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China to launch nationwide carbon market. #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

China is launching the biggest carbon market in the world, which will require power plants to hold emissions permits (Pic: Flickr/V.T. Polywoda)

By Li Jing in Beijing

China’s long-awaited nationwide emissions trading scheme (ETS) will be officially launched on 19 December, starting with the power sector only, according to a document from National Development Reform Commission (NDRC).

It represents a scaling back from the original plan for eight economic sectors to take part in the carbon market: petrochemicals, chemicals, building materials, iron and steel, non-ferrous metals, paper, power and aviation.

Nonetheless, it will instantly overtake the EU’s carbon market to become the world’s largest. The power sector accounts for 46% of China’s carbon dioxide emissions, of which an estimated 39% will be covered by the ETS, according to data from World Resource Institute.

Explaining the change, Chinese officials said some industrial sectors did not have strong statistical foundations, and the system would involve constant testing and continuous adjustments.

Carbon futures trading will not be available at the launch stage of the scheme, Xie Zhenhua, China’s special representative for climate change, said during the UN climate conference in Bonn last month. It is intended to create a cost for emitting carbon, not a platform for market speculation, he said.

An official at NDRC who asked not to be named said the conservative approach reflected the importance leaders attached to the overall stability of the country’s financial markets.

Liu Shuang, a program director with Energy Foundation China, said the power sector was the most suitable sector for China to start its national emission trading scheme, as it had the most credible and transparent emissions data.

Advocates of emissions trading say it creates an efficient system for cutting greenhouse gases where it is cheapest to do so. Polluting plants must hold permits for every tonne of CO2 they emit and can sell surplus allowances if they clean up their operations.

In existing systems, however, industry has lobbied for free allowances and policies resulting in low carbon prices. Critics say that gives little incentive to invest in cleaner technology for the long term.

Press link for more: Climate Change News

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Cleaner air benefits human health #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Europe’s air quality has improved considerably since the European Union and its Member States introduced policies and measures concerning air quality in the 1970s.

Air pollutant emissions from many of the major sources including transport, industry, and power generation are now regulated and are generally declining, but not always to the extent envisaged.

High concentrations of air pollution still have significant impacts on Europeans’ health, with particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide  causing the biggest harm.

The European Environment Agency’s latest annual air quality report shows that most people living in Europe’s cities are still exposed to levels of air pollution deemed harmful by the World Health Organization. According to the report, fine particulate matter concentrations were responsible for an estimated 428 000 premature deaths in 41 European countries in 2014, of which around 399 000 were in the EU-28.

Poor air quality also has considerable economic impacts, increasing medical costs, reducing workers’ productivity, and damaging soil, crops, forests, lakes and rivers. Although air pollution is often associated with pollution peaks and episodes, long-term exposure to lower doses constitutes an even more serious threat to human health and to nature.

Reducing air pollution helps tackle climate change

Carbon dioxide may be the largest driver of global warming and climate change but it is not the only one. Many other gaseous or particulate compounds, known as ‘climate forcers’, have an influence on the amount of solar energy (including heat) the Earth retains.

For example, methane is a very powerful climate forcer as well as an air pollutant linked to agricultural activities, closely linked to livestock production and meat consumption. Particulate matter is another pollutant, impacting both climate change and air quality. Depending upon its composition, it may have a cooling or warming effect on the local and the global climate. For example, black carbon, one of the constituents of fine particulate matter and a result of incomplete burning of fuels, absorbs solar and infrared radiation in the atmosphere and thus has a warming effect.

Measures to cut emissions of short-lived climate forcers such as black carbon, methane, ozone or ozone precursors benefit both human health and the climate. Greenhouse gases and air pollutants share the same emission sources. Therefore there are potential benefits, including cost savings, that can be obtained by limiting emissions of one or the other.

However, in the past certain measures have been promoted to benefit, among others, climate change but which have had unintended negative impacts on air quality. For example, many countries  promoted diesel vehicles but which have turned out to emit high levels of air pollutants. Similarly, the promotion of renewable wood burning in some areas of Europe has unfortunately led to high levels of particulate matter in the local air. We must learn from such examples and make sure the consequences of the measures we choose to implement are properly understood and factored in.

The links between climate change and air quality are not limited to common pollutants released into the atmosphere from the same sources. Climate change can also aggravate air pollution problems. In many regions across the world, climate change is expected to affect local weather, including the frequency of heat waves and stagnant air episodes. More sunlight and warmer temperatures might not only prolong the periods of time in which ozone levels are elevated, it may also exacerbate peak ozone concentrations further. This is certainly not good news for parts of Europe, experiencing frequent episodes of excessive ground-level ozone.

Taking coherent action from local to global

Air pollution is not the same everywhere. Different pollutants are released into the atmosphere from a wide range of sources. Road transport, agriculture, power plants, industry and households are the biggest emitters of air pollutants in Europe. Once in the atmosphere, these pollutants can transform into new pollutants and spread. Designing and implementing policies to address this complexity are not easy tasks.

Given the diversity of sources both in terms of geographical distribution and economic activity, action must be taken at different levels from local to international. International conventions can aim to reduce the amount of pollutants released into the atmosphere, but without local action — such as information campaigns, removing highly polluting vehicles from cities  or urban zoning decisions — we would fall short of reaping the full benefits of our efforts. This diversity also means that there is no one-size-fits all solution to air pollution. To reduce exposure and subsequent harm further, authorities need to adapt their measures to account for local factors such as sources, demographics, transport infrastructure and local economy.

To enhance the cohesion between actions taken at local, national, European and global level, the European Commission brought together different stakeholders from across Europe at the Clean Air Forum in November. The Forum, held in Paris, not only focused on improving air quality in cities, but also on air pollution from agricultural activities. It also highlighted innovation and business opportunities linked to clean air actions.

Information key to minimise exposure

The European Environment Agency works with its member countries to gather comparable air quality information over time. Based on the data collected, we measure progress, analyse trends and look for links between sources such as road transport and actual measurements of air quality.

When needed, measurements from monitoring stations can be complemented by satellite observations. Under its Copernicus Earth Observation programme, the EU launched in October a new satellite tasked to monitor air pollution, which has already started delivering images. This information is then regularly shared with the public and the policy makers. It is important to note that the Agency deals only with outdoor air quality, and not with the quality of the air we breathe at home or at work, which also has direct impacts on our health.

As part of our efforts to provide the most updated information, we developed together with the European Commission a new online service: the European Air Quality Index. Presented at the Clean Air Forum, the Index provides information on the current air quality situation based on measurements from more than 2 000 air quality monitoring stations across Europe. The Index allows citizens to use an interactive map to check the air quality at station level, based on five key pollutants that harm people’s health and the environment: namely particulate matter (both PM2.5 and PM10), ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. This tool allows us to share this information with all Europeans interested in addressing air pollution. We can all check air quality where we are and take precautionary measures to reduce our exposure to pollution.

Information is certainly essential to address air pollution and to reduce its harmful impacts. However, to  improve air quality and to meet the EU’s longer-term low carbon goals, we need to address emissions from all economic sectors and systems like mobility, energy or food, and understand production and consumption patterns that generate these emissions. This is the only way forward. The EEA stands ready, as a knowledge partner, to help achieve these long term goals.

Hans Bruyninckx

EEA Executive Director

The editorial published in EEA Newsletter, Issue 2017/4, 15 December 2017

Press link for more: EEA.Europa.EU

The Oceans make the Earth a habitable planet. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

The oceans make the planet habitable, if we continue to use the oceans as a garbage dump we will quickly make our planet uninhabitable.

Plastics & carbon pollution are real threats to marine life and ultimately to humanity.

Coral bleaching is inevitable as the oceans are heated by global warming.

The science is clear, we know what must be done.

We must demand political leadership.

We have the technology, we must become active it is the challenge for our generation.

First put a price on Pollution. Both carbon & plastic.

We can no longer be complacent.

Time is running out.

Australia quick to action in war has been slow to act on reducing pollution. Future generations will pay an enormous price.

Our carbon emissions per capita are among the highest in the world.

We are amongst the world’s worst when it comes to climate action.

We are literally stealing the future from our children and future generations.

“So reckless it’s terrifying!” #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

“So reckless it’s terrifying!” Simon Baker, award-winning actor and director, has an important message for all Australians.

SHARE + ACT: Tell Turnbull to protect our Reef >> http://www.fightforourreef.org.au/simonbaker

#FightForOurReef #StopAdani

Simon Baker’s message should be a wake up call for everyone.

Climate change is causing extreme events all over the planet.

It’s hard to believe Australian politicians from both Labor & Liberal Parties are still not taking the climate science seriously.

Future generations of Australians will never understand how we ignored the warnings.

Scientists, economists, doctors are doing what they can to create awareness.

This week in France leaders from all over the world came together to demand climate action and plan for a carbon neutral economy. The One Planet Summit was ignored by Australian politicians & most of the Australian media.

If we are to limit global warming to 2C we must cease using fossil fuels by 2050.

Investing in new coal mines is reckless, it completely ignores the science & will most likely be the end of the Great Barrier Reef putting 70,000 jobs in Tourism at risk.

The threat to humanity from air pollution is also ignored.

A recent report from the World Health Organization said the 500,000 babies die every year from air pollution a large percentage of that due to burning coal.

Using the atmosphere as a garbage dump for carbon dioxide when we use fossil fuels has to end.

Putting a price on carbon is the most cost effective way to solve the problem.

Where is the food going to come from? #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #OnePlanet

This is the question everyone should be attending to – where is the food going to come from?

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 11th December 2017

Brexit; the crushing of democracy by billionaires; the next financial crash; a rogue US president: none of them keeps me awake at night. This is not because I don’t care – I care very much. It’s only because I have a bigger question on my mind. Where is the food going to come from?

By mid-century there will be two or three billion more people on Earth. Any one of the issues I am about to list could help precipitate mass starvation. And this is before you consider how they might interact.

The trouble begins where everything begins: with soil.

The UN’s famous projection that, at current rates of soil loss, the world has 60 years of harvests left, appears to be supported by a new set of figures.

Partly as a result of soil degradation, yields are already declining on 20% of the world’s croplands.

Now consider water loss.

In places such as the North China Plain, the central United States, California and north-western India – among the world’s critical growing regions – levels of the groundwater used to irrigate crops are already reaching crisis point. Water in the Upper Ganges aquifer, for example, is being withdrawn at 50 times its recharge rate. But, to keep pace with food demand, farmers in South Asia expect to use between 80 and 200% more water by 2050. Where will it come from?

The next constraint is temperature. One study suggests that, all else being equal, with each degree Celsius of warming the global yield of rice drops by 3%, wheat by 6% and maize by 7%. This could be optimistic. Research published in the journal Agricultural & Environmental Letters finds that 4°C of warming in the US Corn Belt could reduce maize yields by between 84 and 100%.

The reason is that high temperatures at night disrupt the pollination process. But this describes just one component of the likely pollination crisis. Insectageddon, caused by the global deployment of scarcely-tested pesticides, will account for the rest. Already, in some parts of the world, workers are now pollinating plants by hand. But that’s viable only for the most expensive crops.

Then there are the structural factors. Because they tend to use more labour, grow a wider range of crops and work the land more carefully, small farmers, as a rule, grow more food per hectare than large ones. In the poorer regions of the world, people with less than 5 hectares own 30% of the farmland but produce 70% of the food. Since 2000, an area of fertile ground roughly twice the size of the United Kingdom has been seized by land grabbers and consolidated into large farms, generally growing crops for export rather than the food needed by the poor.

While these multiple disasters unfold on land, the seas are being sieved of everything but plastic. Despite a massive increase in effort (bigger boats, bigger engines, more gear), the worldwide fish catch is declining by roughly 1% a year, as populations collapse. The global land grab is mirrored by a global seagrab: small fishers are displaced by big corporations, exporting fish to those who need it less but pay more. Around 3 billion people depend to a large extent on fish and shellfish protein. Where will it come from?

All this would be hard enough. But as people’s incomes increase, their diet tends to shift from plant protein to animal protein. World meat production has quadrupled in 50 years, but global average consumption is still only half that of the UK – where we eat roughly our bodyweight in meat every year – and just over a third of the US level. Because of the way we eat, the UK’s farmland footprint (the land required to meet our demand) is 2.4 times the size of its agricultural area. If everyone aspires to this diet, how do we accommodate it?

The profligacy of livestock farming is astonishing. Already, 36% of the calories grown in the form of grain and pulses – and 53% of the protein – are used to feed farm animals. Two-thirds of this food is lost in conversion from plant to animal. A graph produced last week by Our World in Data suggests that, on average, you need 0.01m2 of land to produce a gram of protein from beans or peas, but 1m2 to produce it from beef cattle or sheep: a difference of 100-fold.

It’s true that much of the grazing land occupied by cattle and sheep cannot be used to grow crops. But it would otherwise have sustained wildlife and ecosystems. Instead, marshes are drained, trees are felled and their seedlings grazed out, predators are exterminated, wild herbivores fenced out and other lifeforms gradually erased as grazing systems intensify. Astonishing places – such as the rainforests of Madagascar and Brazil – are laid waste to make room for yet more cattle.

Because there is not enough land to meet both need and greed, a global transition to eating animals means snatching food from the mouths of the poor. It also means the ecological cleansing of almost every corner of the planet.

The shift in diets would be impossible to sustain even if there were no growth in the human population. But the greater the number of people, the greater the hunger meat eating will cause. From a baseline of 2010, the UN expects meat consumption to rise by 70% by 2030 (this is three times the rate of human population growth). Partly as a result, the global demand for crops could double (from the 2005 baseline) by 2050. The land required to grow them does not exist.

When I say this keeps me up at night, I mean it. I am plagued by visions of starving people seeking to escape from grey wastes, being beaten back by armed police. I see the last rich ecosystems snuffed out, the last of the global megafauna – lions, elephants, whales and tuna – vanishing. And when I wake, I cannot assure myself that it was just a nightmare.

Other people have different dreams: the fantasy of a feeding frenzy that need never end, the fairytale of reconciling continued economic growth with a living world. If humankind spirals into societal collapse, these dreams will be the cause.

There are no easy answers, but the crucial change is a shift from an animal to a plant-based diet. All else being equal, stopping both meat production and the use of farmland to grow biofuels could provide enough calories for another 4 billion people and double the protein available for human consumption. Artificial meat will help: one paper suggests it reduces water use by at least 82% and land use by 99%.

The next Green Revolution will not be like the last one. It will rely not on flogging the land to death, but on reconsidering how we use it and why. Can we do this, or do we – the richer people now consuming the living planet – find mass death easier to contemplate than changing our diet?

http://www.monbiot.com

Press link for more: Monbiot.com

Cities have the power to lead #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #OnePlanet #StopAdani

Cities have the power to lead climate change

Cities, as hubs of innovation, now stand at the forefront of climate action

By CHRISTIANA FIGUERES, VICE-CHAIR OF THE GLOBAL COVENANT OF MAYORS 12/13/17, 9:38 AM CET

Christiana Figueres, vice-chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors | via Global Covenant of Mayors

Negotiating the Paris Agreement was a monumental achievement.

Nations rallied together and subnational actors, especially cities and local governments, afforded confidence that targets could be met, leading to swift approval and ratification.

As we lean into implementation, leaders in every corner of the world, in cities large and small, are taking bold climate action to ensure we are able to meet these commitments — and, importantly, take even more ambitious action.

However, for some local leaders, implementation of the Agreement comes with challenges. This is especially pertinent when it comes to obtaining the financial support needed to turn ideas into action and make the changes necessary to ensure they can help meet the goals set forth in Paris.

Luckily, one of the many successes of the Paris Agreement was the establishment of mechanisms to increase climate-friendly ideas and investment.

Cities, as hubs of innovation, now stand at the forefront of climate action, ready to accept these investments.

I am proud to serve as the vice-chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, an initiative that supports city leaders in meeting these commitments.

Together with our partner city networks both globally and locally, cities in this alliance are developing cutting-edge solutions to the challenges of climate finance.

They are providing critical leadership and support as national governments move towards a greener future.

The power these cities have to tackle climate change cannot be understated.

Mayors and local leaders often have greater influence over the sectors that most impact carbon emissions.

Buildings, transportation, water and waste are all complex systems, and city leaders’ in-depth knowledge of regional environmental landscapes means they are uniquely suited to pinpoint which areas need the most attention to reduce emissions while increasing sustainability and economic efficiency.

“We must see climate in every facet of the economy, from green buildings and infrastructure to sustainable agriculture, so that our growth will be climate neutral.”

Central to scaling timely global climate action is financing the development of modernized low carbon infrastructure.

We must see climate in every facet of the economy, from green buildings and infrastructure to sustainable agriculture, so that our growth will be climate neutral.

Investments in these priorities now will build the tomorrow we want our children to live in.

As cities work to accelerate the collective impact of their actions, improving city-level access to finance will increase investment flows into cities and other urban areas. It will unlock the potential of cities to be a fundamental part of the global climate solution. It will re-shape the economics of development and reinforce sustainable infrastructure as a stronger investment over high-carbon polluting options.

In Cape Town, this philosophy has been taken to heart as a number of new strategies are pursued to increase investments in our green future. Many climate and resilience solutions, such as renewable energy, green transportation and net-zero buildings, are less expensive to operate than they are to build, meaning it takes partnerships between governments and the private sector to finance them.

“Cape Town is poised to become the first city in Africa to install an electric bus system.”

For example, Cape Town is poised to become the first city in Africa to install an electric bus system. The MyCiTi bus system is an ambitious project and will be made possible by a public-private investment partnership and pay dividends to the city in the future. The strategic partnership goes beyond just buying buses: the buses, currently made by Chinese green energy firm BYD, will soon be manufactured at a new plant in Cape Town in 2018. The implementation of the MyCiTi bus system is not only increasing sustainability and helping to reduce carbon emissions, it is boosting the city’s economy and creating hundreds of jobs. This project will help Cape Town save money with reduced maintenance and operating costs while supporting the city’s ongoing journey to build a strong and prosperous green economy.

The city is also collaborating with the private sector to mitigate the dire effects of drought on Cape Town’s water supply. To accelerate emergency water projects, the city is issuing tax-exempt green bonds to private sector developers to incentivize developments that will enhance sustainability and improve water security. Thanks to the investment spurred by green bonds and other innovative strategies, a platform of climate security is being created from which the city’s future is wide open.

“The implementation of the MyCiTi bus system is not only increasing sustainability and helping to reduce carbon emissions, it is boosting the city’s economy and creating hundreds of jobs.”

Cities like Cape Town are helping to spur the global transformation that spells success for the Paris Agreement. By investing in sustainability and resilience now, we can guarantee not only stable returns for our private sector partners, but a stable future for our cities and the world.

Unlocking a sustainable path for cities allows them to accelerate their impact. By 2050, implementing sustainable urban infrastructure choices could save $17 trillion on energy costs alone.

Through initiatives like the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, over 7,400 cities around the world — 9.35 percent of the population — are showing their potential and making real progress to greatly accelerate the world’s achievements towards the legally binding global commitment to create a carbon neutral world this century.

Authors:

Christiana Figueres, Vice-Chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors

One Planet 🌍 #auspol #qldpol #climatechange #StopAdani

Climate Change is our greatest challenge it’s a race against time, and we’re losing.

Australia & the United States should be leading the world.

Instead we continue to invest in fossil fuels and refuse to put a price on carbon pollution.

Corporations have corrupted our democracies.

Our children & future generations will pay for our greed & negligence.

Nature’s Shock & Awe for The U.S #ClimateChange #auspol #StopAdani

Shock and awe. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is meant to be, in Southern California, the start of rainy season.

Not this year.

The Thomas Fire, the worst of those roiling the region this last week, grew 50,000 acres on Sunday alone; it has now burnt 270 square miles and forced 200,000 people from their homes.

There is no rain forecast for the next seven to ten days, and as of Monday morning, Thomas is just, in the terrifying semi-clinical language of wildfires, “10% contained.” To a poetic approximation, it’s not a bad estimate of how much of a handle we have on the forces of climate change that unleashed it — which is to say, hardly any.

“The city burning is Los Angeles’s deepest image of itself,” Joan Didion wrote in “Los Angeles Notebook,” collected in Slouching Towards Bethlehem. But the cultural impression is apparently not all that deep, since the fires that broke out last week produced, in headlines and on television and via text messages, an astonished refrain of the adjectives “unthinkable,” “unprecedented,” and “unimaginable.”

Didion was writing about the fires that had swept through Malibu in 1956, Bel Air in 1961, Santa Barbara in 1964, and Watts in 1965; she updated her list in “Fire Season (1989),” describing the fires of 1968, 1970, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, and 1982: “Since 1919, when the county began keeping records of its fires, some areas have burned eight times.”

We could use further updating: Five of the 20 worst fires in California history have now hit since just September, when 245,000 acres in Northern California burned — devastation so cruel and sweeping that two different accounts were published in two different local newspapers of two different aging couples taking desperate cover in pools as the fires swallowed their homes.

One couple survived, emerging after six excruciating hours to find their house transformed into an ash monument; in the other, it was only the husband who emerged, his wife of 55 years having died in his arms. As Americans traded horror stories in the aftermath of those fires, they could be forgiven for mixing the stories up or being confused; that climate terror could be so general as to provide variations on such a theme seemed, as recently as September, impossible to believe.

But if last week’s wildfires were not unprecedented, what did we mean when we called them that?

Like September 11, which followed several decades of morbid American fantasies about the World Trade Center, the brushfires that began last week north of Santa Paula look to a horrified public like a climate prophecy, made in fear, now made real.

That prophecy was threefold.

First, the simple intuition of climate horrors — an especially biblical premonition when the plague is out-of-control fire, like a dust storm of flame.

Second, of the expanding reach of wildfires in particular, which now can feel, in much of the West, like a gust of bad wind away, and never impossible no matter the time of year.

Over the last few decades, the wildfire season has already grown by two months, and by 2050, destruction from wildfires is expected to double (for every additional degree of global warming, it will quadruple).

But perhaps the most harrowing of the ways in which the fires seemed to confirm our cinematic nightmares was the third: that climate chaos could breach our most imperious fortresses — that is, our cities.

With Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Irma, Americans have gotten acquainted with the threat of flooding, but water is just the beginning.

In the affluent cities of the West, even those conscious of environmental change have spent the last few decades believing that, and behaving as though, we had — with our street grids, our highways, our superabundant supermarkets and all-everywhere, all-enveloping internet — built our way out of nature.

We have not.

A paradise dreamscape erected in a barren desert, L.A. has always been an impossible city, as Mike Davis, among many others, has so brilliantly written.

The sight of flames straddling the eight-lane 405 is a reminder that it is still impossible.

In fact, getting more so.

One response to seeing things long predicted actually come to pass is to feel that we have settled into a new era, with everything transformed.

In fact, that is how Governor Jerry Brown described the state of things this weekend: “a new normal.”

The fact that the news cycle has already moved on, while the fires are just as out of control, is another sign of our eagerness to normalize these horrors — or at least to look away.

But normalization is problematic, as perversely comforting as it may feel to think we’ve settled into a familiar nightmare.

Climate change is not binary, and we have not now arrived at a new equilibrium; as I’ve written before, the climate suffering we are seeing now is a “beyond best case” scenario for our future.

With each further tick upward in global temperatures — each tiny tick — the effects will worsen.

And further ticks are inevitable; the question is only how many.

It would be much more accurate to say that we have passed beyond the end of normal, into a new realm unbounded by the analogy of any human experience.

But two big forces conspire to prevent us from normalizing fires like these, though neither is exactly a cause for celebration.

The first is that extreme weather won’t let us, since it won’t stabilize — so that even within a decade, it’s a fair bet that these fires will be thought of as the “old normal.”

Whatever you may think about the pace of climate change, it is happening mind-bendingly fast, almost in real time.

It is not just that December wildfires were unheard of just three decades ago.

We have now emitted more carbon into the atmosphere since Al Gore wrote his first book on climate than in the entire preceding history of humanity, which means that we have engineered most of the climate chaos that now terrifies us in that brief span.

The second force is also contained in the story of the wildfires — the way that climate change is finally striking close to home.

Striking, in fact, some quite special homes: Last Thursday, for instance, there were reports that the fires were threatening the Getty Museum in Pacific Palisades and Rupert Murdoch’s Bel-Air estate.

There may not be two better symbols of the imperiousness of American money than the Getty villa, a San Simeon built on the pure blue Pacific with Texas oil money laundered through art philanthropy; and the nearby toy vineyard of climate-change-denier Rupert Murdoch, built on some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

One imagines that Murdoch will not be writing tweets like this one again anytime soon; then again, who knows?

When, on Thursday, I tweeted that NBC News was reporting that Murdoch’s vineyard was on fire, it immediately spawned a thread of gleeful, crowing responses, more than a thousand of them. But, of course, his property and the Getty were not being singled out; they were fighting off flames because the entire rest of the county was, too, and — no matter how well-equipped or well-defended or well-heeled they were — having just as much trouble. Which is, as uncomfortable as it may be to admit, a very useful allegory for the rest of us to keep in mind.

By accidents of geography and by the force of its wealth, the United States has, to this point, been mostly protected from the devastation climate change has already visited on parts of the less-developed world — mostly.

The condition of Puerto Rico, nearly three months after Hurricane Irma hit, is a harrowing picture of what climate devastation can do to the least among us. That it is now hitting our wealthiest citizens is not just an opportunity for ugly bursts of liberal Schadenfreude; it is also a sign of just how hard, and how indiscriminately, it is hitting. The wealthy used to build castles to defend themselves against the world; more recently it’s been a more modern kind of fortress, cities, enclosing more and more of us in an illusion of man-made security. All of a sudden, it’s getting a lot harder to protect against what’s coming.

Why UK banks are falling behind French #ClimateChange #auspol #StopAdani

Why UK banks are falling behind French in response to climate change

A new ranking by responsible investment NGO ShareAction shows that French banks outperform their European peers on climate-related issues.

ShareAction’s Sonia Hierzig argues that the UK should follow France in making disclosures on climate-related risks and opportunities mandatory

Banks are affected by climate change in many ways.

As financial intermediaries with ties to every industry sector, they face climate-related risks and opportunities.

On the one hand, they are exposed to the physical, transitional and liability risks linked to climate change via the clients they lend to and do business with.

On the other hand, banks are also able to make a positive contribution to tackling climate change by mobilising the capital required for a successful low-carbon transition.

ShareAction has ranked the 15 largest European banks based on their responses to climate-related risks and opportunities.

The three French banks surveyed all came out in the top five, while three of the UK banks ranked in the bottom five banks.

This is partly down to the introduction of Article 173 in France, which requires that all listed companies, including banks, disclose (1) information about the financial risks related to the effects of climate change; (2) the measures adopted by the company to reduce them and; (3) the consequences of climate change on the company’s activities and on the use of goods and services it produces.

For banks, it additionally requests the disclosure of the risk of excessive leverage (not carbon-specific) and the risks exposed by regular stress tests.

Sonia Hierzig, ShareAction

As regulation appears to be a key driver encouraging banks to manage climate-related risks and opportunities, other countries might benefit from introducing similar legislation to ensure banks headquartered there do not fall behind.

For instance, if the UK government wants to succeed in its ambition of promoting the UK as a global centre for green finance post-Brexit, it should consider introducing similar mandatory requirements on disclosure and stress testing.

This is particularly relevant considering the poor performance of several UK banks in this survey, and the fact that the European Banking Authority will move from London to Paris. Banks’ institutional investors should also support necessary changes by engaging with policymakers and regulators.

While the French banks have scored relatively well, it is noticeable that several of the UK banks appear to be lagging behind, including Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Standard Chartered.

This is not only due to the lack of similar innovative legislation in the UK, but also because many of the UK banks have weaker policies compared to their European peers on the sectors highly exposed to climate-related risks, including fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.

For example, Lloyds Banking Group’s policy on coal mining and power merely takes into account breaches of relevant greenhouse gas emission regulations, while other banks have committed to not financing certain coal-related projects and/or companies linked to the sector.

To meet the goal of limiting global temperature rises to below 2°C, there can be no new fossil fuel-related exploration or infrastructure developments, and it is also essential that some fields and mines are closed before they have been fully exploited. UK banks in particular still have a long way to go to align their sector policies with these needs of a successful low-carbon transition, and currently none of the UK banks is fully aligned yet.

BNP Paribas (credit: Tupungato/Shutterstock Inc)

While legislative and regulatory action is important, it is also crucial that shareholders in banks request better management of climate-related risks and opportunities within the institutions they are invested in. ShareAction also provides a number of recommendations for institutional investors to support them in their climate-related engagements with banks.

As the surveyed banks generally performed the poorest on the topic of climate-related risk management, it is recommended that shareholders focus their efforts in this area until there are marked improvements.

For example, banks should be encouraged to place increased emphasis on developing methodologies for scenario analysis, strengthen policies on coal mining and thermal coal power generation, oil and gas, deforestation and peatland exploitation in line with below 2°C scenarios, and introduce more stringent below 2°C engagement policies to guide dialogues with clients active in sectors highly exposed to climate-related risks.

Once shareholders note significant improvements in those areas, they might consider also asking banks about climate-related opportunities, their engagement with external actors, such as policymakers, and the governance structures they have in place to ensure climate-related issues are managed appropriately.

ShareAction hopes that this report will encourage action on behalf of institutional investors, policymakers and regulators to ensure the European banking sector acts in support of the low-carbon transition, rather than obstructing it.

Sonia Hierzig is project manager at responsible investment NGO ShareAction.

Main image credit: Peresanz/Shutterstock Inc

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Billion-dollar climate disaster devastate & drain the nation. #ClimateChange #auspol #StopAdani

Billion-dollar climate disasters devastate and drain the nation

by Hanna KruegerDec 9 2017, 3:31 pm ET

A cluster of particularly destructive natural disasters in 2017 has pockmarked the nation with devastation. Numbers for Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria have yet to be finalized, and 2017 is already on track to reach the record for the most billion-dollar climate disasters in the nation’s history, according to an October report from the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

To date, 2011 has netted the most billion-dollar natural disasters — a record-breaking 16. Now, a new wave of wildfires in Southern California, which by Friday had devoured about 132,000 acres, may also help push 2017 into the top spot.

From January to September of 2017 alone, the nation experienced two floods, a freeze, seven severe storms, three tropical cyclones, a drought and wildfire — all 15 of which cost the nation over a billion dollars in insured and uninsured damages each, according to NCEI. In just the first weeks of 2017, 79 confirmed tornadoes touched down in three days across the southern United States, totaling $1.1 billion in losses.

Residents in front of their homes after torrential rains pounded Southeast Texas following Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey, on Sept. 2, 2017 in Orange, Texas. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Not a month has gone by since without a major weather disaster wreaking havoc on some region of the nation.

The wildfires that burned through Sonoma Valley just two months ago resulted in $9.4 billion worth of insured damages, the California Department of Insurance announced Wednesday. In just a few days, the current blaze has already scorched a greater area.

The frequency of billion-dollar climate disasters has been rising steadily over the past few decades. From 1980 to 2016, the annual average was a mere 5.5 disasters. In the last five years, that average has nearly doubled.

Insurance companies and government agencies will foot the bill for a fraction of these losses. In 2016, insurers paid around $54 billion globally for natural disaster claims, per Aon Benfield’s annual climate and catastrophe report. This was close to double what they shelled out the previous year, yet it only accounted for 26 percent of total economic losses.

Related: 1st death in California wildfires reported, firefighters make progress

The remainder — mostly affecting the uninsured and business owners — largely remains lost. The uninsured cannot file a claim for property damage or livestock lost. Businesses forfeit whatever revenue they lose when forced to temporarily shut down.

People walk down a flooded street as they evacuate their homes after the area was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 28, in Houston. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The NCEI, a branch within the government-run National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), cites a rise in population, poorly-built infrastructure in vulnerable areas and climate change as the drivers behind this uptick in overall costs. However, climate experts point to climate change as the primary perpetrator.

“I don’t think there is any question. It is clear that climate change is causing more destructive extreme weather events,” said Michael Mann, a climatologist, geophysicist and current director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, in an email to NBC.

Mann noted that any vulnerabilities exposed by population increases and construction in vulnerable areas is offset by “better engineering, sturdier buildings, more resilient infrastructure and implicit adaption.”

“What’s most worrying is that the increase we’ve seen so far is likely just the tip of the iceberg,” warned Mann. “We will likely see far more damaging extreme weather events if we do not reduce carbon emissions decisively in the years ahead.”

Press link for more: NBCNews.com