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Coalition Quietly Appoints Expert Panel To Salvage Emissions Policy

Lethal Heating - 1 November, 2019 - 04:00
The Guardian |

Panel given less than a month to provide recommendations, despite government’s claims on meeting Paris target
The Bayswater black coal-powered thermal power station in the NSW upper Hunter Valley. The government has quietly appointed a panel of experts to devise ways to tackle Australia’s rising carbon emissions. Photograph: Taras Vyshnya/Alamy Stock Photo The Morrison government has quietly appointed an expert panel to come up with new ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions and given it less than a month to come up with recommendations.
In what is being seen by observers as an acknowledgment that its main climate change policy, the $2.55bn emissions reduction fund, is failing to cut national pollution, the government has appointed a panel of four business leaders and policy experts to suggest options to expand it.
The panel is headed by Grant King, the outgoing president of the Business Council of Australia and a former chief executive of Origin Energy. It was appointed by the minister for emissions reduction, Angus Taylor, in mid-October but has not been made public.
Business sources say the Morrison government, via officials, has been privately sounding out various groups about an overhaul of the fund for months. But stakeholders were taken aback when the King panel approached them to provide detailed comments on options in less than two weeks.
A letter from King to interest groups, seen by Guardian Australia, apologises implicitly for the compressed timeframe, acknowledging “it may not be possible to fully consult across your membership before providing your response”. But he argues there will be time for follow-up discussions as a final report is prepared.
The letter was sent with a discussion paper headed “Expert panel examining opportunities for further abatement” that critiques and sets out options “to enhance” the fund.
The panel has been established despite Morrison and Taylor maintaining they have set out “to the last tonne” of carbon dioxide how Australia will meet the 2030 emissions target announced before the Paris climate conference. In reality, national emissions have risen each year since 2015 and most analyses suggest the government will not reach the goal, a 26%-28% cut below 2005 levels, under current policies.
The discussion paper, first reported by Footprint, says the emissions reduction fund has been successful in generating carbon offsets from native vegetation and landfill projects, largely because they cost relatively little and do not require businesses to make substantial operational changes.
But it says the scheme has done little to cut emissions through energy efficiency projects and from industry, agriculture and transport, in part due to high upfront and transaction costs.
The emissions reduction fund works as a reverse auction, rewarding landowners and businesses that make cheap, viable bids for taxpayers’ support to cut pollution. The most recent auction bought emissions cuts equivalent to only 0.01% of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas pollution after officials found just three projects worth backing.
The paper says the government is looking at ways to attract more participants from industry and agricultural businesses.
It is also considering new incentives to complement the fund, including partnerships with other tiers of government and the private sector and reconsidering how to best spend “existing financing resources”. Those resources include an additional $2bn committed to the fund before the election (when the government rebranded it as part of what it calls a climate solutions fund) and money allocated to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
Possible emissions reduction options listed include:
  • Changing the scheme known as the safeguard mechanism, which was supposed to limit emissions from big industry but in practice has allowed pollution to increase, so companies that emit less than their limit are awarded carbon credits they could sell to the government or business. Companies now have limits based on emissions intensity (how much they emit for every dollar earned) rather than outright pollution.
  • Offering companies cash to help pay for technology-focused emissions reduction projects that would otherwise struggle to be financially viable.
  • Boosting energy efficiency by giving smaller operators better access to expert advice and providing incentives to reduce energy use in commercial buildings and low-income housing.
There is a view among some stakeholders that the Morrison government is trying to pull together a policy reboot before a meeting of energy ministers at the Council of Australian Governments energy council in November. The meeting has been delayed for months because of wrangling among the participants.
Guardian Australia revealed in August that the New South Wales government had asked Canberra to provide an alternative to the dumped national energy guarantee. It would see the Morrison government underwrite both new generation to replace the Liddell power station, probably firmed renewables, and new investments in transmission.
Energy stakeholders are speculating that some states may also pursue money from the fund to drive abatement .
In response to questions about the panel, Taylor said the environment department and expert panel were working together to ensure the $2bn climate solutions fund would deliver the most emissions abatement possible.
He said the commonwealth conservatively estimated the fund would deliver at least 103m tonnes of cuts by 2030. “This is a minimum target, not a cap,” he said.
Interest groups were asked to give quick feedback last week before the panel submits advice to Taylor next month. The other panel members are Susie Smith, chief executive of the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, Prof Andrew Macintosh, head of the Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee, and David Parker, the Clean Energy Regulator chairman.
The fund has faced consistent criticism since it replaced the Gillard-era carbon pricing scheme. A Guardian Australia investigation found while the type of vegetation projects it supports were worthwhile it was often difficult to know what taxpayers were getting for their money.
There have been problems with how emissions cuts from some projects have been calculated and some methodologies have paid for cuts that would have happened anyway. Others have supported fossil fuel projects.
The government has also been criticised for planning to reduce the difficulty of meeting its 2030 target by using what are known as “carryover credits”, which it has claimed for Australia surpassing the targets it set under the Kyoto protocol (an 8% increase in emissions between 1990 and 2012, and a 5% reduction between 2000 and 2020).
The environment department has conceded it is not aware of any other country planning to use carryover credits to meet a target under the Paris agreement.

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Greta Thunberg Rejects Environmental Prize, Saying: ‘The Climate Doesn’t Need Awards’

Lethal Heating - 1 November, 2019 - 04:00
Untitled DocumentWashington PostLateshia Beachum

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg attends a climate rally in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. (Melissa Renwick/The Canadian Press via AP)Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has turned down a prestigious environmental honor. The reason? She doesn’t think the climate movement needs any more awards.
In a lengthy Instagram post in which she is pictured bundled up in a yellow raincoat, looking pensively into the camera, Thunberg, 16, outlined why she will not be accepting the Nordic Council’s 2019 Environmental Award.
“What we need is for our politicians and the people in power [to] start to listen to the current, best available science,” she wrote, acknowledging the prestige of the award and the esteemed climate reputation that many Nordic countries have.
Thunberg was nominated by Sweden and Norway for the prize, which is awarded to a company, organization or person for noteworthy efforts to “integrate respect for nature and the environment into their business or work or for some other form of extraordinary initiative on behalf of nature and the environment,” according to the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers website.


After taking a solar-powered boat from England to New York to attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit, Thunberg discussed what activists need to do. (Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post)

The award, which was established in 1995, comes with a cash prize of 350,000 Danish krone, or about $52,000. Thunberg also said in her Instagram statement that she was turning down the money until leaders in Nordic countries “act in accordance with what sciences says is needed to limit the global temperature rise.”
Thunberg has become a globally recognized face for climate change as her protests to improve the environment morphed from skipping school and sitting outside the Swedish parliament to spearheading a worldwide youth movement in which teens have ditched school to call attention to increasing temperatures and protest disappointing climate change actions by lawmakers.
Her grass-roots movement, FridaysforFuture, is exactly why the Nordic Council chose her for the award.
“Like none before her, in a very short space of time Greta has succeeded in raising awareness of climate and environmental issues in the Nordic countries and the rest of the world,” the Nordic Council Jury said. “She has stubbornly and persuasively urged the world to listen to research and act on the basis of facts. Her influence has become so extensive that there is now talk of a global ‘Greta Thunberg effect.'”
Last month, youth in more than 150 countries skipped classes to demonstrate their concerns about climate change and to urge their elected officials to do something about it.

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Business Lobby Groups Accused Of 'Undermining' Climate Change Policy

Lethal Heating - 1 November, 2019 - 04:00
ABC NewsAndrew Robertson

BP, Shell and Caltex are among the heavy polluters sitting on the BCA's climate change committee. (AP: Alik Keplicz)Macquarie Group co-founder, and now chairman of Alinta Energy, Mark Johnson is a pillar of the establishment.So it's surprising to hear he's no fan of business lobby groups like the Business Council of Australia (BCA) or the Minerals Council of Australia, which also see themselves as part of the establishment.
Both are under pressure over their stance on climate change.
"I suspect that it may be more analogous to our political situation where a relatively small rump of non-believers, conspiracy theorists and others have exerted influence to stop more proactive policies," Mr Johnson told the ABC.
"You often want to stay outside associations or industry bodies which have a tendency to come up with a slightly lower common denominator answer."Mark Johnson says conspiracy theorists are exerting their influence to frustrate climate change initiatives. (ABC News: John Gunn)And on climate change, there are many who believe that's exactly what business lobby groups are doing.
The latest to speak out are big global investors with $16 trillion in shareholdings, who have put their name to a letter demanding action.
"Investors have clear expectations of companies in impacted sectors and they're looking to work with them to get real positive progress in order to protect shareholder value," said Emma Herd, the CEO of Investor Group on Climate Change (IGCC), whose members are also signatories to that letter.
One of the key demands is for their companies to withdraw from organisations that are not pulling their weight.
"Investors expect companies to ensure that they are aligned with the Paris Agreement and that company resources are not used to support trade associations that act for short-term gain, undermining Paris Agreement objectives," the IGCC letter said.
Front and centre is the coal lobby; groups like the Minerals Council of Australia, Coal 21 and the New South Wales Minerals Council, which the big institutions say, "continue to undermine effective climate policy".
"I think there's a lot of scope for Australia's industry associations to be working better with their members, in terms of managing for what we know will be very real financial implications arising from climate change," Ms Herd said.

Vested interests
The Business Council is under fire for supporting Kyoto carry-over credits to meet Australia's emissions reduction target for the more recent Paris Agreement.
That's despite the BCA saying it supports Paris.
Paris 2030: Will we make it?
Are Australia's efforts to curb global warming enough to meet our Paris targets? Four Corners investigates.
"In carbon accounting terms, that means that these organisations, and now the Federal Government, are planning for Australia to emit an additional 370 million tonnes of carbon, or CO2 equivalent, by 2030," Brynn O'Brien, head of shareholder activist group The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), said.
According to the BCA's website, its policy on climate change comes from its Energy and Climate Change Committee.
A committee where the majority of member companies are heavy emitters of carbon.
It includes big names like Origin Energy, Orica, Santos, BP, Ausgrid, Chevron, BHP, Caltex, Shell and ExxonMobil.
"When you do have that key policy committee dominated by some of the companies that stand to benefit from delay to our de-carbonisation and our transition in Australia, that's how you end up with policy that is not representative of the broader membership," Ms O'Brien said.
Under pressure from shareholders, Westpac, Telstra and BHP are among those reviewing their memberships of the Business Council.
BHP is also reviewing its membership of the Minerals Council, having already quit the world Coal Association.
"Many coal producers I think are quite realistic about the outlook for their commodity, they know that's it's going to decline," Mr Johnson said."But they've got positions to preserve at the moment so they will work quite vociferously to preserve those positions."
Analysis: Morrison's UN speech
RMIT ABC Fact Check looks at some of the key claims made by the Prime Minister at the United Nations to see if they stack up. 
Other lobby groups are also in the firing line.
London-based shareholder activist group Influence Map has rated the world's worst on climate change.
Four Australian organisations make the top 30, with the Minerals Council at number eight.
The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) is ranked 18th, while the Business Council is 20th and the Australian Industry Group is in 30th place.
The top six lobby groups — in terms of resistance to climate change — are all from the United States, according to Influence Map.
It has some harsh words for the Minerals Council though, slamming it as "highly climate-oppositional" and having a "significant impact in undermining climate action".
As shareholder activists toughen their approach to lobby groups, the upcoming annual general meetings of BHP, ANZ and NAB will vote on resolutions calling for those companies to pull out of the Business Council.
And as pressure has built on the Business Council, just to add to its woes, six big companies have cancelled their memberships — AMP, Santos, JB Hi Fi, QBE, Medibank Private and IAG.

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All That Perfectly Good Water Dumped Into The Ocean Like Some Sort Of Enormous NATURE TOILET!

Lethal Heating - 31 October, 2019 - 04:00
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Damian Carrington On 10 Years As The Guardian's Environment Editor

Lethal Heating - 31 October, 2019 - 04:00
The Guardian, as told to

One of our leading environment journalists reflects on how awareness of the climate crisis has shifted in the last decade and offers advice for those who want to do more
Damian Carrington: ‘I’ve seen so much of the earth’s beauty. The flip-side to that is being confronted with its destruction.’ Photograph: Jill Mead/The GuardianWhat did you do before you joined the Guardian?
I did a PhD and post-doc research in geology at Edinburgh University, including an expedition to Antarctica, which was amazing: beautiful, pristine with bursts of life along the coast. But I think my attention span was a bit short for academic life, so I started writing science stories for newspapers. My first staff job was at BBC Tomorrow’s World magazine, then BBC News Online. I went to New Scientist next and then the Financial Times. In 2008, I was delighted to be hired by the Guardian, which was – and is! – my favourite paper.
Damian Carrington on the Snorkel Safari in Kimmeridge, Dorset – a marine conservation zone. Photograph: Peter Willows/BNPS.co.ukHow has awareness of the climate crisis changed in the last decade? What do you think the big milestones have been? When I joined the Guardian, concern about the climate crisis was running high, following a landmark report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth – the IPCC and Gore went on to win the Nobel peace prize. But it was seen as a future problem. The transformative moment was meant to come at the 2009 UN climate change conference in Copenhagen. But it didn’t happen and after that the impacts of the global financial crisis grabbed all the attention. It wasn’t until 2015, by which time the role of human activities in driving climate change was undeniable, that a big step forward was taken with the Paris deal.

How has your role in covering the environment changed in that time?
The Guardian has always taken the environment very seriously. In the decade I have been here, the team has expanded. But the basic approach has largely stayed the same – environmental issues affect everything, so should feature across all our coverage: reporting, exposing and holding to account. Today, the climate crisis is here, evident in more frequent and more severe extreme weather and climate change deniers have been relegated to the far fringes. With the global youth climate strikes inspired by Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion protests, 2019 feels like a new chapter. Those who have campaigned for decades are feeling hopeful.

What would you say are the most important environmental issues?
The climate emergency is the best known, and it will take systemic change to beat it. But the annihilation of wildlife and the destruction of nature is just as crucial in my view – we depend on the natural world for almost everything. The huge scale of the losses – from forests to insects to marine life – has only really become widely reported in the last few years. Pollution is the third issue, particularly the toxic air that causes millions of early deaths every year. Air is actually getting cleaner in some rich nations, but the understanding of how damaging it is – on everything from intelligence to miscarriages – is only really emerging now. Chemical pollution is also a serious global problem, from fertiliser to pesticides to PCBs

What frustrates you about how these issues are sometimes be covered?
One thing is the charge of hypocrisy that is often levelled at environment campaigners because they have a TV or something. Just because you have to live in the world as it is today doesn’t mean you can’t campaign to make it a better place tomorrow. But I think hypocrisy is the attack made by people who know they’ve lost the real argument.

Has your work influenced/informed the way you live your life?
Yes. It’s impossible to write about it every day and not act. I am vegan at home and whenever I can elsewhere. My home is fully insulated and my energy supplier is renewable. I rarely fly for holidays – one short haul flight in the last couple of years – and usually go to Ireland by ferry to surf. I’ve also cycled to work for about 13 years now – it’s cheap, fast and healthy. Being green is often worthwhile for many reasons.

What would you say to readers who want to tackle the environmental crisis?
The big shifts will be driven by the governments we elect (in democracies) and the companies to which we give our custom. Demanding urgent action from those leaders is vital. But personal action is also important, in itself and as an encouragement to others. The biggest action, according to scientists, is having fewer children, but that of course is a deeply personal and complex choice. Flying less and eating less meat and dairy also make big cuts in your impact, as does driving fewer petrol-powered miles and insulating your home.

How can we build on the urgency we’ve seen from many campaigners in 2019 and keep the spotlight fixed firmly on the big changes we need?
We are in a race against time and it’s not at all certain that we are going to win. We understand the problems and what we have to do, more or less, but the pace of action is far too slow. Putting pressure on politicians and business leaders is key – giving them a strong reason to move faster. The good news is that many solutions gain their own momentum once started. In many places, solar and wind power is now the cheapest electricity, and electric cars are the cheapest to own. But there are still big problems to solve, including agriculture and aviation. The young people involved in the climate strikes will be running the world in the not-too-distant future. But we have to make sure we are still in the race by then.

What have been the highlights of your reporting at the Guardian so far? What has made you most proud?
I have written nearly 2,000 stories for the Guardian, and I’d hope most of them have played a part in building awareness of environmental issues. It’s usually hard to know how much impact stories have behind the scenes, but the restoration of slashed flood defence funding in England followed a lot of reporting by me, as did the EU ban on neonicotinoid pesticides, which harm bees. The recent resignation of the executive director of the UN environment programme also followed a string of my stories, which was a good example of the Guardian holding power to account. The environment team get a lot of positive feedback from readers, scientists and policymakers, which is very heartening. One prominent scientist recently told me: “Thank God for the Guardian!”

What is the area within your work and reporting expertise that you feel most passionately about?
Usually the story I’m working on right now. But in recent years I’ve done a lot on pesticides, insects, the impact of livestock, microplastics and harmful subsidies. And badgers. I’ve written a lot about the cull in England. One of my editors here said I had “made the Guardian the paper of choice for small mammals”, which may or may not have been a compliment.

What about the highs and lows of doing the job?
Often, this is the best job in the world. I’ve been fortunate to see a lot of the Earth’s natural beauty. I’ve tracked forest elephants in Gabon, been swimming with giant mantas in the Maldives and walked through extraordinary landscapes high in the Andes. On the other hand, almost every day I have to report more destruction and degradation of the environment. The most heartbreaking story I have covered is the poisoning of children with lead in a former mining town in Zambia. But I was glad to be able to expose it at least.

What’s next for you and the team?
The next 12 months are going to be absolutely pivotal for the world. There’s a major UN biodiversity conference in China next year – the targets set a decade ago have been woefully missed. The UN climate summit in Glasgow, UK, in 2020 will also be vital – nations are going to have to make big increases in the carbon cuts they pledge if we are to get anywhere near the 1.5C temperature rise seen as a safety limit. And we’ll be reporting day in, day out, across the world holding nations and companies to account for the environment and for social justice.

What makes the Guardian unique?
John Vidal, my brilliant predecessor as environment editor, says: “Environment is the world and everything in it”, and I think the issue now permeates all the newspaper’s coverage. That is because the Guardian has always taken the issue seriously, with full support from the top and the resources to match. Our readers really care too, and they tell us. I’d guess there aren’t many places where all that is the case.

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Rising Sea Levels Pose Threat To Homes Of 300m People – Study

Lethal Heating - 31 October, 2019 - 04:00
The Guardian

Figure based on new analysis of coastlines
is more than three times previous estimate River erosion in Bangladesh.
The numbers at risk of an annual flood by 2050 in Bangladesh increased
more than eightfold in the study.
Photograph: Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/Barcroft MediaMore than three times more people are at risk from rising sea levels than previously believed, research suggests.
Land that is currently home to 300 million people will flood at least once a year by 2050 unless carbon emissions are cut significantly and coastal defences strengthened, says the study, published in Nature Communications. This is far above the previous estimate of 80 million.
The upward revision is based on a more sophisticated assessment of the topography of coastlines around the world. Previous models used satellite data that overestimated the altitude of land due to tall buildings and trees. The new study used artificial intelligence to compensate for such misreadings.
Researchers said the magnitude of difference from the previous Nasa study came as a shock. “These assessments show the potential of climate change to reshape cities, economies, coastlines and entire global regions within our lifetimes,” said Scott Kulp, the lead author of the study and a senior scientist at Climate Central.
“As the tideline rises higher than the ground people call home, nations will increasingly confront questions about whether, how much and how long coastal defences can protect them.”
The biggest change in estimates was in Asia, which is home to the majority of the world’s population. The numbers at risk of an annual flood by 2050 increased more than eightfold in Bangladesh, sevenfold in India, twelvefold in India and threefold in China.
The threat is already being felt in Indonesia, where the government recently announced plans to move the capital city from Jakarta, which is subsiding and increasingly vulnerable to flooding. The new figures show 23 million people are at risk in Indonesia, up from the previous estimate of 5 million.

Revised topographical modelling shows millions more people,especially in Asia, are at risk from annual flooding by 2050Guardian graphic. Nature CommunicationsBenjamin Strauss, Climate Central’s chief scientist and CEO, said more countries may need to follow Indonesia’s lead unless sea defences were strengthened or carbon emissions were cut. “An incredible, disproportionate amount of human development is on flat, low-lying land near the sea. We are really set up to suffer,” he said.
The authors say the calculations could still underestimate the dangers because they are based on standard projections of sea level rise in a scenario known as RCP2.6, which assumes emissions cuts in line with the promises made under the Paris agreement. Countries are currently not on course to meet these pledges.
In a worst-case scenario with greater instability of the Antarctic ice sheet, as many as 640 million people could be threatened by 2100, the scientists say.
Strauss said a World Bank study using the old elevation data estimated damages of $1tn per year by mid-century, and this would need to be updated. More sophisticated topographical measurements would also be necessary, he said.
“The need for coastal defences and higher planning for higher seas is much greater than we thought if we are to avoid economic harm and instability,” said Strauss. “The silver lining to our research: although many more people are threatened than we thought, the benefits of action are greater.”

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The Answer To Climate-Killing Cow Farts May Come From The Sea

Lethal Heating - 30 October, 2019 - 04:00
Mother Jones

Methane is an especially potent greenhouse gas. A modest feed additive could provide a big leverage effect.
Cristina ByvikOne day in January 2014, police rushed to a farm in Rasdorf, Germany, after flames burst from a barn. They soon discovered that static electricity had caused entrapped methane from the flatulence and manure of 90 dairy cows to explode.
Headline writers had a field day. But the incident pointed to a serious problem: Ruminant livestock, mostly cattle, account for 30 percent of all global methane emissions, pumping out 3 gigatons of the gas every year in their burps, farts, and manure. Methane is an especially potent greenhouse gas: During its 12-year lifespan after being released, it traps 84 times as much heat as carbon dioxide, and its effect on global warming over a century is 34 times that of CO2. According to the United Nations, reducing methane emissions from cows could be one of the quickest ways to slow climate change.
Methane traps 84 times as much heat as carbon dioxide.The United States government has done little to curb this potent pollution, which makes up 36 percent of the country’s methane emissions.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s AgStar program trains farmers to turn animal waste into biofuel using anaerobic digesters, but it is optional—8,000 farms could implement it, but only about 250 have done so.
Ermias Kebreab, an animal science professor at the University of California–Davis, has spent 15 years studying alternative ways to reduce livestock effusions. Three years ago, he heard that researchers at Australia’s James Cook University had mixed bacteria from cows’ digestive systems with red seaweed and discovered a drastic decrease in methane production. Their lab experiment suggested that reformulating a cow’s diet to contain 2 percent seaweed could reduce its methane emissions by 99 percent.
Kebreab tried to replicate those results with actual animals. His team mixed varying levels of Asparagopsis armata, a type of red seaweed, into the feed of 12 dairy cows over a two-month period. The results were shocking: When the cattle’s chow consisted of just 1 percent seaweed, their methane emissions went down 60 percent. “In all the years that I’ve worked in this area, I’ve never seen anything that reduced it that much,” Kebreab says.
These are preliminary results, but they offer exciting prospects. Seaweed doesn’t require precious freshwater, fertilizer, or land to grow. It can reverse ocean acidification by absorbing carbon dioxide. We’d have to grow quite a bit of seaweed to rely on it for sequestration: One study suggests we could remove the equivalent of 42 percent of all current global CO2 emissions by covering 4 percent of the world’s oceans in seaweed farms—but that’s a lot of ocean.
And as a review published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization notes, if aquaculturists remove rocks or native sea grasses to plant massive seaweed farms, they could disrupt ecosystems and even alter coastal currents. But responsible seaweed cultivation could be a boon to marine habitats, providing nurseries for fish and snails, argues Paul Dobbins, a senior specialist at the World Wildlife Fund and former president of a kelp farm in Maine.
“You don’t have to rebuild 10,000 power plants in the world. You basically create a modest feed additive that has a big leverage effect.”The need to rein in methane emissions is especially urgent in Cali­fornia, home to 1.8 million dairy cows. A 2016 law requires the state air resources board to implement a strategy to reduce these emissions by 40 percent from 2013 levels by 2030. In hopes of helping farmers meet those goals, Kebreab and his team launched a larger version of his cow study in March, using 21 steers that he monitored for six months. So far, the results mirror the first experiment’s, but a full analysis won’t be ready until December. Kebreab’s biggest hurdle has been finding enough seaweed; the variety that’s useful for cows isn’t domestically available.
Massachusetts-based Australis Aquaculture hopes to cultivate red Asparagopsis on ropes anchored off the coast of Vietnam. CEO Josh Goldman is excited about feeding his underwater crop to cows: “You don’t have to rebuild 10,000 power plants in the world. You basically create a modest feed additive that has a big leverage effect.”
WWF’s Dobbins says seaweed farming can be a “triple win”: a way to grow nutritious food for both cows and people, provide coastal jobs, and improve the marine environment. “Everything you do in food production has pluses and minuses relative to the environment,” he says. “Seaweed farming, if done correctly, actually comes out more on the plus side.”

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Emissions Flat-Line As 'Carrot's Not Working And There's No Stick'

Lethal Heating - 30 October, 2019 - 04:00
Sydney Morning HeraldPeter Hannam

Australia's carbon emissions appear to have edged higher in the final quarter of the 2018-19 financial year, delaying the downward trajectory the nation needs in order to hit the country's Paris climate goals.
National emissions are projected to have reached 134.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) in April-June 2019, according to Ndevr Environmental Consultants, an environmental auditing company with a track record of accurately estimating the nation's emissions.
The electricity sector is producing fewer emissions as renewable energy supplies expand, nudging out coal. Credit: AAPThat total would come in about 900,000 tonnes of CO2-e more than for the previous three months, Ndevr said in a report based on public data and sector estimates. The tally would be less - by a similar amount - than the fourth quarter of 2017-18.
For the whole year, emissions were modestly higher than for previous 12 months, marking three consecutive years of increases. Excluding land-use changes - such as deforestation or tree planting - annual emissions have risen for the five years since the Abbott government scrapped the carbon price in 2014.
Source: NDEVR, Australian government"Emissions are flattening out but it's not good enough," Matt Drum, Endvr's managing director, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. "Australia needs a significant decrease to get anywhere near the Paris goals."
A Senate order requires the federal government release official quarterly figures within five months of the end of the respective period. The fourth quarter data is due out by the end of next month.
In line with recent quarters, rises in emissions in the booming liquefied natural gas sector have negated a drop in pollution from the electricity industry as renewable power continues to expand push out coal- and gas-fired power, Ndver estimated. The worsening drought also cut emissions from agriculture.
A reduction in emissions from the electricity sector are being negated by increases from the gas industry. Angus Taylor, the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, said that while the government won't pre-empt the official figures, "we can confirm that they will take into account the government's $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package which accounts for every tonne of abatement needed to meet our 2030 [Paris] target".
"Australia’s international emissions reporting is world class," Mr Taylor said. "We have a comprehensive and timely reporting program for emissions."
Labor, the Greens and environmental groups have criticised the government's emissions stance, not least its plan to meet about half of Australia's Paris target by counting projected "credits" from the current Kyoto Protocol period that ends in 2020.
An environment department official told Senate estimates last week no other country has indicated it would use Kyoto "carryover" credits for their Paris goals. Germany, New Zealand and the UK are among nations to rule them out.
Mr Drum said Australia's emissions trajectory would see it overshoot the 2030 Paris target by 860 million tonnes of CO2 or equivalent gases, or about 1.6 years of its entire annual pollution at current rates.
For instance, the so-called safeguard mechanism introduced by then environment minister Greg Hunt for the 100-plus largest emitting sites had failed to stop pollution rising. Companies had found ways to tap loopholes to lift emissions about 7 per cent in the most recent annual statistics, he said.
"The carrot's not working and there's no stick," Mr Drum said.

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Anthony Albanese Recasts Labor's Climate Policy To Make It 'All About Jobs'

Lethal Heating - 30 October, 2019 - 04:00
The Guardian

Opposition leader’s first vision statement says a shift to clean energy will unlock new economic opportunities
The first of Anthony Albanese’s vision statements has put a heavy emphasis on the job-creating potential of a low-carbon economy. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAPAnthony Albanese has sought to recast Labor’s climate policy as part of a new industrial “revolution”, saying the shift to clean energy will underpin an Australian manufacturing boom that unlocks new jobs and export opportunities.
In the first of the Labor leader’s vision statements that aim to reposition the party in the wake of the May election loss, Albanese focuses on jobs and the future of work, with a heavy emphasis on the job-creating potential of a low-carbon economy.
“The world is decarbonising. With the right planning and vision, Australia can not only continue to be an energy exporting superpower, we can also enjoy a new manufacturing boom. This means jobs,” Albanese said in a draft of a speech to the Centre of Economic Development in Perth on Tuesday, according to excerpts released in advance.“Working towards a low-carbon future provides the opportunity to revitalise the Australian manufacturing sector – opportunities that are all about jobs.”
The speech comes as Labor MPs jostle over how the party should reposition itself on climate policy after the shadow resources minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, called for the opposition to abandon its emissions reduction target in favour of the coalition’s less ambitious plan to reduce emissions by 28% on 2005 levels by 2030.
Labor had proposed an emissions reduction target of 45% in the same period.
In a sign that Albanese wants to maintain the party’s action on climate change as a key point of difference with the coalition, he used Tuesday’s speech to emphasise the benefits of an ambitious emissions reduction policy for jobs in the renewable energy sector.
Labelling climate change “one of the greatest challenges that we face today”, Albanese also said that countries which act to harness cheap renewable energy would also be able to transform into “manufacturing powerhouses”.
“We have the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent, we also have some of the best wind and wave resources and we have some of the best engineers and scientists, breaking the barriers of what is possible with renewable energy,” Albanese said.
“Australia can be the land of cheap and endless energy – energy that could power generations of metal manufacturing and other energy intensive manufacturing industries.”
He points to the potential export opportunities of lithium, rare earths, iron and titanium as the “key ingredients” of the renewables revolution, saying the minerals would be in high demand in a low-carbon future.
“Just as coal and iron ore fuelled the industrial economies of the 20th century, it is these minerals that will fuel the clean energy economies of the 21st,” Albanese said, pointing to the growing demand for lithium for electric vehicles, batteries and energy storage.
But the Labor leader also used the speech to reassure “traditional industries” that they would benefit from the shift to renewables, saying the demand for metallurgical coal would continue, fuelled by growth in wind energy.
Labor has been at pains to reconnect with coal communities since its election defeat, amid concern that blue-collar workers abandoned the party in its traditional stronghold seats.
The former leader Bill Shorten has said since the election that he had misread “some of the mood”, particularly in the resources states of Queensland and Western Australia, saying voters saw some of the party’s policies as “being green-left, not for the worker, not for working people.”
“It pains me to realise at the last election our presentation meant that some people felt we weren’t putting jobs first and foremost in everything we did,” Shorten said.
Labor’s shadow treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has said there was a perception that Labor was “sending mixed messages on the coal industry” during the campaign, while Fitzgibbon has said it was a “huge error” for Labor not to talk about coal because of a fear that it would cost city seats.
Albanese said in the speech that with more than 200 tonnes of metallurgical coal required to produce one wind turbine, growth in global wind generation over the next decade could see Australia exporting 15.5 million tonnes of coking coal to build turbines.
“This is the equivalent of three years output from the Moranbah North coking coal mine in Queensland,” Albanese said.
“Simply put, the road to a low-carbon future can be paved with hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs, as well as supporting traditional jobs, including coalmining. Labor wants to lead that clean energy revolution.”
The first of Albanese’s headland speeches comes as the party braces for the release of a review of the election that is being spearheaded by Jay Weatherill and Craig Emerson to establish what went wrong in its campaign, with climate policy and the party’s position on the Adani coalmine expected to be scrutinised.
Albanese has said the review will be a “line in the sand” for the party as it seeks to reassess all of its policies ahead of the next election, due in 2022.
Along with the focus on green jobs, Albanese also used Tuesday’s speech to call for the government to introduce an upgraded investment guarantee, saying it should form part of a “measured” economic stimulus package.
“Labor has been urging a bringing forward of the infrastructure investment that is needed to stimulate the economy,” he said.
“A bring-forward of infrastructure investment combined with increased business investment would create jobs in the short term as well as lift productivity.”

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How To Mourn A Glacier

Lethal Heating - 29 October, 2019 - 04:00
New Yorker*

In Iceland, a memorial ceremony suggestsnew ways to think about climate change.Video by Josh OkunAlong the western edge of Iceland’s central-highland plateau, in the far east of the Borgarfjörður district, the Kaldidalur, or “cold valley,” stretches twenty-five miles between two barren volcanic ridges: the Prestahnúkur system to the east and the Ok volcano to the west. These volcanoes form part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the longest mountain range in the world, which runs under the ocean from Antarctica to the Arctic and into the Siberian Sea. On the valley’s eastern slope, massive glaciers push dolerite boulders down the mountainsides with their shining blue snouts. The western slope rises slowly toward the summit of Ok, a low shield volcano shrouded in mist.
Although nearly every mountain, stream, and valley in Iceland has a name and a history, Ok isn’t particularly famous. No path brings tourists to its summit, and those who travel the one-lane gravel road through the valley floor typically take no note of Okjökull—meaning “Ok’s glacier”—which spanned sixteen square kilometres at its largest, at the end of the nineteenth century. By 1978, it had shrunk to three square kilometres. In 2014, Iceland’s leading glaciologist, Oddur Sigurðsson, hiked to Ok’s summit to discover only a small patch of slushy gray ice in the shadow of the volcano’s crater. Okjökull could no longer be classified as a glacier, Sigurðsson announced to the scientific community. It had become “dead ice.”
In August, I joined about a hundred scientists, activists, dignitaries, farmers, politicians, journalists, and children, as they gathered at the base of Ok to mourn the lost glacier. The day began cold and gray; a cover of low clouds threatened rain. “The climate crisis is already here,” Iceland’s Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, told the crowd. “It is not just this glacier that has disappeared. We see the heat waves in Europe. We see floods. We see droughts.” Film crews pointed their cameras, while the wind whipped Jakobsdóttir’s hair and the paper on which she had written her remarks. “The time has come not for words, not necessarily for declarations, but for action,” she said.
Her message was echoed by Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland and former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and by Kumi Nadoo, the secretary-general of Amnesty International, who assured us that the planet would be fine. But, if we sustain our current trajectory, he continued, humans would be gone. Nadoo passed the microphone to the writer and former Icelandic Presidential candidate Andri Snær Magnason, who gripped it with both gloved hands. “Some of the students who are here today are twenty years old,” he said, his voice shaking. “You may live to be a healthy ninety-year-old, and at that time you might have a favorite young person—a great-grandchild, maybe—who is the age you are now. When that person is a healthy ninety-year-old, the year will be 2160, and this event today will be in the order of direct memory from you to your grandchild in the future.”
Magnason, who wore black glasses, a black stocking cap, and waterproof pants, had written the text for a memorial plaque that was to be installed at the top of the volcano, at the site of the former glacier. Like his speech, the plaque was meant, he said, to connect us to “the intimate time of the future.” He asked us to turn toward the mountain. I followed the crowd away from the road and up Ok’s slope. Behind us, the volcanoes darkened with rain.
The area where Ok Glacier once was. The landscape is desolate, with rocks that are reminiscent of a large lakebed. Photograph by Josh OkunDominic Boyer, Cymene Howe, and Magnús Örn Sigurðsson brave the elements to hike to the summit of Ok mountain and drill holes for the plaque. Photograph by Josh OkunWhen Sigurðsson first announced Okjökull’s death, it was reported with little fanfare. A brief program aired on public television, and one short, four-line story appeared in an English-language newspaper. Around that time, two American anthropologists, Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer—my colleagues at Rice University—began conducting fieldwork on the social impacts of the climate crisis in Iceland. The story about the death of Okjökull caught their attention, they told me, because Ok (pronounced “auk”) “was not O.K.” Photographs of the melting ice cap showed the caldera in the shape of an “O”; inside the crater, a black rock jutting from the ice, looked like a “C”. One Icelander they spoke to pointed out that “Oc” is the spelling of Ok in medieval Icelandic. The mountain, they said, seemed to be writing its own name.Howe and Boyer began making a documentary about the glacier. Working with a team of Icelanders, they filmed interviews with farmers and artists who lived near the volcano, and with scientists, politicians, folklorists, writers, professors, tourists, and religious leaders. When asked how they felt about the death of Okjökull, some people shrugged and said that they were sad. Others admitted that they were hearing its name for the first time. Sigurðsson, the glaciologist, insisted to Howe and Boyer that, even though Okjökull was the smallest named glacier in Iceland, its death was a major loss. “It should not feel like just brushing something off your coat,” he told them. Children learn the name of Okjökull in their earliest geography lessons; they see its name printed on nearly every Icelandic map. “A good friend has left us,” Sigurðsson said.
After the documentary premièred, in 2018, Howe and Boyer sought a sense of closure. They settled on the idea of installing the memorial plaque and asked Magnason to write the text. It was a difficult prompt, Magnason told me: only a handful of people might ever climb the mountain, and fewer still would happen to stumble across the plaque. The other challenge was how to evoke, in words, the linkage between glaciers and memory. “The oldest Icelandic texts are a thousand years old,” Magnason said—around the same age as the ice in the country’s oldest glaciers. “In all that time, the Earth has been quite stable, but the Earth will have changed more in the next two hundred years than in the last thousand years.” The plaque, cast in copper, would need to cohere for a reader two centuries from now, he explained, while also enshrining a specific moment of urgency.Magnason decided to address his imagined audience directly. “A letter to the future,” the plaque reads in both Icelandic and English. “Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years, all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.” As Howe, Boyer, and Magnason planned the ceremony, the first public photographs of the plaque were released and went viral. Soon, they began hearing from people all over Europe, Asia, and North America—scientists, journalists, even the Prime Minister of Iceland—who wanted to be part of the funeral for the dead glacier at the top of the world.f we say something has died, can we also say it once lived? A few days before the memorial ceremony for Okjökull, I met Sigurðsson for coffee on an uncommonly sunny morning in Reykjavík, hoping to learn more about why he had chosen to frame the loss of the glacier as a death. For a glaciologist, Sigurðsson has amassed an unusual degree of celebrity. His phone rang several times as we talked, and he admitted that he was not used to the attention. He was looking forward to a trip with his wife, the next week, to celebrate their anniversary.
Sigurðsson brightened when I asked him about glaciers. “They are enormously interesting as a natural phenomenon,” he said. Partly his passion was aesthetic—“They just shine,” he said—but he was also interested in why they surge suddenly and without explanation. When I asked him directly if glaciers were living, he hesitated. Things that grow and move, we tend to consider animate, he said, even if we resist the idea that every animate thing has a soul. A healthy glacier grows each winter more than it melts each summer; moves on the ground under its own weight; and is at least partially covered with a thick, fur-like layer of snow. Glaciers also move on their insides, especially in Iceland, where the glaciers are made of temperate ice, which exists right at the melting point. This sets them apart from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, which are frozen and older by hundreds of thousands of years.
In Iceland, Sigurðsson said, the oldest ice was born more than a thousand years ago, before the Little Ice Age, on the north side of Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in the country. Vatnajökull is roughly the area of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, and stands almost as tall as the Empire State Building. Okjökull, by comparison, was small and young when it died; ice covered the mountaintop for only a few centuries. Sigurðsson knows this because he had counted the glacier’s rings, which were formed by dust each year—not unlike the rings on a tree. The rings contained a sort of memory—a record of pollen clouds, volcanic eruptions, world wars, and nuclear meltdowns. When a glacier melts, Sigurðsson explained, its memory disappears.
Having “memory” is just one of the many ways scientists refer to glaciers in terms that make them seem alive. They also “crawl” and have “toes”; when they break off at the ablation edge, they are said to have “calved.” They are born and die—the latter at increasing rates, especially during “the great thaw” of the past twenty years. When Sigurðsson conducted a glacier inventory in the early two-thousands, he found more than three hundred glaciers in Iceland; a repeat inventory, in 2017, revealed that fifty-six had disappeared. Many of them were small glaciers in the highlands, which had spent their lives almost entirely unseen. “Most of them didn’t even have names,” he told me. “But we have been working with local people to name every glacier so that they will not go unbaptized.” Now, he intends to complete their death certificates and bring a stack of them to meetings. The next to go, he thinks, will be Hofsjökull, to the east.
It is unusual for a glaciologist to fill out a death certificate, but something concrete, like a piece of paper or a plaque, helps to make clear that the loss is irreversible. The last ice age began in the Pleistocene and ended ten thousand years ago, when Iceland was covered in a massive ice sheet thousands of feet thick. The planet has warmed, cooled, and warmed again since then; ice has advanced and retreated, and this movement has carved the mountains and valleys that we claim as our own. But, in the past several years alone, we have witnessed not only an acceleration of the great thaw, but also the sudden bleaching of the coral reefs, the rapid spread of the Sahara desert, continuous sea-level rise, the warming of the oceans, and record-breaking hurricanes each season and every year. This is one of the most distressing things about being alive today: we are witnessing geologic time collapse on a human scale.
The crowd moments after the plaque placement ceremony. The monument is within a few hundred feet of the remaining glacial ice, and is the largest rock in the area. Photograph by Josh OkunA rare ground rainbow in the Kaldidalur. Photograph by Josh OkunClimbing Ok, we scrambled for hours over dolerite boulders, pitted lava rocks, patches of thick moss, and the small streams that trickled down the volcano to the lake below. We paused for lunch before the final leg of the hike, and Magnason instructed us to approach the caldera with reverence and humility. Elsewhere in Iceland, he explained, climbing to the summit of a mountain in silence and without looking back is said to grant the hiker three wishes. Wishes are sometimes too grand to be of use, Howe added, but it can be useful to imagine the future we hope to see.
As we walked the last few hundred feet, I realized that we lack metaphors for comprehending the future, much less the scale of the disaster that it has in store for us. Then the mountainside levelled, and the sight of the crater purged all thoughts from my head. The ice was gray, lifeless, uncanny. Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Iceland’s Minister of the Environment, stood on the boulder that had been chosen as the site of the memorial. Children surrounded him with protest signs, demanding that their political leaders, their parents, and their teachers do more. “When I grew up as a little boy not very far away from here, my grandmother taught me the names of all the mountains we could see on the horizon, and the names of the four glaciers,” Guðbrandsson said. “When I visit my parents today on their farm, I can see only three.” The wind chill had dropped below freezing, and the crowd huddled together for warmth. Sigurðsson read a list of vital statistics from Okjökull’s death certificate. “The age of this glacier was about three hundred years,” he said. “Its death was caused by excessive summer heat. Nothing was done to save it.”
Howe and Boyer asked the children to come to the front of the crowd. “We need to understand our relationship to the world in ways we haven’t had to in the past,” Howe said. “We need to be able to imagine a new future.” There was a moment of silence as the children pushed the plaque into place. The day had cleared a little, and I could see across the Kaldidalur to the glaciers on the opposite peaks. Below them, in the valley’s deepest crevice, a meltwater lake was forming, already so blue and deep.
  • Lacy M. Johnson is the author, most recently, of “The Reckonings.”
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Thirst Turns To Anger As Australia's Mighty River Runs Dry

Lethal Heating - 29 October, 2019 - 04:00
ReutersTracey Nearmy

MENINDEE, Australia (Reuters) - Reduced to a string of stagnant mustard-colored pools, fouled in places with pesticide runoff and stinking with the rotting carcasses of cattle and fish, the Darling River is running dry.

The parched earth of Australia’s longest waterway, if tributaries are included, is in the grip of the continent’s most severe drought in a century.
At Menindee, 830 km west of Sydney, despair has turned to anger as residents blame the government for exacerbating the drought by drawing down river water in 2017 for irrigation and other uses downstream.
Locals now avoid using tap water for drinking and washing babies and children, saying it has caused skin irritation, and prefer boxed and bottled water instead.
“That was our food source, the river, our water source. That was our livelihood,” said Aboriginal elder Patricia Doyle, in her backyard piled with flotsam discovered in the now-exposed riverbed.
“When you live on a river and you have to have water brought into your town to drink and survive on, what’s that saying? It’s saying that our system ... isn’t looked after properly.”
The past two years have been the driest in the catchment area of the Darling, which flows 2,844 km (1,767 miles) over the outback to the sea, and adjoining Murray river since records began in 1900.
Ngiyaampaa girl Punta Williams poses for photographs on the dry riverbed before performing at Yaama Ngunna Baaka Corroboree Festival on the banks of the Darling River in Wilcannia, New South Wales, Australia, October 1, 2019. Recently, Aboriginal communities held special festivals along the river "to heal the Barka". Ochre-painted dancers performed around fires at dusk, revering the river but also seeking to draw attention to its plight. REUTERS/Tracey Nearmy   Drought is weighing on economic growth, and the dire conditions have prompted Australia, a major wheat exporter, to import the grain for the first time in 12 years.
Last summer was the hottest on record, and in Menindee, where temperatures regularly top 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit), another scorching season is expected.
The government has set up a panel to evaluate water management and ordered its anti-trust watchdog to investigate trading in irrigation rights.

‘The River Should Be Flowing’
Doyle’s clan is called the Barkindji, or people of the river, and in Aboriginal language, the Darling is called the Barka.
The river is at the heart of stories about the origins of the clan and its cultural life, particularly evident in Menindee where a third of 550 residents are indigenous, compared with a national average of less than 3%.
Lined with river red gums, the Darling also waters some of Australia’s richest grazing land, and until the construction of railways in the early 20th century, was the main route used to take wool and other goods to market.
All aspects of society are now suffering. “The river country itself, it doesn’t provide as much as what it used to,” says Kyle Philip, a Barkindji hunter and goat musterer.
Parents have forbidden children from swimming in the murky water that remains. Fish caught in holes still deep enough to hold water are inedible.
“We could taste the mud in the meat of the perch,” said Philip. “We couldn’t really eat them.”
The trunk of a gum tree glows as the sun sets over what is left of the Darling River in Menindee, Australia, September 29, 2019. Lined with river red gums, the Darling also waters some of Australia's richest grazing land. Reduced to a string of stagnant mustard-coloured pools, fouled in places with pesticide runoff and stinking with the rotting carcasses of cattle and fish, the Darling River is running dry. REUTERS/'Tracey Nearmy
Picture package of the Darling RiverRecently, Aboriginal communities held special festivals along the river “to heal the Barka”. Ochre-painted dancers performed around fires at dusk, revering the river but also seeking to draw attention to its plight.
“We’re going to start dancing and singing the land,” organizer Bruce Shillingsworth said. “Singing the rivers, singing our environment back again to make it healthy.”
And in the Anglican church at Menindee, there are prayers. “The river should be flowing,” said Reverend Helen Ferguson.
“When that river flows, the people are just abuzz and the whole town just comes to life. But that hasn’t happened for some time now and my prayer is that people don’t get worn down through that.”

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The Real Reason Some Scientists Downplay The Risks Of Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 29 October, 2019 - 04:00
The GuardianDale Jamieson | Michael Oppenheimer | Naomi Oreskes

Climate deniers often accuse scientists of exaggerating the threats associated with the climate crisis, but if anything they’re often too conservative
Sea ice on the ocean surrounding Antarctica. Photograph: Ted Scambos/AP Dale Jamieson, Michael Oppenheimer and Naomi Oreskes are authors of Discerning Experts: The Practices of Scientific Assessment for Environmental Policy.
    Although the results of climate research have been consistent for decades, climate scientists have struggled to convey the gravity of the situation to laypeople outside their field.
    If anything, the wider public only recently seems to have awakened to the threat of the climate crisis. Why?
    In our new book, Discerning Experts: The Practices of Scientific Assessment for Environmental Policy, we attempted to illuminate how scientists make the judgments they do.
    In particular, we wanted to know how scientists respond to the pressures, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, that arise when they know that their conclusions will be disseminated beyond the research community – in short, how scientists are affected when they know the world is watching.
    We explored these questions with respect to assessments of acid rain, ozone depletion and sea level rise predictions from the west Antarctic ice sheet.
    While climate skeptics and deniers often accuse scientists of exaggerating the threats associated with the climate crisis, the available evidence suggests the opposite.
    By and large, scientists have either been right in their assessments, or have been unduly conservative. We noticed a clear pattern of underestimation of certain key climate indicators, and therefore underestimation of the threat of climate disruption.
    When new observations of the climate system have provided more or better data, or permitted us to re-evaluate earlier conclusions, the findings for ice extent, sea level rise and ocean temperature have generally been worse than previously thought.
    One of the factors that appears to contribute to this trend of underestimation is the perceived need for consensus, or what we call “univocality”: the felt need to speak in a single voice.
    Many scientists worry that if they publicly air their disagreement, government officials will conflate their differences of opinion with ignorance and use this as justification for inaction.
    Others worry that even if policy-makers want to act, they will find it difficult to do so if scientists fail to send an unambiguous message.
    Therefore, scientists actively seek to find their common ground, and to focus on those areas of agreement. In some cases, where there are irreconciliable differences of opinion, scientists may say nothing, giving the erroneous impression that nothing is known.
    How does the pressure for univocality lead to underestimation? Consider a case in which most scientists think that the correct answer to a question is in the range one to 10, but some believe that it could be as high as 100. In this case, everyone will agree that it is at least one to 10, but not everyone will agree that it could be as high as 100.
    Therefore, the area of agreement is one to 10, and this will be reported as the consensus view. Wherever there is a range of possible outcomes that includes a long, high-end tail of probability, the area of overlap will lie at or near the low end.
    We are not suggesting that every example of under-estimation is caused by the factors we observed in our work, nor that the demand for consensus always leads to underestimation. But we found that this pattern occurred in all of the cases that we studied.
    We also found that the institutional aspects of assessment, including who the authors are and how they are chosen, how the substance is divided into chapters, and guidance emphasizing consensus, also generally tilt in favor of scientific conservatism.
    Knowing this, what do we do?
    To scientists, we suggest that you should not view consensus as a goal. Consensus is an emergent property, something that may come forth as the result of scientific work, discussion and debate. When that occurs, it is important to articulate the consensus as clearly and specifically as possible. But where there are substantive differences of opinion, they should be acknowledged and the reasons for them explained.
    Scientific communities should also be open to experimenting with alternative models for making and expressing group judgments, and to learning more about how policy makers actually interpret the findings that result.
    Such approaches may contribute to assessments being more useful tools as we face the reality of adapting to the climate crisis and the disruptions that will occur.
    For political leaders and business people, we think it is important for you to know that it is extremely unlikely that scientists are exaggerating the threat of the climate crisis. It is far more likely that things are worse than scientists have said.
    We have already seen that the impacts of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are unfolding more rapidly than scientists predicted. There is a high likelihood that they will continue to do so, and that the IPCC estimates – that emissions must be rapidly reduced, if not entirely eliminated, by 2050 – may well be optimistic.
    The fact that this conclusion is hard to swallow does not make it untrue.
    And for ordinary citizens, it is important to recognize that scientists have done their job. It is now up to us to force our leaders to act upon what we know, before it is too late.

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    The Emperor’s New Clothes: Greta Thunberg Versus The Climate Contrarians

    Lethal Heating - 28 October, 2019 - 04:00
    Pearls and Irritations - Andrew Glikson

    It is not an accident that fascist philosophies and movements willfully ignore human-induced global warming leading to the Sixth mass extinction of species, the largest since 56 million years ago. The nature of denialists is manifest in their venting of hate on the 16 years-old Gerta Thunberg, the voice of a generation destined to face the global warming calamity perpetrated by sections of humanity.
    Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images Andrew GliksonDr Andrew Glikson is an Earth and Paleo-climate Scientist, Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University, Research School of Earth Science, the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, and the Planetary Science Institute, and a member of the ANU Climate Change Institute. There is nothing moral about the fundamentalists telling children they may be burning in hell if they sin on Earth, while ignoring the evidence of the inferno facing future generations as the atmosphere is heated by greenhouse gas emissions, plunging the planet into a hothouse Earth.
    In their panic the denialists attribute the girl’s views, which are consistent with climate science, to her asperger syndrome or smear her as mentally ill, ignoring many with this syndrome are highly intelligent people. By extension they dismiss the basic laws of physics, climate science and the consensus on global warming, which the 16 years-old reiterates.
    While the destruction of the habitability of Earth is in progress, rather than comprehend the extreme consequences of global warming the contrarians appear to be alarmed by the voice of a teenage girl, just in case this may deprive the industry of death from their enormous profits. Further, these people instinctively correlate attempts at defending life on Earth with “left” socialist ideas.
    The history of H. sapiens is dominated by a conflict between life-enhancing forces and the life-destroying conduct, carnage and wars, the cycle symbolized in the Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva cycle in Hindu mythology. Climate change has not been invented by “conservatives” but once its fatal consequences have become manifest it fits well with the “survival of the fittest” ideology, denying science, nature and life.
    Such conflicts originate in the natural world, however once a species has acquired a range of lethal techniques—chemical detonation, atom splitting, radiation, biological warfare—the survival of the fittest paradigm becomes a recipe for global suicide, compounded by the lunacy of seeking shelter on other planets.
    Global governance and legal systems are not designed to cope with this ultimate danger. Elaborate legal systems exist to collect taxes or enforce traffic rules, but no courts exist to prevent the powers that be from changing the composition for the atmosphere, thereby leading to one of the greatest mass extinction of species the Earth has suffered.

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    ‘We Really Need To Wake Up Quickly’: Al Gore Warns Of A Looming Food Crisis Caused By Climate Change

    Lethal Heating - 28 October, 2019 - 04:00
    Washington Post - Amanda Little*

    Former vice president Al Gore backstage at the Time 100 Health Summit in New York in October. (Craig Barritt/Getty Images For Time 100 Health)CARTHAGE, Tenn. — “I’ve done so many presentations I just never get nervous anymore, but I was nervous before this one — so much new material,” Al Gore said last week as he launched into the latest iteration of “An Inconvenient Truth,” the slide show that won him an Oscar, a Nobel Prize and a Grammy.
    Gore had invited 300 guests — chefs, farmers, food executives and activists — to “The Climate Underground,” a two-day conference last week at his family farm here that explored the intersection of food, climate change and sustainable agriculture.
    Some 40 panelists, most of them farmers and scientists, took the stage to discuss topics from healthy soil to carbon sequestration, but the main event was Gore’s slide show, delivered with his characteristic mix of bravado and humility, detailing the impacts of climate change on food systems worldwide.
    “This is in Georgia; a heat wave cooked these apples before they could be harvested,” he said, issuing forth rapid-fire examples alongside bone-chilling images and video. “This is the Australia wine region that’s going to be untenable. . . . Rice yields in 80 percent of Japan have declined due to the rising temperatures. . . . In nearby Murfreesboro, Tenn., we’ll see a quarter decline in soybean yields within the next 30 years.”
    Gore spent the better part of 90 minutes detailing the pressures of drought, heat, flooding, superstorms, “rain bombs,” invasive insects, fungi and bacterial blight on food producers. “We may be approaching a threshold beyond which the agriculture that we’ve always known cannot support human civilization as we know it,” he declared in a low growl. “That’s something we need to avoid.”
    Alice Waters, who Gore said catalyzed his interest in food and who had volunteered to cook the vegetarian lunches served to attendees (using local, seasonal and organic ingredients, natch), said the presentation was bittersweet: “I am deeply depressed. But on the other hand, the solution seems so, so unbelievably transformational. . . . We can restore the health of the planet while also restoring the health of people and communities.”
    Naomi Starkman, editor-in-chief of ­Civil Eats, which covers news on sustainable agriculture, was similarly fraught: “Gore spoke with such devastating and fierce clarity, connecting the dots between the ways agriculture is implicated in and impacted by the climate crisis. But it also felt like a hopeful moment wherein agriculture, and farmers in particular, are taking a front-and-central place in solving one of the most urgent issues of our time.”
    Mark Bittman, the former New York Times food columnist, was more circumspect: “There are ways in which the conversation here isn’t quite realistic. Regenerative agriculture is not about increased yield, it’s about producing more of the right food in the right ways. ... But kudos to Al Gore for taking it on. There’s no more important conversation to have.”
    I sat down with the former vice president to dive deeper into the details. Edited excerpts of our conversation follow:

    Q: The main way most humans will experience climate change is through its impact on food: Is this a fair statement?
    A: Ever since 2015, it’s been clear that the impact on the food system was underestimated in previous years. And there is a natural resistance that many of us have had to getting too concerned about the food system. Food insecurity had been declining steadily for the last couple of decades, just as extreme poverty had been declining. But in the last couple of years, that too has changed, and the principal reason is the climate crisis.
    Africa, by mid-century, will have more people than either China or India. And by end of century, more people than China and India combined. And you combine that with the impact of the climate crisis on subsistence agriculture in Africa, the importance of subsistence agriculture in Africa, the poor quality of the soils, the persistent problems of land tenure, and the economic and social structures that discourage good stewardship of the land, then, wow. We really need to wake up quickly to the serious crisis that could develop there.

    Q: What are the most crucial policy measures that need to be taken to encourage regenerative farming in the U.S. and climate-smart agriculture broadly?
    A: We need leadership to completely refocus USDA to completely change the system of farm subsidies to stop the massive subsidies for crops that are not eaten by people, that go to bio­fuels, that go to animal feed. We should eventually work our way toward a system for compensating farmers for the buildup of soil carbon. That’s not possible yet, partly because we are still developing a measurement of soil carbon buildup that is necessary for the confidence of policymakers and voters that this is not some boondoggle. But eventually, that’s where we need to be.

    Q: On one hand you have Bill Gates saying, “The time has come to reinvent food,” and on the other you have Alice Waters and others saying, “Let’s de-invent food, let’s go back to preindustrial agriculture,” essentially. What do you think the role of tech should be?
    Alice Waters, at The Washington Post in 2017, has advocated for a return to traditional farming. (Kristoffer Tripplaar/For The Washington Post)A: We want a single, magic answer that’s going to solve a big, complicated problem, and I think that in agriculture and food and climate, these systemic approaches are usually more likely to be successful. But technology and science has an important role to play. Measuring soil carbon is one. That team at the Salk Institute has a really interesting proposal to modify roots to sequester more suberin, a form of carbon that stays in the soil for a long time. If their hypothesis is correct, the root structures of food plants can be made much more robust in a way that simultaneously sequesters more organic carbon and increases yields. So that’s technology that is worth exploring and evaluating.
    In general, the solutions in agriculture are more to be found in going back to some traditional approaches that worked but were discarded because of the pressure for short-term profit maximization. And that includes crop rotation. It includes cover crops to put key chemicals and nutrients back in the soil after it’s been used for a particular cash crop. It includes rotational grazing, which is not without controversy but has been proven to work, at least on farms of this scale.
    This book, Food or War, by @JulianCribb is incredible in the depth of its research. If you are interested in food or food production, it’s a must read. https://t.co/ugvZpdSryg— Gabrielle Chan (@gabriellechan) October 25, 2019Q: What role must consumers play in the shift toward sustainable food systems and climate resilience?
    A: There’s a danger in focusing on consumer behavior. There’s a danger of giving the impression that the solutions to the climate crisis have to be shouldered by women and men who care enough about it to change their personal choices. They do. But as important as it is to change a lightbulb, it is way more important to change policies. And in order to change policies, we have to have new policymakers. So the most important role that individuals can play is in taking their concern and passion for a better world into the voting booth and turning out in large numbers to overcome the dominance of our political system by big money.

    Q: Some permaculture and regenerative farmers that I met with have said that it’s more expensive to farm this way. They can’t afford their own products. How do we address that?
    A: I don’t want to deny the premise of your question, but some regenerative farmers have saved a lot of money on their input costs. Now, how do we develop markets for healthier, organic, regenerative-agriculture food? That’s one of the reasons we’re incorporating efforts to get school systems and hospitals and nursing homes and long-term care facilities to provide markets for healthier food.

    Q: Still, there are real concerns from ­middle- and low-income consumers that this is an elitist movement.
    Solar panels on a home in Maryland in 2016. (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)A: It hasn’t been very many years since solar panels were considered an elitist movement. And you heard exactly the same critique. “For those who can afford them, that’s fine. But don’t tell me that’s going to be a significant development, because only the wealthy elite are doing it.” Well, that’s not true anymore, because that was the beginning of a movement that drove scale and accelerated the cost reduction curve. And now you’ve got people putting rooftop solar on and community solar, and it is really taking off dramatically. But it started as an elitist movement. The same thing is beginning to be true of electric vehicles. If we can democratize and widely distribute the soil carbon assessment technologies, I don’t think it’s that hard to imagine technology driving the cost down to the point where this can spread more rapidly.
     
    Q
    : The agriculture industry is so interesting because it is a major driver of the climate problem, but it is also more vulnerable than any other industry to the pressures of climate change.
    A: Many pioneers of regenerative agriculture are finding that their farms are more resilient to drought and flood and extreme weather than with the older established farming techniques. Building the health of the soil does not mean just more organic carbon. It also means building the ability of the soil to absorb the higher rainfall events and to withstand drought events more effectively.

    Q: One scientist said to me the most delicious fruits are dying because the specialist crops, the ones that we love the most, are hardest to adapt to new circumstances. Of all the crops that are most vulnerable, which would be the hardest for you to live without?
    A: Chocolate. Cacao. Absolutely.

    *Amanda Little is author of “The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World” (Harmony, 2019).

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    Young Canadians Sue Government For Failing To Act On Climate Change

    Lethal Heating - 28 October, 2019 - 04:00
    ReutersMoira Warburton

    A group of young Canadians filed documents on Friday to sue the federal government for injuries allegedly suffered due to Ottawa’s role in contributing to climate change.
    A picture of climate change environmental teen activist Greta Thunberg is featured on a supporter's sign with text reading "Make America Greta Again" during a climate strike march in Montreal, Quebec, Canada September 27, 2019. REUTERS/Allison Lampert/File Photo The 15 youths aged 10 to 19 from across the country have each suffered “specific, individualized injuries due to climate change,” Our Children’s Trust, a U.S.-based non-profit group, said in a press release.
    The group is providing technical support to the plaintiffs, as it has done in similar cases in other countries in which children have sued their governments because of climate change - including the Netherlands, the United States and India.
    The Canadian plaintiffs are suing under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects individual autonomy and personal rights, as well as section 15, which guarantees equality rights. The Charter is part of the Canadian Constitution.
    The statement of claim filed in a federal court in Vancouver on Friday by the plaintiffs alleges that “despite knowing for decades” that carbon emissions “cause climate change and disproportionately harm children,” the government continued to allow emissions to increase at a level “incompatible with a stable climate capable of sustaining human life and liberties.”
    It specifically cites the government’s purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which carries oil from Alberta to British Columbia’s coast, as an action that contributed to climate change.
    “As a youth my rights are being disproportionately violated because I cannot vote,” Ira Reinhart-Smith, 15, from Caledonia, Nova Scotia, told Reuters. “I am now and in the future going to be faced with extreme consequences because of climate change. This lawsuit is the best way for me to move forward in my action against climate change.”
    Reinhart-Smith has participated in climate activism in the past, including with Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for the Future movement, but he felt protesting corporations and lobbying politicians was not effective enough.
    “It was still depending on them to do the actions,” he said. If the lawsuit is successful, the government will have to act “by order of the court, rather than listen to some youth that are telling them it’s the best way to go.”
    Reinhart-Smith and the other plaintiffs are represented by Arvay Finlay LLP and Tollefson Law Corporation, and have partnered with the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation and the David Suzuki Foundation.
    In the United States, 21 activists aged 11 to 22 sued the federal government in 2015 for violating their rights to due process under the U.S. Constitution by failing to adequately address carbon pollution such as emissions from burning of fossil fuels.
    Both the Obama and Trump administrations have failed in their efforts to have the lawsuit thrown out, and it is currently under consideration in a federal appeals court in Oregon.

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    Earth's Rocks Can Absorb A Shocking Amount Of Carbon: Here’s How

    Lethal Heating - 27 October, 2019 - 04:00
    National Geographic - Stephen Leahy

    The depths of the planet offer a rock-hard potential solution to climate change.
    The Tungurahua volcano erupting at twilight. One of the ways the earth returns its inner carbon to the surface is through volcanic eruptions. Photograph by Mike Theiss, Nat Geo Image CollectionI’ve been toting around 27 pounds of carbon all of my adult life. You’ve been hauling carbon too: Approximately 18 percent of your body is made of carbon atoms. All of those atoms were once in the food we ate and, before that, in the air, oceans, rocks, and other forms of life. Carbon, an element born of exploding stars, is essential for all forms of life and so it may be surprising that more than 90 percent of planet’s carbon is underground.
    Even more remarkable is the discovery that life, in the form of microbes and bacteria, thrives miles beneath our feet in such abundance that its total carbon mass is up to 400 times greater than all 7.7 billion of the humans on the surface. That one of Earth’s largest ecosystems lies deep inside the planet is just one of the many discoveries from the decade-long Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) project that brought together 1,200 researchers from 55 nations to explore the internal workings of our planet.
    The DCO wraps up in Washington, D.C. on October 24 to 26 with hundreds of scientists from around the world meeting to share and celebrate results.
    “We now understand that the Earth’s biosphere and its geosphere are one integrated and complex system, and carbon is the key,” says DCO Executive Director Robert Hazen of the Carnegie Institution for Science. “This is a fundamentally new way of thinking about our planet,” Hazen says in an interview.
    Over the last decade the DCO launched 268 projects and produced 1,400 peer-reviewed studies. Here are few highlights from the dozens if not hundreds of astonishing new discoveries about the deep Earth, including its role in kickstarting life.

    Carbon In, Carbon Out
    Carbon from plants and animals goes deep into the earth through the process of subduction—when oceanic plates sink below continental plates—over hundreds of millions of years. This once-living carbon has been discovered inside diamonds that formed 410 to 660 kilometers below the surface. Given enough time, that carbon, in the form of diamonds, rocks, or as carbon dioxide emissions emitted from volcanoes, returns to the surface, where the sun shines on it once more.
    In other words, just like us, our planet is constantly ingesting and exhaling carbon, often in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2). This once-stable carbon cycle has been disrupted by our acceleration of the return of carbon to the surface by digging up and burning massive amounts of hydrocarbons: oil, gas, and coal. At the same time cutting down forests, building cities and roads, and otherwise transforming the surface has impaired the planet’s ability to ingest carbon.
    This disruption of the carbon cycle is what we are calling the climate crisis, says Hazen.
    One of 31 new carbon-bearing minerals discovered during the DCO's Carbon Mineral Challenge, triazolite was found in Chile. It thought to have derived in part from cormorant guano. Photograph courtesy Joy Desor, Mineralanalytik Analytical Services“Climate change poses an existential threat to humanity, not in the far future but in the next generation or two,” he says.
    In the next 20 to 40 years CO2 emissions from fossil fuels have to be eliminated and large amounts of CO2 already in the atmosphere need to be removed to prevent very dangerous levels of global warming.
    However, new knowledge about the deep carbon cycle revealed by the DCO gives Hazen hope. There are natural carbon sequestration methods that are “incredibly powerful,” he says.

    Watching rock grow
    One of these sequestration methods involves a large slab of rock pushed up from Earth's upper mantle long ago in what’s now the country of Oman. Known as the Samail Ophiolite, weathering and microbial life inside the rock take carbon dioxide out of the air and turns it into carbonate minerals.
    The process is so effective that “you can actually watch carbon dioxide being sucked out of the atmosphere and being deposited as rocks before your very eyes,” says Hazan.
    Experiments pumping carbon-rich fluids into the ophiolite rock formation show that carbonate minerals form very rapidly. That could potentially remove billions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere, though it would be a huge project and very different for Oman, which is dependent on its oil revenues, he says.
    Ophiolites are also found in North America, Africa, and elsewhere. Another natural form of carbon sequestration involves rocks from basalt formations like those found in Hawaii that can absorb CO2 from the air when crushed. In Iceland, another DCO natural sequestration project, CarbFix, involves injecting carbon-bearing fluids into basalt and observing their conversion to solids.
    These new discoveries about the ability of the Earth to absorb carbon “give me tremendous optimism,” Hazen says.


    I Didn't Know That: Diamonds

    Insight into alien life
    The DCO has also boosted optimism about the possibilities of life on other planets. Pure diamonds are made of nothing but carbon, but most contain small impurities. They may make poor jewelry, but they’re priceless in research. These impurities, called inclusions, have revealed "abiotic" methane as an energy source for life deep side Earth.
    When water meets the ubiquitous mineral olivine under intense pressure, the rock transforms into another mineral, serpentine, while producing abiotic methane. If microbes can live using chemical energy from rocks under a range of extreme heat and pressures so deep, that may hold true on other planetary bodies.
    The discovery also fuels the proposition that life first originated and evolved in the deep earth, not in oceans as widely believed.
    “The Deep Carbon Observatory has produced important evidence” for this hypothesis, says Jesse Ausubel of The Rockefeller University and science advisor to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
    Diamonds also provided DCO researchers with evidence that the deep earth has more water—mostly locked up within the crystals of minerals as ions rather than liquid water—than all of the world's oceans. As with carbon, subduction of the great continental and oceanic plates are thought to have brought water into the depths of the planet.

    Earth's alarms
    DCO projects monitoring gases coming from volcanoes resulted in the first-ever detection of a change in the ratio of CO2 to sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions prior to the eruption of a Costa Rica volcano, offering a potential early warning system.
    “It was just a theory that the gas ratio might change before an eruption, but the DCO allowed us to go and find out,” said Sami Mikhail of the University of St Andrews. “This could be like a doorbell, telling us when someone is at the door.”
    Several volcanoes near populated areas, including Tungurahua, Ecuador, Etna, Italy, and Soufriere Hills, Montserrat are now being monitored. Those and other volcano monitoring stations have also provided definitive evidence that CO2 emissions from volcanoes are a tiny fraction compared to those from burning fossil fuels. Some climate deniers have long blamed volcanoes for the rise in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

    Future of the DCO
    While the DCO mandate has ended, the global community of deep carbon scientists will continue to pursue existing and new investigations with the support of grants from NASA, the National Science Foundation, the German Research Foundation, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and other institutions.
    The Institut du Physique de Globe du Paris will serve as a new headquarters.


    The Deep Carbon Observatory is a global community of multi-disciplinary scientists unlocking the inner secrets of Earth through investigations into life, energy, and the fundamentally unique chemistry of carbon. In this video we dive deep into Earth, where most of Earth's carbon resides, and explore the core questions DCO scientists are asking. How much carbon is in Earth? Where did it come from and what does it "look" like? How does it move from deep Earth into our atmosphere and back again? And even, what are the origins of life on Earth?

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    Why Keeping Mature Forests Intact Is Key to the Climate Fight

    Lethal Heating - 27 October, 2019 - 04:00
    Yale Environment 360 - 

    Preserving mature forests can play a vital role in removing CO2 from the atmosphere, says policy scientist William Moomaw. In an e360 interview, he talks about the importance of existing forests and why the push to cut them for fuel to generate electricity is misguided.



    William Moomaw has had a distinguished career as a physical chemist and environmental scientist, helping found the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at Tufts University’s Fletcher School and serving as lead author on five reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In recent years, Moomaw has turned his attention to working on natural solutions to climate change and has become a leading proponent of what he calls “proforestation” — leaving older and middle-aged forests intact because of their superior carbon-sequestration abilities.While Moomaw lauds intensifying efforts to plant billions of young trees, he says that preserving existing mature forests will have an even more profound effect on slowing global warming in the coming decades, since immature trees sequester far less CO2 than older ones. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Moomaw explains the benefits of proforestation, discusses the policy changes that would lead to the preservation of existing forests, and sharply criticizes the recent trend of converting forests in the Southeastern U.S. to wood pellets that can be burned to produce electricity in Europe and elsewhere.
    William Moomaw“The most effective thing that we can do is to allow trees that are already planted, that are already growing, to continue growing to reach their full ecological potential, to store carbon, and develop a forest that has its full complement of environmental services,” said Moomaw. “Cutting trees to burn them is not a way to get there.”

    Yale Environment 360: How do you define proforestation?
    William Moomaw: So I began looking at some of the data and some of the papers that had come out recently, and I found that if we managed our forests and grasslands in a different way they could be sequestering twice as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they currently do. One paper found in multi-aged forests around the world of all types, that half of the carbon is stored in the largest one-percent diameter trees. So I began thinking about this, and I realized that the most effective thing that we can do is to allow trees that are already planted, that are already growing, to continue growing to reach their ecological potential, to store carbon, and develop a forest that has its full complement of environmental services. We needed a name for that, so I began thinking about names. I actually sat down and went to Google and searched for prefixes, found a whole bunch of them, and the one that I settled on was pro. Proforestation. It’s not that we shouldn’t do afforestation [planting new trees] and we shouldn’t do reforestation. We should. But recognize that their contribution will be farther in the future, which is important. But in order to meet our climate goals, we have to have greater sequestration by natural systems now. So that entails protecting the carbon stocks that we already have in forests, or at least a large enough fraction of them that they matter. We have to protect wetlands, which are actually storing an amount of carbon in the United States that equals what’s in our standing forests. We need to protect and improve the carbon sequestration by agricultural soils and grazing lands.It’s taken a very long time for people to focus on something besides reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. And to recognize that even though we’re putting almost 11 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year, the increase is only 4.7 billion tons. So where is the rest going? It’s going into plants on land and plants in the ocean. And the largest single place that’s removing carbon dioxide [from the atmosphere] on an annual basis is forests. Even what we think of as mature forests are still accumulating carbon because carbon makes up about roughly half of the dry weight of wood, but it is also in the soils. Even older forests continue to accumulate carbon in the soils. In fact there are forests where there’s more carbon in the soils than there is in the standing trees. As trees get older, they absorb more carbon every year, and because they are bigger they store more carbon.
    “The loss of forest canopy is the greatest in the Southeastern United States of any place on the planet.”We’ve seen a lot of interest lately in planting more trees. And planting trees is great and it makes us all feel good and it’s a wonderful thing to do and we absolutely should be reforesting areas that have been cut. A recent paper talked about how we could plant more than a trillion trees on nearly a billion hectares of land and how much that would do to solve the problem. These are great things to do, but they will not make much of a difference in the next two or three decades because little trees just don’t store much carbon. Letting existing natural forests grow is essential to any climate goal we have.

    e360: In terms of CO2 emissions, we’re putting 30 to 35 billion tons of CO2 from burning fossil fuels into the atmosphere every year, while at the same time there’s this dramatic destruction of forests in the Amazon and in Southeast Asia. What we’re looking at right now is really a perfect storm for soaring CO2 emissions.
    Moomaw: That’s right. But don’t leave out the United States. The most disturbed forests in the world are in the United States, not the Amazon and not Indonesia. I don’t wish to lessen the significance of the Amazon and Indonesia. But the loss of forest canopy is the greatest in the Southeastern United States of any place on the planet.

    e360: Let’s talk about what’s happening in the Southeastern U.S. and the wood pellet and biomass-burning industry that is driving that deforestation and what can be done about it.
    Moomaw: Well, a little over a decade ago, as a result of a rule change in the European Union, they declared bioenergy, like burning wood pellets, to basically be a carbon-neutral and renewable energy source. But bioenergy is more expensive than all the fossil fuels, more expensive than wind and solar, and the industry would not be economically viable without huge subsidies. So the EU, particularly the UK, is giving bioenergy huge subsidies. The UK has reduced their coal use a lot, but their emissions have not been reduced at the same rate as their coal reductions would indicate because a big part of their replacement is from burning wood in the form of wood pellets that primarily come from the Southeastern U.S. The largest coal plant [in the UK], Drax, has converted half of its units to burning wood pellets instead of coal. And there are a bunch of other power plants in the UK that are doing the same thing, and the same thing is happening on the continent. And they claim it’s carbon-neutral.
    An area of clearcut forest in the Tar-Pamlico River basin in northeastern North Carolina. Dogwood AllianceThe tragedy in the Southeastern U.S. [where large amounts of wood for biomass burning originates] is it’s the most biodiversity-rich region in North America and has more species of animals and plants than anyplace else. That is being decimated. For pellets, wetland, hardwood forests are preferable to the pines and the pine plantations, which don’t burn as hot, so those wetland hardwood forests are really being gone after. For a long time, the companies made the claim they were only using the residuals, the branches and so on. An NGO down there called Dogwood Alliance documented that that isn’t true. They’re converting whole trees [into pellets].

    e360: What is the solution here, both in the U.S. and in Europe?
    Moomaw: As you may recall, [former U.S. EPA administrator] Scott Pruitt made the declaration that all forest bioenergy was carbon-neutral. [U.S. Senator] Susan Collins of Maine actually introduced an amendment, which is still binding, that states that all federal agencies must consider all forest bioenergy from sustainably managed forests to be carbon-neutral. There have been lots of letters by scientists and statements that that is just false.
    We’ll continue to need and want forestry products — that’s understood. But the attitude in much of the forestry industry is that all forests must be managed by principles that improve forests for timber production. But we have to recognize that there’s a distinction between industrial production forests and natural forests, and we must make clear that natural forests are managed for biodiversity and the full set of ecosystem services that forests provide. And, by the way, which biodiversity are we shortest of? The biodiversity that’s associated with older forests. We hardly have any older forests left in the Lower 48 states. It’s in the small single digits of our original forests. The Forest Service says that less than 7 percent of U.S. forests are over 100 years old.
    “The forests in the range of 70 to 125 years are the ones that are going to add the most carbon in the coming decades.e360: Talk about the need to expand protections of forests that now have little or no protection.
    Moomaw: Except for the designated federal wilderness areas in national forests, the rest of our forests are almost all devoted to timber production. And as you’ve seen, the Trump administration is now going after the roadless areas, as well. We need to have a conversation about which forests are most capable of sequestering carbon in the near term. And those are forests that are generally in the age range of 70 to 125 years — they are the ones that are going to add the most carbon in the coming decades. Unfortunately, 70 years, for many species, is the perfect size for the sawmill. So it is going to mean saying ,well, we’re going to not cut these. This has to apply to federal and state forests. In Connecticut, there is not a single acre of state forest that is not subject to being cut.

    e360: And this is New England, the legendary home of reforestation in the last century.
    Moomaw: That’s right. And that all happened by benign neglect, which worked out in our favor. The [U.S.] Forest Service has just moved into Massachusetts in an alliance with the state and is creating cooperative organizations that will lead to more cutting of this now very carbon-dense, rich forest that we have in this part of New England. The Department of Energy Resources in Massachusetts has put forth proposed changes and regulations that would increase the amount of forests that qualify for subsidies for bioenergy as a renewable resource, as an alternative energy resource. The outcry from the scientific community, the NGO community, and citizens has been enormous. There’s pressure to build a wood-burning electric power generating station in a low income neighborhood in Springfield, Massachusetts. And that’s being pushed back against very hard by the public. But the governor and his team are pushing forward to make it happen, with more subsidies — subsidies that come from our electric bills. That subsidy doesn’t go to solar panels, it goes to burning wood. We’ve got a real problem here.
    A mature forest in the Berkshire Hills in western Massachusetts. Liza Daly/Flickr
    e360: So what policies do you pursue to have a sustainable forest products industry?
    Moomaw: I think what you do is you concentrate it on an appropriate set of lands. [Biologist] E.O. Wilson argues that we need “half earth” — that is, half the world needs to be left to nature in order to function. I suppose with one kidney and one lung, we can make it.
    One policy that I would suggest is that with privately owned forests and relatively small forest plots, people be paid for the ecosystem services of storing carbon and promoting old-growth biodiversity and the resiliency to climate change that these forests provide. We need to compensate private land owners for leaving their forests standing. Not everybody will do it, but that might get us a mechanism where we get closer to our goal.
    The other thing — and there’s legislation proposed here in Massachusetts — is that there be no more timber harvesting on state forest lands. We now have a regulatory system that sets aside about 60 percent of forest lands as either parks or reserves. This would say that the remaining state woodlands would become reserves or parks and not harvested. Well, that would mean that 13 percent of the forests in Massachusetts would not be available for timber. The howling has been unbelievable — “This is the end of the world!” And yet, today, the regulatory system is not controlling this adequately at all.

    e360: What about in the Southeastern U.S.? How do you slow down what’s happening with the wood pellet industry?
    Moomaw: The best thing of course would be to remove subsidies. That would end it.
    “Wood pellet plants are all being built in low-income, African American communities.”The other thing is there’s a social justice issue here. The plants that make the pellets are all being built in low-income, African American communities that have five times the asthma rate as the state of North Carolina as a whole. These plants produce a tremendous amount of dust and particulate matter. Some of these communities are beginning to fight back. There’s a big push down there politically to deal with this. You know, it’s really amazing how short-term economic interest can dominate social justice, climate outcomes, everything else. So I think one way is to fight fire with fire and turn the subsidies around. Get rid of the subsidies for bioenergy, begin to support the maintenance of existing forests for private landowners, and really change our policies on state and federal public lands.

    e360: Is there any progress in Europe in terms of recognizing that this is not a carbon-neutral source of energy and should not be supported or subsidized?
    Moomaw: Yes, there are efforts. There’s an organization called Biofuelwatch in the UK. They are an amazingly well-informed, spunky bunch of activists. The scientific community in Europe is beginning to shift its views on this. It turns out that almost two-thirds of all the renewables used in Europe are bioenergy.

    e360: If we do a better job of protecting these older forests, what difference could it make in moderating temperature increases?
    Moomaw: If we get to net-zero emissions by 2050 and we continue to reduce our emissions after that, and if we continue to increase the biological sequestration — the nature-based solutions as they’re sometimes referred to — we would actually start reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere between 2050 and 2100. The more we can increase the sequestration rate and the faster we can reduce the emissions, the better off we’ll be. But cutting trees to burn them is not a way to get there.

    This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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    Scott Morrison's Climate Pact With The Pacific 'Family' Exposes The Hollowness Of His Words

    Lethal Heating - 27 October, 2019 - 04:00
    The Guardian

    One small exchange in Senate estimates has exposed the measurable gap between the prime minister’s rhetoric and actions
    Scott Morrison signed a document with Pacific leaders that suggests we are as one on the climate crisis, but in reality we have very different objectives. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAPI pointed out last weekend Scott Morrison spends a large proportion of his time doing two things: talking about how bad Labor is in the hope voters will conclude they made the correct choice in returning him to government in May, and trying to be relatable to people who don’t like politics and tune in as little as they have to.
    As a subset of these two objectives, Morrison speaks constantly about how stable and dependable his government is (as opposed to his political opponents, who are cast as reckless and engaged in headless chookery).
    In order to nail the requisite talking point, backbenchers rise loyally, one after the other, every question time, and ask the dear leader and his cabinet colleagues to explain how calm and wise the government is. Morrison has these formulations read out each sitting day by willing automatons, who periodically inject a lilt or a Pinteresque pause into their questions, like they are at a Toastmasters session at the local Rotary club.
    Those of us forced to watch this pantomime daily do periodically worry this could be a plot to drive us all bonkers; to force the journalists of the Canberra press gallery to flee, screaming, from the building, leaving them to whatever they want to cook up. But in reality the government couldn’t give a stuff about us, whether we persist or whether we flee – it is speaking over our heads, to the voters.By hammering these messages, Morrison wants one thought to penetrate the great national switch-off: he wants voters to trust him. He wants voters to believe he is a man of his word, that he means what he says, and follows through on commitments. It seems an audacious strategy for a leader in an age when people are inclined to think all politicians stink, but that’s what Morrison wants.
    Trust.
    With that thought in mind, it was interesting this week to watch one small exchange in Senate estimates exposing a measurable gap between the prime minister’s rhetoric and actions.
    Readers will remember Morrison took some heat at the Pacific Islands Forum earlier in the year when he presented as insufficiently empathetic about the threat the climate emergency posed to the region. There were some harsh words.
    But at the end of the day, despite all the thundering and virtue signalling on the greatness of coal, Australia signed on to a communique that was actually pretty forward leaning on climate change.
    As I noted at the time, despite all the arm twisting in Tuvalu, Morrison did, in the end, sign up to a statement that committed Australia to pursuing efforts to limit global warming to 1.5C, and to produce a 2050 strategy by 2020 – no small things. This 2050 strategy, the statement said, “may include commitments and strategies to achieve net zero carbon by 2050”.
    Navigating that harmonious landing point with Pacific leaders was, presumably, an important gesture for an Australian prime minister fond of calling his counterparts in the region “family”.
    But Labor’s Senate leader, Penny Wong, during this week’s Senate estimates hearings, decided to do a little bit of due diligence about what Australia had actually signed up to at the Pacific Islands Forum, and whether we actually meant it.
    With foreign affairs department officials arrayed before her, Wong asked first whether or not Australia had sought any reservations or exceptions to the PIF communique (which just means did we opt out of any part of the statement). Kathy Klugman, the official responsible for Pacific strategy, said no exceptions had been sought. When it came to the PIF communique, Australia was all in.
    Having established that we were all in, Wong professed some curiosity that the Morrison government had signed a communique declaring that a “climate change crisis” was facing Pacific Island nations, when the Coalition rejects that language at home as alarmism.
    Were we on board with that bit – the climate crisis? Klugman replied that Australia had signed the declaration and “we associate ourselves with all parts of it, including that part”.
    Wong then asked whether the government agreed that emissions needed to be reduced to net zero by 2050 in order to achieve the goals articulated in the PIF declaration. Things then got a bit stickier.
    Clare Walsh, a deputy secretary of the department, joined the conversation. Walsh noted that achieving net zero emissions by 2050 was “an aspiration by some countries”. But the Australian government had not signed on to that “in terms of its domestic application”, she said.
    Wong then translated. So we’ve associated ourselves with that objective internationally in this communique, but would not take the requisite action domestically? Walsh ploughed on. She said the PIF declaration recognised the importance of that issue to the Pacific and recognised net zero by 2050 as a “commonly referenced target – but it isn’t one that Australia has signed up to domestically, no”.
    Wong then wondered why Australia had signed up to a document which said pursuing global efforts to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels was “critical to the security of our Blue Pacific” when Australia’s domestic emissions reduction targets – the ones we’ve signed on to as part of the Paris agreement – were not consistent with achieving the 1.5C objective.
    Was the government planning to increase the level of ambition to square those circles, Wong wondered? “There is no change to the government’s policy senator,” noted the foreign minister, Marise Payne, who was at the table.
    Wong evidently thought she’d reached the moment to deliver the moral of the story.
    “So we go along to the PIF and tell them we think 1.5C is important but we are not prepared to put targets on the table that are anywhere near consistent with it – just so we are clear about what we are doing,” she said.
    Payne replied that Wong could “put it in those terms” but the government had been very clear it was persisting with the policies it took to the election.
    So, to cut a long story short, Morrison has signed a document with Pacific leaders, with the “family”, that suggests we are as one when it comes to managing the risks of climate change, yet in reality we have very different policies, goals and objectives.
    It pays to remember things like this when our prime minister asks you to trust him.

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    How Much Would It Cost To Stop Climate Change? It's A Staggering Amount

    Lethal Heating - 26 October, 2019 - 04:00
    Sydney Morning Herald - Ishika Mookerjee (Bloomberg)

    The world needs to spend $US50 trillion ($73 trillion) on five areas of technology by 2050 to slash emissions and meet the Paris Agreement's goal of halting global warming, Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a report.
    To reduce net emissions of carbon to zero, the world would have to eradicate the equivalent of 53.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, according to the report, which identified renewable energy, electric vehicles, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and biofuels as the key technologies that could help meet the target.
    Arresting climate change will come with a hefty price tag, Morgan Stanley says.Carbon emissions from fossil fuels hit a record last year, but estimates vary of how much it would cost to meet the Paris target of keeping the global temperature rise to within 2 degrees.
    The International Renewable Energy Agency says $US750 billion a year is needed in renewables over a decade. United Nations scientists say $US300 billion spent on reclaiming degraded land could offset emissions to buy time to deploy zero-carbon technologies.
    Here are Morgan Stanley's estimates for the five key technology areas and some of the companies leading the drive.

    Renewables
    • Renewable power generation will require $US14 trillion by 2050, including investments in energy storage.
    • Renewables would need to deliver about 80 per cent of global power by then, up from 37 per cent today, meaning an additional 11,000 gigawatts of capacity, excluding hydro-power.
    • Solar energy's rapidly falling cost will make it the fastest-growing renewable technology over the coming decade with a 13 per cent compound annual growth rate.
    Electric vehicles
    • With passenger cars currently pumping out about 7 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, some $US11 trillion will be needed to build factories, expand power capacity and develop the batteries and infrastructure needed to switch to electric vehicles.
    • With increased investment, annual electric vehicle sales could grow from 1.3 million units in 2018 to 23.2 million in 2030, lifting the total number of electric vehicles to 113 million by 2030 and 924 million by 2050.
    Carbon capture and storage
    • Almost $US2.5 trillion would be needed for technologies that capture carbon and store it.
    • While it currently costs about $US700 million to capture a million tonnes of carbon a year, the cost of building CCS plants is expected to drop 30 per cent by 2050.
    • With more than 200,000 megawatts of new coal-fired generation capacity under construction, CCS is the only option to offset the emissions of these plants, Morgan Stanley says.
    Hydrogen
    • About $US5.4 trillion is needed for electrolysers to make the gas, which can help provide clean fuel for power generation, industrial processes, vehicles and heating.
    • In addition, $US13 trillion would be required to increase renewable energy capacity to power the plants.
    • Another $US1 trillion would be needed for storage, with additional investment for transportation and distribution.
    Biofuels
    • Almost $US2.7 trillion should go into biofuels like ethanol, which are currently mixed with petroleum products but will spread eventually to areas such as aviation.
    • About 4 per cent of global transportation fuel will be biofuel in 2030.
    • Ethanol, the most-used biofuel at the moment will grow at about 3 per cent a year, while a type of biodiesel called hydrotreated vegetable oil will achieve must faster growth, quadrupling production by 2030.
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    Australia's Emissions To Start Falling Thanks To Renewables Boom, Researchers Say

    Lethal Heating - 26 October, 2019 - 04:00
    The Guardian

    Deeper cuts through the 2020s to meet the Paris target will depend on governments supporting further expansion
    Governments have been urged to support further expansion of solar and wind to help Australia meet its Paris target. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAPAustralia’s greenhouse gas emissions will stop rising and gradually start to fall over the next three years as the country feels the effects of the recent renewable energy boom, engineering researchers say.
    Academics from the Australian National University estimate national emissions will dip by 3%-4% by 2022, ending the year-on-year increases recorded since the abolition of the carbon price scheme.
    But they found deeper emissions cuts through the 2020s to meet the target set under the Paris climate agreement would depend on the federal and, to a lesser extent, state governments supporting further expansion of solar and wind by ensuring adequate new electricity transmission and storage.
    Andrew Blakers, a professor of engineering, said a policy briefing published on Thursday, co-authored with colleague Matthew Stocks, was a “message of hope” about reducing pollution at lowest cost.“Solar and wind energy offers the cheapest way to make deep cuts in emissions because of their low and continually falling cost,” he said. “If the renewable energy pipeline is stopped or slowed because of insufficient transmission and storage, then emissions may rise again from 2022.”
    While the call for improved transmission is near universal, Blakers and Stocks differ from most energy experts in placing relatively little weight on the need for government policy to continue to drive what has been a surge in clean energy investment since 2017.
    The current boom is largely driven by the 2020 federal renewable energy target. It led to nearly 3.5 gigawatts of capacity being built last year, three times more than the year before. But the target, equivalent to about 23% of national electricity demand, has now been met, the Morrison government has not replaced it and there is evidence investment has slowed.
    A growing number of businesses have signed renewable energy contracts independent of government support, but many analysts say the boom is unlikely to continue without a policy with bipartisan political support to drive the transformation to a cleaner grid.
    Blakers said clean technology was so cheap that adequate government support for transmission and storage would be enough to deliver 50% renewable energy by 2024 and 75% by 2030. He said a national energy and emissions policy could lead to an even faster shift, but the change will happen regardless.
    According to his analysis, Australia would meet its 2030 target set at Paris (a 26-28% cut in emissions compared with 2005 levels) without relying on controversial “carry-over credits” through cuts in emissions from electricity generation alone, even if emissions continued to rise across the rest of the economy, as projected. He believes the target should be increased.
    “I think a lot of people are hooked up on energy policy but we’re doing very well as things stand. A neutral policy is enough to make it,” he said.
    This contrasts with other analyses, including government projections, that found Australia was not likely to meet its emissions target under existing policies. Bill Hare, of research and science organisation Climate Analytics, said Blakers’ assessment of what it would take to meet the Paris target did not stack up.
    Dylan McConnell, from the Australian-German Climate and Energy College, said Blakers was right to highlight the need for support for improved transmission but disagreed that renewable energy growth would continue at recent levels without policy backing.
    He said investors were unlikely to sign contracts for new energy plants when wholesale energy prices were falling to zero during sunny periods. “Unless we have growing electricity demand, a coal exit or a policy ... to encourage renewable energy I can’t see it happening,” McConnell said.
    Tristan Edis, from consultancy Green Energy Markets, earlier this year found clean energy would provide 35% of Australia’s total electricity needs within two years as solar power transformed the national energy market.
    But he said the pace was unlikely to continue as things stand. “We don’t see the economics of the energy market supporting significant levels of investment in large-scale wind and solar beyond this year without some sort of reward for greenhouse gas abatement.”
    Blakers and Stocks recommend the establishment of renewable energy zones to overcome outdated transmission rules and significantly expanding interconnection between states, including the mooted second undersea cable between Tasmania and Victoria.

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