Carbon dioxide levels rising at record pace. #auspol #science 

Carbon dioxide levels rose at record pace for 2nd straight year | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Carbon dioxide levels measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory rose by 3 parts per million to 405.1 parts per million (ppm) in 2016, an increase that matched the record jump observed in 2015.
The two-year, 6-ppm surge in the greenhouse gas between 2015 and 2017 is unprecedented in the observatory’s 59-year record. And, it was a record fifth consecutive year that carbon dioxide (CO2) rose by 2 ppm or greater, said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
“The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age,” Tans said. “This is a real shock to the atmosphere.”
Globally averaged CO2 levels passed 400 ppm in 2015 — a 43-percent increase over pre-industrial levels. In February 2017, CO2 levels at Mauna Loa had already climbed to 406.42 ppm.

This graph shows the annual mean carbon dioxide growth rates observed at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory.

This graph shows the annual mean carbon dioxide growth rates observed at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory. Further information can be found on the ESRL Global Monitoring Division website. (NOAA)

Measurements are independently validated
NOAA has measured CO2 on site at the Mauna Loa observatory since 1974. To ensure accuracy, air samples from the mountaintop research site in Hawaii are shipped to NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, for verification. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which first began sampling CO2 at Mauna Loa in 1956, also takes independent measurements onsite.
Emissions from fossil-fuel consumption have remained at historically high levels since 2011 and are the primary reason atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing at a dramatic rate, Tans said. This high growth rate of CO2 is also being observed at some 40 other sites in NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
The greenhouse effect, explained
Carbon dioxide is one of several gases that are primarily responsible for trapping heat in the atmosphere. This “greenhouse effect” maintains temperatures suitable for life on Earth. Increasing CO2 levels trap additional heat in the atmosphere and the oceans, contributing to rising global average temperatures.
Atmospheric CO2 averaged about 280 ppm between about 10,000 years ago and the start of the Industrial Revolution around 1760.

Press link for more: NOAA

76 Women on a Glacier are changing the World #IWD #auspol #science 

76 women on a glacier are changing the world
“We’re going to keep fighting to ensure climate progress is made.”

The women of Homeward Bound. CREDIT: Anne Christianson
By Molly Taft
Heidi Steltzer’s job, as she puts it, is “hiking where no one else will go.” 

As a mountain and polar ecologist studying rare plants, she’s accustomed to traveling to breathtaking Arctic vistas to chase flora along mountain ridges.
But watching glaciers calve on her first trip to Antarctica last December was a one-of-a-kind experience for the scientist. “You kind of want to see it,” she said.

 “Even though you know it’s not a good thing, you kind of want to be there.”
As she watched the great icebergs float by the boat in Neko Harbor, another member of Steltzer’s trip waved her arm at the scene, as if summoning a force to shave the glaciers surrounding them.
“Can you imagine if any one of us had that kind of power to see ice calve when you wanted to see it?” laughed Steltzer. “But at the same time, we knew, collectively — we do have that power. 

You can’t say these specific glaciers are definitively calving because of human action.

 But these events continuing to happen is consistent in that system, and consistent with what we know about human activity and climate change.”


Heidi Steltzer. CREDIT: Anne Christianson

Steltzer’s colleagues were more knowledgeable than your average gaggle of tourists. 

The travelers on her trip were all scientists, and several of them focus specifically on climate change.

 What’s more, her 75 companions on the three-week trip were all women, bound together on the largest-ever, all-female expedition to Antarctica. 

The trip was the focal point of a year-long leadership development program called Homeward Bound, which aims to groom 1,000 women with science backgrounds over the next ten years to influence public policy and dialogue.
While women made up more than 50 percent of the US workforce in 2016, they represented only 24 percent of workers in STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math. 

Representation in public policy is even worse: Women hold less than 23 percent of parliamentary positions worldwide, and less than 20 percent of Congress is female. 

The founder of Homeward Bound told Reuters that inspiration came from the trip from hearing two scientists joke that a beard was a requirement to land an Antarctic research leadership role.


The women of Homeward Bound. CREDIT: Anne Christianson

The problem of female leadership in STEM isn’t a new one. When Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University and a leading U.S. climate voice, was a second-year undergraduate physics student, the head of the department called her into his office to ask how the program could help encourage her career as a female physicist.
“My mentors in science from day one have all been male,” she recalled. “I’ve learned a lot from them and I’ve been incredibly encouraged and supported by them. But at the same time, there have been differences between us.”


Katharine Hayhoe. CREDIT: Katharine Hayhoe

Lifestyle and family changes, Hayhoe emphasized, provide a particular sticking point between the genders in STEM. “As I got older, I started to realize how big the gap was between colleagues who basically had a spouse who managed everything full time,” she said. “They could just, at the drop of the hat, leap on an airplane and be off to a meeting, versus a mother who, before you do anything, you’ve got to do all the laundry, freeze the meals, figure out who is picking the kids up from schools. At this point, if someone asks me to do something at the drop of the hat, the answer is no — and this still happens to me today.”
Steltzer echoed similar experiences. “At one point in time, women were present in equal measures to myself at a peer level,” she said. “But now that I’m in my early 40s, an associate professor, in many environments I’m in there are fewer women. There are ways we can do better.”


The polar plunge at Neko Bay. CREDIT: Sarah Brough

She pointed out that the perception of “good old boys’ clubs” in male-dominated fields may just be men connecting with each other over shared experiences. Getting a group of female scientists together can create a collaborative, experience-based atmosphere that can be difficult for women to find at home. “Homeward Bound created for us women a space and a place where we feel connected to one another.”
For Anne Christianson, a younger Homeward Bounder, the trip took on special importance for her work. Christianson is completing a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, and her dissertation focuses on how climate change disproportionately affects women in developing countries. She points out that, while it was easy to see the consequences of climate change watching glaciers in Antarctica, it’s important to keep in mind how climate change threatens women around the globe.
“We have these cascading impacts [of climate change] on women that simply aren’t seen in men,” Christianson said. “Women generally don’t have enough capital to build our own resilience to climate change.”

Press link for more: Think Progress

Australia’s Angry Summer #climatechange #auspol 

More than 200 weather records were broken during the intense, “angry summer” just finished, putting stress on Australians and the ageing energy system.
A report from the Climate Council, released on Wednesday, says the summer was characterised by intense heatwaves, hot days and bushfires in central and eastern Australia but heavy rainfall and flooding in the country’s west.
Climate scientist Will Steffen said the effects of climate change could be seen in the 200 records broken in 90 days.
“We’re experiencing unprecedented extreme heat and setting new records at an alarming rate, with every part of Australia feeling the impact,” he said.
“Extreme weather will continue to intensify through this century if we continue to sit on our hands and fail to move rapidly to get fossil fuels out of our economy.”

Extreme weather events have dominated a wetter-than-average year in Australia, with the country also clocking its fourth-warmest year on record in 2016.
Fellow climate councillor and energy expert Andrew Stock said the “ageing, inefficient and polluting” energy system already struggled to cope with heatwaves and extreme weather and would come under even more pressure as these intensified.
The energy system is under scrutiny after blackouts in South Australia and load shedding in NSW during hot days.
“It’s time for Australia to power our economy with a 21st century energy system, one which deploys proven renewable technology and storage solutions instead of relying on high greenhouse emitting fossil fuels,” Mr Stock said.
“These fossil fuels are the very culprits feeding the extreme weather cycle. We have to stop backing the wrong horse.”
The federal government is facing increasing calls – including from big business and electricity generators – to give certainty to the energy sector and put in place some kind of carbon price, such as an emissions intensity scheme.
Records broken over the 2016-17 summer include:
Hottest summer on record for Sydney, NSW as a whole, Brisbane, and Canberra

Hottest Adelaide Christmas day in 70 years at 41.3 degrees

NSW town Moree had 54 consecutive days with temperatures reaching 35 degrees or higher

Canberra had 18 days with temperatures 35 degrees or higher (previously predictions said this wouldn’t happen until after 2030)

Highest summer rainfall for Perth at 192.8mm

Wettest December on record for parts of the Kimberley

Highest daily January rainfall in the east Kimberley

Press link for more: SBS.com

Why Trump is an Existential Threat #auspol #climatechange #science

One of the Most Famous Scientists in the World Just Explained Why Trump Is an Existential Threat

SochAnam/Getty Images
This story was originally published by New Republic and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Earlier this month, thousands of scientists from around the world came together for their favorite nerd fest:

 The annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest scientific organization and publisher of the renowned Science journals.

 There were panels on everything from climate change to robots, hornless cows to honeybees.

 But this year’s meeting was different than any other in its 168-year history, for one reason: Donald Trump was president. And scientists were freaking out.


“I haven’t seen anything like it in my many decades in science and science watching,” Dr. Rush Holt, the president of AAAS and executive publisher of the Science journals, told the New Republic.
Most scientists are uncomfortable talking politics because their work needs to be perceived as objective rather than partisan. But ever since America elected a president who’s made scientifically inaccurate statements on everything from vaccines to climate change, more and more scientists are stepping into the spotlight to stand up for their profession. That includes Holt, who announced Wednesday that AAAS would partner with the March for Science, an Earth Day rally with the primary goal of preserving and promoting evidence-based policymaking.
In a conversation with the New Republic, Holt—who is also a former U.S. Congressman—talked about the unprecedented level of political anxiety among American scientists, and how those scientists should navigate these murky waters.

TNR: We’ve reached this point where scientists are being thrown into the political spotlight, which I imagine is deeply uncomfortable for a lot of people in this profession. You just came from your annual conference, where thousands of scientists in attendance. What is the level of concern you observed from them about the Trump administration, and politics in general?
“The level of concern and anxiety among scientists—and I guess I’d say the science-friendly public—about the place of science in society in government, has gone beyond concern to anxiety.”
RH: The level of concern and anxiety among scientists—and I guess I’d say the science-friendly public—about the place of science in society in government, has gone beyond concern to anxiety. I haven’t seen anything like it in my many decades in science and science watching.
It used to be when that, when scientists in the hallways would talk about being worried about the state of science, what they really meant was, they were worried about the funding for their research. That’s not so much what we’re hearing now, although I do think scientists don’t realize what Congress seems to have in store for non-defense discretionary spending.
TNR: So you’re saying the concern among scientists has gone from, “will I get funding,” to something more existential.
RH: Existential might even be the right word. The concern now is whether policymakers even understand the meaning of evidence. Whether there is any truth to this descriptor of “fact-free era.” Whether policy is going to be made more and more in the absence of scientific input. There seems to be a concern about whether the public appreciation of science has eroded to a point where it has removed science from public debate and public decision making. Whether the public has come to regard evidence as optional.

TNR: You’ve only been at the head of AAAS some 2014, but compared to other years, was there a lot of political talk at this year’s annual meetings?
RH: That was the main hallways discussion, as well as discussion that broke out in panels on various scientific topics. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve also never seen as much of a spontaneous upsurge now of scientists and science-loving members of the public who want to defend science. We see that in the March for Science.
TNR: Regarding the march, though, some people have expressed concern that it’s going to politicize science even further. That it’s going to make science into a partisan issue.
RH: Well, the March for Science is not just a march. It’s a public education effort. It is a children’s science festival. It is emblematic of this public upsurge of interest in defending the idea of science. That’s really unusual. It’s also a rare opportunity for scientists to help get out the message of just how valuable, how powerful science is and how important it is—how it’s more important to lives of nonscientists than to the job of scientists.
TNR: So you don’t think that a march that will likely have politically-oriented signs will undermine science?
RH: There is a sense that science and politics are incompatible. I don’t think so at all. I think it’s important that scientists take great pains to make sure that ideology and personal bias and wishful thinking do not contaminate the collection and analysis and evidence. One must not politicize science. But the converse is not necessarily true. There’s no reason why scientists can not go into the public sphere. In fact, I would argue they should.
TNR: Does that mean you think more scientists should be running for political office?
RH: It doesn’t necessarily mean running for office. Every citizen, scientists included, has some obligation to be involved in public affairs and politics. I do think that in recent months I’ve seen a lot more public-directed attention from scientists. More and more scientists have called me up—strangers for the most part—who say, “I’m thinking about running for office. You’ve done it, how do you do it.” And I say, “just do it.”
TNR: Do you think all this concern is just because of Trump?
RH: Actually, the concerns that I heard raised at the annual meeting seemed to be rooted in trends that began years ago, quite independent of Donald Trump. It is true that when people are appointed to positions and talk without any appreciation or understanding of scientists, well, that gets scientists worried. And when public officials talk about alternative facts, people who have devoted their careers to trying to uncover facts are dismayed. But this type of rhetoric has been present in politics for some time.
TNR: Where do you think the conversation about science in policymaking needs to go from here? What needs to be done to communicate the stakes of an anti-science government?
RH: So much of this discussion in recent weeks and months has not been about specific issues, but about the place of science and science-based evidence in general. The phrase I hear most—more often than genetic engineering or nuclear power or anything like that—is “evidence-based decision-making.” I hear that phrase over and over.
There needs to be a public dawning—and it is beginning to dawn on some members of the public—that how science is practiced actually makes a difference in their lives. If evidence becomes optional, if ideological assertions or beliefs are just as good as scientifically vetted evidence, then their quality of life suffers. I think that’s dawning on people. There’s a level of concern unlike anything I’ve seen.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

Press link for more: motherjones.com

Climate Change impact irreversible #auspol #wapol 

Climate change impact on Australia may be irreversible, five-yearly report says

The Tarkine wilderness area in Tasmania

An independent review of the state of Australia’s environment has found the impacts of climate change are increasing and some of the changes could be irreversible.
The latest State of the Environment report, a scientific snapshot across nine areas released by the federal government every five years, says climate change is altering the structure and function of natural ecosystems in Australia, and is affecting heritage, economic activity and human wellbeing.
It warns climate change will result in “location specific vulnerabilities” and says the most severe impacts will be felt by people who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
Record high water temperatures caused “widespread coral bleaching, habitat destruction and species mortality” in the marine environment between 2011 and 2016, it says.

The minister for energy and the environment, Josh Frydenberg, was due to release the report card on Tuesday morning.
In a column for Guardian Australia, Frydenberg says the report indicates the impact of changing weather patterns is being felt in the ocean, on the Great Barrier Reef and on land, affecting biodiversity and species habitat.
“While carbon emissions per capita have declined from 24.1 tonnes in 2011 to 22.2 tonnes in 2015 and energy efficiency improvements are reducing electricity demand, the report makes clear that, for the world to meet its Paris goals, there is much more to do,” Frydenberg says.


The minister says the report makes clear Australia needs to prepare for changes in the environment and “put in place a coordinated, comprehensive, well-resourced, long-term response”.
He warns that failure to do so “will have a direct and detrimental impact on our quality of life and leave a legacy to future generations that is inferior to the one we have inherited”.
The minister says the report presents the government with a mixed picture. “Good progress has been made in the management of the marine and Antarctic environments, natural and cultural heritage and the built environment – while pressures are building in relation to invasive species, climate change, land use and coastal protection,” he says.
Frydenberg says the doubling of Australia’s population in the past 50 years and growing urbanisation “have all combined to contribute to additional pressures on the environment”.
Australia’s heavily populated coastal areas are under pressure, as are “growth areas within urban environments, where human pressure is greatest”, the report finds.
Grazing and invasive species continue to pose a significant threat to biodiversity.
“The main pressures facing the Australian environment today are the same as in 2011: climate change, land use change, habitat fragmentation and degradation, and invasive species,” the report’s summary says. “In addition, the interactions between these and other pressures are resulting in cumulative impacts, amplifying the threats faced by the Australian environment.
“Evidence shows that some individual pressures on the environment have decreased since 2011, such as those associated with air quality, poor agricultural practices, commercial fishing, and oil and gas exploration and production in Australia’s marine environment.
“During the same time, however, other pressures have increased — for example, those associated with coal mining and the coal-seam gas industry, habitat fragmentation and degradation, invasive species, litter in our coastal and marine environments, and greater traffic volumes in our capital cities.”

The report criticises the lack of “an overarching national policy that establishes a clear vision for the protection and sustainable management of Australia’s environment to the year 2050”.
It points to poor collaboration, gaps in knowledge, data and monitoring and a lack of follow-though from policy to action.
“Providing for a sustainable environment both now and in the future is a national issue requiring leadership and action across all levels of government, business and the community,” it says. “The first step is recognising the importance and value of ecosystem services to our economy and society.
“Addressing Australia’s long-term, systemic environmental challenges requires, among other things, the development of a suite of stronger, more comprehensive and cohesive policies focused on protecting and maintaining natural capital, and ongoing improvements to current management arrangements.”
Late last year, the government established a review of its Direct Action climate policy. The current policy has been widely criticised by experts as inadequate if Australia is to meet its international emissions reduction targets under the Paris climate change agreement.
Shortly after establishing the review, Frydenberg ruled out converting the Direct Action scheme to a form of carbon trading after a brief internal revolt. Many experts argue carbon trading would allow Australia to reduce emissions consistent with Paris commitments at least cost to households and businesses.
The Direct Action review still allows for the consideration of the potential role of international carbon credits in meeting Australia’s emissions reduction targets – a practice Tony Abbott comprehensively ruled out as prime minister – and consideration of a post-2030 emissions reduction goal for Australia.
The review also requires an examination of international developments in climate change policy, which is code for an assessment of what is happening on global climate action in the event the US pulls out of the Paris climate agreement.
The New York Times reported last week that the White House was fiercely divided over Trump’s campaign promise to cancel the Paris agreement.
Its report said Trump’s senior strategist Steve Bannon wanted the US to pull out of the Paris agreement but Bannon’s stance was being resisted by the new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who are concerned about the diplomatic fallout.
The Turnbull government has already indicated that it intends to stay the course with the Paris agreement, and has argued it would take the US four years to withdraw from the deal under the terms of ratification.
But if the US withdraws from Paris, internal pressure inside the Coalition will intensify, and the prime minister will face calls from some conservatives to follow suit.
In his column for Guardian Australia, Frydenberg says the Coalition is doing good work on the environment and the conservative parties in Australia have been responsible for establishing legislation such as the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, and programs such as the Natural Heritage Trust and the first mandatory Renewable Energy Target.
“The task now is to build on this proud Coalition tradition and to use this report to continue the good work the Turnbull government is already doing across so many areas of environmental policy,” he says.

Press link for more: The Guardian

Car sick, we’re poisoning our kids. #auspol #wapol #science

A short, simple factsheet on the impacts of traffic pollution on children’s health

By George Monbiot, published on monbiot.com, 5th March 2017
I wrote this short factsheet for a local school suffering high levels of air pollution, that are caused in part by the parents, sometimes driving their children just 100 metres up the road. Part of the problem is that many people are unaware of the link between pollution and health issues.
When I looked for a summary – in clear and simple language, that most parents can quickly understand – of the damage that traffic pollution can do to children, I could not find one. Nor could the transport campaigns I consulted. So I decided to write my own.
Please feel free to reproduce it, adapt it and use it as you wish. Please also let me know whether and how it can be improved.
If you find it useful, you might like to ask your school to circulate it among the parents by email or on social media, or to print it out and stick it in places (such as classroom doors) where it is likely to be seen.
If we could circulate such materials widely among schools, we could make a material difference to the health of our children (and the rest of the population).

What Traffic Fumes Do to Our Children
Every year, we discover more about the harm being done to our children by the fumes that cars and other vehicles produce.
The more we learn, the worse it looks. In polluted places, the damage to their health can be very serious.
By driving them to school and by sitting in our cars with the engines idling, we are helping to poison our own children.
Here is what we now know about the harm that traffic pollution can do to children:
It can damage the growth of their lungs. This means that the lungs of children who have been affected don’t work so well. The damage can last for the rest of their lives.
It raises the risk of asthma and allergies. For children who already have asthma, pollution can make it worse.
It can damage the development of their brains. 

Air pollution can reduce children’s intelligence, making it harder for them to learn.
It can change their behaviour and reduce their happiness. Air pollution has been linked to anxiety, depression and Attention Deficit Disorder.
It raises the risk of heart disease later in their lives.
It can cause cancer, both in children and when they become adults.
Unborn children can also be affected by the pollution their mothers breathe. Air pollution is linked to babies being born prematurely and small.
Pollution inside your car can be much worse than pollution outside, because the fumes are concentrated in the small space.
We don’t mean to do this to our children. But once we know how much we are hurting them, we can stop it, by changing the way we travel. Walking and cycling are ideal.
Groups like Living Streets can help schools to turn this around. Together we can protect our children from harm.
The information sources for this factsheet can be found at https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/advpub/2016/6/EHP299.acco.pdf, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26825441, http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001792, https://www.rcplo ndon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution, https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1306770/, http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/outdoor/air-pollution/children-and-air-pollution.html and https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/05/the-truth-about-londons-air-pollution

Press link for more:Monbiot.com

Climate Change Adaptation in SE Asia #auspol 

Moving Ahead
with Climate Change Adaptation in Southeast Asia

By Percy E. Sajise1

Climate change is a pervasive concern of the current as well as the future generation. 

It threatens the very survival of what life stands for, including that of the human species. 

The global community is currently confronting the threat of climate change in two ways (including its various combinations): through reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and through other forms of mitigation and adaptation.

The global community is still debating on the first strategy in terms of country targets. 

Meanwhile, another mitigation strategy is now being implemented such that those countries with higher GHG emissions pay those countries with lower emissions; the latter, in turn, plant trees or generate biomass to reduce the level of GHG emissions in the atmosphere. 


However, such strategy should not be construed as a license for these high-emitting countries to continue with their current GHG emission levels.

For small farm holders and fisherfolk who have less production resources and options for livelihoods, the only available and affordable option for them to deal with this challenge is to adapt to climate change; hence, the importance of the strategies and collective lessons on climate change adaptation (CCA). 

The Montpellier Panel Report recommends that governments, donors, and the private sector should invest more on initiatives that would scale-up proven community-based resilient adaptation projects, particularly those projects that would enhance soil, water, and nutrient management; conservation technologies; and risk management tools (Agriculture for Impact 2015).

This becomes doubly signifcant as the window of opportunity in addressing the climate change issue is getting narrower, especially for the most affected and most vulnerable groups.


According to the Center for Sustainable Development (2015), sustainable rural development is defined as “improving the life for rural poor by developing capacities that promote community participation and gender equality, health and education, food and nutrition security, environmental protection, and sustainable economic growth, thereby enabling community members to leave the cycle of poverty and achieve their full potential; its dimensions are human development, natural resources and environment, economic growth, infrastructure, science and technology, and policy and administration.”
CCA is a means of achieving sustainable rural development.

 This is also well-elucidated in the context of the recently launched UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which is the continuation of the Millennium Development Goals after 2015.

Based on the above premises, this climate change book provides a collection of actual cases of how this CCA strategy is being implemented in Southeast Asia. It illustrates cases in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia involving various hierarchical levels—from regional, subregional, country, village, to farm levels. It describes the enabling or constraining environments, methods, and processes of how CCA has been developed at one hierarchical level, and subsequently translated at other levels and scales.

This book is a good reference material for researchers, policy makers, NGOs, and development and extension workers involved in pursuing climate change concerns (in particular) and sustainable development (in general).

Press link for more: SEARCA

Indonesia acts to fight #ClimateChange #auspol 

United States President-elect Donald Trump may have labelled climate change a hoax, but that has not stalled the momentum behind last month’s United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco.

Less than one year after its adoption, the Paris climate agreement has entered into force, with some 175 countries already on board. 

The next step will be to begin implementing the commitments each country has made. 


In South-east Asia in particular, regional cooperation will be critical to address certain issues that transcend national boundaries.
One of the largest obstacles to climate change efforts in South-east Asia remains Indonesia’s forest and peatland fires. Though these fires are perhaps most notorious as the source of the annual haze that blankets our region, they should rightly be framed as a global concern about carbon emissions.
To put things into perspective, Indonesia’s 2015 fires produced the equivalent of 1,750 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MtCO2e), which is almost the same amount emitted by Indonesia’s entire economy in an average year (1,800 MtCO2e).
Hence, it is heartening that Indonesia has shown resolve in addressing the issue.

 The reduction in fires this year must be credited to not only wetter weather, but also the political will and concerted efforts of the government of President Joko Widodo.
At the peak of the haze crisis last year, Mr Widodo visited South Sumatra to understand the fires first-hand and subsequently established the Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) in January 2016. 

The BRG has been charged with coordinating the restoration of 2.1 million hectares of degraded peatland across Indonesia by 2020.
Following orders by Mr Widodo to “get very tough” on errant companies, Indonesian police have arrested more than double the number of individuals in forest fire cases this year compared with last year.
The Indonesian government is also responding faster to fires, enabled by the early declaration of a state of emergency in six provinces. These efforts have been commended by regional leaders, including Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr Masagos Zulkifli.
Such measures were crucial in the immediate aftermath of the fires. But the true challenge comes in figuring out how to tackle this complex problem in the long term.
One pressing issue is the ongoing debate over the most appropriate way to restore degraded peatland. Comprised of partially decayed organic matter, peatland is often drained to grow oil palm, acacia trees for pulp and paper, and other agricultural crops. But drained peat is highly flammable during the dry season, resulting in fires that can take months to extinguish.
Some parties contend that the only sustainable way to restore degraded peatland is to rewet, reforest and protect the entire landscape. Otherwise, fires that start on agricultural lands may easily spread into protected areas, destroying intact forests.
Worse still, protected forest will continue to be affected by drainage from surrounding agricultural areas. Drainage causes peatland to subside, causing the land to become flooded and unusable in the long term.
Other parties argue that it is unrealistic to reforest large peatland areas that already contain thousands of villages and extensive industrial plantations, which generate a great deal of employment and economic benefit.
They also point to the fact that there is still a limited market for native peatland crops that do not require drainage — such as jelutong, sago and illipe nut — compared with more commonly grown crops such as oil palm and areca nut.
It appears that the Indonesian government’s approach is to strike a balance between these competing concerns. On Dec 1, Mr Widodo signed a regulation that banned new clearing of peatland for crop cultivation.
Plantations will also be required to set a minimum ratio between cultivation and conservation areas, and lay down guidelines for the proper management of peatland plantations. BRG has plans to rewet areas set aside for conservation and improve their fire readiness by installing wells and monitoring systems.
Now, Indonesia faces the challenge of harmonising these standards across its 12.9 million hectares of peatland, which is likely to be a complex and time-consuming process. In the meantime, the scale and urgency of peatland restoration will require the support of parties from outside Indonesia.
Firstly, collaboration is required to improve and disseminate knowledge about peatland, which remains an under-researched subject. The UN meeting in Marrakech saw the launch of the Global Peatlands Initiative (GPI), the largest international collaboration on peatland to date, which aims to share scientific knowledge to develop local capacity for peatland management. Indonesia is one of the founding members of the GPI.
Closer to home, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, the World Resources Institute Indonesia and other leading non-governmental organisations in Asean recently organised the Regional Peat Restoration Workshop in Jakarta, which showcased ongoing restoration efforts in order to share learning points with others conducting similar projects.
Secondly, peatland restoration is expensive and will require financial support from other countries. Funding is especially needed to scale up current projects, many of which are still small-scale and experimental, so that they cover entire peat landscapes. This will maximise impact and minimise the conflicts that often result between multiple, smaller projects.
One recently-launched initiative to provide such funding is the Tropical Landscapes Finance Facility. A joint effort between BNP Paribas, ADM Capital and the United Nations Environment Programme, the facility has mobilised over US$1.1 billion (S$1.59 billion) of investments to reverse land degradation, prevent unwise land conversion and improve revenues for small farmers.
Western donors, most notably Norway, have also pledged about US$135 million to support the BRG. Others in the international and regional community can and should add their support.
In the longer term, Indonesia’s strategy involves changing the legal rights for industrial plantations to turn them into ecosystem restoration concessions that finance the restoration of forests and peatlands through the sale of carbon credits, among other methods.
The international community plays a crucial role in developing the market and providing the demand for such credits.

Climate change is rightly seen as an issue that affects all countries. 

Now that Indonesia has taken several important steps to prevent the return of fires, it is vital that other countries begin supporting its efforts.
Though approaches may differ, there is a need to recognise that we are working towards the same goal and that there are significant areas of overlap to work on. The need is urgent and we must not lose the valuable momentum that has been built up so far behind forest and peatland restoration.

Press link for more:ClimateChange.searca.org

We need Left & Right to fix #climatechange 

Why Democrats and Republicans are Both Right on Climate.
Two very different action plans from opposite sides of the aisle could be even more effective if both are implemented.

Over the past two years, two thoughtful, innovative, and dramatically different plans to address global warming have been presented to the American public by the Democratic and the Republican Parties. 

Both plans would move the nation significantly toward a sustainable future.

The first, the Clean Power Plan (CPP), introduced by President Obama, calls on states to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector by 32 percent below their individual 2005 baselines by 2030. 

The CPP further makes $8 billion available to retrain and aid coal-workers and their families. 

This is a sizeable transition fund for an industry now valued in total at less than $50 billion, a tenth of what it was just a few decades ago.

The second, the Carbon Dividend Plan (CDP) was recently proposed by the Climate Leadership Council which is headlined by former Republican Secretaries of State James Baker and George Schultz, as well as former Treasury Secretary Paulson, two former Chairmen of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and a Chairman of the Board of Walmart.

 The CDP calls for a modestly rising carbon tax, with dividends paid directly back to American families amounting to roughly $2,000 per year for a family of four.

Both plans have a great deal to like. 

The home run strategy for American job creation and industrial leadership is to implement both the CPP and the CDP.

The federal government estimates that the CPP will yield climate benefits to the U. S. economy of $20 billion, and health benefits of $14-34 billion, and to each year avoid 3,600 premature deaths, 1,700 heart attacks, 90,000 asthma attacks, and 300,000 missed work and school days.

 With so many of these illnesses in lower-income areas and in minority communities, the CPP is of tremendous benefit to poorer Americans and to the national budget as well.

 To be fair, some, but not all, of these benefits would also come from the CDP, although they are less clear-cut because emissions reductions could come from other sectors of the economy beyond electricity.

The CDP includes a provision for boarder taxes on foreign imports from nations that do not implement some form of carbon pricing, presumably with a dispensation for the world’s poorest nations.

Together the CPP and the CDP build a vibrant, intensely job-creating energy sector that would be far larger than either plan accomplishes alone. 

The CPP does not pit one state against each other, but pushes each state to develop its own carbon reduction plan.

 Both red and blue states are finding this easier and more profitable than previously imagined.

 The power sector reduced its carbon emissions 21 percent between 2005-2015, primarily by switching from coal to gas.

 It is well on the way to complying with the Clean Power Plan.

The CPP will accelerate the transition to money-saving energy efficiency, and to a job-rich renewable energy sector. 

Countries such as China, Bangladesh, Denmark, Germany Kenya, Korea, and Portugal have seen tremendous manufacturing and job growth as they made their electricity sectors more diverse, clean, and job-producing.


As innovations spread in the energy sector, the benefits of the CDP come into play. 

The carbon dividend to U. S. families is estimated by the U. S. Treasury to directly benefit financially the poorest 70 percent (some 223 million people) of Americans. 

A federal infrastructure investment would further stimulate this deal, bringing jobs to the capital-intensive energy sector across the country.

Of equal or greater importance, however, is the fact that the U. S. and EU energy sectors are growing by less than 1 percent per year, but in many other nations energy demand is growing by 5 percent per year or more.

 The CDP pushes other countries to adopt carbon policies, making them ready markets for the products that the invigorated U. S. energy sector will deliver.

Because the energy industry is about systems integration, not simply individual technology components, countries need company partners that are expert and trusted to deliver integrated packages. 

This is a hallmark of the U. S. energy sector, from the complex and extensive oil and gas industry, to companies like Bechtel and Johnson Controls, to the fastest growing part of the U. S. economy, the clean energy innovators.

The real beauty of the two proposals is how well they can work together for the benefit of all Americans, and at the same time, the global environment.

Daniel M. Kammen is a professor of energy at the University of California, Berkeley, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, and Science Envoy for the U. S. State Department. Twitter: @dan_kammen; URL: http://rael.berkeley.edu

Connecting with Climate Science #auspol

Connecting with climate science
Protecting science-based policymaking requires engaging the public, not politicians. 

Cultural institutions and the arts provide non-partisan platforms for communication that can connect scientific climate change data to people’s lives.
A rapid stream of policy changes and an unprecedented public reaction marked the first weeks of the Trump presidency.

 In response to signs from the Trump administration that they plan to muzzle government researchers, cut grant funding, and reverse science-based policies, a March for Science is being organized for Earth Day (22 April 2017) in Washington DC and around the world (http://go.nature.com/2kOWpXm). 


However, there are concerns that a March for Science will only reinforce the view held by sceptics that the research itself is politicized.

 Writing in The New York Times, coastal geologist Robert Young argued that to effect change, scientists need to work harder to communicate with the general public, not politicians, about the scientific evidence and how it relates to people’s lives. 

“We need storytellers, not marchers.”
Incorporating climate change into cultural experiences can engage the public and change the conversation. 

In this issue’s Feature (page 168), Sonja van Renssen explores the myriad ways the arts are being used to communicate the oftentimes-abstract impacts of climate change and the underlying scientific data. 

For instance, photorealistic depictions of iconic coastal cities under 2 °C and 4 °C warming scenarios provoke stronger emotional responses than simply knowing that sea level rise could be between 7–10 metres; films that allow viewers to actually see a city’s daily carbon emissions (pictured) and musical compositions based on climate data4, 5may better capture aspects of the data’s meaning that are not easily “grasped from a static scientific graph, like very large quantities or changes over time. These artistic renderings bridge the gap between knowing the facts and understanding them.

CARBON VISUALS, WWW.CARBONVISUALS.COM

As museum advisor Morien Rees writes in a Commentary (page 166), “how and where communication is achieved is as important as what is communicated”. He argues that museums are ideal venues to address the challenges of climate change communication because of their unique ability to foster dialogue across disciplines, making complex global issues locally relevant. 

For instance, his own museum in Norway is working with climate researchers and national park rangers to create an exhibit within the Varanger Peninsula National Park (http://go.nature.com/2lPpY8P) to highlight the impact of climate change on park wildlife. 

In a similar vein, the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg, Canada, has an award-winning exhibit (http://go.nature.com/2ksDwG0) that integrates virtual reality and video simulation technology and pure water science to draw attention to the problems facing Lake Winnipeg due to climate change and the actions required to save it.
Climate change is often presented as an issue for scientists and policymakers, which can make it easy for the public to remain disconnected.

 Both van Renseen and Rees discuss ways in which cultural experiences of climate change can complement major international policy and scientific events to turn passive observers into active participants. 

For example, van Renssen highlights ArtCop21, a global climate art festival that included 551 cultural events and exhibits across 54 countries in the four months preceding the 2015 UN climate conference. 

These musical, literary, theatrical, and visual arts events connected people to the climate problem and the importance of the Paris meeting. Rees proposes that a similar international event should accompany publication of the next IPCC report. Rather than passively learning about the contents from traditional news media, the public could be provided with opportunities to actively engage with the report content through a coordinated global dissemination project designed and executed by the international museum sector.

Indeed, the museum sector already has a cooperative international infrastructure in place that can be mobilized to this end.
The communication divide between scientists and the public, and the influence of political ideology on perceptions of science, is not limited to research topics like climate change that are themselves politically polarizing. For example, a 2016 poll conducted by Research!America (http://go.nature.com/2kpbyQr) found that 81% of respondents could not name a living scientist. #actuallivingscientist subsequently went viral on 3 February 2017 and was used by scientists to explain who they are and what they do in 140 characters

While it seemed to respond to the problem of people lacking awareness of scientists, it is not clear that this has done more than unite the scientific community — people who do not know a living scientist are unlikely to be following one on social media. This falls short of the personal public engagement that Robert Young envisions, and does little to overcome the perception that climate change is a partisan issue. Museums and galleries provide impartial platforms to disseminate climate and science messages beyond the echo chamber, but scientists can contribute by thinking about new ways to make their data accessible and personally meaningful.

Press link for more:Nature.com