2017 A year of dark hours & green optimism #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

James Murray reviews a year in which terrifying climate impacts wrestled with heartening green business breakthroughs

The default setting of business is optimism.

No one starts a company imagining the day bailiffs knock at the door.

No one goes to a job interview and asks about the redundancy package.

Optimism is doubly important to green businesses.

There is the standard commercial optimism the enterprise will prove a world-beating success. And then there is the environmentalists’ optimism that they might deliver world-saving success.

The past year has seen this optimism sorely tested. Not to breaking point – never to breaking point. But it has still been more brutally challenged than at any point in the decade BusinessGreen has been covering these issues.

The terrifying metrics have been repeated so often they risk losing potency, but there is no alternative but to keep facing up to them.

The story that should dominate every end of year round up from every media outlet on the planet came last month in the form of two reports released at the UN climate summit in Bonn.

The first confirmed atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are at their highest levels in at least 800,000 years and possibly three to five million years.

As Dr Emily Shuckburgh of the British Antarctic Survey told the BusinessGreen Leaders’ Summit this autumn, the last time concentrations of greenhouse gas were as high as they are now sea levels were around 10 metres higher.

Up to two metres of sea level rise this century is now entirely plausible.

However, it was the second report that was the real kicker.

The Global Carbon Project predicted carbon emissions will rise this year after four years when flat emissions fuelled hopes global economic growth and carbon emissions had been decoupled.

There are reasons to hope this is just a blip. The data is preliminary and the primary driver of any increase appears to be lower than expected hydropower output in China, which in turn led to an uptick in coal use. But China remains firmly committed to curbing its coal use and recently confirmed plans for a national carbon market to help drive the switch to cleaner energy sources.

Economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions have not suddenly recoupled.

And yet, even if the estimates of rising emissions prove to be overly pessimistic one thing is clear: they are not falling, are they? And they need to – fast.

Again at our BusinessGreen Leaders’ Summit, M&S’s Mike Barry observed that if, as the world’s science academies insist, we need to ensure global emissions peak by 2020 before falling sharply we have just 1,000 days to save the world.

With each day, month, year that passes the climate crisis gets more daunting.

But for all the progress made by green businesses the lack of urgency amongst political and business elites, not to mention the general populus, remains as palpable as it is terrifying.

Alongside the scientific warnings came economic studies showing investment in clean energy is likely to fall this year.

Thankfully levels of renewables deployment keep rising because the fall in investment is largely a function of the near miraculous reductions in the cost of clean power.

But even taking these plummeting cost into account, overall investment should not be falling – the decarbonisation challenge is too urgent for us to take our time.

The hope remains that once the impacts of climate change become truly explicit a full spectrum response will follow.

But here too optimism and sea fronts took a battering in 2017.

To borrow Al Gore’s line, the newsreels have looked like a “nature hike through the Book of Revelation”.

Despite the lack of an El Nino effect, 2017 is set to be the second or third hottest year on record; hurricanes unprecedented in their power pummelled the US and Caribbean; the largest wildfires California has ever seen burned deep into the Northern Hemisphere winter; scientists warned the “Arctic shows no sign of returning to the reliably frozen region of recent past decades”; studies revealed an ‘ecological armageddon‘ amongst insect populations; droughts fuelled famine and insecurity across East Africa and the Middle East; the UN warned the number of chronically undernourished people has risen for the first time since the turn of the century due in large part to climate impacts. “Alarm bells we cannot ignore,” declared the UN – and yet we can and we do.

Good men and women sought to amplify these alarm bells. David Wallace Wells penned an epic examination of the long tail, unlikely but not impossible risks of full-blown climate breakdown that we all too easily ignore (and got attacked by people who should know better for his trouble). Bill McKibben continued his campaign to raise awareness of the “hot new world” we live in. Emily Shuckburgh teamed up with Tony Juniper and Prince of Wales to produce a beautiful little book that attempted to explain climate risks to new audiences. The peerless George Monbiot again and again highlighted the terrifying and credible environmental projections coming out of the scientific community. Eric Holthaus documented the ‘ice apocalypse’ that is underway at the planet’s poles.

Meanwhile, in the world of business and politics AXA CEO Thomas Buberl pointedly observed that a “+4C world is not insurable”. Mark Carney continued to warn of climate risk and the “tragedy of the horizon”. President Macron stepped seamlessly into the role of global climate leader with his campaign to “make our planet great again”.

One of the few upsides of the climate crisis is it has unleashed a wave of evocative writing and memorable sound bites. Although it’s not much compensation, to be honest. I’d settle for fewer great essays and a more habitable biosphere.

Faced with the litany of climate impacts and avalanche of warnings, David Powell of the New Economics Foundation asked “what is this pathology”? What is it in our psychological make up that allows societies to accept these realities and then fail to adequately respond to them? To essentially shrug off the credible risk of apocalypse?

Pathology is the right word and if it is not yet fully understood we do know the evidence of it is everywhere. Because if 2017 was bleak from an environmental perspective, the political climate felt little better.

2017 was the year when the world’s understanding of the most powerful man on the planet moved from ‘he’s not necessarily dangerous and racist, he just says dangerous and racist things’ to ‘he is dangerous and racist, but he’s not necessarily fascist, he just says fascist things’.

Who knows where we go next.

To watch a US administration that has been completely captured by climate sceptic ideologues responding to hurricanes and wildfires with barely literate hymns to coal power and Arctic drilling felt like a sick joke.

But this disconnect is everywhere.

Mark Campanale of the Carbon Tracker think tank told a story this year of a meeting with a group of fund managers in California, where he struggled to convince them of the  climate-related risks in their portfolio even as they looked out the window of the skyscraper they were in and watched fires burn on the horizon.

In her MaddAddam trilogy, the novelist Margaret Atwood envisages a Church of PetrOleum that preaches about how “oil is holy throughout the Bible”. As the Trump administration releases a National Security Strategy that argues US leadership is “indispensable” in pushing back against an “anti-growth” and borderline immoral climate agenda, Atwood’s dystopian imaginings have never felt more prescient.

On this side of the Atlantic, the pathology is nowhere near as prevalent, but climate action has still been comprehensively overshadowed by the unending psychodrama that is Brexit.

There may well be good reasons to leave the EU and Brexit may yet be delivered in a way that averts national disaster. But watching the past year of ministerial mis-steps, botched elections, and Brussels-related monomania has only emphasised how Brexit remains a dire distraction from the real economic, social, and environmental challenges the UK faces.

When even one of the architects of the Vote Leave campaign has said he thought calling the referendum was a terrible idea and there were numerous other reforms the government should have pursued before addressing its relationship with the EU, it is hard to conclude the UK is engaged in anything other than an era-shaping bout of displacement activity – an exercise that could yet hand control of the government to a hard right cabal of climate sceptic, libertarian hacks.

But then again, we are hardly alone.

2017 has seen the forces of authoritarianism on the march – often with a battalion of climate scepticism on their right flank.

In Turkey, in Russia, in Hungary, in the US, even in Germany where support for the hard right effectively denied Merkel the opportunity to move forward with more ambitious decarbonisation plans, the kind of nationalist politics the West thought had been confined to the history books has enjoyed a shocking revival. As one observer put it on Twitter: “Nazis are bad. That is not an argument I was expecting to have to reprosecute”.

2017 was the year the political and cultural cold war that has been simmering since the 2008 financial crash broke into the open.

It is a battle progressive forces cannot duck away from, but it is also of grave concern that a time when international co-operation is desperately required to tackle the escalating climate threat the necessary geopolitical priority has become containing the spread of nationalist autocracy and avoiding the very real risk of a volatile and cornered US president turning trade wars into shooting wars.

The parallels with the 1930s may be imperfect, but at times they have felt fearfully relevant.

Faced with all this the one dominant question of the past year has been how to respond?

How do we get from ratcheting tensions and interlocking crises which are so reminiscent of the 1930s to a new green economic settlement and global low carbon infrastructure blitz to echo the 1950s and 1960s, only without going through any equivalent of the 1940s?

The truth is no-one has the answer.

Many of the people I speak to through my work at BusinessGreen are more worried than they have ever been.

On the record, the veneer of corporate optimism remains in place.

Off the record, for many the nagging sense that we are not making sufficient progress, that the risks are becoming ever more daunting is becoming harder to resist.

The green economy is chalking up more victories than ever before, but like an Escher Drawing the road ahead keeps getting steeper.

As a journalist I have no such professional constraints and few qualms about admitting how scared I become when considering the Himalayan environmental risks we face, which, inevitably, is most days.

When the most important thing in your life is two sons under the age of three and you have a good chance of living well into the second half of the century, the fact the worst climate impacts will not be felt for decades is little comfort.

Where then is the optimism to be found?

Was 2017 really that bleak?

Or are there countervailing forces mobilising against the elite-level indifference and vested interests that have acted a drag on green economic progress?

The good news – and there is good news – is that while they struggled to command headlines there were plenty of encouraging developments to pierce the gloom.

The best news came not in the form of the incremental environmental improvements made by thousands of businesses and governments around the world, but in the signs of inter-locking, economy-wide, systems level change that could yet provide a route to curbing global emissions during the 2020s.

More encouraging still, the pace at which these welcome developments are moving from well-meaning idea to global trend or technological breakthrough appears to be accelerating, even as public support for decarbonisation grows.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance provided one such example, moving from a concept cooked up by the British and Canadian government to a global push backed by over 50 countries, regions and businesses within a matter of months.

Similarly, the Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) has, in less than a year, moved from an academic exercise to a market-shaping endeavour fully endorsed by 225 global investors with more than $26.3tr in assets under management and 237 firms with a market capitalisation of $6.3tr. It is easy to see how within a few short years every listed company on the planet will face calls from shareholders to explain how they plan to adjust to a decarbonising economy and escalating climate risks.

The divestment trend has enjoyed a longer gestation period, but this year again saw significant breakthroughs. Arguably the three most powerful and influential investors in the world – Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, the World Bank, and Blackrock – all took sizeable steps towards either ending investment in carbon intensive assets or engaging with companies to force them to come forward with climate strategies.

Many of the bellwether businesses that set global corporate norms refused to bow to the bully in the White House and quietly intensified their climate strategies. At the last count over 300 companies had committed to setting and meeting science-based emissions targets. Coupled with the RE100 initiative to source 100 per cent renewables, the EP100 initiative to double energy productivity, and the EV100 initiative to switch to electric fleets, this year saw the emergence of a viable blueprint to decarbonise multinational giants.

Crucially, we even began to see some of the oil and energy majors get in on the act. DONG Energy changed its name to Ørsted, because the ONG stood for oil and gas and it didn’t want to do that anymore. Shell opened its first electric vehicle charging stations and BP returned to the solar market. Only this week BHP Billiton said it was preparing to quit the World Coal Association over a stance on climate change the mining giant regarded as less than constructive.

These corporate trends formed a virtuous circle with similarly encouraging technological trends. Records for renewables costs and output were toppled. In the UK, the first day without coal power since the Industrial Revolution was recorded. The offshore wind industry delivered a previously unimaginable feat of engineering and economics, declaring it had halved the cost of the power it could deliver inside four years. Solar, wind, and energy storage costs kept falling and smart grid functionality continued to improve, making renewables the default option for new generation projects in a growing number of countries, even when grid balancing costs are considered.

In the field of transport, Volvo pledged to end the sale of conventional internal combustion engine cars, as auto giants around the world rushed to electrify their fleets in response to tightening air quality rules and mounting consumer interest. Elon Musk unveiled an electric truck that could conceivably transform global supply chains (and delivered the world’s largest battery storage project inside 100 days for good measure). Progress in green aviation and shipping industry continued to disappoint, but there were signs key players such as Airbus and Rolls Royce are finally starting to take decarbonisation seriously with fresh investments in the development of electric aircraft.

In many countries a third force also contributed to this virtuous circle, as two years on from the Paris Agreement governments began to strengthen the climate policy landscape.

Emmanuel Macron pulled off a shock election victory on a platform that prioritised bold climate action. The Chinese government continued to work on an emissions trading scheme that will dwarf the original European market, and the EU edged forward with plans for a new wave of post-2020 climate goals.

In the UK, an election that saw the ruling Conservative Party lose votes because of the perception it did not care about the environment sparked something of a green policy arms race. Now the talk in Westminster is of a Green Brexit, a plastic pollution crackdown, and an industrial and clean growth strategy centred on clean tech innovation, low carbon infrastructure, and green finance. The policy signals in support of green investment and corporate decarbonisation have never been stronger.

Meanwhile, 2017 has also emphasised how change is afoot amongst the public. Polls show how people under 40 are demanding ever more environmental action from political and business leaders. The lag time between the launch of a campaign – on plastic waste or air quality, for example – and it reaching the critical mass at which companies and governments have to respond is shortening all the time.

Globally, millennials’ frustration with a broken economic system that is degrading the planet and struggling to deliver on its promises is only going to grow. At the same time younger people’s willingness to engage with new business models and emerging value systems that place less emphasis on endless consumption is opening up fascinating new economic possibilities. Culturally, the #MeToo movement has powerfully demonstrated how toxic behaviours that have been tolerated for decades can quickly be called to account once a social tipping point is triggered.

All these trends have not yet added up to a tangible reduction in global emissions, but there are encouraging signs that one day soon they could.

A report from the World Resources Institute this year revealed 49 countries covering around 36 per cent of global emissions have already seen their carbon output peak. Separately, a report from IRENA explored how the national climate action plans put forward under the Paris Agreement are underselling the amount of renewable energy capacity many countries are planning to deploy. There are reasons to think that while we are not yet doing enough to avoid the worst climate change impacts, the proven viability of clean technologies and strengthening market forces mean we might be doing a bit better than we think.

Of course, the problem all these sources of green optimism face can be summed up in one word: politics. Both corporate politics and politics politics.

For every company pursuing a credible decarbonisation strategy there are many more staring at their shoes whenever the subject of climate action is brought up. I had lunch recently with a sustainability executive who admitted the failure to pick the lowest of low hanging fruit remained a source of constant frustration. The example they offered was LED lighting – an established technology that can deliver payback periods of less than two years, millions of pounds in savings, and millions more tonnes of emissions reductions. And yet a combination of chronic short termism, management incompetence, and the failure to prioritise climate action mean thousands of firms are deferring investment in a technology that could save them money.

The political sphere sees much the same phenomenon. Leaving aside the dysfunction of the Trump administration, around the world there are numerous well-meaning political leaders who are happy embracing climate action, but only up to the point where they face even the smallest amount of pushback from the media or vested interests.

This year the UK government unveiled a welcome and ambitious Clean Growth Strategy, but it was hamstrung by the failure to properly fund new energy efficiency programmes and the inability of the government to face down the handful of vocal media critics who loathe onshore wind and solar farms. Only this week the government put forward a diluted plan to improve the efficiency of the coldest private rental properties, weakening its emissions-saving ambition in order to keep landlords happy. Some days it feels like Theresa May might as well have done with it and just give Paul Dacre a seat at the cabinet table.

But if green business optimism has been tested in 2017 it has remained intact, and not just for professional and psychological reasons.

The chasm between the best and the worst of the past year is itself a source of hope, as well as fear. The hope is that while the forces of reactionary nationalism may be enjoying a good run they are at the same time fuelling a backlash, which, when it comes, will usher in a whole new era of progressive economics and values.

It is too early to say for sure, but it is possible the rise of Trumpism represents a final noxious belch for an entitled pollutocrat class of toxic masculinity that has dangerously stirred up a hornets’ nest of populist nationalism in order to defend its unsustainable interests. If this movement was to collapse under its own contradictions and corruptions, and a peaceful pushback could be engineered, then climate action and the green businesses that are driving it are perfectly positioned to build a new economic model that both tackles the environmental crisis and addresses the social challenges that gave rise to the new populists in the first place.

As 2017 draws to a close it is hard to tell whether we are approaching a turning point from which global climate action will rapidly accelerate, or are treading water as some terrifying political and climatic forces gain momentum.

If global greenhouse gas emissions really are rising again, if Trump’s world view does become normalised, if the bursting of the carbon bubble prompts petro-states to lash out in defence of their diminishing power, then there is no denying the outlook could get bleak, and fast.

But then again, as Bob Dylan once sang, “they say the darkest hour is right before the dawn”. As a New Year awaits the job of green businesses is to nurture their natural optimism, face down their opponents, and redouble efforts to build a genuinely sustainable economy as quickly as possible.

A brighter 2018 is not just possible, it’s essential.

Press link for more: Business Green


Women, Gender Equality & #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol

Women, gender equality and climate change: driving forward!

Fanny-Benedetti & Celine Mas

French President Emmanuel Macron again sounded the alarm at the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

At the summit, which took place from 6 to 17 November 2017 in Bonn, he warned that the planet is under threat and that if we continue on our current trajectory, we risk “tacitly, collectively accepting the disappearance of a significant number of populations by 2100.”

Furthermore, a group of over 15,000 scientists from more than 184 countries have issued a notice highlighting our moral imperative to current and future generations to take action to reverse the vicious cycles that have been created by the overexploitation of the planet’s natural resources and through our unsustainable modes of production and consumption, which represent a risk for the future of all of humanity.

As the primary users of new agricultural techniques, as green energy entrepreneurs, or simply as those who decide on modes of consumption and behaviour within the family, women are key actors in bringing about change and developing solutions that secure our transition to a sustainable future.

While climate negotiations are failing to give us news that’s sufficiently heartening, the increasing attention given to the specific role of women in the fight against climate disruption and the ecological transition is a reason to feel encouraged.

Again this year, at the COP23 in Bonn, the role of women took the spotlight thanks to the activism of the feminist associations present, such as Care France, Adéquations and Women in Europe for a Common Future, which alongside UN Women have tirelessly brought the subject to attention, at every stage in the negotiation process.

These advocacy efforts are starting to pay off, as the states have just adopted a gender-focused action plan, a first within the framework of these negotiations. The plan obliges states to make commitments that go beyond making observations on the differentiated impact that climate change has on men and women, by ensuring that all of their climate mitigation efforts are designed to decrease this gender gap, whereby women are disproportionately affected.

In fact, each change to the climate affects women in a specific way, especially in the Global South, because female populations in these countries provide an essential contribution to food security, agriculture, health and energy sectors. Every consequence of climate change which impacts on natural resources — such as drought, flooding and other extreme meteorological events—will exacerbate the poverty of these women who generally carry out household tasks unaided.

The risk of death as a result of natural disasters linked to climate change is 14 times higher for women and children, essentially because they are not the primary beneficiaries of catastrophe alert and prevention programmes.

If women have often been considered as secondary actors, it’s time for a thorough review, appreciation and endorsement of their vital role. This inevitably means reassessing the way that financing is attributed.

Studies show that taking gender into account in policies focused on development, transport, sustainable forest management, water management and renewable energy strengthens their impact and increases their socio-economic return on investment. Taking action in favour of women and for equality therefore means contributing to the fight against climate change.

UN Women notably supports women’s action on climate change through its International Day of Rural Women on 15 October, and its flagship programme which promotes women’s empowerment through climate-smart agriculture. This programme aims to improve African women’s access to technology and information by managing digital platforms for women and providing agricultural data in real time such as information on farming technology, market prices and weather forecasts, as well as increasing women’s access to financing, credit and investment.

In France, women are already at the forefront of activities in the social and solidarity economy sector, in agribusiness, health, social integration and recycling.

However, the means allocated to gender concerns in the climate sphere remain largely insufficient. In 2015, only 0.01 percent of international funding was being used to support projects that incorporate both climate and women’s rights elements. This lack of access to funding is a serious impediment to the development of projects led by women that accelerate the ecological transition. The question of financing is undeniably one that states must address — by making real commitments — in order to create climate resilience, and to prevent humanity from suffering the worst consequences of its own imprudence.

Press link for more: The Hindu

#HurricaneHarvey Another Wake up call! #ClimateChange #Auspol #StopAdani 

Tropical Storm Harvey raises red flags on infrastructure, climate planning

Tropical Storm Harvey, which has shattered longstanding weather records, would’ve spelled disaster for just about any city it struck.

 After all, parts of the Houston area have received half their annual rainfall in just a few days’ time. 
Yet Houston is not an ordinary city when it comes to flood infrastructure. And this flood has lessons for policymakers at all levels of government — including President Donald Trump — about how to protect Americans in an era of rising disaster risks related to population growth, aging infrastructure, and climate change.
To some extent, the scenes of a major American city underwater seems like Mother Nature’s riposte to the Trump administration, which has spent 7 months methodically reversing the climate change policies enacted of President Barack Obama. 

From the planned pullout of the Paris Climate Agreement to an executive order pulling back Obama-era protections mandating that infrastructure plans take sea level rise into account, Trump is setting more American cities up for future Harvey-level disasters. 

The Houston flood is likely to go down in history as the worst flood in any U.S. city on record. 
That’s no surprise to experts who have long warned about Houston’s vulnerability to tropical storms and hurricanes. 

The city is low-lying, rapidly growing, and its government is paying little attention to long-term disaster risk management and resilience. 
History is replete with examples of severe Houston floods, including Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, which killed 41 and caused $9 billion in damage, as well as flooding in 2016 that shut down the city for days.    
Houston is America’s poster child of sprawl — with development policies that give little regard to the need for drainage systems.

 The city is criss-crossed by a complex network of bayous that are easily overwhelmed by heavy rain, made worse by sudden inflows of water from impervious surfaces like concrete. 
“Given that you have a city of 6.5 million people with a floodplain mostly paved over and populated, there’s a risk of this always,” said Adam Sobel, a professor of Earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University. 
River gauge showing record flooding on Aug. 28, 2017.

River gauge showing record flooding on Aug. 28, 2017.
Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, said Houston is a “perfect storm” of flood risk due to population growth, crumbling infrastructure, and development based on the “obsolete assumption” that we have a stable climate.

 Houston’s infrastructure flaws and extraordinary vulnerability to hurricanes were detailed in investigative reporting published last year by Pro Publica and the Texas Tribune.
Was this climate change?

 Sort of
Sobel, Hayhoe and others say that climate change may have played an important, but backseat role in creating the Houston flood disaster, with development decisions serving to more sharply heighten Houston’s vulnerability to flash flooding.
“I think it’s clear that this storm or something close to it could’ve happened without any climate change,” Sobel said, adding that climate change may have exacerbated the storm’s hazards

As for global warming’s possible role in this event, climate scientists say there are aspects of this storm that are suspicious, and may point toward possible links to global warming. 
One is the sheer amount of rain, upwards of 40 inches already, with final rainfall totals of 50 inches not out of the question. 

If this is reached, it would set an all-time Texas record. 

Another is the sheer tenacity of the storm, which has remained a named tropical storm longer than any landfalling tropical cyclone in Texas’ history, according to hurricane statistics expert Philip Klotzbach of Colorado State University.
The science linking Harvey to global warming is tenuous, however, but may be firmed up over time by peer reviewed studies. 
Scientists suspect that the storm has lasted longer over land and dumped more rain than it otherwise would have, thanks to the ability of a warmer atmosphere to contain more moisture.
Studies published in the past few years have shown that extreme precipitation events are becoming more common and more extreme in many parts of the world as the air and oceans continues to warm, and that this trend is expected to continue. 
With tropical storms and hurricanes, computer model simulations show that future storms are likely to be wetter, posing even greater inland flood challenges than we’re used to now. 
There are elements of Harvey that stand out, including the 16.07 inches of rain that fell in Houston on August 27, setting a record for the wettest day in that city’s history. The storm has dropped so much rain in southeast Texas that the National Weather Service had to add a new color to its maps. 
Scientists are likely to conduct extreme event attribution studies on the heavy rainfall from Hurricane Harvey, Sobel said, and these are likely, though not guaranteed, to show a climate change-related increase in the odds for such extreme rainfall amounts.

“If I had to guess what those studies to show they’ll indicate that rainfall was magnified somewhat by the warmer atmosphere so that whatever the cost of this event… it will be a little higher than it would’ve otherwise been,” Sobel said.
Hayhoe agrees, saying, “Will there be more rain associated with a given hurricane? That is not a hard question to answer: The answer is yes.”
The rainfall totals have reached a historic magnitude in large part because the storm has sat nearly stationary since Saturday, pulling in moisture off the Gulf of Mexico and dumping it on southeast Texas. 
Tropical Storm Harvey has been caught between two high pressure areas, a strong one to the west and another to the east. These have left it up to its own devices, as upper level steering currents collapsed. 
This lack of movement is unlikely to be related to global warming, Sobel and others said, but some research has shown a possible link between blocking high pressure areas, stuck weather patterns, and global warming.
“Every event has many causes and the predominant one is always natural. But climate change can amplify the odds,” Sobel said.
Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, said the historic rains can be thought of as the result of a combination of a climate change-related increase in water vapor plus a big contribution from natural weather patterns, which can greatly amplify the water vapor present in a given storm. 
Chart showing the level of scientific confidence in attributing types of extreme weather events to climate change.

Chart showing the level of scientific confidence in attributing types of extreme weather events to climate change.
national Academy of Sciences
“The outstanding thing about recent storms has been the prodigious rainfalls: over Louisiana one year ago, and the with [Hurricane] Matthew in October last year,” he said in an email. 
“In both cases record amounts of total column water vapor (called precipitable water) were recorded with radiosondes. 

No wonder the flooding occurred,” Trenberth said, referring to measurements from weather balloons. 
Hayhoe said reducing flood risk in cities like Houston will require sustained investments in improved infrastructure. 

Such actions would need to take into account the fact that our climate is changing, and that what was once a 500-year-flood is now closer to a 1-in-50 year event.
“If we build based only on what we’ve seen in the past, we won’t be able to cope with the naturally-occurring weather and extreme events that we get today, many of which are being exacerbated by the changing climate,” she said.
“Unfortunately, long-term planning and investment is not really a hot topic or a soundbite these days for many politicians,” she said. “It’s a very difficult thing to do.”

Press link for more: Mashable.com

Hiatus in Warming, Arctic Amplification & Extreme Events.

Hiatus in Warming, Arctic Amplification, Extreme Events.

Three paradoxes; sulphate cooling and solar cycle do not explain hiatus; links to La Nina and AMOC ocean heat sequestration can; Arctic warming accelerated during hiatus as did sea ice and snow cover retreat; mid-latitude extreme events increased; possible unified explanation;
present, future impacts of arctic warming.


Climate science: Paleoclimatology.


Earth’s climate in the past 65 million years; orbital forcing and ice ages; instability of ice age climates; abrupt events; volcanoes, ice, and ocean circulaFon; our benign interglacial;
medieval warm period and liUle ice age; the Anthropocene.


Origins of modern climate research.

Historical pioneers; the greenhouse effect; the increase of atmospheric CO2 concentraFons; earth system science, climate models, space observaFons; earth’s radiaFon balance and carbon cycle;
hard truths about climate change; ethical dilemmas; governance


How Climate Change Leads to Volcanoes (Really)

Give climate change credit for one thing: it’s endlessly versatile. There was a time we called it global warming, which meant what it said: the globe would get warmer. It was only later that we appreciated that a planet running a fever is just like a person running a fever, which is to say it has a whole lot of other symptoms: in this case, droughts, floods, wildfires, habitat disruption, sea level rise, species loss, crop death and more.

Now, you can add yet another problem to the climate change hit list: volcanoes. That’s the word from a new study conducted in Iceland and accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters. The finding is bad news not just for one comparatively remote part of the world, but for everywhere.

Jeffery Kluger | time.com