Epic demolition of modern politics & lessons from Wentworth #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #SpringSt #ClimateChange #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #TheDrum #Insiders #QandA

In Their Own Words: Dr Lissa Johnson’s Epic 5,000 Word Demolition Of Modern Politics And The Lessons From Wentworth

With the votes finally counted for the October 20 Wentworth by-election, independent candidate Dr Kerryn Phelps has maintained her lead over Liberal candidate Dave Sharma, riding the crest of the 19 percent swing against the Liberal Party all the way to Federal Parliament.

Phelps will be sworn in this month, taking ousted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s seat, forcing the Coalition into minority government. It is the first time since the Liberal Party’s inception that Wentworth has parted ways with the Liberals at an election.

Dr. Kerryn Phelps

Although the Coalition’s new powerbrokers are putting on a brave face, it’s got to hurt being thrust into minority status by a formerly loyal electorate. Having staged an internal coup against Turnbull in order to run their own show, it can’t be easy coming to terms with his replacement, Phelps, whose first order of business is getting children off Nauru and tackling climate change.

As the post-Turnbull guard shifts into power-sharing mode, what has their response to the Wentworth by-election revealed about them so far?

How will they fare making nice with crossbenchers?

Has the Wentworth result taught them anything?

On election night, Prime Minister Morrison assured voters that he was all ears. “Tonight is a night where we listen”, he said, “where we learn.”

Being the first public verdict on the hard-right takeover inside the already right wing Turnbull government, Morrison was wise to listen to Wentworth voters.

And so, with his listening ears on, and the magnitude of the swing against him sinking in, at his concession speech Morrison spoke in rallying terms about “what we believe” as Liberals. He dished up a slightly re-heated serve of the Abbott Government’s victim-blaming ‘lifters and leaners’ of 2014, stale and cold around the edges.

Morrison invoked a pro-austerity, anti-tax world populated by undeserving ne’er-do-wells and “hard working” Australians who “get up early in the morning” and “have a go”.

Scott Morrison, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott.

What it had to do with Wentworth wasn’t clear.

Wentworth is among the leastwelfare reliant seats in the country. Its residents, on average, are among the most likely to benefit from Coalition tax policies.

Perhaps the unfolding reality was too much for Morrison to absorb: the strata of society he sought to prop up had turned against him.

So Morrison went instead to a happy Liberal place, pledging to fight for the early risers of Australia (formerly known as ‘lifters’) “til the bell rings. And the bell hasn’t rung Liberals, the bell hasn’t rung. We’ll take this all the way to the next election.”

The following day Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg doubled down on their existing climate change and asylum seeker policies, despite both issues being central to the winning Phelps campaign.

Keep doing what you’re doing” appears to be the message that Morrison and Frydenberg heard.

Other senior figures in the Coalition seemed equally mis-attuned to voters’ sentiments. The day after the by-election, former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce opined that Malcolm Turnbull had neglected his “responsibility” to “campaign to save his own seat… And I truly believe… that if he had… we would still have a majority in parliament.”

‘It’s all Malcolm’s fault’ is what the by-election said to Joyce.

Being a professional listener, I can’t help but observe that the Coalition’s listening skills need some work. Others seem to have noticed too.

An editorial in the Canberra Times, for instance, concluded that the Coalition would only succeed as a minority government “if they discover an ability to listen to voices other than their own. The Coalition’s current problems are the direct result of their refusal to do that.”

In fairness to the Coalition, perhaps ‘listening 101’ is not a step on politicians’ career ladders these days. Perhaps our leaders could use some tips. So, to help them out, here is a little listening 101.

As any good listener will know, real listening involves hearing not what you want to hear, as our leaders seem prone to do, nor simply the words that are being spoken, but the underlying meanings, themes, feelings and implications. This, in turn, requires putting oneself in the other person’s shoes, which listeners call perspective-taking.

The next level of listening entails reflecting back the themes and underlying meanings that you have gleaned, in order to enhance attunement and check your understanding. We call this reflective listening.

Given the level of mis-attunement to Wentworth voters, to help the Coalition with their perspective-taking skills, here are some messages they might have deciphered from within the Wentworth results. And to help them with their reflective listening, here are some honest reflections* they might have offered in response.


We thought this was a democracy

Although the Financial Review blamed social media and GetUp!, according to exit polling the biggest issue driving voters from the Liberal Party to Kerryn Phelps was that their elected candidate and Prime Minister, Turnbull, had been rolled. Were the Coalition listening attentively and reflectively to these voters, their responses might have included some or all of the below:

“We understand your anger at being forced to get out and vote right now. You’d rather be off enjoying your weekend. Who wouldn’t? You’re only here because the candidate you elected to represent you – and govern the country – has been ousted. By us.

You are probably extra peeved because no good reason was ever really offered for the leadership spill, other than the fact that we didn’t like Turnbull’s style and wanted his job. Plus there was Abbott’s revenge. Which are thin excuses for a coup, granted.

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaking in Afghanistan. (IMAGE: US Embassy Kabul Afghanistan, Flickr)

You probably also feel like the whole thing was all about us. Which it was. Maybe you thought governance should be about you.

In fact, you must be fed up with elected Prime Ministers getting rolled by ambitious rivals. Not that Turnbull is innocent, as you know. He did the same thing to Tony Abbott in 2015. Just like Julia Gillard did to Kevin Rudd in 2010 and then Rudd did back to Gillard in 2013. It’s practically the Australian way by now, with no elected Prime Minister serving a full term since 2007.

You may even remember the ABC telling you in 2015 not to get too het up about it all. It’s ‘just the Westminster system in action’ apparently.

But you do seem fed up. Fair enough. Australia has a good reputation as a democracy. We get great scores on those Democracy Indices. Nine out of 10 even.

And – it can’t be denied – elections are a cornerstone of democracy. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you had the right to choose who leads your country. Even if you’re mistaken, technically.

But Westminster system or not, we recognise that we were probably a little naïve to think that you’d be cool with us changing your electoral minds for you like that. Hell, even America, whose democracy is in tatters, takes the issue of ousting an elected President seriously. It’s only polite when you think about it, even if just to maintain the appearance of democracy. Otherwise the plutocratic nature of the whole project becomes a little too obvious, and that makes everyone uncomfortable.

Some of you might have noticed that in the US they need years of special investigations, indictments galore, endless primetime and print propaganda, intelligence reports, no matter how dubious or amateurish, and reasons – real and imagined – to try to roll a President. Even then there’s no guarantee. In Australia we treat it like it’s no big deal.

You could be excused for thinking ‘what the fudge?’ America takes democracy more seriously that we do? Sure, American elites bang on endlessly about democracy. But it’s obvious to any non-elite that this is what psychologists call ‘overcompensation’.

Let’s face it, democracy in America is so degraded that black and brown votes are suppressed in their millions, voters are illegally purged from voter rolls in their hundreds of thousands if not millions, election ‘debates’ are run by a private corporation that prohibits third parties from participating (and handcuffs them to chairs if they try), voting machines are owned by private corporations using proprietary software that can’t be inspected even by election officials, 11 year-olds can hack voting machines within 10 minutes, important contested ballots are illegally destroyed before courts can get their hands on them, primaries are rigged, and falsehood upon distortion upon confected scandalcovers it all up.

That’s even without any foreign interference, which is a drop in the election interference bucket anyway (a 0.0004 to 0.00008 drop to be exact), especially compared to all those own-goals.

In America they’re barely even trying at democracy. Here we consider ourselves the real deal. And yet we’re the ones whose Prime Ministers get ousted when elites-in-waiting just can’t keep it in their parliamentary portfolio anymore.

You’d be forgiven if you were thinking all of that. Even if you weren’t – even if you’re just mad that we took your candidate away – we get it. You’d prefer to elect your leaders democratically.”

We could have been a lot angrier

“To be honest, it could have been a lot worse. As others have pointed out, you weren’t calling for revolution or shouting ‘down with capitalism’ or ‘neoliberalism sucks’ or anything like that.

Although you did vote against us in Wentworth, you chose an establishment candidate with a history of supporting corporate tax cuts and opposing the right to publicly protest. One who preferenced us right-wingers, just in case, climate nihilism, asylum seeker abuse and all.

Of course, Kerryn Phelps has a more progressive stance than us on climate change and asylum seekers, which is another reason many of you voted for her, but she’s not about to fundamentally rock the climate-catastrophe, human-rights abusing predatory-capitalist boat.

So, as ruling elites – which matters much more than which ruling elite party we represent – we’re grateful.

We’re also, believe it or not, grateful that you don’t read the World Socialist Website. Not that you’d be interested in mobilising the working class, probably, but on the subject of democracy, you might be interested in reports that pressure from Donald Trump’s administration may have played a role in Turnbull’s ouster.

At the time of the leadership spill, the World Socialist Website (WSW) reportedthat:

‘Among those leading the charge against Turnbull have been figures closely associated with the US-linked military and intelligence forces…. Over the past two years, a succession of key figures in the US ruling elite, including former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, ex-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and US Vice President Mike Pence, have visited Australia to insist that Canberra remain totally committed to Washington’s geostrategic confrontation with China.’

China. Bet you didn’t think you were giving up your Saturday to vote because of China.

You probably heard reports that the fossil fuel lobby and Rupert Murdoch’spolitical influence empire had something to do with scrapping Turnbull. But the US? Because of China?

The whole thing reads like a case study in plutocracy. How many powerful vested interests does it take to bring down an Australian Prime Minister?

US president Donald Trump. (IMAGE: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)

Not that we recommend you read the WSW article or anything, but if you did you’d find out that a few weeks before Turnbull was heaved overboard he ‘gave a speech that would not have pleased the US ruling elite. He vowed his determination to maintain a ‘very deep’ and growing relationship with China.’

Over at the WSW they reckon that that’s when we made our move against Turnbull – when the US was good and mad at him. ‘The move against Turnbull was certainly not opposed in Washington, if not tacitly endorsed,’ they said.

You must admit, timing is everything.

Then, a few weeks later in another article about the ‘survival of prime ministers… being determined by intrigues between billionaires’ the WSW added that ‘Turnbull was regarded as unreliable in Washington because of his reluctance to join provocative US military operations in the South China Sea and his attempts to protect the profit interests of those sections of Australian capitalism most reliant on China.’

Typical Turnbull. Thinking he knows best right to the end.

But luckily you don’t read that kind of stuff. If you did, you might have taken umbrage at the possibility of a foreign government deciding you’d voted the wrong way, and helping to correct your mistake for you.

True, the US does that all the time directly and indirectly in places like Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran, Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil, El Salvador or Haiti, to name a few. But this is Australia. We’re an arm of the US Empire. Or a bicep at least, surely. Not a client state. Are we?

But, look, don’t worry. As long as you don’t read the World Socialist Website you won’t have to think about any of that. You won’t be forced to grapple with Australian politics in imperial context. It’s a downer. (No pun intended).

You won’t have to wonder whether ‘Make America Great Again’ ‘Mexicans are Rapists’ ‘Build a Wall’ Trump had anything to do with the Wentworth by-election. There was enough white supremacist madness in Canberra as it was.

So just don’t read the World Socialist Website. It’s easier that way. In fact, forget we mentioned it.”

Be polite

“To be honest, before the by-election we didn’t think very much about the whole democracy angle.

It hadn’t occurred to us that you’d be all that bothered whether it was Morrison or Dutton on Turnbull in power, seeing as how their policies are more or less the same anyway. You must admit, judging by actions rather than words, they’re difficult to distinguish, other than the blatant, obvious racism and far-right excess some of us add to the mix.

Take these two impressive lists on climate change and refugees for example. Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison makes for a seamlessly integrated three-headed climate-catastrophe human-rights-abusing beast. A beautiful beast, we might add. But we’re biased.

Plus Turnbull took us further down the path to a police state than even Abbott could manage. Here’s a satirical little video on the subject. (Police states are better digested laughing than crying, we find).

I mean show me a police state that’s not racist. Turnbull just put a ‘market friendly face’ on it. Like Morrison puts on us. Market friendliness is essential these days. And Turnbull presided over the ‘Foreign Interference Legislation’, which criminalises dissent and political organising, with up to 20 years jail for journalism the government deems unacceptable. (No prizes for guessing what kind of journalism police states deem unacceptable. Police states are notoriously sensitive to criticism).

The laws are so repressive they go ‘well beyond measures in force in other so-called democracies.’

Granted, the US did have to lean on Turnbull slightly to get him to rush the legislation through parliament. It was priceless, though. The US interfering in Australian politics to push swift passage of foreign interference legislation. You wouldn’t read about it.

After the legislation was passed, Steve Bannon came to Australia and sang its praises. The laws are all bound up with that whole clash between China and the West that Bannon is itching for. Australia belongs on the ‘front line’ of that clash he reckons.

Anyway, truth be told, we were starting to get a little jealous of Turnbull. He was touted as the ‘moderate’ ‘centrist’ one, and here he was presiding over all the hard-right stuff we had our eyes on. It wasn’t fair. We wanted a piece of that action. We didn’t really think you’d mind all that much.

But we neglected the importance of politeness, clearly. You probably didn’t appreciate us championing a white nationalist slogan, beloved by a former KKK grand wizard, the alt-right and neo-Nazi groups, just before the by-election. We got a little carried away.

We understand now that most people like their politics seemly and respectful on the surface. Then they can turn a blind eye to the ugliness underneath.

People are busy. They don’t have time to dig deep and inspect the rot at the roots of their society.

We should have realised that you’d find that white pride stuff shameful and repugnant. We should have remembered, for instance, that ruling elites on both sides of the aisle despise Donald Trump for much the same reason.

They happily rubber stamp, abet, enable, support, ignore and assist his most reactionary policies, but they hate that he fails to hide the contemptuous prejudice, racism, cruelty and oppression that those policies represent.

Turnbull, on the other hand, understood the importance of the anodyne façade. As did Barack Obama.

Former US president Barack Obama.

Obama the environmentalist presided over an unprecedented boom in US oilproduction, for example, 72% higher than George W. Bush. Obama also spent $34 billion promoting fossil fuel projects overseas, three times as much Bush, opened the Arctic to drilling based on fossil fuel industry research, laid ‘enough oil and gas pipelines to encircle the earth and then some’, embraced fracking, rejected keeping fossil fuels in the ground, and led the global rise in methane emissions.

He also deported more people than any other US president before him, let insurance industry reps write his pro-corporate healthcare policy, bombed twice as many countries as Bush, expanded presidential war powers, broke Bush’s record on military spending, dropped over 100,000 bombs compared to Bush’s 70,000, increased drone strikes tenfold, repealed habeas corpus or the right to a fair trial, committed over $1 trillion to a nuclear weapons upgrade, prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous US presidents combined, presided over an unprecedented transfer of wealth to the top 1 percent, placed Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block, championed the predatory TPP and propped up the financial institutions that disproportionately exploited Black Americans, exacerbating Black poverty.

That’s for starters, forgetting ongoing support for the prison-industrial complex, militarisation of police and plenty of other stuff.

For those and other reasons, public intellectual Cornel West, Professor of Public Philosophy at Harvard University and Professor Emeritus at Princeton, called Obama a ‘black mascot of Wall Street‘. Then he called him a ‘Rockerfeller Republican in blackface‘. Obama just called himself a Republican.

The point is, Obama wrapped everything up in such lofty, expansive progressive language that most people didn’t look beyond his pretty words until it was too late. Which made Obama, according to the Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report, Glen Ford, not the lesser evil but the more effective evil.

What we’re trying to say is that we get confused when we see progressive types being so cool with such over the top violence, authoritarianism, climate sabotage and oppression. We forget about the power of empty progressive words.

Your preferred candidate, Turnbull, while no Obama in the rhetoric department, was at least adept at another kind of anodyne façade – playing the lame duck leader.

It was quite a clever trick really, appearing to be a thwarted progressive Liberal (they don’t exist, believe me), doing nothing, getting nowhere, stymied by the hard right, while advancing a hard right agenda all the time.

I mean apart from the stuff we’ve already mentioned about police states, criminalising dissent, climate change and refugees, look what else we achieved under Turnbull. We ramped up arms sales to despots and dictators, earmarked $200bn for arms manufacturers (we prefer to say ‘the military’), whipped up fear of African gangs to vilify the Sudanese community, tried our best to cut student loan schemes and the pension, cut weekend penalty rates and welfare and disability (again), punished welfare recipients with the cruel robo-debtfiasco, passed regressive tax cuts that benefit the wealthy, presided over ongoing neglect of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Australians, ignoring the urgent Redfern Statement calling for an overhaul of Aboriginal affairs, and promised ‘special attention‘ to visas for white South African applicants, while torturing and rejecting black and brown refugees. We could go on.

Same agenda different face. We just rub people’s noses in their oppression harder. We didn’t think you’d mind.

Our bad.”


We care about climate change.

“Politeness aside, we understand that although you’re mostly cool with the status quo, you do genuinely care about climate change.

We can’t ignore the polls. (We pretend to, but we don’t). Exit polls tell us that apart from rolling Turnbull, the biggest issue for you Wentworth voters was climate change, and replacing coal with renewable energy.

Which is a bummer for us.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison even takes Coal into the Australian Parliament

It’s not easy propping up coal and sabotaging renewable energy when voters care about their climate.

In the past we tried to hide the fact that 97 percent of scientists agree on climate change being real and human-induced. Our predecessors even stacked the ABC board with climate deniers, to create fake ‘balance’ and confuse the issue, but the truth seems to have gotten out now.

So it must be difficult for you to put global warming out of your minds, especially as the opportunity to avert climate Armageddon is rapidly narrowing.

You’ve probably heard highlights from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which, let’s face it, makes it look as though we’re actively trying to eliminate life on Earth.

What are the odds? Just as you snatch power, poised to squeeze every last dollar out of fossil fuels while you still can, the scariest and most strongly worded climate report ever comes out.

Rio Tinto’s Warkworth Mine, near Bulga. (IMAGE: Lock the Gate Alliance,
by D. Sewell, FLICKR)

I mean that effing document tells us that civilization is at stake if we don’t act now. And ‘act’ means getting coal down to 0 percent of the global electricity mix by 2050. You should have heard the expletives at the Minerals Council.

They reckon that we only have until 2030 to cut carbon emissions almost in half. Otherwise we’ll hit catastrophic climate tipping points and feedback loops.

Which, even we admit, isn’t long.

Twelve years.

That’s only four more election cycles. Makes sense you’d be thinking about it at the polls.

If you’ve been following coverage of the IPCC report you’ve probably heard that these tipping points are expected to kick in when we pass 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming on pre-industrial levels.

Not two degrees like everyone’s been saying.

So, look, we understand that it’s probably a little alarming, seeing as how the world has already warmed by one degree, which only leaves half a degree to go.

On top of which other eminent scientists have gone and said that the IPCC report is conservative, and understates the enormity of the crisis.

If only those F-ers were Australian citizens and our new police state was in full swing. Then we could whip out that Foreign Interference Legislation and slam them with a charge of reputational damage or something. Lawyers reckon the Foreign Interference laws are good to go for that sort of thing.

Anyway, as it is, no wonder you’re worried. It’s amazing you’re not freaking out actually. Especially as the world is on track for over 3 degrees of warming at the moment, even under the Paris accord. BP and Shell are banking on it.

And, according to this report outlining the risks associated with different degrees of warming, at 3-5 degrees the global population is likely to decline by 80-90 percent.

Eighty to ninety percent!

That’s practically all of humanity.

But imagine being among the surviving 10 percent.

You’d feel so chosen.

Except for having to step over the corpses of the 80-90 percent that didn’t make it.

Plus things could get a bit apocalyptic. The report says that at this temperature rise there is a ‘high likelihood of human civilisation coming to an end.’

Like we said, extremely fortunate for us that you’re not reaching for the pitch forks at this point (metaphorically speaking), given that this is where we’re taking you under our policies.

It’s got to be frightening watching us dig deeper into coal and exclude climate from energy policy when scientists are telling you it spells death to human civilisation.

If Australia makes good on its coal export ambitions, for instance, including the Adani coal mine in Queensland, Australia alone will produce 30 percent of the carbon needed to tip the world over the two degree threshold.

See – we Liberals are lifters. We get up early in the morning to do more than our fair share of global warming.

Given all of that, we’re hoping most of you don’t delve too far into the kinds of things that scientists are saying these days. Like this guy, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who says, ‘climate change is now reaching the end-game, where very soon humanity must choose between taking unprecedented action, or accepting that it has been left too late and bear the consequences.’

‘Unprecedented action’… ‘end game’. What would he know? He’s just a professor of physics specialising in complex systems and nonlinearity, founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (1992-2018), former chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change and senior climate advisor to the European Union, the German Chancellor and Pope Francis.


Or this guy. He said that if we are to survive as species we need ‘such a thorough transformation of the world’s economy, agriculture, and culture that ‘there is no documented historical precedent’.

‘No precedent’. Again, an amateur. Just a journalist. Quoting the IPCC consensus reached by hundreds of scientific experts from universities all over the world. Amateurs, all of them.

IMAGE: Beyond Coal and Gas, Flickr.

See what we’re up against? It’s not easy campaigning during civilisational end-times, selling apocalypse and omnicide. In the scheme of things we did remarkably well in Wentworth. We got 49 percent of the vote, omnicide and all.

Which is especially impressive considering that renewables are rapidly becoming cheaper than coal. Snake oil salesmen had it easy. This is tough.

So we get that many of you wanted to give our pro-coal ‘business as usual’ agenda a hiding at the by-election.

Even school kids are fed up. Children are going on strike from their schools across the country on November 30th to protest our (non) response to the IPCC report. ‘Make coal history’ they say. Little smart alecks.

Do not, we repeat DO NOT encourage your children, or any children, to take part in this climate action.

To do so would be colluding with psychologists’ advice about how to help children cope with climate change. ‘Active citizenship’ they call it. Which we do not recommend. We want as few active citizens coming to grips with climate change as possible.

Once we figure out how to legally expel gay kids from schools we’ll get to work on pro-environmental children.

The worst of it is that you folks in Wentworth and those blasted kids aren’t alone in your attachment to a life-sustaining biosphere. Most Australians would like to preserve life on Earth. (How soft can you get?)\

According to polling, the majority of Australians are worried about climate change and would like to see us phase out coal and replace it with renewables.

We do understand.

You want climate action.

The trouble is, that makes governing on behalf of fossil fuel giants very difficult.

We were hoping that you wealthy Wentworth voters might at least be too comfortable to care about climate change. But the majority of you are obviously smart enough to realise that your wealth won’t protect you from hurricanes, storms, heatwaves, mass migration, societal breakdown and the global unrest that the Pentagon sees coming.

Nor will money protect your children or your children’s children. Unless you’re banking on space colonisation, which is a gamble.

We realise that not all of you in Wentworth are wealthy, but those of you who are might have also begun wondering what will become of your waterfront properties when climate change bites.

Once you start imagining your coastlines wracked by storm surges, floods and erosion – Bondi, Clovelly, Nielsen Park, Redleaf, Double Bay, those gentle oases from the city bustle, where anyone, no matter their income, can bask in some gentle sunshine – you start to realise that the waterfront properties are the least of it.

You probably start feeling a little sad about the imminent loss of such natural beauty: the morning and evening walks along the shore, children playing in the sand, soft breezes, sailboats bobbing in the distance, birds… sunrises… sunsets.

Imagining those tranquil havens as scenes of destruction might rouse a sense of grief in you, or guilt even, for future generations. ‘What are we doing to them?’ you might ask yourself. ‘What kind of world are we leaving behind?’ ‘How can we stop this?’

Think of Our Future‘ pleads the placard of one young girl participating in the school climate strike.

No matter how much money you have, or don’t have, you are human. You care about life on Earth, your children, their children and other people’s children. You don’t want to leave a hell hole behind for them.

We get it. You’d like us to do the right thing and address the climate emergency. You saw a chance to register your feelings on the subject and you took it.

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, MP, Leading Seaman Marine Technician Submarines Brett Watson, Leading Seaman Electronic Warfare Submarines Simon Wass, Able Seaman Marine Technician Submarines Chris James and Able Seaman Electronic Warfare Submarines Scott Manthorpe. (IMAGE: Defence, LSIS Richard Cordell)

So here’s what we’ve decided. To hell with you.

There are profits to be made. Now. Not after some transition process to clean energy, which will require us to turn our brains on, engage with science, and do some genuine problem-solving.

We’ll be out of office by the time the benefits start flowing anyway. What’s in it for us? Climate change might be here and now, but so is coal.

How long do you think we’ve waited to get our hands on this kind of power? Do you think we’re relinquishing it now? Do you think we’re about to leave all that money in the ground? Just because of some stupid by-election? A few votes? The wishes of the majority of the Australian population?

You and your democracy. Didn’t you read that Princeton study? Governments don’t govern on behalf of the people any more. They govern on behalf of corporations, and the wealthy elites that own them. Everyone knows that.

Like Adani. That’s who we represent. Our job isn’t to stand up to Adani on behalf of you, it’s to stand up to you on behalf of Adani.

We’re happy that you’ve had your little moment of democracy. We hope you feel better now. It’s time to go back to your ordinary lives, and we’ll go back to our powerful ones, looking after our powerful mates.

You might prefer politeness, but there’s nothing polite about ending human civilisation.

In fact, sugar-coating it will only seal humanity’s fate, like hiding cyanide in a chocolate drop. So here’s the impolite reality of our response to you and your ‘historic’ swing.

Screw the future. Screw your children and their children’s children. Screw ourchildren and their children’s children.

We heard what you’re trying to say. We’re not listening.”

* Disclaimer: The above dialogue is fictional. It is a work of fancy and does not claim to represent the actual intentions or motives of any individuals. It is, however, loosely informed by evidence-based literatures on the psychology of anti-environmental and inhumane climate and immigration policies.

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Fighting #climatechange won’t destroy the #economy #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #WentworthVotes for #ClimateAction #StopAdani #EndCoal

Fighting climate change won’t destroy the economy

Trump and other Republicans (like Scott Morrison & the Liberal Party) are using the economy as an excuse to stall on climate change.

During an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, President Trump was asked about climate change.

He responded with a digression about the intensity of hurricanes but fell back on a familiar talking point about the economy, saying that “what I’m not willing to do is sacrifice the economic well-being of our country for something that nobody really knows.”

It echoed comments he made Sunday on 60 Minutes about climate change. “I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars.

I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs.

I don’t want to be put at a disadvantage,” he said.

The remarks came shortly after Hurricane Michael tore through Florida and as an international panel of scientists warned that the world may have as little as 12 years to act to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

When pressed on climate change, Trump and other elected Republicans routinely use the economy as a shield to avoid committing to any policies to slow or adapt to climate change.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told CNN that he believes humans contribute to climate change, “but I’m also not going to destroy our economy.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) made a similar point during a debate with challenger Beto O’Rourke, saying O’Rourke’s concern about climate change is about “the power to control the economy.”

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) said he hadn’t read the new climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but also agreed that the economy comes before fighting climate change.

“We ought to be talking about the things that we can do and still maintain a strong economy, because we’re not going to be able to address it unless we keep a strong economy,” he told the Hill.

All these comments are based on the false premise that fighting climate change will come at the expense of jobs, businesses, and growth.

As the latest IPCC report showed, the changing climate will be punishing for the global economy, while working to keep warming in check will yield immense financial benefits in the long term.

Climate change is already hurting the economy

The planet has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution, and we’re seeing the consequences now in the form of more frequent and severe heat waves, 8 inches of sea level rise, and more intense rainfall, all of which have cost the United States dearly.

In particular, rising average temperatures have boosted the raw ingredients of extreme weather events, leading them to cause more destruction than they would have otherwise. Hurricane Florence, for example, caused $22 billion in damages. Scientists found the storm dumped 50 percent more rain due to climate change and flooded 11,000 additional homes due to sea level rise. Hurricane Michael is estimated to have led to $10 billion in destruction.

These storms came after 2017, the costliest year on record for natural disasters. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and tropical storms, all exacerbated by climate change, cost the US economy at least $306 billion.

And as temperatures rise, so will the tolls. In its latest report, the IPCC estimated that the global economy would take a $54 trillion hit if the world warms by 1.5°C by 2100. That price tag rises $69 trillion if temperatures reach 2°C.

In other words, there’s a huge price tag to doing nothing on climate change.

Future economic growth lies in fighting climate change

On the other hand, increasing sustainability by using more renewable energy, curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and becoming more energy-efficient would save the global economy $26 trillion by 2030.

Dirtier sources of energy like coal are already struggling with job losses and bankruptcies. There are about 52,000 workers left in the coal industry. Meanwhile, the renewable energy sector employs more than 800,000 people in the United States.

And those numbers are poised to grow further in the United States: Solar powerhas surpassed natural gas and wind as the largest source of new energy generation.

We’ve also heard rhetoric similar to Trump’s before about previous efforts to protect the environment. The policies of the Environmental Protection Agency, for example, have long been criticized as a drain on the economy.

Environmental regulations do hurt some sectors while boosting others. However, on balance, they’ve been a huge net benefit to the economy. The EPA’s Clean Air Act, for instance, has saved $22 trillion in health care costs and created a $782 billion market for environmental goods and services.

Some Republicans do recognize that fighting climate change could benefit the economy. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) has proposed a carbon tax to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. “Those who choose to ignore it will pay a price. We all will ultimately,” Curbelo told the Washington Examiner.

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They Won this Year’s Nobel for Economics. Here’s Why their Work Matters #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateChange #IPCC #StopAdani #EndCoal #TheDrum #QandA #WentworthVotes

By Simon Brandon

On the day that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that we only have 12 years left in which to prevent climate catastrophe, an American climate economist cited heavily in the IPCC’s report has been named one of the two winners of this year’s Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Sciences.

William Nordhaus, a professor of economics at Yale, has been recognized by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for his work – dating back to the 1970s – in understanding and modelling how the global economy and the climate interact.

Nordhaus shares the $1 million Nobel prize with Paul Romer – a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business – who has won for his work demonstrating the fundamental importance of internal factors, such as technological innovation, in driving a nation’s economic growth.

Together, the Nobel Committee says, the two laureates have “designed methods that address some of our time’s most fundamental and pressing issues: long-term sustainable growth in the global economy and the welfare of the global population”.

Nordhaus began his work on climate change in the 1970s, when the evidence of manmade global warming had begun to emerge. He developed a set of simple but dynamic models of the relationship between the global economy and climate. These tools – called ‘integrated assessment models’ – enable us to simulate the consequences for both economy and climate of the decisions, assumptions and policies made and enacted today.

Nordhaus’ work has led him to conclude that the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate their effects is a globally enforced system of carbon taxes – a course of action is recommended in the IPCC’s report.

Romer’s work, meanwhile, has led him to develop a set of ideas called endogenous growth theory. Traditionally, economists have held that a nation’s economic growth is driven largely by external factors – outside investment, for example. But Romer’s theory holds that the opposite is true; that it is internal – or endogenous – factors that hold the key to a country’s prosperity. This is important because it demonstrates to governments and policymakers that sustainable growth is achievable by directing resources and investment internally towards drivers of technological innovation, such as education and research.

Australia’s Greenhouse Gas emissions have soared since LNP stopped the price on carbon pollution.

While Nordhaus’ work is the most overtly concerned with combatting climate change, Romer’s is also key, because we need technological innovation on our side in the fight against climate change. Asked to name the most important lesson from his during the interview with the Nobel Prize Committee included above, Romer answered: “What happens with technology is within our control.”

“If we collectively set our minds to improving technology,” he says, “we can improve it in a direction that seems to be important to us and at a faster rate… Instead of treating it like the weather, we can treat [technology] as something that we control.”

The contributions of these two economists are “crucial steps forward in addressing central questions about the future of humanity,” the Nobel Committee has said. To move towards a system of sustainable global economic growth, we need to understand the best direction of travel. Romer and Nordhaus have helped to point the way – and their road signs could not be any timelier.

Simon Brandon, Freelance journalist.

This first appeared on the World Economic Forum’s Agenda blog.

Press link for more: Global Policy Journal

Warren Entsch The Great Barrier Reef is under threat. #auspol #Qldpol #Leichhardt #ClimateChange #IPCC #StopAdani #EndCoal #SR15 Thermal coal must be phased out. #FactCheck

Warren Entsch LNP Member for Leichhardt

Warren’s Speech June 2018

MR ENTSCH: (Leichhardt) (11:32): There’s no doubt about it; the Great Barrier Reef is the greatest living natural wonder on our planet, and I’m fortunate enough to represent a very large portion of that natural wonder, a very significant amount of which the previous speaker was talking about in relation to the impacts of bleaching.

Rather than just having read some of the stuff that you see being released by the nay-sayers,

I actually have a lot of experience on the ground.

A lot of my businesses are heavily reliant on the health of the Barrier Reef.

It doesn’t do anybody any favours, neither us as managers nor businesses that rely on it, when you get this nonsense that’s being continually perpetuated by groups that are out there pushing their own agendas.

They’re creating very, very colourful videos about the fact that the reef is dying, when nothing could be further from the truth.

But they’re doing it, playing to their own audiences.

I tell you now, they would never, ever play those videos up in my electorate, because we know the facts.

Fact Check

(Videos are shown regularly in Cairns showing the damage to the Great Barrier Reef caused by Global Warming)

You’ve got the likes of the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Wilderness Society, the WWF and others pushing these things.

The whole thing looks more like a fundraising campaign, because they’re playing to very gullible audiences in metropolitan areas, most of whom have never, ever seen and do not understand the facts relating to the reef.

But they do it as a very effective fundraiser, as they race out there with their underpants on the outside and capes on, saying, ‘We’re going to save the reef.’

The reef does not require saving.

Fact Check

(67% of coral north of Cairns dead due to coral bleaching)

(Warren Entsch denies reality)

It requires very good management.

We are seen already as the best reef managers in the world, and it’s important that we continue to be the best reef managers in the world.

I say that because I have a real strong interest in the reef, as does my electorate.

More than 64,000 jobs and about $6.4 billion of our economy—a very significant part of our economy—are reliant on a healthy reef.

It’s the biggest economic driver in my electorate; it’s one of the biggest employers in my electorate.

I have to say I get very, very angry when I see these groups out there constantly talking the reef down.

They can be talking about the challenges that we have, certainly.

We talk about coral bleaching—it’s not something we do here in Australia that causes the coral bleaching.

Fact Check

(Local Tour operators in Cairns demand strong climate action)


Thu 3 May 2018

The Reef tourism industry in Far North Queensland has taken a strong stand on the need to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the impacts of climate change.

The Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) today signed a formal Declaration demanding strong climate policies to protect the future of the Reef.

The Declaration was signed by AMPTO members at a summit in Cairns hosted jointly with the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).

“The Reef is still a dynamic, vibrant, awesome place but it is under serious threat from climate change and we need our leaders to put in place strong climate and energy policies to protect its future,” said Col McKenzie, CEO of AMPTO.)

(The people of Cairns are demanding climate action.)

It comes from hot currents that come across the waters from South America.

It’s what happens in China, in India, in the US, in the Northern Hemisphere, that impacts on that.

We should be making noises about it, but we’re doing a hell of a lot of good work here in Australia mitigating those challenges.

We’re not able to stop it, until they start dealing with climate change issues in the Northern Hemisphere, where our large polluters are, but we certainly can help to manage it and show others.

We’re doing that by getting heat-resistant corals.

This is some of the work that’s been done from the $444 billion—close to half a billion—that’s been recently announced.)

I also noticed that there was some criticism regarding the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

The foundation is a very credible organisation.

It’s highly respected and has had an outstanding history in relation to the handling of government funds.

It’s not going to be spending the $444 million; that money will be disbursed out to those wonderful people that are doing the crown-of-thorns starfish work and a whole range of other credible organisations.

The foundation is basically just holding that money and dispensing it out to others, and it’s certainly more capable to do that than most.

It’s very unfair and unreasonable that it should be criticised—it’s a highly reputable not-for-profit organisation.

I think it makes a lot of sense that it’s able to do that.

I just want to say again that we have to be very, very careful when criticising.

Every time we start criticising, we’re talking it down, and we are then allowing others to make assumptions that what is being published is true; it is not.

We are great reef managers.

People come looking to us for advice from around the world.

A lot of the campaigns out there against the reef are actually campaigns against fossil fuel, and they see the reef as collateral damage.

I applaud the work that we’ve done, and let’s continue to make sure that we do so.

Press link for Warren’s Speech

Trump administration sees a 7-degree rise in global temperatures by 2100 #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #EndCoal

Trump administration sees a 7-degree rise in global temperatures by 2100

By Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis, Chris Mooney

September 28, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Firefighters from Brea, Calif., inspect and cut fireline on Aug. 1, 2018, as the Ranch Fire burns near Upper Lake, Calif. A day earlier, it and the River Fire totaled more than 74,000 acres. (Stuart W. Palley/For The Washington Post)

Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement, the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous 7 degrees by the end of this century.

A rise of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 4 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels would be catastrophic, according to scientists.

Many coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans.

Parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defenses.

Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe.

But the administration did not offer this dire forecast as part of an argument to combat climate change.

Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.

The draft statement, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), was written to justify President Trump’s decision to freeze federal fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020.

While the proposal would increase greenhouse gas emissions, the impact statement says, that policy would add just a very small drop to a very big, hot bucket.

“The amazing thing they’re saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it,” said Michael MacCracken, who served as a senior scientist at the U.S. Global Change Research Program from 1993 to 2002.

The document projects that global temperature will rise by nearly 3.5 degrees Celsius above the average temperature between 1986 and 2005 regardless of whether Obama-era tailpipe standards take effect or are frozen for six years, as the Trump administration has proposed.

The global average temperature rose more than 0.5 degrees Celsius between 1880, the start of industrialization, and 1986, so the analysis assumes a roughly 4 degree Celsius or 7 degree Fahrenheit increase from preindustrial levels.

The world would have to make deep cuts in carbon emissions to avoid this drastic warming,the analysis states. And that “would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today’s levels and would require the economy and the vehicle fleet to move away from the use of fossil fuels, which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible.”

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

World leaders have pledged to keep the world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels, and agreed to try to keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But the current greenhouse gas cuts pledged under the 2015 Paris climate agreement are not steep enough to meet either goal.

Scientists predict a 4 degree Celsius rise by the century’s end if countries take no meaningful actions to curb their carbon output.

Australia’s Greenhouse gas Emissions soar since Abbott axed the Carbon Price.

Trump has vowed to exit the Paris accord and called climate change a hoax.

In the past two months, the White House has pushed to dismantle nearly half a dozen major rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, deregulatory moves intended to save companies hundreds of millions of dollars.

If enacted, the administration’s proposals would give new life to aging coal plants; allow oil and gas operations to release more methane into the atmosphere; and prevent new curbs on greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air-conditioning units. The vehicle rule alone would put 8 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere this century, more than a year’s worth of total U.S. emissions, according to the government’s own analysis.

Australia’s Prime Minister Loves Coal.

Administration estimates acknowledge that the policies would release far more greenhouse gas emissions from America’s energy and transportation sectors than otherwise would have been allowed.

David Pettit, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council who testified against Trump’s freeze of fuel efficiency standards this week in Fresno, Calif., said his organization is prepared to use the administration’s own numbers to challenge their regulatory rollbacks.

He noted that the NHTSA document projects that if the world takes no action to curb emissions, current atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide would rise from 410 parts per million to 789 ppm by 2100.

“I was shocked when I saw it,” Pettit said in a phone interview. “These are their numbers.

They aren’t our numbers.”

Conservatives who condemned Obama’s climate initiatives as regulatory overreach have defended the Trump administration’s approach, calling it a more reasonable course.

Obama’s climate policies were costly to industry and yet “mostly symbolic,” because they would have made barely a dent in global carbon dioxide emissions, said Heritage Foundation research fellow Nick Loris, adding: “Frivolous is a good way to describe it.”

NHTSA commissioned ICF International Inc., a consulting firm based in Fairfax, Va., to help prepare the impact statement. An agency spokeswoman said the Environmental Protection Agency “and NHTSA welcome comments on all aspects of the environmental analysis” but declined to provide additional information about the agency’s long-term temperature forecast.

Federal agencies typically do not include century-long climate projections in their environmental impact statements.

Instead, they tend to assess a regulation’s impact during the life of the program — the years a coal plant would run, for example, or the amount of time certain vehicles would be on the road.

Using the no-action scenario “is a textbook example of how to lie with statistics,” said MIT Sloan School of Management professor John Sterman. “First, the administration proposes vehicle efficiency policies that would do almost nothing [to fight climate change].

Then [the administration] makes their impact seem even smaller by comparing their proposals to what would happen if the entire world does nothing.”

This week, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned leaders gathered in New York, “If we do not change course in the next two years, we risk runaway climate change. . . . Our future is at stake.”

Federal and independent research — including projections included in last month’s analysis of the revised fuel-efficiency standards — echoes that theme. The environmental impact statement cites “evidence of climate-induced changes,” such as more frequent droughts, floods, severe storms and heat waves, and estimates that seas could rise nearly three feet globally by 2100 if the world does not decrease its carbon output.

Two articles published in the journal Science since late July — both co-authored by federal scientists — predicted that the global landscape could be transformed “without major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” and declared that soaring temperatures worldwide bore humans’ “fingerprint.”

“With this administration, it’s almost as if this science is happening in another galaxy,” said Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ climate and energy program. “That feedback isn’t informing the policy.”

Administration officials say they take federal scientific findings into account when crafting energy policy — along with their interpretation of the law and President Trump’s agenda. The EPA’s acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, has been among the Trump officials who have noted that U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants have fallen over time.

But the debate comes after a troubling summer of devastating wildfires, record-breaking heat and a catastrophic hurricane — each of which, federal scientists say, signals a warming world.

Some Democratic elected officials, such as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, said Americans are starting to recognize these events as evidence of climate change. On Feb. 25, Inslee met privately with several Cabinet officials, including then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt, and Western state governors. Inslee accused them of engaging in “morally reprehensible” behavior that threatened his children and grandchildren, according to four meeting participants, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide details of the private conversation.

In an interview, Inslee said that the ash from wildfires that covered Washington residents’ car hoods this summer, and the acrid smoke that filled their air, has made more voters of both parties grasp the real-world implications of climate change.

“There is anger in my state about the administration’s failure to protect us,” he said. “When you taste it on your tongue, it’s a reality.”

A woman looks at rising floodwaters from the garage of a home in Soddy-Daisy, Tenn., on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. (Doug Strickland/Chattanooga Times Free Pass/Associated Press)

Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post’s senior national affairs correspondent, covering how the new administration is transforming a range of U.S. policies and the federal government itself. She is the author of two books — one on sharks and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other — and has worked for The Post since 1998.

Brady Dennis is a national reporter for The Washington Post, focusing on the environment and public health issues. He previously spent years covering the nation’s economy. Dennis was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for a series of explanatory stories about the global financial crisis.

Chris Mooney covers climate change, energy, and the environment. He has reported from the 2015 Paris climate negotiations, the Northwest Passage, and the Greenland ice sheet, among other locations, and has written four books about science, politics and climate change.

Press link for more: Washington Post

If we ignore global warming it’s our children and future generations that will pay the price.

Is humanity going to go down without a fight?

We need real political leadership urgently.

We can protect our children from catastrophic climate change but we are running out of time.

The time to act is now.

To combat #climatechange, we need radical changes in the way we commute | CityMetric #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #EndCoal

By Dr Andy Cope

This year the average concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has hit its highest level in 800,000 years.

Yet without urgent efforts to reduce emissions, concentrations, and the damage caused by climate change, this concentration will continue to grow.

One of the sectors where CO2 emissions continue to rise is transport.

Recent analysis of the carbon budget suggests that petrol and diesel car sales will have to end by 2030 in order to counter this trend.

We all understand the implications of driving, in terms of CO2 and other emissions, and many of us are acting to do something to reduce the extent of our impacts.

So why is this not translating into a reduction in emissions?

Electric Buses Shenzhen China

The reasons are many, varied, and complex:

• The move to heavier, and therefore less fuel efficient cars, as the ‘high-end’ car market becomes increasingly dominant;

• There may be implications of a shift away from diesel to petrol engines as consumers respond to air quality issues. Diesel combustion emits more material that affects air quality, while petrol emits higher levels of CO2;

• We continue to invest heavily in roads, while neglecting other modes of transport, stimulating more car travel. And this doesn’t even include air travel – another growth area for carbon emissions.

Travel patterns are changing.

On the motorway network there is significant traffic growth. And the baby boomers who are entering retirement now have higher car ownership levels than previous cohorts and drive more.

But in major cities, traffic levels have reduced and more people reach the centre by public transport.

Young people are learning to drive later and are making fewer trips by car.

Young men (17-29 years) are making 44 per cent fewer trips, and young women 26 per cent fewer trips, by car than they were in 1992-94.

These trends suggest that, through our continued investment in a huge roads programme, we are providing for travel demand that future generations may not generate.

Worse, we risk locking in the most damaging aspects of travel demand by continually developing the road network.

Some of the problems associated with investing in roads were spelled out recently in a report published by the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, based on research by Sustrans, UWE and Nef.

The report considers specifically whether there may be alternatives to the £1.4bn proposal for a new stretch of M4 around Cardiff and Newport.

It discusses the extent to which the proposal would exacerbate societal and environmental challenges, including the impacts that run counter to the needs of future generations.

The fact that emissions from transport in Wales have only decreased by 3 per cent since 1990 emphasises the need to think differently about transport provision. Apart from anything else, the development is unlikely to be effective in alleviating congestion. Much better options are offered, including improved provision for walking and cycling.

Lifestyle changes key to the decarbonisation of the transport system

A Decarbonising Transport in Wales report, published by the Institute of Welsh Affairs, argues that “it is only by changing its relationship with the automobile that Wales can hope to meet its environmental targets”. The report acknowledges that transport in Wales is dominated by roads, and that most emissions emanate from the private car.

But the current reliance on technical solutions, primarily electrification of the private vehicle fleet, will not do enough to reduce carbon emissions quickly enough.

The report considers options for reducing car use and mitigating its negative effects, including greater application of 20mph speed limits, a review of parking policy and consideration of ways of increasing the costs of car use to bring it closer in line with the costs of public transport.

The report also considers how travel mode choice can be influenced by “changing the relationship with the car, stripping away its role as a status symbol”, possibly by moving away from private ownership to a pay per use model. It also suggests that electric vehicles are only an adequate solution in some settings, such as rural areas.

Similarly, another recent paper, which modelled pathways to lower carbon emissions in Scotland, argues that energy consumption and pollutant emissions from transport are greatly influenced by lifestyle choices and socio-cultural factors.

Policies to change travel demand patterns can be implemented sooner, and will impact more significantly, to achieve emissions reduction.

Both of the papers are unequivocal about the role that walking and cycling needs to play in achieving decarbonisation of the transport system.

If the UK is to make its contribution to worldwide efforts to stave off the very worst effects of climate change, we need to act fast on UK transport policy, and to urgently rebalance transport investment patterns. We need to prioritise demand management and behaviour change measures above our reliance on technological fixes, and to cease investment in transport solutions that serve an historic and damaging paradigm.

Dr Andy Cope is director of insight at transport campaign group Sustrans.

Press link for more: City Metric

We won’t save the Earth with a better kind of disposable coffee cup. #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateChange #RiseForClimate #StopAdani #EndCoal Demand #ClimateAction

We won’t save the Earth with a better kind of disposable coffee cup | George Monbiot

George MonbiotThu 6 Sep 2018 15.00 AEST

We must challenge the corporations that urge us to live in a throwaway society rather than seeking ‘greener’ ways of maintaining the status quo

Illustration: Ben Jennings

Do you believe in miracles?

If so, please form an orderly queue. Plenty of people imagine we can carry on as we are, as long as we substitute one material for another.

Last month, a request to Starbucks and Costa to replace their plastic coffee cups with cups made from corn starch was retweeted 60,000 times, before it was deleted.

Those who supported this call failed to ask themselves where the corn starch would come from, how much land would be needed to grow it, or how much food production it would displace.

They overlooked the damage this cultivation would inflict: growing corn (maize) is notorious for causing soil erosion, and often requires heavy doses of pesticides and fertilisers.

The problem is not just plastic: it is mass disposability.

Or, to put it another way, the problem is pursuing, on the one planet known to harbour life, a four-planet lifestyle.

Regardless of what we consume, the sheer volume of consumption is overwhelming the Earth’s living systems.

Don’t get me wrong. Our greed for plastic is a major environmental blight, and the campaigns to limit its use are well motivated and sometimes effective. But we cannot address our environmental crisis by swapping one overused resource for another. When I challenged that call, some people asked me, “So what should we use instead?”

The right question is, “How should we live?” But systemic thinking is an endangered species.

Part of the problem is the source of the plastic campaigns: David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series. The first six episodes had strong, coherent narratives but the seventh, which sought to explain the threats facing the wonderful creatures the series revealed, darted from one issue to another.

We were told we could “do something” about the destruction of ocean life.

We were not told what.

There was no explanation of why the problems are happening and what forces are responsible, or how they can be engaged.

Amid the general incoherence, one contributor stated: “It comes down, I think, to us each taking responsibility for the personal choices in our everyday lives.

That’s all any of us can be expected to do.” This perfectly represents the mistaken belief that a better form of consumerism will save the planet.

The problems we face are structural: a political system captured by commercial interests, and an economic system that seeks endless growth.

Of course we should try to minimise our own impacts, but we cannot confront these forces merely by “taking responsibility” for what we consume.

Unfortunately, these are issues that the BBC in general and David Attenborough in particular avoid.

I admire Attenborough in many ways, but I am no fan of his environmentalism.

For many years, it was almost undetectable.

When he did at last speak out, he avoided challenging power – either speaking in vague terms or focusing on problems for which powerful interests are not responsible.

This tendency may explain Blue Planet’s skirting of the obvious issues.

The most obvious is the fishing industry, which turns the astonishing life forms the rest of the series depicted into seafood.

Throughout the oceans, this industry, driven by our appetites and protected by governments, is causing cascading ecological collapse.

Yet the only fishery the programme featured was among the 1% that are in recovery. It was charming to see how Norwegian herring boats seek to avoid killing orcas, but we were given no idea of how unusual it is.

Even marine plastic is in large part a fishing issue.

It turns out that 46% of the Great Pacific garbage patch – which has come to symbolise our throwaway society – is composed of discarded nets, and much of the rest consists of other kinds of fishing gear.

Abandoned fishing materials tend to be far more dangerous to marine life than other forms of waste. As for the bags and bottles contributing to the disaster, the great majority arise in poorer nations without good disposal systems. But because this point was not made, we look to the wrong places for solutions.

From this misdirection arise a thousand perversities.

One prominent environmentalist posted a picture of the king prawns she had bought, celebrating the fact that she had persuaded the supermarket to put them in her own container rather than a plastic bag, and linking this to the protection of the seas. But buying prawns causes many times more damage to marine life than any plastic in which they are wrapped.

Prawn fishing has the highest rates of bycatch of any fishery – scooping up vast numbers of turtles and other threatened species. Prawn farming is just as bad, eliminating tracts of mangrove forests, crucial nurseries for thousands of species.

We are kept remarkably ignorant of such issues. As consumers, we are confused, bamboozled and almost powerless – and corporate power has gone to great lengths to persuade us to see ourselves this way.

The BBC’s approach to environmental issues is highly partisan, siding with a system that has sought to transfer responsibility for structural forces to individual shoppers.

Yet it is only as citizens taking political action that we can promote meaningful change.

The answer to the question “How should we live?” is: “Simply.” But living simply is highly complicated.

In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the government massacred the Simple Lifers.

This is generally unnecessary: today they can safely be marginalised, insulted and dismissed. The ideology of consumption is so prevalent that it has become invisible: it is the plastic soup in which we swim.

One-planet living means not only seeking to reduce our own consumption, but also mobilising against the system that promotes the great tide of junk.

This means fighting corporate power, changing political outcomes and challenging the growth-based, world-consuming system we call capitalism.

As last month’s Hothouse Earth paper, which warned of the danger of flipping the planet into a new, irreversible climatic state, concluded: “Incremental linear changes … are not enough to stabilise the Earth system.

Widespread, rapid and fundamental transformations will likely be required to reduce the risk of crossing the threshold.”

Disposable coffee cups made from new materials are not just a non-solution: they are a perpetuation of the problem. Defending the planet means changing the world.

• George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

Press link for more:The Guardian

The Water Crises Aren’t Coming—They’re Here! #Drought #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateChange #NoNewCoal #StopAdanih

For eons, the earth has had the same amount of water—no more, no less.

What the ancient Romans used for crops and Nefertiti drank?

It’s the same stuff we bathe with.

Yet with more than seven billion people on the planet, experts now worry we’re running out of usable water.

The symptoms are here: multiyear droughts, large-scale crop failures, a major city—Cape Town—on the verge of going dry, increasing outbreaks of violence, fears of full-scale water wars.

The big question: How do we keep the H20 flowing?

I. All the Water There Is

Here’s a concept: paper water.

Paper water is water the government grants certain farmers who are drawing water from a river or a watershed in, say, California.

The phrase describes the water the farmer, under premium conditions, is entitled to. Practically, however, paper water is mostly notional water, conceptual water, wish water, since over the years California has awarded many times as much paper water as there is actual water—which, to distinguish it, is quasi-legally called wet water. Some paper water might be made real during years of exceptional abundance, but most of it will forever be speculative and essentially useless, since it can’t realistically be traded, having no value. Paper water thus amounts to a type of hypothetical currency, backed by the Bank of Nowhere, Representing Nothing since 1960 (or thereabouts), when modern water troubles arrived in America and especially in California, where the wildly expanding citizenry required new state and federally managed water systems run by Watercrats.

Paper water is also a signifier of a domestic and global concern called peak water, a term proposed in 2010 by the hydrologist Peter Gleick in a paper he wrote with Meena Palaniappan that was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Gleick meant the phrase to be applied to worldwide circumstances, such as those that currently prevail in Cape Town, South Africa, where, as a result of a ferocious three-year drought, the taps might before long run dry, possibly in 2019—Day Zero, it’s been called.

The Colorado Rover Delta, in Northern Mexico, photographed in 2018. Most years, nearly all the river’s water is diverted long before it reaches the delta.

Ronald de Hommel

The U. S. is also afflicted. In fact, Gleick regards California, with its relentless, outsized, and wildly conflicting demands on water, as a “laboratory for all of peak water’s concerns.” Peak water derives conceptually from peak oil, a phrase first used by a geophysicist named M. King Hubbert in 1956. Peak oil means that the planet has only so much oil, and that eventually it will grow sufficiently scarce that what remains will be too expensive to collect. Hubbert predicted that U. S. oil production would reach maximum output between 1965 and 1975, and in 1970 it did, but it has risen lately because of new means of recovering oil, such as fracking. Some people still believe in peak oil, and others think there will always be plenty of oil, because there is more we haven’t found yet.

That water was in a position similar to oil occurred to Gleick when people would ask if he thought that the world, with its population growing alarmingly and climate change causing certain places to become disastrously water-soaked (South Asia, Texas) while others (Cape Town, California) are water-starved, would ever use up its water. “My first reaction was ‘We never run out of water,’ ” Gleick says. “But there’s groundwater in China and India and the Middle East and in America in the Midwest and California that we really are using up just like oil.”

Having evaporated from lakes and rivers and oceans and returned as snow and rain, the water we consume has been through innumerable uses. Dinosaurs drank it. The Caesers did, too.

Water cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be damaged.

When Gleick says we’ll never run out, he means that at some point, millions of years ago, there was all the water there is, a result of the law of the conservation of matter. Having evaporated from lakes and rivers and oceans and returned as snow and rain, the water we consume has been through innumerable uses. Dinosaurs drank it. The Caesars did, too. It’s been places, and consorted with things, that you might not care to think about. In theory, there’s enough freshwater in the world for everyone, but like oil or diamonds or any other valuable resource, it is not dispersed democratically. Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Peru, Indonesia, and Russia have an abundance—about 40 percent of all there is. America has a decent amount. India and China, meanwhile, have a third of the world’s people and less than a tenth of its freshwater. It is predicted that in twelve years the demand for water in India will be twice the amount on hand. Beijing draws water from an aquifer beneath the city. From being used faster than rain can replenish it, the aquifer has dropped several hundreds of feet in the last forty years, and in places the city is sinking four inches every year.

As for the world’s stock, however, nearly all of the water on earth is salty; less than 3 percent is fresh. Some of that is in rivers, lakes, aquifers, and reservoirs—the Great Lakes contain one fifth of the freshwater on the earth’s surface—and we have stored so much water behind dams that we have subtly affected the earth’s rotation; but two thirds of all the freshwater we have is frozen in the earth’s cold places as ice or permafrost, leaving less than 1 percent of the world’s total water for all living things. Much of that gets a rough ride. American ponds and streams and lakes and rivers contain fungicides, defoliants, solvents, insecticides, herbicides, preservatives, biological toxins, manufacturing compounds, blood thinners, heart medications, perfumes, skin lotions, antidepressants, antipsychotics, antibiotics, beta blockers, anticonvulsants, germs, oils, viruses, hormones, and several heavy metals. Not all of these are cleansed from water before we drink it.

There are two kinds of numbers, I believe, big ones and little ones, but here are some big ones by way of context: According to the World Health Organization, among the two billion people who have no drinking water provided to them, 844 million travel more than thirty minutes to a river or a tap, where they sometimes receive water contaminated by human excrement. Such water has the risk of diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio. Nearly 850,000 people die each year from diarrhea, a cruel circumstance in areas short on clean water, since diarrhea works its effects by means of dehydration. Bangladesh, India, Rwanda, and Ghana have some of the most tainted water.

Water collectors push their cart of water filled drums laboriously homewards in Ghana.

Getty ImagesLouise Gubb

The simplest hardships to invoke are hunger and thirst. Only a few hours of deprivation will acquaint a person with both. Half a gallon of drinking water a day is what each of us needs to drink to stay alive. (An American uses roughly eighty to a hundred gallons a day, including toilets, baths and showers, dishwashers, washing machines, and so on.) In the dry parts of the world, or the semidry parts where there are too many people and no water-delivery system, the search for that daily half gallon can be dire, and sometimes past dire. A survey in 2015 of members of the World Economic Forum in Davos listed “water crises” for the first time as the world’s leading threat, ahead of “spread of infectious diseases” and “weapons of mass destruction.” Each year Gleick’s organization, the Pacific Institute, updates its Water Conflict Chronology, a compilation of disturbances around the world involving water. In 2017, there were more than seventy incidents, dozens of them deadly, mainly in the Middle East and Africa. In 1997, there were only three.

II. Haves and Have-nots

Stationarity, a term from statistics, applies to contexts in which the past predicts the future. When water experts say that we are “outside stationarity,” they mean that the slaphappy way that the world uses water has brought about so many unexampled circumstances, so many overburdened systems and areas of deprivation and depletion, that we cannot know how matters will unfold. Sometimes water specialists say that the earth is experiencing water stress. The Nile, the Rio Grande, the Yellow River in China, the Indus in Asia, and the Colorado (which sustains the American Southwest from Phoenix to Las Vegas to San Diego) are tapped out. The Ganges flows, but it’s unspeakably filthy.

With water, there are “distinct classes of water haves and have-nots,” according to Jay Famiglietti, who is the senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. (Earth science is part of NASA’s charter.) “The wet areas of the world are the high latitudes and the tropics, and the areas in between are getting drier,” he says. The supercharged hurricanes and typhoons that have resulted from global warming move water around within the regions that already have water but do nothing for the parched places. America has hot spots, too. California had its own Zero Day not long ago when, in Tulare County in the Central Valley, an area of corporate farms, something like a thousand wells went dry in towns such as East Porterville, meaning that more than seven thousand people found themselves occupying houses where you would turn on a tap and nothing came out. The water table has been diverted by means of deep wells and irrigation systems serving the sprawling farms. The county began delivering bottled drinking water, and there were free public showers. Water to flush toilets and do laundry came from tanks parked at the fire station. People filled barrels and hauled them home.

Neighbors distribute drinking water, talk about water issues as water wells supplying hundreds of residents remained dry in the fourth year of worsening drought on February 11, 2015 in East Porterville, California.

Getty ImagesDavid McNew

A quarter of all the food grown in America comes from the Central Valley—oranges and grapes are raised in Tulare, along with dairy cows and cattle—so having it go even partially dry is not a small concern. “No one really knows what happens, if this were to get worse,” Famiglietti says. “Our water security, and therefore our food security, is at far greater risk than people realize. Aside from the crisis of humans not having water, we’re also going to be losing these major food-producing regions like the Central Valley. Agriculture will migrate to where the water is, maybe the southern parts of South Dakota and southern Idaho. There is already some agricultural migration to those regions.”

That may sound simple, relatively, a cultural shift, like the past migration of workers and jobs from the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt. However, climate change, with its disruption of the rain cycle, making severe storms even more severe and diminishing the snow pack in seasons of drought, makes it impossible to know which areas will remain stably wet. Cape Town is suffering now because “a once-in-a-millennium event,” as it has been described, has been occurring since 2015—scant rain in the region for three years.

In California, rain became scarce in 2011 and stayed scarce for five years. Sufficient rain fell during the winter of 2016 that the drought appeared to have ended, since people could see rivers running and reservoirs filled that had seemed nearly empty before. Water experts view the matter differently. They make a distinction between surface drought and groundwater drought. Five years of overdrafting in the Central Valley left a groundwater deficit that the rains didn’t replenish.

Aquifers that lie beneath rock deposits or in gaps between them, and especially ones in places where rain is sparse, might not recover in a time frame that means anything against the measure of a human life span.

Aquifers commonly contain water that went underground thousands or millions of years ago and hasn’t come out since—it’s called fossil water. Groundwater, however, is as vulnerable to contamination as surface water. An overdrafted aquifer near a coast can have seawater seep into it and ruin it. Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks and can find its way into the water table, also ruining it. An aquifer near an industrial dump might be polluted by man-made chemicals. In the Central Valley, some wells are contaminated by nitrates, which come from fertilizer, leaky septic tanks, and big cattle-feeding operations; drinking nitrate-polluted water can bring about conditions such as blue- baby syndrome, in which the fingertips of babies turn blue from insufficient oxygen.

Finally, an overdrafted aquifer can be depleted. Whether it returns is a matter of how it was filled in the first place. Porous aquifers, ones beneath sand and gravel, as in the Central Valley, can recover with rain. Aquifers that lie beneath rock deposits or in gaps between them, and especially ones in places where rain is sparse, might not recover in a time frame that means anything against the measure of a human life span. In India, so many farmers have killed themselves from despair over disappeared groundwater, and the poverty it enforces, that there is a category called suicide farmers. In 2016, more than 11,300 farmers took their own lives.

III. See You in Six Thousand Years

Besides California, the other American place in water jeopardy is the High Plains, which sits on top of an aquifer called the Ogallala. The Ogallala is sometimes described as an ocean of groundwater. One of the largest known aquifers in the world, it runs from South Dakota to Texas, more or less in the shape of a monkey wrench. Near the top, in places, it is a thousand feet deep, and at the lower end, in places, there are areas where it is as shallow as only a few feet. The Dust Bowl, which played out above the Ogallala, was, in a way, a period phenomenon. All the water necessary to sustain the crops that now cover the plains was always there, but a few feet deeper than Depression-era farmers could reach with windmill pumps. Electric pumps, which only became widespread by the end of the thirties, made it accessible.

For decades farmers thought the Ogallala was inexhaustible. According to Scientific American, drawing on government studies, by 1975 the amount of water taken each year from the aquifer equaled the flow of the Colorado River, and now the annual draw is about eighteen times that amount. Farmers have been pumping out four to six feet a year in places where half an inch is being added. As far as continuing to be useful, the Ogallala might be exhausted by 2070. A reasonable estimate is that it would take six thousand years for rain to replenish it.

IV. A Water-Crisis Tour

Peter Gleick is sixty-one, and he looks like the scholar he is. He is tall and gangly, with a thin face and glasses, a gray beard, and wispy gray hairs that rise from his crown like solar flares. He grew up in New York City, where he was a Cub Scout and learned from his father to identify birds in Central Park. He went to Yale, then he moved to California and got a doctorate in energy studies from UC Berkeley. In 1987, he was one of four founders of the Pacific Institute, which specializes in water policy, and in 2003, he was named a MacArthur Fellow.

Toward the end of 2011, someone anonymously mailed him a private document from the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank that denies climate change. The document described a plan to produce a curriculum for kindergarten through twelfth-grade students that disputed climate change. It also described the institute’s contributions to climate scientists who cast doubt on climate science. “I could have thrown it out. I could have sent it to a journalist,” Gleick told me. “But I chose to try to verify it myself.” He set up a Gmail account under the name of one of Heartland’s board members and asked Heartland to send him the institution’s most recent documents. What he received he dispersed to journalists, who published them. The Heartland Institute said that one of the documents was forged. Gleick wrote a piece in the Huffington Post acknowledging what he’d done and apologizing for his deception.


“My board was not happy,” he said. “I stepped down, they made an investigation that eventually supported my version, and I was reinstated.” Meanwhile, the Heartland Institute bought, where you can read “Why Isn’t Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick in Jail?” Regardless, in 2016, Gleick stepped down after nearly thirty years as the Pacific Institute’s president and now spends most of his time writing in an office on the institute’s premises. He is considered to be an eminent authority on water issues around the world and is regarded as especially knowledgeable about California’s circumstances.

The Pacific Institute occupies a Victorian house among an enclave of such houses in Oakland. One morning I met Gleick there, and then we drove east to visit what he called some “peak water signifiers”—a sort of water-crisis tour.

We were going to a walnut farm first. On the way, as we passed rolling green hills, Gleick explained that there are three components to peak water, the first being peak renewable water. “A renewable resource is flow limited,” he said. “You never run out of it, like sunlight. Most water is renewable—rainfall, snowmelt, rivers—but in more and more places around the world, we’re running into limits brought on by peak use. The classic example is the Colorado River, hardly a drop of which ever reaches its delta, in Mexico, anymore. It gets used up entirely along the way.”

Even an overtaxed river like the Colorado is partly renewable. “You get more the next year when it rains and snows,” Gleick continued. “It’s not that there’s never water, but there’s a limit to how much you can take, and that limit, its peak, is the renewable flow of the resource.”

Zero Day: A dam near Cape Twon in March with almost nothing to dam.

Getty ImagesWIKUS DE WET

Gleick calls the second component of peak water peak nonrenewable water. “Just like peak oil,” he said. “An aquifer is not sustainable if humans pump it faster than nature charges it. The people in the Central Valley who have seen their wells go dry are experiencing peak nonrenewable water. There is still water there, but the groundwater level has dropped, and only the farms can afford to dig the deeper well. You could find other water for these people—you could hook them up to a municipal system that’s maybe hooked up to a river. No one’s dying of thirst. But we cobble together fixes when we run out. So you go back to this question: Are we running out of water? Yes, sort of, with nonrenewable resources, and yes, sort of, with renewable resources.”

The walnut farm was about fifty miles north of Oakland, in Winters. “More and more orchards are going in, because they make money,” Gleick said. “There’s a distinction between field crops—cotton, rice, wheat, and corn—which you plant every year, and permanent crops, like fruits and nuts. Permanent crops need permanent water. If you have a drought and you’re growing wheat or alfalfa, maybe you fallow your field for a year. But if you’re growing almonds, you’ve got to water these trees or they die, and it’s a twenty- year investment sometimes before they produce a crop. That puts more pressure on groundwater. The advantage with trees is you can use drip irrigation, meaning you can target the roots, and apply the right amount of water at the right time, because there are monitors in the soil. Drip irrigation is more efficient than flood irrigation, where you simply flood the field and hope you’re watering at the moment the crop needs it most.”

The walnut farm, Sierra Orchards, was owned by a forward-thinking farmer named Craig McNamara, who looks a lot like his father, Robert McNamara, the secretary of defense under Kennedy and Johnson. We bumped down mud roads in an electric cart, which McNamara drove, and we saw the trees and his drip-irrigation system and how it works with a computer program to let him know when the soil is dry, and at the bottom of a small declivity, we stood beside Putah Creek, which he draws from. Since the creek was running high, he was flooding some of his fields with creek water to restore the water table. Finally, McNamara showed us hedgerows he’d planted to attract insects and birds and a huge machine by a barn that was converting walnut shells into organic matter he could use for fertilizer. Bookkeeping is what goes on in most farm offices I’ve ever visited, but McNamara’s was like a command center where he could find on a computer screen what he needed to know about which square yard of his orchard needed water and which square yard had enough.

As Gleick and I drove away, he said that McNamara was noteworthy in trying to do more with less water. “The hedgerows and recycling shells, those are things that most farmers think cost money and don’t provide an immediate or obvious return. They’re smart from a sustainability point of view, but if you’re maximizing return, you don’t do them. That’s why his neighbor’s using pesticides. It’s more expensive to put in smart irrigation systems and soil-moisture monitors, but you make up the money by being organic.”

V. “Secret, Occult, and Concealed”

The way water is used in the Midwest and West, and elsewhere around the world, exemplifies a nineteenth-century principle called the tragedy of the commons. The tragedy of the commons means that when there is a resource available to everyone, and the resource is unregulated—in the nineteenth century it was the common land for grazing cattle—people will use it to their own advantage until it is consumed rather than conserve it to everyone’s advantage. It is a principle that still applies widely, to overfishing, say, in the North Atlantic, and the disappearance of cod. Several colloquial rules, made at the start of the twentieth century, govern water in the West, and sometimes they contradict one another. Where water is shared, from a river, say, the rule that usually prevails is “first pump, oldest pump” or “first in time, first in right.” These older rights are also called “senior rights” or “pre-1914 rights.” They mean that even if you are upstream of another farm, if the downstream farmer’s rights preceded yours, you can’t have water until he has all he wants. People without senior rights might get paper water.

California farmers who draw from wells don’t deal in paper water, since so long as the wells are on their property, the farmers are entitled to drill as deep as they like. In India, in parts of China, and in the U. S., with groundwater it’s the “law of the biggest pump,” which allows a farmer to drain the water from underneath his neighbor by drilling a deeper well, since groundwater doesn’t observe boundaries. So many treaties and arrangements and agreements govern water use in the West and have for so long that a court in 1861 wrote that the “secret, occult, and concealed” nature of the resource made it impossible to control. Impossible then, apparently impossible now, with voracious use in between.

VI. The Upside

By a sign at the entrance to the Harvey O. Banks Delta Pumping Plant, outside Tracy, Gleick pulled over and opened a map. Out the window was a broad expanse of brown cattails and a long reach of deep blue water with the sun shining on it and gleaming like a strip of chrome. “We’re here,” Gleick said, pointing on the map to an extensive line of blue running mostly east to west. “The mouth of the San Joaquin River, where the Sacramento and San Joaquin join. It’s the largest delta on the West Coast.”

Above the marsh, a red-tailed hawk slid across the sky like a skateboarder. “The third concept of peak water is peak ecological water,” Gleick went on. “Peak renewable and peak nonrenewable effectively describe the problems with supply and demand. A third problem, though, are the ecological damages that result from human use of water. Say we take more and more water from a river. We grow more food, we make more widgets, we get an economic benefit, but the ecological cost also grows as fisheries suffer and wetlands dry up. Eventually, the negative ecological costs outweigh the economic benefits. We define that as the point of peak ecological water.” Gleick pulled the car back onto the road and turned onto a blacktop leading to the pumping station, which we could see like a fort halfway up some hills, about a quarter mile ahead.

The San Luis reservoir is an artificial lake and the fifth largest reservoir in California. Water from the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta is pumped uphill into the reservoir and released to continue downstream along the California Aqueduct for farm irrigation and other uses.

Getty ImagesChristian Science Monitor

Through pipelines and canals, the station sends water south from the delta as far as Los Angeles, which gets the bulk of its water from the north. The deltas and estuaries it draws from tend to be breeding and nursery areas for birds and fish as well as migratory stopovers for birds. “Taking water from the San Joaquin Delta,” Gleick said, “there’s longstanding, serious, peak-ecological- water concerns about salmon extinctions in the delta, other fish extinctions, and also how it acts on the Pacific flyway,” a major migratory route for birds that goes over the region.

From a slight movement of color in the field, he identified a meadowlark landing on a fence post, like one of those people who need only a few notes to name a song. “There is a field of study in ecology called ecological valuation,” he continued. “What’s the value of an endangered fish species, or worse, extinction? The fact that we’re bad at valuing those things doesn’t mean that there’s no value to them. Peak water should never mean that people are dying of thirst. If we get to that point, that’s a failure of governments. Instead, peak water’s going to be felt first by ecosystems and agriculture and economies. We’re already seeing peak-water constraints hurt our economies, especially with the drought, in farmers having to fallow land, which leads to unemployment.

“I think people in California have understood for a long time that our water system is not in balance,” Gleick went on, “but they see the problem through their own lenses. If you’re a farmer and you see salmon or the delta smelt as responsible for water being used in a way that doesn’t benefit you, you think you can do without the fish. If you care about the fish, you may think the farmer could grow something different, or the same thing differently, and use less water. Neither group talks to the other, but it’s a false dichotomy to think that the only way to solve the human water problem is to give up water for fish.”

Gleick believes there are two solutions—the hard path and the soft path, notions also derived from energy policy. The hard path wrings water from the environment mainly by means of dams and tunnels for transferring water and by desalinization plants. “It’s what World Bank guys and engineers are trained to do,” Gleick said. The hard path exemplifies twentieth-century thinking, which in turn was based on the nineteenth-century notions that resources were boundless and that science could control nature. There are still places to put dams, but dams are very expensive, and desalinization is too costly to be practical anywhere except places such as the Persian Gulf, where oil pays for it.

Hard path believes that no water should escape being used, and it is indifferent to the vitality of an ecosystem. By its reasoning, a depleted system can be shed for a new one, the way new oil deposits can be found. The discarded system will expire or recover, but the caravan will have moved on. An example is the Colorado River, the passage of which is so oversubscribed that only once in the last twenty years has the river reached its delta in Mexico with any flow.

Soft path involves conservation and tactics such as storm-water capture or wastewater treatment and reuse—twenty-first-century thinking, Gleick calls it. “We are already treating wastewater, stuff you flush down your toilet,” Gleick said. “We are not yet drinking that water, because we don’t need to. They drink it in parts of Africa and in Singapore, where they call it ‘new water,’ a means of branding it. We use it for nonpotable purposes: irrigation, cooling power plants, and restoring groundwater.”

Gleick turned into the parking lot of the pumping station, where there were only a couple of cars. “I’m a big fan of California agriculture,” he said, “but I’m also a big fan of ecosystems and reliable urban water supply. I think we can have a healthy agricultural economy and meet basic human needs for water and still save the fish, but not the way we’re doing things today.”

“What if things don’t work?” I asked.

“The dystopian vision, which I don’t think will happen, because I hope and think we’ll be smarter than that,” Gleick said, “but the dystopian future is one in which we lose more and more fisheries, the winter-run Chinook salmon go extinct, the delta smelt disappear, bird migrations plummet, the Salton Sea”—a saline lake fed by Colorado irrigation runoff—“disappears, and toxic dust spreads over southern California, the way it did when the city of Los Angeles drained Owens Lake. Plus a number of farms go out of production, and considering how reliant the country and the world are on California farms, the effect is widespread. Also, urban water gets more and more expensive, because we have to turn to desalinization, consequently more populations lack access to safe and affordable water, and we see more and more East Portervilles.

“What makes me optimistic is that it’s obvious we can do things differently.”

“What makes me optimistic,” he went on, “is that it’s obvious we can do things differently. I would be doing something else if I didn’t have that optimism, although it’s tempered in two ways. One is, while I truly believe we’re moving toward sustainable water management and use, I think bad things will happen along the way. We’ll lose some things permanently, like species. The other thing is that not everybody will suffer equally. The rich can isolate themselves to some degree from climate change and water problems, but the poor will suffer. Those weren’t rich communities in the Central Valley that had their wells dry up.”

For several minutes, we stood beside the aqueduct and simply watched the water flowing south, the way people stare at a deep hole in the ground. Then Gleick said, “When you start butting up against peak-water limits, you have to start doing things differently. We’re not going to build many more big dams, and we’re overdrafting groundwater, but that will drive innovation. This is the direction we have to go. There’s no more new water.”

VII. The Downside

Earlier, Gleick had said, “In California, we have all the world’s water problems in one form or another. There’s one exception. We don’t really have violence, yet.” Elsewhere, they have their share. In 2016 in Darfur, seventy people were killed “in clashes between farmers and herders over access to water resources and land,” according to the Pacific Institute’s Water Conflict Chronology.

In recent years, many of the conflicts in which people have been killed over water have taken place in India. Some of the occasions involved protests over dams or canals, and some were farmer-versus-herder disputes. In 2014, in northern India, during a drought, a group of bandits announced that they would kill people who lived in villages near their hideout unless the people brought them water every day. Twenty-eight villages said they would take turns paying what they called a “water tax.” Indirectly, water affects civil migration, which in turn affects politics in the form of responses to migration, such as the rise in Europe of right-wing nationalism and the election in Italy in March of populist factions opposed to immigrants. Last year, speaking at the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope Francis wondered “if we are not on the path towards a great world war over water.” People who think a water-conquest war is unlikely tend to point out how difficult it is to move water, but it isn’t any more difficult to move water than it is to move oil.

June 6, 2018: An Indian man waits for fresh water supplies to arrive with a truck at a water distribution point, in the low-income eastern neighbourhood of Sanjay camp in New Delhi.


Gleick thinks that water is less likely to cause a war than to be used as a weapon. In 2014, in the journal Weather, Climate, and Society, he published a paper called “Water, Drought, Climate Change, and Conflict in Syria.” He described the area’s water conflicts, which are ancient—the first, according to the Water Conflict Chronology, appears to have occurred forty-five hundred years ago when a king named Urlama diverted water through canals to deprive an enemy of it. More recently, climate change and the scarcity of freshwater resulting from a drought between 2006 and 2011 led to what one expert described as the “most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago.” Gleick’s paper discussed how all this encouraged the discontent that led to Syria’s civil war. “No one argues that climate change or drought caused the civil war,” he told me. “But they had an influence. And after the civil war started, there were massive and unrelenting attacks by pretty much all the parties on civilians and infrastructure, including, explicitly, water resources. Attacks on the water-treatment plants in Aleppo, attacks in Iraq on local water systems—use of water as a weapon. ISIS took over dams on the Tigris and Euphrates and released water on downstream villages to prevent attacks on their bases.”

“Water Wars” makes a fine headline, Gleick said, but he thinks any such conflict between nations would be more complicated. “India and Pakistan have been fighting forever over water in the region of Kashmir,” he said, “but if it breaks into war, water would only be a part of the cause. Egypt has threatened Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Ethiopia is building over the Nile at the border of Ethiopia and Sudan. Egypt is completely dependent on the Nile, but would they actually attack the dam? I don’t think so, but it’s possible.” The future is rarely a continuation of the present, and doesn’t usually play out as we expect. Maybe we don’t run out of water. Maybe science finds a better means of providing drinkable water from castoff water and sewage. We tend to think of societal calamities as happening in places where the people are different from us, yet matters of race and culture seem irrelevant when we all require a half gallon of water each day to survive. When a region runs out of water, the people left there don’t really die of thirst. They die mainly from the diseases that come from drinking bad water. In these places, the equation is succinct: Demand, simple human need, the assertion, even, of a right, overwhelms supply.

This article appears in the September ’18 issue of Esquire.

Victor Demarchelier

Press link for more: Esquire

International #ClimateChange Reports Are Dangerously Misleading! #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

International Climate Change Reports Are Dangerously Misleading, Says Eminent Scientist


Those who deny the reality of anthropogenic climate change often point to the fallibility of climate models, calling those who agree with such estimates “alarmists.”

But far from overstating the effects of a rapidly warming planet, a new report – called “What Lies Beneath: The Understatement of Existential Climate Risk” – argues that the bulk of climate research has tended to underplay the real risks of climate change.

While the report doesn’t present any new research, it does draw on previous studies and quotes from leading climate scientists to show that most climate research is based on “conservative projections and scholarly reticence.”

The foreword is written by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who was the head of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research for twenty years, and a senior advisor to Pope Francis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the European Union.

The paper itself is primarily focused on reports made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which not only provides information for climate policymaking around the world, but also influences the public narrative around climate change.

Yet because of political and industry pressure, the paper argues that: “IPCC reports also tend toward reticence and caution, erring on the side of ‘least drama,’ and downplaying more extreme and more damaging outcomes.”

Predictions for sea level rise are a classic example of how the IPCC tends towards the “safest” position when dealing with conflicting science.

In 2001, the IPCC report estimated a sea level rise of 2 millimeters (mm) per year. By 2007, however, that estimate was outrun by satellite data, which revealed a sea level rise of 3.3 mm per year.

In 2007, a similar thing happened. The IPCC report predicted 18 to 59 centimeters (cm) of sea level rise by 2100. But just two years later estimates suggested a sea level rise of 0.50 meters to 2 meters by 2100.

Despite the mistakes made in previous estimates, in 2014, the IPCC actually predicted a smaller sea level rise than seven years previous. Instead of 59 cm, the panel now predicted only 55 cm of sea-level rise.

A 2017 revised NOAA report shows how far-off these predictions were, placing the worst-case scenario at 2.5 metres by 2100, 5.5 metres by 2150 and 9.7 metres by 2200.

The authors of the new report explain that the conservative and inaccurate IPCC estimates were made because “scientists compiling the report could not agree on how much would be added to sea-level rise by melting polar ice sheets, and so left out the data altogether” to reach some sort of consensus.

Science historian Naomi Oreskes calls this “consensus by omission,” and while it is certainly understandable, Schellnhuber argues it is “dangerously misleading.”

It’s not just sea level rise, either.

For similar reasons, many climate models do not take into account tipping points and positive feedback loops that could amplify warming, like the release of greenhouse gases from thawing permafrost, the loss of West Antarctic glaciers, and reduced ocean and terrestrial CO2 removal from the atmosphere.

A 2013 study by Oreskes found past predictions from climate scientists have been “conservative in their projections of the impacts of climate change” and that “at least some of the key attributes of global warming from increased atmospheric greenhouse gases have been under-predicted, particularly in IPCC assessments of the physical science.”

Far from being biased toward alarmism, it appears that many climate scientists are erring on the side of caution, under-predicting the future climate changes.

Barrie Pittock, a marine and atmospheric scientist at CSIRO, wrote an explanation for this in 2006. He stated that:

“… until now many scientists may have consciously or unconsciously downplayed the more extreme possibilities at the high end of the uncertainty range, in an attempt to appear moderate and ‘responsible’ (that is, to avoid scaring people). However, true responsibility is to provide evidence of what must be avoided: to define, quantify, and warn against possible dangerous or unacceptable outcomes.”

Much of this has to do with statistics. In the IPCC lexicon, future outcomes are considered “unlikely” if they lie outside the brackets of a normal probability distribution.

But, as the report argues: “Focusing on ‘middle of the road’ outcomes, and ignoring the high-end possibilities, may result in an unexpected catastrophic event that we could and should have seen coming.”

That’s because climate change does not present as a normal distribution. Instead, it is skewed by a fat tail, as can be seen in the image below.

This means that there is more area under the far right extreme of the curve, indicating a greater likelihood of warming that is well in excess of the average climate models.

In other words, the chances of Earth warming by six degrees Celsius is not 2 percent, as the normal distribution suggests, it’s actually 10 percent.

Because calculating probabilities has its flaws and limitations, Schellnhuber argues that we should focus less on climate models and more on extreme scenario planning.

These scenarios would take into account future possibilities that would have major consequences, even if they seem highly unlikely now – echoing the old adage: “Better to be safe than sorry.”

One such scenario, laid out in the recent “Hothouse Earth” paper – written by sixteen scientists, including Schellnhuber himself –  reveals that if the planet breaches a pivotal climate threshold, we may reach a point of no return.

“Climate change is now reaching the end-game, where very soon humanity must choose between taking unprecedented action, or accepting that it has been left too late and bear the consequences,” warns Schellnhuber in the report.

The report has been published by the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration , an independent think tank based in Australia.

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#Bushfire, #drought and #climatechange policies #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #NEG

The future? An image released by NASA of the California wildfires taken from the International Space Station. Rising temperatures could mean a greater frequency in devastating bushfires. Image: NASA

Climate debate heats up

Commenting on California’s recent devastating wildfires, Professor Noah Diffenbaugh of Stanford University said “global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions has increased the average temperature by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

The trend is for warmer and warmer conditions around the globe”.

As well as California, there has just been rampant wildfires in Greece and extreme temperatures across Britain, Spain, France, and Portugal with the likelihood that the 48C European temperature record will now be broken.

Here in Australia extreme drought conditions exist across 99 per cent of New South Wales and  66 per cent of Queensland. As a consequence our annual cost of emergency services plus drought relief for farmers is at an all-time high with this trend expected to continue.

As Professor Diffenbaugh says, “green-house gas emissions are fuelling steadily increasing global temperatures” so we too must prepare for the likelihood of destructive bushfires over the forthcoming summer period and be accepting of other severe weather conditions in the future.

Increased atmospheric and surface temperatures generally result in diminishing sub-soil moisture which impacts on crop yields.

For any given region, rainfall trend graphs can be readily prepared based on historical rainfall data.

The trends should be of particular concern as we know further increases in our green-house gas emissions will inevitably worsen this predicament, yet the government continues to argue the case for extending the life of our coal-fired power stations and even building new ones!

Such a plan is contrary to the best advice of climate scientists.

A senior (USA) meteorologist Rob Marciano, said the onset of wildfires in California was coincident with temperatures well above 44C, and “in cases like this, there’s an undeniable link to climate change resulting from global warming”.

So what of our future?

One can only conclude that if we continue to increase our green house gas emissions primarily through prolonged use of coal-fired power stations we must accept more droughts, more flash flooding, more severe bushfires, all at great financial cost to taxpayers.

Addressing man-made global warming surely must be aimed at the cause of the problem itself, and that is clearly our persistent reliance on fossil fuels. The physics of global warming is clear. Keep burning more fossil fuels and our lives in the coming years will be made even more difficult.

A bipartisan solution to our predicament is long overdue which must include phasing out of the burning of fossil fuels as quickly as possible.   Yet this is doubtful as our federal government cannot even internally act-as-one on their planned National Energy Guarantee Scheme (NEG).  Mr Rattenbury (ACT Climate-change minister) justifiably claims the scheme provides diminished incentive for investment in new renewable energy power sources and would cut emissions by only 2 per cent over the next 10 years which is insufficient to satisfy our emission reduction commitments under the Paris agreement.

So sadly our future climate remains of grave concern as our federal government continues to project a lack of understanding of the long-term consequences of global warming.  Is this perhaps another case of “Nero fiddled while Rome burned”?

Ian Cooper, California Gully

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