — the real thing. What would it look like?

To answer that question, it helps to understand the upper threshold of climate ambition. The target agreed upon by the world’s nations in Paris in 2015 is global warming of “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, with good-faith efforts to hold temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

Countries are not moving anywhere near fast enough to hit those targets, so we are currently on track for somewhere around 3 degrees. It is generally agreed that hitting 2 degrees would quite ambitious, while hitting 1.5 would be nothing short of miraculous.

While there is nothing like a real-world plan in place for hitting those targets yet, climate modelers have come up with many scenarios for how we might do so. However, as I wrote recently, most of those scenarios rely heavily on “negative emissions” — ways of pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. If negative emissions technologies can be scaled up later in the century, the reasoning goes, it gives us room to emit more earlier in the century.

And that’s what most current 2- or 1.5-degree scenarios show: Global carbon emissions rise in the short term, then plunge rapidly to become net negative around 2060, with gigatons of carbon subsequently captured and buried over the remainder of the century. The oil giant Shell released a scenario along those lines a few weeks ago.

Shell’s use of negative emissions, compared to other scenarios.

Glen Peters

The primary instrument of negative emissions is expected to be BECCS: bioenergy (burning plants to generate electricity) with carbon capture and sequestration. The idea is that plants absorb carbon as they grow; when we burn them, we can capture and bury that carbon. The result is electricity generated as carbon is removed from the cycle — net-negative carbon electricity.

Most current scenarios bank on a lot of BECCS later in the century to make up for the carbon sins of the near past and near future.


Sanchez 2015

One small complication in all this: There is currently no commercial BECCS industry. Neither the BE nor the CCS part has been demonstrated at any serious scale, much less at the scale necessary. (The land area needed to grow all that biomass for BECCS in these models is estimated to be around one to three times the size of India.)

Maybe we could pull off a massive BECCS industry quickly. But banking on negative emissions later in the century is, at the very least, an enormous, fateful gamble. It bets the lives and welfare of millions of future people on an industry that, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t yet exist.

Plenty of people reasonably conclude that’s a bad idea, but alternatives have been difficult to come by. There hasn’t been much scenario-building around truly ambitious goals: to zero out carbon as fast as possible, to hold temperature rise as close to 1.5 degrees as possible, and, most significantly, to do so while minimizing the need for negative emissions. That is the upper end of what’s possible.

Three recent publications help fill that gap:

• “Global Energy Transformation: A Roadmap to 2050,” by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), is a plan that targets a 66 percent chance of staying below 2 degrees, primarily through renewable energy.

• The analysts at Ecofys recently released a scenario for zeroing out global emissions by 2050, thus limiting temperature to 1.5 degrees and eliminating (most of) the need for negative emissions.

• A group of scholars led by Detlef van Vuuren of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency published a paper in Nature Climate Change investigating how to hit the 1.5 degree target while minimizing the need for negative emissions.

This graph will be very meaningful once you read the paper.

Nature Climate Change

Here’s how this post is going to go: First, we’ll have a quick look at why targeting 1.5 degrees is so urgent; second, we’ll look at a few things these scenarios have in common, the baseline for serious ambition; third, we’ll look more closely at the third paper, as it offers some interesting alternatives (like, oh, mass vegetarianism) to typical carbon thinking; and finally, I’ll conclude.

Why targeting 1.5 degrees is urgent

Americans can’t make much sense out of Celsius temperatures, and half a degree of temperature doesn’t sound like much regardless. But the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees of global warming is a very big deal. (The IPCC is coming out with a science review on this in October.)

Another recent paper in Nature Climate Change makes the point vividly: Bumping ambition up from 2 to 1.5 degrees would prevent 150 million premature deaths through 2100, 90 million through reduced exposure to particulates, 60 million due to reduced ozone.

“More than a million premature deaths would be prevented in many metropolitan areas in Asia and Africa,” the researchers write, “and [more than] 200,000 in individual urban areas on every inhabited continent except Australia.”

That’s not nothing! And of course, the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees could mean the difference between life and death for low-lying islands.

The Marshall Islands, for now.


There’s no time to waste. In fact, there may be, uh, negative time. Limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees is possible, even in theory, only if the “carbon budget” for that target is at the high end of current estimates.

Again: 1.5 is only possible if we get started, with boosters on, immediately, and we get lucky. Time is not running out — it’s out.

What’s required to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees

The three scenarios I mentioned are different in a number of ways. The first two project through 2050, but the Nature Climate Change paper goes out to 2100. They target different things and use different tools. But they share a few big action items — features that any ambitious climate plan will inevitably involve.

1) Radically increase energy efficiency.

Just how much energy will be needed through 2050? That depends on population and economic growth, obviously, but it also depends on the energy intensity of the world’s economies — how much primary energy they require to produce a unit of GDP.

Increasing energy efficiency (which, all else being equal, reduces emissions) is in a race with population and economic growth (which, all else being equal, increases them). To radically decarbonize with minimal negative emissions, efficiency will need to outrun growth. (Notably, Shell’s scenario shows much higher global energy demand in coming decades; growth outruns efficiency.)

IRENA’s scenario reduces global energy-related emissions 90 percent by 2050. Of that 90 percent, 40 comes from energy efficiency.

To do this, IRENA says, the energy intensity of the global economy must fall two-thirds by 2050. Improvements in energy intensity will have to accelerate from an average of 1.8 percent a year from 2010 to 2015 to an average of 2.8 percent a year through 2050.

In the Ecofys scenario, energy efficiency is so amped up that total global energy demand is lower in 2050 than today, despite a much larger population and a global economy three times larger than today’s.

The Nature Climate Change paper summarizes the necessary approach to efficiency this way: “Rapid application of the best available technologies for energy and material efficiency in all relevant sectors in all regions.”

“All relevant sectors in all regions” means electricity, transportation, buildings, and industry, all bumped up to the most efficient available materials and technologies, everywhere in the world, starting immediately. Cool, cool, cool.

2) Radically increase renewable energy.

All the scenarios envision renewables (primarily wind and solar) rapidly coming to dominate electricity. In the IRENA scenario, renewables grow sixfold faster than they are currently, supplying 85 percent of global electricity by 2050.

Ecofys has them supplying 100 percent of global electricity — with that sector completely decarbonized — by 2040, even as global demand for electricity triples.

The Nature Climate Change paper notes that the vision of rapid renewables dominance all these scenarios have in common involves “optimistic assumptions on the integration of variable renewables and on costs of transmission, distribution and storage,” which, yeah.

3) Electrify everything!

Notably, all three scenarios heavily involve electrification of sectors and applications that currently run on fossil fuels. In the IRENA case, electricity rises from 21 percent of total global energy consumption today to 40 percent by 2050.

In the Ecofys scenario, it rises to a whopping 70 percent. In the Nature Climate Change study, it rises to 46 percent (compared to 31 percent in the reference case).

I have made the case for electrification before, and it’s not complicated. We know how to radically increase the supply of zero-carbon electricity; increasing the supply of zero-carbon liquid fuels is much more difficult. So it makes sense to move as much energy use as possible over to electricity, particularly vehicles, home heating and cooling, and lower-temperature industrial applications.

The Ecofys scenario makes it particularly clear: If renewable energy and energy efficiency are to be your primary decarbonization tools (more on that in a second), full decarbonization requires going all out on electrification.

The rising yellow wedge at the bottom left — that’s electricity.


4) And still maybe do a little negative emissions.

Even though the intentions, of the Ecofys and Nature researchers particularly, was to minimize the need for negative emissions, neither was able to completely eliminate it.

“Regardless of the rapid decarbonisation” in the scenario, Ecofys researchers write, “the 1.5°C carbon budget is most likely still exceeded.” The only way to hold at 1.5 is to mop up that excess carbon with negative emissions. Ecofys thinks CCS applications will mostly be confined to industry and the rest can be taken care of by “afforestation, reforestation, and soil carbon sequestration,” i.e., non-CCS methods of negative emissions. And, it notes, this remaining excess carbon “is significantly less than most other low carbon scenarios.”

In the Nature Climate Change study, the need for BECCS can be completely eliminated only if every single one of the other strategies is maximized (see the next section).

Here’s what those researchers conclude about negative emissions:

[W]hile this study shows that alternative options can greatly reduce the volume of CDR [carbon dioxide removal] to achieve the 1.5°C goal, nearly all scenarios still rely on BECCS and/or reforestation (even the hypothetical combination of all alternative options still captured 400 GtCO2 by reforestation). Therefore, investment in the development of CDR options remains an important strategy if the international community intends to implement the Paris target.

They advise policymakers (wisely, it seems to me) to pursue negative emissions strategies but to think of alternative scenarios as insurance against the possibility that those strategies run up against unanticipated social or economic barriers.

The Kemper Project, meant to capture carbon from coal emissions, died a painful death.


Decarbonization beyond renewable electricity and efficiency

The IRENA and Ecofys scenarios, like most rapid decarbonization scenarios, rely overwhelmingly on renewable energy and energy efficiency. But as environmentalist Paul Hawken reminds us with his Drawdown Project, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in most climate policy. (For instance, we’re going to talk about fake meat here in a minute.)

Like most climate-economic modelers, the Nature Climate Change researchers use integrated assessment models (IAMs) to generate their scenarios. They tested their decarbonization strategies against the second of five shared socioeconomic pathways (SSPs), which are the modeling community’s set of different visions for the future — different mixes of population, economic growth, oil prices, technology development, etc. SSP2 contains roughly median predictions. (If you’re curious about SSPs, here’s an explainer.)

But they also challenge some of the limitations in how IAMs have typically been used:

As IAMs select technologies on the basis of relative costs, they normally concentrate on reduction measures for which reasonable estimates of future performance and costs can be made. This implies that some possible response strategies receive less attention, as their future performance is more speculative or their introduction would be based on drivers other than cost, such as lifestyle change or more rapid electrification.

The Nature Climate Change paper attempts to model some of these more ambitious, uncertain, or non-cost-driven strategies, assembling a whole suite of decarbonization scenarios in different combinations.

Several of them are familiar: There’s a “uniform carbon tax in all regions and sectors,” along with maximized energy efficiency and renewable energy. But others are more novel in these modeling contexts.

Agricultural intensification: “High agricultural yields and application of intensified animal husbandry globally.”

Low non-CO2: “Implementation of the best available technologies for reducing non-CO2 emissions and full adoption of cultured meat in 2050.” (Non-CO2 greenhouse gases include methane, nitrous oxide, black carbon, fluorocarbons, aerosols, and tropospheric ozone. Cattle are a big source of methane, thus the cultured meat.)

Lifestyle change: “Consumers change their habits towards a lifestyle that leads to lower GHG emissions. This includes a less meat-intensive diet (conforming to health recommendations), less CO2-intensive transport modes (following the current modal split in Japan), less intensive use of heating and cooling (change of 1°C in heating and cooling reference levels) and a reduction in the use of several domestic appliances.” Though they don’t call it out specifically, this would very much involve less flying, one of the most carbon-intensive habits of the affluent.

Low population: “Scenario based on SSP1, projecting low population growth.” Population growth can be curbed most effectively through access to family planning and education of girls (which, notably, have many other benefits as well).

Good climate policy.


You can decide for yourself how likely you find any of these changes. The researchers say they are modeling “ambitious, but not unrealistic implementation.”

Reducing non-CO2 GHGs and widespread lifestyle changes have the most short-term impact on emissions. However, “by 2100,” they write, “the strongest reductions are found in the renewable electrification and low population scenarios.” This echoes what the Drawdown Project found, which is that educating girls and making family planning widely available (thus reducing population growth) is the most potent long-term climate policy.

Deep thoughts

Needless to say, accomplishing any one of these goals — a global carbon tax, maximized efficiency, an explosion of renewable energy, a wholesale revolution in agriculture, rapid reduction of non-CO2 GHGs, a rapid shift in global lifestyle choices, and successful measures to curb population growth — would be an enormous achievement.

To completely avoid BECCS while still hitting the 1.5 degree target, we would have to accomplish all of them.

That is highly unlikely. Still, the important point of the Nature Climate Change research remains: “alternative pathways exist allowing for more moderate use and postponement of BECCS.” Given the substantial and uncharted difficulties facing BECCS, policymakers owe those alternative pathways a look.

Obviously these strategies face all kinds of social and economic barriers. (I’m trying to envision what it would take to rapidly shift Americans from beef to cultured meat … trying and failing.) But they also come with co-benefits. Reducing fossil fuels reduces local air pollution and its health impacts. Energy efficiency reduces energy bills. Eating less meat and driving less are healthy.

Overall, a radical energy transition would mean a net boost in global GDP (relative to the reference case) in every year through 2050.


An energy transition would also create millions of net jobs. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.

Engineering any of these shifts, the Nature Climate Change researchers write with some understatement, “requires not only insights from IAMs, but also in-depth knowledge of social transitions.” They suggest (and I heartily endorse) that subsequent research focus on social and political barriers and strategies.

In the end, perhaps the most important conclusion in the Nature Climate Change paper is the simplest and the one that we already knew: “a rapid transformation in energy consumption and land use is needed in all scenarios.”

At this point, whether it’s possible to hit various targets is almost beside the point. All the science and modeling are saying the same thing, which is that humanity faces serious danger and needs to reduce carbon emissions to zero as quickly as possible.

The chances of us getting our collective shit together and accomplishing what these scenarios describe are … slim. There are so many vested interests and so much public aversion to rapid change, so many governments to be coordinated, so many economic and technology trends that must fall just the right way. It’s daunting.

Conversely, the chances of us overdoing it — trying too hard, spending too much money, reducing emissions too much or too fast — are effectively nil.

So the only rule of climate policy that really matters is: go as hard and fast as possible, forever and ever, amen.

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