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Are carbon emissions coming down in Australia? #auspol #qldpol #LabConf18 #StopAdani #COP24 we urgently need a #GreenNewDeal The #ClimateCrisis is stealing our children’s future.

Photo: Former Howard government minister Amanda Vanstone says that emissions are coming down in Australia. (ABC News)

The claim

During a recent episode of the ABC’s Q&A program, former Liberal minister Amanda Vanstone claimed “emissions are coming down” in Australia.

Her comment came a few days before a major UN climate summit, COP24, held in Katowice, Poland.

Other panellists on Q&A contradicted Ms Vanstone, saying emissions were rising.

This prompted many viewers of the program to call on RMIT ABC Fact Check to investigate Ms Vanstone’s claim.

The verdict

Ms Vanstone’s claim is misleading.

Latest federal government figures suggest that although greenhouse gas emissions have fallen over the past 10 years, emissions started trending upwards again about four years ago.

The upturn, since 2014, has coincided with the Abbott government’s removal of the carbon tax.

Also, while emissions from electricity production have been falling, the decrease has been outweighed over the past four years by rising emissions in other sectors of the economy, such as transport, where emissions are associated with increased LNG production for export.

Emissions can be measured in different ways: for example, as total emissions or emissions per capita or per GDP.

In the past year, Australia’s total emissions have been rising. But emissions per capita or per dollar of real GDP have been falling, mainly due to Australia’s rapid population growth.

However, it is worth noting that Australia’s progress in cutting emissions under its international obligations (the Paris Agreement) is measured by changes in total emissions rather than by other measures.

As one expert put it: “The atmosphere doesn’t care how many people are contributing to emissions; it’s the total quantity of emissions that matters.”

The context

Ms Vanstone made her claim during a discussion on Q&A about a protest by Australian schoolchildren titled ‘Strike 4 Climate Action‘.

She was speaking about the climate policies of Australia’s two major political parties, and in the broader context of greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on the environment, as perceived by young people.

Ms Vanstone did not specify which kind of emissions she was talking about. Nor whether she was referring to simple totals or ratios.

Fact Check invited her to clarify this. She said she had not been expecting to talk about emissions: “I can’t tell you that I had a particular tight construct in my head at the time,” she said.

“I think I was just making a general remark about emissions generally over a long period of time.”

Fact Check considers it reasonable to assume that her claim refers to Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions over the past 10 years — the length of time examined by the Government’s most recent report on emissions.

What others are saying

Ms Vanstone is not alone in claiming emissions in Australia are decreasing, though other speakers have been more specific.

Liberal senator Linda Reynolds, also on Q&A, said carbon emissions per capita and by GDP were at their lowest levels in 28 years.

Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price also highlighted this low in a press release announcing the Government’s latest quarterly emissions data.

Nonetheless, she acknowledged that total emissions had risen over the year to June 2018.

Others have also pointed to the rise in total emissions.

Labor senator Lisa Singh, another of the recent Q&A panelists, argued that “emissions have continued to go up since 2011”.

And on ABC radio the same week, Richie Merzian, the climate and energy director for think tank the Australia Institute said: “For the last four years, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have been increasing.”

Measuring emissions

The Australian Department of the Environment and Energy collects and publishes a series of reports and databases, known as the National Greenhouse Accounts.

The accounts track greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 onwards, and fulfil Australia’s international reporting obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Kyoto Protocol.

Quarterly reports, released as part of the accounts, track total emissions as well as emissions by sector, per capita and per GDP.

The latest report, released three days before Ms Vanstone’s Q&A appearance, provides estimates of Australia’s national inventory of greenhouse gas emissions up to the June quarter of 2018.

The report examines emissions produced by eight sectors: electricity, stationary energy, transport, fugitive emissions (for example, leakages), industrial processes and product use, agriculture, waste, and land use, land use change and forestry.

Emissions from electricity production are falling

The report shows emissions in the electricity sector have fallen by 3.6 per cent in the year to September 2018.

This was driven by a 13 per cent reduction in brown coal supply and a corresponding 14 per cent increase in supply derived from renewable sources, it says.

But emissions from other sectors, such as transport, have been rising.

Hugh Saddler, an honorary associate professor at ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy, told Fact Check:

“Significant increases in emissions from petroleum and diesel consumption in transport, and gas consumption associated with LNG, have outweighed the decrease in emissions from the electricity sector.”

What’s going on with total emissions?

Over the year to June 2018, Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions rose in each quarter, according to the report.

Specifically, seasonally adjusted total emissions rose 1.3 per cent in the June quarter and by 0.6 per cent in the year to June 2018.

While emissions have fluctuated over the past four years, they have been trending upwards since late 2014, as the graph below shows. The data shows emissions have risen 5 per cent over this time.

Emissions touched their lowest point in March 2013, but have since rebounded to 2011 levels.

Under the Paris Climate Agreement, Australia has committed to a reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions of between 26 per cent and 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.

According to the national greenhouse audit, total emissions are down 11.7 per cent on 2005 (the Paris Agreement base year) and 7.5 per cent since 1990 (the base year for Kyoto Protocol calculations).

Why are people saying emissions are falling?

As shown above, total greenhouse emissions when measured quarterly over the past year, or by trend data over the past four years, have been rising.

So, why are some people arguing that emissions are going down?

Because, when emissions are measured per capita or per dollar of GDP, they are lower. This is because Australia is experiencing rapid population growth.

The Department of the Environment and Energy highlights this fall in both the preface to its latest quarterly greenhouse report and on its website.

The report states that emissions per capita and the emissions intensity of the Australian economy were at their lowest levels in 28 years, falling 37 per cent and 60 per cent respectively since 1990.

Are emissions per capita and per GDP useful measures?

Put simply, no.

Dr Saddler said focusing on emissions per capita was meaningless, since the measure used in international agreements was the more crucial total emissions.

“The atmosphere doesn’t care how many people are contributing to emissions; it’s the total quantity of emissions that matters,” he said.

Professor David Karoly, an internationally recognised expert on climate change, said the emissions per capita was a useful measure when it allowed for country by country comparisons.

“The Australian per capita share at the moment is higher than any other developed country in the world — higher than the US. Yes, it’s coming down, but it is still the highest.”

Both Dr Saddler and Professor Karoly confirmed the fall in emissions per capita and GDP were due to rapid population growth in Australia.

Experts assess the claim

Professor Karoly said if Amanda Vanstone’s claim was made in reference to total Australian emissions, “they are going up”.

He noted that the start of the recent rebound in emissions from mid-2014 coincided with the dumping of the carbon tax by the Abbott government in July of that year.

Professor Mark Howden, the director of ANU’s Climate Change Institute, told Fact Check: “I think it is correct to say that Australian emissions were coming down, but are now rising steadily.”

He said an argument could be made that emissions have come down, given they are lower now than at their peak between 2005 and 2008.

“However, this is a problematic argument,” he said.

“Under the current mix of policies and economic activities, emissions are clearly not coming down but instead are rising steadily.”

Pep Canadell, a senior principal research scientist in the CSIRO Climate Science Centre, and the executive director of the Global Carbon Project, suggested that 1990 was a good reference year for gleaning a long-term view of changes to emissions.

“Good annual data only starts from 1990, which is the reference year of the Kyoto Protocol and why the Government started the good quality data then,” Dr Canadell said.

Emissions per capita have fallen 37 per cent since 1990.

However, Dr Canadell added:

“Given Ms Vanstone’s statement is present tense, I disagree [that emissions are falling]. According to the data, emissions have been going up since 2013, with ups and downs, and, if anything, accelerating recently.”

Principal researchers: Sushi Das, Ellen McCutchan

factcheck@rmit.edu.au

Press link for more: ABC

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Until We Confront Capitalism, We Won’t solve the Climate Crisis #auspol #qldpol ##LabConf18 #GreenNewDeal #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion Infinite growth on a finite planet is a fantasy. #Neoliberalism

International climate negotiations have failed to curb runaway greenhouse gas emissions since the first UN treaty on emission reductions was adopted in 1992.

Consumer-focused solutions to climate change such as eating less meat or reducing food mileage, though important, simply won’t be enough to address the systemic nature of the crisis.

So what needs to be done to halt global warming?

Truthout spoke to Simon Pirani about his newest book, Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption, and the prospects for transitioning to a post-fossil fuel world.

Anton Woronczuk: Burning Up situates the last few decades of accelerating fossil fuel consumption alongside the social and economic history of energy production and policy.

How does this context help us understand what is driving, and what has driven, the growth of greenhouse gas emissions through today?

Simon Pirani: When people think about the threat of dangerous climate change, and decide they want to do something about it, it is not easy to work out what to do. It is clear we have to move away from fossil fuels, but not clear how. Governments claim they have solutions, which people instinctively (and rightly) disbelieve, and newspapers report simple, bullet-point proposals – such as “stop eating meat” – the effect of which is unclear.

Moving away from fossil fuels is difficult because they are so deeply embedded in economic activity, in the way that we live.

In Burning Up I hoped to make clearer how that has happened through recent history. 

Take the example of cars and urban infrastructure based on them.

There are technological drivers.

Using an internal combustion engine for motor transport was a truly remarkable innovation. But it took place in an economic and social context: the rise of American capitalism. The USA had oil resources. It had aggressive entrepreneurs who not only pioneered the use of production lines to build cars – and to help discipline and control the workers who made them – but also dreamt up sales techniques to turn the car into a marketable commodity and an object of consumerism.

By the late 20th century, the motor manufacturers had become a fearsome political lobby.

They had undermined alternative forms of transport, remade American cities to serve cars, and frustrated fuel efficiency regulation.

The American example was followed by cities across the rich world during the post war boom, and beyond it from the 1980s onwards.

It was not inevitable that motor technology would come to be used so inefficiently, or that urban transport systems would become subservient to it.

That was conditioned by the way capitalism expanded.

We need to account for technological, social, economic and political elements, to understand how fossil fuel consumption has become unsustainable.

We also need to specify what we mean by “unsustainable.” The human price paid for fossil fuels has always been high – coal miners killed down pits, urban residents’ lives cut short by air pollution.

Global warming, the nature of which only became clear to scientists about thirty years ago, has made it unsustainable in a whole new way.

You repeatedly emphasize throughout your book that energy technologies must be understood as inseparable from the social and economic systems in which they function.

What is the significance of this idea, especially when many institutions promote technological fixes, like geo-engineering or carbon capture, to the climate crisis?

Simon Pirani

The story of fossil fuel consumption growth is a story of technologies used, misused and moulded by the corporations that control them; of capitalist expansion, particularly after the second world war; and of government complicity.

Even today, most fossil fuels are used by technologies of the late 19th-century “second industrial revolution,” and their more-or-less direct successors: cars with internal combustion engines, power stations and electricity networks, urban built infrastructure, energy-intensive manufacturing, fertilizer-heavy industrial agriculture.

The technologies of the so-called “third industrial revolution” – computers and communication networks that appeared from the 1980s – have not only not helped make the economy less fuel-intensive, they have made things worse.

The internet now uses more electricity than India uses for everything – not because it could not function more efficiently, but because it has developed as a commercial rather than a collective network, loaded with commercial content.

By contrast, networked technology’s tremendous potential to make urban energy systems more efficient – to make them integrated, using multiple decentralized renewable energy sources such as wind and solar – has hardly been tapped.

Ideologies of “economic growth” and productivism have played a huge part in frustrating efforts to deal with global warming in the most effective way – by cutting fossil fuel consumption.

Enthusiasm for geoengineering is the ultimate and most extreme manifestation of such ideologies. 

Carbon capture and storage will probably never work at a large scale.

Other geoengineering techniques are outside my area of expertise, but I know that climate scientists view politicians’ enthusiasm for these techniques with huge concern.

I recently went to a seminar with researchers who worked on the IPCC report on ways of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

With reference to schemes to reflect sunlight back into space, one participant reported political pressure on scientists not to use the phrase “solar radiation management,” but rather to talk about “solar radiation modification.”

Someone wants to make it sound less like the giant, Promethean intervention in natural processes that it actually is! 

Moving away from fossil fuels will mean completely changing these technological systems, and the social and economic systems in which they are embedded.

Some people point to technological fixes to avoid talking about such deep-going change.

Common solutions promoted by some environmentalists are often framed in terms of changing individual consumption or those of populations, especially of the rich world.

Some of these include eating less (or no) meat, buying more local produce, using more public transportation, etc.

What do these solutions obscure in terms of how fossil fuels are consumed in and through societies (unequally) across the world?

For a start, focusing on rich-world hamburger eaters ignores the whole supply chain that produces such fuel-intensive, unhealthy products.

Appealing to rich-world drivers to get the bus only makes sense as part of a challenge to the whole urban transport system they depend on, that favors cars.

I try to minimize my own hamburger consumption and car use, but I don’t treat consumption as a moral issue. And it is not primarily an individual phenomenon: fuels are consumed by and through technological and economic systems.

Second, working people in the rich world spend their lives fending off the effects of elites’ encroachments on their living standards.

Under the present economic and political conditions, reducing consumption would often make their lives harder.

It needn’t do, but that’s how things stand now.

The French government wrapped up its latest attempt at austerity as a climate policy, and came unstuck.

Too bad for them.

In reality, averting global warming, working out ways to live better lives, and countering social injustice are all part of the same approach to life.

We need to work out how to express that politically. 

Look at the reaction in France to the proposed fuel tax increase.

It ignited a general revolt against neoliberal encroachments on working people’s living standards.

The government has retreated, and not only abandoned the planned tax increase, but also promised to increase the minimum wage.

Right-wing commentators have falsely claimed that the protest movement was against climate policies.

I saw no evidence of that.

While the movement is politically heterogeneous, an overarching theme is that working people are sick of being asked to pay for everything.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), established in 1992, was heralded by many as a major accomplishment in international efforts to address global warming; but you argue that Rio, and subsequent UN conferences, ensured that ecological imperatives were subordinate to economic interests.

Can you explain what this entailed and how it persisted through the Paris agreement?

Climate science has a history too.

The world’s ruling elites have long known that coal mines kill mineworkers, and cared little. But they did not know that fossil fuels were feeding into the global warming threat until the 1980s.

Only then did scientists clarify how warming happens, and the role played by greenhouse gases and fossil fuels. But once the ruling elites had the science in front of them, they fought desperately to limit the actions taken to those that reinforced, or at least did not threaten, their economic dominance.

The political expression of this was the refusal by the US and other governments to countenance the idea of binding emissions reduction targets.

This was consistent in the international climate negotiations from 1992 onwards. Another theme was that market mechanisms should be used to reduce fossil fuel consumption. This was the basis of the Kyoto protocol of 1997 and the disastrously unsuccessful emissions trading schemes it provided for.

A huge amount of political energy is expended to convince us that the international climate talks are dealing with the global warming problem.

They simply are not.

Since 1992 the annual level of greenhouse gases emissions from fossil fuel use has risen by more than half.

That is a failure.

If we don’t characterize the talks in that way, we cannot deal with the political consequences.

The 2015 Paris agreement marked the final collapse of attempts to adopt binding emissions targets.

I do not want to say the voluntary targets adopted are worthless, or that the policies adopted in some countries to achieve them are not helpful, or that serious efforts – most obviously, the substantial investment in renewable energy for electricity generation – are not being made to move away from some uses of fossil fuels. But we need to assess progress soberly and not confuse hopes with reality.

A widely celebrated proposal for a “Green New Deal” has been touted by many center-left politicians, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders and Yanis Varoufakis, as a solution to the multiple crises we face today.

What is your evaluation of it?

The “green new deal” appears to have several meanings.

It has been used by mainstream neoliberal politicians to describe an investment program, operated completely through markets, that would shift the economy away from fossil fuels.

The left-wing politicians you mention see the “green new deal” as a program of state infrastructure investment, a mobilization of resources on the scale of a war effort.

Whether such a war-type mobilization would ever be implemented in any significant capitalist country remains to be seen.

The political scientists Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright suggest in their book Climate Leviathan that there could be an international agreement between the US, China and others that would undertake such spending, but very much in the strongest countries’ neo-imperial interests, and with a big dose of geoengineering.

Obviously the left politicians’ perspectives are quite different.

In Burning Up I argued that not just a social-democratic spending program, but a much deeper-going shift to post-capitalist social relations, could provide the context for the fundamental changes in social, economic and technological systems that will be necessary to break the economy’s many-sided dependence on fossil fuels.

That’s how I see the future.

By saying that, I don’t deny the need for immediate responses. But the most noticeable immediate responses will come from governments.

If anyone tells me they are up to the job of dealing with climate change, I would point to the fact that annual global fossil fuel consumption has risen by more than 60 percent since the Rio convention was signed.

That’s the result of governments’ response.

Australian school pupils understand that simple arithmetic better than they understand politicians’ promises, which is why they went on strike in protest at inaction on climate change.

They will not be the last ones of their generation to do so.

Press link for more: Truth Out

Burning Down The House: Fighting Climate Action From The Centre Will Leave Us In Ashes #auspol #qldpol #SystemChange not #ClimateChange #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion

By Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is an Australian leftwing writer, editor and former socialist activist based in Melbourne, Victoria. He is the co-author of Radical Melbourne: A Secret History and Radical Melbourne 2: The Enemy Within. He is also the author of Communism: A Love Story and Killing: Misadventures in Violence. Wikipedia

Demonstrators stand next to metal barriers around the tomb of The Unknown Soldier at The Arc of Triomphe during a protest of Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) against rising oil prices and living costs on the Champs Elysees in Paris, on December 1, 2018. (IMAGE: vfutscher, Flickr)

As the globe – and the political climate aimed at saving it – heats up, we need a different politics to tackle an entrenched problem, writes Jeff Sparrow.

Sensible centrism will doom us all.

Take Emmanuel Macron, once hailed everywhere as the savior of liberalism.

“Macron,” explained Politico in April this year, “has stepped audaciously into the vacuum created by Trump’s abdication of America’s historic role as keeper of the liberal democratic flame.”

Nor was this an anomalous view in the English-speaking world.

MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid expressed the perspective of many American Democrats, when she quipped that Macron should be running Washington.

As Salon put it, “Macron appeared to have everything that centrist Democrats could ever want in a candidate; he was young, smart and charismatic, yet also mature and pragmatic (as all centrists are, in the neoliberal worldview).

Macron also appeared to be different and innovative, like a political version of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, and claimed to be “neither left nor right,” as if to have a political ideology was to have an outdated worldview, something like using a flip phone in 2018.”

In Britain, he generated the same kind of excitement among the same kind of people, with Labourite opponents of Jeremy Corbyn enthusing over the ‘new Tony Blair’, even as a new Macron-inspired centrist party called Renew came into being.

French President Emmanuel Macron, pictured in 2018. (IMAGE: Mike Bloomberg, Flickr)

One doubts that the Boy Wonder will feature much in Renew’s further history (if indeed it has one), given that recent opinion polls, conducted in the wake of the heroic Yellow Vest rebellion revealed him to be the most unpopular leader in recent times.

With riots, blockades and protests spreading across the country, the demand for Macron’s resignation provided a central slogan uniting an often fractious movement.

But his failure represents something more than the misfire of an overhyped media personality.

It illustrates the peculiar danger posed by the ongoing infatuation of supposed progressives with the so-called ‘radical centre’.

Macron’s international boosters had presented him as the figure to stem the rise of reactionary populism in Europe, someone who would combine market-based prosperity with liberal reforms.

When, in December 2017, Trump repudiated the Paris Climate Accords, Macron launched a slick social media campaign around the slogan ‘Make the planet great again’.

To that end, he proposed a so-called ‘eco tax’ on fuel, a levy intended, he explained, to discourage car use and to raise funds for climate change mitigation.

Symptomatically, though, he provided no alternative for working class drivers in the outer suburbs, small towns and rural areas without public transport.

The meteoric rise of the Yellow Vests reflected the widespread (and accurate) perception that the fuel tax constituted another attack by a government of the rich on some of the poorest people in the country.

In many ways, the tax represented the final straw for a population long sick of austerity.

The Macron bubble had, in fact, already burst well before the Yellow Vests took over the streets.

In September, Reuters reported his popularity at a then record low, with voters “ranging from conservative pensioners to low-income workers complain[ing]his policies mostly benefit companies and the rich”.

Yellow Vests protestors, pictured in Paris on December 1. (IMAGE: Prachatai, Flickr)

Nevertheless, for those of us watching from afar, it’s worth reflecting on how centrism brought the rhetoric of environmentalism directly into conflict with the aspirations of the people, in a manner that gave ammunition to the worst denialists.

Hasn’t every right-wing demagogue, from Donald Trump to Pauline Hanson, denounced climate change as a chatter class preoccupation imposed to shackle the working man?

Thus, rather than defeating the reactionary populists, Macron provided them, via his tax, with an effective talking point, a confirmation of the perspective they’ve long argued.

As he back-pedalled, the president acknowledged what he called the tension between ‘the end of the world’ and the ‘end of the month’.

The formulation was repeated by sympathetic commentators who declared that, in the future, environmental measures must be imposed gradually, so as to ease the pain of those living payday to payday. But that argument, too, accepts the underlying frame of the far right, positing workers as innately opposed to an environmentalism that, by definition, rendered them poorer and more miserable.

In reality, it’s climate change, not climate action, that necessarily threatens ordinary people, simply because the environmental crisis can no longer be disentangled from the broader crisis of a decaying capitalism.

The catastrophic weather associated with global warming will, for instance, overwhelmingly affect those already targeted by austerity – the individuals too poor to relocate or rebuild or use aircon or take other preventative measures.

The refugees from rising seas will be indistinguishable from the victims of war and poverty; the political ruptures provoked by drought, land degradation and other environmental disasters will blend into the general instability of the 21st century.

Yellow Vest protestors in Metz, Lorraine. (IMAGE: Dmitry Dzhus, Flickr)

The tension between climate activism and the working class emerges not from the nature of the problem but from the logic of centrist solutions, which always centre on neoliberal mechanisms such as carbon taxes.

But there’s no environmental reason to rely on the market to combat fossil fuels.

A government could, after all, forcibly acquire polluting industries at the stroke of the pen, much as almost every regime nationalised parts of the economy during the Second World War.


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To put it another way, the decarbonisation of the developed nations could be presented in a program designed to extend democratic control over industry, improve working conditions and materially improve the lives of the populace.

If it’s not – if climate action instead becomes a fig-leaf for austerity – that’s because of political choice rather than necessity.

Centrists pride themselves on their political acumen.

Carbon taxes and other market mechanisms might not be ideal, they say, but they reflect the horizon of the possible. 

We must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and it’s better to do something than nothing at all.

Macron’s example demonstrates the bankruptcy of that argument.

To their credit, the Yellow Vests seem to be moving to the left rather than to the right.

Nevertheless, the French situation will inspire right-wing populists everywhere to bring climate denial to the front of their agenda, adding to the difficulty of achieving genuine environmental change across Europe and elsewhere.

The fight for climate change depends on ordinary working people.

We have more to learn from the Yellow Vests and their militancy than we do from ‘sensible centrists’, no matter how much they drape themselves in green.

Now, more than ever, climate action must become radical.

Press link for more: New Matilda

Coastal Warning: An Unwelcome Messenger on the Risks of Rising Seas #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateChange demand a #GreenNewDeal #TheDrum

Marine scientist Orrin Pilkey has long been cautioning about sea level rise and the folly of building and rebuilding along coastlines.

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about why an eventual retreat from oceanfront property on the U.S. coast is inevitable.

Flooded homes in Ocean County, New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images

For six decades, Orrin Pilkey has written, taught, and preached about the beauty of barrier islands and the extraordinary risk of building in coastal floodplains. In more than 40 books, 250 scientific papers and journal articles, and countless opinion pieces, Pilkey has fashioned a vision of coasts as dynamic, living landscapes, with their own personalities, quirks and flaws, “not unlike people,” he says. 

To the extent that America has a public conscience of its coasts, it just may be the voluble marine geologist, a short, hobbit-like figure who for decades wore an unruly gray beard like the wizard Gandalf. Pilkey warned about interfering with the natural processes of shorelines and questioned developers, politicians, and engineers who helped to fill the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts with trillions of dollars of vacation houses, investment properties, and businesses, often subsidized with generous federal tax dollars. 

Orrin Pilkey

Unsurprisingly, not everyone appreciated his message. Some beach town mayors viewed Pilkey as the Antichrist. “I hate him, hate him, hate him,” bellowed the mayor of one of the largest and richest beach towns in New Jersey — this after Pilkey observed that the shoreline there was rapidly eroding. In 1991, the town council of Folly Beach, South Carolina, even passed a resolution condemning Pilkey’s research as “insulting, uninformed, and radical.” Pilkey framed the resolution and hung it on his office wall.

Now 84, the former Duke University professor is still busy and has a new bookon sea level rise coming out next August. With growing concerns about sea level rise and another year of catastrophic hurricanes (2018’s Florence and Michael), it seemed like a good time to talk with Pilkey about how his ideas have evolved over time, and what he sees as the biggest challenges ahead in an age of climate change, warming oceans, torrential rain storms, and more violent hurricanes.

Yale Environment 360: Recent reports by the United Nations and the National Climate Assessment highlight the risks of crowding the nation’s shorelines with risky property, and raise the possibility that millions may be forced to retreat to higher ground as the seas rise and hurricanes do more damage. You’ve been warning about these threats for decades, dating back to 1969, when Hurricane Camille wrecked your parents’ Mississippi retirement house. Was that a turning point in your career? 

Orrin Pilkey: Yes, the loss of my parents’ house was the point at which I realized for the first time the immense power of the sea and the need to inform the world that building next to the shoreline is almost suicidal. The recent UN report and National Climate Assessment confirmed some of my worst fears about the future threats of flooding and storms. Yet people continue to build in risky places. In Waveland, Mississippi, where my parents retired to a house with 13 feet of elevation, I saw an example of a beachfront house that was destroyed by Hurricane Camille, a replacement house destroyed again by Hurricane Katrina (2005), and the vacant lot for sale for $80,000. A loud activist voice was needed. 

“The question that needed to be answered was…Which is more important, beaches or buildings along our ocean shores?”

e360: You grew up in Washington State and were a smoke jumper for a time. How did you go from fighting fires to studying the coasts and earning a PhD in marine geology?

Pilkey: I first saw the ocean in Puget Sound as a teenager and was fascinated by the waves, the sea smells, and the infinite vistas. That love of the ocean continues to this day. But like me, I believe that many marine scientists have grown up far from the sea. The late Bruce Heezen, the father of marine geology, for example, grew up as an Iowa farm boy. 

e360: You were one of the first coastal geologists to take a public stance about building in harm’s way, arguing that armoring the coasts with seawalls, rock groins, and other defenses was not sufficient. What was your thinking at the time? 

Pilkey: I was primarily concerned that these devices were being sold as the way to save the beautiful beach cottage communities. When they didn’t work, which was the usual case, the excuse used by the engineers was that the storm that destroyed the devices was unusually severe and unexpected. It was clear that beaches were being destroyed in order to save oceanfront houses, with seawalls and other structures interfering with the natural flow of sand and accelerating erosion, and that a voice expressing that was severely needed. The question that needed to be answered from the standpoint of Americans everywhere was: Which is more important, beaches or buildings along our ocean shores?

e360: In some ways we appear to be going back to the future at the coasts. Charleston and Miami are building seawalls and giant pumps. New York City is planning for a huge surge gate. And Texans are trying to get the federal government to pay for a Dutch-style gate across the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel, in Galveston. In your view, will these steps work and, if so, for how long?

Pilkey: Protection of major cities is different from the protection of much smaller resort communities on barrier islands. Stabilizing the shoreline, that is, holding it still, may be a reasonable priority for portions of big cities, but not so for smaller tourist developments, which depend on a good beach. Hard structures, such as seawalls and groins, almost always eventually destroy the beach. Surge gates depend on the blind luck that no superstorms will occur and overtop or destroy them, and also depend on a low rate of sea level rise. Their lifetime is likely to be only a decade or two. It is also likely that many other coastal cities will clamor for a surge gate once one city has one. Can we afford construction and maintenance of these large structures in view of their questionable success? The Dutch have a small country, much of it below sea level, and there is no place to escape the coming sea level rise. Therefore, they must use extreme engineering. But Americans have plenty of room to retreat.

“Government support of beach development encourages more and more development, leading to more storm damage.”

e360: Hurricanes by far account for the costliest natural disasters in the U.S., with over $500 billion in damage in recent years, and the likelihood of even more catastrophic storms in the future. Yet Americans keep building in harm’s way, often with the aid of generous federal subsidies, including flood insurance, disaster aid, and Army Corps of Engineers’ beach repairs. Don’t these subsidies distort the risks, shifting them from private homeowners to public taxpayers, and make it harder to encourage people to retreat to higher ground?

Pilkey: Unquestionably, government support of beach development encourages more and more development, leading to more and more storm damage. The mentality is why retreat when the government is right there to help you put things back the way they were before the storm.

e360: I am thinking about Dauphin Island, off the coast of Alabama, which has been repeatedly battered by hurricanes and has received tens of millions in federal aid. After Katrina, in 2005, a few dozen homeowners wanted the government to buy their homes, so they could move inland, but there was no money. Why don’t buyouts work at the coast?

Pilkey: The western half of Dauphin Island is the least suitable location for development along the entire U.S. Gulf of Mexico. North Topsail Beach in North Carolina, is similarly vulnerable. Buyouts on Dauphin Island would make sense because serious damage has occurred there five times since 1973, mostly on the west end where all of the vacation homes are. The government would have saved money in the long run if they had purchased the damaged properties, but the extreme high price of beachfront buildings prevents the buyout approach. It’s a shame. Buying these vulnerable properties could be the first step in managed retreat.

Dauphin Island, off the coast of Alabama, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. NOAA/NWS

e360: Increasingly, coastal communities are seeing regular flooding, largely as a result of rising seas. Miami has its King Tides. Areas of Norfolk, the Outer Banks and New Jersey now routinely flood in ordinary thunderstorms. What does your recent research tell us about what’s happening and what residents can expect?

Pilkey: The flooding that is occurring along the fringes of many American communities is called sunny-day flooding or nuisance flooding. These high tides correspond to spring tides but have been raised higher by sea level rise, and are the first concrete evidence of a rising sea. The highest of these nuisance floods are called King Tides, which occur three or four times a year. As sea level rises, nuisance flooding will penetrate further and further inland, threatening more property and resulting in more flood claims.

e360: The general scientific consensus is that we can expect about 3.5 feet of additional water by the end of the century. But if the ice sheets melt or sea level rise accelerates, we could see 6 to 8.5 feet, which would be catastrophic. By some estimates, up to a trillion dollars worth of coastal property could literally be under water. Will we likely see a mass migration from the coast at some point?

Pilkey: Millions of people will be fleeing drowned cities this century. Low-lying cities, such as Miami, Charleston, and New Orleans, and many barrier island communities, especially in Florida – Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach – are likely to produce huge numbers of evacuees. Miami alone will produce 4 million climate refugees, probably well before 2100. Currently, there are no plans to accommodate these refugees in inland cities. Even places with higher elevations will be at risk. Surrounding access roads at lower elevations may flood in storms or high tides and prevent residents from reaching businesses, schools, stores, and churches.

“Ghost towns are a likely element of our coasts by the end of this century. Complete loss of some communities is not impossible.”

e360: In a few coastal resorts we are beginning to see home buyers factor sea level rise and flood risks into the price of real estate. In Miami, condos at higher elevation carry a premium. How quickly do you see real estate prices at the coast sinking, and what impact do you expect that will have on future development? 

Pilkey: I believe that we are due for a crash in the price of beachfront property. No one knows exactly when this will occur, but it is likely within a decade or two. There are already small price reductions occurring in some places. Probably sinking prices will cause a dramatic reduction in new beachfront development nationwide. Ghost towns are a likely element of our coasts by the end of this century. Complete loss of some communities is not impossible. Edingsville Beach in South Carolina, a town of 60 houses on a barrier island, disappeared in a major hurricane in 1893. Along the Holderness Coast in England, 26 towns are under water on the Continental Shelf.

e360: If you owned an oceanfront home, say in New Jersey, what would you do?

Pilkey: If I owned a house in view of the sea, I would remember that along our coastal plains, if you can see the sea, the sea can see you. If I opted to stay, I would first investigate the evacuation routes. I would want to know what the biggest storm on record did to the coast there. Very likely, I would move my home well back from the shoreline. Better yet, I would probably look into the feasibility of moving it to the mainland. One other temporary useful alternative would be to raise the building to allow storm surge to flow underneath it. Most likely, however, I would sell.

Press link for more: E360 Yale

‘Sprint to the election’: Anti-Adani groups target Labor #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum Demand a #GreenNewDeal #COP24 #ClimateChange

An alliance of groups opposed to the proposed Adani coal mine are stepping up their campaign, targeting Labor leader Bill Shorten ahead of his party’s national conference starting this weekend.

The Stop Adani Alliance – which claims two million supporters among its 38 member groups – will on Thursday unleash an advertising campaign and release polling showing four in five respondents want the government to intervene to stop the project.

More of this to come: Adani protesters confront Labor leader Bill Shorten and the Federal Member for Batman Ged Kearney in March this year.

Photo: AAP

The first of a three-phased strategy will involve a so-called “summer of action”, aimed at pressing federal Labor to shift its ambiguous stance on the mine, which has the potential to open up the huge new coal province in Queensland’s Galilee Basin if it proceeds.

Mobile billboards will buzz the ALP’s National Conference in Adelaide, while organisers within the event will try to raise the Adani issue during Sunday’s debate on Labor’s climate platform.

Phase two will involve a “sprint to the election”. “We will make stopping Adani the number one issue in what will be the climate election,” John Hepburn, executive director of the Sunrise Project, said.

“If there was ever a time to demonstrate Labor’s commitment to do what it takes to protect Australians from the worsening impacts of climate change, now is it.”

March for Our Future to stop Adani, held in Brisbane.

Photo: Supplied

A third phase would focus on pressing the newly elected federal government – the elections are expected in May – to move against the mine within its first 100 days of office.

Last month, Adani’s chief executive Lucas Dow, said the company would self-fund the construction of a scaled-down version of the mine after failing to secure funds from elsewhere.

“Commencement of works are imminent,” an Adani spokeswoman said, declining to specify a date.

Last month, Mr Shorten said of Adani: “We don’t know what they’ll be up to by the time we get into government. So we’ll deal with facts and the situation [related to Adani that] we’re presented with if we win the election in 24 weeks’ time…We’ll be guided by the best science and the national interest.”

Mr Shorten also last month launched Labor’s plan to revive the National Energy Guarantee as a key plank in its election platform. The Herald understands an original plan to release the rest of Labor’s emissions plans – such as how agriculture and industry’s carbon pollution would be treated – will now not be released until after January.

The Alliance’s national ReachTel poll of 2345 conducted on December 4 found 56 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement: “Digging new coal mines in Australia is no longer in the national interest”.

Among those self-described as Labor supporters, 80.2 per cent agreed or strongly agree with the statement, compared with about 24 per cent of Liberal and 28.6 per cent of National voters.

On the question of whether the federal government should review the environmental approvals for Adani, about 92 per cent of Labor supporters agreed, as did about 52 per cent of both Liberal and National voters, the poll found.

Press link for more: SMH

We Have To Make Sure the “#GreenNewDeal” Doesn’t Become Green #Capitalism #auspol #qldpol #COP24 #ClimateChange #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #TheDrum

A conversation with Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson.

Incoming Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made waves in late November when she called for a Green New Deal (GND)—a plan to “transition” the U.S. economy to “become carbon neutral” over the course of 10 years.

In adraft resolution, she proposes the formation of a Select Committee to develop a plan for massive public works programs, powered by a jobs guarantee and public banks, with the goal of “meeting 100 percent of national power demand through renewable sources.”

According to Ocasio-Cortez, the plan aims to eliminate poverty, bring down greenhouse gas emissions, and “ensure a ‘just transition’ for all workers, low-income communities, communities of color, indigenous communities, rural and urban communities and the front-line communities.”

The GND is still in its nascent phase, and concrete details haven’t yet been hashed out, but the proposal has received backing from the youth climate organization, the Sunrise Movement, which staged direct actions and protests to build political support for the framework.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is throwing his political weight behind the plan and 35 House members have endorsed it.

Ocasio-Cortez—who identifies as a democratic socialist—is poised to lead the progressive conversation about climate change at the federal level.

Yet, some climate justice organizations are responding with more cautious support.

The Climate Justice Alliance (CJA), a network of front-line environmental justice organizations, including the Southwest Workers Union and Black Mesa Water Coalition, praised the GND as “a much-needed aggressive national pivot away from climate denialism to climate action.” But CJA said in a statement released earlier this week that “the proposal for the GND was made public at the grasstops [as opposed to grassroots] level. When we consulted with many of our own communities, they were neither aware of, nor had they been consulted about the launch of the GND.”

While the GND is in its developmental phase, the Climate Justice Alliance says it is critical for social movement groups to fight for the best possible version of the deal—and ensure that it does not include false solutions such as “carbon markets, offsets and emissions trading regimes or geoengineering technologies.”

CJA says any jobs plan should restore and protect workers’ rights to organize and form unions, and it should be predicated on non-extractive policies that build “local community wealth that is democratically governed.”

Any deal must ensure “free, prior and informed consent by Indigenous peoples,” CJA insists, and should be directed by those communities bearing the brunt of the “dig, burn, dump” economy.

In These Times spoke with Kali Akuno, director of the CJA-affiliated Cooperation Jackson, a Missisippi-based group that aims to build a “solidarity economy” that is “anchored by a network of cooperatives and worker-owned, democratically self-managed enterprises.”

According to Akuno, movements must defend the best components of the GND, while challenging–and offering alternatives to–the capitalist logic embedded in some of its proposals. “While this is still in the drafting phase,” he argues, “let’s get it as near perfect as we possibly can.”

Kali Akuno

Kali served as the Director of Special Projects and External Funding in the Mayoral Administration of the late Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, MS. His focus in this role was supporting cooperative development, the introduction of eco-friendly and carbon reduction methods of operation, and the promotion of human rights and international relations for the city. 

Sarah Lazare: What do you think of proposal for a Green New Deal put forward by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Kali Akuno: One, I’m glad that something like this is being introduced and is being discussed so widely, particularly coming from a freshman congresswoman. I don’t think that’s insignificant at all. I’m excited Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even had the courage to take this up. Let’s be real: To walk in as a freshman congresswoman in this environment and atmosphere, she should be applauded.

Is it perfect, is it everything we want? Absolutely not. To a certain extent, that’s fine. She has to play ball in the balance of power as it concretely exists. The broad public debate that the introduction of the Green New Deal proposal has generated presents an opportunity for the Left to strengthen our forces, gather new forces and expand the base of the movement. Her putting this forward is a profound opportunity for the Left.

I think the Left needs to seize it. We can do that by talking about it: the things we support, why we support them, the things we want to see strengthened, improved and changed. We should communicate that as far and wide as we can. We have to shift the conversation and put the Right on the defensive. Right now, they’re on the offensive.

We need to critically analyze some of the shortfalls of the capitalist logic embedded in this plan. We have to push back and improve upon the Green New Deal. In a real practical and concrete way, the Left has to intervene.

Dismissing it and not having a dialogue and talking just about how it’s imperfect is not good enough. If we believe there is a limited time to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change, we have to seize every opportunity to educate people, create the policy framework, and to take action to implement it on the ground in real time. We need to talk about it, raise awareness and build a base for our point of view. Let’s use the platform her winning the election has provided to move people and to take action.

Sarah: What should a left intervention look like?

Kali: Let me get to the heart of it. Because of the capitalist logic that’s embedded in what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has put forth, at this point, the Left needs to intervene.

We need to be putting out and elevating the counter-proposals many of us have been putting forward. There is the “just transition” framework coming out of some social movements and organized labor. There are some concrete suggestions many of us have been putting forward for years. Healing the soil, reintroducing small-scale agriculture, restoring the commons, making more space available for wildlife reintroduction. This has been coming from the It Takes Roots Alliance, which consists of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Climate Justice Alliance, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and the Right to the City Alliance. On the ground, organizations from oppressed communities have been putting forward a just transition for a while.

Representatives from It Takes Roots are opening a dialogue with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s office. Our aim is to lift up our demands and concrete solutions and have them constitute core components of the legislation that she puts forward. We’re seeing the beginning of an opening in that regard.

While this is still in the drafting phase, let’s get it as near perfect as we possibly can.

Sarah: What needs to be improved?

Kali: There are some things in the framework that she put forth that need to be challenged. The one that I always highlight is this notion that the different types of solutions that are developed through the entrepreneurial innovations that come out of this program, like renewable energy technologies, that the U.S. government and major transnational corporations should be exporters of this energy and knowledge. That’s deeply embedding this thing as a new export industry, which is a new cycle of capital accumulation. That part really needs to be challenged. This is trying to embed the solution in market-based dynamics, but the market is not going to solve this problem.

Editor’s note: In her draft text calling for a committee on the Green New Deal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez includes the following objective, to be accomplished within 10 years of the plan’s implementation: “making ‘green’ technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major export of the United States, with the aim of becoming the undisputed international leader in helping other countries transition to completely greenhouse gas neutral economies and bringing about a global Green New Deal.”

Sarah: U.S. industries have played tremendous and disproportionate role in driving climate change. It seems predatory for those industries to develop “solutions” and then turn around and sell them to the Global South.

Kali: Yeah, it’s this logic of, I created the problem, I control the resolution of the problem through various mechanisms, I play a big role in preventing any serious motion that might happen at the level of intergovernmental exchange through the United Nations—under Obama, and now under 45. I set it up so that we come up with these technology solutions—some are pure scientific fiction–come up with a few carbon sequestration solutions, and I’m going to charge exorbitant rates selling technology to the Global South. Primarily Trump, the United States and western Europe created the problem and prevent anyone from coming up with solutions. They come up with market solutions and sell them back to us through force.

We need to struggle with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others about this. We have to frame this in a way that really speaks to the global nature of the problem. We have to include the peoples of the world at the frontlines of the transition in the discussion to resolve it – Indigenous peoples, the peoples of Oceania, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and the African continent. It’s not just a national problem. The way this is framed is really as if we’re going to stop certain problems within U.S. borders. But carbon emissions don’t observe national boundaries—they never have and never will. Nation-state policy limits us in certain ways. That’s another aspect of this that we have to push back on and challenge. This has to include front-line communities in the United States and from all throughout the world.

Sarah: What would the ideal global climate policy look like? What do you think about the framework of reparations?

Kali: Reparations is one of the key aspects that has to be introduced into the dialogue. The United States has, under all administrations, blocked this kind of approach. It is not new to Trump. The concept of reparations needs to be introduced into several different levels of the conversation. You can think of reparations in terms of financial compensation, and you can think of it in terms of decolonization—returning lands back to indigenous and colonized people subjected to the United States and Western Europe much of the past 500 years.

The market-based capitalist extractive system has been highlighted through the World Trade Organization. You have intellectual patents that are being codified into law through the WTO, which the United States and Western Europe have pushed on the world. If we look at Monsanto, they basically took agricultural practices and indigenous knowledge, codified it with their technology of splicing genes, and now have power and control over it. Patents need to be abolished and dissolved and we need to open up space in many areas for small farmers like those aligned with the global peasant movement, La Via Campesina, to return to traditional practices of growing food. That is a major form of reparations: repairing harm that’s been done.

Sarah: What about the fossil fuel industry? Should we be talking about going to battle with the industry? Shutting it down?

Kali: There is no question about it. That has to be target number one. We have to adopt a program of “keep it in the ground.” There is no way to get around that. That’s a demand coming from Indigenous communities. If we just look at the raw science, all the raw data that is out there, that’s what we need to do. We’re locked into an old exploitative logic that is only maintained through the grip the petrochemical companies have on the political process. We are going to have to take them on head on.

What happened at Standing Rock really points the way forward for the future. I don’t think we should hide from that or step away from that. We’re going to have to take direct action on a massive scale to shut that industry down on an international level. There are a ton of alternatives that could be scaled up—solar, wind—and they need to be scaled up.

To think that they can keep pumping and drilling, and we’ll just phase them out with alternatives, on the basis of some kind of market logic, is not going to work. There is no question that we need to adopt a “keep it in the ground” policy—like, yesterday. That has to be one of our central demands.We have to scale up our campaigns against the oil companies, and we have to win. This is a necessary political struggle.

Sarah: Can you talk more about the concept of a “just transition”—where it comes from, what it’s calling for?

Kali: Just so folks know, the term comes out of the labor movement in the 1980s, particularly some folks who were working in labor sectors, including the petrochemical and thermonuclear industries. The concept was adopted to say that our interests around having a clean and safe environment, and your interest in having a living-wage job, are not and should not be opposed. There is a system in place keeping us at odds with each other in the short term. We have to change the system. A key part is taking care of our communities, making sure that the overall impacts of toxic contamination are thoroughly addressed. There has to be a way in which new jobs are created that enable workers to go through a just transition from one set of skills to another set of skills and maintain a high standard of living.

For Cooperation Jackson, which is part of the It Takes Roots Alliance, we fully endorse the just transition framework. This means highlighting grassroots, independent solutions in front-line communities: programs centering on reparations, decolonization and building a democratic economy through the advancement of the social and solidarity economy. For us at Cooperation Jackson, this is linked to a program of eco-socialist development. We are going to have to ultimately do a major overhaul in how things are produced, distributed, consumed and recycled back into the natural resource systems that we depend on. If we don’t think about just transition in a long-term, holistic way, we are missing the point. To think we can make some tweaks to capitalism or expansive “carbon neutral” production—that is also missing the point.

To address our deep problems, we have to shift wealth and power—it has to be moved from the United States and Europe to the rest of the world. We know we are going to run into a great deal of resistance from corporations and governments. We want to include that in our narrative of what a just transition entails.

Right now, as we speak, the COP24 climate talks are happening in Poland, and there are workers there in the coal industry who are trying to appropriate the term “just transition” to say “clean coal” is part of the just transition, which is contrary to the spirit and letter of the concept, especially knowing how that industry is contributing to the crisis we are in.

Sarah: What do you think about the Green New Deal’s call for a jobs guarantee?

Kali: It excites me, because I could see the immediate benefits here in my community in Jackson, Mississippi. That would create a lot of jobs for the young people in my community for the people who are chronically unemployed and underemployed. However, we should push for this plan with open eyes. There’s a limit to how many jobs could be created and how long they could be sustained. At a certain point, the logic of expansion has to run its course and end. You have to go back to eco-socialism. There need to be limits we impose on ourselves. We can’t just keep extracting minerals out of the earth—we’re going to have to figure out some natural limits to live in. I would like to see more of that infused into the Green New Deal: real conversations about our natural limits and how to create a truly sustainable system, so that we don’t exhaust all of the earth’s resources and deprive them to future generations. We have to start thinking about that now.

Sarah: Among other things, the Green New Deal calls for new investment in public banking. The draft text reads, “Many will say, ‘Massive government investment! How in the world can we pay for this?’ The answer is: in the same ways that we paid for the 2008 bank bailout and extended quantitative easing programs, the same ways we paid for World War II and many other wars. The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments, new public banks can be created (as in WWII) to extend credit and a combination of various taxation tools (including taxes on carbon and other emissions and progressive wealth taxes) can be employed.”

What do you think of this public banking component?

Kali: We are big-time supporters of public banking. We’ve been thinking of that in relation to the implementation of the Jackson-Kush Plan going back 10 years, and we’re still trying to figure out how to put it in practice on the municipal level. I’m excited to see it embedded in Green New Deal proposal. Without that, you won’t have certain kinds of capital controls over the process. But we need to make sure there’s going to be sufficient investment in communities. I don’t think enough of the Left is really talking about it.

Some people will say public banking is just another reform measure in the logic of capitalism. That’s true but we’re not going to eliminate finance overnight, like it or not. One of the first steps in the socialist transition as we see it, is that we’re going to have to learn how to discipline capital and put it to public use. That’s a key thing that I think public banks will help us do as we learn and grow. There will still be contradictions to deal with, on display in struggle against the pipeline in North Dakota, because the public banks there are invested in that. This is not without contradiction, but we will have to set them up to be run by communities, and they must have a profoundly different orientation and logic. Whoever on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s team that put that in there, I was very much pleased to see it.

Sarah: To what extent were front-lines environmental justice groups consulted about the Green New Deal?

Kali: As an individual I was not consulted, but I think it’s a two-way street, because I also didn’t do much to help her get elected. The natural inclination is you’re going to listen to the folks who support you. The political trade off, whether we like it or not, is that you listen to those who put skin in the game to help you. That’s a reality we need to start with. Whether or not Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reaches out, we have an obligation to tap her on her shoulder and say some of these ideas are terrible, here’s why, here are alternatives, here are examples of what the alternative looks like in practice—you can elevate them and use them as a model. That’s our task on the left—to intervene in that particular way. It’s not a question of whether or not she will listen: She’s an elected official, and we have move her to listen through the force of our organizing initiatives. We have to struggle with her to make sure she votes in the broadest interests possible, since she’s trying to lead this on a national level.

For me, it’s our task to hit her up, to contact her, to make sure we are very upfront and vocal from this point forward, to make sure what we’re demanding and proposing is very clear. We have to win other folks over to that position as well. Some of the best ideas might not carry the day if they don’t have an organized constituency behind them. She’s going to have to go to battle, she’s going to have to fight for the Green New Deal, and she’s probably going to listen to those forces that have the greatest leverage in terms of resources, or the greatest number of voices in sheer numbers. Those are things we have to deliver—we need to deliver that to make sure she’s accountable to our demands. We need to be real about how this game is going to play out. And be clear about what we bring to the table to make sure we get the outcomes we need.

Press link for more: In These Times

Escalating Queensland Bushfire Threat: Interim Conclusions #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange Demand #GreenNewDeal #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum #COP24

Introductory note: The Climate Council will publish a report on bushfire risk in Queensland in early 2019.

This builds on a significant body of published work by the Council, including a 2016 report entitled Be Prepared: Climate Change and the Queensland Bushfire Threat. 

With devastating and unprecedented bushfires currently burning in Queensland, the Council believes it is important to release the Interim Findings of the upcoming report to provide information for the Australian community.

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

Climate change has increased the risk of bushfires in Queensland.

  • Bushfire risk is increased by fuel dryness and hot, dry, windy conditions.
  • Climate change has increased the incidence of extreme heat, making heatwaves longer and more frequent. Eight of the state’s ten hottest years on record have occurred since 1998. Since the 1970s, the number of days with maximum temperatures over 35°C in most of Queensland has increased by about 10-45 days above the historical average, depending on the region.
  • Tropical and sub-tropical Queensland is often associated in people’s minds with warm, humid conditions and moist vegetation not conducive to major bushfires. This is changing. More frequent heatwave events typified by hot, dry air masses coming from the interior result in higher temperatures accompanied by lower humidity. This increases evaporation and rapidly dries out fuels, even in rainforests, making conditions more conducive to major bushfires. Major bushfires were burning as far north as Cairns in August and September 2018.
  • Weekly bushfire frequencies in Australia have increased by 40% between 2008 and 2013, with tropical and subtropical Queensland the most severely affected.
  • Extreme fire weather and longer fire seasons have been observed since the 1970s across much of Australia including Queensland, particularly along the east coast.

Australia is the worst in the world on climate policy.

The devastating bushfires burning across Queensland in November 2018 have been made worse by climate change.

  • In late November 2018, maximum temperature records were smashed at numerous locations including at Cairns (42.6°C), Innisfail (42°C), and Mackay (39.7°C) on Monday 26 November and at Townsville (41.7°C) and Cooktown (43.9°C) on Tuesday 27 November (see Table 1).

  • Strong, gusting winds, low humidity and record high temperatures fanned devastating bushfires over the past two weeks, affecting property, infrastructure, ecosystems and farming land. Climate change is driving a higher incidence of these conditions. Around 130 fires are still burning across the state as of 29 November.

  • On 29 November several areas of Queensland experienced “Catastrophic” fire weather conditions for the first time ever recorded. In these conditions fires are uncontrollable and loss of life and property is expected unless large-scale evacuations take place.

Queensland Premier ignores climate change loves coal.

Communities, emergency services and health services across Queensland need to be adequately resourced to cope with increasing bushfire risk.

  • Bushfires in Queensland over the years have caused numerous deaths and losses of property and infrastructure, and have negatively affected agricultural and forestry production, and ecosystems.
  • The average annual economic cost of bushfires in Australia is $1.1 billion per year (Deloitte 2017).
  • Inhalation of smoke and gases from bushfires can affect human health, especially in the elderly, young or those with heart or respiratory conditions.
  • Increasing severity, intensity and frequency of fires, coupled with increasing length of bushfire seasons throughout Australia, is straining Queensland’s existing resources and capacity for fighting and managing fires.
  • During the current fires other states and territories have sent firefighters, fire trucks and aircraft to Queensland to assist. Queensland’s bushfire season usually does not extend this long, and fortuitously, NSW and the ACT, which normally would be experiencing heightened bushfire threats now, have experienced some rain allowing them to release resources.
  • Overlapping fire seasons will increasingly restrict the ability of states and territories, and of other countries such as the USA, Canada and New Zealand, to send firefighting assistance. This will drive increased costs for state and territory governments, or alternatively, increased losses.

Stronger climate change action is needed to reduce bushfire risk.

  • Australia must reduce its greenhouse gas pollution rapidly and deeply to reduce the risk of exposure to extreme events, including bushfires. Burning fossil fuels, like coal, oil and gas, must be phased out.

  • So-called ‘clean coal’ or any new fossil fuel projects, such as Adani’s Carmichael mine, are not compatible with effectively tackling climate change.

  • We have the solutions at our disposal to tackle climate change, we need to accelerate the transition to renewables and storage technologies, and non-polluting transport, infrastructure, and food production.

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Press link for more: Climate Council

#COP24 our last chance to save humanity? #auspol #qldpol #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #StopAdani #ClimateChange is already disastrous.

COP24 must unleash the full potential of the Paris Agreement

COP24—held in Katowice, Poland from 2-14 December– must unleash the full potential of the Paris Agreement by finalizing the Paris Agreement Work Programme.

This will put into place the practical implementation guidelines needed to implement the historic agreement that aims to limit global warming to well under 2°C this century.

The Work Programme must provide a way to track progress and ensure that climate action is transparent.

This in turn will build trust and send a signal that governments are serious about addressing climate change.

COP24 also needs to establish a clear way forward on climate finance to ensure greater support for climate action in developing countries.

5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT COP24

1 What, When and Where is COP24?

Since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted in 1992, parties have met at least once a year to further the implementation of the Convention. This year, the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change– COP 24–will take place in Katowice, Poland from 2-14 December. Parties to the Kyoto Protocol will also meet. The Katowice Conference will mark the third anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement, which was agreed to in 2015.

2. Why is COP 24 so important?

COP24 must unleash the full potential of the Paris Agreement by finalizing the Paris Agreement Work Programme. This will put into place the practical implementation guidelines needed to track progress and ensure that climate action is transparent. This in turn will build trust and send a signal that governments are serious about addressing climate change. COP24 also needs to establish a clear way forward on climate finance to ensure greater support for climate action in developing countries.

3. What should COP 24 accomplish?

What countries say in Poland will determine climate efforts and action for years to come. With high-level events, panel discussions and roundtables, COP24 should address three main issues: the rules and procedures for how countries will meet their commitments, how climate action will be financed, and “ambition”—what countries may be willing to do to exceed their Paris emissions-cutting commitments when they’re updated in 2020. The Paris Agreement Work Programme will make the Paris Agreement fully operational by unlocking ambitious action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and to empower developing countries.

4. Why is it so urgent to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

In early October, the special report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that the world is already witnessing the consequences of 1°C of global warming. There is already more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes. Every bit of additional warming brings greater risks. There are clear benefits to limiting warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C: 420 million fewer people being exposed to severe heat waves, survival of some tropical coral reefs, loss of fewer plants and animal species, and the protection of forests and wetland habitats.

5. Why will there be a 2019 Climate Summit?

In September 2019, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres will convene a climate summit to mobilize political and economic efforts at the highest level possible to strengthen climate action and ambition worldwide. Even if all the commitments made by countries for the Paris Agreement are achieved, the world will still be on a course to warm by more than 3°C this century. In advance of the 2020 deadline for countries to raise their commitments in their national climate plans, the Summit will focus on practical initiatives to limit emissions and build climate resilience. The Summit will focus on driving action in six areas; namely, energy transition, climate finance and carbon pricing, industry transition, nature-based solutions, cities and local action, and resilience.

Press link for more: United Nations

Australia is a rogue nation on climate

We are the worst in the world!

Australian Marine Conversation Society (AMCS) demands Adani Coal admit polluting the Great Barrier Reef. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum #QandA

DECEMBER 11, 2018

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) today demanded that Adani admit in Court it polluted the Great Barrier Reef with coal-contaminated water. 

Today the company is back in the Bowen Magistrates Court challenging a prosecution by the Queensland government over the discharge of coal-laden water into the Great Barrier Reef during Cyclone Debbie in March 2017. 

Adani’s own letter to the Queensland government last year revealed that it discharged an amount of coal-contaminated water far in excess of the temporary emissions licence it was granted by the Queensland Environment Department for the duration of the Cyclone. 

“Adani is a company that has shown many times that it cannot be trusted with our precious Reef,” said AMCS Reef campaign director Imogen Zethoven. 

“It has a terrible environmental record in India, including a major coal spill into the marine environment near Mumbai that it failed to clean up for more than five years. It has polluted beaches and destroyed mangroves.

“Now in Australia, it is in court fighting charges that it has polluted the Great Barrier Reef. It is also being investigated for illegal drilling at the Carmichael mine site. 

“The Reef is in grave danger due to climate change, which is mainly driven by mining and burning coal. Multiple reports have been released saying that the time is up for new coal developments.

“The IPCC 1.5C report warns we stand to lose all of the world’s coral reefs if global temperature rises to 2C. 

“The choice is stark and upon us now: we can either allow a monstrous new coal mine to go ahead that will push temperature rise beyond the limits for the Great Barrier Reef or we can say time’s up for new coal, and protect the Reef and the 64,000 jobs that depend on it. 

“Why would any Australian government allow a mine to proceed that will spell disaster for our most precious natural asset?”

Press link for more: AMCS

Right to end life on Earth: Can corporations that spread climate change denialism be held liable? #auspol #qldpol #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #StopAdani #ClimateEmergency

If a corporation’s propaganda destroys the world, doesn’t that conflict with our right to live?

To facetiously paraphrase a line that I often hear from global warming deniers: Don’t be offended, I’m just asking questions.

It’s conventional wisdom that the right to free speech does not permit you to shout “fire!” in a crowded theater – but does that mean you have the right to claim there is no fire when a theater is ablaze?

This is the question posed by the existential crisis of man-made global warming, and it is one that doesn’t lend itself to an easy answer.

Certainly it can be acknowledged that man-made global warming has forced us to re-examine other verities that once underpinned the modern liberal political order. Laissez-faire economic theory, which holds that state regulation of the economy is an unequivocal social ill, doesn’t stand up when you consider that insufficient environmental regulations got us into this mess and stronger ones will be necessary to mitigate the damage.

A similar observation could be made about the consumerist ethos that drives free market economic models: A status quo of constant expansion may be economically healthy within the paradigm of capitalist markets, but it is devastatingly unsustainable when it comes to the fitness of our planet.

These are more obvious conclusions, and more comfortable ones too, since anyone who doesn’t view free market economic theory as a dogma akin to a secular religion (that is, anyone who hasn’t drunk the right-wing Kool-aid) admits that we can increase state regulations over the economy without fundamentally eroding human freedom. Yet the same cannot be said of those who think that civil or even criminal penalties should be imposed on the men and women who abuse free speech to insist that the Earth is not heading toward catastrophe when the scientific evidence conclusively proves otherwise.

Sir David Attenborough’s warning to COP24 last week

“Tempting though the idea is, I would not favor modifying Western legal systems to permit the imposition of financial liability on any individual or organization that is found to have ‘spread incorrect information about man-made climate change,’” Laurence Tribe, an author and constitutional law professor at Harvard, told Salon by email. “The key to my reason for resisting such a modification is in the word ‘found.’ If I ask myself: Whom would I trust to make an authoritative ‘finding’ about which information about a topic as complex as man-made climate change is ‘incorrect,’ I must answer: Nobody. Certainly not any public official or governmental agency or any government-designated private group. I trust the process of open uncensored dialogue among experts and lay persons to generate truthful understandings over time, especially if we enact and enforce requirements of transparency and disclosure about who is funding which assertions. But I would be deeply concerned about anything resembling the identification and empowerment of a Commissar of Truth.”

He added, “That said, I am not opposed to litigation against particular corporations – take Exxon, just for illustration – based on clear and convincing proof (to the satisfaction of a judicially supervised jury) that those corporations (or the individuals who direct their activities) deliberately falsified research results or other data in order to cover up their own knowledge about how and to what degree their own products or services and those who purchase them contribute to anthropogenic climate change.”

“Such litigation,” Tribe continued, “would be predicated on classic principles of economically motivated fraud and would avoid the pitfalls and perils of establishing an official scheme for determining what is true and what is false in the world of scientific claims. Such official schemes amount to government censorship, and I think we are better off if we assume that all such censorship can and in the long run will be turned to evil ends.”

Michael E. Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, shared his own views on whether individuals who mislead the public about climate change should face penalties for doing so.

“In my book ‘The Hockey Stick and the Climate War,’ I state that those who knowingly misled the public and policymakers about the reality and threat of climate change must be held responsible for their actions, and that includes legal repercussions,” Mann told Salon. “Note that there is a distinction between those at the top (e.g., fossil fuel executives and lobbyists and the politicians in their pocket) who are guilty of misleading the public, and those at the bottom (the typical climate denying trolls we encounter on the internet) who in many cases are actually victims of the disinformation campaign.”

Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, broke down the situation in a similar way.

“Yes but. The ‘but’ is the difficulty in doing so and how one assigns blame,” Trenberth told Salon. “I do think that the other countries in the world ought to put something like a 25% tariff on all American goods on the grounds that they were produced using artificially low energy prices. This comes back directly to the government policies (of getting out of the Paris agreement), for instance.”

“I doubt it will happen because of the might of the [money],” Trenberth continued. “I do think that politicians like Trump and the Republicans will go down in history as major bad guys (and gals).”

Tribe also acknowledged that, while it is questionable whether climate change deniers should be held financially accountable for spreading misinformation, harsher consequences should be imposed on government officials who shirk their responsibility to the public.

“I certainly favor holding government officials accountable for deliberately withholding information of public importance, let alone information about existential threats, when the release of that information would not genuinely threaten national security (e.g., by ‘outing’ the identity of CIA operatives in the field),” Tribe pointed out. “Imposing such accountability on government officials furthers the values of free and open expression that the First Amendment protects and does not in any way entail the worries about censorship and its dangers that I mentioned in my first answer. On the contrary, it is settled that ‘government speech’ is not shielded by the First Amendment at all. See, e.g., Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans (2015).”

Expanding on Tribe’s point, there is no reason that Republican Party politicians who have access to reliable information about the threat posed by man-made climate change and choose not to act on it — or even actively suppress it — should not be held legally accountable for doing so. While it is tempting to focus on President Donald Trump in this respect, it is important to remember that most of his fellow Republicans share his climate change denialism and likely would have acted similarly when it comes to stifling scientific research and ignoring the threat of global warming. While Trump should be held accountable for what he has done, it would be folly to forget that on this issue, his actions are entirely consistent with the will of his party.

And should that entire party be held legally accountable? Like Tribe, I would argue no, but the answer doesn’t entirely sit well with me. Whether they ignore man-made climate change because they hate liberals and wish to defy them, or because admitting to its reality would force them to modify their economic philosophy, or for any other reason, the bottom line is that they are convincing people that the theater isn’t on fire even as it continues to burn to the ground. The fact that the prevailing concepts regarding political freedom protect their right to abet the conflagration, but not the rights of those whose lives will be destroyed in the process, demonstrates that — if nothing else — our ideas about preserving freedom and justice in a civilized society need to be updated.

Press link for more: Salon.com