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‘I don’t see any evidence’: Minister @mattjcan rejects CEOs’ carbon price push #auspol #qldpol #ClimateStrike #StopAdani #ExtinctionRevolution #ClimateChange ignored #TheDrum

Growing demands from some of the nation’s biggest miners for the Morrison government to set a price on carbon have been emphatically rejected, as federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan insists “taxes ain’t the answer”.

Mr Canavan on Wednesday gave one of the government’s strongest dismissals yet of a wave of calls from heads of major resources companies including Rio Tinto, BHP and Woodside for more decisive political action to curb carbon emissions and help transition to renewable energy.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Matt Canavan.

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

In a reversal of its historical position against emissions pricing, oil and gas producer Woodside last month emerged as the latest resources company to demand a carbon price, with its chief executive, Peter Coleman, warning the consequence of inaction was “too great”.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Melbourne Mining Club event, Mr Canavan said he acknowledged that some major resources companies had signalled support for carbon pricing, but said, “I don’t see any evidence that such a policy approach would deliver”.

“I get along very well with Peter Coleman, and [BHP’s head of mining operations] Mike Henry was sitting next to me today … we can respectfully disagree about policy approaches,” he said. “I don’t see any evidence that such a policy approach would deliver.”

Carbon pricing calls from the business community have been compounding ever since the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report set out a series of radical changes needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and avoid some of the worst effects of climate change.

BHP, the world’s largest miner, said the report demonstrated the need for stronger climate action was more critical than ever, and should be a “rallying cry” to governments to cut global emissions.

“We believe there should be a price on carbon, implemented in a way that addresses competitiveness concerns and achieves lowest-cost emissions reductions,” BHP’s head of sustainability and climate change, Fiona Wild, said in October.

Mr Canavan on Wednesday said the Morrison government was “acting in accordance with the evidence and the science” on climate change, and was on course to beat Kyoto targets by a significant margin, showing its existing “direct” approach to climate change was succeeding.

“My view is that any proposed policy to tackle climate change must deliver lower energy costs over time, not higher,” he said. “If we deliver higher energy costs we will get a political reaction, just like you see in Paris, just like we’ve seen with the carbon tax. Taxes ain’t the answer – because taxes are ultimately going to find a constituency that’s opposed to them and they won’t last long.”

The evidence is clear Matt Canavan the Price on carbon worked

In his address to the mining club on Wednesday, Mr Canavan laid out an ambitious goal to stimulate a “new mining investment boom” that could  support economic growth and tens of thousands of jobs.

Taxes ain’t the answer – because taxes are ultimately going to find a constituency that’s opposed to them and they won’t last long.

Matt Canavan

Mr Canavan said the mining boom had “come of the boil” over the past five years but, fortunately for Australia, the property sector had returned to prosperity and helped plug the gap in the economy. But as conditions in the property marketed softened, Mr Canavan said, “we should again focus” on attracting greater mining investment.

According to figures from the Office of the Chief Economist, there were 250 major resources projects across the country in some stage of planning, representing $275 billion worth of investment.

Most of these projects were in the “feasible” stage, Mr Canavan said, but just 10 per cent, representing $30 billion, were in the “committed” stage.

“The challenge for Australia and for our policy is to support as many of these projects as possible to turn them into the committed stage and ultimately completed projects,” he said.

Press link for more: SMH

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Escalating Queensland Bushfire Threat: Interim Conclusions #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange Demand #GreenNewDeal #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum #COP24

Introductory note: The Climate Council will publish a report on bushfire risk in Queensland in early 2019.

This builds on a significant body of published work by the Council, including a 2016 report entitled Be Prepared: Climate Change and the Queensland Bushfire Threat. 

With devastating and unprecedented bushfires currently burning in Queensland, the Council believes it is important to release the Interim Findings of the upcoming report to provide information for the Australian community.

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

Climate change has increased the risk of bushfires in Queensland.

  • Bushfire risk is increased by fuel dryness and hot, dry, windy conditions.
  • Climate change has increased the incidence of extreme heat, making heatwaves longer and more frequent. Eight of the state’s ten hottest years on record have occurred since 1998. Since the 1970s, the number of days with maximum temperatures over 35°C in most of Queensland has increased by about 10-45 days above the historical average, depending on the region.
  • Tropical and sub-tropical Queensland is often associated in people’s minds with warm, humid conditions and moist vegetation not conducive to major bushfires. This is changing. More frequent heatwave events typified by hot, dry air masses coming from the interior result in higher temperatures accompanied by lower humidity. This increases evaporation and rapidly dries out fuels, even in rainforests, making conditions more conducive to major bushfires. Major bushfires were burning as far north as Cairns in August and September 2018.
  • Weekly bushfire frequencies in Australia have increased by 40% between 2008 and 2013, with tropical and subtropical Queensland the most severely affected.
  • Extreme fire weather and longer fire seasons have been observed since the 1970s across much of Australia including Queensland, particularly along the east coast.

Australia is the worst in the world on climate policy.

The devastating bushfires burning across Queensland in November 2018 have been made worse by climate change.

  • In late November 2018, maximum temperature records were smashed at numerous locations including at Cairns (42.6°C), Innisfail (42°C), and Mackay (39.7°C) on Monday 26 November and at Townsville (41.7°C) and Cooktown (43.9°C) on Tuesday 27 November (see Table 1).

  • Strong, gusting winds, low humidity and record high temperatures fanned devastating bushfires over the past two weeks, affecting property, infrastructure, ecosystems and farming land. Climate change is driving a higher incidence of these conditions. Around 130 fires are still burning across the state as of 29 November.

  • On 29 November several areas of Queensland experienced “Catastrophic” fire weather conditions for the first time ever recorded. In these conditions fires are uncontrollable and loss of life and property is expected unless large-scale evacuations take place.

Queensland Premier ignores climate change loves coal.

Communities, emergency services and health services across Queensland need to be adequately resourced to cope with increasing bushfire risk.

  • Bushfires in Queensland over the years have caused numerous deaths and losses of property and infrastructure, and have negatively affected agricultural and forestry production, and ecosystems.
  • The average annual economic cost of bushfires in Australia is $1.1 billion per year (Deloitte 2017).
  • Inhalation of smoke and gases from bushfires can affect human health, especially in the elderly, young or those with heart or respiratory conditions.
  • Increasing severity, intensity and frequency of fires, coupled with increasing length of bushfire seasons throughout Australia, is straining Queensland’s existing resources and capacity for fighting and managing fires.
  • During the current fires other states and territories have sent firefighters, fire trucks and aircraft to Queensland to assist. Queensland’s bushfire season usually does not extend this long, and fortuitously, NSW and the ACT, which normally would be experiencing heightened bushfire threats now, have experienced some rain allowing them to release resources.
  • Overlapping fire seasons will increasingly restrict the ability of states and territories, and of other countries such as the USA, Canada and New Zealand, to send firefighting assistance. This will drive increased costs for state and territory governments, or alternatively, increased losses.

Stronger climate change action is needed to reduce bushfire risk.

  • Australia must reduce its greenhouse gas pollution rapidly and deeply to reduce the risk of exposure to extreme events, including bushfires. Burning fossil fuels, like coal, oil and gas, must be phased out.

  • So-called ‘clean coal’ or any new fossil fuel projects, such as Adani’s Carmichael mine, are not compatible with effectively tackling climate change.

  • We have the solutions at our disposal to tackle climate change, we need to accelerate the transition to renewables and storage technologies, and non-polluting transport, infrastructure, and food production.

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

Press link for more: Climate Council

Coal, coal, coal & soaring emissions – as a Liberal, I have had enough | Oliver Yates #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani Demand #ClimateAction a #GreenNewDeal #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion

By Oliver Yates

Time is up. The Liberal party won’t reform, so it is time to stop fighting, split and take the opportunity to compete for the support of the public.

The Liberal partyis now broken, brand-damaged and unable to attract new members that would enable it to represent a “broad church”.

The failure of the existing Liberal party to address climate change or to support an integrity commission is unacceptable.

Nowhere is this failure more obvious than in its continued support for the Adani coalmine and new coal-fired power stations.

I expected more from Scott Morrison after the Victorian walloping. Instead we get the very same. Slippery answers to everything. Coal, coal, coal and soaring greenhouse gas emissions.

Scott Morrison Australia’s new Prime Minister loves coal

Refusing to reduce emissions as cheaply as possible is irrational, immoral and economically reckless. Achieving emission reductions of just 2% a year as proposed by the Labor party in the electricity sector costs very little and won’t risk system stability or security.

We should be aiming for a 2% reduction in emissions every year to ensure Australia does its fair share to tackle climate change. Instead, emissions are increasing and are at a seven year high.

Something must lie behind the failure of the Liberal party to accept policies that are economically rational and environmentally sound, so some sunlight from an integrity commission should be welcomed by all Australians.

Wherever you look, something is wrong.

The pursuit by ministers of baseload coal power when we need dispatchable renewable energy and storage.

Claims by ministers that we need more fossil fuels and that they are cheaper than renewables or that clean coal is the answer.

Claims by ministers that as Australia only emits 1.3% of global pollution we have no role to play, ignoring the fact that we are only 0.3% of the population and that we will be heavily damaged by the impacts of climate change.

Students protest against the Adani Coal Mine in Parliament House

And the final insult – allowing the Adani coalmine to proceed when it lacks a social licence, is completely inconsistent with the need to tackle climate change and frankly smells with donations, overseas trips and wedding parties.

Scott Morrison brings a chunk of coal into parliament

We desperately need an integrity commission to investigate potential conflicts of interest that see a revolving door between the coal industry and minister’s offices. It is hard to believe donors don’t have influence on the selection of ministers to some degree.

Adani donations to the Liberal National Party

Members of parliament that are selected to be ministers stand to receive additional pay of more than $150,000, boosting their remuneration towards $500,000. It seems obvious that such ministers would be more likely to promote the views of the large donors that influenced their appointment in the first place.

We need a parliament that accepts science.

We need a parliament that respects our geography and rationally accepts that our neighbours and their views have special relevance and their concerns deserve special attention, just as my neighbours on my street deserve my special consideration.

We need a root and branch review of the political remuneration system that ensures that it provides the right incentives for all politicians to work for the benefit of our country rather than fight against each other to secure the “spoils of government”.

As a Liberal, I have had enough and, as evidenced by the swing in safe Liberal seats in Victoria, I am not alone.

Students in their thousands protesting for climate action

We must provide alternatives for Liberals to vote for at the next federal election, and I hope to see independent Liberals provide electors in safe Liberal seats with that choice. We need to return to the day where politicians know that their job is not to retain their job but rather to represent their electorate, who, if they are lucky, reward them with their job.

The Liberal party brand has been so damaged and trust so completely destroyed that no amount of “shuffling the deck chairs” will change the outcome of the next federal election.

It is simply impossible for many Liberal voters to vote for a party that:

  • works to prevent any action on climate change

  • has the potential to be controlled by the mining industry or whichever new industry is willing to pay for favours (clubs, internet gambling, pokies, firearms and many more)

  • rejects the establishment of an integrity commission

  • rejects donation reform and transparency and promotes members for their fundraising skills rather than policy and communication skills

  • backs the Adani coalmine, which has no social licence and is inconsistent with our need to tackle climate change; and

  • regardless of the election result seems to be heading towards installing Tony Abbott or Peter Dutton as the next party leader

Liberal voters will align with independent Liberals who have real world experience, who will put the interests of their electorates first and who support: 

  • tight fiscal responsibility so the country operates within its means

  • strong border controls, backed by a compassionate approach to the treatment of refugees

  • free enterprise and small business, balanced with appropriate regulation to ensure competition is fair

  • transparency, integrity and trust; and

  • real action on climate change that is consistent with what the science is demanding

While I am sure many “shock jocks” who are doing daily damage to the Liberal party will yet again venture to their usual corner of scare tactics about the arrival of independent Liberals, there is no justification for that.

Independent Liberals will move with transparency and integrity, and will clearly state their principals and beliefs so electors know what they are voting for. Just imagine how refreshing that would be in the current world of dark party politics where trading principles for position and power is considered a positive skill.

Once the Liberal party reforms and rebalances, Liberal independents might elect to join again.

 Oliver Yates is a member of the Liberal party and former chief executive of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation

Press link for more: The Guardian

Great Barrier Reef: record heatwave may cause another coral bleaching event #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion we urgently need a #GreenNewDeal #StopAdani

42.6C temperature in Cairns broke a November record that has stood since 1900 by 5.4C

By Ben Smee

A record-breaking heatwave in north Queensland will further increase above-average marine temperatures, heightening the risk of another coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef next year, scientists say.

Dozens of record November temperatures have been recorded in the region, most along the reef coastline, this week.

The most remarkable was at Cairns, where consecutive days reached temperatures of 42.6C and 40.9C. The maximum temperature on Tuesday broke a November record that has stood since 1900 by 5.4C.

Extreme weather fuelled more than 130 bushfires, which the premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Twitter was “not the kind of fire we have seen in Queensland before”.

“Heatwave records and fire weather is unprecedented,” Palaszczuk said.

A dust storm, brought by strong westerly winds, covered the southern inland parts of the state. In the north, thousands of native flying foxes died due to the high temperatures.

Reef scientist Terry Hughes, from the coral centre of excellence at James Cook University, said the summer heatwave was “terrifying” and lifted the chances of coral death on the Great Barrier Reef early next year.

The reef sustained successive marine heatwaves, in the early part of 2016 and 2017, which killed corals and badly damaged the northern and central sections.

Hughes said the bleaching forecasts were “trending upwards” but scientists would not have a clear picture until the end of January.

Coral ecophysiologist Dr Neal Cantin, from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said ocean temperatures remained below those recorded at the same time in 2015 and 2016, but warmer than historical averages.

Cantin said the current heatwave would “add heat and warm up the ocean. It certainly adds heat to the system. We’ve seen record breaking land temperatures this week, which we expect to see into the future with climate change and everything heating up.

“We’re in a watch phase. There’s definitely the potential and how the local weather patterns pan out in January and February will really determine whether we get a large scale bleaching event or not.

“There are some signs we may avoid [bleaching] this summer. At this stage it’s less likely to be as bad as 2016, but we’ll be ready to respond [if bleaching occurs].”

Reality of climate change sinking in

“The hazard I worry most about is heatwaves,” Andrew Gissing, a disaster management expert from the firm Risk Frontiers, said.

“Australia needs to be better prepared for heatwaves, with climate change we are already predicting they will get more severe.”

Gissing told Guardian Australia people often respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters based on their previous experiences. But he said governments, businesses and individuals were often not prepared for the increasing severity and frequency of such events.

“We did a lot of work in Lismore after Cyclone Debbie. So many people sheltered in their homes because that’s what they always did when it flooded. They just didn’t realise this flood was that much bigger

“People really need to be attuned to what’s actually happening … how the nature of climactic hazards is changing.”

Gissing said businesses needed to start investing in climate change mitigation and adaption measures.

“It’s going to be very hard to mitigate a lot of the [predicted climate] impacts, so adaptation for the future is going to be really important. Especially when you overlay climate change on a growing population base.

“The [number of people living on the Queensland coast] is likely to double by about 2030.

Because of climate change, we’re looking at there being more exposure [to disaster risks] there as well.”

Press link for more: The Guardian

Noam Chomsky: Moral Depravity Defines US Politics #auspol #qldpol #NuclearWar #Environment #ClimateChange #ExtinctionRevolution #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #Democracy #Media #TheDrum

The US midterm elections of November 6, 2018, produced a divided Congress and essentially reaffirmed the existence of two nations in one country. But they also revealed, once again, the deep state of moral and political depravity that prevails in the country’s political culture — at least insofar as political campaigns go. In the interview below, world-renowned scholar and public intellectual Noam Chomsky discusses how the major issues confronting the United States and the world at large were barely addressed by the majority of candidates of both parties.

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, with people still arguing about winners and losers from the 2018 midterm elections (and there is clearly a lot to say about what those elections mean), what do you consider to be the most striking features of the latest manifestation of American democracy in action?

Noam Chomsky: The most striking features are brutally clear.

Humanity faces two imminent existential threats: environmental catastrophe and nuclear

These were virtually ignored in the campaign rhetoric and general coverage. There was plenty of criticism of the Trump administration, but scarcely a word about by far the most ominous positions the administration has taken: increasing the already dire threat of nuclear war, and racing to destroy the physical environment that organized human society needs in order to survive.

These are the most critical and urgent questions that have arisen in all of human history.

The fact that they scarcely arose in the campaign is truly stunning — and carries some important, if unpleasant, lessons about our moral and intellectual culture.

To be sure, not everyone was ignoring these matters.

They were front and center for those who are constantly vigilant in their bitter class war to preserve their immense power and privilege.

Several states had important ballot initiatives addressing the impending environmental catastrophe.

The fossil fuel industry spent huge, sometimes record-breaking, sums to defeat the initiatives — including a carbon tax in the mostly Democratic state of Washington — and mostly succeeded.

We should recognize that these are extraordinary crimes against humanity.

They proceed with little notice.

The Democrats helped defeat these critically important initiatives by ignoring them.

They scarcely mentioned them “in digital or TV ads, in their campaign literature or on social media,” a New York Times surveyfound.

Nor, of course, were they mentioned by the Republicans, whose leadership is dedicated to driving humanity off the cliff as soon as possible — in full knowledge of what they are doing, as easily demonstrated.

The Times article goes on to explain that “Environmental activists and political scientists say it is a reflection of the issue’s perpetual low ranking among voters, even Democratic voters, and of the intense polarization along party lines that has developed around global warming.”

The article failed to add that this assessment is an incredible indictment of the country and its political, social, economic and media institutions, all of which, so the assessment claims, have sunk to such a level of depravity that the question of whether organized human society can survive in any minimally tolerable form, in the near future, is of little consequence.

Whether that unspoken indictment is correct, we cannot be sure.

It is perhaps of some significance that one Democratic candidate, Sean Casten, flipped a Republican district while making impending climate disaster the centerpiece of his campaign.

There is plenty of competition for moral depravity in the current remarkable moment of human history. Perhaps the prize goes to a bureaucracy, maybe in honor of Kafka: Trump’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Right in the midst of the campaign, it produced a detailed study calling for an end to regulations on emissions, with a rational argument: extrapolating current trends, it turns out that by the end of the century the game will be over.

Automotive emissions don’t contribute very much to the catastrophe, so there isn’t any point trying to limit them.

In brief, let’s rob while the planet burns, putting poor Nero in the shadows.

This surely qualifies as a contender for the most evil document in history. Again, not an issue in the campaign.

There have been many monsters in the past … but it would be hard to find one who was dedicated to undermining the prospects for survival of organized human society, not in the distant future — in order to put a few more dollars in overstuffed pockets.

It’s hard to find words to describe what is happening before our eyes.

The same is true of the second truly existential threat: nuclear war.

A few weeks before the election, Trump announced that the US is withdrawing from the INF treaty, which eliminated short-range missiles deployed in Western Europe and Russia — extremely hazardous weapons, which have only a few minutes flight-time to Moscow, posing a decapitation threat, a sudden attack that would destroy any possibility of response. That, of course, sharply increases the danger of a nuclear response to warnings given by automated systems that have often failed in the past, thus ending all of us.

Anyone familiar with the record knows that it’s a virtual miracle that we have so far avoided terminal nuclear war.

The threat, which was already grave, was heightened by the Trump nuclear posture review that authorized new destabilizing weapons and lowered the threshold for nuclear attack.

This latest move increases the threat further.

Scarcely a mention on the campaign trail or in coverage.

The US is withdrawing from the treaty on the grounds that China is not a partner and that the Russians have violated it — they in turn claim that the US has violated it.

It’s plain how to address these problems: through inspections and diplomacy, neither of which has been attempted.

Rather, let’s just blithely increase the threat of total destruction. And let’s ignore all of this in the vast outpourings during the political campaign.

Again, we have to ask some serious questions about the prevailing moral and intellectual culture — and about the urgency of providing remedies, very soon.

Let’s put aside what are merely the most significant questions in human history, and turn to what is within the realm of discussion.

A striking fact about the election is that it once again demonstrated the failure of the Democratic Party as a whole to deal with issues that matter to working people.

While working-class people of color largely supported the Democratic Party, even more than before, the party lost the non–college educated white population. What’s more, it seems to be of little concern, at least to Democratic Party leaders, the “Wall Street Democrats” as they are sometimes called.

They were exultant about their successes in the affluent suburbs, where normally Republican voters were disgusted by Trump’s vulgarity.

Whether they come naturally or are feigned, Trump’s antics help keep his white working-class constituency in line while his party stabs them in the back at every turn, meanwhile serving its real constituency, great wealth and corporate power, with impressive dedication.

The betrayal of working-class America could hardly be clearer, though fortunately, some are breaking free of the treachery.

One positive feature of the midterms was the success of a diverse group of young progressive candidates, mostly women — a tribute to the popular activism of recent years, and a hopeful sign for the future, if it can expand and flourish.

On the surface, it seems that Trump’s success with much of the voting constituency can be attributed to racist and xenophobic appeals, particularly concerning the imminent threat of “invasion” by hordes of terrorists and criminals approaching our borders that he focused his tantrums on up to the election – then dropping the topic when it was no longer needed to rally the faithful.

Few seem to have recalled that Trump was pulling a leaf from Reagan’s playbook. In 1985, our intrepid leader strapped on his cowboy boots and declared a national emergency because Nicaraguan troops were a two days’ drive from Harlingen, Texas — and people didn’t collapse in laughter. Trump made a similar move in warning that if people fleeing from misery and oppression (misery and oppression for which we are largely responsible) reach our borders they’ll try to kill us all. Heavily armed militias travelled to the border to back up the thousands of troops deployed to defend us, and it seems to have worked. Surveys report that people did vote for Trump because only he could save us from destruction by these criminal hordes. That also carries some lessons.

But when we ask why Trump’s strategy works, we find something deeper, which extends pretty much worldwide, with particularities from place to place. In conditions of economic distress, a sense of hopelessness, justified contempt for institutions, and understandable anger and resentment about what is being done to them, people can become easy prey to demagogues who direct their anger toward scapegoats, typically those even more vulnerable, and who foster the symptoms that tend to rise to the surface under such circumstances. That’s been happening, worldwide. We see it in election after election in many countries, and in other ways.

In the US, working-class people have suffered 40 years of stagnation while wealth concentrates in very few hands, leading to staggering inequality.

The Democrats have ignored all this, and worse, have carried forward the neoliberal policies that took off with Reagan and Thatcher and have imposed these consequences, by design. And for the designers, the neoliberal programs have been brilliantly successful, in ways that we need not review here.

Despite low unemployment, wage growth, after a rise in 2014-15, is now barely keeping up with inflation while corporate profits are skyrocketing, particularly for the predatory financial institutions, which emerged from the crisis for which they were responsible even richer and more powerful than before. A side effect is that the country’s wealth is being shifted from R&D, innovation and product development, to financial transactions in the interests of the very rich. Fine for them, but disastrous for the health and future of the society.

The concentration of wealth and enhancement of corporate power translate automatically to decline of democracy. Research in academic political science has revealed that a large majority of voters are literally disenfranchised, in that their own representatives pay no attention to their wishes but listen to the voices of the donor class. It is furthermore well established that elections are pretty much bought: electability, hence policy, is predictable with remarkable precision from the single variable of campaign spending, both for the executive and Congress. Thomas Ferguson’s work is particularly revealing, going far back and including the 2016 election. And that is a bare beginning. Legislation is commonly shaped, even written, by corporate lobbyists, while representatives who sign it have their eyes on funding for the next election.

The midterms highlighted other ominous developments. The Republicans increased their Senate majority — with barely 40 percent of the votes cast. Right now, 60 senators are elected by states with 25 percent of the population, which means some 15 percent of the vote (mostly rural, white, religious, skeptical of science, heavily armed). And the tendency is increasing. It’s hard to see how some form of civil conflict can be avoided unless the Democrats reverse course sharply and become a political party that doesn’t simply abandon the working class to its bitter class enemy, as they have done for 40 years.

How do we explain the fact that while US politics seems nastier, more polarized and more divided than any other time in recent history, both parties stay away from addressing the most critical issues facing the country and the world at large?

In 1895, the highly successful campaign manager Mark Hanna famously said: “There are two things that are important in politics. The first ismoney, and I can’t remember what the second one is.”

Those who control the wealth of the country have their own priorities, primarily self-enrichment and enhancement of decision-making power. And these are the priorities that prevail in a neoliberal democracy with the annoying public dismissed to the back rooms where they belong.

The CEOs of major banks surely understand the extraordinary threat of environmental catastrophe but are increasing investment in fossil fuels because that’s where the money is. Like the energy corporations, they are hardly eager to support candidates warning of the serious crimes they are committing. Lockheed-Martin and its cohorts are quite happy to see vast increases in the military budget and are surely delighted with such declarations as the Trump administration’s new National Defense Strategy, just released by the US Institute of Peace (lacking a sense of irony, the bureaucracy is quite happy to caricature Orwell).

This somber document warns that our dangerously depleted military, which almost overwhelms the rest of the world combined, might not be able to prevail in a two-front war against Russia and China. Of course, neither military industry nor the distinguished authors of the report believe that such a war could even be fought without terminal destruction, but it’s a great way to siphon taxpayer dollars away from absurdities like health and education and into the deserving pockets of the captains of industry and finance.

Not many political figures will dare to dismiss such awesome threats to our security.

As for the nastiness, it’s largely a result of the drift to the right of both parties during the neoliberal years, the Democrats becoming what used to be called “moderate Republicans” (or often worse) and the Republicans drifting off the spectrum, with devotion to wealth and corporate power so extreme that they cannot possibly win elections on their actual policies. They have therefore been compelled to mobilize voting constituencies on “cultural issues,” diverting attention away from actual policies. To keep them in line, it’s natural for the leadership to demonize the political opposition as not merely wrong but intent on demolishing their most deeply held values — and for the latter to resort to contempt for the “deplorables.” Soon antagonisms degenerate to warfare.

There are many illustrations of how the Republican leadership has sought to organize a voting constituency, some of which we’ve discussed before. One revealing case is abortion rights. In the ‘60s, the Republican Party was strongly pro-choice, including the leadership (Reagan, Ford, George H.W. Bush and others). Same with voters. In 1972, two-thirds of Republicans believed abortion to be a private matter, with no government involvement.

Nixon and his cohorts realized that they could attract the Catholic vote, traditionally Democratic, by adopting an anti-abortion plank. Later in the ‘70s, evangelicals began to organize for political action. Among their demands was maintaining segregated schools. Republican operative Paul Weyrich recognized an opportunity. An open call for segregated schools wouldn’t work, but if the Republican Party pretended to oppose abortion, it could pick up the huge evangelical vote, now a core part of Trump’s voting base. The leadership accordingly shifted to passionate “pro-life” advocates, including those who it is sometimes believed had some character and honesty, like Bush I, who shifted along with the rest.

Meanwhile the actual constituency of the Republican Party remains great wealth and corporate power, even more dramatically so under Trump. It is quite an achievement to serve this actual constituency with dedication while maintaining a hold on the voting base.

As their voting base shrinks, Republican leaders understand that the GOP is becoming a minority party, which is why they are so dedicated to finding modes of voter suppression and packing the courts with reactionaries who will support their efforts.

It should also be noted that popular opinion differs from the party leadership on many central issues. But as already mentioned, since the majority of the population is disenfranchised, it doesn’t matter much. To take just one example, for 40 years of polling the population has strongly favored higher taxes on the rich — as taxes on the rich decline.

Bernie Sanders was re-elected to the Senate while his protégé Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a smashing victory over her Republican opponent for New York’s 14th District and became, in fact, the youngest woman elected to Congress. In fact, there are now probably as many Democratic Socialists in the House as there are conservative Democrats, so the question is whether progressives should go on to form a third party or try to change the Democratic Party from within.

What’s your take on this matter?

In the 18th century, with all of its extreme flaws, the US constitutional system was a major step forward in democratic participation as compared with Europe.

Even the concept “we the people,” though grossly misleading, was a conceptual breakthrough. Over the years, however, by comparative standards the system increasingly ranks as quite regressive. It is doubtful, for example, that Europe would admit a country with the US system as a new member.

In particular, the system is radically rigged against any challenge to the governing duopoly.

To develop a basis for a third party would require a serious and sustained effort in popular mobilization — not impossible, but not now on the horizon.

There do seem to be possibilities to shift the character of the Democratic Party, at least back to its modern New Deal origins, and beyond (it already is considerably beyond in some respects as a result of the civilizing effect of the activism of the ‘60s and its aftermath).

There are possibilities for development of independent parties, beginning at the local level, adopting fusion policies for more general elections, perhaps gaining enough traction to take part more actively in the political system.

But we should never forget that electoral politics, while not to be dismissed, should not be the prime focus of serious radical political action, which aims to change the basic institutions that undergird the political system, to dismantle hegemonic ideologies, and to help develop the kind of mass consciousness that must be the basis for badly — even desperately — needed social and political change.

C.J. Polychroniou is a political economist/political scientist who has taught and worked in universities and research centers in Europe and the United States. His main research interests are in European economic integration, globalization, the political economy of the United States and the deconstruction of neoliberalism’s politico-economic project. He is a regular contributor to Truthout as well as a member of Truthout’s Public Intellectual Project. He has published several books and his articles have appeared in a variety of journals, magazines, newspapers and popular news websites. Many of his publications have been translated into several foreign languages, including Croatian, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish. He is the author of Optimism Over Despair: Noam Chomsky On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change, an anthology of interviews with Chomsky originally published at Truthout and collected by Haymarket Books.

Press link for more: Global Policy

Game-Changing Promise of a #GreenNewDeal #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum #StopAdani

By Naomi Klein

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks to activists with the Sunrise Movement protesting in the offices of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in Washington D.C., on Nov. 13, 2018.

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times via Redux

Like so many others, I’ve been energized by the bold moral leadership coming from newly elected members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley in the face of the spiraling climate crisis and the outrageous attacks on unarmed migrants at the border. It has me thinking about the crucial difference between leadership that acts and leadership that talks about acting.

I’ll get to the Green New Deal and why we need to hold tight to that lifeline for all we’re worth. But before that, bear with me for a visit to the grandstanding of climate politics past.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

It was March 2009 and capes were still fluttering in the White House after Barack Obama’s historic hope-and-change electoral victory. Todd Stern, the newly appointed chief climate envoy, told a gathering on Capitol Hill that he and his fellow negotiators needed to embrace their inner superheroes, saving the planet from existential danger in the nick of time.

Climate change, he said, called for some of “that old comic book sensibility of uniting in the face of a common danger threatening the earth. Because that’s what we have here. It’s not a meteor or a space invader, but the damage to our planet, to our community, to our children, and their children will be just as great. There is no time to lose.”

Eight months later, at the fateful United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, all pretense to superheroism from the Obama Administration had been unceremoniously abandoned. Stern stalked the hallways of the convention center like the Grim Reaper, pulling his scythe through every proposal that would have resulted in a transformative agreement. The U.S. insisted on a target that would allow temperatures to rise by 2 degrees Celsius, despite passionate objections from many African and Pacific islander delegates who said the goal amounted to a “genocide” and would lead millions to die on land or in leaky boats. It shot down all attempts to make the deal legally binding, opting for unenforceable voluntary targets instead (as it would in Paris five years later).

Stern categorically rejected the argument that wealthy developed countries owe compensation to poor ones for knowingly pumping earth-warming carbon into the atmosphere, instead using much-needed funds for climate change protection as a bludgeon to force those countries to fall in line.

As I wrote at the time, the Copenhagen deal — cooked up behind closed doors with the most vulnerable countries locked out — amounted to a “grubby pact between the world’s biggest emitters: I’ll pretend that you are doing something about climate change if you pretend that I am too. Deal? Deal.”

Almost exactly nine years later, global emissions continue to rise, alongside average temperatures, with large swathes of the planet buffeted by record-breaking storms and scorched by unprecedented fires. The scientists convened in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have confirmed precisely what African and low-lying island states have long-since warned: that allowing temperatures to rise by 2 degrees is a death sentence, and that only a 1.5-degree target gives us a fighting chance. Indeed, at least eight Pacific islands have already disappeared beneath the rising seas.

Not only have wealthy countries failed to provide meaningful aid to poorer nations to protect themselves from weather extremes and leapfrog to clean tech, but Europe, Australia, and the United States have all responded to the increase in mass migration — intensified if not directly caused by climate stresses — with brutal force, ranging from Italy’s de facto “let them drown” policy to Trump’s increasingly real war on an unarmed caravan from Central America. Let there be no mistake: this barbarism is the way the wealthy world plans to adapt to climate change.

The only thing resembling a cape at the White House these days are all those coats Melania drapes over her shoulders, mysteriously refusing to use the arm holes for their designed purpose. Her husband, meanwhile, is busily embracing his role as a climate supervillain, gleefully approving new fossil fuel projects, shredding the Paris agreement (it’s not legally binding after all, so why not?), and pronouncing that a Thanksgiving cold snap is proof positive that the planet isn’t warming after all.

In short, the metaphorical meteor that Stern evoked in 2009 is not just hurtling closer to our fragile planet — it’s grazing the (burning) treetops.

And yet here’s the truly strange thing: I feel more optimistic about our collective chances of averting climate breakdown than I have in years. For the first time, I see a clear and credible political pathway that could get us to safety, a place in which the worst climate outcomes are avoided and a new social compact is forged that is radically more humane than anything currently on offer.

We are not on that pathway yet — very far from it. But unlike even one month ago, the pathway is clear. It begins with the galloping momentum calling on the Democratic Party to use its majority in the House to create the Select Committee for a Green New Deal, a plan advanced by Ocasio-Cortez and now backed by more than 14 representatives.

The draft text calls for the committee, which would be fully funded and empowered to draft legislation, to spend the next year consulting with a range of experts — from scientists to local lawmakers to labor unions to business leaders — to map out a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” capable of making the U.S. economy “carbon neutral” while promoting “economic and environmental justice and equality.” By January 2020, the plan would be released, and two months later would come draft legislation designed to turn it into a reality.

That early 2020 deadline is important — it means that the contours of the Green New Deal would be complete by the next U.S. election cycle, and any politician wanting to be taken seriously as a progressive champion would need to adopt it as the centerpiece of their platform. If that happened, and the party running on a sweeping Green New Deal retook the White House and the Senate in November 2020, then there would actually be time left on the climate clock to meet the harsh targets laid out in the recent IPCC report, which told us that we have a mere 12 years to cut fossil fuel emissions by a head-spinning 45 percent.

Pulling that off, the report’s summary states in its first sentence, is not possible with singular policies like carbon taxes. Rather, what is needed is “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” By giving the committee a mandate that connects the dots between energy, transportation, housing and construction, as well as health care, living wages, a jobs guarantee, and the urgent imperative to battle racial and gender injustice, the Green New Deal plan would be mapping precisely that kind of far-reaching change. This is not a piecemeal approach that trains a water gun on a blazing fire, but a comprehensive and holistic plan to actually put the fire out.

If the world’s largest economy looked poised to show that kind of visionary leadership, other major emitters — like the European Union, China, and India — would almost certainly find themselves under intense pressure from their own populations to follow suit.

Now, nothing about the pathway I have just outlined is certain or even likely: The Democratic Party establishment under Nancy Pelosi will probably squash the Green New Deal proposal, much as the party stomped on hopes for more ambitious climate deals under Obama. Smart money would bet on the party doing little more than resuscitating the climate committee that helped produce cap-and-trade legislation in Obama’s first term, an ill-fated and convoluted market-based scheme that would have treated greenhouse gases as late-capitalist abstractions to be traded, bundled, and speculated upon like currency or subprime debt (which is why Ocasio-Cortez is insisting that lawmakers who take fossil fuel money should not be on the Green New Deal select committee).

And of course, even if pressure on lawmakers continues to mount and those calling for the select committee carry the day, there is no guarantee that the party will win back the Senate and White House in 2020.

And yet, despite all of these caveats, we now have a something that has been sorely missing: a concrete plan on the table, complete with a science-based timeline, that is not only coming from social movements on the outside of government, but which also has a sizable (and growing) bloc of committed champions inside the House of Representatives.

Decades from now, if we are exquisitely lucky enough to tell a thrilling story about how humanity came together in the nick of time to intercept the metaphorical meteor, the pivotal chapter will not be the highly produced cinematic moment when Barack Obama won the Democratic primary and told an adoring throng of supporters that this would be “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” No, it will be the far less scripted and markedly more scrappy moment when a group of fed-up young people from the Sunrise Movement occupied the offices of Pelosi after the midterm elections, calling on her to get behind the plan for a Green New Deal — with Ocasio-Cortez dropping by the sit-in to cheer them on.

Sunrise Movement activists outside Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington D.C. on Nov. 13, 2018.

Photo: Briahna Gray/The Intercept

I realize that it may seem unreasonably optimistic to invest so much in a House committee, but it is not the committee itself that is my main source of hope. It is the vast infrastructure of scientific, technical, political, and movement expertise poised to spring into action should we take the first few steps down this path. It is a network of extraordinary groups and individuals who have held fast to their climate focus and commitments even when no media wanted to cover the crisis and no major political party wanted to do anything more than perform concern.

It’s a network that has been waiting a very long time for there to finally be a critical mass of politicians in power who understand not only the existential urgency of the climate crisis, but also the once-in-a-century opportunity it represents, as the draft resolution states, “to virtually eliminate poverty in the United States and to make prosperity, wealth and economic security available to everyone participating in the transformation.”

The ground for this moment has been prepared for decades, with models for community-owned and community-controlled renewable energy; with justice-based transitions that make sure no worker is left behind; with a deepening analysis of the intersections between systemic racism, armed conflict, and climate disruption; with improved green tech and breakthroughs in clean public transit; with the thriving fossil fuel divestment movement; with model legislation driven by the climate justice movement that shows how carbon taxes can fight racial and gender exclusion; and much more.

What has been missing is only the top-level political power to roll out the best of these models all at once, with the focus and velocity that both science and justice demand. That is the great promise of a comprehensive Green New Deal in the largest economy on earth. And as the Sunrise Movement turns up the heat on legislators who have yet to sign onto the plan, it deserves all of our support.

Of course there is no shortage of Beltway pundits ready to dismiss all of this as hopelessly naive and unrealistic, the work of political neophytes who don’t understand the art of the possible or the finer points of policy. What those pundits are failing to account for is the fact that, unlike previous attempts to introduce climate legislation, the Green New Deal has the capacity to mobilize a truly intersectional mass movement behind it — not despite its sweeping ambition, but precisely because of it.

This is the game-changer of having representatives in Congress rooted in working-class struggles for living-wage jobs and for nontoxic air and water — women like Tlaib, who helped fight a successful battle against Koch Industries’ noxious petroleum coke mountain in Detroit.

If you are part of the economy’s winning class and funded by even bigger winners, as so many politicians are, then your attempts to craft climate legislation will likely be guided by the idea that change should be as minimal and unchallenging to the status quo as possible.

After all, the status quo is working just fine for you and your donors.

Leaders who are rooted in communities that are being egregiously failed by the current system, on the other hand, are liberated to take a very different approach. Their climate policies can embrace deep and systemic change — including the need for massive investments in public transit, affordable housing, and health care — because that kind of change is precisely what their bases need to thrive.

As climate justice organizations have been arguing for many years now, when the people with the most to gain lead the movement, they fight to win.

Press link for more: The Intercept

WE NEED AN APOLLO PROGRAMME FOR #CLIMATECHANGE #auspol #qldpol #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #StopAdani #GreenNewDeal #TheDrum #QandA

By Bill McGuire

A recent visit to the cinema to see the excellent First Man, which follows astronaut Neil Armstrong on his path to immortality, reminded me of the big anniversary coming up next year.

I find it hard to believe, but 2019 will see the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, way back in July 1969. I was a schoolboy at the time and remember it vividly. In many ways, this seminal event was the beginning of the end for the hugely ambitious US space programme. Despite another five landings following, and all the drama of the Apollo 13 emergency, the final two moon missions were scrapped, along with plans for a moon base and manned mission to Mars in the 1980s. There has been no return to the Moon and – notwithstanding wildly optimistic ravings from Elon Musk and other internet billionaires with more money than sense – a human presence on the red planet seems as far away as ever.

      It is probably not entirely a coincidence that interest in space and reaching out to other worlds began to fade at a time when concerns over our own was growing. Today, few in their right mind would prioritise space exploration over putting our house in order down here on Earth.

A house that is in severe danger of being trashed beyond repair by a conspiracy of climate breakdown, environmental degradation and mass extinction. Notwithstanding this, space still has a major role to play down here on the surface. Specialist satellites play a key part in observing and tracking many of the features that flag up how quickly our world is falling apart, including ice cover, sea-surface temperatures and land use. The Apollo programme, in particular, also taught us a vital lesson; just how quickly something can be accomplished if it is wanted badly enough. This is encapsulated in a short clip from the now famous speech President Kennedy made in 1962, during which he announced the intention to put a man on the Moon. 

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.

      Swap ‘stop climate breakdown’  for ‘go to the Moon’ and these few sentences describe perfectly the can-do thinking that a war on climate change requires.

It may be Kismet, but Kennedy’s speech was made seven years before the first moon landing; the same length of time over which Extinction Rebellion demands that UK carbon emissions reach net zero.

So, it seems obvious.

What we need is an Apollo Programme for climate change.

An all-embracing crusade that strives to cut emissions to the bone within seven years.

To do this will require retooling the economy and rebooting our wasteful lifestyles to make falling carbon output the measure of the success of our society; not rising GDP, the number of families with two cars, or how many fighter jets we have sold to Saudi Arabia.

      The driver for the Apollo programme was simple and straightforward – get to the Moon before the ‘Russkies’ do.

When the alternative is global catastrophe, an Apollo Programme for climate change shouldn’t really need to be incentivised.

Knowing that we will bequeath to our children and their children a world that is not desecrated beyond redemption should be sufficient.

Nonetheless, there are welcome incentives too.

A zero carbon world will be a cleaner, safer and – almost certainly – a happier one.

So what’s not to like.

The sooner we start the better.

Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and author of Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was a contributor to the IPCC 2012 report on Climate Change & Extreme Events and Disasters.

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Why aren’t they doing anything?: Students strike to give climate lesson #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateChange Demand #ClimateAction

This Friday, November 30, thousands of Australian students will go on strike, demanding their politicians start taking serious action on climate change.

The movement, School Strike 4 Climate Action, has been inspired by a 15-year-old Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, who started boycotting classes before parliamentary elections in her nation on September 9, and continues to skip school every Friday. She also has a particular message for Australia.

Students in each state capital and across 20 regional Australian centres will walk out of their classrooms this week to tell politicians that more of the same climate inaction is not good enough.

Here are some of the lessons they hope to teach.

‘If we really want a better planet Earth’

Lucie Atkin-Bolton, an 11-year-old student and school captain at Forest Lodge Public School, wants an end to ‘coal-sourced energy’, and is willing to go on strike for it.

Photo: Christopher Pearce

Lucie Atkin-Bolton, 11, who will soon graduate as school captain at Sydney’s Forest Lodge Public School, says Australia should be sourcing 100 per cent of its electricity from solar power: “I can’t understand why it hasn’t been done yet.”

“Right now the political leaders aren’t doing very much at all,” Lucie says. “They’re more promoting coal-sourced energy when, if we really want to have a better planet Earth, we need renewable energy.”

Climate change “is a crisis”, she says. “It’s not going to happen in two or three decades – it’s happening now.”

Lucie says “whole islands will disappear” as warming lifts sea levels, and the time for thinking is running out.

“We can’t just talk about it, we have to act,” she says. “We have to make a change.”

While Lucie hopes to attend the main strike event at NSW Parliament, school principal Stephen Reed has been supportive, she says. Students remaining behind are expected to be involved in school-wide activities.

‘Fear’ is a motivator

Vivienne Paduch, a 14-year-old student from Manly Selective school, says ‘striking for climate action is more important than missing a day of school’.

Photo: Christopher Pearce

Vivienne Paduch isn’t waiting for Friday’s gathering – where the Manly Selective school student will also be a speaker  – to get active. This Sunday, she’ll be busy at a “Crafternoon”, creating banners and honing her speech.

The 14-year-old says Australia needs to cut its carbon footprint “dramatically” and soon. The run of “crazy, extreme weather events” – from the NSW drought to destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and recent unusual fires within the Arctic Circle – are part of her motivation.

“Firstly it’s fear,” Vivienne says. “I’m really scared for me and for my generation and the generations that are going to come after me from the implications of what climate change will mean.

“It’s only going to get worse if we don’t take action now.

“Striking for climate action is more important [to me] than missing a day of school.

“With all the support we’ve got this year, I can see it happening again next year,” Vivienne says. “It’s very important to keep pressure on the politicians.”

‘Young people have to step up’

Aisheeya Huq, a 16-year-old student from Auburn Girls High School, says young people ‘are going to have to face the consequences’ of climate change long after the current political leaders are gone.

Photo: Christopher Pearce

For Aisheeya Huq, a year 10 student at Auburn Girls High School, the School Strike is a natural extension of her volunteer work for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.

The 16-year-old says her generation can’t ignore climate change and environmental destruction and the justice issues that flow from them.

“We’re going to have to face the consequences [from the work of] a lot of the policymakers and politicians … due to their lack of understanding and perhaps care for the future,” Aisheeya says.

“Young people have realised that because we are going to be affected, we have to step up, and we have to do something about it.”

Politicians talk about the importance of education and shouldn’t be surprised when students join the climate dots. “If you care so much about our education and what you’re teaching us, why aren’t you doing anything about it?” she says.

‘Massive emergency’

Callum Neilson-Bridgefoot (left) and Tully Boyle, Castlemaine students who helped set off an Australian campaign.

Photo: Eddie Jim

Students from Castlemaine, a town in the Victorian goldfields north-west of Melbourne, were the originators of the School Strike movement in Australia after reading about Greta Thunberg and also the special Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 1.5 degree report.

Tully Boyle, a 15-year-old at Castlemaine Secondary College, has already taken part in several school boycotts, and this week took a train into Melbourne with other students to deliver demands to politicians.

“It’s a massive emergency,” Tully says. “We want all governments to take it seriously.”

She says heatwaves, flooding and worsening bushfires are a portent of much worse to come if temperature rises reach 4-5 degrees – the course they are now on.

Tully would like to see support for renewable energy and greater promotion of electric vehicles given priority.

“Climate change matters more for us,” she says. “We need to fight for our future.”

Students from Castlemaine in central Victoria journeyed down to Melbourne this week to press the issue for urgent climate action from our political leaders.
Photo: Eddie Jim

Callum Neilson-Bridgefoot, an 11-year-old student at Castlemaine Primary School, has also taken part in four strike activities already.

“Sacrificing a little bit of my education will help in the long term,” Callum said. “I work really hard when I’m at school.

“Any political leader can really make a difference – they have much more power than we do,” he says. “Right now what they are doing is not enough.”

Greta’s actions were a key inspiration. “I was really moved,” Callum says. “It was really brave and very powerful.”

‘It was so easy’

Greta Thunberg, the 15-year-old Swedish student whose ‘school strike’ has drawn international attention and many followers.

Greta Thunberg has seen her Friday vigils for action on climate change copied in many parts of the world, including Finland, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Norway, Italy, Canada and Britain. “And Australia of course!” she says.

“The thing I think surprised me the most was that it was so easy,” she tells Fairfax Media, via email.

“I remember thinking before I started ‘why has no one ever done this before?'”

The solution, she says, is to keep climate change in front of the public’s attention.

“All we need to do is treat it like a crisis with headlines and news reporting all the time. And I mean A L L the time,” she writes. “As if there was a war going on.”

Greta wants her Australian acolytes to know she is aware of their actions: “I would tell them that they are making a huge difference. I read about them in newspapers up here in Europe and it’s hopeful beyond my imagination.

“And Australia is a huge climate villain, I am sorry to say. Your carbon footprint is way bigger than Sweden and we are among the worst in the world.”

Greta says leading by example is important, as is “saying the things that are too uncomfortable to say”.

“We may not like that we have to change some of our habits, like flying or eating meat and dairy. But we do have to. Because our carbon budget has been spent and there is nothing left for future generations or the ecosystems we rely on,” she says.

Press link for more: SMH

As wildfires rage, California faces the next reckoning: Costs #ClimateChange #ExtinctionRebellion #StopAdani cost of electricity is nothing compared to cost of catastrophic #Climate #auspol #qldpol

By Dana Drugmand

As major wildfires once again rage across California, fueled by extended drought and a warming climate, the immediate danger to life and property are almost certain to be followed by financial crises facing homeowners, insurers and even the state’s utilities as the costs skyrocket. 

Two massive wildfires currently burning— the Camp Fire in the northern part of the state and the Woolsey Fire further south near Los Angeles—have already claimed 50 lives, destroyed thousands of homes and could likely cost billions of dollars in damages. 

Early estimates peg the costs of the two fires at upwards of $10 billion, which would surpass the $9.4 billion in insured losses from the wine country fires in October 2017. 

The Camp Fire now ranks as the most destructive and most deadly with 7,600 homes destroyed and 48 fatalities as of Wednesday morning.

Five of the top 10 most destructive wildfires in California have occurred since last October.

An early estimate by Moody’s on Monday calculated $6 billion in insured losses so far. Damages could climb to at least $19 billion, according to Bloomberg, with one disaster modeling expert predicting up to $25 billion in losses. 

California residents and officials are already starting to grapple with how they will pay for the costs. 

President Trump has authorized federal funding and assistance through FEMA, which can help some wildfire victims in the short term. Most homeowners, however, will be relying on insurance protection. The California Department of Insurance has urged residents to look into their homeowner or renter’s insurance for financial assistance with fire-related relocation or evacuation. The FAIR Plan offers a safety net option for homeowners who cannot afford or are unable to obtain private insurance. According to California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, approximately 38,000 residents are turning to FAIR coverage as a last resort. 

But as insurance providers look to minimize losses—some are dropping coverage for properties in high-risk areas—there is concern that an insurance crisis is not far off. Insurers lost almost $16 billion last year from California wildfires, and this year’s blazes could exceed that. 

While Jones said the crisis point has not yet been reached, he warned that the “trend is in the negative direction.” As climate change makes fires more likely and more destructive and insured property losses continue to mount, insurers are raising premiums and in some cases declining to renew policies. Jones pointed to a study that found a 15.3 percent increase of non-renewals in insurance for high risk areas between 2015 and 2016. Jones said he expects that percentage to increase. 

“The problem is only going to grow over time,” he said. 

Liability Concern Grows for Utilities

A breaking point could also soon be coming for California’s utility companies. Several of the state’s electric utilities are facing multi-billion dollar liability costs as utility equipment has been found to be the source sparking the fires. Pacific Gas & Electric potentially faces $17.3 billion in damages from last year’s Northern California wildfires alone, according to one estimate. 

PG&E and Edison International reported Monday that their equipment may have helped ignite the fires now burning across the state. The companies’ stocks consequently took a steep hit and an investigation is underway into their role in causing the fires.    

Utility analysts say that California utilities face a real financial crisis as billion-dollar wildfires turn into a yearly occurrence. Even though California passed a law this year that allows utilities to recover their wildfire-related liability costs by charging consumers more, the law does not cover damage costs from this year’s fires. The legislation applies to the 2017 fire costs and includes a mechanism for cost recovery starting in 2019. Lawmakers could still revise the law to cover this year’s fires. 

Still, that doesn’t completely eliminate the liability risk for the electric utilities, especially as climate change continues to exacerbate fire risk. 

“These fires pose the biggest risk California utilities have ever faced — even bigger than Enron,” Bloomberg Intelligence utility analyst Jaimin Patel said. “With fires like this for a few more years, bankruptcy becomes a real possibility.”

PG&E informed the SEC on Tuesday that it has maxed out its revolving credit, already borrowing $3 billon. The utility said it plans to use the cash for “highly liquid short-term investments” and for “general corporate purposes.” PG&E also noted in its SEC filing that it could face “significant liability in excess of insurance coverage” if it is found to be responsible for starting the Camp Fire.  

Press link for more: Climate liability

Fifty arrests as #climatechange activists descend on London again #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #TheDrum #QandA

Almost 50 climate change activists have now been arrested in London this week after tags were spray painted on the government’s environment headquarters and a huge banner was unfurled on Westminster Bridge.

Extinction Rebellion campaigners descended on the capital again today following a blockade at the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy department in Victoria Street.

The group displayed a huge banner on Westminster Bridge, reading “Climate Change… We’re F***ed”, while others staged a sit-in at the entrances to Defraand Downing Street.

The campaigners turned their attention to the threat of an “imminent” global food crisis.

Climate change activists staged a second day of civil disobedience today, as they call on the government to take Britain’s commitments to greenhouse gas emissions seriously. (Extinction Rebellion)

The Met Police said 27 people were arrested on suspicion of various offences, including obstruction of a public highway and criminal damage.

At least seven of those were from Downing Street, the group said, and another seven at the Department for Food and Rural Affairs.

We await confirmation of any charges.

Extinction Rebellion activists hit Westminster with civil disobedience

The action follows Monday’s blockade at the BEIS headquarters which saw people glue themselves to the doors to prevent staff gaining access – 22 people were arrested in total.

George Barda of the group told the Standard that while fracking may be the most visible ecological issue in Britain, we face a must more sinister threat from the neglect of farm lands and countryside, as billions of hectares of farming land is lost every year.

He said: “Fracking is just the most overt manifestation of the government’s failure to protect the environment. The focus today is on land use.

A protester glues he hand to a fence outside Downing Street as part of a civil disobedience by Extinction Rebellion. Activists are calling on the government to act to turnaround environmental policy as part of a week of coordinated actions. (Extinction Rebellion)

Michael Gove has been spouting nice words about how we should take our soil seriously, but the reality is that large areas of the country have seen decline in soil fertility. and we are facing a major food shortage.”

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has reported that humanity has roughly 50-60 harvests left, at the current rate of rising infertility and loss of land.

“Without a functioning planet, all our other problems become minor in comparison,” said Mr Barda, on the eve of a major announcement on the state of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The need for action must transcend politics, he added, while the Conservative government makes only “rhetorical” commitments on environmental matters.

“When the Tories shook off the Lib Dems they stripped the renewable energy industry of all support overnight and killed 30,000 jobs,” the activist said. “We’ve got to dissuade people form the idea that a nice environment is some kind of luxury. It’s the air we breath and the food we eat.

The FAO said: “The main problem humanity is currently facing is not global warming, extinction of species or any other environmental crisis – the main problem we will have to face is the degradation of our soils.

“The world population continues to increase while we destroy more and more topsoil. If this is allowed to continue there won’t be enough fertile soil left to feed a growing world population.”

Christian Climate Action campaigners who joined them said at least five of their members were arrested, with some bundled to the ground, handcuffed and carried to police vans during the non-violent protest.

Holly-Anna Petersen of the group said police were forcefully pushing down members as they made arrests.

“There are photos on our twitter of them pushing some of our members to the ground with incredible force – I think that they were on high alert today due to everything that was happening with Brexit,” she said. “I was really scared for one of our members who is 82 years old, but he is very brave and determined.

“People around our world are already suffering the effects of climate change and scientists have said that if we carry on our current trajectory that we will have climate breakdown by 2030.

“We need the political will to unlock this. In the last few years the government has virtually banned onshore wind, slashed subsidies for electric vehicles, promoted fracking, cancelled the zero carbon homes initiative and scrapped solar subsidies.

“We have tried all other mechanisms to bring about change and they have failed. Non-violent direct action is the only means that we have left to wake up our politicians.”

A government spokesperson said in an earlier comment: “The UK is a world leader in the fight against climate change. Natural gas can continue to play a role as we deliver our emissions reduction targets, so it is only right that we utilise our domestic gas resources as we transition to a low-carbon economy.

“Shale gas has the potential to be a new domestic energy source, enhancing our energy security and delivering economic benefits, including the creation of well paid, quality jobs.”

Press link for more: Evening Standard

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