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The big heatwave: from Algeria to the Arctic. But what’s the cause? #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ClimateChange #Longman

The big heatwave: from Algeria to the Arctic. But what’s the cause?

Robin McKieSun 22 Jul 2018 08.00 BST

Last week, authorities in Sweden took an unusual step.

They issued an appeal for international aid to help them tackle an epidemic of wildfires that has spread across the nation over the past few days.

After months without rain, followed by weeks of soaring temperatures, the nation’s forests had become tinderboxes.

The result was inevitable. Wildfires broke out and, by the end of last week, more than 50 forest blazes – a dozen inside the Arctic circle – had spread across Sweden.

A nation famous for its cold and snow found itself unable to cope with the conflagrations taking place within its border and so made its appeal for international help, a request that has already been answered by Norway and Italy who have both sent airborne firefighting teams to help battle Sweden’s blazes.

Nor is the nation’s fiery fate particularly unusual at present. Across much of the northern hemisphere, intense and prolonged heatwaves have triggered disruption and devastation as North America, the Arctic, northern Europe and Africa have sweltered in record-breaking temperatures. In Africa, a weather station at Ouargla, Algeria, in the Sahara desert, recorded a temperature of 51.3C, the highest reliable temperature ever recorded in Africa.

In Japan, where temperatures have reached more than 40C, people were last week urged to take precautions after the death toll reached 30 with thousands more having sought hospital treatment for heat-related conditions. And in California increased use of air conditioning units, switched on to counter the scorching conditions there, has led to power shortages.

But perhaps the strangest impact of the intense heat has been felt in Canada. It too has been gripped by ferocious heat, with Toronto recording temperatures that have exceeded 30C on 18 days so far this year. This figure compares with only nine such days all last summer.

Dozens have died in the withering heat – with startling and grim consequences. Montreal’s morgue has been swamped with the bodies of those who have died because of the heat, and many corpses have had to be stored elsewhere in the city. Montreal coroner Jean Brochu said it was first time the city’s morgue had been overwhelmed this way.

Britain’s scorching weather – which has melted the roof of Glasgow’s Science Centre and parched the lawns of the nation’s historic homes – may have made regular UK headlines. However, it has been relatively mild in impact compared to those experienced in many other parts of the world.

Fighting wildfires near Brasilia, Brazil, last week. Photograph: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Far from being a parochial problem, the current heatwave is clearly an issue that affects vast stretches of our planet: a global concern not a local one.

But why is so much of our world currently being afflicted with blisteringly hot weather? What is driving the wildfires, the soaring temperatures and those melting rooftops? These are tricky questions to answer, such is the complex nature of the planet’s weather systems. Most scientists point to a number of factors with global warming being the most obvious candidate. Others warn that it would be wrong to overstate its role in the current heatwaves, however.

“Yes, it is hard not to believe that climate change has to be playing a part in what is going on round the globe at present,” said Dann Mitchell of Bristol University. “There have been some remarkable extremes recorded in the past few weeks, after all. However, we should take care about overstating climate change’s influence for it is equally clear there are also other influences at work.”

One of those other factors is the jet stream – a core of strong winds around five to seven miles above the Earth’s surface that blow from west to east and which steer weather around the globe. Sometimes, when they are intense, they bring storms. On other occasions, when they are weak, they bring very calm and settled days. And that is what is occurring at present.

“The jet stream we are currently experiencing is extremely weak and, as a result, areas of atmospheric high pressure are lingering for long periods over the same place,” added Mitchell.

Other factors involved in creating the meteorological conditions that have brought such heat to the northern hemisphere include substantial changes to sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic. “These are part of a phenomenon known as the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation,” said Professor Adam Scaife, of the Met Office.

“In fact, the situation is very like the one we had in 1976, when we had similar ocean temperatures in the Atlantic and an unchanging jet stream that left great areas of high pressure over many areas for long periods,” said Scaife.

“And of course, that year we had one of the driest, sunniest and warmest summers in the UK in the 20th century.”

Farmers are battling an extreme drought in New South Wales, Australia.

Photograph: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

However, there is one crucial difference between 1976 and today, added Professor Tim Osborn, director of research at the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia. “The baseline on which these effects operated is very different today. Since 1976 we have had several decades of global warming – caused by rising carbon emissions – which has raised baseline global temperatures significantly.”

As a result, any phenomenon such as the weakening of the jet stream is going to have a more pronounced effect than it did 40 years ago.

And as global carbon emissions continue to rise and predictions suggest the world will be unable to hold global temperature rises this century to below 2C above pre-industrial levels, widespread heatwaves are very likely to get worse and become more frequent, scientists warn.

Nor is the problem of increasingly severe heatwaves confined to the land. “We have marine heatwaves as well – all over the globe,” said Michael Burrows, of the Scottish Marine Institute, Oban. “For example, there was a major marine heatwave that struck the coast of Australia last year. It devastated vast swathes of the Great Barrier Reef. More to the point, marine heatwaves are also becoming more and more frequent and intense, like those on land, and that is something else that we should be very worried about.”

A simulation of maximum temperatures on 21 July. Photograph: Climate Reanalyzer/Climate Change Institute/University of Maine

Press link for more: The Guardian

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Global heat wave: an epic TV news fail #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ThisIsZeroHour

Simulation of maximum temperatures on July 18 at two meters above the ground, from the Global Forecast System weather model. Credit: University of Maine Climate Reanalyzer

This month’s scorching heat wave broke records around the world.

The Algerian city of Ouargla, with a population of half a million, had a temperature of 124.3 degrees Fahrenheit on July 6, the hottest reliably measured temperature on record in Africa. In Ireland and Wales, the unusually hot weather revealed ancient structures normally hidden by grass or crops.

In Chino, California, the mercury soared to 120 degrees.

Another round of hazardous summer heat is expected this week, with record high temperatures possible in the southern United States.

The prolonged heat wave has been a staple of television news for weeks.

However, most of the coverage has been sorely lacking in context: Humans are warming the planet, and scientists have already linked some heat waves to climate change.

A recent analysis published in the journal Nature Climate Change concludes that human-driven climate change, rather than natural variability, will be the leading cause of heat waves over the western United States and Great Lakes region as early as the 2020s and 2030s, respectively.

Like the heat itself, much of the media coverage was stupefying. “Major broadcast TV networks overwhelmingly failed to report on the links between climate change and extreme heat,” according to a Media Matters survey. “Over a two-week period from late June to early July, ABC, CBS, and NBC aired a combined 127 segments or weathercasts that discussed the heat wave, but only one segment, on CBS This Morning, mentioned climate change.”

TV coverage would undoubtedly improve if weather forecasters were better informed about climate science.

But four Republican senators with close ties to the fossil fuel industry are trying to eliminate government funding for a National Science Foundation designed to help forecasters (and by extension, the general public) “become more familiar with the science behind how their local weather and its trends are related to the dynamics of the climate.”

Press link for more: The Bulletin

Major polluters spend 10 times as much on climate lobbying as green groups #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

Fossil fuel companies are some of the most significant lobby groups in the US for climate change-related issues ( Getty Images )

Major polluters have had a massively disproportionate financial influence on US politics in recent years, according to a new analysis of climate lobbying.

Over the past two decades lobby groups have spent more than $2bn (£1.55bn) in attempts to influence climate change legislation in the US.

The vast majority of this money has come from groups that stand to lose out from limits on carbon emissions, such as the electrical utilities sector, fossil fuel companies and transportation.

This spending dwarfed that of environmental organisations and the renewable energy sector, which overall contributed around a tenth of the funds given by sectors with significant greenhouse gas emissions.

“The vast majority of climate lobbying expenditure came from sectors that would be highly impacted by climate legislation,” explained Dr Robert Brulle of Drexel University, who conducted the analysis.

An environmental sociologist by background, Dr Brulle conducted his study using mandatory lobbying reports made available on the website OpenSecrets.

“The spending of environmental groups and the renewable energy sector was eclipsed by the spending of the electrical utilities, fossil fuel and transportation sectors,” he said.

Dr Brulle looked at spending information for related issues between 2000 and 2016, a period in which climate change was a crucial issue in national politics.

The electrical utilities sector spent the most on climate change lobbying during this stretch – over $500m and a quarter of all overall spending.

This was followed closely by the fossil fuel sector at $370m and the transportation sector at around $250m.

The efforts of environmental groups and the renewable energy sector paled in comparison to these figures, accounting for just 3 per cent of overall funding each.

Overall, this meant sectors relying on fossil fuels spent ten times as much as green interests did during this 16-year period. These findings were published in the journal Climatic Change.

“Lobbying is conducted away from the public eye. There is no open debate or refutation of viewpoints offered by professional lobbyists meeting in private with government officials,” said Dr Brulle.

“Control over the nature and flow of information to government decision-makers can be significantly altered by the lobbying process and creates a situation of systematically distorted communication.

“This process may limit the communication of accurate scientific information in the decision-making process.”

Dr Brulle said that as lobbying by environmental groups often constitutes short-term efforts, it cannot compete with the considerable firepower employed by professional lobbyists. He said his findings have considerable implications for the future of climate legislation in the US.

Press link for more: Independent.Co

Meet the Teenagers Leading a Climate Change Movement. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #Longman

By Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks

“The march is a launch,” Jamie Margolin, the founder of Zero Hour, said of Saturday’s demonstration in Washington. “It isn’t, ‘That’s it, we’re done.’”Erin Schaff for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Some of them met on Instagram. Others coordinated during lunchtime phone conferences. Most of them haven’t even graduated from high school.

The teenagers behind Zero Hour — an environmentally focused, creatively minded and technologically savvy nationwide coalition — are trying to build a youth-led movement to sound the alarm and call for action on climate change and environmental justice.

For the last year, a tight-knit group spanning both coasts has been organizing on social media.

The teenagers kicked off their campaign with a protest on Saturday at the National Mall in Washington, along with sister marches across the country.

As sea levels rise, ice caps melt and erratic weather affects communities across the globe, they say time is running out to address climate change.

The core organizing group of about 20 met with almost 40 federal lawmakers about their platforms on Thursday, and hope to inspire other teenagers to step up and demand change.

“The march is a launch. It isn’t, ‘That’s it, we’re done,’” said Jamie Margolin, the founder of Zero Hour. “It means it doesn’t give them an excuse to be like, ‘I don’t know what the kids want.’ It’s like, ‘Yes, you do.’”

They are trying to prove the adults wrong, to show that people their age are taking heed of what they see as the greatest crisis threatening their generation.

“In our generation when we talk about climate change, they’re like: ‘Ha ha, that’s so funny.

It’s not something we’ll have to deal with,’” said Nadia Nazar, Zero Hour’s art director. “‘Oh, yeah, the polar bears will just die, the seas will just rise.’ They don’t understand the actual caliber of the destruction.”

The group is building off the momentum of other recent youth-led movements, such as the nationwide March for Our Lives rallies against gun violence.

“No one gives you an organizing guide of how to raise thousands of dollars, how to get people on board, how to mobilize,” Ms. Margolin said. “There was no help. It was just me floundering around with Dory-like determination, like, ‘Just keep swimming,’” she said, referring to the Disney movie “Finding Nemo.”

At the Sierra Club’s Washington headquarters on Wednesday, as Zero Hour members continued to make preparations, six of the coalition’s leaders and founding members discussed how they became involved with the group, and why they think it’s one of young people’s best shots at creating a healthy, sustainable environment.

Ms. Margolin said she has been overwhelmed by the response from people of all ages to Zero Hour. “We’ve proven ourselves,” she said.Erin Schaff for The New York Times

‘We are on the verge of something amazing’

Jamie Margolin, 16, Seattle

“I’ve always planned my future in ifs,” Ms. Margolin said. If climate change hasn’t destroyed this, if the environment hasn’t become that.

So for the last few years, Ms. Margolin has worked to raise awareness about climate justice issues.

A passionate writer, she went through an “op-ed phase,” submitting essays to publications, like one titled “An Open Letter to Climate Change Deniers” published in the monthly magazine Teen Ink.

Still, Ms. Margolin thought that she and other young people could — and should — be doing more.

“I had had this idea building up since January, since the Women’s March” last year, Ms. Margolin said. “The kind of idea that was nagging me and you try to ignore, but it’s an idea poking you.”

At a Princeton University summer program last year, she met other teenagers interested in taking action on climate change and created Zero Hour.

They began to plan a huge protest in the nation’s capital.

On social media, Ms. Margolin espoused factoids and reached out to other young activists.

A professed climate justice advocate, Ms. Margolin has kept the movement inclusive, putting the stories and concerns of those most directly affected by environmental issues at the heart of Zero Hour’s mission.

Youths from in and around the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation spoke on Saturday, and others repeatedly called attention to those killed during

Hurricane Maria and threatened by rising sea levels in the Marshall Islands.

Since starting Zero Hour, Ms. Margolin said she had been overwhelmed by the response from people of all ages.

Dozens of environmental advocacy groups and nonprofits have approached the coalition, looking to donate to or sponsor it.

“We flipped the scenario as the underdog. We’ve proven ourselves,” she said. “We are on the verge of something amazing. We’re going to change history.”

Kallan Benson has encouraged other young people to express their concerns about the climate through art.Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Showing a movement’s artistic side

Kallan Benson, 14, Crownsville, Md.

When Ms. Benson was planning a trip to the Peoples Climate March last year with her family, she knew she wanted to make a statement.

Ms. Benson doesn’t consider herself an artist. But a 24-foot-wide play parachute that she covered in a gigantic monarch butterfly design and hundreds of signatures from children in her community became a canvas for her to display the dire future she and coming generations may face, and express optimism that they will overcome it.

A chance encounter with the son of the founder of the nonprofit Mother Earth Project led Ms. Benson to encourage children around the world to create parachutes of their own made of recycled bedsheets (to be “environmentally conscious,” of course).

Inspired by the AIDS Memorial Quilt that has been unfurled on the National Mall in years past, some of those parachutes, sent from every continent except Antarctica, were laid out on the grass during Saturday’s march.

“The original idea was, ‘We got to get them on the National Mall,’ but then we thought that, ‘Well that shouldn’t be our first exhibit; it’s a little ambitious,’” Ms. Benson said.

“Then we talked to Zero Hour and they were like, ‘Hey, why don’t you bring them out?’” she continued. “I never imagined it would get this far.”

Madelaine Tew’s finance team has raised about $70,000 for Zero Hour.Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Where business and the environment meet

Madelaine Tew, 15, Teaneck, N.J.

As Zero Hour’s director of finance, Ms. Tew has had to get creative about securing funds and grants.

On the day of a deadline for a major grant — $16,000 from the Common Sense Fund — Ms. Tew’s school was hosting an event where seniors gave presentations about their internships. But she knew the grant would be a huge boost for Zero Hour.

“So I went to the nurse and was like: ‘Oh, I have cramps. Can I lie down with my computer?’” she said. “Then I just went in and wrote the whole grant.”

Her stunt paid off. Zero Hour secured the grant, and now Ms. Tew’s finance team, made up of students just like her, has raised about $70,000 for the coalition.

Ms. Tew, who attends a magnet high school where she takes classes in business and finance, has been involved in clubs to get the school and local businesses to adopt more renewable practices. But before meeting Ms. Margolin at the Princeton summer program last year, she thought those local efforts were “as far as you can go” for someone her age.

“It shifted from youth being a limitation to ‘it doesn’t matter,’” Ms. Tew said.

Though the practices of big corporations can sometimes anger environmentalists, for Ms. Tew, combining “my love for business and my care, my concern for climate” just makes sense.

“In many cases you can see how the environmental movement can be rooted in the way we do business,” she said.

That could take the form of encouraging companies to divest from fossil fuel industries or having local communities build their own solar or wind grids.

“We’re not just talking about building more cooperative farms,” Ms. Tew said, but also figuring out how to integrate ethical and sustainable environmental policies into business so “we can continue the American economy’s future.”

Iris Fen Gillingham believes that sustainable lifestyles are essential for the success of her generation.Erin Schaff for The New York Times

‘Repping the younger generation’

Iris Fen Gillingham, 18, Livingston Manor, N.Y.

When three floods in the mid- to late 2000s swept through the vegetable farm Iris Fen Gillingham’s family owned in the Catskill Mountains, the topsoil was washed away and their equipment was submerged, eliminating their main source of income.

The floods devastated Ms. Gillingham’s family, which has always lived “very consciously with the land and with nature,” she said. Even her name, Iris Fen, like the flower and marshy wetland behind her house, alludes to that attachment.

“I have a pair of mittens that are made out of one of our Icelandic sheep, Rosalie,” Ms. Gillingham said. “My brother named her, I remember her being born and I’ve seen her grow up and my mom sheering her and spinning the wool.”

So when landsmen came to explore the possibility of hydraulic fracturing — a technique of oil and gas extraction also known as fracking — in their neighborhood when she was about 10, Ms. Gillingham joined her father, an environmental activist, in speaking out at local meetings, often as the youngest in the room.

“It was always myself repping the younger generation,” Ms. Gillingham said. “Part of that was my brother and I saying, ‘We don’t want to play on contaminated soil,’” (The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that fracking can contaminate drinking water in some circumstances.)

But part of it was also knowing firsthand how essential a sustainable lifestyle — growing food at home, conscious spending, building greener homes — will be for her generation.

“We’re setting aside our differences and we are building a family and a community using our skills and our creativity,” Ms. Gillingham said of the movement. “We’re having fun, we’re laughing with each other, but we’re also talking about some pretty serious issues and injustices happening in this country.”

Nadia Nazar got her start as an activist by trying to persuade people not to go to SeaWorld.Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Linking animal rights and environmentalism

Nadia Nazar, 16, Baltimore

Before joining Zero Hour, Nadia Nazar considered herself mostly an animal-rights activist. When she was 12, she saw a PETA video on slaughterhouses and immediately became a vegetarian.

“I had just gotten a cat,” Ms. Nazar said. “What if my cat was that cow?”

She got her start as an activist by trying to persuade people in her neighborhood not to go to SeaWorld, which has been criticized over its treatment of animals. (“I was slightly successful in that.”)

Then she dug deeper into the root causes of animal suffering and death.

“I found out how so many species are endangered by climate change, and how many are dying and going towards extinction that we caused ourselves,” Ms. Nazar said.

During a class, she stumbled upon Ms. Margolin’s Teen Ink essay and followed her on Instagram. And a little over a year ago, when Ms. Nazar saw a post by Ms. Margolin calling for action, she knew it was her chance to put her artistic skills to use. As art director, she helped organize a smaller art festival on Friday, and created the majority of the graphic elements for the coalition.

“Her story said: ‘I’m going to do it. Who wants to join me?” Ms. Nazar said. She immediately messaged Ms. Margolin. She was in.

Zanagee Artis said he was inspired by Ms. Margolin’s enthusiasm to do “a big, big thing.”Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Working together toward a bigger goal

Zanagee Artis, 18, Clinton, Conn.

Zanagee Artis’s journey as an environmentalist began in the same place many other budding activists get their start — in a high school club.

During his junior year, he had big ambitions for his school: the building facilities department would finally start recycling white paper, students would start composting their food waste and the lunchroom would be free of plastic foam trays.

“I’m going to accomplish all these things and I’m going to go to the administration and tell them, ‘Stuff needs to change,’” Mr. Artis said.

But, he said, “nothing ever happened.” Mr. Artis said the problem was clear: Without engaging other students who might be interested, change was unlikely to happen.

So he started a sustainability committee within the school’s National Honor Society, and the results spoke for themselves. The group was able to buy the school an aquaponic system — a tank-based farming system that combines hydroponics (water-based planting) and aquaculture (fish cultivation) — and raise $700 to install water bottle refilling stations.

“So we accomplished all these things because we worked together as a community, and that’s how I feel about the climate movement,” he said.

Still, Mr. Artis said he “really didn’t think I could do much” beyond his local community until he met Ms. Margolin and Ms. Tew last summer at Princeton. Inspired by Ms. Margolin’s enthusiasm to do “a big, big thing,” Mr. Artis became Zero Hour’s logistics director, in charge of submitting permits for Saturday’s march, estimating attendance numbers, checking for counterprotests and helping sister marches with logistical issues.

“I was like, ‘Yes!’” he said with a satisfying clap. “‘Let’s do it.’”

Press link for more: New York Times

Breakthroughs Converging to Completely Derail Fossil Fuels #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #Innovation #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

What will ultimately push fossil fuels back the way of the dinosaur?

Purely and simply, is it our ethics and our resolve as consumers and brands that will end our dependence on dirty energy.

The response to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement — in which business and civic leaders vowed to continue working towards clean energy, anyway — is easily part of the mix. The response demonstrated a deep level of commitment.

So, too, are efforts from activists, such as the Rise for Climate rally scheduled for September 8th, 2018.

With participants from Australia, East Asia, Africa and Europe planning to take action, Rise for Climate should be a fitting follow-up to the 300,000-strong march that took place in New York in September of 2014.

It will also be good prep for the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, September 12-14.

Brands, business leaders, activists — we also can’t overlook changes that people make to their lifestyles every day in an effort to lessen their climate impacts. Network theory says that individuals are linked to each other via “relationships or structural connections.”

In this case, the relationship is one of producers and consumers, as well as prosumers. There’s a conversation going on between consumers and brands, no doubt because market research says people value sustainability, but also because many people are using their brands to espouse their own values.

Without any incentive to do so, Max Burgers began planting trees in Africa in 2008, and is now making burgers that offset production-related climate emissions by 110 percent. Ambient Bamboo, a company that sells bamboo floors, dedicates its entire blog to more sustainable living and publishes tips on how to “eco-hack” homes, including info on cutting down on energy usage. These brands and many more know that minimizing energy usage is essential for leaving fossil fuels in the ground because many grids still operate on dirty energy; but according to the journal Nature, that will soon change.

A new study shows that there’s a “carbon bubble” that will burst, leaving fossil fuel assets “stranded.”

Regardless of whether nations implement policies, there will be stranded fossil fuel assets because of “an already ongoing technological trajectory.” If nations, particularly the US, adopt new climate policies in keeping with the Paris Accord — in effort to keep the global temperature from rising more than 2℃ — there will be even more stranded fossil fuel assets. But in effect, the damage has already been done. The study’s simulations and analyses show that new technologies will derail fossil fuels by 2050.

The coming technological upheaval

The aforementioned study calls it a “Technology Diffusion Trajectory.” This is the scenario in which countries don’t necessarily adopt additional 2℃ policies, but rather embrace low-carbon technologies, such as solar energy, to replace fossil fuels. The study refers to low-carbon technologies repeatedly, but begs the question, which low-carbon technologies?

The obvious answer is technologies related to wind and solar, but there are also many exciting advances in electrical and computer engineering that will no doubt have an impact:

• “Pee-to-power Technology,” created by Ohio University’s Dr. Gerardine Botte, turns wastewater into hydrogen, which can power hydrogen fuel cells. It also produces clean water. The invention features the GreenBox, an ingenious electrochemical conversion device.

Click to enlarge. | Image credit: Ohio University

• This electrochemical flow capacitor from Drexel University enables efficient renewable energy storage at scale, meaning grids will no longer need huge supercapacitors.

Click to enlarge. | Image credit: Drexel University

• Electric cars are becoming more efficient.

Click to enlarge. | Image credit: Ohio University

Ohio University notes that “an estimated $1 trillion is expected to be spent nationwide in bringing the grid up to date by 2030.” As solar and wind energy gets cheaper, expect grids to adopt technologies like the electrochemical flow capacitor as a solution to storage, which, combined with cheap, clean energy, would eliminate the need for coal and gas.

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, notes that a Nevada solar energy plant recently hit a record low price of 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour, even though the US recently imposed tariffs on Chinese solar panels (in addition to the 30 percent he slapped on foreign panels earlier this year). The Nevada solar plant’s low price on solar demonstrates the inevitability of a low-carbon technology diffusion, as does Volkswagen’s decision to spend $84 billion on electric drivetrains.

The moral of the story: Countries that continue trying to favor fossil fuels will find themselves falling behind economies that adopt renewable and inexpensive methods of producing energy; investors who hold onto fossil fuel assets will see those assets dwindle in value, to the point where it will make no economic sense to hang onto them.

In that sense, environmental stewardship is no longer the primary reason for clean energy. Investors (and governments) who kowtow to the market and care little for ethics and the environment will find themselves sitting high and dry should they continue to support an energy source that makes no economic sense.

Press link for more: Sustainable Brands

What Climate Change Looks Like In 2018 #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

What Climate Change Looks Like In 2018

Christie Aschwanden

A man cools off in the spray of a fire hydrant during a heatwave in Philadelphia this month.

Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images

It’s only July, but it has already been a long, hot spring and summer.

The contiguous U.S. endured the warmest May ever recorded, and in June, the average temperature was 1.7 degrees Celsius (3.0 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average. Iowa, New Mexico and Texas set record highs for their minimum temperatures in June, and as of July 3, nearly 30 percent of the Lower 48 was experiencing drought conditions. And it’s not just the U.S. During the first five months of 2018, nearly every continent experienced record warm temperatures, and May 2018 marked the 401st consecutive month in which temperatures exceeded the 20th century average.

Climate change, in other words, is not a hypothetical future event — it’s here.

We’re living it. And at a major science conference this month, some of the world’s leading climate scientists said it was changing our world in ways beyond what they’d anticipated.

“The red alert is on,”

Laurent Fabius, who was president of the 2015 international climate change negotiations in Paris, told an audience last week at the EuroScience Open Forum, Europe’s largest interdisciplinary science meeting.

As of 2015, global temperatures had risen about 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. “It’s a race against time,” Fabius said, and the political challenge is to avoid acting too late.

A draft of a forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that leaked earlier this year concludes that global temperatures are on track to rise in excess of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by about 2040. The 2015 Paris climate agreement set limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius as a sort of stretch goal, with the less ambitious target being 2 degrees Celsius.

The IPCC report, which is expected to be released in October, says that even if the pledges made under the Paris agreement are fulfilled, warming will still exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The report also says that the differences between the present day and just 0.5 degrees more warming are “substantial increases in extremes,” including hot temperatures, “heavy precipitation events” and extreme droughts.

We don’t have to look to the future to see what climate change can do.

At the EuroScience Open Forum, Camille Parmesan,1 a professor and member of IPCC, discussed her research showing that 90 percent of the 490 plant species examined at two sites, one in Washington, D.C., the other in Chinnor in the U.K., are responding to climate change in measurable ways.

Some plants she’s studied require winter chilling to thrive, and that’s a problem, because winter is warming more than spring.

And temperatures aren’t rising uniformly. Areas at higher latitudes are warming faster than other places, and that has allowed outbreaks of infections from Vibrio, a bacteria genus that thrives in warm waters, to happen in places like the Baltic Sea area. “We’ve underestimated the impact of climate change thus far,” Parmesan said.

The accelerating consequences of climate disruption will be a major theme when COP24, the next iteration of the climate conference that produced the Paris agreement, meets in Poland in December. Another focus of discussion will be the progress that each country has made toward its “nationally determined contributions,” the voluntary goals for reducing emissions that nations set for themselves in Paris. Progress is not in line with these goals in many countries, Fabius said. “Germany is not fulfilling its [NDCs], and in France last year, CO2 emissions were up,” he said.

If decision-makers can’t agree on politics, they might be persuaded by economics, said Thomas Stocker, a climate scientist and a longtime member of IPCC. De-carbonizing our energy systems is “the biggest opportunity in the 21st century,” he told the EuroScience Open Forum.

Some local and state governments in the U.S. are exploring that opportunity. “The Trump White House is not just failing to do climate,” Parmesan said. “It’s doing its best to stop every advance we’ve made in the last 20 years, but what’s happening is a reaction from the ground level up that’s countering that national-level resistance.” (The White House did not respond to FiveThirtyEight’s request for comment.) As an example, she pointed to Georgetown, Texas, a city north of Austin. The electric company there is owned by the city, which has just switched to 100 percent renewable energy. “The mayor is quite conservative, and he got mad when people said it was for climate change,” she said. “He said, ‘No, no — it just makes economic sense.’”

Press link for more: Five Thirty Eight

Great Barrier Reef coral recovery slows significantly over 18-year period #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange

Great Barrier Reef coral recovery slows significantly over 18-year period

Nick Kilvert

Over the last three decades the Great Barrier Reef has been hit by a series of intense cyclones, bleaching, crown of thorn starfish outbreaks and flood events that have caused well-documented, but reparable damage.

Scientists have hoped that an extended period of benign conditions would allow the natural processes of reef restoration to flourish, and many of the hardest-hit regions to return to a healthier, more colourful and biodiverse state.

But a new study of coral-recovery rates based on 18 years of data and published in Science Advances today, found the ability of many corals to bounce back after disturbance has significantly slowed down.

Although recovery rates were variable between different reef patches and coral types, the researchers found the overall recovery rate of corals across the Great Barrier Reef declined by an average of 84 per cent between 1992 and 2010.

Following acute disturbance events like cyclones, coral recovery was hindered by poor water quality and high temperature, according to lead author Juan-Carlos Ortiz from the University of Queensland, and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

“We noticed that…water quality played a significant role in that reduction in recovery rate,” Dr Ortiz said.

The study looked at data from more than 90 primarily mid-shelf and offshore reefs, comparing the rate of recovery following disturbance events.

“We noticed for the first time a very large decline in the ability of the reef to recover from disturbances over those 18 years,” he said.

The research team classified corals into six groups based on their growth forms. Although all groups showed an overall decline in recovery rate, two groups — the Montipora and branching Acropora both “went into negative”.

What that means is they continued to decline even after the disturbance had ceased.

While increased disturbance events are expected as the impacts of climate change ramp up, the slowed recovery time is a concerning compounding factor.

“It is exacerbating the problem. The assumption that we were working on was that naturally reefs recover fast,” Dr Ortiz said.

Although the results paint a grim picture of the trajectory of the reef, the researchers say there are some very positive things that can be taken from their findings.

The reefs furthest offshore receive less runoff from the catchment area, and because they are generally buffered by deeper water, are less susceptible to short-term fluctuations in temperature.

Although the study only analysed data from up until 2010, Dr Ortiz said there was a period without significant disturbance to the reef following Cyclone Yasi in 2011.

“On the offshore reefs like the Swains, where they are least affected by water quality issues from land … they did recover really fast,” he said.

“Which suggests that this trend is reversible.”

Tackling climate change is vital

In short, the researchers said both improving the water quality of runoff from the reef catchment area and addressing climate change can help reverse the reef’s decline.`

But trying to improve conditions on the reef without tackling climate change is like putting “band-aids on arterial wounds”, according to James Cook University’s Associate Professor Jodie Rummer, who was not involved in the study.

“We definitely need to be controlling problems with water quality and problems with crown of thorns, but first and foremost we need to deal with the big problem,” Dr Rummer said.

“What it does come down to is warming. Everything else just makes it worse, but warming is the primary concern.”

Dr Rummer, who will be presenting some of her work at a two-day reef symposium in Brisbane this week, has been studying sharks in French Polynesia and on the Great Barrier Reef.

Although French Polynesia is a declared shark sanctuary, she said their numbers are still suffering.

“Even the best protected marine parks, shark sanctuaries, and marine sanctuaries are not immune to climate change. We saw that when the reef started bleaching in 2016,” she said.

“I was at Lizard Island, and that’s some of the most pristine parts of the Great Barrier Reef, protected from so much activity, and still, climate change killed it.”

Federal Government pledges cash for farmer ‘champions’

Key to improving the Great Barrier Reef catchment is preventing large-scale deforestation.

Deforestation destabilises soil and increases the sediment and nutrient load carried to the reef during heavy rains, smothering corals and encouraging algal growth.

But the latest Great Barrier Reef catchments report from the Queensland Audit Office shows more than 1.2 million hectares were cleared in Queensland between 2012 and 2016, and nearly 40 per cent of that was cleared in the reef catchment area.

Despite committing $500 million to protecting the reef in the budget, the Federal Government came under fire earlier this year when it granted approval for the clearing of 2,000 hectares of bushland at Kingvale Station, which drains into reef-fringed Princess Charlotte Bay in North Queensland.

This week, the Federal Government committed $3.5 million to help sugarcane farmers “improve fertiliser use and efficiency” in the catchment. That is on top of $3.7 million committed by the Queensland Government.

The investment will help minimise nitrogen-pollution runoff entering the reef, according to a statement from Assistant Minister for the Environment Melissa Price.

“Optimising the rate of fertiliser application helps sugarcane farmers to increase their profitability, while minimising nitrogen pollution run-off entering the reef,” Ms Price said.

Press link for more: ABC.NET.AU

#ClimateChange is an existential threat. #auspol #qldpol #Longman #NoNewCoal #StopAdani

The effects of climate change are often talked about in sea level rise and worsening storms, certainly the most immediate and obvious symptoms.

There is a threat more difficult to contemplate — what happens to human civilization.

It is not just alarmist talk to speak of survival of human civilization, at least in the form people today know it. When they were here last month, climate scientists Michael Mann and David Titley warned that, as larger parts of the earth’s surface become uninhabitable, millions of people will be disrupted, in search of new places to live.

What will this do to infrastructure and trade, the way people make their living, support their families and run their countries?

Human beings are adaptable and can live in a variety of climates. But human civilization evolved with a particular set of climate patterns.

Those patterns have a certain predictability that allow for manufacturing plants, ports, electricity generation, for example. Human civilization depends on such things.

And what of the threat of scarcity — of livable land, food, shelter?

If humans don’t head off the worst of human-caused climate change, much of the land now densely inhabited by people will be under water.

Sea levels will rise such that Orlando could be the southernmost point of Florida, and Baton Rouge could be the edge of Louisiana, said Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State and director of the Earth System Science Center there.

California’s inland sea would probably return, and there would be no Charleston, South Carolina. Now, factor in Shanghai, Bangkok and cities all over the globe.

Titley, a retired rear admiral and director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State University, who specialized in national security, says this scenario would displace 500 million people around the world.

Consider that about a million refugees entered the European Union in recent years, fleeing climate-exacerbated problems in Syria.

“I argue that one million unplanned refugees shook the EU to its core,” Titley said. “Multiply that by 500.”

“Anybody who says they can tell you with certainty what the political impacts are, put your hand on your wallet and back away,” he said. “That is unknowable, but the chances are it will be pretty bad.”

“These are changes the likes of which human civilization — not the earth, but human civilization — have not seen before,” Titley said. “The question is how are we going to deal with them?”

This doomsday picture doesn’t have to be the future for the grandchildren of today’s adults, they both say.

When people talk about renewable energy sources or of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, it is this worst-case scenario they are trying to prevent.

Press link for more: WV Gazette Mail

Who will pay to protect our cities from rising seas? #auspol #qldpol

A public nuisance

By Patrick Parenteau

Since most American state and local governments are cash-strapped, cities and counties fear that they won’t be able to afford all the construction it will take to protect their people and property.

So some communities in California are in a bid to force them to foot the bill. Recently, , when it sued 21 oil and gas companies “for knowingly contributing to climate change and the catastrophic consequences to the State and its residents, economy, eco-system, and infrastructure”.

Does it make sense to hold the industries responsible for global warming liable for the price – in dollars and cents – that everyone will have to pay to adapt to a changed climate?

I believe climate liability cases like these have merit.

The local governments asking the courts to intervene allege that higher sea levels brought about by climate change are a public nuisance.

That may sound odd at first, but I believe that is fair to say. It is also the legal basis on which similar liability lawsuits have been filed before.

The sea level along California’s coasts may have risen about 8 inches in the past century. Scientists project that they may rise by as much as 55 inches by the end of this century.

That worst-case scenario would put nearly half a million people at risk of flooding by 2100, and threaten $100bn in property and infrastructure, including roadways, buildings, hazardous waste sites, power plants, parks and tourist destinations.

Superstorm Sandy caused over $60bn in damage along the New Jersey and New York coasts. Several researchers have concluded that sea level rise and a warming ocean played a major role in making that storm so catastrophic.

The Trump administration has released a national climate change assessment, confirming that extreme weather events – storms on steroids – are becoming more frequent and intense.

If anything, characterising these catastrophes as a public nuisance is an understatement.

A question about jurisdiction

Oakland and San Francisco both sued five of the world’s largest oil companies in state court, asserting claims based on California’s own nuisance law. They are seeking billions of dollars for an abatement fund.

But Chevron, one of the five oil majors being sued, objected and sought to transfer the San Francisco and Oakland lawsuit to a federal district court, where Judge William Alsup recently dismissed the case.

Still, it wasn’t a clear win for oil companies.

Alsup accepted the scientific consensus that the defendants’ line of business is driving climate change and therefore poses a clear and present danger to coastal communities and others. But in his ruling, he also questioned whether it’s “fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded”.

And while the judge also acknowledged that federal courts have the authority “to fashion common law remedies for claims based on global warming”, he opted to “stay his hand in favor of solutions by the legislative and executive branches”. In other words, he said it’s up to Congress and the White House to figure out whether oil companies ought to pay to, say, move San Francisco’s airport to higher ground.

Even if prospects for federal action on this front are next to nil for the foreseeable future, given the Trump administration’s warm embrace of oil, gas and coal, this is no legal dead end. I believe that Oakland and San Francisco will surely file an appeal to the 9th Circuit, which could rule differently.

Even more importantly, there is another case pending that is taking a different course. The counties of Marin and San Mateo and the City of Imperial Beach, California, are also suing oil companies with similar climate liability claims. Judge Vince Chhabria sees things differently than Alsup and ruled that state law, not federal law, should prevail.

He has ordered that case back to state court, a move that Chevron, BP, ExxonMobil and the other oil company defendants are trying to prevent.

In addition to coastal communities concerned about rising sea levels, several Colorado counties filed their own climate liability cases in April 2018. Those lawsuits allege that oil companies should be held responsible for the higher temperatures now reducing the state’s snowpack. Getting less snow is jeopardising Colorado’s agriculture, water supply and ski industry.

Several legal precedents

I maintain that these cases do belong in state court because there are many relevant legal precedents.

U.S. courts have repeatedly held manufacturers liable for the damage their products wreak, especially when those companies knew full well that their products, used as intended, would cause that harm.

The biggest precedent is the tobacco industry’s 1998 settlement with the states, which called for companies to pay out $246bn over the next 25 years.

In addition, there have been many judgments against oil companies and other corporations responsible for manufacturing a potentially cancer-causing chemical called MTBE that used to be a common gasoline additive and has contaminated public water supplies.

And a panel of California judges ordered paint companies to pay more than $1bn to help get lead out of housing that remains contaminated decades after the government banned lead-laced paint. The companies are vowing to take the case to the Supreme Court if they can.

Currently, another new kind of liability lawsuit is emerging against opioid manufacturers. Ohio and at least six other states are seeking damages to help cover the expense of dealing with widespread addiction from the allegedly irresponsible marketing of prescription painkillers – which it says the companies should have known were being abused.

Exxon knew

As for the oil industry, it has evidently known for 60 years or longer that burning fossil fuels would eventually overheat the planet, with monumental consequences.

Rather than alert the public and engage in good-faith discussions to address the problem, oil majors like Exxon sought to mislead and deny what they knew about the risks of fossil fuels. Furthermore, the fossil fuel industries have sought to block any meaningful federal climate response by donating vast sums to the political campaigns of candidates who promised to oppose the requisite policies.

In a perfect world, the nation’s elected leaders at all levels of government would be hard at work passing laws and establishing programs to confront the existential threat of climate change and to help communities prepare for the unavoidable impacts that are already baked into the system.

Alas, that is not the case. The courts are the last line of defense in this epic struggle to deal with the effects of climate change – including the astronomically expensive costs of moving housing, businesses, schools and other structures out of harm’s way.

Patrick Parenteau, Professor of Law, Vermont Law School.

Press link for more: City Metric

Heatwaves around the world. #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #Longman

Heatwave sees record high temperatures around world this week

From Europe to Africa, extreme and widespread heat raises climate concerns in hottest La Niña year to date on record

Jonathan Watts

Record high temperatures have been set across much of the world this week as an unusually prolonged and broad heatwave intensifies concerns about climate change.

The past month has seen power shortages in California as record heat forced a surge of demand for air conditioners. Algeria has experienced the hottest temperature ever reliably registered in Africa. Britain, meanwhile, has experienced its third longest heatwave, melting the roof of a science building in Glasgow and exposing ancient hill forts in Wales.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the rising temperatures were at odds with a global cyclical climate phenomena known as La Niña, which is usually associated with cooling.

“The first six months of the year have made it the hottest La Niña year to date on record,” said Clare Nullis of the WMO.

Taiwan is the most recent place to report a new high with a temperature of 40.3C in Tianxiang on Monday. This followed a flurry of other anomalies.

Last week, a weather station at Ouargla in Algeria’s Sahara Desert, reported a maximum temperature of 51.3C on 5 July, the highest temperature reliably recorded in Africa.

Even when the sun goes down, night is not providing the cooling relief it once did in many parts of the world. At Quriyat, on the coast of Oman, overnight temperatures remained above 42.6C, which is believed to be the highest “low” temperature ever recorded in the world. Downtown Los Angeles also saw a new monthly July minimum overnight record of 26.1C on 7 July.

Globally, the warmest year on record was in 2016, boosted by the natural climate cycle El Niño. Last year, temperatures hit the highest level without that amplifying phenomenon. This year, at the other cooling end of the cycle, is continuing the overall upward trend.

Swathes of the northern hemisphere have seen unusually persistent warmth due to strong, persistent high pressure systems that have created a “heat dome” over much of Eurasia.

“What’s unusual is the hemispheric scale of the heatwave,” said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “It’s not just the magnitude in any one location but that high temperatures are being seen over such a large area.”

Northern Russia’s exceptionally sunny weather – seen on TV by billions thanks to the World Cup – has caused wildfires that affected 80,000 hectares of forest near the Krasnoyarsk region, which reported daily anomalies of 7C above average. The Western Siberian Hydromet Center has issued storm warnings after temperatures of more than 30C for five days. Climate watchers fear this will accelerate the melting of permafrost, releasing methane – a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

People cool off in the water on Huntington Beach during record heat in California. Photograph: Ringo Chiu/ZUMA Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

In California, daytime records were also set last week at Chino (48.9C), Burbank airport (45.6C) and Van Nuys airport (47.2C). In Canada, at least 54 deaths have been attributed to the prolonged heatwave and high humidity in Quebec. Montreal saw a new record high temperature of 36.6C on 2 July.

In Europe, the WMO has warned of droughts, wildfires and harvest losses after the second hottest June on record. Over the past two weeks, records have been set in Tbilisi (40.5C), Shannon (32C), and Belfast (29.5C)

Britain has cooled slightly in the past two days, after 17 days of temperatures over 28C. This was the third longest heatwave on record, following the record 19-day run in 2013 and the famous summer of 1976, when there were two prolonged spells of 18 days and 15 days. Dean Hall of the UK’s Met Office said Britain’s temperatures were forecast to rise again over the coming week.

The concern is that weather fronts – hot and cold – are being blocked more frequently due to climate change. This causes droughts and storms to linger, amplifying the damage they cause. This was a factor in the recent devastating floods in Japan, where at least 150 people died after rainfall up to four times the normal level.

Floods in Kurashiki city, western Japan. More than 150 people have died in the country following torrential rain. Photograph: Jiji Press/EPA

Paolo Ruti of the WMO said it was difficult to ascribe any one weather event to climate change, but that recent high temperatures, intense rains and slow-moving fronts were in line with forecasts of how rising emissions will affect the climate.

“Recent analysis suggests that anthropogenic forcing might indeed affect the characteristics of summer blocking events in the Euro-Asia sector, in particular leading to longer blocking episodes,” he said.

Extreme weather events have buffeted much of the world over the past 12months, from the “Day Zero” drought in Cape Town to the abnormally powerful hurricanes Harvey and Irma that buffeted the east coast of the US and Caribbean.

Underscoring the link, a new report from scientists at the World Weather Attribution group indicates that manmade climate change and its effect on rainfall made the recent Cape Town drought three times more likely.

Press link for more: The Guardian