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UN Climate Chief: “Urgent requirement to cut emissions”#StopAdani #Auspol 


Mission 2020’s Christiana Figueres says a clean energy policy with bipartisan support could have prevented many difficulties. Katherine Griffiths
The former climate chief at the United Nations, Christiana Figueres, has urged the federal government to stop obsessing about the fate of individual power plants and seize the opportunity to recast its power system in line with the urgent requirement to cut carbon emissions.

Figueres, who oversaw the negotiations on the landmark Paris accord in December 2015, said Australia has wasted 10 years in “constant back-and-forth” on climate policy while individual states and cities are pushing ahead on clean energy.
“It’s 10 years that are resulting in a very difficult chaotic situation that everyone is facing with very high levels of anxiety that could have been prevented,” Figueres said while in Sydney as part of her Mission 2020 initiative aimed at “bending the curve” on the world’s trajectory on greenhouse emissions by the end of the decade.
The former Costa Rican diplomat said a clear energy policy with bipartisan support that tackled security of supply, affordability and emissions could have prevented Australia’s current difficulties.
All three of those goals are possible, with no need to choose one over the other, Figueres said.

“This is a systemic issue: it’s not about closing or opening one plant here, or one plant there.”
“It’s a systemic challenge and it’s a systemic opportunity to really understand that the power sector of the future is very different to the power sector of the past.”
Broad support
Figueres’ comments come at a crucial time in the policy debate in Canberra, where the federal government has been unable to reach a consensus within the Coalition on the centrepiece of recommendations from the Finkel Review, the introduction of a clean energy target.
But she said she is still optimistic that the Finkel work will provide a direction for energy policy that will garner broad support and so have the potential to unleash needed investment in new, lower-emissions energy supply.
“There has been no direction and the result of that is that this policy uncertainty has not attracted the level of investment that Australia deserves and needs,” Figueres said.
“If we had had that investment over the past 10 years we wouldn’t be in a crisis mode now.”
Still she believes things can rapidly turn around.
“Let’s not cry over spilt milk. Let’s see if we can get more policy clarity, more predictability so that you can attract investment which can come very quickly if there is confidence in the system.”
Quizzed on worries about soaring costs for baseload power users, Ms Figueres insists that the problem is meeting demand spikes rather than continuous demand from round-the-clock electricity consumers.
Gradual transition
And in that regard, renewables are better placed to meet peak demand, when worked up in a package with gas, demand-response measures, smart metering, energy efficiency and storage.
Critical to remember is that the transition is a gradual one: “No-one is talking about a jump to zero fossil fuels – that is absolutely irresponsible,” she said.
“What is being considered here and should be accelerated is a smooth transition.”
At the same time making a proper start on the changes is urgent to avoid locking in further increase in emissions that contribute to climate change.
“The carbon intensity of the investments we make over the next three years is basically going to fundamentally decide the carbon intensity of the energy matrix over the next 20 or 30 years,” Mr Figueres said.
“So if we are talking about being net zero by 2050, guess what, we have to make those investments now.”

Press link for more: AFR.COM

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The Light’s Still Out On LNP Energy Policy #Auspol #StopAdani 

Power For Power’s Sake: The Light’s Are Still Out On Coalition Energy Policy
Ben ElthamSeptember 8, 2017


(BACKGROUND IMAGE: mendhak, Flickr)
When it comes to energy policy, the government has no-one to blame but itself, writes Ben Eltham.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has run hard on energy this week.
He gave a media conference mid week after the release of the latest report by the Australian Energy Market Operator, or AEMO. AEMO was asked by the government to give advice on electricity supply in the forthcoming summer.
Unsurprisingly, the government is worried about the possibility of blackouts. AEMO says that the national grid “is not delivering enough investment in flexible dispatchable resources to maintain the defined target level of supply reliability.” 

In other words, there hasn’t been enough investment in new generation, particularly the dispatchable kind.
None of this should be news to anyone, let alone the federal government.
Australia’s electricity grid is undergoing rapid change. 

The generation mix is changing, and so are the technologies that underpin it.

 As newer forms of generation like wind and solar are added to the grid, older forms like coal are being phased out. 

In recent years, we’ve seen the retirement of a significant number of coal-fired power generators, most notably Victoria’s Hazelwood plant in Morwell.

The smoke stacks of the Hazelwood coal-fired power plant, in Morwell, Victoria. (IMAGE: Jonathan Warner, Flickr)
In the long term, this is good news, as renewable energy is the cheapest form of new electricity generation, and will eventually bring prices down. 

Renewable energy is also cleaner, obviously, which is a good thing if you think dangerous global warming is a problem.

 But in the short term, there might be some short falls in electricity supply. 

Which might mean blackouts.
The AEMO report has been misunderstood by many in the media.

 AEMO is not saying there will be rolling blackouts in the southern states this summer, but it is saying that supply will be tight, particularly on hot days when the wind isn’t blowing. 

According to AEMO, this is because “radically changing dynamics of the power system are resulting in a tight supply-demand balance in parts of the National Electricity Market.”
AEMO recommends the creation of a 1 gigawatt “strategic reserve” of dispatchable energy (in other words, energy available to be sent to the grid), to ride through any problems on those really hot days.

 The agency has been preparing for months. 

According to AEMO’s boss Audrey Zibelman, speaking to the ABC’s Rafael Esptein on Wednesday, “no, we’re not in trouble this summer.”
The government is still worried, though. It knows that when the lights go out, voters tend to blame whoever is in charge. 

And so they should: this is a failure of planning. 

The failure is entirely the Coalition’s.

When the Coalition took government in September 2013, it inherited an electricity grid that was in transition. 

It also inherited a comprehensive plan to manage that transition, in the form of Labor’s Clean Energy Future policy. 

Labor’s policy represented a plan to transition Australia slowly to renewable energy, but with rather conservative safeguards for energy security. 

A carbon price penalised dirty industries for pollution, while a renewable energy target subsidised investment in new, clean technology. 

There was money for technology innovation, and consumers were compensated for the cost of higher electricity bills. 

Carbon permit sales that raised billions a year provided a steady stream of revenue.
Tony Abbott got rid of all that. 


He killed the carbon price, slashed nearly all funding to green energy, and launched a jihad against renewables that spooked investors. 

New renewable energy investment essentially stopped for two years. 

The government then tried to wind back the Renewable Energy Target by 15,000 gigawatt hours. 

In the end, after Labor negotiated, the government reduced it by 8,000 GWh, from 41,000 to 33,000 GWh in 2020.
Four years later, we can see the results. Coal hasn’t flourished – indeed, it’s being rapidly phased out. 

Renewable energy is still the only new generation being built – because it’s the cheapest and most profitable.

 Electricity bills are even higher than they were under Julia Gillard’s carbon price. 

Carbon emissions are going up. 

It’s failure on every front.
Not to put too fine a point on it: this is all the Coalition’s doing. By killing off the carbon price, sabotaging the RET, but refusing to put in place a viable alternative, the Coalition essentially guaranteed that the grid’s problems would deteriorate.


A coal-loader in action. (IMAGE: Thom Mitchell.)

It’s pretty obvious what Australia has needed in energy policy: certainty.

 The carbon wars have led to crippling uncertainty for investors, terrible outcomes for consumers, and even worse outcomes for the environment. 

What we should have done was put in place a plan, and stick to it.
As happens so often to this government, political expediency has blinded it to policy reality, such that the inevitable somehow surprises it. 

But no-one should be surprised that coal plants are closing. 

They were always going to close.
The sad irony is that no amount of Coalition special treatment can save coal as an electricity source. 

The dirty black rock has had its day.


 As the Guardian’s Adam Morton pointed out earlier this year, “coal generators usually operate for about half a century and most Australian plants are pushing that age”. 

Many of Australia’s plants were built in the 1970s, and have simply reached the end of their productive lives.


Hazelwood, for instance, was built in the 1960s. 

It was closed by French multinational Engie this year, essentially because it was old, expensive to maintain, and highly polluting. 

“The closure of Hazelwood is in line with Engie’s strategy to gradually end its coal activities,” the company announced last year.

 “Besides, Hazelwood power station has been operating in difficult market conditions, with lower electricity prices and a surplus of electricity supply in Victoria State.”
The same can be said for the Liddell power plant in the Hunter Valley, which the government now wants to try and keep operating after 2022. 

That’s five years away, but the fact that energy oligopolist AGL wants to shut it down makes for a handy political weapon for a government keen to be seen to be doing something – anything – about energy security.

Like everything else to do with this government, ideology has trumped economics, or even common sense. 

Liddell is 46 years old. 

It suffered serious boiler leaks in 2016 and 2017.

 The reason that AGL wants to close Liddell is that it will cost too much to keep running. 

Upgrading it will be even more expensive, and coal plants don’t make as much money as they used to.
AGL’s boss Andy Vesey always seems to be smiling when you see him the media.

 Perhaps that’s because the energy giant dominates Australia’s dysfunctional energy markets. High wholesale prices are contributing to fat times for the vertically integrated ‘gentailers’. AGL raked in more than $1.5 billion from its wholesale electricity operations last financial year, contributing to underlying profits of $1.3 billion. While AGL enjoys good publicity for its claims to be getting out of coal, it’s making big dollars from the coal plants it still runs.
Note that the price rises faced by consumers are largely the government’s fault, too. Had it wanted to, the Coalition could have attempted to reform Australia’s absurdly dysfunctional National Electricity Market, in which the price gouging by the energy generators is so profitable. This has nothing to do with renewable energy: it’s simply a consequence of a poorly-designed market where clever oligopolists are gaming the system. But the Coalition hasn’t done anything to reform the NEM either.
All of this is due to policy failure. Australia can have cheaper energy, and still have energy security, and reduce emissions at the same time. We just need a plan.
It’s fairly obvious what should replace antiquated coal plants at the end of their productive lives: new technology that will be cheaper to run and cleaner for the environment. It’s not as though we don’t have the know-how. According to the Finkel Report, which the government commissioned, the cheapest new form of electricity generation is wind. But the govenrment finds such facts inconvenient, because it is completely in thrall to the fossil fuel enthusiasm of the troglodyte Liberal right wing. We’re still waiting for the government’s response to Finkel’s recommendations.


According to chief scientist Alan Kinkel, the cheapest new source of electricity generation is wind power. (Source: Finkel Review)
If we need more dispatchable energy, and a more secure electricity grid, the cheapest way to deliver that is by smart grid technologies that better manage demand. Batteries and stored hydro can also play a role. Solar thermal is now being built for the first time in Australia, promising renewable energy at all times of the day or night. A sensible combination of these options will be vastly cheaper than building new coal plants or keeping ageing plants operational well past their use-by date.
The problem for the government is that it is now so invested in the political value of fossil fuels that it seems unable to acknowledge that renewable energy has won the economic race.
“Many of the problems we face at the moment have taken a long time to create,” Turnbull said at his media conference this week. “They can’t be solved overnight.”
He got that right. Energy policy in Australia has been a train wreck for years – roughly, you might say, since the Coalition took office.

Press link for more:  New Matilda

Climate Change is an existential risk. 

Human-induced climate change is an existential risk to human civilisation: an adverse outcome that would either annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential.

Special precautions that go well beyond conventional risk management practice are required if the “fat tails” — the increased likelihood of very large impacts — are to be adequately dealt with.

 The potential consequences of these lower-probability, but higher-impact, events would be devastating for human societies.

The bulk of climate research has tended to underplay these risks, and exhibited a preference for conservative projections and scholarly reticence, albeit increasing numbers of scientists have spoken out in recent years on the dangers of such an approach.


Climate policymaking and the public narrative are significantly informed by the important work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

 However, IPCC reports also tend toward reticence and caution, erring on the side of “least drama”, and downplaying more extreme and more damaging outcomes. 

 Whilst this has been understandable historically, given the pressure exerted upon the IPCC by political and vested interests, it is now becoming dangerously misleading, given the acceleration of climate impacts globally.

 What were lower-probability, higher-impact, events are now becoming more likely.

This is a particular concern with potential climatic “tipping points” — passing critical thresholds which result in step changes in the system — such as the polar ice sheets (and hence sea levels), and permafrost and other carbon stores, where the impacts of global warming are non-linear and difficult to model at present.


 Under-reporting on these issues contributes to the “failure of imagination” that is occurring today in our understanding of, and response to, climate change.

If climate policymaking is to be soundly based, a reframing of scientific research within an existential risk-management framework is now urgently required.

 This must be taken up not just in the work of the IPCC, but also in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations if we are to address the real climate challenge.

Current processes will not deliver either the speed or the extent of change required.

Three decades ago, when serious debate on human-induced climate change began at the global level, a great deal of statesmanship was on display. 

 There was a preparedness to recognise that this was an issue transcending nation states, ideologies and political parties which had to be addressed proactively in the long-term interests of humanity as a whole, even if the existential nature of the risk it posed was far less clear cut than it is today.


As global institutions were established to take up this challenge, such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and the extent of change this would demand of the fossil-fuel-dominated world order became clearer, the forces of resistance began to mobilise.

 Today, as a consequence, and despite the diplomatic triumph of the 2015 Paris Agreement , the debate around climate change policy has never been more dysfunctional, indeed Orwellian.
In his book 1984, George Orwell describes a double-speak totalitarian state where most of the population accepts “the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. 

 By lack of understanding they remained sane.”
Orwell could have been writing about climate change and policymaking. 

 International agreements talk of limiting global warming to 1.5–2°C, but in reality they set the world on a path of 3–5°C.


 Goals are reaffirmed, only to be abandoned. 

 Coal is “clean”. 


 Just 1°C of warming is already dangerous, but this cannot be said. 

 The planetary future is hostage to myopic national self-interest. 

 Action is delayed on the assumption that as yet unproven technologies will save the day, decades hence. 

 The risks are existential, but it is “alarmist” to say so.

 A one-in-two chance of missing a goal is normalised as reasonable.

Climate policymaking for years has been cognitively dissonant, “a flagrant violation of reality”.

 So it is unsurprising that there is a lack of a understanding amongst the public and elites of the full measure of the climate challenge. 

 Yet most Australians sense where we are heading: three-quarters of Australians see climate change as catastrophic risk and half see our way of life ending within the next 100 years.

Politics and policymaking have norms: rules and practices, assumptions and boundaries, that constrain and shape them. 

 In recent years, the previous norms of statesmanship and long-term thinking have disappeared, replaced by an obsession with short-term political and commercial advantage Climate policymaking is no exception.

Since 1992, short-term economic interest has trumped environmental and future human needs.  

The world today emits 48% more carbon dioxide (CO2 ) from the consumption of energy than it did 25 years ago, and the global economy has more than doubled in size.

 The UNFCCC strives ” to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner”, but every year humanity’s ecological footprint becomes larger and less sustainable.

 Humanity now requires the biophysical capacity of 1.7 planets annually to survive as it rapidly chews up the natural capital.

A fast, emergency-scale transition to a post-fossil fuel world is absolutely necessary to address climate change. But this is excluded from consideration by policymakers because it is considered to be too disruptive. 

 The orthodoxy is that there is
time for an orderly economic transition within the current short-termist political paradigm. 

 Discussion of what would be safe –– less warming that we presently experience –– is non-existent. 

 And so we have a policy failure of epic proportions.

Policymakers, in their magical thinking, imagine a mitigation path of gradual change, to be constructed over many decades in a growing, prosperous world.

 The world not imagined is the one that now exists: of looming financial instability; of a global crisis of political legitimacy; of a sustainability crisis that extends far beyond climate change to include all the fundamentals of human existence and most significant planetary boundaries (soils, potable water, oceans, the atmosphere, biodiversity, and so on); and of severe global energy sector dislocation.

In anticipation of the upheaval that climate change would impose upon the global order, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was established by the UN in 1988, charged with regularly assessing the global consensus on climate science as a basis for policymaking.

 The IPCC Assessment Reports ( AR ), produced every 5–6 years, play a large part in the public framing of the climate narrative: new reports are a global media event.

 AR5 was produced in 2013-14, with AR6 due in 2022. 

 The IPCC has done critical, indispensable work of the highest standard in pulling together a periodic consensus of what must be the most exhaustive scientific investigation in world history. 

 It does not carry out its own research, but reviews and collates peer-reviewed material from across the spectrum of this incredibly complex area, identifying key issues and trends for policymaker consideration.

However, the IPCC process suffers from all the dangers of consensus-building in such a wide-ranging and complex arena.

 For example, IPCC reports, of necessity, do not always contain the latest available information.

 Consensus-building can lead to “least drama”, lowest-common-denominator outcomes which overlook critical issues. 

 This is particularly the case with the “fat-tails” of probability distributions, that is, the high-impact but relatively low-probability events where scientific knowledge is more limited. 

 Vested interest pressure is acute in all directions; climate denialists accuse the IPCC of alarmism, whereas climate action proponents consider the IPCC to be far too conservative. 

 To cap it all, the IPCC conclusions are subject to intense political oversight before being released, which historically has had the effect of substantially watering-down sound scientific findings.

These limitations are understandable, and arguably were not of overriding importance in the early period of the IPCC.

 However, as time has progressed, it is now clear that the risks posed by climate change are far greater than previously anticipated. 

 We have moved out of the twilight period of much talk but relatively limited climate impacts. Climate change is now turning nasty, as we have witnessed in 2017 in the USA, South Asia, the Middle East and Europe, with record-breaking heatwaves and wildfires, more intense flooding and more damaging hurricanes.


The distinction between climate science and risk is now the critical issue, for the two are not the same.

 Scientific reticence — a reluctance to spell out the full risk implications of climate science in the absence of perfect information — has become a major problem. 

 Whilst this is understandable, particularly when scientists are continually criticised by denialists and political apparatchiks for speaking out, it is extremely dangerous given the “fat tail” risks of climate change.

 Waiting for perfect information, as we are continually urged to do by political and economic elites, means it will be too late to act.

Irreversible, adverse climate change on the global scale now occurring is an existential risk to human civilisation.

 Many of the world’s top climate scientists quoted in this report well understand these implications — James Hansen, Michael E. Mann, John Schellnhuber, Kevin Anderson, Eric Rignot, Naomi Oreskes, Kevin Trenberth, Michael Oppenheimer, Stefan Rahmstorf and others — and are forthright about their findings, where we are heading, and the limitations of IPCC reports.

This report seeks to alert the wider community and leaders to these limitations and urges change to the IPCC approach, and to the wider UNFCCC negotiations. It is clear that existing processes will not deliver the transformation to a low-carbon world in the limited time now available.
We urgently require a reframing of scientific research within an existential risk-management framework. This requires special precautions that go well beyond conventional risk management. 

 Like an iceberg, there is great danger “In what lies beneath”.

Press link for more: What lies beneath Report

Think energy is expensive wait till you get the bill for #ClimateChange #QT #Auspol 

If You Think Fighting Climate Change Will Be Expensive, Calculate the Cost of Letting It Happen
Dante Disparte June 12, 2017

Jun17-12-128228428

With the Trump Administration’s surprising U-turn on the COP21 Paris Agreement, the U.S. finds itself with some strange bedfellows, joining Nicaragua and Syria in abstaining from this important treaty. 

The White House’s argument for leaving the treaty is based on economic nationalism: President Trump, in his speech announcing the decision, cited primarily the “lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production” that he thought meeting the agreement’s voluntary targets would cause.
This echoes a common political talking point: that fighting climate change is bad for the economy.


I’d like to point out the flip side: that climate change itself is bad for the economy and investing in climate resilience is not only a national security priority, but an enormous economic opportunity.
The share of national GDP at risk from climate change exceeds $1.5 trillion in the 301 major cities around the world. 

Including the impact of human pandemics – which are likely to become more severe as the planet warms — the figure increases to nearly $2.2 trillion in economic output at risk through 2025.

For recent examples of what climate disruptions will look like in practice, consider Superstorm Sandy, which devastated the Eastern Seaboard in 2012, causing $68 billion in damages, making it the second most costly weather event in the U.S. after Hurricane Katrina.

 Record snowfall in Boston of more than 100 inches in the winter of 2015 shut down transit systems for weeks and made it difficult, if not impossible, for some employees to get to work. 

The “rain bomb” that imperiled the Oroville Dam in California earlier this year threatened the displacement of more than 250,000 downstream residents.

 A similar rain bomb effectively destroyed historic downtown Ellicott City in 2016, just outside of Washington D.C. Air quality and smog red alerts and the complete bans on vehicle traffic in major cities around the world highlight how traditional commerce and supply chains can and do grind to a halt because of climate risks. 

Record flooding in Thailand in 2011 severely impacted air travel, tourism, and one of the major regional airports in Asia.
Climate change is also a critical geostrategic issue over which the prospect of war and social upheaval cannot be ruled out. 


How will the country of Panama be affected by the likelihood of Northern open ocean sea routes? 

How will the undersea land-grab play out under the dwindling polar ice caps, as Arctic nations race to lay claim to untapped natural resources? 

Indeed, the prospects of the Larsen B ice shelf breaking off – a mass of ice roughly the size of Delaware – will profoundly affect global shipping routes, as well as herald a major tipping point in global sea levels, which already plague many low-lying areas of the world, from Louisiana and the Florida panhandle to the Maldives. 

Military leaders in both the U.S. and the UK have argued that climate change is already accelerating instability in some parts of the world, drawing direct links between climate change and the Arab Spring, Syrian civil war, and Boko Haram insurgency. 

The destabilizing migrations caused by the climate and related events will only become more pronounced as the effects of global warming become more severe; climate change refugees already exist in the United States, China, and Africa, among other places.


When people can’t get to work, or goods can’t be shipped to where they need to be, or customers can’t get to stores, the economy suffers. 

Insidiously, already-strained public budgets tend to be the “suppliers of first resort” when absorbing both the acute and attritional economic costs of climate change.

 Unfunded losses, such as post-Katrina repairs in the Gulf region, that ultimately get picked up by tax payers have the consequence of raising the specter of sovereign risk. 

Funding “slow burn” climate impacts, such as the urban heat island effect that is projected to make many urban centers unbearably hot, including the already sweltering Las Vegas, Santa Fe, and Dallas areas, risk the dislocation of millions of people, imperiling countless industries over the long range.

 With rising temperatures comes an increase in vector-borne diseases, which have been traditionally relegated as sub-tropical threats. 

Today, mosquito-borne West Nile virus is already endemic in much of the U.S., which does not bode well for containing the risk of Zika.


While the Zika epidemic is over in Puerto Rico, reports that it would affect one in five people on the island hurt the island’s tourism industry – at a time when the local economy is struggling to emerge from a municipal debt crisis. 

The correlation between climate change, human pandemics, and economic and other risks, cannot be isolated; they’re all connected.
That makes the shift away from a carbon-based economy as inexorable as the rising tide and temperature. 

Indeed, the renewable energy sector is one of the fastest growing employers in the U.S., with solar alone accounting for nearly 400,000 jobs, proving that investing in climate resilience not only makes for good policy, it makes for good business.

 The business opportunities of investing in climate change, renewable energy, and human adaptation are big enough to create a new generation of billionaires – I call them Climate Robber Barons – regardless of what politicians in Washington or other capitals choose to do.

Climate change and climate resilience are not zero-sum propositions, as evidenced by the near unanimous support for COP21 from more than 190 countries. 

While the U.S. turning its back on climate change is clearly a global policy and diplomatic setback, this is also an opportunity for leaders to prove that values matter most when it is least convenient. 

Indeed, the response from U.S. state and city leaders underscores how many leaders are remaining steadfast to the Paris Agreement notwithstanding the short-term setback. 

Business leaders have also been swift in their rebuke, including Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO and very likely the first climate robber baron, and Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, both of whom immediately stepped down from the President’s economic advisory council. 

New York’s former mayor and the renowned business leader, Michael Bloomberg, looks decidedly like a head of state rather than a captain of industry, as he steps into the UN funding breach left behind by the U.S. with a $15 million pledge. 

While the official U.S. seat at the climate change table may have been shorted, parallel leadership can show the world that the U.S. is going long on climate change.

Press link for more: Harvard Business Report

We can no longer tolerate climate change denial! #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol 

We can no longer tolerate climate change denial
August 30 2017 – 12:05AM

Comment

 The United States Weather Service, normally not an agency prone to colourful language, issued an extraordinary statement on Sunday regarding hurricane Harvey, saying, “This event is unprecedented and all impacts are unknown beyond anything experienced”. 

It is now predicted the storm could eventually drop over 150 centimetres of rain in some areas, more than any other in the region’s history.

Far from over, it is already clear that Harvey’s impact is catastrophic. 

Six people are confirmed dead and that number is expected to increase. Cost estimates range up to $US100 billion.
America’s efforts to combat climate change have been battered by President Donald Trump.

America’s efforts to combat climate change have been battered by President Donald Trump. 


Meanwhile flooding in Bangladesh, India and Nepal during the region’s worst monsoon season in a decade has killed an estimated 1200 people.

Climate scientists are reluctant to attribute any particular weather event to global warming, though in this case the signs are that human behaviour contributed to the formation and severity of the storm and its impact.
As tropical storm Harvey moved towards the Texas coast last week, few models predicted it would intensify into such a damaging weather system.

 It then hit an ocean patch in the Gulf of Mexico that remained so hot over the northern winter that it broke temperature records on one in four days according to Houston meteorologist Matt Lanza. On the day Harvey hit, the area was around 2.2 degrees hotter than normal. Fuelled by the aberrant water temperature Harvey grew rapidly into a category-four cyclone as it hit the coast. It is now trapped in place over Houston, constantly siphoning energy and moisture from an ocean that scientists agree is likely to have been warmed by climate change.
The flooding across America’s fourth-largest city was predicted last year in a joint investigation by the Texas Tribune and the non-profit investigative journalism organisation ProPublica.
“As millions have flocked to the metropolitan area in recent decades, local officials have largely rejected stricter building regulations, allowing developers to pave over acres of prairie land that once absorbed large amounts of rainwater. In the decade after Tropical Storm Allison [in 2001], about 167,000 acres were developed in Harris County, home to Houston,” ProPublica wrote last week when it revisited its earlier investigation.
America’s efforts to combat climate change and set policy to live with its impact have been battered by President Donald Trump, who formally notified the United Nations of his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement earlier this month.
Last month Mr Trump rescinded Obama-era regulations that would have made urban development and infrastructure more flood resilient in future.
Mr Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency director, Scott Pruitt, has made the dismantling of his agency’s effort to combat climate change the central goal of his tenure, and in April the EPA scrapped its climate website entirely.
Australia risks following America’s lead on climate change.

Efforts to craft national energy policy that reflect the realities of climate change and rapidly advancing renewable energy technology are blocked by a hardline faction of the coalition partyroom led by former prime minister, Tony Abbott.
In February last year CSIRO announced massive funding cuts to its climate change research division, only to partially overturn the decision in the face of sustained national and international criticism. This year the government ended all funding for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility.
As with America’s, Australia’s ongoing failure to deal with climate change carries practical and moral consequence. We cannot significantly cut our greenhouse gas emissions without determined national effort and we cannot engage our diplomatic expertise and might to contribute more to an international solution until we cut our emissions.
We cannot any longer afford to tolerate the scientific myopia exemplified by Mr Trump and Mr Abbott.

Press link for more: AMP.SMH.COM

100% Renewables Needed “As Fast As Humanly Possible” #StopAdani #auspol 

Bill McKibben: ‘100% Renewables Needed ‘As Fast as Humanly Possible’

By Jake Johnson
“Given the state of the planet,” wrote 350.org founder Bill McKibben in his new feature piece for In These Times, it would have been ideal for the world to have fully transitioned its energy systems away from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable sources “25 years ago.”

But we can still push for the “second best” option, McKibben concluded. To do so, we must move toward wind, solar and water “as fast as humanly possible.”
The transition to 100 percent renewable energy is a goal that has gained significant appeal over the past decade—and particularly over the past several months, as President Donald Trump has moved rapidly at the behest of Big Oil to dismantle even the limited environmental protections put in place by the Obama administration. 

Trump also withdrew the U.S. from the Paris agreement, a move McKibben denounced as “stupid and reckless.”


“Environmental groups from the Climate Mobilization to Greenpeace to Food and Water Watch are backing the 100 percent target,” McKibben wrote, as are many lawmakers, U.S. states and countries throughout the world.
Given the climate stance of both the dominant party in Congress and the current occupant of the Oval Office, McKibben noted that we shouldn’t be looking toward either for leadership.
Rather, we should look to states like California and countries like China, both of which have made significant commitments to aggressively alter their energy systems in recent months.

The newest addition to the push for renewables is Maryland, which is set to announce on Thursday an “urgent” and “historic” bill that, if passed, would transition the state’s energy system to 100 percent renewables by 2035.
McKibben also pointed to individual senators like Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who in April introduced legislation that would transition the U.S. to 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2050. The bill will not pass the current Congress, “but as a standard to shape the Democratic Party agenda in 2018 and 2020, it’s critically important,” McKibben argued.
“What Medicare for All is to the healthcare debate, or Fight for $15 is to the battle against inequality, 100 percent renewable is to the struggle for the planet’s future,” McKibben wrote. “It’s how progressives will think about energy going forward.”

Previously a fringe idea, the call for 100 percent renewables is “gaining traction outside the obvious green enclaves,” McKibben added. This is in large part because technology is such that a move toward 100 percent renewable energy “would make economic sense … even if fossil fuels weren’t wrecking the Earth.”
“That’s why the appeal of 100% Renewable goes beyond the left,” McKibben wrote. “If you pay a power bill, it’s the common-sense path forward.”
Writing for Vox last week, David Roberts noted that “wind and solar power are saving Americans an astounding amount of money” already.
“[W]ind and solar produce, to use the economic term of art, ‘positive externalities’—benefits to society that are not captured in their market price,” Roberts wrote. “Specifically, wind and solar power reduce pollution, which reduces sickness, missed work days, and early deaths.”
For these reasons, and for the familiar environmental ones, 100 percent renewables is no longer merely an “aspirational goal,” McKibben argued. It is “the obvious solution.”
“No more half-measures … Many scientists tell us that within a decade, at current rates, we’ll likely have put enough carbon in the atmosphere to warm the Earth past the Paris climate targets,” McKibben concluded. “Renewables—even the most rapid transition—won’t stop climate change, but getting off fossil fuel now might (there are no longer any guarantees) keep us from the level of damage that would shake civilization.”

Press link for more: Eco watch

Renewables Could Eliminate 99% of CO2 Emissions by 2050 #auspol #StopAdani

A New Roadmap to Renewable Dependence Could Eliminate 99% of CO2 Emissions by 2050

Far-Reaching and Inclusive
Setting goals to reduce carbon emissions and then figuring out a way to achieve those goals is difficult for any country.

 Now, imagine doing that for not just one nation but 139 of them.
That’s the enormous task a team of researchers led by Stanford University environmental engineer Mark Jacobson decided to take on. 

He and his colleagues built a roadmap for 139 countries across the globe that would lead to them relying solely on renewable energy by 2050, and they’ve published that plan today in Joule.
renewable energy solar energy wind energy water energy


Image Credit: The Solutions Project

The 139 countries weren’t picked arbitrarily. 

The researchers chose them because data on each was publicly available through the International Energy Agency. Combined, the chosen nations also produce more than 99 percent of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.
To develop their roadmap, the researchers first analyzed each country. 

They looked at how much raw renewable energy resources each one has, and then they determined the number of wind, water, and solar energy generators needed for that country to reach 80 percent renewable energy dependence by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.


The researchers also calculated the amount of land and rooftop area such power sources would require, as well as how a transition to renewables could reduce each nation’s energy demand and costs. 

Aside from the energy sector, the team also took into account the transportation, heating/cooling, industrial, and agriculture/fishing/forestry industries of each of the 139 countries while creating their roadmap.

“Aside from eliminating emissions and avoiding 1.5 degrees Celsius [2.7 degrees Fahrenheit] global warming and beginning the process of letting carbon dioxide drain from the Earth’s atmosphere, transitioning eliminates 4-7 million air pollution deaths each year and creates over 24 million long-term, full-time jobs by these plans,” Jacobson said in a press release.

“What is different between this study and other studies that have proposed solutions is that we are trying to examine not only the climate benefits of reducing carbon but also the air pollution benefits, job benefits, and cost benefits,” he added.
Benefits Beyond the Climate
As each of these 139 countries is unique, their paths to 100 percent renewable energy are necessarily unique as well. 

For instance, nations with greater land-to-population ratios, such as the U.S., the E.U., and China, have an easier path to renewable dependence and could achieve it at a faster rate than small but highly populated countries surrounded by oceans, such as Singapore.
For all countries, however, the goal is the same: 100 percent dependence on renewables.

According to the study, this transition would lessen worldwide energy consumption as renewables are more efficient than their fossil fuel-powered counterparts.
It would also result in the creation of 24 million long-term jobs, reduce the number of air pollution deaths by 4 to 7 million annually, and stabilize energy prices.

 The world could potentially save more than $20 trillion in health and climate costs each year.
And these 139 nations now know exactly what they need to do to reach this goal and all the benefits that come with it.
“Both individuals and governments can lead this change.

 Policymakers don’t usually want to commit to doing something unless there is some reasonable science that can show it is possible, and that is what we are trying to do,” Jacobson explained. 

“There are other scenarios. 

We are not saying that there is only one way we can do this, but having a scenario gives people direction.”
For co-author Mark Delucchi from the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, the study sends a very clear message: “Our findings suggest that the benefits are so great that we should accelerate the transition to wind, water, and solar, as fast as possible, by retiring fossil-fuel systems early wherever we can.”

Press link for more: Futurism.com

Wind & Solar get the thumbs-up. #auspol #StopAdani

One of the biggest criticisms against wind and solar energy has been quashed
Akshat Rathi

One of the biggest criticisms of the renewable-energy industry is that it has been propped up by government subsidies. 

There is no doubt that without government help, it would have been much harder for the nascent technology to mature. But what’s more important is whether there has been a decent return on taxpayers’ investment.

A new analysis in Nature Energy gives renewable-energy subsidies the thumbs-up.

 Dev Millstein of Lawerence Berkeley National Laboratory and his colleagues find that the fossil fuels not burnt because of wind and solar energy helped avoid between 3,000 and 12,700 premature deaths in the US between 2007 and 2015. 

Fossil fuels produce large amounts of pollutants like carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter, which are responsible for ill-health and negative climate effects.

The researchers found that the US saved between $35 billion and $220 billion in that period because of avoided deaths, fewer sick days, and climate-change mitigation.
How do these benefits compare to the US government’s outlays? “The monetary value of air quality and climate benefits are about equal or more than state and federal financial support to wind and solar industries,” says Millstein.
Between 2007 and 2015, Quartz’s own analysis* finds that the US government likely spent between $50 billion and $80 billion on subsidies for those two industries. Even on the lower end of the benefits and higher end of subsidies, just the health and climate benefits of renewable energy return about half of taxpayers’ money. If the US were to stop subsidies now, those benefits would continue to accrue for the lifetime of the already existing infrastructure, improving the long-term return of the investments.
What’s more, those benefits do not account for everything. Creation of a new industry spurs economic growth, creates new jobs, and leads to technology development. There isn’t yet an estimation of what sort of money that brings in, but it’s likely to be a tidy sum.
To be sure, the marginal benefits of additional renewable energy production will start to fall in the future. That is, for every new megawatt of renewable energy produced, an equal amount of pollution won’t be avoided, which means the number of lives saved, and monetary benefits generated, will fall. But Millstein thinks that we won’t reach that point for some time—at least in the US.
The debate whether subsidies to the renewable industry are worth it rages across the world. Though the results of this study are only directly applicable to the US, many rich countries have similar factors at play and are likely to produce similar cost-benefit analyses.

Press link for more: QZ.Com

Coal is a big contributor to air pollution. #StopAdani #Auspol 

Energy the key to fight climate change
President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris climate accord must not become a distraction from urgent global efforts to combat climate change.


Countries in Asia were among the most committed supporters of the Paris goals.

 Thailand, for example, has committed to a 20 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.

 Now is not the time to break stride, but to reinforce the resolve.
Energy demand is set to double this century, with the world’s population reaching 11 billion, up from 7.5 billion today. 
As the world changes, so will the energy system that powers it, driven by the need to reduce carbon emissions and – crucially for Asia – tackle air pollution that blights so many lives. 

Coal is a big contributor to that air pollution. 

This can, and must, change. 

Put simply: we will need more and cleaner energy if Asian countries are to continue to thrive in the coming decades. 

Today, coal is still the biggest source of power in the region, at 47 per cent of the power mix, compared to natural gas at 10 per cent. 

In some countries, coal’s share is rising.

For Asia’s population, renewable energy will be essential to meeting growing demand while tackling climate change and air pollution.
But renewables chiefly produce electricity. 

And there are parts of the economy, such as industries that produce iron, steel, cement, plastic and chemicals, that cannot be electrified yet – certainly not at a reasonable cost. 

That’s one reason why the world will still need oil and gas in large quantities in the coming decades.
During this time we will see a big change in the way energy is produced, used and made available to people. 

And I see a combination of renewables, such as wind and solar, and natural gas – the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon – playing an increasingly important role.

 Modern gas-fired power plants can quickly respond to an increase in demand for electricity when there’s no sun or little wind.
By the end of the century many millions of people in emerging economies will join the middle class. 

Most will use cell phones and refrigerators. 

Many will drive cars – or travel in self-driving cars – as their quality of life improves.
All this will create enormous pressures on the global energy system. 

At the same time, we face serious environmental challenges.

 What kind of air will our children and grandchildren breathe?

 How will climate change effect the quality of life of people in the most exposed areas, such as coastal regions?

Natural gas is one of the few energy sources that can be used across all sectors of the global economy, including fuelling transport, heating and lighting homes, and powering industries. Reserves are abundant and available in many regions. 
The environmental benefits are also clear. 

In power generation, for example, natural gas emits around half the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and less than one-tenth of air pollutants compared to coal.
Some countries are already taking significant steps to boost the use of gas.
In Thailand, the government has introduced policies to open up the market to new suppliers of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as it aims to meet the country’s future energy needs while reducing emissions.
China plans to raise the share of gas in primary energy from 6 per cent today to 15 per cent by 2030. 

It is also widely using gas for transport, with more than 200,000 trucks and buses fuelled by LNG.
In the city of Lanzhou, strict air pollution policies reduced coal consumption by 40 per cent and significantly increased the number of days with clear skies between 2012 and 2016.
In India, where gas makes up only 8 per cent of the energy mix, the government is moving towards its greater use, creating infrastructure such as gas pipelines and LNG terminals. 

In Gujarat, India’s most industrialised state, gas now makes up 25 per cent of the energy system, fuelling transport and cooking, as well as major plants producing petrochemicals, fertilisers and glass. 

Policies of successive governments will determine the extent to which gas will play a key role in coming decades.

 Their decisions must reflect the commitments made at the UN Paris climate summit. 

Government-led mechanisms that put a price on CO2 emissions would stimulate the development of low-carbon and renewable technologies. 

Singapore, for example, will be the first country in Southeast Asia to have a carbon tax to encourage industries to reduce emissions.
Beyond policy choices from governments, a lot will also depend on the action of energy companies. 

For Shell’s part, we continue to increase our investment in gas, now around half of our total production. And we are exploring commercial opportunities in areas such as biofuels, hydrogen and wind power. 
Governments, companies and consumers have the power to shape a new energy future, where renewables and natural gas play critical roles. Now is the time to step up the drive to deliver on the environmental pledges made in Paris. 
The writer is integrated gas and new energies director of Shell

Press link for more: Nation Multimedia

Scientists: Action needed on #ClimateChange #StopAdani #Auspol 

Scientists: Action Needed on Climate
Various studies suggest the problem of rising temperatures is growing.

As new reports indicate that Earth’s temperature will likely increase by two degrees Celsius by the end of the century, scientist and economists are once again urging the government to take immediate action to avoid the most devastating consequences of climate change.


The call for change comes at an unusual time in U.S. climate policy. 

President Donald Trump recently said the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and key officials in his administration continue to cast doubt on the evidence surrounding global warming.
Two studies this week from the University of Washington and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies, confirmed previous findings on global warming. 

Former Vice President Al Gore also released a new documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, on August 4, to draw attention to the climate crisis.

 

Scientists and economists call on the federal government to implement carbon pricing and invest in carbon capture technologies to slow the process of global warming, and to establish adaptation measures to deal with inevitable temperature rises.
The reports, published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, build on the existing research on climate change. 

They demonstrate that “we have to move even faster,” said Michael Mehling, deputy director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 “The trend overall has been us underestimating climate change,” he said. “Each new study has been more and more sobering.”
One study used observational data to show that even if all greenhouse gas emissions were suddenly turned off today, Earth would still continue heating up about 1.3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

“[The study] tells us about the momentum of the climate system,” said Robert Pincus, one of the lead authors and a scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies, a partnership of the University of Colorado–Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

“Even if you stop pushing on the climate system, it continues to change and warm.”
The study also shows a 13 percent chance that we are already committed to a 1.5-degree C increase by the end of the century. 

The 2016 Paris Agreement set a target for keeping temperature increases to 1.5 degrees or lower by 2100.
The other study from the University of Washington used statistical analysis to show only a 5 percent chance that Earth will warm 2 degrees or less by the end of the century.
Climate Change Could Do Damage By Century’s End
“Our analysis shows that the goal of 2 degrees is very much a best-case scenario,” said lead author Adrian Raftery, a professor of statistics and sociology at the University of Washington, in a news release. 

“It is achievable, but only with major, sustained effort on all fronts over the next 80 years.”
The 2 degree threshold was first introduced by economist William Nordhaus in his 1977 paper, “Economic Growth and Climate: The Carbon Dioxide Problem,” and is commonly seen by scientists as the “line in the sand that we shouldn’t cross,” said Gilbert Metcalf, professor of economics at Tufts University, whose research centers on environmental economics.
Two degrees corresponds closely to when carbon dioxide levels have doubled from pre-industrial levels, explained Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The threshold marks the point “when disruptions from climate change become so large, they can’t just be brushed aside and adapted to in the normal way of things. The environmental pressures and the number of people that are affected by them become potentially overwhelming.”
Researchers say that slowing the warming process and adapting to the rise in temperature that has already happened are crucial. “The clear implication [of the studies] is we need to get to a zero-carbon economy as quickly as we can,” Metcalf said.
Carbon pricing––either in the form of a carbon tax or a cap on the total level of emissions allowed by each company––is an especially important tool.
“It’s the single most impactful policy we could put in place,” Metcalf stated. A carbon tax would increase the price of carbon-intensive goods to the point that consumers begin seeking out alternatives, he said. “A carbon tax is a way for the invisible hand to have a green thumb.”

But John Reilly, co-director of the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change at MIT, pointed out the difficulty involved in convincing governments to impose carbon prices at necessary levels.

 And without economic consequences, most industries continue emitting greenhouse gases.


“It’s hard for [companies] to imagine cutting their emissions by 80 percent by 2050 without the right economic incentives to do it,” Reilly said. “If companies want to do good, and do good, and go out of business, then all the efforts are wasted.”
Right now, few regions have implemented sufficiently high carbon prices, Mehling said, echoing Reilly. 

The International Monetary Fund has proposed a carbon price of $25 per ton, but carbon prices in most regions in the world with such prices are still far below that.
Investing in carbon capture and storage technologies is another, more aggressive, way to mitigate the effects of global warming, specialists say. Those technologies involve capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere. But Mehling said carbon capture has not yet been deployed at scale anywhere.
Other possible solutions are in the works, notably with battery development, which is crucial to an “electric economy,” Gilbert said.
But given the inevitability of global warming, experts also advocate developing adaptation measures to deal with more extreme weather conditions including rising sea levels, stronger storms, greater risk of wildfires, and longer dry spells.

Press link for more: USnews.com