BoE governor Mark Carney is right to suggest adding global warming to stress tests
Most central bankers make a virtue of the narrowness of their remit, remaining circumspect on issues deemed to go beyond it.
Not Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, who, despite facing criticism for exceeding his mandate, has suggested the risks arising from climate change should form part of itsannual stress testsfor banks from 2019.
The suggestion is timely.
It comes a few days after rules governing how to implement the Paris climate agreementwere approved, against significant odds, by nearly 200 countries at the COP24 talks in Poland.
It is also uncontroversial — it does not require a change to the regulatory framework, but simply adds a risk to the list that banks are already meant to measure. Furthermore, the Bank of England is suggesting including climate change as an exploratory scenario, which banks can neither pass nor fail.
They are required only to scrutinise whether they are doing enough. For that reason, many climate activists will consider the proposal, much like the Paris agreement itself, does not go far enough.
The measure should at least help to convince financial sector actors of the potential impact they face from climate issues.
The latest warnings about global warming are sobering.
The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changereportnoted that on current trends, average global temperatures are set to rise by 3-4C from pre-industrial levels by 2100.
Failure to take action to curb that rise creates multiple risks.
Extreme heat events are likely to multiply.
So, too, are the frequency and intensity of heavy rain and floods, and of droughts.
Actions taken to mitigate climate change also carry risk.
New policies aimed at limiting average global temperature rises, in line with the Paris agreement, will make it harder for hydrocarbon-intensive industries to operate profitably.
This could leave companies with stranded assets worth billions, and the banks that lent to them with enormous unpaid debts.
Whatever the source of the risk, a core function of a central bank is to ensure that money is being safely lent.
Lenders are moving slowly because unlike the insurance sector they are less directly exposed to the destructive power of extreme weather. But they are not immune — and should be paying more heed.
A report by insurance company Swiss Re found the total economic loss from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters nearly doubled to $337bn in 2017, from $180bn the year before.
Lloyd’s of London this year posted its first loss in six years, citing the impact of a series of natural disasters.
Axa, the large insurer, has warned that more than 4C of warming this century would make the world “uninsurable”.
The consequences for the whole financial system would then be catastrophic.
Any move by the Bank of England to incorporate climate risks in stress tests would be the first by a central bank of a major financial centre. Butothers are alertto climate change risks.
In 2017, the Dutch central bank published a report entitled “Waterproof?”, which concluded that financial institutions should factor in the consequences of a changing climate and the transition to a carbon-neutral economy.
Such steps alone will not prevent the oceans rising, climate-induced mass migration or extreme weather.
The “tragedy of the horizon”, as Mr Carney puts it, is the danger that by the time climate change is recognised by enough actors to be a defining issue for financial stability, it may already be too late to manage it.
Policymakers have severely underestimated the risks of ecologicaltipping points, according to a study that shows 45% of all potential environmental collapses are interrelated and could amplify one another.
The authors said their paper,publishedin the journal Science, highlights how overstressed and overlapping natural systems are combining to throw up a growing number of unwelcome surprises.
“The risks are greater than assumed because the interactions are more dynamic,” said Juan Rocha of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. “The important message is to recognise the wickedness of the problem that humanity faces.”
It then cross-referenced the 30 types of shift to examine the impacts they might have on one another and human society.
Only 19% were entirely isolated. Another 36% shared a common cause, but were not likely to interact. The remaining 45% had the potential to create either a one-way domino effect or mutually reinforcing feedbacks.
Among the latter pairings were Arctic ice sheets and boreal forests. When the former melt, there is less ice to reflect the sun’s heat so the temperature of the planet rises. This increases the risks of forest fires, which discharge carbon into the air that adds to the greenhouse effect, which melts more ice. Although geographically distant, each amplifies the other.
By contrast, a one-way domino-type impact is that between coral reefs and mangrove forests. When the former are destroyed, it weakens coastal defences and exposes mangroves to storms and ocean surges.
Thedeforestation of the Amazonis responsible for multiple “cascading effects” – weakening rain systems, forests becoming savannah, and reduced water supplies for cities like São Paulo and crops in the foothills of the Andes. This, in turn, increases the pressure for more land clearance.
Until recently, the study of tipping points was controversial, but it is increasingly accepted as an explanation for climate changes that are happening with more speed and ferocity than earlier computer models predicted. The loss of coral reefs and Arctic sea ice may already be past the point of no return. There are signs the Antarctic is heading the same way faster than thought.
Co-author Garry Peterson said thetipping of thewest Antarctic ice shelfwas not on the radar of many scientists 10 years ago, but now there was overwhelming evidence of the risks – including losses of chunks of ice the size of New York – and some studies now suggest the tipping point may have already been passed by the southern ice sheet, which may now be releasing carbon into the atmosphere.
“We’re surprised at the rate of change in the Earth system. So much is happening at the same time and at a faster speed than we would have thought 20 years ago. That’s a real concern,” said Peterson. “We’re heading ever faster towards the edge of a cliff.”
The fourth most downloaded academic research of 2018 was theHothouse Earthpaper, which considered how tipping points could combine to push the global climate into an uninhabitable state.
The authors of the new paper say their work goes beyond climate studies by mapping a wider range of ecological stress points, such as biodiversity loss, agricultural expansion, urbanisation and soil erosion. It also focuses more on what is happening at the local level now, rather than projecting geo-planetary trends into the future.
“We’re looking at things that affect people in their daily lives. They’re things that are happening today,” said Peterson. “There is a positive message as it expands the range of options for action. It is not just at an international level. Mayors can also make a difference by addressing soil erosion, or putting in place social policies that place less stress on the environment, or building up natural coastal defences.”
Rocha has spent 10 years building a database of tipping points, or “regime shifts” as he calls them. He urges policymakers to adopt a similar interdisciplinary approach so they can better grasp what is happening.
“We’re trying to connect the dots between different research communities,” said Rocha. “Governments also need to look more at interactions. They should stop compartmentalising ministries like agriculture, fisheries and international relations and try to manage environmental problems by embracing the diversity of causes and mechanisms underlying them. Policies need to match the scale of the problem.
“It’s a little depressing knowing we are not on a trajectory to keep our ecosystem in a functional state, but these connections are also a reason for hope; good management in one place can prevent severe environmental degradation elsewhere. Every action counts.”
Labor shouldn’t just back the Green New Deal, it should help lead the way. (Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Workers have gotten a raw deal.
Employers and their Republican (Liberal) allies are trying to eliminate workers’ rights both in the workplace and at the ballot box.
But even when Democrats controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress, they did little to protect, let alone expand, the rights of working people. Workers need a new deal.
Now, an alliance of social movements and members of Congress are proposing a Green New Deal to create millions of jobs by putting Americans to work making a climate-safe economy. This program meets the needs of—and has the potential to unite—the labor movement, environmentalists, and all those who have been the victims of inequality, discrimination, racism and, now, climate change.
In the week following the 2018 midterm elections, a group of 150 protesters led by young people with the Sunrise Movement occupied the office of likely Democratic House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, urging her to support a Green New Deal. Newly-elected House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) joined the protest with a resolution in hand to establish a Select Committee for a Green New Deal. The proposal has since amassed growing support among Congressional representatives, progressive organizations and young people across the country.
The Green New Deal is poised to become a factor in the 2020 elections. Labor unions should take this opportunity to embrace the proposal—and fight to make sure it’s a strong vehicle for advancing workers’ rights.
What was the New Deal?
In the depths of the Great Depression, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched the New Deal—a set of government programs to provide employment and social security, reform tax policies and business practices, and stimulate the economy. It included the building of homes, hospitals, school, roads, dams and electrical grids. The New Deal put millions of people to work and created a new policy framework for American democracy.
New Deal programs included public employment (Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps); farm price supports (Agricultural Adjustment Act); environmental restoration (reforestation and land conservation); labor rights (Wagner Act); minimum wages and standards (National Recovery Act and Fair Labor Standards Act); cooperative enterprises (Works Progress Administration support for self-help); public infrastructure development (TVA and rural electrification); subsidized basic necessities (food commodity programs and Federal Housing Act); construction of schools, parks, and housing (Civil Works Administration); and income maintenance (Social Security Act).
Besides its famous “alphabet soup” of Federal government agencies, the New Deal was part of a larger process of social change that included experimentation at a state, regional and local level; organization among labor, unemployed, urban, the elderly and other grassroots constituencies; and lively debate on future alternatives that went far beyond the policies actually implemented.
What a Green New Deal would do
The Green New Deal is a program that all trade unionists and advocates for working people can and should get behind.
While there are a variety of detailed proposals for a Green New Deal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ proposal promises to create millions of jobs through building a new 100%-renewable electrical system and a national “smart grid,” retrofitting residential and industrial buildings, and building a new, low-emission transportation system.
It also seeks to end the epidemic of poverty by mitigating deeply entrenched racial, regional and gender-based inequalities in income and wealth and distributing federal aid and other investment equitably to historically impoverished and marginalized communities.
At its core, the Green New Deal would work toward saving the climate by meeting scientific targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases, investing in the drawdown and capture of greenhouse gases, and making “green” technology a major export of the United States to help other countries transition to carbon-neutral economies.
Why labor should support a Green New Deal
American workers, like most Americans, are dissatisfied with the status quo and want change. Organized labor is in a position to help lead that change. But all too rarely is labor’s program directed to a vision of what we want for the future.
The Green New Deal provides a visionary program for labor and can provide a role for unions in defining and leading a new vision for America.
At the same time, the Green New Deal projects a program that is not far-fetched. It includes plans for a public works programs, the expansion of human rights and new entitlement programs. Americans have made such goals a reality before in U.S. history—with organized labor playing a leading role.
Why a GreenNew Deal? Only protecting humanity from climate catastrophe can unify the political forces needed to meet labor’s demands for jobs, union rights, economic security, full employment, and worker empowerment.
There are 12 key reasons why labor should get on board with a Green New Deal:
Avert climate catastrophe: We are in a climate emergency. The current threat to humanity rivals that of Nazi armies that once threatened to establish a “thousand-year Reich” whose master race would rule the world. Millions of workers mobilized to build the tanks, planes and ammunition that defeated the Nazis. Today we need a mobilization that similarly puts millions to work building the windmills, solar collectors, grids and other tools needed to defeat climate change. Working people have no greater collective interest.
Provide jobs for all: The production of equipment and construction of infrastructure for the new climate-safe economy will provide manufacturing and construction jobs for millions of workers.The Climate Jobs Guarantee contained within the Green New Deal would provide jobs for all who want them at a base wage of $15, including healthcare and other benefits. The ongoing conversion to a sustainable economy will continue to provide good jobs for generations.
Abolish poverty: In addition to a jobs guarantee providing wages that will lift workers out of poverty, the Green New Deal will also include basic income programs and universal health care for those who are not in the workforce.
Rebuild the labor movement: Put simply, a Green New Deal can help rebuild the U.S. labor movement. With input from labor, the plan can guarantee the right to organize, bargain collectively, engage in concerted action and retain basic Constitutional rights on the job for all workers.
Unite the working class: President Donald Trump, the Republican Party and corporate America have been working overtime to divide the working class. The Green New Deal embodies the common interests of all working people in climate protection, jobs for all and greater equality. At the same time, it addresses the legacy of race, gender, and other forms of discrimination and injustice. And it expresses human values that recognize the equal worth and common fate of all people.
Win wide popular support for a labor-friendly program: Public opinion polling shows that the programs of the Green New Deal are extraordinarily popular. A recent poll shows that over half of voting-eligible adults said they would be more likely to support a candidate running on a Green Job Guarantee, including 35 percent of Trump voters. And young people are far more likely to support a candidate running on a platform of 100 percent renewable energy and Green jobs.
Build a powerful labor-friendly coalition: The original New Deal coalition brought together diverse constituencies including labor, African Americans, city dwellers and farmers. That coalition was a dominant force in American politics for more than 40 years. The Green New Deal similarly provides the basis for a broad, long-lasting coalition that can again transform American politics and society. By helping lead that coalition, organized labor can secure the rights and well-being of all workers.
Unify environmental and labor forces in the Democratic Party: Labor and environmentalists have too often been at loggerheads in the Democratic Party. This has undermined both the protection of the environment and of workers. A Green New Deal can become a common program unifying the environmental and labor constituencies of the Democratic Party. By making protecting the climate the way to provide jobs for all, it puts an end to the phony conflict between “jobs and the environment.”
Challenge corporate dominance of the Democratic Party: For far too long, the Democrats’ corporate wing, representing the interests of the wealthy, has dominated the party. Even when Democrats controlled the Presidency and both houses of Congress, the corporate wing of the party helped stymie both labor law reform and effective climate protection—screwing workers twice. The Green New Deal provides a program that represents the views of the great majority of Democrats that can allow the party’s rank-and-file to take control and advance both workers’ rights and climate protection.
Strengthen workers bargaining power: The tremendous demand for labor created by the transition to a fossil-free economy, combined with the Climate Jobs Guarantee, will eliminate that “long line of workers at the gate” that employers use to strengthen their hands in negotiations. The Climate Jobs Guarantee will set a new floor for wages and benefits that all employers will need to exceed if they wish to sustain a workforce.
Expand union apprenticeship and training: As with the economic mobilization for World War II, climate mobilization will require training a new workforce. The Green New Deal defines union apprenticeships and other training programs as a central way to do so. That will provide both a major source of financial support for unions and a chance to show the benefits of unionization to millions of workers entering the workforce or being retrained for new jobs.
Establish a standard for those who claim to be labor’s friends: One reason for organized labor’s declining clout has been the lack of a clear standard for those who seek labor’s support. The Green New Deal provides a clear statement of how candidates and organizations can show support for labor—and therefore what politicians must fight for if they want labor’s support.
What the New Deal did for labor
The New Deal established jobs programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), Civil Works Administration (CWA), and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA employed more than 8.5 million workers who built 650,000 miles of highways and roads, 125,000 public buildings, as well as schools, bridges, reservoirs, irrigation systems, parks and playgrounds.
In 1936, when many American employers were violently opposing unions, WPA director Harry Hopkins signed an agreement assuring the Workers Alliance of America, a merger of several unemployed organizations, the right to organize relief workers.
The Workers Alliance functioned as a proto-union in the WPA, striking, protesting grievances, and organizing mass demonstrations and marches to maintain and expand the program. It worked with the AFL and the nascent CIO to demand union scale for skilled workers, a minimum payment for WPA workers and collective bargaining for all workers on work-relief projects. Many WPA workers used their experience to become organizers in the new CIO. As the WPA wound down and the private economy revived, many former Workers Alliance activists became leaders in the new industrial unions.
The 1935 Social Security Act established retirement pensions, unemployment insurance, and welfare programs that remain the primary basis for economic security for many American workers to this day.
The 1935 National Labor Relations Act—aka the Wagner Act—guaranteed workers the right to bargain collectively through unions of their own choosing. Union membership virtually tripled in the decade following the passage of the act.
The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act set maximum hours, minimum wages and abolished child labor.
Through its role in the administrative agencies of the New Deal and its growing role in the New Deal coalition, organized labor achieved an unprecedented, if still subordinate, voice in the halls of governmental and political power.
What labor should ask of a Green New Deal
While current proposals for a Green New Deal align with workers’ interests, organized labor brings traditions and insights that can make them even more compelling.
Incorporating worker demands in the Green New Deal program will pay benefits long before they can be implemented at a national level. It will ensure that labor’s approach is understood and adopted by a wide coalition. And it will provide guidelines for what policies that coalition will fight for at a local, state, regional and industry level.
Labor needs to begin the discussion on what it wants in a Green New Deal. It needs a program that will transform the role of organized working people at least as profoundly as the programs of the New Deal. But that can’t simply be a matter of going back to labor’s past glories.
The rights of working people have been eroded under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Labor law as amended by Congress and interpreted by the courts has become less a protection for workers and unions than a means to restrict their freedom. Simply rolling back recent conservative victories like the Supreme Court’sJanusdecision is not enough. Labor can and should demand that the Green New Deal—like the original New Deal—establish a new framework that protects workers’ fundamental Constitutional and human rights.
Labor should demand that any Green New Deal:
Restore the right to organize, bargain collectively and engage in concerted action on the job: These rights were originally protected by the New Deal’s National Labor Relations Act, but they have been eroded by legislation, court decisions and the power of employers to discipline and fire their workers.
Guarantee the Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly in the workplace: These rights are essential to workers’ freedom to organize as they see fit. They are also essential aspects of human rights and human dignity that should not be eliminated once you enter the workplace.
Restore the right to strike: In the half-century following the Civil War, American workers’ movements maintained that the right to strike was a fundamental Constitutional right, guaranteed by the 13th Amendment’s prohibition of “involuntary servitude.” It’s time to enforce that right.
Guarantee the right to a safe and healthy work environment: The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970 supposedly assured “safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women,” but it was deeply flawed from the outset and has been gutted over time. A Green New Deal can help meet both labor and environmental goals by banning all unsafe practices in workplaces.
Provide a fair and just transition for workers whose jobs may be threatened by economic change: This should include but not be limited to change that results from the transition to a climate-safe economy. It should include an updated version of the GI Bill of Rights that gave returning World War II veterans education, housing, medical and other benefits to make a new start on life and economic development support for communities affected by economic transition.
Establish fair labor standards: The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provided minimum wages, limited the hours of work, and established other protections for workers. Today the minimum wage is so low that it fails to ensure even a poverty-level income. In practice, workers can be made to work for as few or as many hours as their employers want. New labor standards should ensure that anyone who works gets a living wage; employees are provided predictable hours of labor; and that workers may not be fired without just cause.
Establish strong state and local prevailing wage laws: The Davis-Bacon Act, passed on the eve of the New Deal, requires that all contractors and subcontractors performing federally-funded construction, alteration, or repair work must pay their workers no less than the prevailing wages and benefits for corresponding work on similar projects in the area. A Green New Deal should implement prevailing wage laws for all climate-protection jobs, all state- and locally-funded projects, as well as other industries.
Encourage industry-wide bargaining: The labor relations system established by the New Deal often led to industry-wide collective bargaining in which all steelworkers or auto workers were united in their confrontations with management. Today, workers in each industry and each corporation are often represented by dozens of different unions who all bargain separately with little coordination. A Green New Deal can encourage bargaining councils and other forms of coordination that promote higher wages and prevent a race to the bottom by taking wages out of competition.
Establish a “buy fair” and “buy local” procurement policy: A Green New Deal can provide incentives for quality jobs which provide family-sustaining wages and benefits; the right to form a union and engage in collective bargaining free of intimidation and reprisal; and hiring opportunities for workers in disadvantaged communities.
What trade unionists can do right now to win a Green New Deal
The idea of a Green New Deal has rapidly and unexpectedly broken through into public discussion. Here’s how unions can build on this momentum right now:
Support the Sunrise Movement’s Green New Deal actions: Show up for demonstrations at your Congressional representative’s office to demand they support a Green New Deal.
Ask politicians who depend on labor support to sign on to Congressional resolutions calling for a Green New Deal
Pass a resolution demanding a Green New Deal: The organization Labor for Single Payer first passed resolutions through hundreds of local unions, then dozens of national unions, and ultimately turned the labor movement into a powerful advocate for universal healthcare. The labor movement’s support for a Green New Deal can send a strong message that the plan is critical to building working-class power.
Push for elements of the Green New Deal in your collective bargaining demands: “Bargaining for the common good” is a growing trend for American unions. Many aspects of the Green New Deal can be won through union bargaining. For example, unions can bargain for their employers to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to apply prevailing wage standards to their own workers or outside contractors who perform the necessary work.
Join together with other unions and allies to demand a Green New Deal: Coalitions that advocate for protection for both workers and the climate have emerged at the local, state and national levels. You can join with them to form a powerful force to ultimately win a strong and bold Green New Deal.
This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.
Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us.Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don’t survive on clicks. We don’t want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place.But we can’t do it alone. It doesn’t work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do.
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 Upsituates 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.
InBurning UpI 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?
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 bookClimate Leviathanthat 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.
InBurning UpI 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 whythey went on strikein protest at inaction on climate change.
They will not be the last ones of their generation to do so.
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.
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.”
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. TheHeraldunderstands 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.
As four of the world’s largest oil and gas producers blocked UN climate talks from “welcoming” a key scientific report on global warming, Australia’s silence during a key debate is being viewed as tacit support for the four oil allies: the US,Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait.
Climate Strike protestors in Brisbane on Saturday
The end of the first week of the UN climate talks – known as COP24 – in Katowice,Poland, has been mired by protracted debate over whether the conference should “welcome” or “note” a key report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The IPCC’s 1.5 degrees report, released in October, warned the world would have to cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 45% by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5C and potentially avoid some of the worst effects of climate change, including a dramatically increased risk of drought, flood, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
The UN climate conference commissioned the IPCC report, but when that body went to “welcome” the report’s findings and commit to continuing its work, four nations – the US, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait andRussia, all major oil and gas producers – refused to accept the wording, insisting instead that the convention simply “note” the findings.
Negotiators spent two and a half hours trying to hammer out a compromise without success.
The apparently minor semantic debate has significant consequences, and the deadlock ensures the debate will spill into the second critical week of negotiations, with key government ministers set to arrive in Katowice.
Sir David Attenborough’s Warning to COP24
Most of the world’s countries spoke out in fierce opposition to the oil allies’ position.
The push to adopt the wording “welcome” was led by the Maldives, leader of the alliance of small island states, of which Australia’s Pacific island neighbours are members.
They were backed by a broad swathe of support, including from the EU, the bloc of 47 least developed countries, the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean, African, American and European nations, and Pacific countries such as the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu.
Climate Strike protestors give Australian’s new PM a Fail on climate science
Australia did not speak during the at-times heated debate, a silence noted by many countries on the floor of the conference, Dr Bill Hare, the managing director of Climate Analytics and a lead author on previous IPCC reports, told Guardian Australia.
“Australia’s silence in the face of this attack yesterday shocked many countries and is widely seen as de facto support for the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait’s refusal to welcome the IPCC report,” Hare said.
Richie Merzian, climate and energy program director at the Australia Institute, said widespread goodwill across the Katowice talks was being undermined by “a handful of countries” trying to disconnect the science and urgency from the implementation of the Paris agreement.
Australia government is stealing our children’s future
“It is disappointing but not surprising that Australia kept its head down during the debate … by remaining silent and not putting a position forward, Australia has tacitly supported the US, Russia and Saudi Arabia’s rejection of the latest science on climate change.”
Merzian said Australia’s regional neighbours, including New Zealand and Pacific islands, had voiced strong support for the IPCC’s report, which was a key outcome of the Paris agreement.
“A number of delegates privately shared their frustration that countries like Australia stood on the sidelines while Trump’s, Putin’s and King Salman’s representatives laid waste to the fundamental climate science.”
Australia is failing to protect the Great Barrier Reef from climate change
Hare said the interests of the fossil fuel industry were seeking to thwart the conference’s drive towards larger emissions cuts.
“The fossil fuel interest – coal, oil and gas – campaign against the IPCC 1.5 report and science continues to play out in the climate talks, but even those countries [opposing welcoming the report] are being hit by the impacts of only one degree of warming.
“The big challenge now is for the Polish presidency to set aside its obsession with coal, get out of the way and allow full acknowledgement of the IPCC 1.5C report, and its implications for increasing the ambition of all countries, in the conclusion of COP24 later this week.”
Australia’s environment minister, Melissa Price, arrived in Katowice on Sunday, with negotiations set to resume Monday morning.
“The government is committed to the Paris agreement and our emissions reduction targets,” she said before leaving Australia. “Australia’s participation in the Paris agreement and in COP24 is in our national interest, in the interests of the Indo-Pacific region, and the international community as a whole.”
Price said a priority for Australia at COP24 was to ensure a robust framework of rules to govern the reporting of Paris agreement targets. “Australia’s emissions reporting is of an exceptionally high standard and we are advocating for rules that bring other countries up to the standard to which we adhere.”
Australia’s emissions, seasonally adjusted, increased 1.3% over the past quarter. Excluding emissions from land use, land use change and forestry (for which the calculations are controversial), they are at a record high.
Police estimated the number of green activists at 17,000 while organisers counted 25,000
Up to 25,000 people marched through Paris on Saturday urging greater action on climate change, despite fears that their protest would be scuppered by “yellow vest” demonstrations.
Police estimated the number of green activists heading onto the streets at 17,000 while organisers counted 25,000 urging world governments to better protect the environment.
The numbers were similar to previous climate marches in Paris, despite sporadic violence in the city on Saturday among thousands of “yellow vest” demonstrators who want more help for France’s poor.
Organisers had to change the route of the climate march, marching instead from Place de la Nation to Place de la Republique, due to the yellow vest demonstrations, but refused a request by Interior Minister Christophe Castaner to postpone it.
“It was unthinkable to cancel this march.
It’s important to talk about problems related to the end of the world as well as the end of the month,” Elodie Nace, a spokeswoman for green NGO Alternatiba, told the crowds.
Thousands also marched in other French cities, including an estimated 10,000 in Marseille, 3,500 in Montpellier and 3,000 in Lille.
The “yellow vest” movement has been spurred by anger in small-town and rural France at rising car fuel taxes which were aimed at helping the country transition to a greener economy, but which protesters say hurts the poor.
But green activists at the climate marches urged people to find solutions for both environmental problems and the financial struggles of France’s poorest.
“Yellow vests, green vests — same anger,” they chanted.
Some “yellow vest” activists, clad in their emblematic high-visibility road jackets, joined the Paris march after breaking off from their own demonstration.
Marches had been organised in more than 120 towns across France to mark the COP24 climate talks in Poland.
When on Friday 30 November, big numbers of Australia’s school kids didn’t turn up for class and tens of thousands of them marched in the streets of 30 cities and regional centres, demanding the politicians act on climate change, it sent a shock wave through the corridors of power.
Climate Strike in Cairns
Life for the big polluters and those who cover for them has been made that much more difficult.
The government is acutely aware of the implications of the young turning against it.
This is why prime minister Scott Morrison came out and patronisingly spriuked that kids should be at school and not protesting.
By doing this, of course, he inadvertently made sure the effect was the opposite to what he intended. The word got around, went down the wrong way, and made sure more took part than may otherwise have.
Although the strike was initiated by students at Castlemaine in Victoria, the organisational force was provided by the AustralianYouth Climate Coalition, which has an incredible 150,000 members.
Many more than any political party. But it was the school students from primary and secondary schools that did the work to pull it off.
Kids rally in Sydney
So many taking part suggests that this age group as a whole, cares deeply about the issue, and this is creating a new generation of activists.
Morrison’s inept display took place, because the spread and strength of the passion coming from Australia’s school kids has caught him and his people by surprise, and because the crisis ridden government heading for an election, is increasingly reacting in panic mode, rather than a worked out strategy.
Kids walking out and protesting in such numbers has a longer term and more serious implication. They are the future and what they are doing is an indication of a seismic shift in generational political attitudes. a sign of what is coming.
Years of failure to address the question in an appropriate way, has done a lot to build resentment and put the present government on the nose. Climate warming is not the only issue. It is important. At the same time, in the bigger picture, this is mingled with an overall growing distrust of politicians across society, with perceptions of rampant corruption, the stranglehold of government and society in the hands of the corporate world and growing unfairness. The young are affected by this as well. They don’t trust politicians to do the right thing either, and this is breading a new generation of activists.
Australia’s kids want decisive action on climate change.
They hold that the government is not only not acting.
They destroying the future of the rising and coming generations as well.
They know that they are the ones who will ultimately pay the price and don’t like it one bit.
Anyone who witnessed the turnout in the streets could not help but feel the passion.
Bystanders were stunned by what they were witnessing.
Even big media had to admit something big is going on.
Passion over the threat of global warming is extending towards calling for an end to the stranglehold of big business over Australian politics and society, especially to the political establishment’s bowing before the fossil fuels industry. Failure to stop the Adani mine and rail link in Queensland got special attention. This message was load and clear.
Kids want a society and economy that is for people, and not just to fatten the bottom line not for the few at the top.
The announcement to community leaders, mining industry contractors and suppliers follows recent changes to simplify construction and reduce the initial capital requirements for the Carmichael Project, Adani said in a statement.
Mr Dow said construction of the mine in the Bowen Basin “will now begin”.
“Our work in recent months has culminated in Adani Group’s approval of the revised project plan that de-risks the initial stage of the Carmichael mine and rail project by adopting a narrow gauge rail solution combined with a reduced ramp-up volume for the mine,” he said.
“This means we’ve minimised our execution risk and initial capital outlay. The sharpening of the mine plan has kept operating costs to a minimum and ensures the project remains within the first quartile of the global cost curve.
Adani ignores the cost to the global economy of climate change.
Adani said the coal produced in the “initial ramp up phase will be “consumed by the Adani Group’s captive requirements”.
“We will now begin developing a smaller open cut mine comparable to many other Queensland coal mines and will ramp up production over time to 27.5mtpa,” Mr Dow said.
“The construction for the shorter narrow gauge rail line will also begin to match the production schedule.
Announcement of a new coal mine during a catastrophic fire emergency.
“We have already invested $3.3 billion in Adani’s Australian businesses, which is a clear demonstration of our capacity to deliver a financing solution for the revised scope of the mine and rail project.”
Mr Dow described the project as stacking up “both environmentally and financially”.
“Today’s announcement removes any doubt as to the project stacking up financially,” he added.
“We will now deliver the jobs and business opportunities we have promised for North Queensland and Central Queensland, all without requiring a cent of Australian taxpayer dollars.
Queenslanders suffer heat wave that will kill the Great Barrier Reef it’s no time to open new coal mines.
“In addition to providing these jobs in regional Queensland, our Carmichael coal will also provide a power source to improve living standards in developing countries.”
Adani asserts the Carmichael project will deliver more than 1500 direct jobs on the mine and rail projects during the initial ramp-up and construction phase”, and “thousands more indirect jobs”.
What about the jobs we will loose in tourism?
The company said preparatory works at the site were “imminent” and it was working with regulators to finalise “the remaining required management plans ahead of coal production”.
Adani added some of the management plans have been subject to two years of state and federal government review.
This process is expected to be complete and provided by the Governments in the next few weeks, it was stated.
Today’s announcement follows eight years of planning, securing approvals and successfully contesting legal challenges.
“We have worked tirelessly to clear the required hurdles,” Mr Dow said.
“Given we meet the same environmental standards and operate under the same regulations as other miners, we expect that Adani Mining will be treated no differently than any other Queensland mining company.”
Mr Dow described the people of north and central Queensland as being steadfast in their support of the project from the beginning.
“We want to thank them for sticking with us,” Mr Dow said.
“Thanks to the people of Rockhampton, Townsville, Mackay, Bowen, the Isaac and Central Highlands regions. We look forward to delivering on our promise of creating jobs and helping local businesses and the communities thrive for many years to come.”
“We’re ready to start mining and deliver on our promises to Queensland.”
Adani said the milestone will “help create new opportunities for trade and investment between Australia and India”.
42.6C temperature in Cairns broke a November record that has stood since 1900 by 5.4C
By Ben Smee
A record-breaking heatwave in northQueenslandwill further increase above-average marine temperatures, heightening the risk of another coral bleaching event on theGreat Barrier Reefnext year, scientists say.
Dozens of record November temperatures have been recorded in the region, most along the reef coastline, this week.
The most remarkable was atCairns, where consecutive days reached temperatures of 42.6C and 40.9C. The maximum temperature on Tuesday broke a November record that has stood since 1900 by 5.4C.
Extreme weatherfuelled more than 130 bushfires, which the premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Twitter was “not the kind of fire we have seen in Queensland before”.
“Heatwave records and fire weather is unprecedented,” Palaszczuk said.
A dust storm, brought by strong westerly winds, covered the southern inland parts of the state. In the north, thousands of nativeflying foxesdieddue to the high temperatures.
Reef scientist Terry Hughes, from the coral centre of excellence at James Cook University, said the summer heatwave was “terrifying” and lifted the chances of coral death on theGreat Barrier Reefearly next year.
The reef sustainedsuccessive marine heatwaves, in the early part of 2016 and 2017, which killed corals and badly damaged the northern and central sections.
Hughes said the bleaching forecasts were “trending upwards” but scientists would not have a clear picture until the end of January.
Coral ecophysiologist Dr Neal Cantin, from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said ocean temperatures remained below those recorded at the same time in 2015 and 2016, but warmer than historical averages.
Cantin said the current heatwave would “add heat and warm up the ocean. It certainly adds heat to the system. We’ve seen record breaking land temperatures this week, which we expect to see into the future with climate change and everything heating up.
“We’re in a watch phase. There’s definitely the potential and how the local weather patterns pan out in January and February will really determine whether we get a large scale bleaching event or not.
“There are some signs we may avoid [bleaching] this summer. At this stage it’s less likely to be as bad as 2016, but we’ll be ready to respond [if bleaching occurs].”
Reality of climate change sinking in
“The hazard I worry most about is heatwaves,” Andrew Gissing, a disaster management expert from the firm Risk Frontiers, said.
“Australia needs to be better prepared for heatwaves, with climate change we are already predicting they will get more severe.”
Gissing told Guardian Australia people often respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters based on their previous experiences. But he said governments, businesses and individuals were often not prepared for the increasing severity and frequency of such events.
“We did a lot of work in Lismore after Cyclone Debbie. So many people sheltered in their homes because that’s what they always did when it flooded. They just didn’t realise this flood was that much bigger
“People really need to be attuned to what’s actually happening … how the nature of climactic hazards is changing.”
Gissing said businesses needed to start investing in climate change mitigation and adaption measures.
“It’s going to be very hard to mitigate a lot of the [predicted climate] impacts, so adaptation for the future is going to be really important. Especially when you overlay climate change on a growing population base.
“The [number of people living on theQueenslandcoast] is likely to double by about 2030.
Because of climate change, we’re looking at there being more exposure [to disaster risks] there as well.”