Wind & Solar get the thumbs-up. #auspol #StopAdani

One of the biggest criticisms against wind and solar energy has been quashed
Akshat Rathi

One of the biggest criticisms of the renewable-energy industry is that it has been propped up by government subsidies. 

There is no doubt that without government help, it would have been much harder for the nascent technology to mature. But what’s more important is whether there has been a decent return on taxpayers’ investment.

A new analysis in Nature Energy gives renewable-energy subsidies the thumbs-up.

 Dev Millstein of Lawerence Berkeley National Laboratory and his colleagues find that the fossil fuels not burnt because of wind and solar energy helped avoid between 3,000 and 12,700 premature deaths in the US between 2007 and 2015. 

Fossil fuels produce large amounts of pollutants like carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter, which are responsible for ill-health and negative climate effects.

The researchers found that the US saved between $35 billion and $220 billion in that period because of avoided deaths, fewer sick days, and climate-change mitigation.
How do these benefits compare to the US government’s outlays? “The monetary value of air quality and climate benefits are about equal or more than state and federal financial support to wind and solar industries,” says Millstein.
Between 2007 and 2015, Quartz’s own analysis* finds that the US government likely spent between $50 billion and $80 billion on subsidies for those two industries. Even on the lower end of the benefits and higher end of subsidies, just the health and climate benefits of renewable energy return about half of taxpayers’ money. If the US were to stop subsidies now, those benefits would continue to accrue for the lifetime of the already existing infrastructure, improving the long-term return of the investments.
What’s more, those benefits do not account for everything. Creation of a new industry spurs economic growth, creates new jobs, and leads to technology development. There isn’t yet an estimation of what sort of money that brings in, but it’s likely to be a tidy sum.
To be sure, the marginal benefits of additional renewable energy production will start to fall in the future. That is, for every new megawatt of renewable energy produced, an equal amount of pollution won’t be avoided, which means the number of lives saved, and monetary benefits generated, will fall. But Millstein thinks that we won’t reach that point for some time—at least in the US.
The debate whether subsidies to the renewable industry are worth it rages across the world. Though the results of this study are only directly applicable to the US, many rich countries have similar factors at play and are likely to produce similar cost-benefit analyses.

Press link for more: QZ.Com

Systemic Change our only hope. #StopAdani #auspol 

By Richard Heinberg.

Systemic Change Driven by Moral Awakening Is Our Only Hope
Our core ecological problem is not climate change.

It is overshoot, of which global warming is a symptom.

Overshoot is a systemic issue.

Over the past century-and-a-half, enormous amounts of cheap energy from fossil fuels enabled the rapid growth of resource extraction, manufacturing and consumption; and these in turn led to population increase, pollution and loss of natural habitat and hence biodiversity.

The human system expanded dramatically, overshooting Earth’s long-term carrying capacity for humans while upsetting the ecological systems we depend on for our survival.

Until we understand and address this systemic imbalance, symptomatic treatment (doing what we can to reverse pollution dilemmas like climate change, trying to save threatened species and hoping to feed a burgeoning population with genetically modified crops) will constitute an endlessly frustrating round of stopgap measures that are ultimately destined to fail.

The ecology movement in the 1970s benefitted from a strong infusion of systems thinking, which was in vogue at the time (ecology—the study of the relationships between organisms and their environments—is an inherently systemic discipline, as opposed to studies like chemistry that focus on reducing complex phenomena to their components).

As a result, many of the best environmental writers of the era framed the modern human predicament in terms that revealed the deep linkages between environmental symptoms and the way human society operates.

Limits to Growth (1972), an outgrowth of the systems research of Jay Forrester, investigated the interactions between population growth, industrial production, food production, resource depletion and pollution.

Overshoot (1982), by William Catton, named our systemic problem and described its origins and development in a style any literate person could appreciate.

Many more excellent books from the era could be cited.
However, in recent decades, as climate change has come to dominate environmental concerns, there has been a significant shift in the discussion.

Today, most environmental reporting is focused laser-like on climate change, and systemic links between it and other worsening ecological dilemmas (such as overpopulation, species extinctions, water and air pollution, and loss of topsoil and fresh water) are seldom highlighted.

It’s not that climate change isn’t a big deal. As a symptom, it’s a real doozy.

There’s never been anything quite like it, and climate scientists and climate-response advocacy groups are right to ring the loudest of alarm bells. But our failure to see climate change in context may be our undoing.

Why have environmental writers and advocacy organizations succumbed to tunnel vision?

Perhaps it’s simply that they assume systems thinking is beyond the capacity of policy makers. It’s true: If climate scientists were to approach world leaders with the message, “We have to change everything, including our entire economic system—and fast,” they might be shown the door rather rudely.

A more acceptable message is, “We have identified a serious pollution problem, for which there are technical solutions.”

Perhaps many of the scientists who did recognize the systemic nature of our ecological crisis concluded that if we can successfully address this one make-or-break environmental crisis, we’ll be able to buy time to deal with others waiting in the wings (overpopulation, species extinctions, resource depletion and on and on).
If climate change can be framed as an isolated problem for which there is a technological solution, the minds of economists and policy makers can continue to graze in familiar pastures.

Technology—in this case, solar, wind and nuclear power generators, as well as batteries, electric cars, heat pumps and, if all else fails, solar radiation management via atmospheric aerosols—centers our thinking on subjects like financial investment and industrial production.

Discussion participants don’t have to develop the ability to think systemically, nor do they need to understand the Earth system and how human systems fit into it.

All they need trouble themselves with is the prospect of shifting some investments, setting tasks for engineers and managing the resulting industrial-economic transformation so as to ensure that new jobs in green industries compensate for jobs lost in coal mines.
The strategy of buying time with a techno-fix presumes either that we will be able to institute systemic change at some unspecified point in the future even though we can’t do it just now (a weak argument on its face), or that climate change and all of our other symptomatic crises will in fact be amenable to technological fixes.

The latter thought-path is again a comfortable one for managers and investors.

After all, everybody loves technology.

It already does nearly everything for us. During the last century it solved a host of problems: it cured diseases, expanded food production, sped up transportation and provided us with information and entertainment in quantities and varieties no one could previously have imagined.

Why shouldn’t it be able to solve climate change and all the rest of our problems?

Of course, ignoring the systemic nature of our dilemma just means that as soon as we get one symptom corralled, another is likely to break loose.

But, crucially, is climate change, taken as an isolated problem, fully treatable with technology?

Color me doubtful.

I say this having spent many months poring over the relevant data with David Fridley of the energy analysis program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Our resulting book, Our Renewable Future, concluded that nuclear power is too expensive and risky; meanwhile, solar and wind power both suffer from intermittency, which (once these sources begin to provide a large percentage of total electrical power) will require a combination of three strategies on a grand scale: energy storage, redundant production capacity and demand adaptation.

At the same time, we in industrial nations will have to adapt most of our current energy usage (which occurs in industrial processes, building heating and transportation) to electricity.

Altogether, the energy transition promises to be an enormous undertaking, unprecedented in its requirements for investment and substitution.

When David and I stepped back to assess the enormity of the task, we could see no way to maintain current quantities of global energy production during the transition, much less to increase energy supplies so as to power ongoing economic growth.

The biggest transitional hurdle is scale: the world uses an enormous amount of energy currently; only if that quantity can be reduced significantly, especially in industrial nations, could we imagine a credible pathway toward a post-carbon future.

Downsizing the world’s energy supplies would, effectively, also downsize industrial processes of resource extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and waste management.

That’s a systemic intervention, of exactly the kind called for by the ecologists of the 1970s who coined the mantra, “Reduce, reuse and recycle.”

It gets to the heart of the overshoot dilemma—as does population stabilization and reduction, another necessary strategy.

But it’s also a notion to which technocrats, industrialists, and investors are virulently allergic.
The ecological argument is, at its core, a moral one—as I explain in more detail in a just-released manifesto replete with sidebars and graphics (“There’s No App for That: Technology and Morality in the Age of Climate Change, Overpopulation, and Biodiversity Loss”).

Any systems thinker who understands overshoot and prescribes powerdown as a treatment is effectively engaging in an intervention with an addictive behavior.

Society is addicted to growth, and that’s having terrible consequences for the planet and, increasingly, for us as well.

We have to change our collective and individual behavior and give up something we depend on—power over our environment.

We must restrain ourselves, like an alcoholic foreswearing booze. That requires honesty and soul-searching.
In its early years the environmental movement made that moral argument, and it worked up to a point.

Concern over rapid population growth led to family planning efforts around the world. Concern over biodiversity declines led to habitat protection. Concern over air and water pollution led to a slew of regulations.

These efforts weren’t sufficient, but they showed that framing our systemic problem in moral terms could get at least some traction.
Why didn’t the environmental movement fully succeed?

Some theorists now calling themselves “bright greens” or “eco-modernists” have abandoned the moral fight altogether.

Their justification for doing so is that people want a vision of the future that’s cheery and that doesn’t require sacrifice.

Now, they say, only a technological fix offers any hope.

The essential point of this essay (and my manifesto) is simply that, even if the moral argument fails, a techno-fix won’t work either.

A gargantuan investment in technology (whether next-generation nuclear power or solar radiation geo-engineering) is being billed as our last hope. But in reality it’s no hope at all.
The reason for the failure thus far of the environmental movement wasn’t that it appealed to humanity’s moral sentiments—that was in fact the movement’s great strength. The effort fell short because it wasn’t able to alter industrial society’s central organizing principle, which is also its fatal flaw: its dogged pursuit of growth at all cost. Now we’re at the point where we must finally either succeed in overcoming growthism or face the failure not just of the environmental movement, but of civilization itself.
The good news is that systemic change is fractal in nature: it implies, indeed it requires, action at every level of society.

We can start with our own individual choices and behavior; we can work within our communities.

We needn’t wait for a cathartic global or national sea change.

And even if our efforts cannot “save” consumerist industrial civilization, they could still succeed in planting the seeds of a regenerative human culture worthy of survival.
There’s more good news: Once we humans choose to restrain our numbers and our rates of consumption, technology can assist our efforts.

Machines can help us monitor our progress, and there are relatively simple technologies that can help deliver needed services with less energy usage and environmental damage.

Some ways of deploying technology could even help us clean up the atmosphere and restore ecosystems.
But machines can’t make the key choices that will set us on a sustainable path.

Systemic change driven by moral awakening: it’s not just our last hope; it’s the only real hope we’ve ever had.

Press link for more: Eco watch

South Australia to build World’s biggest Solar Thermal Plant. #auspol 

South Australia Will Be Home to the World’s Biggest Single-Tower Solar Thermal Power Plant
South Australia has approved the biggest solar thermal power plant of its kind in the world. The 150-megawatt structure received the green light from government officials this week. The plant will be constructed in Port Augusta. 

The project will provide employment for over 600 construction workers and will provide more than enough energy for the state’s requirements.

[Image Source: Solar Reserve]
Project expects to be running by 2020
The renewable energy project will kick off next year and be completed by 2020. 

The US$510 million project is the latest in a long line of renewable energy projects the state is tackling.

 Wasim Saman, from the University of South Australia, explains “The significance of solar thermal generation lies in its ability to provide energy virtually on demand through the use of thermal energy storage to store heat for running the power turbines.”

 He adds, “This is a substantially more economical way of storing energy than using batteries.”

The most common form of solar power uses solar photovoltaic panels to convert sunlight directly into electricity. 

This method of energy production then requires batteries to store the excess power.

 Solar thermal plants on the other hand use mirrors to concentrate the sunlight into a heating system. 

The method of heating can vary but for the South Australian plant, molten salt will be heated up.
This is a much more economical method than using regular batteries.

 The hot salt is then used to boil water, spin a steam turbine, and generate electricity when required.
Designers of the Port Augusta project say that the plant will have the ability to generate power at full load for up to 8 hours after the sun’s gone down.

 The South Australian project will be modeling itself off another big solar thermal power plant. 

The 110-megawatt capacity Crescent Dunes plant in Nevada was built by the same contractor who will use the US model as the base.

[Image Source: Solar Reserve]

South Australia leading the way in renewables.
South Australia is a world leader in renewable energy. 

This latest project now means that around 40 percent of the state’s entire electricity needs are generated by renewable sources. 

It is hoped that the conversion to solar will also mean a cut in residential electricity costs. 

The new plant costs less than building a new coal-fired power station and works out to a similar cost per megawatt as other renewable sources such as solar and wind power.

Challenges still lie ahead
It isn’t all happy news though. 

South Australia was plagued by electricity blackouts last year and the unreliable renewable sources were blamed. 

Engineering researcher Fellow Matthew Stocks, from the Australian National University, says we still have “lots to learn” about how solar thermal technologies can fit into an electric grid system. 

He explains, “One of the big challenges for solar thermal as a storage tool is that it can only store heat. 

If there is an excess of electricity in the system because the wind is blowing strong, it cannot efficiently use it to store electrical power to shift the energy to times of shortage, unlike batteries and pumped hydro.”

Press link for more: Interesting Engineering

Choices to be made. #StopAdani #ClimateChange #auspol 

Choices to be made
02 August 2017

Local and regional authorities are making climate-conscious choices, whilst climate change impacts will soon mean individuals need to make choices to survive.
Subject terms:
Business and industry Climate-change impacts

Climate-change mitigation

The breaking off of a large piece (over 5,800 km2) of the Larson-C Ice Shelf has dominated the news headlines of late — a widening crack spread closer to the edge of the shelf, finally reaching the edge and freeing the iceberg on 12 July 2017. 

The dramatic and trackable event played out over weeks. 

It came in the aftermath of President Trump’s announcement of the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and in the lead up to a G20 climate discussion meeting.
The G20 meeting, held in Hamburg, Germany, concluded with a statement in which 19 of the 20 nations affirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement, citing that the agreement was ‘irreversible’. 

The US stands apart from this group, and considering the situation more broadly with Nicaragua and Syria, the only other nations not committing to the Paris Agreement.
Whether there will be a softening of the US stance is yet to be seen but it is heartening to see commitments from states and cities within the US stepping up to mitigate emissions while the federal government steps back. 

As Mark Watts, executive director of C40, writes in a Commentary (page 537) “Mayors of the world’s cities understand that there is no alternative to urgent, bold and transformative action against climate change.

 By the end of 2020, every C40 city will have a plan in place to ensure they can deliver on their obligations to the Paris Agreement.”

 In a related Feature (page 543), Erica Gies investigates the role of businesses, as a number of large corporations are making commitments in line with the Paris Agreement, supporting the work of cities and states.

Joerg Boethling / Alamy Stock Photo

To track progress and ensure countries and other committed parties are meeting their ambitions we need reliable data on emissions, which requires research funding and observing platforms.

 Mitigation commitments will hopefully also translate into funding to support these efforts.

 Another point to be considered is quantifying the baseline temperature from which warming will be measured, as discussed by Andrew Schurer and colleagues (page 563).

 The Paris Agreement aims to limit warming to 1.5 °C, but the pre-industrial temperature has not been defined and this Letter discusses the implications of different choices for likelihood and timing of exceedance of temperature targets, as well as allowable carbon emissions.
Action is needed: states and cities will have to, and are already starting to, deal with the consequences of a changing climate.

 California and China are discussing climate cooperation, with California all too aware of the challenges it will face having already experienced a number of years of extreme drought. 

The intensification of the hydrological cycle is discussed by Simon Wang and colleagues in a recent Commentary using recent events in California as an example (Nat. Clim. Change 7, 456–458; 2017). 

This change from extreme drought in 2012–2016 to extreme flooding over the 2016–2017 Californian winter is an example of anomalous circulation patterns that can persist and then flip, with such extremes being emphasized under climate change.
The situation in California is one example but, as has been reported in the literature, extremes of natural climate cycles are likely to increase, with El Niño having potentially far-reaching consequences due to its influence across the globe. 

Whilst the predictions are no longer suggesting there will be an El Niño event later this year, the warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures in the west Indian Ocean and the cooler-than-average temperatures in the east suggest a shift to a positive Indian Ocean dipole event. 

Positive Indian Ocean dipole is associated with extreme droughts in the eastern Indian Ocean nations and maritime continent, whilst if there is, as predicted, a positive Indian Ocean dipole this year, the drought-ravaged regions of Sudan and tropical eastern Africa could be hit by extreme rainfall, potentially leading to flooding and landslides (Cai et al. Nature 510, 254–258; 2014).

 This is a situation mirroring hydrological extremes seen in California, but in developing nations with less capacity to cope with such events.
Another example is flooding and inundation from sea-level rise and storm surge. A recent study looks at the lower 48 states of the USA and which coastal communities are suffering chronic flooding and inundation (Aton, A. Scientific American; 12 July 2017). 

The results show that over 90 communities already face chronic inundation, with the number projected to rapidly increase, dependent on emissions in the coming years.

 These communities will require fortification and adaptation to remain, or they will be forced to relocate.
The choice to abandon is not an easy one to make and an Article in this issue, and featured on the cover (page 581), investigates the choices being made by residents on four low-lying islands of the Philippines. 

These residents have chosen to remain and adapt despite a relocation plan being developed by the authorities. 

This is a choice that will hopefully be available to, but not needed by, others as the impacts of climate change continue to spread.

Press link for more:

What is the cost of 1M sea level rise? #StopAdani #auspol 

What is the Cost of One Meter of Sea Level Rise?
Guest Commentary
The opening line of our recent Scientific Reports article reads “Global climate change drives sea level rise, increasing the frequency of coastal flooding.” Some may read this as plain fact. Others may not.
Undeniable and accelerating

100 years of data from tide gauges and more recently from satellites has demonstrated an unequivocal rise in global sea level (~8-10 inches in the past century). Although regional sea level varies on a multitude of time scales due to oceanographic processes like El Niño and vertical land motion (e.g., land subsidence or uplift), the overall trend of rising sea levels is both undeniable and accelerating. Nevertheless, variability breeds doubt. Saying that global warming is a hoax because it’s cold outside is like saying sea level rise doesn’t exist because it’s low tide.
Global sea level is currently rising at 3–4 mm/year, making it a relatively slow process. For instance, tides typically change sea level by 0.5-1.0 m every 12 hours, a rate that is ~100,000 times faster than global mean sea level rise.
It’s almost as if sea-level rise were slow enough for us to do something about it…
The civil engineering challenge of the 21st century
At the end of a recent news article by New Scientist, Anders Levermann, a climate scientist for the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said “No one has to be afraid of sea level rise, if you’re not stupid. It’s low enough that we can respond. It’s nothing to be surprised about, unless you have an administration that says it’s not happening. Then you have to be afraid, because it’s a serious danger.”
Levermann’s quote captures the challenge of sounding the whistle on the dangers of climate change. We know that sea level rise is a problem; we know what’s causing it (increased concentrations of heat-trapping gasses like CO2 leading to the thermal expansion of sea water and the melting of land-based ice); we know how to solve the problem (reduce carbon emissions and cap global temperatures); yet, in spite of the warnings, the current administration recently chose to back out of a global initiative to address the problem.
Arguing that the Paris agreement is “unfair” to the American economy to the exclusive benefit of other countries is extremely shortsighted. This perspective serves to kick the climate-change can down the road for the next generation to pick up. This perspective, if it dominates US decision making moving forward, sets us up for the worst-case scenarios of sea-level rise (more than two meters by 2100). Worse yet, this perspective may take us beyond the time horizon in which a straightforward solution may be found, leaving geoengineering solutions as our last-and-only resort.
If the Paris agreement is unfair to the American economy, imagine about how unfair 2.0+ m of sea-level rise would be. We should seriously question the administration’s focus on improving national infrastructure without considering arguably the greatest threat to it. Sea-level rise will be one of, if not THE greatest civil engineering challenge of the 21st century.
Sea level rise will:
Challenge the very existence of low-lying island nations throughout the world

Dramatically increase the frequency of both nuisance and extreme flooding

Create widespread beach and cliff erosion, damaging coastal property and infrastructure

Make flood insurance unaffordable and unviable

Lead to salt-water intrusion in coastal aquifers, accelerating corrosion of waste- and storm-water drainage systems and affecting water quality and water resources

An astronomically high dollar figure
As a thought experiment, try to quantify the economic value of one meter of sea level rise. Low-lying coastal regions support 30% of the global population and, most likely, a comparable percentage of the global economy. Even if each meter of sea level rise only affected a small percentage of this wealth and economic productivity, it would still represent an astronomically high dollar figure.
Although managed retreat from the coastline is considered a viable option for climate change adaptation, I don’t see a realistic option where we relocate major coastal cities such as New York City, Boston, New Orleans, Miami, Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles.
What will convince the powers-that-be that unabated sea level rise is an unacceptable outcome of climate change? Historically, the answer to this question is disasters of epic proportions.
Hurricane Sandy precipitated large-scale adaptation planning efforts in New York City. Nuisance flooding in Miami has led to a number of on-going infrastructure improvements. The Dutch coast is being engineered to withstand once-in-10,000-year storms. Fortunately, most nations and US states, particular coastal states like Hawaii and California, will abide the Paris agreement.
This administration doesn’t seem to care about the science of climate change, but it does seem to care about economic winners and losers. Would quantifying the impacts of climate change in terms of American jobs and taxpayer dollars convince the administration to change their view of the Paris agreement?
Impossible to ignore
In the executive summary of the 2014 Risky Business report, Michael Bloomberg writes, “With the oceans rising and the climate changing, the Risky Business report details the costs of inaction in ways that are easy to understand in dollars and cents—and impossible to ignore.” This report finds that the clearest and most economically significant risks of climate change include:
Climate-driven changes in agricultural production and energy demand

The impact of higher temperatures on labor productivity and public health

Damage to coastal property and infrastructure from rising sea levels and increased storm surge

For example, the report finds that in the US by 2050 more than $106 billion worth of existing coastal property could be below sea level. Furthermore, a study in Nature Climate Change found that future flood losses in major coastal cities around the world may exceed $1 trillion dollars per year as a consequence of sea level rise by 2050.
The science and economics of climate change are clear.
So why do politicians keep telling us that it’s not happening and that doing something about it would be bad for the economy?
Press link for more: Union of concerned scientists

How to Spread the Word about Climate Change – Even if You’re Not a Climate Scientist

When a large asteroid hit the earth, sixty-five million years ago, it kicked up a huge amount of dust. The dust dimmed the sun for so long that the surface of the earth cooled sufficiently to wipe out the dinosaurs (incidentally giving mammals a chance to develop into the rich variety we see today).

If such a threat were in our near future, CNN and all the other news channels would be screaming about it. There would be non-stop coverage, on what we could do to avert the disaster, and how to cope should it strike anyway, and how each of us would be affected. You couldn’t get away from this news.

A similar threat is actually upon us, but going the other way: the earth is steadily warming. If we keep burning fossil fuels at today’s rate, the average global temperature may rise by 4 degrees C by 2100. That doesn’t sound like much, but the last time the world was 4C cooler on average, we were in an ice age, and life looked very different from the way it is today.

And it will keep warming past the year 2100. We don’t know what life will look like when it’s more than 4C warmer: it hasn’t been that warm for millions of years. 

This is an astonishing thought: the planet, our home, would be altogether a different place from what it is today. And while the changes appear slow on a human time scale, the warming is occurring at an unprecedented rate. Already species are feeling the pressure, and it is not clear how many will survive the changes that are very rapid on an evolutionary time scale. It’s clear: we must do what we can to keep the warming below 2C.

You would think that would make the news.

But the other astonishing thing about this is that there has been a near-silence on climate change in the mainstream news media. What little there is, is often diluted because editors give equal time to climate change deniers.

So here is what you and I can do about that.

We can help pass around the story ourselves. I’ve been giving climate talks, and have found that even the greenest cohorts still needs to hear the message more often, and more clearly: that global warming is happening, that it’s happening now, that we humans are causing it, and that there is a window of time in which we can work to stave off the worst of the effects.

For those who are not into powerpoint talks, you can arrange to show movies on climate change. This is what I did recently. I started by going to my public library; I found the librarian who manages the library events, and pitched her my idea of showing selected parts of the documentary “Years of Living Dangerously”.

Press link for more:

I have been giving Climate talks at using John. 

‘Long struggle’ warning on climate

America’s chief climate negotiator has warned of the long battle ahead to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Todd Stern told BBC News that by the end of the month, he expects the US to make a “quite ambitious” declaration on climate change.

He praised China’s projected offer to the December climate summit in Paris.

But he said the conference would not itself solve the climate problem. That, he argued, would need ongoing effort over decades.

Nations are desperate for the Paris meeting to avoid a repeat of the shambolic gathering in Copenhagen in 2009 that failed in its billing as the summit to save the planet.

This time, rich nations have agreed to make their offers well in advance to reduce the chance of last-minute chaos.

Long view

The EU has already offered a 40% cut on 1990 levels by 2030. The US will soon offer – probably a 26-28% reduction below 2005 levels by 2025. Comparison is hard because of different baselines, but some experts say the two appear roughly comparable in terms of effort. 

China is expected to offer to peak emissions by 2030 at the latest, and to produce 20% of its energy from nuclear and renewables by the same date.

“The two-degree goal will be reached if countries execute a deep decarbonisation of their economies over a significant period of time,” he said. 

Press link for more: Roger Harrabin |

We forget that nature & its laws don’t negotiate. 

Can the world get richer forever?

Since the dawn of the industrial age, the world has steadily been getting wealthier, despite setbacks such as the Great Depression and the more recent global financial crisis. 

We make more, sell more and consume more than ever before. 

Yet, according to the United Nations, nearly three billion people still live on less than $2.50 (£1.70) per day.

So, how can we raise living standards for those who still live in poverty? The answer, according to most governments, is rapid economic growth. 

Growth is seen as a panacea for a great many ills. It creates jobs, erodes debts and raises living standards. For politicians, it also generates votes. It is almost universally seen as a Good Thing.

Journalists are complicit in this. We frequently describe rapid growth as “robust”. Slower growth is “anaemic” and an economy in recession is often portrayed as “sick” or “ailing”.

‘Boiling the oceans’

Yet there’s a problem here. We live on a finite planet, but growth is exponential. So an annual increase in gross domestic product (GDP) of 3% might not sound like much – but it means an economy will double in size every 23 years.

So does this matter? According to Tom Murphy, professor of physics at the University of California San Diego, it definitely does, as economic growth goes hand in hand with increasing energy consumption. 

“From a physical point of view, if we grew at 3% a year, in about 400 years’ time we would actually be boiling the oceans – not because of global warming and CO2, but just because of the heat that is a natural by-product of the energy that we use,” he says.

These physical constraints, Prof Murphy says, will start to have an impact – for example, by creating cycles of boom and bust – and will make long-term growth impossible.

Press link for more: Theo Leggett |

The biggest story in the world podcast: Episode 1, Keep it in the ground

Climate change is the biggest threat to humanity, yet journalism has struggled for two decades to tell a story that doesn’t leave the public feeling disheartened and disengaged.

This podcast series lets you behind the scenes as the Guardian’s editor in chief Alan Rusbridger and team set out to find a new narrative. Recording as we go, you’ll hear what works, as well as our mistakes. Is there a new way to make the world care?

Episode 1: Keep it in the Ground

Alan calls the team to arms and challenges them: can they find a new way to report on climate change? He outlines why this is the most important story in the world and why most of the fossil fuels we already know about need to be kept in the ground. Given six months, can they succeed to engage a public in a new way?

Narrated by Aleks Krotoski and produced by Francesca Panetta, Jason Phipps,  and original music by 

Press link for podcast: The Guardian

World failing to tackle deadly pollution crisis.

New research says hundreds of thousands of lives are at risk from air pollution over next two decades.

New research from Europe’s environmental watchdog says hundreds of thousands of lives are at risk from air pollution in the next two decades.

And the European Environment Agency says governments are failing to act. Out of 20 environmental trends identified by the agency, not one is expected to improve.

A study said: “Projected improvements in air quality … are not expected to be sufficient to prevent continuing harm to health and the environment”.

India has been ranked by the World Health Organisation as having 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities.

A study just out in Mumbai estimates that high levels of pollution are likely to reduce life expectancy at birth by 3.2 years.

China is making strides to tackle its air quality, bringing in a law which subjects polluters to unlimited fines.

But a video released this week blaming corporate greed and a lack of political will to tackle the problem has gone viral, racking up more than three million hits.

So how much harm is being done by pollution, to the planet and its people? And are governments doing enough to clear the air?

Press link for video: