Solar Impulse

The Market Can’t Solve a Massacre or the #ClimateCrisis #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #sapol #neoliberalism

By Patrick Blanchfield

The massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, one month ago today, left seventeen children and school staff dead.

It was the third highest-casualty mass shooting at an educational institution in American history (after Virginia Tech—32 dead—and Sandy Hook—27) and the ninth highest-casualty single-shooter mass shooting in modern American history.

Assembling such ranked lists, surveying body count subtotals, and tracking the fatalities balance sheet is nauseating, and it was perhaps in the spirit of that enterprise that South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds told NPR the day afterward: “You have to recognize, our most valuable assets are our kids.”

As a Republican with an “A” rating from the NRA, it would be entirely defensible to say Rounds’s words are belied by his deeds: He may say children are our greatest “assets,” but he certainly seems to value an NRA endorsement far more. But what’s striking about Rounds’ phrase isn’t its hypocrisy, but the way it captures a central truth about contemporary American politics.

Our political rhetoric, like our moral imagination, uses the vocabulary and logic of the market, of assets and investments, of incentives and innovation.

Your personal health is an asset, which you must safeguard through savvy navigation of insurance markets, shopping for doctors and medications, and close-reading complicated medical bills.

Immigrants, too, are assets, human resources whose financial contributions to their communities and potential for entrepreneurship become the pivot on which we hang appeals for empathy and support (This man being tragically deported by ICE is a successful small business owner!

This drowned child refugee could have been the next Steve Jobs!). And so on.

There is a word to describe this state of affairs, a word that describes both the way we’ve organized our current political and economic system, and the way we have let that system shape our social and emotional lives.

That word is neoliberalism.

What is neoliberalism?

The many competing definitions can be confusing and even misleading. And, since the history of neoliberalism has played out in many different countries, what the word denotes in one place is not necessarily the same in others. But we shouldn’t let nuance and complexity dissuade us from using the term, because neoliberalism is an incredibly powerful concept for understanding not just contemporary American life and politics in general, but our reactions to gun violence and school shootings specifically.

Neoliberalism is at once a subspecies of capitalism and a model of governance, a vision of what politics can and should be.

It sees political and social life almost exclusively through the lens of the free market, and asks us to consider ourselves and our fellow citizens primarily in terms of our economic activities: as consumers, as workers, as competitors, as human resources.

Under neoliberalism, in other words, the individual is less a human subject with rights that entail obligations from the government, but rather a variable in a broader calculus of efficiency, a site for maximizing revenue and minimizing expenditure.

Simply put, neoliberalism is about the withdrawal of government responsibility for political problems in favor of market-based “solutions” and individual “choices.”

In a very granular and insidious way, neoliberalism narrows the bounds of what counts as a “political” problem as such.

Dramatic political change becomes increasingly unthinkable, dismissed as unrealistic, impracticable, and naïve.

Transmuting hopes for radical transformation into market-based “innovation” as a primary driver of social change, neoliberal governance recedes into technocratic administration, busying itself with ever-more-arcane and bloodless policy tweaks intended merely to keep capital flowing smoothly and efficiently.

Meanwhile, as state responsibility for political problems evaporates, individuals are left to pick up the slack, obligated to perform vast amounts of compensatory emotional and material labor even as they grow ever more vulnerable, atomized, and overwhelmed.

Not coincidentally, neoliberalism has become our dominant system against the backdrop of decades of corporate deregulation, privatization, and the dismantling of social services, developments that it celebrates and champions.

The emotional and political landscape of American gun violence and school shootings specifically reads like an atlas of neoliberalism.

To be sure, our singular problem with gun murder—of which mass shootings are only a fractional percentile, one with no real analogue anywhere in any other nation in the world, neoliberal or otherwise—has deep roots in America’s unique history of ethnic cleansing, racial oppression, globalized militarism, entrenched inequality, and violent ideologies of masculinity; these forces shape how gun violence plays out in and determines which Americans must bear its traumas most. But how our society has chosen to frame and respond to the problem of mass shootings, and school shootings specifically, over the course of the past two decades illustrates neoliberalism’s corrosiveness.

Consider, first, the scope of mainstream reactions to mass shootings.

The problem of random massacres in public spaces is a properly political problem.

It strikes at the core of our basic ability to live together and interact safely with each other in the public sphere. And yet the primary themes in responses of our politicians from across the political spectrum have been disavowal, indifference, resignation, and opportunism.

Conservatives who are otherwise unabashed about endorsing heavy-handed and repressive responses to the evils of terrorism respond to gun massacres by waxing theological and proclaiming that evil cannot be “legislated.”

Liberals, meanwhile, have long operated from a position defined by a self-fulfilling preemptive concession to “reality” whereby entertaining the idea of an outright gun ban is taboo, foreclosed from the get-go.

Whatever one may think of a total gun ban as either a moral or a practical matter, the fact that it is a position currently espoused in public by precisely zero national-level politicians is significant.

The outcome of any political debate partially reflects a middle ground defined by the most extreme positions espoused by mainstream political actors.

American politics accommodates plenty of extreme positions, and the Republican party has been particularly successful in normalizing and leveraging the obstinacy of its most extreme politicians and constituents to consistently move policy and discourse rightwards.

Yet while voices calling for an elimination of the minimum wage or abortion bans are commonplace among conservatives, the signal absence of prominent Democrats stridently demanding a blanket gun ban—even as an ideal principle, deployed for purposes of bargaining—markedly predetermines the entire national conversation on guns.

The idea that the Democratic party is militantly dead-set on nationwide gun confiscation or the repeal of the Second Amendment is simultaneously laughable and a potent staple of paranoiac right-wing fantasies.

The reality is that many Democrats leap to pacify this fear as a token of their reasonableness. For decades now the horizon of political imaginability for gun control has thus been constricted from the outset, and the party has long condemned itself to measures that are so much triage and tinkering, to fundraising off the NRA rather than targeting the problem of money in politics or arms industry influence more broadly, and to publicity stunts and cynical legislative bids that are more about expanding the security state than about sustainably lowering gun deaths.

Even an assault weapons ban, despite its undeniable potential as a wedge issue, has long been seen by most Democrats as a nonstarter.

In the immediate wake of Parkland, the DCCC’s first instruction to Democrats was to avoid “politicizing” the massacre, steer clear of gun ban talk, and mirror the Republican language of “Thoughts and Prayers” themselves.

To be clear: Blame for America’s longstanding inertia on mass shootings cashes out differently for our two main parties.

Republicans playing hardball is not the same thing as Democrats playing catch-up. But the causes of this inertia, which have everything to do with the influence of market incentives—from corporate money to regulatory capture to political careerism—implicate each party, and have produced a state of affairs that is bigger than both of them.

For the sake of appearing “reasonable” and “realistic,” and for the sake of preserving their continued electability and “political capital” (a thoroughly neoliberal concept), our political elites reject responsibility for what could not more obviously be a political problem: mass murder in public spaces.

In consequence, a kind of fatalistic resignation has settled over most Americans—a common wisdom that, on guns, nothing can or will ever get done.

Very literally, Americans teach their children to understand the intrusion of rampaging killers with assault rifles as a random force of nature analogous to a fire or an earthquake.

But neoliberalism means that as government responsibility recedes, and as the bounds of what is politically imaginable constrict, other players step in to pick up the slack—and make a buck.

The social contract gets traded in for a profusion of End User Agreements, gig opportunities, and handshake deals with grifters and loan sharks.

The mushrooming market for security equipment in schools and on college campuses reached $2.68 billion in 2017 alone, and school districts around the country have steadily devoted increasing sums to security even as their overall budgets have dwindled.

These products look and sound like weapons and gear from America’s endless wars abroad: bulletproof whiteboards, School Shooter Kits (complete with tourniquets and trauma dressing), The Barracuda (a reinforced doorstop), The Raptor (a web-based “visitor management system,” the ad copy for which asks “Are you ready to take the next steps in protecting your school?”).

The market isn’t just for school administrators. Parents can buy their kids bulletproof backpacks and folders or invest in literal ballistic security blankets (available with free shipping from Walmart). This burgeoning cornucopia of products for protecting children does little to address the fact that not all schools and parents are equally capable of buying them, of course. But that’s neoliberalism for you: The choices and the opportunities to ameliorate societal problems exist, but only if you can afford them.

The withdrawal of political responsibility in favor of market solutions occurs without any correlative empowerment of the citizen as a consumer—in fact, as American inequality increases and social mobility drops, the end result is quite the opposite.

While the private sector flourishes, public institutions are hollowed out, and the people who depend on them are left in ever-more-precarious conditions.

It should not be surprising—although it is rarely observed—that the overwhelming majority of school shootings have thus far occurred in public, not private schools, even as our leaders pursue massive cuts to federal expenditures on public school safety (including funds used for post mass-shooting trauma counseling).

Meanwhile, advocates for the further hollowing out of the public sector seize on school massacres as an opportunity to argue for increased homeschooling.

The enrichment of the private sector is only one consequence of the neoliberal abdication of political responsibility for a political problem.

The other half of the picture is the burden that devolves from the government onto private individuals.

This burden demands labor and energy, but the costs are not just material.

They are emotional, too. Neoliberalism is not just a way of organizing political economy.

It imposes a regime of feelings and behaviors as well.

Neoliberalism doesn’t just pull the rug of basic social welfare out from under people’s feet—it makes them responsible for getting back on their feet, and blames them for landing on their ass in the first place.

And so in schools across the country, Americans make their children participate in Active Shooter drills.

These drills, which can involve children as young as kindergartners hiding in closets and toilet stalls, and can even include simulated shootings, are not just traumatic and of dubious value.

They are also an educational enterprise in their own right, a sort of pedagogical initiation into what is normal and to be expected.

Very literally, Americans teach their children to understand the intrusion of rampaging killers with assault rifles as a random force of nature analogous to a fire or an earthquake.

This seems designed to foster in children a consciousness that is at once hypervigilant and desperate, but also morbid and resigned—in other words, to mold them into perfectly docile citizen-consumers. And if children reject this position and try to take action, some educational authorities will attempt to discipline their resistance out of them, as in Texas, where one school district has threatened to penalize students who walk out in anti-gun violence actions, weaponizing the language of “choices” and “consequences” to literally quash “any type of protest or awareness.”

It’s not just children that the neoliberal system demands suffer the burden of responsibility for its failure to deal with school shootings.

Even as legislators crush teachers’ unions and ask educators to do ever-more labor—to act as test-prep coaches and job trainers, substitute parents and grief counselors—they also seriously contemplate giving them guns.

Many do this without ever really thinking too much about the emotional and cognitive onus that puts on them: not just to foster creativity and learning while safely controlling access to a firearm in overcrowded classrooms, but to be prepared, at any moment, to exercise lethal force against an assailant who may even be one of their own students.

Teachers, the people on the front lines of a broken system, are demanded, unremunerated or with the promise of meager “bonuses,” to reconcile its contradictions: to educate, but also to be constantly ready to kill. The on-the-face-of-it obscenity of this as a “solution” to anything falls out in favor of dithering over incentives and efficiency, to Trump promising that “Shootings will not happen again – a big & very inexpensive deterrent.”

Only two weeks after Parkland, both Democrat and Republican leadership decided to forgo any legislative debates over gun control and instead agreed to focus on a project with bipartisan appeal—deregulating banks.

Meanwhile, the massacres continue.

And so after each new bloodbath America’s leaders call on the general public to perform mass rituals of affective labor—moments of silence, sending thoughts and prayers, rituals that are excruciatingly draining, formulaic and tokenistic, and utterly useless.

When people reject these rituals as hollow, they are shamed, condemned for “politicizing” or “capitalizing” upon tragedy, a prospect anathema to the neoliberal status quo, which seeks to depoliticize everything. And, like Trump after Parkland, authorities blame victims and their communities for failing to prevent their own murder by not adequately performing as unpaid forensic profilers, social media surveillance professionals, and police informants. The blame is especially fierce when the shortcomings of the authorities and current laws have been exposed and humiliated, as in Parkland, where police responded to incidents involving the future shooter at his home no less than 39 times in seven years, and where multiple armed officers wasted precious minutes waiting outside the school as gunfire continued instead of going in. This apportionment of blame should not be surprising: Under neoliberalism, the system can never fail you, you can only fail it—and your suffering is the proof that you deserve it.

Perhaps the most twisted and tragic feature of the neoliberal script for how American society metabolizes mass shootings is a hollowing out of grief itself.

Americans have constructed an elaborate series of increasingly familiar rituals and performances for honoring the “sacrifice” of exemplary victims of senseless, entirely preventable butchery while doing precious little about it.

Yet this heartbroken, anguished praise of children and teachers who are martyred holding open doors or shielding other people from gunfire indexes how normal and inevitable the demand for these acts—the ultimate unpaid, supererogatory labor—has actually become in our system. If you pay attention, you’ll notice how the statements of school security professionals and the scripts for active shooter response trainings inevitably emphasize delaying or containing the shooter, slowing their progress, keeping them in one place. We expect unarmed people to rush killers carrying military-grade weapons, to improvise weapons and stage ambushes, to use their own bodies as barriers, to soak up bullets and force shooters to reload, to buy time and keep them localized until the authorities arrive. In the tight confines of a classroom or school hallway, facing high-powered rifles firing bullets designed to cause massive wounds, that can penetrate multiple bodies, and can turn flying fragments of shattered bone into devastating projectiles, the carnage this entails is beyond description—and yet we ask people to volunteer for it as part of our safety protocols. It is hard to imagine a more nutshell image of contemporary American neoliberalism than this: Demanding our citizens, training our children, to throw themselves like human sandbags against a problem that we decline to attempt to solve.

None of this has to be this way.

If the essence of neoliberalism lies in the denial of responsibility and the foreclosure of the political, the first step is to recognize this, to take responsibility, repoliticize the political, and demand radically better and more.

Corporations and the individual consumers cannot possibly fix our national problem of gun violence. But mobilized coalitions of politically conscious citizens can.

Nor can change come from our political elites, especially since, only two weeks after Parkland, both Democrat and Republican leadership decided to forgo any legislative debates over gun control and instead agreed to focus on a project with bipartisan appeal—deregulating banks.

In the wake of Parkland, the brave voices of student survivors have been a clarion call and beacon of hope. Once, our nation forced generations of school children to respond to the threat of thermonuclear war by hiding under desks in Duck and Cover drills. Those children grew up, leaving the existence of that threat—our world’s massive nuclear arsenals—unchanged, normalized away from regular consciousness.

It is frankly incredible and genuinely inspiring that today, a generation raised with Active Shooter drills has responded to trauma and horror not by disavowing or normalizing it, but by confronting it head-on. What these young people are demanding is properly political and legitimately radical: not just an opportunity not to be the next victims, but that there not be any next victims at all. Their testimony and demands should galvanize us into reflection, solidarity, and action.

America cannot and must not leave it to them to save us from neoliberalism, from gun violence, or from ourselves.

Press link for more: Splinter News


We Need Courage, Not Hope, to Face Climate Change #auspol #StopAdani

We Need Courage, Not Hope, to Face Climate Change


As a climate scientist, I am often asked to talk about hope.

Particularly in the current political climate, audiences want to be told that everything will be all right in the end. And, unfortunately, I have a deep-seated need to be liked and a natural tendency to optimism that leads me to accept more speaking invitations than is good for me.

Climate change is bleak, the organizers always say.

Tell us a happy story.

Give us hope. The problem is, I don’t have any.

I used to believe there was hope in science. The fact that we know anything at all is a miracle. For some reason, the whole world is hung on a skeleton made of physics. I found comfort in this structure, in the knowledge that buried under layers of greenery and dirt lies something universal.

It is something to know how to cut away the flesh of existence and see the clean white bones underneath.

All of us obey the same laws, whether we know them or not.

Look closely, however, and the structure of physics dissolves into uncertainty.

We live in a statistical world, in a limit where we experience only one of many possible outcomes.

Our clumsy senses perceive only gross aggregates, blind to the roiling chaos underneath.

We are limited in our ability to see the underlying stimuli that, en masse, create an event.

Temperature, for example, is a state created by the random motions of millions of tiny molecules.

We feel heat or cold, not the motion of any individual molecule.

When something is heated up, its tiny constituent parts move faster, increasing its internal energy. They do not move at the same speed; some are quick, others slow. But there are billions of them, and in the aggregate their speed dictates their temperature.

The internal energy of molecule motion is turned outward in the form of electromagnetic radiation.

Light comes in different flavors.

The stuff we see occupies only a tiny portion of a vast electromagnetic spectrum.

What we see occupies a tiny portion of a vast electromagnetic spectrum.

Light is a wave, of sorts, and the distance between its peaks and troughs determines the energy it carries.

Cold, low-energy objects emit stretched waves with long, lazy intervals between peaks.

Hot objects radiate at shorter wavelengths.

To have a temperature is to shed light into your surroundings.

You have one.

The light you give off is invisible to the naked eye.

You are shining all the same, incandescent with the power of a hundred-watt bulb.

The planet on which you live is illuminated by the visible light of the sun and radiates infrared light to the blackness of space.

There is nothing that does not have a temperature.

Cold space itself is illuminated by the afterglow of the Big Bang.

Even black holes radiate, lit by the strangeness of quantum mechanics.

There is nowhere from which light cannot escape.

The same laws that flood the world with light dictate the behavior of a carbon dioxide molecule in the atmosphere.

CO2 is transparent to the Sun’s rays.

But the planet’s infrared outflow hits a molecule in just such as way as to set it in motion.

Carbon dioxide dances when hit by a quantum of such light, arresting the light on its path to space.

When the dance stops, the quantum is released back to the atmosphere from which it came.

No one feels the consequences of this individual catch-and-release, but the net result of many little dances is an increase in the temperature of the planet.

More CO2 molecules mean a warmer atmosphere and a warmer planet.

Warm seas fuel hurricanes, warm air bloats with water vapor, the rising sea encroaches on the land.

The consequences of tiny random acts echo throughout the world.

I understand the physical world because, at some level, I understand the behavior of every small thing.

I know how to assemble a coarse aggregate from the sum of multiple tiny motions.

Individual molecules, water droplets, parcels of air, quanta of light: their random movements merge to yield a predictable and understandable whole.

But physics is unable to explain the whole of the world in which I live.

The planet teems with other people: seven billion fellow damaged creatures.

We come together and break apart, seldom adding up to an coherent, predictable whole.

I have lived a fortunate, charmed, loved life.

This means I have infinite, gullible faith in the goodness of the individual.

But I have none whatsoever in the collective.

How else can it be that the sum total of so many tiny acts of kindness is a world incapable of stopping something so eminently stoppable?

California burns. Islands and coastlines are smashed by hurricanes.

At night the stars are washed out by city lights and the world is illuminated by the flickering ugliness of reality television.

We burn coal and oil and gas, heedless of the consequences.

Our laws are changeable and shifting; the laws of physics are fixed.

Change is already underway; individual worries and sacrifices have not slowed it.

Hope is a creature of privilege: we know that things will be lost, but it is comforting to believe that others will bear the brunt of it.

We are the lucky ones who suffer little tragedies unmoored from the brutality of history.

Our loved ones are taken from us one by one through accident or illness, not wholesale by war or natural disaster.

But the scale of climate change engulfs even the most fortunate.

There is now no weather we haven’t touched, no wilderness immune from our encroaching pressure.

The world we once knew is never coming back.

I have no hope that these changes can be reversed.

We are inevitably sending our children to live on an unfamiliar planet. But the opposite of hope is not despair. It is grief. Even while resolving to limit the damage, we can mourn. And here, the sheer scale of the problem provides a perverse comfort: we are in this together.

The swiftness of the change, its scale and inevitability, binds us into one, broken hearts trapped together under a warming atmosphere.

We need courage, not hope.

Grief, after all, is the cost of being alive.

We are all fated to live lives shot through with sadness, and are not worth less for it.

Courage is the resolve to do well without the assurance of a happy ending.

Little molecules, random in their movement, add together to a coherent whole. Little lives do not. But here we are, together on a planet radiating ever more into space where there is no darkness, only light we cannot see.

Press link for more:

U.N. ‘very high risk’ planet will warm beyond 1.5C #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateChange

Leaked U.N. climate report sees ‘very high risk’ the planet will warm beyond key limit

Chris Mooney

A draft United Nations climate science report contains dire news about the warming of the planet, suggesting it will likely cross the key marker of 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, of temperature rise in the 2040s, and that this will be exceedingly difficult to avoid.

Temperatures could subsequently cool down if carbon dioxide is somehow removed from the air later in the century, the document notes.

But that prospect is questionable at the massive scales that would be required, it observes.

The 31-page draft, a summary of a much-anticipated report on the 1.5 degrees Celsius target expected to be finalized in October, was published by the website ClimateHome on Tuesday, which said the document had been “publicly available on the US federal register over the past month.”

Last month, several news outlets including Reuters quoted from the draft but did not publish it in full.

The 1.5 C target is crucial to small island nations worried about rising seas, and other nations particularly vulnerable to warming, and was explicitly included in the Paris climate agreement as the more ambitious of two climate goals, the other being 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

The draft document states that there is a “very high risk” of the planet warming more than 1.5 degrees above the temperature seen in the mid- to late 19th century.

Maintaining the planet’s temperature entirely below that level throughout the present century, without even briefly exceeding it, is likely to be “already out of reach,” it finds.

Jonathan Lynn, spokesman for the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is producing the study, cautioned that the draft is a work in progress.

The text is highly likely to change between this draft and the final approved summary for policymakers,” he said.

Duke University climate expert Drew Shindell, who is listed as one of the drafting authors of the document, also noted that the draft summary was a very early version of the full report.

“It’s much rougher and much more preliminary than even the underlying document,” he said.

Although worrying, the conclusion will not be surprising to those who have followed a growing body of research on just what it would take to stop warming short of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The planet has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius or more.

In some places, the report notes, the temperature increase has already exceeded 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In general, warming is more intense over land than over the oceans and is already particularly intense in the Arctic.

The document finds that a warming of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) would pose substantially larger risks in many respects than 1.5 degrees C — but it also finds that some severe risks will be present at 1.5 degrees, too.

A serious risk is already emerging to highly sensitive marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, the document states, and 1.5 C may already be too much for them. Reefs “are at risk that at 1.5 C and at 2C they will no longer be dominated by corals,” the draft report notes.

The chance that Greenland or the West Antarctic ice sheet will tip toward irreversible retreat is present at both 1.5C and 2C, the study finds — but at 2C, the likelihood of commitment to major sea level rise grows larger.

What’s most striking is the radical nature and rapidity of the changes that would be required to somehow preserve a world below 1.5 degrees.

The document finds that the world has only 12 to 16 years worth of greenhouse gas emissions left, from the start of 2016, if it wants a better than even chance of holding warming below 1.5 degrees.

Two of those years have already elapsed, as of this writing.

A third will have nearly elapsed by the time the draft report is finalized and released in October. (In December in Poland, it will feed into a broader United Nations deliberation about the adequacy of countries current promises to cut emissions.)

And once this “carbon budget” for 1.5 degrees Celsius is used up, emissions would have to plunge to zero to preserve the 1.5 degree goal — something that would almost certainly never happen, as it would sharply impair the world economy.

Since such rapid and severe cuts aren’t likely, the report notes that it’s virtually unavoidable that the planet will “overshoot” 1.5 degrees Celsius.

To cool the Earth down afterward and avoid staying at dangerously high temperatures for long, it would then be necessary to remove carbon dioxide from the air at a massive scale — but that, too, is highly problematic.

Carbon removal scenarios generally involve reforesting large amounts of land, or growing trees or other plants on that land and using it for energy, and storing the resulting carbon dioxide emissions underground.

But “increased biomass production and use has the potential to increase pressure on land and water resources, food production, biodiversity, and to affect air quality,” the draft notes. “Therefore, the scale and speed of implementation assumed in some 1.5C pathways may be challenging.”

“Avoiding a 1.5C warming would be very, very difficult without a significant overshoot,” said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, noting that he was commenting solely on the state of the science itself, rather than the leaked document. “Such a warming would cause increased bleaching and perhaps destruction of living coral reefs at some locations although at other places, reefs would probably survive a warming closer to 2C.”

“Some of the high level messages I think come as no surprise, in that we are not on track anywhere near towards 1.5 C, and getting there would require enormous changes,” added Shindell, noting that he was not speaking as an author of the draft report or on behalf of the IPCC, but simply as a scientist with expertise in the matter. “That basic conclusion, I think it’s OK to say that it’s not a surprise to anybody.

Any climate scientist would have told you that even without the report.”

The document’s leak has become a standard affair for major United Nations climate science reports, because they are seen by so many reviewers.

In 2013, a leaked draft of part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report helped lend credence to the questionable idea that global warming had slowed down or “paused,” based on a brief passage suggesting that the rate of warming had declined somewhat between 1998 and 2012. The final draft addressed the issue with more nuance, largely undermining the notion of any significant slowdown.

The authors have until May 15 to include any new published material in the report. Still, it’s unlikely to change the fundamental conclusion that there is too little time to avert 1.5 C degrees of warming — barring some massive technological intervention.

“There is … no documented precedent for the geographical and economic scale of the energy, land, urban and industrial transitions implicit in pathways consistent with a 1.5C warmer world,” the draft report notes.

Press link for more: Chicago Tribune

Chief scientist Alan Finkel hits back at electric car doubters. #auspol #qldpol

Chief scientist Alan Finkel hits back at electric car doubters

February 9 2018 – 9:25PM

Affordable electric vehicles that can drive up to 600 kilometres on a single charge will help bring a motoring revolution to Australia, predicts Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, in an intervention that defies naysayers of the technology.

In an interview with Fairfax Media, Dr Finkel said the onus was on the federal government to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector, but predicted electric cars “will be a significant element” of policies considered.

In praise of the transport revolution: Chief Scientist Alan Finkel with an electric car. Photo: Rebecca Hallas

Dr Finkel – who owns two electric cars – would not comment on government policy. But he pointed to his review of the national electricity market that called for the development of a whole-of-economy emissions reduction strategy by 2020.

Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg last month declared electric vehicles would revolutionise Australia, saying the scale of disruption would rival the introduction of the iPhone.

The comments prompted fierce debate about the extent to which the government should encourage the electric vehicle industry. A handful of Coalition backbenchers led by climate sceptic Craig Kelly stridently oppose financial incentives, such as subsidies, to lower the purchase cost of the technology.

The transport sector is a major contributor to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

However electric vehicle uptake in this nation is minute compared with other nations such as those in Europe, where governments have played a far greater role in encouraging the technology.

Dr Finkel said Australia’s vast distances, and concern about electric vehicle driving range, may have held back sales.

However the next generation of cars, soon to reach Australia, were at entry-level prices and could drive up to 600 kilometres on a single charge, he said.

“That will make quite a difference to Australians’ interest in electric cars. It will get better and better in time because the improvements in batteries keep on coming,” he said.

France and Britain are encouraging electric car adoption by vowing to end the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2040. Norway and the Netherlands aim to do so by 2025, and China has indicated it will also adopt a ban.

Transport Minister Barnaby Joyce has ruled out similar moves in Australia.

Despite this, benefits flowing from the overseas bans would trickle down to Australia, Dr Finkel told Fairfax Media.

“There will be an extraordinarily deep shift away from petrol and diesel cars towards pure electric [vehicles],” he said of countries with a ban on conventional cars.

“Volume will go up, prices will go down, electric cars will therefore inevitably be better vehicles with longer range, lower prices and more accessible to Australians.”

Dr Finkel said aside from the clear environmental benefits, electric cars were a “more enjoyable driving experience”.

“You just touch the accelerator and the car responds, whereas in a petrol car there is a lag of two tenths of a second … There is something magical about the responsiveness of it,” he said.

Australia had the potential to develop next-generation lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars, but there was “no actual large-scale activity” to date, Dr Finkel said.

“Around the world what you’re seeing is companies getting into it partly because there is some support from government,” he said.

“We’ve got a workforce, we’ve got access to raw materials such as lithium … we’ve got experience in designing, building and exporting products, but we haven’t made that kind of commitment.”

Press link for more: SMH.COM

David Suzuki’s Top 10 ways you can stop climate change #auspol #StopAdani

Ever wonder how your tiny carbon footprint really impacts the big picture of climate change?

Here’s a list of 10 ways you can join in the fight to reduce our carbon footprint.

Get involved

Take a few minutes to contact your political representatives and the media to tell them you want immediate action on climate change.

Remind them that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will also build healthier communities, spur economic innovation and create new jobs. And next time you’re at the polls, vote for politicians who support effective climate policies.

Be energy efficient

You already switch off lights — what’s next?

Change light bulbs to compact fluorescents or LEDs.

Unplug computers, TVs and other electronics when not in use.

Wash clothes in cold or warm (not hot) water.

Dryers are energy hogs, so hang dry when you can.

Install a programmable thermostat.

Look for the Energy Star® label when buying new appliances. And a home energy audit is cheaper than you think — book one today to find even more ways to save energy.

Choose renewable power

Ask your utility to switch your account to clean, renewable power, such as from wind farms.

If it doesn’t offer this option yet, ask it to.

Eat wisely

Buy organic and locally grown foods.

Avoid processed items.

Grow some of your own food. And eat low on the food chain — at least one meat-free meal a day — since 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from meat and dairy production.

Food writer Michael Pollan sums it up best: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Trim your waste

Garbage buried in landfills produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Keep stuff out of landfills by composting kitchen scraps and garden trimmings, and recycling paper, plastic, metal and glass.

Let store managers and manufacturers know you want products with minimal or recyclable packaging.

Let polluters pay

Carbon taxes make polluting activities more expensive and green solutions more affordable, allowing energy-efficient businesses and households to save money. They are one of the most effective ways to reduce Canada’s climate impact. If your province doesn’t have a carbon tax, ask your premier and MLA to implement one.

Fly less

Air travel leaves behind a huge carbon footprint. Before you book your next airline ticket, consider greener options such as buses or trains, or try vacationing closer to home. You can also stay in touch with people by videoconferencing, which saves time as well as travel and accommodation costs.

Get informed

Follow the latest news about climate change. Join our community.

Green your commute

Transportation causes about 25 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, so walk, cycle or take transit whenever you can.

You’ll save money and get into better shape!

If you can’t go car-free, try carpooling or car sharing, and use the smallest, most fuel-efficient vehicle possible.

Support and Donate

Many organizations, including the David Suzuki Foundation, are working hard on solutions to climate change and rely on financial support from citizens like you.

In Australia

Your donation will power the campaign for our reef and planet

We will #StopAdani and their polluting mega-mine.

Your gift will fund the campaign to:

Grow our movement with thousands of conversations in communities across Australia about Adani.

Lookout for any new public subsidies for Adani from our governments.

Ramp up the pressure on our elected representatives until they stop Adani’s polluting mine once and for all.

Give now to power this and other critical work today. Or choose a regular monthly gift to power long-term campaigns for real change


In Canada

Consider making a donation today by calling 1-800-453-1533 or by visiting our secure website.

Though you might feel like your lifestyle is insignificant compared to things like oil extraction or vehicle emissions, the choices we make in our day-to-day life — how we get around, what we eat, how we live — play a major role in slowing climate change.

Press link for more: David Suzuki.Org

We need a price on Carbon #auspol #qldpol #climatechange #StopAdani

Canadian Federal and provincial governments will have to increase carbon prices dramatically in order to meet targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from passenger cars – or rely on a series of regulatory measures that are even more costly, a study released by the Laurier Centre for Economic Research concludes.

Faced with political battles over its planned carbon tax, the Liberal government is also developing complementary regulations to drive down GHG emissions in the transportation sector – rules that are costlier but more politically palatable than an explicit levy.

Transportation accounts for roughly 25 per cent of Canada’s GHG emissions, with cars and light trucks making up nearly half of the sector’s total.

Ottawa and the provinces are putting in place a raft of measures to reduce emissions, including carbon prices, fuel efficiency standards, zero-emission vehicle policies and a clean fuel standard.

A carbon tax is clearly the economically efficient way to reduce emissions in the sector while the various regulations and subsidies have impacts that are less noticeable to the public but far more costly, environmental economists Nicholas Rivers and Randall Wigle say in the report released by the Laurier Centre.

The hidden costs of those regulations and subsidies are borne by consumers in the price of fuel and new vehicles, by industry and by taxpayers.

The study “would suggest the price is the most cost-effective way to achieve a GHG target, but there are obviously barriers to putting a high price on carbon,” Dr. Rivers, a professor at the University of Ottawa, said in an interview.

“Partly, it’s political – people don’t want to see this overt price that changes the price of gasoline so obviously.

Partly, it’s geopolitical in that we don’t want to get too far ahead of our trading partners with a high price for a fear of making some of our industry uncompetitive.”

Under the Liberal government plan, carbon taxes would rise to $50 a tonne by 2022 – roughly 11 cents per litre of gasoline.

To achieve a 10-per-cent reduction in emissions over seven years would require a levy of $175 a tonne, though that cost can be reduced if revenues are recycled back to households, the study concludes. Canada has committed to reduce GHGs over all by 30 per cent between 2005 and 2030.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said last week that there is no commitment to raise the price beyond $50, but that Ottawa and the provinces will make that decision when they review the plan in 2022.

Last week, the United Conservative Party in Alberta released a federal Finance Department document – obtained by the website Blacklock’s Reporter – that indicated Ottawa is planning to raise the price.

The federal rule will apply in provinces that don’t have their own carbon pricing or fail to meet Ottawa’s standards. Currently, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia meet federal thresholds. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has been a vocal critic of the tax, while Alberta’s United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney vows to scrap the provincial levy should he win power in the 2019, a move that would provoke a battle with the federal Liberals.

Canadians generally support climate-change policies, including carbon pricing, said Jonn Axsen, a Simon Fraser University professor who has done public polling on the issue. However, there is far more opposition to an explicit carbon tax than to the regulatory approaches whose costs are less visible, he said.

The Laurier Centre study makes it clear that meeting Canada’s emissions targets for road transportation will be expensive, whatever policies are adopted.

Ottawa has regulations requiring car makers to increase the fuel efficiency of their vehicles, which reduces emissions per kilometre driven.

It is also developing a clean-fuel standard that will force gasoline and diesel marketers to reduce the GHG intensity of their fuel. British Columbia has a similar system and credits sell for $175 per tonne in the open market.

As well, the federal government is developing a zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) strategy which would complement electric-vehicle subsidies offered by Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. Quebec also has an EV mandate requiring auto makers to sell a certain percentage of electric vehicles, though federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau has said Ottawa is unlikely to follow suit with its own mandate. EV subsidies and mandates represent by far the most expensive options, the Rivers-Wigle study found.

Press link for more: The Globe & Mail

Towards a Clean Energy future. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Let’s make 2018 the year we turned our back on coal & demand a clean energy future.

There are more jobs in a sustainable economy based on clean energy.

Don’t let Australia fall behind.

Electric Cars









2017 A year of dark hours & green optimism #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

James Murray reviews a year in which terrifying climate impacts wrestled with heartening green business breakthroughs

The default setting of business is optimism.

No one starts a company imagining the day bailiffs knock at the door.

No one goes to a job interview and asks about the redundancy package.

Optimism is doubly important to green businesses.

There is the standard commercial optimism the enterprise will prove a world-beating success. And then there is the environmentalists’ optimism that they might deliver world-saving success.

The past year has seen this optimism sorely tested. Not to breaking point – never to breaking point. But it has still been more brutally challenged than at any point in the decade BusinessGreen has been covering these issues.

The terrifying metrics have been repeated so often they risk losing potency, but there is no alternative but to keep facing up to them.

The story that should dominate every end of year round up from every media outlet on the planet came last month in the form of two reports released at the UN climate summit in Bonn.

The first confirmed atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are at their highest levels in at least 800,000 years and possibly three to five million years.

As Dr Emily Shuckburgh of the British Antarctic Survey told the BusinessGreen Leaders’ Summit this autumn, the last time concentrations of greenhouse gas were as high as they are now sea levels were around 10 metres higher.

Up to two metres of sea level rise this century is now entirely plausible.

However, it was the second report that was the real kicker.

The Global Carbon Project predicted carbon emissions will rise this year after four years when flat emissions fuelled hopes global economic growth and carbon emissions had been decoupled.

There are reasons to hope this is just a blip. The data is preliminary and the primary driver of any increase appears to be lower than expected hydropower output in China, which in turn led to an uptick in coal use. But China remains firmly committed to curbing its coal use and recently confirmed plans for a national carbon market to help drive the switch to cleaner energy sources.

Economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions have not suddenly recoupled.

And yet, even if the estimates of rising emissions prove to be overly pessimistic one thing is clear: they are not falling, are they? And they need to – fast.

Again at our BusinessGreen Leaders’ Summit, M&S’s Mike Barry observed that if, as the world’s science academies insist, we need to ensure global emissions peak by 2020 before falling sharply we have just 1,000 days to save the world.

With each day, month, year that passes the climate crisis gets more daunting.

But for all the progress made by green businesses the lack of urgency amongst political and business elites, not to mention the general populus, remains as palpable as it is terrifying.

Alongside the scientific warnings came economic studies showing investment in clean energy is likely to fall this year.

Thankfully levels of renewables deployment keep rising because the fall in investment is largely a function of the near miraculous reductions in the cost of clean power.

But even taking these plummeting cost into account, overall investment should not be falling – the decarbonisation challenge is too urgent for us to take our time.

The hope remains that once the impacts of climate change become truly explicit a full spectrum response will follow.

But here too optimism and sea fronts took a battering in 2017.

To borrow Al Gore’s line, the newsreels have looked like a “nature hike through the Book of Revelation”.

Despite the lack of an El Nino effect, 2017 is set to be the second or third hottest year on record; hurricanes unprecedented in their power pummelled the US and Caribbean; the largest wildfires California has ever seen burned deep into the Northern Hemisphere winter; scientists warned the “Arctic shows no sign of returning to the reliably frozen region of recent past decades”; studies revealed an ‘ecological armageddon‘ amongst insect populations; droughts fuelled famine and insecurity across East Africa and the Middle East; the UN warned the number of chronically undernourished people has risen for the first time since the turn of the century due in large part to climate impacts. “Alarm bells we cannot ignore,” declared the UN – and yet we can and we do.

Good men and women sought to amplify these alarm bells. David Wallace Wells penned an epic examination of the long tail, unlikely but not impossible risks of full-blown climate breakdown that we all too easily ignore (and got attacked by people who should know better for his trouble). Bill McKibben continued his campaign to raise awareness of the “hot new world” we live in. Emily Shuckburgh teamed up with Tony Juniper and Prince of Wales to produce a beautiful little book that attempted to explain climate risks to new audiences. The peerless George Monbiot again and again highlighted the terrifying and credible environmental projections coming out of the scientific community. Eric Holthaus documented the ‘ice apocalypse’ that is underway at the planet’s poles.

Meanwhile, in the world of business and politics AXA CEO Thomas Buberl pointedly observed that a “+4C world is not insurable”. Mark Carney continued to warn of climate risk and the “tragedy of the horizon”. President Macron stepped seamlessly into the role of global climate leader with his campaign to “make our planet great again”.

One of the few upsides of the climate crisis is it has unleashed a wave of evocative writing and memorable sound bites. Although it’s not much compensation, to be honest. I’d settle for fewer great essays and a more habitable biosphere.

Faced with the litany of climate impacts and avalanche of warnings, David Powell of the New Economics Foundation asked “what is this pathology”? What is it in our psychological make up that allows societies to accept these realities and then fail to adequately respond to them? To essentially shrug off the credible risk of apocalypse?

Pathology is the right word and if it is not yet fully understood we do know the evidence of it is everywhere. Because if 2017 was bleak from an environmental perspective, the political climate felt little better.

2017 was the year when the world’s understanding of the most powerful man on the planet moved from ‘he’s not necessarily dangerous and racist, he just says dangerous and racist things’ to ‘he is dangerous and racist, but he’s not necessarily fascist, he just says fascist things’.

Who knows where we go next.

To watch a US administration that has been completely captured by climate sceptic ideologues responding to hurricanes and wildfires with barely literate hymns to coal power and Arctic drilling felt like a sick joke.

But this disconnect is everywhere.

Mark Campanale of the Carbon Tracker think tank told a story this year of a meeting with a group of fund managers in California, where he struggled to convince them of the  climate-related risks in their portfolio even as they looked out the window of the skyscraper they were in and watched fires burn on the horizon.

In her MaddAddam trilogy, the novelist Margaret Atwood envisages a Church of PetrOleum that preaches about how “oil is holy throughout the Bible”. As the Trump administration releases a National Security Strategy that argues US leadership is “indispensable” in pushing back against an “anti-growth” and borderline immoral climate agenda, Atwood’s dystopian imaginings have never felt more prescient.

On this side of the Atlantic, the pathology is nowhere near as prevalent, but climate action has still been comprehensively overshadowed by the unending psychodrama that is Brexit.

There may well be good reasons to leave the EU and Brexit may yet be delivered in a way that averts national disaster. But watching the past year of ministerial mis-steps, botched elections, and Brussels-related monomania has only emphasised how Brexit remains a dire distraction from the real economic, social, and environmental challenges the UK faces.

When even one of the architects of the Vote Leave campaign has said he thought calling the referendum was a terrible idea and there were numerous other reforms the government should have pursued before addressing its relationship with the EU, it is hard to conclude the UK is engaged in anything other than an era-shaping bout of displacement activity – an exercise that could yet hand control of the government to a hard right cabal of climate sceptic, libertarian hacks.

But then again, we are hardly alone.

2017 has seen the forces of authoritarianism on the march – often with a battalion of climate scepticism on their right flank.

In Turkey, in Russia, in Hungary, in the US, even in Germany where support for the hard right effectively denied Merkel the opportunity to move forward with more ambitious decarbonisation plans, the kind of nationalist politics the West thought had been confined to the history books has enjoyed a shocking revival. As one observer put it on Twitter: “Nazis are bad. That is not an argument I was expecting to have to reprosecute”.

2017 was the year the political and cultural cold war that has been simmering since the 2008 financial crash broke into the open.

It is a battle progressive forces cannot duck away from, but it is also of grave concern that a time when international co-operation is desperately required to tackle the escalating climate threat the necessary geopolitical priority has become containing the spread of nationalist autocracy and avoiding the very real risk of a volatile and cornered US president turning trade wars into shooting wars.

The parallels with the 1930s may be imperfect, but at times they have felt fearfully relevant.

Faced with all this the one dominant question of the past year has been how to respond?

How do we get from ratcheting tensions and interlocking crises which are so reminiscent of the 1930s to a new green economic settlement and global low carbon infrastructure blitz to echo the 1950s and 1960s, only without going through any equivalent of the 1940s?

The truth is no-one has the answer.

Many of the people I speak to through my work at BusinessGreen are more worried than they have ever been.

On the record, the veneer of corporate optimism remains in place.

Off the record, for many the nagging sense that we are not making sufficient progress, that the risks are becoming ever more daunting is becoming harder to resist.

The green economy is chalking up more victories than ever before, but like an Escher Drawing the road ahead keeps getting steeper.

As a journalist I have no such professional constraints and few qualms about admitting how scared I become when considering the Himalayan environmental risks we face, which, inevitably, is most days.

When the most important thing in your life is two sons under the age of three and you have a good chance of living well into the second half of the century, the fact the worst climate impacts will not be felt for decades is little comfort.

Where then is the optimism to be found?

Was 2017 really that bleak?

Or are there countervailing forces mobilising against the elite-level indifference and vested interests that have acted a drag on green economic progress?

The good news – and there is good news – is that while they struggled to command headlines there were plenty of encouraging developments to pierce the gloom.

The best news came not in the form of the incremental environmental improvements made by thousands of businesses and governments around the world, but in the signs of inter-locking, economy-wide, systems level change that could yet provide a route to curbing global emissions during the 2020s.

More encouraging still, the pace at which these welcome developments are moving from well-meaning idea to global trend or technological breakthrough appears to be accelerating, even as public support for decarbonisation grows.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance provided one such example, moving from a concept cooked up by the British and Canadian government to a global push backed by over 50 countries, regions and businesses within a matter of months.

Similarly, the Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) has, in less than a year, moved from an academic exercise to a market-shaping endeavour fully endorsed by 225 global investors with more than $26.3tr in assets under management and 237 firms with a market capitalisation of $6.3tr. It is easy to see how within a few short years every listed company on the planet will face calls from shareholders to explain how they plan to adjust to a decarbonising economy and escalating climate risks.

The divestment trend has enjoyed a longer gestation period, but this year again saw significant breakthroughs. Arguably the three most powerful and influential investors in the world – Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, the World Bank, and Blackrock – all took sizeable steps towards either ending investment in carbon intensive assets or engaging with companies to force them to come forward with climate strategies.

Many of the bellwether businesses that set global corporate norms refused to bow to the bully in the White House and quietly intensified their climate strategies. At the last count over 300 companies had committed to setting and meeting science-based emissions targets. Coupled with the RE100 initiative to source 100 per cent renewables, the EP100 initiative to double energy productivity, and the EV100 initiative to switch to electric fleets, this year saw the emergence of a viable blueprint to decarbonise multinational giants.

Crucially, we even began to see some of the oil and energy majors get in on the act. DONG Energy changed its name to Ørsted, because the ONG stood for oil and gas and it didn’t want to do that anymore. Shell opened its first electric vehicle charging stations and BP returned to the solar market. Only this week BHP Billiton said it was preparing to quit the World Coal Association over a stance on climate change the mining giant regarded as less than constructive.

These corporate trends formed a virtuous circle with similarly encouraging technological trends. Records for renewables costs and output were toppled. In the UK, the first day without coal power since the Industrial Revolution was recorded. The offshore wind industry delivered a previously unimaginable feat of engineering and economics, declaring it had halved the cost of the power it could deliver inside four years. Solar, wind, and energy storage costs kept falling and smart grid functionality continued to improve, making renewables the default option for new generation projects in a growing number of countries, even when grid balancing costs are considered.

In the field of transport, Volvo pledged to end the sale of conventional internal combustion engine cars, as auto giants around the world rushed to electrify their fleets in response to tightening air quality rules and mounting consumer interest. Elon Musk unveiled an electric truck that could conceivably transform global supply chains (and delivered the world’s largest battery storage project inside 100 days for good measure). Progress in green aviation and shipping industry continued to disappoint, but there were signs key players such as Airbus and Rolls Royce are finally starting to take decarbonisation seriously with fresh investments in the development of electric aircraft.

In many countries a third force also contributed to this virtuous circle, as two years on from the Paris Agreement governments began to strengthen the climate policy landscape.

Emmanuel Macron pulled off a shock election victory on a platform that prioritised bold climate action. The Chinese government continued to work on an emissions trading scheme that will dwarf the original European market, and the EU edged forward with plans for a new wave of post-2020 climate goals.

In the UK, an election that saw the ruling Conservative Party lose votes because of the perception it did not care about the environment sparked something of a green policy arms race. Now the talk in Westminster is of a Green Brexit, a plastic pollution crackdown, and an industrial and clean growth strategy centred on clean tech innovation, low carbon infrastructure, and green finance. The policy signals in support of green investment and corporate decarbonisation have never been stronger.

Meanwhile, 2017 has also emphasised how change is afoot amongst the public. Polls show how people under 40 are demanding ever more environmental action from political and business leaders. The lag time between the launch of a campaign – on plastic waste or air quality, for example – and it reaching the critical mass at which companies and governments have to respond is shortening all the time.

Globally, millennials’ frustration with a broken economic system that is degrading the planet and struggling to deliver on its promises is only going to grow. At the same time younger people’s willingness to engage with new business models and emerging value systems that place less emphasis on endless consumption is opening up fascinating new economic possibilities. Culturally, the #MeToo movement has powerfully demonstrated how toxic behaviours that have been tolerated for decades can quickly be called to account once a social tipping point is triggered.

All these trends have not yet added up to a tangible reduction in global emissions, but there are encouraging signs that one day soon they could.

A report from the World Resources Institute this year revealed 49 countries covering around 36 per cent of global emissions have already seen their carbon output peak. Separately, a report from IRENA explored how the national climate action plans put forward under the Paris Agreement are underselling the amount of renewable energy capacity many countries are planning to deploy. There are reasons to think that while we are not yet doing enough to avoid the worst climate change impacts, the proven viability of clean technologies and strengthening market forces mean we might be doing a bit better than we think.

Of course, the problem all these sources of green optimism face can be summed up in one word: politics. Both corporate politics and politics politics.

For every company pursuing a credible decarbonisation strategy there are many more staring at their shoes whenever the subject of climate action is brought up. I had lunch recently with a sustainability executive who admitted the failure to pick the lowest of low hanging fruit remained a source of constant frustration. The example they offered was LED lighting – an established technology that can deliver payback periods of less than two years, millions of pounds in savings, and millions more tonnes of emissions reductions. And yet a combination of chronic short termism, management incompetence, and the failure to prioritise climate action mean thousands of firms are deferring investment in a technology that could save them money.

The political sphere sees much the same phenomenon. Leaving aside the dysfunction of the Trump administration, around the world there are numerous well-meaning political leaders who are happy embracing climate action, but only up to the point where they face even the smallest amount of pushback from the media or vested interests.

This year the UK government unveiled a welcome and ambitious Clean Growth Strategy, but it was hamstrung by the failure to properly fund new energy efficiency programmes and the inability of the government to face down the handful of vocal media critics who loathe onshore wind and solar farms. Only this week the government put forward a diluted plan to improve the efficiency of the coldest private rental properties, weakening its emissions-saving ambition in order to keep landlords happy. Some days it feels like Theresa May might as well have done with it and just give Paul Dacre a seat at the cabinet table.

But if green business optimism has been tested in 2017 it has remained intact, and not just for professional and psychological reasons.

The chasm between the best and the worst of the past year is itself a source of hope, as well as fear. The hope is that while the forces of reactionary nationalism may be enjoying a good run they are at the same time fuelling a backlash, which, when it comes, will usher in a whole new era of progressive economics and values.

It is too early to say for sure, but it is possible the rise of Trumpism represents a final noxious belch for an entitled pollutocrat class of toxic masculinity that has dangerously stirred up a hornets’ nest of populist nationalism in order to defend its unsustainable interests. If this movement was to collapse under its own contradictions and corruptions, and a peaceful pushback could be engineered, then climate action and the green businesses that are driving it are perfectly positioned to build a new economic model that both tackles the environmental crisis and addresses the social challenges that gave rise to the new populists in the first place.

As 2017 draws to a close it is hard to tell whether we are approaching a turning point from which global climate action will rapidly accelerate, or are treading water as some terrifying political and climatic forces gain momentum.

If global greenhouse gas emissions really are rising again, if Trump’s world view does become normalised, if the bursting of the carbon bubble prompts petro-states to lash out in defence of their diminishing power, then there is no denying the outlook could get bleak, and fast.

But then again, as Bob Dylan once sang, “they say the darkest hour is right before the dawn”. As a New Year awaits the job of green businesses is to nurture their natural optimism, face down their opponents, and redouble efforts to build a genuinely sustainable economy as quickly as possible.

A brighter 2018 is not just possible, it’s essential.

Press link for more: Business Green

#PoweringPastCoal #COP23 #Qldvotes #CoralnotCoal “Coal must be phased out by 2030”

Bonn (AFP) – A score of mostly wealthy nations banded together at UN climate talks Thursday to swear off coal-fired power, a key driver of global warming and air pollution.

Battle lines drawn over coal at UN climate talks

To cap global warming at “well under” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) — the planet-saving target in the 196-nation Paris Agreement — coal must be phased out in developed countries by 2030, and “by no later than 2050 in the rest of the world,” they said in a declaration.

The dirtiest of fossil fuels still generates 40 percent of the world’s electricity, and none of the countries that truly depend on it were on hand to take the “no coal” pledge.

One country participating in the 12-day talks, which end Friday, has made a point of promoting the development of “clean fossil fuels”: the United States.

The near-pariah status of coal at the UN negotiations was in evidence earlier in the week when an event featuring White House officials and energy executives was greeted with protests.

The US position “is only controversial if we choose to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the realities of the global energy system,” countered George David Banks, a special energy and environment assistant to US President Donald Trump.

Led by ministers from Britain and Canada, the “Powering Past Coal Alliance” committed to phasing out CO2-belching coal power, and a moratorium on new plants that lack the technology to capture emissions before they reach the atmosphere.

“In a few short years, we have almost entirely reduced our reliance on coal,” said British Minister of State Claire Perry.

The share of electricity generated by coal in Britain dropped from 40 percent in July 2012 to two percent in July of this year, she noted.

Other signatories included Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands and New Zealand.

Germany — where coal powers 40 percent of the country’s electricity — was asked to join, said environment minister Barbara Hendricks.

“I asked them to understand that we can’t make a decision like that before forming a new government,” she told journalists.

Most of the enlisted countries don’t have far to go to complete a phase-out.

Deadlines range from 2022 for France, which has four coal-fired plants in operation, to 2025 for Britain, where eight such power stations are still running, and 2030 for the Netherlands.

No economic rationale –

“This climate meeting has seen Donald Trump trying to perversely promote coal,” said Mohamed Adow, top Climate analyst at Christian Aid, which advocated for the interests of poor countries.

“But it will finish with the UK, Canada and a host of other countries signalling the death knell of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel in their countries.”

But not all countries are in the same boat, said Benjamin Sporton, president of the World Coal Association.

“There are 24 nations that have included a role for low-emissions coal technology as part of their NDCs,” or nationally determined contributions, the voluntary greenhouse gas cuts pledged under the Paris treaty.

Coal continues to play a major role in powering the Chinese economy, and will see “big increases in India and Southeast Asia,” he told AFP.

Making coal “clean”, Sporton acknowledged, depends on the massive expansion of a technology called carbon capture and storage (CCS), in which CO2 emitted when coal is burned is syphoned off and stored in the ground.

The UN’s climate science panel, and the International Energy Agency, both say that staying under the 2 C temperature threshold will require deploying CCS.

The problem is that — despite decades of development — very little CO2 is being captured in this way.

There are only 20 CCS plants in the world that stock at least one million tonnes of CO2 per year, a relatively insignificant amount given the scope of the problem.

One reason is the price tag: it costs about a billion dollars (900,000 euros) to fit CCS technology to a large-scale, coal-fired plant.

“If you could develop cost-effective technology that would be permanent and work at scale, it could be a real game-changer,” said Alden Meyer, a climate analyst at the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists.

“But you have to be realistic about the prospects.”

At the same time, the price of wind and especially solar power has dropped so much that CCS may no longer be economical.

The crucial issue is not retro-fitting old plants, but avoiding the construction of new ones, Meyer added.

“There’s really no economic rationale for coal, and there’s certainly no environmental rationale for it,” he told AFP.

Press link for more:

Solar impulse for a cleaner sky and human conscience.

The cries of pollution of all kinds are hitting the sky. Global warming is as much a reality as the day light is. In that sense, when science and technology come together with their conscience in the right place, it sure can create miracles for the humankind and increase the longevity of this tiny ball of life called earth.

When Solar Impulse took off from Abu Dhabi and landed in Oman, the world exhaled a sigh of both relief and hope. Reason: The world’s first and only solar powered plane holds the potential to change the way we fly. On its broad shoulders that appear grey from the skies above, it carries the fruits of 13-years of research that went into building this plane.

After Muscat in Oman, the quintessential Ahmadabad in Gujarat played host to the plane. When it landed, the country was thrilled to be part of this groundbreaking technology invention that the world would greatly benefit from. Soon, the plane will leave for Varanasi, making it two stops in India for Solar Impulse 2. Indeed a rare honour, just around the time when India is all set to take on the world economically and historically.

The founder of Solar Impulse 2 Andre Borschberg has been at the controls when the single-seater took off from Al Bateen Executive Airport. Borschberg and Solar Impulse co-founder Bertrand Piccard are alternating as pilots as the plane goes around the world, taking over five months to complete the spin. When it ends its journey, the world would have started on a new one, that of celebrating the triumph of sun power, the new ways to harness the solar energy and of course, a better way to maintain bilateral relations with countries that provide oil to the world.

When Solar Impulse 2 wins, the new road opens into the inner alleys of human conscience.

Press link for more: Preetam Kaushik |