#ClimateChange makes war worse. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Environmental Issues, Primarily Climate Change, Wreak Havoc On War-torn Mideast Nations

By Nate Nkumbu | The Media Line

March 20, 2018

Amid the fighting in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the impact of global warming is magnified

As the wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen rage on, the human toll rightfully continues to receive much of the attention.

However, the conflicts in the Middle East have negatively impacted other living organisms, as well as the environment in general, which, in turn, has made the lives of those under fire even more difficult.

According to a United Nations-sponsored report compiled by the human rights group PAX, “climate change is thought to be responsible for an increasing frequency of droughts in Iraq during the last decade.”

It added that, “together with increased damming and upstream water use by neighboring countries, the frequent droughts and increasing urbanization have led to chronic shortages of water.”

Miquel Gonzalez-Meler, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago contended to The Media Line that droughts, in particular, have made already unbearable situations that much more difficult. “The drought has affected many low income crops and created a poor distribution of resources. It has also affected aquifers and contaminated groundwater,” he said.

The war-time mismanagement of vital resources such as water can lead to death in extreme cases, while affecting the yield of crops like barley, wheat and sorghum, which are anyways hard to come by conflict zones.

Gonzalez-Meler highlighted the effects of an ongoing drought in the Zagros Mountains, spanning Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. While the range has been a source of water years—when the snow caps melt water flows down to the valleys below—climate change has caused the snow to recede and, in turn, less water is available to those who need it most.

“Changes in the precipitation means that there is no snow reservoir to increase the flow of the rivers and valleys of the region,” he continued, “which have been the sources and sites of great inventions in human history as well as the location of the demise of great empires like the Babylonians and the Sumerians.”

Adam Rose, Research Professor at the University of Southern California, warns that the current period of global warming is one of the most severe ever and is exacerbating the political and humanitarian situations in the Middle East.

“There have been researchers that have found that drought has been getting more severe and causing more stress [on the environment]. Accordingly, people have become impoverished and it is probably a reason for the outward migration in addition to the conflicts themselves.”

Rose added that the problem is likely to get worse, especially as regards water, which he believes could eventually become valuable than oil. “Political issues and ethnic tensions still dominate the region but water is pretty important. One issue that may come into play is the future redrawing of borders [based on the presence of resources] should the conflicts wind down.”

Already, Ethiopia and Egypt are engaged in a major dispute over a dam the former is building which could impact the flow of the Nile’s water, upon which much of Egypt’s rural population depends. “There are also issues relating to access to water in the Jordan River, the Sea of Galilee and many other rivers and aquifers. Water is a scarce resource,” Rose concluded.

(Nate Nkumbu is a Student Intern in The Media Line’s Press and Policy Student Program)

Press link for more: The Media Line


Fighting the mega-mine #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Fighting the mega-mine

Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson of Shoal Collective talk to Ken Peters-Dodd, a First Nations activist fighting against the construction of a mega-mine project threatening to devastate the environment.

Activists from Australia and beyond are joining forces to prevent what is set to be one of the world’s biggest ecological catastrophes.

The massive Carmichael coal mega-mine will devastate the Great Barrier Reef, contribute massively to global climate change, and further marginalise Australia’s First Nations people.

Adani, the controversial Indian corporation planning the mine, is set to extract 2.3 billion tonnes of coal over its planned 60 years of operation.

It is just one of nine mega-mines planned in Australia’s Galilee Basin that would produce 330 million tonnes of coal. According to Greenpeace, that much coal would fill a train long enough to wrap around the world one and a half times.

It will be exported by train from the Galilee Basin to Abbot Point port on the Great Barrier Reef.

More than one million cubic metres of sea floor would be dredged from the Reef in order to extend the port.

The Reef was seriously damaged by unprecedented levels of bleaching in 2016 and 2017 due to rising sea temperatures, and is at risk of further damage in 2018.

With hundreds more coal ships filling the waters, dredging, extra noise and light pollution, and the risk of coal spills, it is feared that the Adani mine will destroy the Reef completely.

This is just the latest massive mining project to threaten First Nations people’s connections to their lands in Australia.

Since the first days of colonisation, Aboriginal land has been exploited for the benefit of Europeans, and now the same thing is being done to increase  the profits of international corporations.

Like indigenous people the world over, First Nations Australians are fighting against their lands being seized for the benefit of global capitalism.

The Adani project is in financial trouble due to the massive campaign against it in Australia. Globally, 28 banks have now ruled out all or part of the Galilee Basin mining projects.

In December 2017, Adani’s application for a AUD$1bn state loan was blocked by the Queensland Premier. But many more companies are still involved, many of which are are based in London.

Some of the international companies involved include WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff, Jefferies, Investec, KY, Marsh, and Baker McKenzie. These companies could also bow to public pressure and withdraw their support from Adani.

Such withdrawals could prove fatal to the project.

In short, it is still possible to stop this project.

A coalition of First Nations activists and groups such as Frontline Action Against Coal and Stop Adani are determined to halt the project in its tracks.

Recently, activists have set up a protest camp near Bowen to oppose the project.

We travelled to Bowen on Australia’s east coast, close to the Abbot Point coal port, and joined both locals and international campaigners for Frontline Action on Coal’s week of action to stop Adani.

Roads were blocked and activists locked themselves to the railway tracks used to export coal.

We interviewed Ken Peters-Dodd, a First Nations elder of the Birriah people, whose traditional country will be affected by the project.

Adani plans to construct the railway line through Birriah land to export the coal to its port. Ken calls on international activists to join the fight against the Adani mine.

He told us: “I am from the Birriah people, of the Bowen river.

I am also from the Widi, the mountain and hill people of the hinterlands.

We are part of the Birri Gubba language group.”

What was the affect of colonisation on your country?

Colonisers came here in the late 1860s.

When they got here their main interest was mining and exploiting the resources on our land. They came with the English police force and began the cutting and logging of our timbers.

The wars and battles carried on for decades.

The massive majority of our people were totally annihiliated.

After that, people were forced to work in pastoralism and cattle.

There was a great roundup and my great grandparents were forcibly moved onto [Christian] missions way up in Cape York and Mission Beach, never to return to their country.

How will the Adani project impact on your people?

The Adani project will have an impact on the environment, our cultural heritage and our rights as caretakers and custodians of our country for generations to come.

The project will also have an impact on neighbouring groups.

It will impact the Juru people, whose country is on the coast where the coal will be loaded onto ships.

It will affect their reefs, wetlands and their rights to protect country.

Were First Nations people consulted by Adani?

There was a process where the company came in and set up a meeting. But it was designed to manipulate and divide people.

People didn’t get the right information [on which] to base their decision.

You had a minority of people only in it for financial gain – influencing the meetings in favour of the mining company.

Expert advice to inform this process was done internally by the company.

Our family was in the negotiations and walked out in disgust at how it was being manipulated.

It was already signed and delivered by the mining company and the company’s lawyers when we walked out.

The financial offerings were peanuts compared to what they would make off the country.

Many of the families never signed.

Can you tell us how you’ve been involved in the campaign against the project?

I’m fully supportive of the campaign against Adani as there’s no difference between Aboriginal and environmental activists standing for ecology, water and the reef.

We’ve gone out and pulled our lines together.

We went on to Abbot Point port with local group Reef Defenders and protested against the project.

With Juru elders we’ve made pledges [to oppose the project].

When we went to Adani’s office to deliver our pledges, they never sent the CEO down to collect them. Adani didn’t want to be seen as having anything to do with it. We’ve also been on campaign roadshows, saying that this project does not have the consent of Aboriginal people.

We had Juru elders, who were part of the negotiations with Adani, speaking about why they didn’t support the project.

We’re encouraging other First Nations peoples to join in and fight this. Our people since day one have been standing in protest, speaking out as custodians of this land.

For over two hundred years we have witnessed the destruction of country and it’s time that we as a people stand up to stop this happening.

It’s a turning point.

We ask all First Nations people to stand in alliance in this struggle.

Is the fight against the Adani project only a struggle for First Nations people?

No. Everyone should participate who has an interest in the impacts these projects will have.

We fully support people from around the world to get involved.

It’s not just a struggle for First Nations people but for everyone who has interests and rights in this country.

We want people to come together and support us on country, build a strong alliance and challenge the separation between First Nations people and the wider Australian people.

The Adani mine will have a massive impact on global climate change for generations to come.

Underground waters are going to be depleted, which will have impacts throughout the Great Dividing Range.

The government has no concern for the future generations, or for the people at all.

[Even if planning permission is legally approved], people can still resist the project and we will carry on our fight to protect our country, including protesting physically and peacefully.

It’s a critical point as it will affect other projects in Australia.

What do you say to those who think that the Adani project is vital for creating new jobs in Queensland?

That’s just a political argument made by people with a relationship with the mining industry, campaigning for their positions.

Everyday Australians know that they won’t get a job: the industry wants a transient community which has no physical connection to country. We need to plan for renewable energy.

Even the other mining industries will feel an impact from this project because the price of coal in the area will be driven down [because of oversupply].

We came together and protested against the Commonwealth Bank and temporarily closed down seven of their branches. [Commonwealth Bank, as well as the other big Australian banks, have now pledged not to finance Adani].

Do you want people internationally to resist the involvement of foreign banks?

Definitely. We send clear support for people globally to put pressure on international banks which may have an interest in funding this project. Go and campaign outside these banks and put pressure on them. We want that clear message to come from people internationally. We’d be prepared to go over and support people in this.

We call on people from all areas: social, political and environmental. We ask people from around the world to support us.

We need to pull together and plan for the future because this project will set a precedent which will diminish the future rights of all First Nations people.

Press link for more: RedPepper.org.uk

50 years since climate change was first seen. Now time is running out #auspol #qldpol #sapol #StopAdani

It’s 50 years since climate change was first seen.

Now time is running out |

Richard WilesFri 16 Mar 2018 01.47 AEDT

Making up for years of delay and denial will not be easy, nor will it be cheap. Climate polluters must be held accountable

Scientists attribute 15-40% of the epic rain of Hurricane Harvey to climate change.’ Photograph: Marcus Yam/LA Times via Getty Images

Fifty years ago, the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) delivered a report titled Sources, Abundance, and Fate of Gaseous Atmospheric Polluters to the American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association for the fossil fuel industry.

The report, unearthed by researchers at the Center for International Environmental Law, is one of the earliest attempts by the industry to grapple with the impacts of rising CO2 levels, which Stanford’s researchers warned if left unabated “could bring about climatic changes” like temperature increases, melting of ice caps and sea level rise.

The year was 1968, and the term “global warming” would not appear in a peer-reviewed academic journal until 1975. Famed Nasa scientist James Hansen would not testify before Congress that “global warming has begun” for another 20 years. And the US would not enter into – only to later pull out of – the Paris climate accord for nearly half a century.

The anniversary of SRI’s report to the API on climate change represents not just a damning piece of evidence of what the fossil fuel industry knew and when, but a signal of all that we have lost over the decades of policy inaction and interference. It should also serve as a potent motivator in the fight for climate accountability and justice.

At the time, CO2 levels in the atmosphere stood about 323ppm. The planet was warming but was still well within the historical norm. Sea levels had risen by about 4in compared with 1880 levels. The report, however, cautioned that “man is now engaged in a vast geophysical experiment with his environment, the Earth” and that “significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000”.

Those predictions proved to be correct: by the turn of the century, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had risen to 369ppm, causing a temperature increase of nearly half a degree over pre-industrial averages. Today, virtually all climate scientists agree there is little or no chance the world can stay within the goal of 1.5C, the limit of what scientists believe to be safe.

With each decade of delay and denial the impacts and costs of climate change have continued to mount

Over the next 20 years, the scientific community and policymakers around the world began to reach a consensus on the threat posed by rising CO2 levels. Scientists at least one major oil company, Exxon, did their own climate modeling, which agreed with the scientific consensus. During this period a budding movement to cut emissions began.

To counter and slow down that effort to address climate change, the fossil fuel industry began its long and powerful strategy of climate denial and obstructionism. Even though they knew the science, they also realized that attempts to control emissions could seriously damage their bottom lines.

In 1998, as the first global attempt to rein in climate pollution, the Kyoto protocol, was headed to the Senate for ratification, API circulated what has come to be known as the Victory Memo, a detailed road map to undermining science and promoting denial of climate change. According to API’s top strategists: “Victory will be achieved when: those promoting the Kyoto treaty on the basis of extant science appear to be out of touch with reality.”

California’s deadly wildfires which were set up by five years of drought.’ Photograph: Kurod/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

The memo’s end goal was clear: create doubt about science where none existed, deceive the media and Congress about the risks of climate change, and block the momentum that was building to address rising emissions through the Kyoto protocol, a precursor to the Paris accord. ExxonMobil alone would go on to spend upwards of $30m on ads, front groups, and pseudoscience intended to carry out the plan. That’s in addition to the cash that flooded the coffers of climate deniers in Congress who are rewarded amply for willful ignorance.

API’s strategic deception campaign was a success, which is why we now stand at the brink of the highest global temperature considered safe. Just what it will mean to cross that line remains an ongoing question for atmospheric scientists, but we’ve already started to get a glimpse and it doesn’t look good.

The damage is all around us, from hurricanes on steroids – scientists attribute 15-40% (8in-24in) of the epic rain of Hurricane Harvey to climate change – to California’s deadly wildfires which were set up by five years of drought, followed by record snowfall, then record heat that turned huge areas of the state into tinderboxes. In 2017 there were 16 separate billion-dollar disasters in the US, resulting in a total of $306bn of damages, nearly $100bn more than the second highest year 2005 (Katrina). While technically climate change did not “cause” these disasters, most of the carnage was aggravated in some way by climate change and the fossil fuel emissions that cause it in the first place.

Other impacts are more long-term and irreparable. Anyone born after 1985 has never experienced a month with average temperatures that fall below the historical norm and, without action, probably never will. Mass coral bleaching events due to warming waters and ocean acidification have rendered large swaths of some of the ocean’s most diverse ecosystems lifeless. The vanishing Arctic ice cap appears already to be affecting global weather patterns, and the loss of ice in Antarctica may have reached a tipping point that many now view as irreversible, a development that will require tough and costly decisions for coastal cities.

It never had to be this way. But with each decade of delay and denial the impacts and costs of climate change have continued to mount. Now taxpayers are left holding the bill for a literal rising tide of impacts that pose the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. Meeting that challenge must begin with accountability on the part of climate polluters, and justice for citizens who did nothing to cause the problem other than drive to work and heat their homes when they had no other alternatives.

We can’t turn back the clock, but we can turn off the fossil fuel firehose that’s been pumping CO2 into our atmosphere and demand that those who left it running help foot the bill for the cleanup. Already we’ve seen cities like New York, San Francisco, and other coastal cities file lawsuits against climate polluters, seeking to recover costs associated with planning for and adapting to a warming world. With massive costs facing hundreds more cities and no remedy in sight, more litigation will follow.

Making up for 50 years of delay and denial will not be easy, nor will it be cheap. But taxpayers should not have to shoulder the burden alone. The API and its climate polluters knowingly and deliberately caused this mess. They must help pay to clean it up.

Richard Wiles is the executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity

Press link for more: The Guardian

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

By Patrick Blanchfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That word is neoliberalism.

What is neoliberalism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It imposes a regime of feelings and behaviors as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, the massacres continue.

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

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

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

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

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

None of this has to be this way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press link for more: Splinter News

The “Adani Curse” #auspol #sapol #qldpol #BatmanVotes #StopAdani

THE “Adani curse” has hit Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with a poll finding most of his constituents want a review of the Queensland coal mine.

By Malcolm Farr

Malcolm is national political editor of news.com.au.

His 40 years in journalism include the past 22 years in Canberra.

He has also worked for newspapers in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Rome for The Australian, The Daily Mirror, the Brisbane Sun, The Daily Telegraph, and the International Daily News. Rides a motorbike without falling off…so far.

Adani has been a huge political problem for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and now Mr Turnbull could be asked to explain himself.

Mr Turnbull has consistently attacked Mr Shorten with the claim he is supporting the mine when in Queensland but opposing it when in the Melbourne seat of Batman which goes to a by-election on Saturday.

It now has been revealed that two-thirds of voters in Mr Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth and 60 per cent in Brisbane want a review of the environmental approval given the project, according to a survey released today by the Australia Institute.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has said the Labor Party would back the Adani mine if it proved financially and environmentally viable. Picture: David Mariuz / AAPSource:AAP

The ReachTEL survey could indicate the Prime Minister will have a conflict with his own voters.

“Adani isn’t just a potent issue in Batman.

It’s an issue on the government and the Prime Minister’s plate, right now,” said Ebony Bennett, Deputy Director at The Australia Institute.

Ms Bennett said a majority of voters in the Liberal-held seats of Wentworth and Brisbane Aldo opposed using taxpayer’s money subsidising coal projects like Adani.

“Most agree that Australia must halt the expansion of coal mining and fast-track building renewables and storage to reduce the worsening impacts of climate change,” she said.

Last week the Prime Minister gave the project by the Indian company his personal backing.

“All of that permitting has been done. They are entitled to develop it in accordance with those permits,’’ he said.

“As to whether it is commercially or financially viable, that is a matter for the company. They have got to decide.”

But he accused Mr Shorten of being two-faced on the issue.

Alice Henderson, with her daughter Josie, opposes the Adani mine proposal and will itake the issue to the ballot box when she votes in Batman’s by-election on Saturday. Picture: Ian CurrieSource:Supplied

“So when Bill Shorten is in Queensland and says: ‘Oh, I am in favour of the mines’, and then goes down to Melbourne and says: ‘I am against it’, you can see what a risk that is to jobs, to investment to the economic future and security of Australia, because it is completely two-faced,” Mr Turnbull said.

Labor has argued it would back the mine if it proved financially and environmentally viable.

However, it has been wary of angering Queensland voters who see the project as a source of many jobs, and doesn’t want to clash with Batman voters deciding whether to vote Labor or Greens.

Last week Mr Shorten said he now opposed the mine and yesterday was backed by Opposition finance spokesman Jim Chalmers.

“It hasn’t passed all the environmental tests yet, that is just a statement of fact and you can try all you like to pretend this is something other than a factual realisation that it hasn’t yet passed all the environmental tests and it hasn’t passed all of the commercial tests,” Mr Chalmers told Sky News.

Protesters opposing the Adani mine held a rally on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra on February 5. Picture: Kym Smith Is the Adani coal mine dead?Source:News Corp Australia

Press link for more: News.com.au

We’re not building clean energy fast enough to avoid catastrophic #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol

At this rate, it’s going to take nearly 400 years to transform the energy system

Here are the real reasons we’re not building clean energy anywhere near fast enough.

James Temple

Fifteen years ago, Ken Caldeira, a senior scientist at the Carnegie Institution, calculated that the world would need to add about a nuclear power plant’s worth of clean-energy capacity every day between 2000 and 2050 to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Recently, he did a quick calculation to see how we’re doing.

Not well.

Instead of the roughly 1,100 megawatts of carbon-free energy per day likely needed to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 ˚C, as the 2003 Science paper by Caldeira and his colleagues found, we are adding around 151 megawatts.

That’s only enough to power roughly 125,000 homes.

At that rate, substantially transforming the energy system would take, not the next three decades, but nearly the next four centuries.

In the meantime, temperatures would soar, melting ice caps, sinking cities, and unleashing devastating heat waves around the globe (see “The year climate change began to spin out of control”).

Caldeira stresses that other factors are likely to significantly shorten that time frame (in particular, electrifying heat production, which accounts for a more than half of global energy consumption, will significantly alter demand). But he says it’s clear we’re overhauling the energy system about an order of magnitude too slowly, underscoring a point that few truly appreciate: It’s not that we aren’t building clean energy fast enough to address the challenge of climate change.

It’s that—even after decades of warnings, policy debates, and clean-energy campaigns—the world has barely even begun to confront the problem.

The UN’s climate change body asserts that the world needs to cut as much as 70 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions by midcentury to have any chance of avoiding 2 ˚C of warming. But carbon pollution has continued to rise, ticking up 2 percent last year.

So what’s the holdup?

Beyond the vexing combination of economic, political, and technical challenges is the basic problem of overwhelming scale. There is a massive amount that needs to be built, which will suck up an immense quantity of manpower, money, and materials.

For starters, global energy consumption is likely to soar by around 30 percent in the next few decades as developing economies expand. (China alone needs to add the equivalent of the entire US power sector by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency.) To cut emissions fast enough and keep up with growth, the world will need to develop 10 to 30 terawatts of clean-energy capacity by 2050.

On the high end that would mean constructing the equivalent of around 30,000 nuclear power plants—or producing and installing 120 billion 250-watt solar panels.

Energy overhaul

There’s simply little financial incentive for the energy industry to build at that scale and speed while it has tens of trillions of dollars of sunk costs in the existing system.

“If you pay a billion dollars for a gigawatt of coal, you’re not going to be happy if you have to retire it in 10 years,” says Steven Davis, an associate professor in the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine.

It’s somewhere between difficult and impossible to see how any of that will change until there are strong enough government policies or big enough technology breakthroughs to override the economics.

A quantum leap

In late February, I sat in Daniel Schrag’s office at the Harvard University Center for the Environment. His big yellow Chinook, Mickey, lay down next to my feet.

Schrag was one of President Barack Obama’s top climate advisors. As a geologist who has closely studied climate variability and warming periods in the ancient past, he has a special appreciation for how dramatically things can change.

Sitting next to me with his laptop, he opened a report he had recently coauthored assessing the risks of climate change.

It highlights the many technical strides that will be required to overhaul the energy system, including better carbon capture, biofuels, and storage.

The study also notes that the United States adds roughly 10 gigawatts of new energy generation capacity per year.

That includes all types, natural gas as well as solar and wind. But even at that rate, it would take more than 100 years to rebuild the existing electricity grid, to say nothing of the far larger one required in the decades to come.

“Is it possible to accelerate by a factor of 20?” he asks. “Yeah, but I don’t think people understand what that is, in terms of steel and glass and cement.”

Climate observers and commentators have used various historical parallels to illustrate the scale of the task, including the Manhattan Project and the moon mission. But for Schrag, the analogy that really speaks to the dimensions and urgency of the problem is World War II, when the United States nationalized parts of the steel, coal, and railroad industries.

The government forced automakers to halt car production in order to churn out airplanes, tanks, and jeeps.

The good news here is that if you direct an entire economy at a task, big things can happen fast. But how do you inspire a war mentality in peacetime, when the enemy is invisible and moving in slow motion?

“It’s a quantum leap from where we are today,” Schrag says.

The time delay

The fact that the really devastating consequences of climate change won’t come for decades complicates the issue in important ways. Even for people who care about the problem in the abstract, it doesn’t rate high among their immediate concerns.

As a consequence, they aren’t inclined to pay much, or change their lifestyle, to actually address it. In recent years, Americans were willing to increase their electricity bill by a median amount of only $5 a month even if that “solved,” not eased, global warming, down from $10 15 years earlier, according to a series of surveys by MIT and Harvard.

It’s conceivable that climate change will someday alter that mind-set as the mounting toll of wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, extinctions, and sea-level rise finally forces the world to grapple with the problem.

But that will be too late.

Carbon dioxide works on a time delay.

It takes about 10 years to achieve its full warming effect, and it stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

After we’ve tipped into the danger zone, eliminating carbon dioxide emissions doesn’t decrease the effects; it can only prevent them from getting worse.

Whatever level of climate change we allow to unfold is locked in for millennia, unless we develop technologies to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere on a massive scale (or try our luck with geoengineering).

This also means there’s likely to be a huge trade-off between what we would have to pay to fix the energy system and what it would cost to deal with the resulting disasters if we don’t. Various estimates find that cutting emissions will shrink the global economy by a few percentage points a year, but unmitigated warming could slash worldwide GDP more than 20 percent by the end of the century, if not far more.

In the money

Arguably the most crucial step to accelerate energy development is enacting strong government policies.

Many economists believe the most powerful tool would be a price on carbon, imposed through either a direct tax or a cap-and-trade program. As the price of producing energy from fossil fuels grows, this would create bigger incentives to replace those plants with clean energy (see “Surge of carbon pricing proposals coming in the new year”).

“If we’re going to make any progress on greenhouse gases, we’ll have to either pay the implicit or explicit costs of carbon,” says Severin Borenstein, an energy economist at the University of California, Berkeley.

But it has to be a big price, far higher than the $15 per ton it cost to acquire allowances in California’s cap-and-trade program late last year. Borenstein says a carbon fee approaching $40 a ton “just blows coal out of the market entirely and starts to put wind and solar very much into the money,” at least when you average costs across the lifetime of the plants.

Others think the price should be higher still. But it’s very hard to see how any tax even approaching that figure could pass in the United States, or many other nations, anytime soon.

The other major policy option would be caps that force utilities and companies to keep greenhouse emissions below a certain level, ideally one that decreases over time. This regulations-based approach is not considered as economically efficient as a carbon price, but it has the benefit of being much more politically palatable. American voters hate taxes but are perfectly comfortable with air pollution rules, says Stephen Ansolabehere, a professor of government at Harvard University.

Fundamental technical limitations will also increase the cost and complexity of shifting to clean energy. Our fastest-growing carbon-free sources, solar and wind farms, don’t supply power when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. So as they provide a larger portion of the grid’s electricity, we’ll also need long-range transmission lines that can balance out peaks and valleys across states, or massive amounts of very expensive energy storage, or both (see “Relying on renewables alone significantly inflates the cost of overhauling energy”).

The upshot is that we’re eventually going to need to either supplement wind and solar with many more nuclear reactors, fossil-fuel plants with carbon capture and other low-emissions sources, or pay far more to build out a much larger system of transmission, storage and renewable generation, says Jesse Jenkins, a researcher with the MIT Energy Initiative. In all cases, we’re still likely to need significant technical advances that drive down costs.

All of this, by the way, only addresses the challenge of overhauling the electricity sector, which currently represents less than 20 percent of total energy consumption. It will provide a far greater portion as we electrify things like vehicles and heating, which means we’ll eventually need to develop an electrical system several times larger than today’s.

But that still leaves the “really difficult parts of the global energy system” to deal with, says Davis of UC Irvine. That includes aviation, long-distance hauling, and the cement and steel industries, which produce carbon dioxide in the manufacturing process itself. To clean up these huge sectors of the economy, we’re going to need better carbon capture and storage tools, as well as cheaper biofuels or energy storage, he says.

These kinds of big technical achievements tend to require significant and sustained government support. But much like carbon taxes or emissions caps, a huge increase in federal research and development funding is highly unlikely in the current political climate.

Give up?

So should we just give up?

There is no magic bullet or obvious path here. All we can do is pull hard on the levers that seem to work best.

Environmental and clean-energy interest groups need to make climate change a higher priority, tying it to practical issues that citizens and politicians do care about, like clean air, security, and jobs. Investors or philanthropists need to be willing to make longer-term bets on early-stage energy technologies. Scientists and technologists need to focus their efforts on the most badly needed tools. And lawmakers need to push through policy changes to provide incentives, or mandates, for energy companies to change.

The hard reality, however, is that the world very likely won’t be able to accomplish what’s called for by midcentury. Schrag says that keeping temperature increases below 2 ˚C is already “a pipe dream,” adding that we’ll be lucky to prevent 4 ˚C of warming this century.

That means we’re likely to pay a very steep toll in lost lives, suffering, and environmental devastation (see “Hot and violent”).

But the imperative doesn’t end if warming tips past 2 ˚C. It only makes it more urgent to do everything we can to contain the looming threats, limit the damage, and shift to a sustainable system as fast as possible.

“If you miss 2050,” Schrag says, “you still have 2060, 2070, and 2080.”

Press link for more: Technology Review

350 Australia, Adani & the Batman by-election #auspol #qldpol #BatmanVotes #StopAdani

350 Australia, Adani and the Batman by-election

By Glen Klatovsky

Over the last six weeks, 350 Australia has been working with the people of Batman to highlight the issue of the the proposed Adani coal mine.

Hundreds of locals have been getting active as their passion for climate protection comes to the fore.

People have asked why the Adani issue is relevant in inner-city Melbourne — far from Queensland’s Galilee Basin where the mine would be located.

Why 350 should be active in a seat that the Liberal Party are not contesting and why we would not support a progressive candidate for the ALP?

The short answer is: we need to break bipartisan support for the Adani mine.

The Adani company proposes to build the biggest coal mine in Australia, which will operate for more than 50 years, in a brand new coal basin.

If the Adani project goes ahead, other coal mines in the Galilee Basin will undoubtedly follow.

The Adani coal mine is the core question about our response to climate change because, to meet the Paris climate commitments, we have to stop digging up coal.

That means no new coal mines… anywhere.

350 has been central to the #StopAdani campaign.

We have seen this movement grow into one of the biggest social movements in Australia in decades.

There are over 150 #StopAdani groups across Australia and thousands of Australians actively fighting to stop this mine.

In Batman, the concern about Adani was obvious in late January when 350 convened a local community meeting about the issue.

Some 200 locals turned up, about 150 more than we expected!

Whether you live in Batman or near the Barrier Reef, Adani is an issue of national significance – and one that can and should influence the outcome of every election going forward.

Obviously, the current federal government is pro-coal and pro-Adani.

Last year, our Federal Treasurer turned up to Parliament with a big lump of coal in his hand – an embarrassing gimmick to show support for a dying industry.

Meanwhile, despite prevaricating by Bill Shorten, the ALP still stands by support for the Adani coal mine.

What we don’t understand is why the federal ALP has failed to oppose the Adani mine. Two-thirds of Australians oppose the Adani project and the voters of Queensland voted in the ALP state government largely with Adani named as a key reason.

While the federal ALP refuses to oppose the mine, Adani workers can say they have bipartisan support for the project in the halls of power in Canberra.

We know that even without direct federal money for the Adani mine, the Australian government provides billions of dollars of subsidies and other incentives to coal miners in Australia, regardless of which party runs the country.

So 350 is campaigning to get the ALP to oppose the Adani mine. And if there was a Liberal candidate, we would campaign for them to do the same.

350 Australia’s job, backed by 70,000 supporters, more than 150 #StopAdani groups and the two-thirds of Australians polled who oppose the Adani mine, is to fight for our climate and ensure this mine never goes ahead. In order to do that we need to break the bipartisan support for Adani in Canberra.

Regardless of who wins in the seat of Batman, our campaign will not cease. After the by-election, we will continue our efforts to break the all political support for the Adani mine and for coal in Canberra. Given the urgency of climate change, it’s a campaign that, together, we have to win.



Press link for more: 350.org.au

Welcome to the Third Industrial Revolution #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Welcome to the Third Industrial Revolution

Arianna Huffington

In his 2009 book “The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis,“ Jeremy Rifkin posed one of the defining questions of our time: in a hyper-connected world, what is the goal of all that unprecedented technological connectivity? “Seven billion individual connections,” he wrote, “absent any overall unifying purpose, seem a colossal waste of human energy.”

Now, I’m delighted that The WorldPost is featuring a new series by Rifkin exploring how the possibilities of an even more connected world can lead to solutions to one of our greatest crises: climate change.

With 2015 widely predicted to supersede 2014 as the hottest year on record, the topic’s relevance and timeliness are obvious. According to analysis by Climate Central, “13 of the hottest 15 years on record have all occurred since 2000 and … the odds of that happening randomly without the boost of global warming is 1 in 27 million.”

‘Thirteen of the hottest 15 years on record have all occurred since 2000 and … the odds of that happening randomly without the boost of global warming is 1 in 27 million.’

At the same time, we’re in a moment of real promise, which is why the series, the “Third Industrial Revolution,” will focus not only on the climate crisis but also on the wealth of innovation, creativity and potential solutions out there, which media too often overlook.

Rifkin, one of our premier scholars and thinkers whose work confronts a range of global challenges, sees the rise of “a new biosphere consciousness, as the human race begins to perceive the Earth as its indivisible community. We are each beginning to take on our responsibilities as stewards of the planetary ecosystems that sustain all of life,” he writes. And this new consciousness is coalescing at a moment when we are seeing a tipping point on climate change — both in terms of awareness and action.

For instance, we have seen an unprecedented commitment to common action by the leaders of the two largest economies in the world — the U.S. and China — to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In September, cities, states and provinces from around the world came together in Los Angeles to make the same commitment and to find practical ways to work together at both the global and local levels.

In June, Pope Francis drew worldwide attention to climate change with the release of his encyclical “Laudato Si,” which elevated the issue to a spiritual challenge and moral imperative. As HuffPost’s Jaweed Kaleem wrote at the time of the encyclical’s publication:

In the lengthy treatise, more broadly addressed to ‘every person’ who lives on Earth, the pope lays out a moral case for supporting sustainable economic and population growth as part of the church’s mission and humanity’s responsibility to protect God’s creation for future generations. While saying that there were natural causes to climate change over the earth’s history, the letter also says in strong words that human activity and production of greenhouse gases are to blame.

Then there is the U.N. summit on climate change, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris, with the goal of reaching a binding international agreement to reduce emissions. As President Obama told Rolling Stone in September, looking ahead to the Paris talks, “we’re now in a position for the first time to have all countries recognize their responsibilities to tackle the problem, and to have a meaningful set of targets as well as the financing required to help poor countries adapt.” If the summit leads to meaningful commitments, Obama said, that will pave the way for future progress: “Hope builds on itself. Success breeds success.”

For all the promise and possibility of official gatherings, much of the change we need will come from outside the halls of power. This is where technological advances and innovations, including the Internet of Things, are especially important. Rifkin sees tremendous potential in this aspect of increased connectivity: “For the first time in history,” he writes, “the entire human race can collaborate directly with one another, democratizing economic life.” Advances in digital connectivity, renewable energy sources and smart transportation are allowing us to responsibly shift the way we see the world and our place in it.

Rifkin labels all this the “Third Industrial Revolution” because, “to grasp the enormity of the economic change taking place, we need to understand the technological forces that have given rise to new economic systems throughout history.”

In the coming weeks, our series will outline the path ahead for the realization of this Third Industrial Revolution. And a range of other voices will join the conversation, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on how the Internet of Things can boost China’s manufacturing base and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on the need for a new, forward-looking narrative for European unity that captures the imagination of young people.

So please join the conversation on climate change, technology and the growing global movement toward solutions. And, as always, use the comments section to let us know what you think. Read the first essay here.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

Game changer’: New vulnerability to climate change in ocean food chain. #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Game changer’: New vulnerability to climate change in ocean food chain

By Peter Hannam

15 March 2018 — 5:00am

Excessive rates of carbon dioxide undermines the health of key micro-organisms in the oceans, potentially undermining the base of critical marine food chains, according to new research by US scientists.

A team of researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) applied techniques from the emerging field of synthetic biology to understand how ocean acidification from the absorption of CO2 is affecting tiny plants known as phytoplankton.

Phytoplankton like these diatoms turn out to be sensitive to ocean acidification, according to new research.

Photo: Scripps Institution/Nature

Phytoplankton are not only a key food source for global fisheries, they are also important to the removal of CO2, much like how trees absorb the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.

In a paper published on Thursday in Nature, the team demonstrated how the microscopic plants require carbonate ions to acquire iron from the water to grow.

As CO2 levels rise, the oceans have less carbonate, affecting phytoplankton’s ability to secure sufficient nutrient iron for growth. In fact, the concentration of sea surface carbonate ions are on course to drop by half by the end of this century.

“Ultimately our study reveals the possibility of a ‘feedback mechanism’ operating in parts of the ocean where iron already constrains the growth of phytoplankton,”said Jeff McQuaid, lead author of the study who made the discoveries as a PhD student at Scripps Oceanography.

“In these regions, high concentrations of atmospheric CO2 could decrease phytoplankton growth, restricting the ability of the ocean to absorb CO2 and thus leading to ever higher concentrations of CO2 accumulating in the atmosphere.”

Phytoplankton off New York. The micro-organisms help remove carbon dioxide from the ocean.

Photo: NASA

Andrew E. Allen, a biologist at Scripps and JCVI and the paper’s senior author, said that while the genetics of common animals such as rats or rabbits was well known, the same was not true of marine microbes that play important roles in the global food chain.

The researchers inserted a mutated copy of a gene into phytoplankton cells and tested how it responded to changing ocean chemistry.

“It was a complete game changer,” Professor Allen told Fairfax Media, noting interest in who acidification impacts on phytoplankton had been “a pretty intensive topic of research for the past 10-20 years” given the implication for the food web. Progress, though, had been limited until the new techniques emerged.

“With [synthetic biological] tools like this we can really study the function of a protein in detail to really enable some breakthroughs.”

Professor Allen discovered several iron-responsive genes in diatoms – a type of phytoplankton – in 2008 that had no known function.

DNA analysis of samples that were collected by Mr McQuaid during a trip in the same year to Antarctica revealed one of Professor Allen’s iron genes was not only present in every sample of seawater, but that every major phytoplankton group in the Southern Ocean seemed to have a copy.

The subsequent research centred on the more common of two methods of iron take-up by diatoms.

“In the Southern Ocean, where the temperature decreases the solubility of carbonate, we should already be in the zone where the models project which start to limit iron uptake,” Professor Allen said. “Certainly by 2100…the uptake of iron by this [primary] mechanism could be reduced by 45 per cent.”

While the micro organisms had a secondary way to extract the iron they needed to grow, that method was “a lot more energetically expensive and less efficient”, Professor Allen said.

“If you take away one kind of iron substrate, there could be ripples through the microbial food web.”

Professor Allen credited the now-Dr McQuaid for pulling together a wide-range of scientific fields – tapping experts in molecular evolution, iron and carbonate chemistry, synthetic biology and diatom biology – to “weave a coherent, integrated story”.

Press link for more: The Age.com.au

China’s War on Pollution #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

China’s War on Pollution Will Change the World

March 9, 2018

China is cracking down on pollution like never before, with new green policies so hard-hitting and extensive they can be felt across the world, transforming everything from electric vehicle demand to commodities markets.

Four decades of breakneck economic growth turned China into the world’s biggest carbon emitter. But now the government is trying to change that without damaging the economy—and perhaps even use its green policies to become a leader in technological innovation.

So, as lawmakers attend the annual National People’s Congress, here’s a look at the impact of the environmental focus, at home and abroad.

PM 2.5 Concentration Estimate (µg/m3) as of January 31, 2018

Source: Berkeley Earth (see footnote for methodology)

China’s air pollution is so extreme that in 2015, independent research group Berkeley Earth estimated it contributed to 1.6 million deaths per year in the country.

The smog is heaviest in northern industrial provinces such as Shanxi, the dominant coal mining region, and steel-producing Hebei. Emissions there contribute to the planet’s largest mass of PM 2.5 air pollution—the particles which pose the greatest health risks because they can become lodged in the lungs. It can stretch from Mongolia to the Yellow Sea and often as far as South Korea.

Leaders at the congress said they will raise spending to curb pollution by 19 percent over the previous year to 40.5 billion yuan ($6.4 billion) and aim to cut sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by 3 percent. They said heavy air pollution days in key cities are down 50 percent in five years.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Tons of Carbon Dioxide

December 2001:

China joins WTO

Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy

The country had become the world’s No.1 carbon dioxide emitter as it rose to dominate global exports, a process which began several decades ago but got its biggest lift with World Trade Organization entry in 2001. Emissions have started to fall again.

Bigger Than Tesla

The government’s war on air pollution fits neatly with another goal: domination of the global electric-vehicle industry.

Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc. might be the best-known name, but China has been the global leader in EV sales since 2015, and is aiming for 7 million annual sales by 2025.

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

To get there, it’s subsidizing manufacturers and tightening regulation around traditional fossil-fuel powered cars. Beneficiaries include BYD Co., a Warren Buffett-backed carmaker that soared 67 percent last year and sold more cars than Tesla. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has a buy rating on shares of Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd.

Clean Energy Frontiers

Worldwide, solar panel prices are plunging—allowing a faster shift away from carbon—thanks to the sheer scale of China’s clean-energy investment. It’s spending more than twice as much as the U.S. Two-thirds of solar panels are produced in China, BNEF estimates, and it’s home to global leaders, including JinkoSolar Holding Co. and Yingli Green Energy Holding Co.

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

But China isn’t stopping there. As well as wind and solar, it’s exploring frontier clean energy technologies like hydrogen as an alternative to coal.

Follow the Money

The trend towards clean energy is poised to keep gathering steam worldwide. BNEF projects global investment in new power generation capacity will exceed $10 trillion between 2017 and 2040. Of this, about 72 percent is projected to go toward renewable energy, roughly evenly split between wind and solar.

The Third Industrial Revolution

China’s efforts to cut excess industrial capacity overlap with the imperative to clean up the environment. Combined, those forces have had a hefty impact on commodity prices. Coal, steel, and aluminum prices soared last year as factories shut and mines closed. Under the weight of new rules on pollutant discharge, paper prices did the same. Some markets have recovered somewhat since then, some haven’t.

Thermal coal

(Per metric ton)

Steel rebar

(Per metric ton)


(Per metric ton)

Paper products

(Producer Price index)

Source: Data compiled by Bloomberg, China Coal Resource, National Bureau of Statistics

Clearer Skies

Five years ago, Beijing’s “airpocalypse” unleashed criticism of the government so searing that even Chinese state media joined in. Last year, the capital’s average daily concentration of PM2.5 particles was almost a third lower than in 2015, compared with declines of about a tenth for some other major cities.

The turnaround isn’t just limited to improving air quality. China has stopped accepting shiploads of other countries’ plastic and paper trash, a response to public concern over pollution and a decreased need for scrap materials.

As Xi pushes a greener approach, officials at every level of government are working to put his words into action. The government has set up a special police force, and polluting factories have been closed. Officials obediently banned coal, sending natural gas sales surging, before backtracking after supply shortfalls left many areas in the cold.

Beijing’s 30-Day Average Air Pollution Levels

PM 2.5 pollutant concentration µg/m3

China’s LNG Imports

Source: U.S. Department of State Air Quality Monitoring Program, China Customs

While smog was long excused as the inevitable byproduct of rising wealth, there’s no sign so far that the cleanup is derailing the country’s economy. Growth last year accelerated to 6.9 percent—the first uptick in seven years—and remains a crucial prop for global expansion.

What’s more, China sees high-tech industries like electric cars and solar panels as its chance to lead the world, setting standards and cornering markets as they begin to build momentum. But turning around carbon emissions at home is one thing. Winning over the world’s consumers to become a tech superpower is a different goal entirely.

Press link for more: Bloomberg.com