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Massachusetts Sues Exxon Mobil, Saying Company Lied About Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 26 October, 2019 - 04:00
ReutersNate Raymond

BOSTON - Massachusetts sued Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) on Thursday, with the state’s attorney general accusing the oil giant of misleading investors and consumers for decades about the role fossil fuels play in climate change.
An airplane comes in for a landing above an Exxon sign at a gas station in the Chicago suburb of Norridge, Illinois, U.S., October 27, 2016. REUTERS/Jim YoungAttorney General Maura Healey filed the suit shortly after the oil major lost a bid to delay the filing until after it is done defending itself in a trial over similar suit in New York.
Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Heidi Brieger during a hearing in Boston acknowledged that Healey’s office was required to give Exxon an opportunity to discuss the case at least five days before suing the company.
But she ruled that the state was under no obligation to wait longer than that after notifying Exxon on Oct. 10 of its intent to sue, which Assistant Attorney General Richard Johnston said his office wants to do “ASAP”, or as soon as possible.
“We should be allowed to file our lawsuit at the earliest possible moment,” he told the judge.
company said Healey’s decision to sue now after a three-year investigation was simply “gamesmanship” to distract the oil major’s lawyers from the trial in New York that began on Tuesday.
Healey and her New York counterpart launched investigations into Exxon following news reports in 2015 saying company scientists determined that fossil fuel combustion must be reduced to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Those news reports, by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times, were based on documents from the 1970s and 1980s. Exxon said the documents were not inconsistent with its public positions.
Healey in 2016 issued a so-called civil investigative demand to Exxon seeking documents to determine whether it had violated the Massachusetts consumer-protection law through its marketing and sale of fossil fuel products.
The company fought the records request, but the state’s top court in April 2018 concluded Healey had jurisdiction to seek the records. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Exxon’s appeal of that order.
New York meanwhile sued Exxon in October 2018, accusing it of engaging in a scheme to deceive investors about the impact that future climate change regulations could have on its business.
Exxon denies wrongdoing and has accused the New York and Massachusetts attorneys general, both Democrats, of pursuing the cases for political reasons.

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Climate Change Will Cost Us Even More Than We Think

Lethal Heating - 25 October, 2019 - 04:00
New York Times - Naomi Oreskes | Nicholas Stern

Economists greatly underestimate the price tag on harsher weather and higher seas. Why is that?
Credit Mike McQuade
Authors
For some time now it has been clear that the effects of climate change are appearing faster than scientists anticipated. Now it turns out that there is another form of underestimation as bad or worse than the scientific one: the underestimating by economists of the costs.
The result of this failure by economists is that world leaders understand neither the magnitude of the risks to lives and livelihoods, nor the urgency of action. How and why this has occurred is explained in a recent report by scientists and economists at the London School of Economics and Political Science, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
One reason is obvious: Since climate scientists have been underestimating the rate of climate change and the severity of its effects, then economists will necessarily underestimate their costs.
But it’s worse than that. A set of assumptions and practices in economics has led economists both to underestimate the economic impact of many climate risks and to miss some of them entirely. That is a problem because, as the report notes, these “missing risks” could have “drastic and potentially catastrophic impacts on citizens, communities and companies.”
One problem involves the nature of risk in a climate-altered world. Right now, carbon dioxide is at its highest concentration in the atmosphere in three million years (and still climbing). The last time levels were this high, the world was about five degrees Fahrenheit warmer and sea level 32 to 65 feet higher. Humans have no experience weathering sustained conditions of this type.
Typically, our estimates of the value or cost of something, whether it is a pair of shoes, a loaf of bread or the impact of a hurricane, are based on experience. Statisticians call this “stationarity.” But when conditions change so much that experience is no longer a reliable guide to the future — when stationarity no longer applies — then estimates become more and more uncertain.
Hydrologists have recognized for some time that climate change has undermined stationarity in water management — indeed, they have declared that stationarity is dead. But economists have by and large not recognized that this applies to climate effects across the board. They approach climate damages as minor perturbations around an underlying path of economic growth, and take little account of the fundamental destruction that we might be facing because it is so outside humanity’s experience.
A second difficulty involves parameters that scientists do not feel they can adequately quantify, like the value of biodiversity or the costs of ocean acidification. Research shows that when scientists lack good data for a variable, even if they know it to be salient, they are loath to assign a value out of a fear that they would be “making it up.”
Therefore, in many cases, they simply omit it from the model, assessment or discussion. In economic assessments of climate change, some of the largest factors, like thresholds in the climate system, when a tiny change could tip the system catastrophically, and possible limits to the human capacity to adapt, are omitted for this reason. In effect, economists have assigned them a value of zero, when the risks are decidedly not. One example from the report: The melting of Himalayan glaciers and snow will both flood and profoundly affect the water supply of communities in which hundreds of millions of people live, yet this is absent from most economic assessments.
A third and terrifying problem involves cascading effects. One reason the harms of climate change are hard to fathom is that they will not occur in isolation, but will reinforce one another in damaging ways. In some cases, they may produce a sequence of serious, and perhaps irreversible, damage.
For example, a sudden rapid loss of Greenland or West Antarctic land ice could lead to much higher sea levels and storm surges, which would contaminate water supplies, destroy coastal cities, force out their residents, and cause turmoil and conflict.
Another example: increased heat decreases food production, which leads to widespread malnutrition, which diminishes the capacity of people to withstand heat and disease and makes it effectively impossible for them to adapt to climate change. Sustained extreme heat may also decrease industrial productivity, bringing about economic depressions.
In a worst-case scenario, climate impacts could set off a feedback loop in which climate change leads to economic losses, which lead to social and political disruption, which undermines both democracy and our capacity to prevent further climate damage. These sorts of cascading effects are rarely captured in economic models of climate impacts. And this set of known omissions does not, of course, include additional risks that we may have failed to have identified.
The urgency and potential irreversibility of climate effects mean we cannot wait for the results of research to deepen our understanding and reduce the uncertainty about these risks. This is particularly so because the study suggests that if we are missing something in our assessments, it is likely something that makes the problem worse.
This is yet another reason it’s urgent to pursue a new, greener economic path for growth and development. If we do that, a happy ending is still possible. But if we wait to be more certain, the only certainty is that we will regret it.

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Climate Change Costs To Hit These Australian Regions Hardest

Lethal Heating - 25 October, 2019 - 04:00
AFRJames Fernyhough

The Gold Coast, Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, Shepparton and the New South Wales Central Coast stand to pay the highest costs from extreme weather events by 2100 if global greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current trajectory, a major new study predicts.
The study, conducted by climate risk analysis company XDI, uses a vast pool of data to estimate the risks of natural hazards such as coastal inundation, riverine flooding, bushfires, soil subsidence from drought and wind damage.
The study covers 15 million addresses across Australia's 544 local government areas, and is intended to be used by a wide range of parties, including local and state governments, investors and banks, to assess risks to existing and potential assets.
Queensland's Gold Coast is facing bigger costs as a result of climate change than any other local government area in Australia.  AAP
Greater Shepparton in Victoria emerged as the local government area most at risk from riverine flooding both in 2020 and 2100, followed by the Gold Coast and Brisbane in Queensland, and Wangaratta in Victoria.
The Central Coast, Lake Macquarie and Blue Mountains areas of New South Wales were the most at risk of bushfires by 2100, followed by the Adelaide Hills in South Australia.
The Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and Moreton Bay local councils in Queensland will face the highest costs from coastal inundation by 2100, followed by Tweed Heads in New South Wales, the report found.
Brisbane, Sydney, the ACT, Moreton Bay and the NSW Central Coast faced the highest costs from soil subsidence by 2100.
A one-in-500-year event flooded thousands of homes and businesses in Townsville in 2019. AAP Image: Andrew Rankin
Overall, Queensland is the state that will face the highest costs as a result of global warming.
The study used a measure called the "total technical insurance premium", which assigns an annualised cost of climate change-related costs for each council area.
Averaged across Australia, the report predicted the cost would be a seemingly modest 55 per cent higher in 2100 than it is today. But XDI chief executive Rohan Hamden said in the at-risk areas it would be far above that, saying in the Adelaide Hills the cost was expected to rise 100 per cent.
The study found the number of "high risk" properties, which currently sits at 383,300, would double to 735,654 by 2100. That figure only referred to existing properties, with future developments potentially adding to that figure.
It's worse for coastal inundation where the worst 20 per cent of large councils will see a 400 per cent increase of risk. — XDI reportThe study assumes global greenhouse gas emissions will continue on trend, which scientists predict will result in an average global temperature rise of 4 to 6 degrees above pre-industrial levels. The international community is aiming to keep temperature increases below 2 degrees by 2100, but without a drastic globally-synchronised ramping up of emission reductions that target will not be met.
Mr Hamden said that meant businesses, governments and institutional investors would need to start factoring in the effects of climate change in earnest when making investment decisions.
He said the information in the report would be “invaluable for the private sector to understand the risks to their assets and investments", adding it could help state governments understand which council areas to prioritise for adaptation.
“Climate related risks are very unevenly distributed. While average risks from flooding may increase by about 30 per cent due to climate, in 20 per cent of large councils flood risk will double,” he said.
“It's worse for coastal inundation where the worst 20 per cent of large councils will see a 400 per cent increase of risk over coming decades.
“With recent climate data companies being acquired by Moody's and MSCI, it’s clear that climate risk data is becoming more and more available to insurers, banks and valuation companies and we need to better understand Australia’s risk so that they can take steps to protect people, infrastructure and property."
He used the example of two companies that own petrol stations, one in high risk areas, and one in low risk areas. Without reliable climate change risk modelling, he said the two companies might look "the same on paper" to an investor. In reality their risk profiles are drastically different.
Mr Hamden said XDI would be marketing its data to companies such as banks and governments, but said it had decided to make this report public as a "call to action".
“If governments and communities act on this information now, many of the projected losses can be averted. Acting with a strategic focus on those communities most at risk will ensure that adaptation is achieved at least cost and can help protect people, infrastructure and assets from harm," he said.
The report answers a call from Australian financial regulators for more information on the nature of climate risk. Earlier this month the Reserve Bank of Australia warned that climate change posed a significant risk to the financial system, and said more data was needed on the nature of those risks.
"To manage their own direct exposure to physical risk, insurers and banks need granular information on the location and physical risks faced by the assets they insure or the collateral they lend against," the RBA said.
Geoff Summerhayes, head of insurance at the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, earlier this year called for a "common taxonomy around the economic impacts of climate".
He said such a taxonomy was "underdeveloped globally".
"For a risk that is so all-pervasive, that is a concern. My point is it requires multi-disciplined activity. And I think the view here in Australia is that we shouldn't necessarily wait for a global standard. We should get on and advance that case ourselves," he said.

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The New Science Fossil Fuel Companies Fear

Lethal Heating - 25 October, 2019 - 04:00
POLITICO

Researchers can now link weather events to emissions – and to the companies responsible. A string of lawsuits is about to give “attribution science” a real-life test.
iStock/POLITICO illustrationRichard Heede spent a decade digging through “disheveled, dusty” tomes in libraries around the world searching for the answers he thought could help save humanity.
The Norway-born academic’s task was direct, but far from simple: Find out how many greenhouse gases the world’s fossil fuel companies, cement-makers and other industrial giants had pumped into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. A geographer by training, he tagged library visits onto work trips to pore over annual company and shareholder reports. (“Nobody had seen them for decades,” he recalled.) He painstakingly traced mergers and acquisitions as companies morphed and amalgamated. He enlisted volunteers across the globe.



Like most analysts, Heede started his work on climate change focused on what individual consumers could do to reduce their emissions. After all, it was the consumer who was “consuming” the product and actually releasing the emissions from the oil, gas or coal. But over time, he recognized there was a flaw in that approach: Individual consumers can make choices only among what’s already on the market — but who decided what was on the market? Other, larger forces had shaped an economy dependent on fossil fuels, he realized — companies who developed the markets for fossil fuels and influenced decisions to build the infrastructure that supported them.
He asked himself: Shouldn’t the companies who profited from those decisions play a role in mitigating them? With world governments making little progress toward reducing emissions, perhaps pressuring the companies whose products were causing the harm might have more effect?
“With federal policy being unsupportive and still emphasizing continued energy development, I just thought it would be a new lever to look at the companies that have their hand on the tiller,” said Heede, who now lives in Colorado. “And pressure can be exerted in a number of ways.”
By 2013, roughly a decade after Heede began his search, he had his answer: Just 90 companies had contributed nearly two-thirds of the world’s industrial emissions. He could even pinpoint the share of those emissions for which companies existing today are responsible.
In effect, Heede had established a pillar of a new field of research, now known as attribution science. But it wasn’t just an academic exercise: It’s a weapon that climate campaigners are starting to wield to put fossil fuel companies on the hook for billions of dollars in damages. It’s a kind of end run around a political system they see as forced into gridlock by fossil fuel industry influence.
Heede and his collaborators are part of a paradigm shift in how to assign blame for climate change. For decades, as signs have grown that the planet is warming, the public and defenders of industry have laid the blame on end users, the ordinary people who drove their cars too much or blasted air conditioning in their homes. Those add up. But attribution science has the effect of moving the blame back one step, away from consumers and onto the companies that extracted the oil, coal and gas that have powered our planet for decades.
A gas flare from a petroleum refinery in Norco, Louisiana. Scientists have now analyzed all the carbon emissions from the Industrial Revolution until now and can calculate just how much can be attributed to individual fossil fuel companies. The breakthrough is being used by governments and other plaintiffs to sue oil and gas companies for the environmental damage caused by their products. | Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesIf blame can be attributed to corporations or governments, they believe, it can have two powerful effects: create a strong incentive for those companies to once and for all move away from fossil fuels, and unleash — through lawsuits — financial resources that could be used to seed new technologies and better prepare communities for the calamities climate change is expected to bring.
Attribution science is now about to receive a very real test in the courts, as cities, states and ordinary citizens across the world are using it to try to send fossil fuel companies the bill for climate change damage.
The first lawsuit over what fossil fuel companies revealed about the costs of climate change comes from the New York attorney general, who has accused Exxon Mobil of securities fraud. The suit alleges that Exxon used a different internal estimate for the cost that carbon-reduction policies would have on its business than it told investors; oral arguments for that case begin this week.
“I didn’t know that the legal interest would pick up so fast,” Heede said in an interview. “I didn’t know how this data was going to be used. But I knew that for any legal action — or, for that matter, shareholder pressure or regulatory pressure — we had to know who the companies were and what they contributed.”

Attribution Science
Attribution Science originated with the very legal question it might now be used to address.
In 2003, the science journal Nature published an article by Oxford University scientist Myles Allen titled “Liability for climate change.” Allen wondered aloud how to solve “the attribution problem” to demonstrate precisely how much burning fossil fuels were responsible for worsening climate-linked developments. If one could do that, he surmised, it would be possible to sue fossil fuel companies for damages.
A year later, Allen and colleagues Dáithí Stone, Peter Stott and Mark Hawkins published the first “extreme event attribution” study. Using computer models, they compared human-caused, post-Industrial Revolution emissions with scenarios lacking such emissions, known as natural variability. They concluded that man-made greenhouse gas emissions had more than doubled the likelihood of the deadly European heatwave of 2003, which killed 27,000 people. The analysis was straightforward and remains the bedrock of extreme event attribution science. In the years that followed, more severe weather patterns followed, including Superstorm Sandy on America’s Eastern Seaboard in 2012. Weather forecasters cited in media reports tended to be uncomfortable linking these events to climate change, often saying it was hard to connect individual weather events to an overall pattern of global warming. But the emerging attribution scientists didn’t agree. In 2015, Fredi Otto, acting director at the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, and Heidi Cullen, a climate scientist who is now at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, formed the World Weather Attribution group with the goal of providing “rapid response” analysis of climate-fueled disasters. They wanted to show just how much human emissions had worsened those events or made them likelier to occur.
Homes on the New Jersey shore damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The storm was one of a number of extreme weather events that spurred researchers to develop a method to improve the attribution of extreme weather events to climate change. | Mike Groll/AP Photo“We got pushback from the scientific community saying, ‘Well, actually this is way too fast. You can’t do science so fast, and the models are not good enough,’” said Otto, who did her postdoctorate work under Allen.
Skeptics have since mostly dissipated, though some remain. The Bulletin of the American Metereological Society began publishing annual event attribution analyses in 2011. Reruns of the World Weather Attribution analyses confirmed the group’s initial efforts. It helped that the National Academy of Sciences wrote a 2016 report on climate attribution science and identified World Weather Attribution’s methods as the gold standard. Last year, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service asked World Weather Attribution to write a road map to operationalize the science so it can better predict and respond to disasters; a prototype could launch this fall.
On top of that, computer modeling vastly improved, and quickly, permitting the volume and sophistication required for World Weather Attribution group’s mission. Michael Wehner, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said he today could complete his study of the devastating 2013 Colorado floods in a matter of days, whereas the original study took his team three years. He has since expanded his work to hurricanes, finding that human-driven climate change boosted Hurricane Harvey’s August 2017 rainfall by as much as 38 percent.
“Read the papers. If you don’t believe the papers, then do your own,” Wehner said of attribution science critics. “This body of literature, which is now fairly large, clearly tells us that dangerous climate change is upon us, and people are suffering and dying — and it’s real, and it’s going to get worse.”
Some scientists aren’t yet ready to fully embrace extreme event attribution science. The reinsurance industry, which covers megalosses in the event primary insurers can’t foot the bill, contends other factors like building codes and zoning decisions contribute a great deal to the overall financial toll from major disasters.
“We follow the science very closely. We try to understand what this actually means to the risk which we are taking. But when it really comes down to attribution of certain events to climate change, our view is that this piece of science is at an early stage,” said Ernst Rauch, chief climate scientist and global head of climate and public sector business development with Munich Re, a reinsurance company.
Even the National Academy of Sciences in its 2016 report sounded a cautionary note. Finding the precise climate fingerprint for events with nonmeteorological factors, such as drought and wildfire, can be challenging. Events backed up by robust observational records with well-understood physical effects, like long-term temperature increases, are most scientifically sound.
“The ability to attribute the causes of some extreme event types has advanced rapidly since the emergence of event attribution science a little more than a decade ago, while attribution of other event types remains challenging,” the report said.
For any potential uncertainty about climate attribution, Heede said there’s at least one definite truth about fossil fuel companies that should override the rest.
“They were aware decades ago what trouble climate change would be,” he said.
A stranded traveler resting in London’s St. Pancras rail station this summer. Extreme heat damaged overhead power lines, interrupting transport across Europe. | Leon Neal/Getty Images

Climate Science Community
While the climate science community was initially cautious about attribution science, lawyers were immediately intrigued.
“I think they recognized that it was a bit of a game-changer,” said Cullen, the climate scientist.
The two scientific breakthroughs – the ability to link global warming to the intensity of storms, rising sea levels and worsening heatwaves combined with the ability to trace historical emissions to individual companies dating back to the Industrial Revolution -- have laid the legal groundwork for a string of lawsuits getting underway in coming months.
“We can actually close this causal chain now,” said the Environmental Change Institute’s Otto . “If the first judge has the guts to actually accept such a claim and give a verdict against a big polluter, then that will force these companies to change their business models.”
So far, 13 state and local governments have filed lawsuits against oil and gas companies like Exxon Mobil, BP and ConocoPhillips, including the cities of New York, Baltimore, Oakland, San Francisco and Richmond; Imperial Beach and Santa Cruz, Calif.; the counties of Marin, San Mateo and Santa Cruz, Calif.; King (Wash.) and Boulder (Colo.); and the state of Rhode Island. Another lawsuit by Pacific Coast fishermen against Chevron also seeks climate damages.
The cases face long odds. The legal arguments and the science are largely untested in the context of suing individual companies for the complicated effects of and myriad sources driving global climate change.
“It is very difficult to see how there can be a specific nexus between the conduct of these defendants and any of the adaptations and other costs that these municipalities are incurring,” said Brendan Collins, an environmental attorney at Ballard Spahr LLP who is not involved in the cases.
It’s not the first time plaintiffs have sought climate change damages from energy companies.
Fossil fuel companies have successfully swatted away past cases, all of which have been federal, in part because the courts say Congress has responsibility for regulating greenhouse gas emissions, but Congress hasn’t yet amended the 1990 Clean Air Act to incorporate concerns about climate change. So, climate cases get stuck.
The novel legal innovation this time is that plaintiffs are aiming to sue in state courts. States have common law provisions that allow for claims under two legal theories: public nuisance, that a party is interfering with the rights of citizens, or product liability, that the dangers of using a product must be communicated to the public. Plaintiffs are trying to make the case that energy companies that extract, transport or market fuels are a public nuisance because they are destroying their residents’ enjoyment of a stable climate and forcing costs on them. Under product liability, plaintiffs are arguing that the companies pushed those products into the market knowing these probable, damaging outcomes.
An overwhelmed surge barrier near New Orleans. Sea level rise is among the changes that attribution scientists are now able to link to carbon emissions. | Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesThe lawsuits have caught the attention of business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which penned two white papers outlining the threats to corporations presented by public nuisance lawsuits in nonfederal courts. But the courts have so far rebuffed fossil fuel companies’ attempts to punt the cases to federal jurisdiction.
The lawsuits aren’t all the same. Some cities are suing over past and future costs to defend against sea level rise; fishermen want compensation for harming a West Coast crab fishery; suits filed on behalf of children contend fossil fuel companies deprived future generations’ quality of life by driving climate change. Most of the lawsuits argue that fossil fuel companies marketed a product they knew to be harmful without acknowledging — and, in fact, sowing doubt and confusion about — those harms.
Plaintiffs see a parallel to the tobacco industry. That industry fell victim to product liability lawsuits because companies knew their product caused harm but misled the public. More contemporary examples of successful lawsuits include a case against Monsanto for cancer linked to its weed-killer, Roundup, and action against pharmaceutical companies for distributing opioids despite known risks and abuse.
Fossil fuel companies have argued that they had no control over how their product was used after selling it — it’s people who put gasoline in their cars, not Exxon Mobil. They are also expected to argue that all levels of government have cemented fossil fuels’ place in American society through tax incentives, infrastructure spending and other policies. That is the crux of what the companies argued in a federal case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California brought in 2017 by the cities of Oakland and San Francisco.
“Plaintiffs do not assert that the mere extraction or sale of fossil fuels created the alleged nuisance (nor could they), but rather that the combustion of fossil fuels by third-party users — such as Plaintiffs themselves — causes global warming and rising seas,” attorneys for BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Shell wrote in a March 2018 motion to dismiss.
The federal case ultimately was dismissed, but Oakland and San Francisco are appealing.
“They will try to claim the harm from their product is not at all their responsibility,” said Peter Frumhoff, science director with the Union of Concerned Scientists, who helped develop the framework for using climate attribution science in the courts. “It’s always somebody else, isn’t it?”
The American Petroleum Institute spokesperson Reid Porter said the oil and gas trade association would not comment on pending litigation.
“The natural gas and oil industry is actively addressing the complex global challenge of climate change, investing in cutting edge technologies, efficiency improvements, and cleaner fuels,” he said in an email.
Climate protesters in Bonn, Germany. Anti-corporate sentiment is growing among electorates both in the United States and overseas. | Maja Hitij/Getty ImagesWhile the novel legal arguments might face an uphill battle, they’re already affecting the court of public opinion — and in that venue, the plaintiffs seem to be winning. The idea of prosecuting companies has gained currency among Democratic presidential candidates. Much like the fight against pharmaceutical companies that knowingly pushed opioids on American consumers, the push against fossil fuel companies resonates with anti-corporate zeal sweeping voters in both parties.
The political atmosphere is also far more partisan than the major environmental courtroom victories of decades ago, and climate change is firmly ensconced in the U.S. culture wars, noted Durwood Zaelke, founder and president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. Zaelke’s organization started the Center for Climate Integrity, which is aiding the civil climate lawsuits.
But shifts are occurring beneath the surface, Zaelke said. Investors are prodding companies into action on climate, with companies like BP agreeing to develop a strategy to survive as a business under policies designed to keep global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius. Republicans are no longer debating whether humans are baking the planet, even going as far as to offer policy solutions. Young activists have put climate change front and center on the global agenda.
Events and public opinion are trending in the right direction, Zaelke said. But it will still take an enormous leap for a breakthrough. He thinks climate attribution and the courts could provide the needed boost.
“I’m in a pretty optimistic mood right now believing these strands can come together,” Zaelke said. “We all have a chance to be a little more heroic when circumstances demand, and that’s where we are — circumstances demand more heroism from the lawyers, the youth, the judges.”

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SUVs Are Back, And They’re Spewing A Boggling Amount Of Carbon

Lethal Heating - 24 October, 2019 - 04:00
Grist - 

Greenpeace knows how to turn a photo op. Photo by Uwe Anspach / picture alliance via Getty Images   How can we end our love affair with sport utility vehicles?
Sure, I get it: They carry more people than sedans, and they look cooler than minivans.
But consider the facts. A new analysis from the International Energy Agency shows that there are 35 million more SUVs on the road today than in 2010.
The number of electric vehicles increased by just 5 million in the same time period.
The result: The business of driving humans around is guzzling more gas.
So, while greenhouse gas pollution from regular passenger vehicles actually declined since 2010, emissions from SUVs and trucks have increased enough to wipe out those gains, and then some.
SUVs, counted alone, are now warming our planet more than heavy industry.

These gas guzzlers could single-handedly eliminate the possibility that the world achieves the climate goals set in Paris in 2016 by insuring that transportation emissions continue to swell.
The new IEA analysis concludes: “If consumers’ appetite for SUVs continues to grow at a similar pace seen in the last decade, SUVs would add nearly 2 million barrels a day in global oil demand by 2040, offsetting the savings from nearly 150 million electric cars.”
If you aren’t motivated by the long-term threat of climate change, perhaps you may learn to dislike SUVs if they threaten to kill you.
As Kate Yoder pointed out, every one of these vehicles that goes on the road makes the world more dangerous for everyone but the people in them. Pedestrian deaths have reached the highest levels in decades, thanks largely to the influx of bigger vehicles packing heavier punches.
So more deaths and more emissions. We got a preview of this trend in recent numbers coming out of California, where SUVs are also threatening to leave state climate goals broken and bleeding into the gutter.
The fact that beefy vehicles make their drivers a little safer, while endangering everyone around them is a hint as to why it’s been so hard to end our toxic relationship with SUVs.
The people making the choice reap the benefits, while everyone else bears the cost. That’s the larger problem popping up here, in the form of surging SUV sales.
It’s the problem that runs, and ruins, the world.

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Q&A: Short-Term 'Tribal' Politics Is Failing On Climate Action, John Hewson Says

Lethal Heating - 24 October, 2019 - 04:00
The Guardian

Former Liberal leader tells ABC panel that children could see though the current generation of politicians
John Hewson: ‘That’s where I think the Greta Thunbergs and my kids see what’s wrong with us. They see we’ve missed the point.’ Photograph: ABC TVChildren are seeing through the short-termism of politics and the current generation of politicians, according to former Liberal leader John Hewson.
On ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night, Hewson said the modus operandi of leaders such as US president Donald Trump and Australian prime minister Scott Morrison was to target nervousness about alternative policies and instead focus on short-term political gain.
“The system has become sort of inward looking and self-absorbed. The sort of people who get preselected these days are not necessarily those who will make good ministers,” he said. “The skills you need to get through the factional process to be preselected in any of the major parties are not skills that will help you run a multibillion-dollar portfolio.
“We’re getting the wrong people.”Hewson singled out, in particular, the “tribalism” of Australian politics leading to inaction on climate change for the past decade, and said the next generation would see through the short-termism.
“That’s where I think the Greta Thunbergs and my kids see what’s wrong with us. They see we’ve missed the point,” he said.
“I know it’s black and white, you’re either doing it or you’re not doing it, but it [will] make a big difference that the next generation as soon as they vote, you’ll have a very different world in this country and I think globally.”
In September Morrison responded to Thunberg’s speech to the UN, saying he wanted Australian children to grow up feeling positive about the future, without any anxiety.
Chloë Spackman, director of programs at Australian Futures Project, said the debate needed to be reframed.
“I think we need to reframe the conversation as it’s urgent and we need to do something but we want to be doing that from a place of possibility,” she said.
Science writer Julian Cribb said people shouldn’t be scaring children, but informing them.
“They can then apply their minds to solving them … Greta Thunberg and the rest are already into that and they will change the world whether we like it or not.”
Veena Sahajwalla, inventor and director at the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology, said people can be positive about the possibility of innovation in response to the challenges facing the world.
“I think the ability to see that there are positive solutions and to be able to think about how we might be able to convert something that might sound like it’s all doom and gloom but when you unpack it and think about what we can do with new technologies as we’re developing new technologies, I think it’s fantastic,” she said.

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Australia Is The Only Country Using Carryover Climate Credits, Officials Admit

Lethal Heating - 24 October, 2019 - 04:00
The Guardian |

More than half of Australia’s Paris emissions commitment will come from controversial credits from previous targets
The Morrison government has rebuffed calls to abandon using credits to meet its 2030 emissions goal. Photograph: AlamyThe federal environment department says it is not aware of any countries other than Australia planning to use controversial “carryover credits” to meet international climate commitments.
The comment, at a Senate estimates hearing on Monday, comes as the Morrison government rebuffs calls from international leaders, analysts and activists for it to abandon the use the credits to meet its 2030 Paris emissions goal.
The government says it has earned the right to use the credits, which represent the amount of carbon dioxide by which Australia has “beaten” the targets set under the previous international climate agreement, the Kyoto protocol.Critics say the credits do not represent the emissions reductions needed to help meet the Paris goal of limiting global heating to as close to 1.5C as possible. Instead, they say, the credits are a fudge that cuts what Australia needs to do to meet its 2030 emissions target roughly in half and that Australia can claim access to them only because it set itself unchallenging targets under the Kyoto deal.
At the hearing, the Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young asked if the department knew of any other country planning to use carryover credits to help them meet their Paris climate targets.
Kushla Munro, a first assistant secretary with the Department of the Environment and Energy, said: “At this stage, we are not aware of other countries intending to use carryover.”
“So just Australia?” Hanson-Young asked. “At this stage, yes,” Munro said.
Officials confirmed that to meet its 2030 Paris target, a 26% to 28% cut compared with 2005 levels, Australia would need to cut emissions by 695m tonnes cumulatively across next decade. They said 367m tonnes would come from the credits carried over from the previous Kyoto agreement.
Kyoto credits are not included in the Paris deal, but it is possible Australia could claim them unless they were ruled out through a consensus agreement by all countries involved in UN climate negotiations.
In its evidence at Senate estimates, the department suggested the government might not need to use the credits to meet its 2030 target if emissions from electricity generation continued to fall. Jo Evans, a department deputy secretary, said there had been improvements in emissions from the electricity sector year-on-year.
“There is some probability that the baseline level of projected emissions will be coming down and it’s quite possible that not all – if any – of that carryover will be needed in the end,” Evans said.
This assessment is at odds with several analyses, including one from the government, that found Australia is not on track to meet its Paris target.
While emissions from electricity have fallen in recent years, total national emissions have been rising since 2015, largely due to increases from natural gas production for export and transport.
Australia bettered its first Kyoto target, which allowed an 8% increase in emissions between 1990 and 2010, and is on target to meet its second Kyoto target, a 5% cut below 2000 levels by 2020. Neither target was consistent with what scientists said the country should be doing to play its part in addressing the problem.
The government’s Climate Change Authority recommended Australia should also be doing more by 2030 than it has promised, recommending a minimum 45% cut below 2005 levels if it is to play its part in a deal to limit global warming to less than 2C.
Department officials confirmed in Senate estimates that 92m tonnes of the emissions reduction needed to meet Australia’s target was projected to come from “technological improvements” not linked to policy changes but expected through unspecified innovations across the economy.

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The Climate Is Apparently Not Getting 'Worse' Because Some Places, Like Canada, Will Benefit

Lethal Heating - 23 October, 2019 - 04:00
ABC NewsJack Snape


Deputy secretary Evans says whether climate change is bad is "a judgement call". (ABC News)

Key points
  • A Department of Environment official was not prepared to say the climate is getting "worse"
  • She argued that changes will advantage some parts of the world
  • A report from Moody's earlier this year found that Canada may benefit under projected temperature rises
There will be winners and losers from climate change, and that means the climate is not getting "worse".
That's the view inside Australia's Department of Environment, which insists it provides "frank and fearless" advice to Federal Government ministers.
Jo Evans, deputy secretary of the department, told a Senate hearing on Monday that whether you used "worse" or "better" to describe climate trends depends on where you were on the globe.
"Some parts of the world — they will find some of those changes working to their advantage, some of them not so much," she said.
Last year's report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change identified the people and places at a higher risk from rising temperatures.
"Populations at disproportionately higher risk of adverse consequences with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius and beyond include disadvantaged and vulnerable populations, some indigenous peoples, and local communities dependent on agricultural or coastal livelihoods," the report warned.
"Regions at disproportionately higher risk include Arctic ecosystems, dryland regions, small island developing states, and least-developed countries."
Despite the sober outlook, some have identified other groups and regions that might benefit if global warming trends continue.

Adaptation providers
As the climate warms, extreme weather events are predicted to become more common.
A report from investment bank Morgan Stanley last year identified this as a possible commercial opportunity.
"Developing countries may offer investment opportunities in new construction and infrastructure projects that are built to hold up under extreme weather events," it stated.
"Investments can include companies that help refit existing buildings and reinforce energy infrastructure for more resilience."Construction of sea walls was among the examples it listed.
The Center for Climate Integrity, based in the US, estimates it will take at least $42 billion to build sea walls to block storm surges for all threatened American coastal cities with more than 25,000 residents by 2040, according to The New York Times. Protecting all coastal communities would cost more than $400 billion.
Shackowners along the coast at Chinaman Wells on South Australia's Yorke Peninsula are building their own sea wall to protect their properties from storm surges. (Supplied: Doug Pritchard)Arctic entrepreneurs
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Finland earlier this year, highlighting opportunities in the region.
"The Arctic is at the forefront of opportunity and abundance," he said.
"It houses 13 per cent of the world's undiscovered oil, 30 per cent of its undiscovered gas, an abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square miles of untapped resources, fisheries galore."
Although sea level rises caused by melting ice caps threaten coastal communities around the world, less ice in the Arctic means more access.
"This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days," Mr Pompeo said.
"Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama canals."Warmer temperatures could unlock the Arctic for shipping and mineral extraction. (Supplied: Amelie Meyer)Baseball sluggers
Researchers from the University of Michigan suggested the changing climate around the Mediterranean might be reducing the quality of cork that makes baseballs.
The outcome? More home runs.

Defence and aid contractors
Although Australia's defence force is still developing a climate change strategy, it's wary of risks and warns that a changing security paradigm may stretch its capability.
The Defence Force expects Australia might be called on to conduct more humanitarian and disaster relief operations as a result of climate change.
International experts have noted it's difficult to attribute an individual conflict to climate change, but that the risk of climate-induced violence grows as temperatures increase.
"Think of climate change as 'loading the dice', making conflict more likely to occur in subtle ways across a host of different country contexts," two professors wrote recently in The Washington Post.
A freedom of information disclosure from the Department of Defence last year stated the increased potential for conflict could lead to "an increase in the demand for a wide spectrum of Defence and Government responses".
Private Daniel Bond and resident at Dillon's Bay in Vanuatu work together on building repairs after Cyclone Pam in 2015. (ABIS Tom Gibson)Canada
Earlier this year, the analysis branch of ratings agency Moody's released a report about the economic implications of climate change.
It predicted higher temperature increases would mean more global damage, but also that they would impact nations differently.
Canada is set to perform the best of the world's large economies, with little projected change to GDP in 2048, even in a scenario modelled on high temperature increases.
This outcome was linked to the changing climate creating more arable land and longer seasons in the region.
Joe Oliver, former minister of finance in the Conservative government, wrote an opinion article in response asking why Canada should fight climate change.
"Our focus needs to be on adaptation, reduction and protection, as well as on building resilience and increasing survivability."The projected hit to Australia's GDP, according to Moody's, is proportionally similar to that to be experienced in China.

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Climate Scientist: Our Profession Is Letting Down Humanity – We Must Change The Way We Approach The Climate Crisis

Lethal Heating - 23 October, 2019 - 04:00
The Conversation

A scientist monitoring solar activity at the North Pole. Andrey Pavlov/ShutterstockAs a climate scientist of more than 25 years, I’m proud of the work my profession has done in recent decades to alert humanity to the unfolding climate crisis. But as the emergency becomes ever more acute, we scientists need to alter the way we approach it – or face being part of the problem.
Climate science has in large part been a remarkable success story. Swedish physicist Svante Arrhenius accurately calculated how much a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would warm the planet as early as 1896.
The 1979 Charney report raised concerns about an impending climate crisis long before we could directly evidence it. In response, the scientific community stepped up its research efforts, and has been conducting regular scientific assessments to build a consensus view, and send a strong message to policy makers to spur them into action.
The problem is that 40 years of these efforts, however well-intentioned, have not had any impact on the carbon course of humanity. Since the middle of the 19th century, CO₂ emissions from human activities have been growing exponentially, on average by 1.65% per year since 1850.
The UN has to date been powerless to stop emissions rising. Wolgang KnorrThere were times when economic hardships temporarily stalled emissions, such as the oil price shocks of the early 1980s, the collapse of the Soviet block, and the 2008 financial crisis. But these had nothing to do with climate policy.
If we continue this exponential rise for just five more years, we will have already exhausted the carbon allowance that gives us a two-thirds chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C. That’s according to the IPCC, the UN body responsible for communicating the science of climate breakdown. Other scientists estimate that we have already missed the boat.

Hedged bets
Our painful sluggishness to act is not the fault of scientists. But the crisis is now more urgent than ever, and our current approach to it is starting to make us part of the problem.
Scientists are by nature conservative. This tendency is intimately linked to the way science operates: before a new theory is accepted it needs to be repeatedly scrutinised to make sure we are absolutely sure it holds up.
Usually, this is good practice. But it has caused climate scientists to consistently underestimate both the speed at which the climate is destabilising, and the severity of the threat it poses.
The IPCC is a chief culprit for this. It has the added difficulty of having to seek ratification from the world’s governments for its summary reports, and has been consistently singled out for underselling the impending crisis.
The scientists across the world that contribute to the body’s reports must heed its track record of mistaken conservatism, and adjust their approach going forward. Uncertainties are of course inherent in modelling how and when the climate will destabilise, but when the stakes are as high as they are, we must operate on the precautionary principle – the normal burden of proof on scientists should be reversed.

Acceptable risk
At the current level of 1.1℃ of global heating, climate change and ecological breakdown are already displacing and killing hundreds of thousands of humans, and sending other species towards extinction. Above 1.5℃ though, risks to humanity and ecosystems amplify greatly.
Yet the UN’s target for global carbon emissions to reach net zero by 2050 only gives us about a one-in-two chance of limiting global heating to below this level. This target is based on one of multiple potential pathways laid out by IPCC scientists in a special report in 2018.
Above 1.5℃, millions more around the world will struggle for fresh water amid crop failure and deadly heatwaves. ffmr/Shutterstock
Professions such as doctors wouldn’t take such a punt on preserving life if better odds were available. Why is the same not true of climate scientists? We need to shift both our own and society’s ideas about what is an acceptable level of risk to offer government leaders, and therefore the living planet’s inhabitants.

Here and now
Even the above pathways to a half-chance of limiting heating to 1.5℃ rely on unproven technologies to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in the second half of the century. They also fail to take into account the political landscape in which these models are being applied. Leaders are well aware that the three to four degrees warming we’re headed for may be beyond civilisation’s ability to adapt, and yet are still to make any serious headway in phasing out global fossil fuel subsidies that total at least USD$100 billion a year.
In the face of a genuine existential threat to our civilisation, we scientists need to shift our focus from long-term models that give a false sense of control over the climate crisis and paint drastic emissions cuts as easily achievable.
Instead, we should focus on vulnerability in the here and now. For example, our global food system is already vulnerable to extreme weather events. If drought strikes in several countries at the same time, there are no guarantees that our food supply chains – in which deliveries arrive “just-in-time” to minimise costs – will not experience collapses in the next decade or two.
Yet compared to the vast amount of research focused on the uncertain impacts of global heating on humanity by 2050 and 2100, we know worryingly little about just how fragile our supply chains – or other parts of our highly efficient clockwork global economy – are in the near-term. Refocusing resources on such dramatically under-researched short-term vulnerabilities is vital, not least because it will make the climate and ecological crisis feel more close to home than abstract carbon budgets and temperature rises.
Ultimately, the way the world responds to the impending crisis depends on the extent to which its citizens and leaders feel radical action is necessary. By reframing our research and changing accepted levels of risk and uncertainty, perhaps climate scientists can finally help humanity change its carbon course.

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There’s An Effective And Progressive Solution For Climate Change. Why Won’t Democrats Embrace It?

Lethal Heating - 23 October, 2019 - 04:00
Washington Post - Editorial Board

Smoke belches from a coal-fired power station near Datong, in China's northern Shanxi province. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)IN AN ideal world, our leaders would acknowledge the danger of climate change and seek the best way to combat it.
If they did, they would easily find an answer that is effective and progressive: The latest bulletin from the International Monetary Fund maps what it would take to restrain warming to tolerable levels without wasting massive amounts of money or unnecessarily harming workers, companies and households.
In our far-from-ideal world, President Trump can’t even acknowledge the problem, and the Democrats who call for immediate action seem to be running from the best solutions.
The IMF reiterates what economists have long understood: Enacting a carbon tax is “the single most powerful and efficient tool” because pricing mechanisms “make it costlier to emit greenhouse gases and allow businesses and individuals to choose how to conserve energy or switch to greener sources through a range of opportunities.”
Politicians should favor choice and flexibility over central planning. “People and firms will identify which changes in behavior reduce emissions — for example, purchasing a more efficient refrigerator versus an electric car — at the lowest cost.”
By contrast, “regulations might not leave sufficient flexibility for households and firms to find least-cost options.” Regulators might not foresee or support novel technologies, and intrusive rules “motivate firms to collude with officials to alter or evade the regulations.” They also provide weak incentives for companies to invest in a wide range of better technology, because only the state’s favored approaches to decarbonizing the economy would be rewarded.
For these reasons, regulatory and other alternative approaches cost society some 50 to 100 percent more than a carbon tax for the same environmental benefits.
The IMF found that the average global price is a paltry $2 per ton of carbon dioxide, while the world requires a $75-per-ton global carbon tax by 2030 to keep warming below the 2-degree Celsius threshold scientists advise. 
Electricity prices would rise 70 percent on average — though only 53 percent in the United States — and gasoline prices 5 percent to 15 percent in most places.
But that’s the picture before one considers what the money raised by a carbon tax could do.
If governments recycled the revenue back to low-income and vulnerable people, and cut economically inefficient taxes — such as income taxes — a $50-per-ton carbon tax would feel to the economy more like $20 per ton.
The plan would help low-income households and place a higher burden on the upper-income bracket. There could also be money for essential research and development to aid the energy transition.
So is this the plan that the Democratic presidential candidates have embraced? If only. Though former vice president Joe Biden and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke have cautiously acknowledged the importance of carbon pricing, they are far more specific in their ideas for spending lots of money.
 Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently adopted a regulate-and-spend program. And Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would have the federal government establish its own utilities and build its own power-generation facilities, from scratch, according to, yes, a central plan.
The science does not change because politicians deny that humans are warming the planet. Likewise the economics do not change because politicians find them ideologically or politically inconvenient.

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The Culprit Behind East Australia's Big Dry

Lethal Heating - 22 October, 2019 - 04:00
Sydney Morning Herald - Peter Hannam

When leading climate scientist Matthew England began work at a lab in Hobart in the mid-1980s, visitors were greeted by a huge graphic depicting a tight correlation between El Ninos and Australia's farm yields.
Any government minister would leave understanding that "we’ve got a tremendous amount of economic wealth" dependent on Pacific climate influences, making El Nino research "iconic", England says.
It turns out more attention should have been paid to the Indian Ocean.
Climate scientists and meteorologists increasingly pay attention to what's happening in the Indian Ocean to help predict rainfall in south-eastern Australia. Credit: Andrew WeldonAs we have seen this year, conditions that drive El Ninos - relative sea-surface temperature differences between the western and eastern Pacific - have been neutral. But the counterpart ratio in the Indian Ocean has gone haywire. Known as the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), the gauge last week hit record levels.


In its so-called positive phase, tropical waters off Australia's north-west are relatively cool  - compared with those near Africa - strengthening easterly winds and reducing the potential convection that typically supplies much of south-eastern Australia's critical winter and spring rains. A negative IOD has the opposite effect.
“They used to think the Indian Ocean was a slave to the Pacific," says Cai Wenju, a senior climate researcher at the CSIRO, adding this year's IOD figures are "gigantic".
“The biggest clue" that the Indian Ocean could influence Australia independently came in 2007 and 2008 when the Pacific was in its La Nina phase, which should have raised the odds for good rains, Dr Cai said. Instead, the Millenium Drought was still playing out, and there were positive-phase IODs three years in a row.
"Sometimes, the El-Nino Southern Oscillation has copped a bad rap when it should have been the IOD," Andrew Watkins, head of long-range forecasting at the Bureau of Meteorology, says.
Australian researchers from the 1980s had started examining how relative warm or cool waters off Western Australia could affect rainfall over the continent. However, it took two papers published in Nature in 1999 by Japanese and North American scientists - including Australian Peter Webster - to tease out the potential of an independent IOD.

Average Australian rainfall for the first nine months of the year has been the lowest since 1965, made worse by poor cool-season rains. Credit: Nick MoirScientists including England and Cai will gather in China next month to mark that 20th anniversary, with the IOD now a key component of Australia's and global weather and climate predictions.
Scientists caution that reliable observation data only goes back a couple of decades but it is clear this year's positive-IOD is already one of the strongest of record. So-called "reanalysis" using a combination of observations and modelling suggests the event is also notable over the past 150 years.

Nerilie Abram, an associate professor at the Australian National University, published work in 2009 that used coral cores among other data to push IOD estimates back to the mid-1800s. Research awaiting publication will look back 1000 years. While the current event is significant, her study suggests “perhaps the instrumental record doesn’t tell us the full range what’s actually possible in the Indian Ocean”.
The magnitude of an IOD appears to matter more for rainfall over south-eastern Australia than the El Nino-La Nina flux, the Bureau of Meteorology's Watkins said: "The stronger the IOD, the stronger the impacts ... for Australia, and maybe for Africa."
Another difference is that Indian Ocean conditions are more regulated by the seasonal cycle than the Pacific. Positive or negative IODs typically take form by May or June, peak around September and October, and break down in November to December as the monsoon shifts south, disrupting the easterly winds.
Poor winter and spring rains from positive IODs are not just bad for farmers. Those rains also supply much of the run-off that let our rivers run and fill the dams. Heatwaves are more severe and prolonged as soils dry out, removing the cooling function from evaporation, and setting up a busy bushfire season.
Australia's year-to-date daytime temperatures are already running at a record high, the bureau says. "It’s not a great precursor for the summer ahead when we’ve had a strong positive IOD," Abram says. “We’ve tended to have very severe summer bushfires particularly in the Victoria area."
While researchers are yet to settle on how much of a role climate change is already playing in big El Ninos or IODs, "we’re seeing extreme events become more common”, Abram says.
Dr Cai says that while the Indian Ocean is warming - along with others around the world - “the west is warming faster”. Under such conditions, "it’s easier to have an extreme positive IOD event", he said.
Bad bushfire seasons in Victoria and elsewhere in Australia's south-east have often coincided with positive IOD events, such as in 2009. Credit: AAP
Such a future would be bad news for farmers, and raise doubts about the effectiveness of policies proclaimed to be "drought-proofing".“We change the average climate by having these events more frequently or more strongly,"  Abram says. "It has an effect of changing our average rainfall.”
England says that while IODs can act independently of the Pacific, the connections remain important. For instance, the so-called Indonesian Throughflow - where warm water from the Pacific funnels its way to the Indian Ocean - could change.
"The predictions are for that to weaken," he says. "If it does, that would be a double whammy of more El Ninos plus more positive-IODs."
The potentially huge consequences from such complex interactions are a reminder that researchers can't rest.
"We are perturbing the atmosphere in a profound way with greenhouse gases," England says. "How this changes our modes of variability is uncertain.”

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You Can't Save The Climate By Going Vegan. Corporate Polluters Must Be Held Accountable.

Lethal Heating - 22 October, 2019 - 04:00
USA Today - Michael E. Mann | Jonathan Brockopp

Many individual actions to slow climate change are worth taking. But they distract from the systemic changes that are needed to avert this crisis.

Climate protest in Bangkok on May 24, 2019. (Photo: Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images) Authors
    “People start pollution. People can stop it.” That was the tag line of the famous “Crying Indian” ad campaign that first aired on Earth Day in 1971. It was, as it turns out, a charade. Not only was “Iron Eyes Cody” actually an Italian-American actor, the campaign itself successfully shifted the burden of litter from corporations that produced packaging to consumers.
    The problem, we were told, wasn’t pollution-generating corporate practices. It was you and me. And efforts to pass bottle bills, which would have shifted responsibility to producers for packaging waste, failed. Today, decades later, plastic pollution has so permeated our planet that it can now be found in the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench 36,000 feet below.
    Here is another Crying Indian campaign going on today — with climate change. Personal actions, from going vegan to avoiding flying, are being touted as the primary solution to the crisis. Perhaps this is an act of desperation in an era of political division, but it could prove suicidal.
    Though many of these actions are worth taking, and colleagues and friends of ours are focused on them in good faith, a fixation on voluntary action alone takes the pressure off of the push for governmental policies to hold corporate polluters accountable. In fact, one recent study suggests that the emphasis on smaller personal actions can actually undermine support for the substantive climate policies needed.
    This new obsession with personal action, though promoted by many with the best of intentions, plays into the hands of polluting interests by distracting us from the systemic changes that are needed.
    There is no way to avert the climate crisis without keeping most of our coal, oil and gas in the ground, plain and simple. Because much of the carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries, our choices in the next few years are crucial, and they will determine the lives our grandchildren and their grandchildren. We need corporate action, not virtue signaling.
    Massive changes to our national energy grid, a moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure and a carbon fee and dividend (that steeply ramps up) are just some examples of visionary policies that could make a difference. And right now, the "Green New Deal," support it or not, has encouraged a much needed, long overdue societal conversation about these and other options for averting climate catastrophe.
    But we need more than the left wing of the Democratic Party on board. We need a national plan of action that will include everyone.
    Consider the benefits. With five years of concentrated effort, we could have a supply of clean, renewable energy that is virtually inexhaustible. We could have many fewer deaths from mercury, particulates and ozone produced by burning dirty fossil fuels. And, we could set a shining example for the rest of the world of how the climate crisis can be solved both equitably and productively.

    Don't change light bulbs, change energy system
    Focusing on policies that incentivize corporate environmental stewardship will force us to work together and cross political, racial and religious lines. It will connect us to the rest of the world as we aim to solve a truly global problem. In contrast, a focus on personal action can divide us, with those living virtuously distancing themselves from those living “in sin.”
    A national plan of action, in fact, is not a new idea. It was proposed by Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1992 when he promised “an action plan on climate change.” If we had taken up his challenge over a quarter century ago, when carbon dioxide levels were about 350 parts per million, this would all be much easier. Now they are surpassing 415 ppm and rising quickly, and we are locking in ever more dangerous climate change impacts.
    What decades of industry obstinance bought us is a trip down a much steeper carbon emissions ramp, so now we must turn from changing light bulbs to changing our entire energy system. There is still time to avert the worst impacts of climate change, but not without immediate, collective action.

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    Why We're Rethinking The Images We Use For Our Climate Journalism

    Lethal Heating - 22 October, 2019 - 04:00
    The Guardian

    Guardian picture editor Fiona Shields explains why we are going to be using fewer polar bears and more people to illustrate our coverage of the climate emergency
    A villager shouts for help as a wildfire approaches a house at Casas da Ribeira village in Macao, central Portugal on July 2019. Photograph: Patrícia de Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty ImagesAt the Guardian we want to ensure that the images we publish accurately and appropriately convey the climate crisis that we face. Following discussions among editors about how we could change the language we use in our coverage of environmental issues, our attention then turned to images. We have been working across the organisation to better understand how we aim to visually communicate the impact the climate emergency is having across the world.
    Our goal is to provide guidelines for anyone working with images at the Guardian. We are also asking the agencies and photographers we work with to provide images that are appropriate to the changing narrative.
    The concern over how best to depict the climate emergency led us to seek advice from the research organisation Climate Visuals, who have found that “images that define climate change shape the way it is understood and acted upon”.
    A man and his child wear masks to protect them from heavy smog as they visit Waitan in December 2013 in Shanghai, China. Photograph: VCG/VCG via Getty ImagesThe industrial landscape across the Dee estuary at sunrise as steam rises from Deeside power station, Shotton Steelworks and other heavy industrial plants in April 2016 in Flintshire, Wales. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty ImagesIt was important to address our own use of images and understand the processes that lead to image selection for our environmental and weather stories. When given a story, a picture editor or subeditor may have a short time to choose an image from our database, which is why the availability and prominence of climate crisis photography is a key element in the process. It can also be difficult for photographers to capture images that reflect global heating, weather patterns and wildlife extinction, especially when trying to depict what cannot always be seen.
    We know, from years of experience, that people love polar bears and pandas, so it is easy to see how these appealing creatures have become the emblems for the topics of endangered species and what we previously termed as global warming. Often, when signalling environmental stories to our readers, selecting an image of a polar bear on melting ice has been the obvious – though not necessarily appropriate – choice. These images tell a certain story about the climate crisis but can seem remote and abstract – a problem that is not a human one, nor one that is particularly urgent.
    So it made sense when we heard that research conducted by the team at Climate Visuals has shown that people respond to human pictures and stories. Images that show emotion and pictures of real situations make the story relevant to the individual. Rather than choosing, say, an image of a smoke stack pumping out pollution or a forest on fire, such as this:
    A wildfire burns uphill in the Appalachian mountains. Photograph: aheflin/Getty Images/iStockphoto
    … we should consider showing the direct impact of environmental issues on people’s daily lives as well as trying to indicate the scale of the impact, such as these:
    A woman and child wear masks on a polluted day in Beijing in October 2014. Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty ImagesWorld Environment Day, Dimapur, India, June 2019. Photograph: Caisii Mao/REX/Shutterstock
    Gordon Easter and Gail Hale embrace as they return to what remains of their home on Hopper Lane in Coffey Park, in October 2017 in Santa Rosa, Northern California, after a wildfire. Photograph: Kent Porter/APMore than 6m metric tonnes of lead slag form Black Mountain, a 30-meter pile of toxic lead waste that still contains a sizable quantity of lead, copper, manganese and zinc, in Kabwe, Zambia. Photograph: Larry C. PriceIn the UK, the weather is a national preoccupation and as such a subject of tradition for British newspapers. People enjoying a sunny holiday weekend, or a fresh fall of snow at home or abroad can deliver some delightful and beautiful images:
    Kids make the most of the drifting snow on the Cotswold hills, Worcestershire, December 2017. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PAPeople enjoy the sunshine on Bournemouth beach during the late August bank holiday 2019. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA  A woman plays with her dog in a park in Moscow, Russia, February 2019. Photograph: Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA But as we have reported, the science tells us a much more sinister story of regular heatwaves and unseasonal weather being a defining indicator of the climate crisis. So, although scenes of children playing in fountains and everyone racing to the beach can be uplifting and irresistible, we have to be mindful of the tone of our journalism. This summer, the British media published dramatic headlines issuing climate warnings and covered in detail the negative impact of the crisis, but the images were typically of people taking pleasure in the environment. The contradiction in messaging, between the headlines and imagery, can undermine the effect of the reporting and how we perceive the risks.
    In June this year we published a picture gallery on the heatwave across Europe. In its original form, this was of a lighter tone, but we felt on reflection this was wrong and disregarded the current context, so we amended the publication to include images that covered a range of human experience of the extraordinary temperatures.
    The photographer Brook Mitchell made an impactful series about the drought in Australia affecting families in New South Wales, which we published as a photo essay in July. The environmental scenes of the scorched landscape were striking, as were the suffering animals, but the portraits and stories of the people battling the catastrophe really anchored the piece and drove the level of engagement.
    It is an example of how, as picture editors and photographers, we are having to think again about finding the right focus. Many of the impacts to communities, biodiversity, agriculture, water and food supply represent the escalating crisis our planet faces, yet visually they can be far more challenging to depict. We need new imagery for new narratives. This can be challenging in a fast-paced newsroom but it is important to be nuanced and creative with search terms to unearth photography beyond the usual keywords of climate change, heatwave and floods.
    As our stories make a journey from their initial point of publication through the various networks of social media we also have to be mindful of how the image is connected to the headline. We have to consider that the two must work together to allow the reader to make a broad sense of the article often simply at a glance. Relatable images that are not overly abstract have become a good choice.
    However, in its simplest form, getting the emotional tone of imagery in line with the issue is critical, rather than the visual overload of society universally having fun in the sun. We hope that if we keep having these conversations, we will be able to have even more of an impact with our climate coverage, and others will follow suit.
    If you are a journalist, a photographer or work with other news organisations depicting the climate crisis, please contact membershipeditorial@guardian.co.uk to join our conversation.

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    Why 'Doomism' Is Part Of The Latest Frontier In The Climate Wars

    Lethal Heating - 21 October, 2019 - 04:00
    Sydney Morning HeraldDeborah Snow

    Once if you were a climate scientist the chief enemy was denial. Now, says Michael E. Mann, it’s more likely to be “doomism”: the idea that taking action to reduce the threat of runaway climate change is pointless because it’s already too late.
    Doomism, argues the internationally renowned climate scientist, is part of the latest frontier in the climate wars - a new tool being exploited by those resisting change in the way the world does business.
    It sits alongside what he calls “soft denialism” (climate change is happening but it's OK, we can adapt) and “deflection” (sowing division by making it all about individual lifestyle choices). Such tactics, he says, are in some ways “even more pernicious” than the old arguments flatly rejecting human-induced climate change.
    An Extinction Rebellion protest calling for stronger action to reduce climate change. Credit: AAP“The greatest threat I see to climate action is the paralysis that comes from disengagement, disillusionment, despair,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on a flying visit from the United States this week. “It would be one thing if we were really doomed … as a scientist it would be disingenuous of me to argue otherwise. But the science tells us we can still make the reductions in carbon emissions necessary to avert the worst impacts of climate change. Yes there is urgency, but we still have agency.”The daily news cycle has served up grim warnings this year: the intensity and scale of wildfires from the Amazon to the Arctic, prolonged drought, hurricanes and storms of ever greater impact, the retreat of glaciers, and evidence of the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and destabilisation of the West Antarctic ice sheet, happening now decades earlier than the predictions made 10 to 15 years ago.
    "Dangerous impacts from climate change are with us in real time": Climate scientist Michael E. Mann. Credit: Getty Image“We don’t have to use our imaginations anymore,” Mann says. “Dangerous impacts from climate change are with us in real time.”
    Mann, who is professor of atmospheric sciences at Pennsylvania State University, believes the world has 10 years in which to make the profound systemic changes and cuts to greenhouse gas emissions that might limit warming to around 1.5 degrees centigrade.
    Left to business as usual the world will warm 4 to 5 degrees, leaving the generations who follow with a “fundamentally different planet” - one where sea-level rise will wreak havoc on coastal cities and communities, while climate extremes devastate terrestrial and marine environments. The impacts, he says, would be irreversible, even if a way could be found to “magically” cool the planet again.
    Mann found himself thrust into the midst of the climate wars after publication of his now-famous “hockey stick” graph of 1999, which depicted a sharp rise in global temperature as CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere increased. The graph featured heavily in an early report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), making Mann a prime target for attack by climate change deniers.
    “Politics came to us – we didn’t come to politics,” he says of the scientific struggle of the past two decades. While in many ways he’d love a return to his old life of research and number-crunching, necessity has forced him to embrace the role of what he calls “scientist advocate”.
    That’s the mission that brought him to a roomful of hard-headed finance types in Sydney this week, at a conference organised by the Investor Group on Climate Change.
    That Mann should be invited to address such a meeting makes perfect sense to the IGCC’s chief executive, Emma Herd.
    Financiers and investors are now becoming ever more alert to the risks posed by climate change, she says. The dollars are starting to follow, even without the policy leadership which business has looked for in vain from the federal government. Collectively the group’s 74 members, based in Australia and New Zealand, have more than two trillion dollars’ worth of assets under management and they want assurances from companies that those investments have a long-term future.
    “What I’m increasingly seeing - and investors are a big part of the reason for this - is that the private sector in Australia recognises that climate change is going to cause major economic shifts and are trying to manage it,” she says.
    “Government is still fighting the political fight. The private sector is getting on with it and doing the best they can. That doesn’t mean you are not going to get different views from different sectors … but what you are not seeing is fighting the need to do anything about it at all.”
    She says the “energy and momentum” at this week’s meeting was “palpable … It really feels like in the last 12 to 18 months investors are stepping up their engagement with companies and pushing companies to have a much better response”.
    Icebergs float away as the sun rises near Kulusuk, Greenland. Scientists are trying to understand the alarmingly rapid melting of the ice. Credit: APGeoffrey Summerhayes, an executive board member of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and chair of the Sustainable Insurance Forum, also sees investors becoming increasingly focused on climate change risk. “As I heard someone say recently, you can’t do business on a dead planet. These organisations understand the link between environmental sustainability and economic sustainability.”
    “What is underway is a transition to a low-carbon future. That direction is irreversible and the smart money has worked that out and can see globally the trillions of dollars of infrastructure required to transition the world over the decades to come.”
    The shift in the energy system is already playing out much faster than many predicted, Summerhayes adds. “The world went from no smart phones to saturation in 10 years. The economics will drive the shift to renewables in a similar way.”
    As I heard someone say recently, you can’t do business on a dead planet.
    Geoffrey Summerhayes, chair of the Sustainable Insurance ForumLondon-based Georg Kell, chair of influential Anglo-German asset management firm Arabesque Partners, was another panellist at the conference who, like Summerhayes, flags technological change as a key driver of change.
    But he also takes heart from the growing impact of the case for intergenerational fairness, now being made more powerfully than ever by young activists like Sweden’s Greta Thunberg. (Mann joked this week that OPEC had zeroed in on her like the malevolent “Eye of Sauron” in fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings).
    “We have to ask ourselves, honestly, when we pass away, are our children in a position to enjoy the world as we have done?” Kell says. “Will they be able to go camping, scuba diving, will they have the same beauties, or will they live in a different world that will be far more confronting?”
    Climate change, he says, is not about “red, or blue, or green” politics. “In Europe, new alliances are coming into being … CEOs of leading companies are now teaming up with green parties, unheard of years ago, teaming up to win over mainstream parties and help re-shape the political landscape.”
    Any business leader that played the denial card was guilty of “stupidity at best, and gross negligence, I would argue, almost criminal behaviour, at worst,” he says. “The evidence has been compelling for years already.”
    A striking theme at the investor conference was frustration over the inability of Australia’s political parties to resolve the climate wars after a decade of bickering and stalemate. Government actions were seen as piecemeal and sometimes a direct obstacle to private sector investment. “If electric vehicles had been cast as a cost-of-living issue we would have them by now … instead it was cast as a climate-change initiative so it became a political football,” one speaker pointed out.
    The Australian Industry Group’s Innes Willox complained that the energy wars had become “Australia’s Brexit”.
    “Industry finds it increasingly difficult to make reasoned, calculated investment in the energy space … so it is going its own way,” he told the conference. Others worried that various state governments – including NSW and Victoria – have declared goals of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 but with no clarity for business about how to get there.
    (The Morrison government’s insistence that it is on track to meet its modest Kyoto and Paris carbon emission reduction targets were dealt a blow by the International Monetary Fund earlier this month, which said Australia on current trajectories would fail to meet those targets even with a steep carbon tax).
    Tony Maher of the CFMEU, representing mine workers, appealed to investors to prioritise the social and political dimensions of tackling climate change as well as the financial risks. “So far Germany is the only country that can say there has been a just transition [out of coal],” he told the conference. “Workers always get screwed, communities get broken … we have to prove to them that [that won’t happen].”
    Mann warned his business audience this week that there are uncertainties in the climate modelling but that was not a reason for inaction. “If anything, it's the opposite ... things are happening faster and with greater magnitude than we predicted a decade or so ago. There are things missing from the models that are causing them in some sense to be overly conservative.”
    One example is the massive undulations in the northern hemisphere jet stream that locked in both extreme low- and extreme high-pressure weather systems in different parts of the US this year. That, he said, was “not captured in the modelling”.
    Mann, who will take up a visiting professorship at the University of New South Wales in 2020, insists the world doesn’t need “a miracle” to avert the most devastating climate change scenarios. “We have the solution in our hands. We simply need to find the political will to provide the incentives necessary to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.”
    Not all sections of the business community are alive to the need for urgent action, but building alliances with those that are is, he says, “a huge opportunity”.
    “It’s one thing when environmental groups are leading the communication effort. But when you have the business community, the finance community, the insurance and reinsurance communities talking about climate change as an existential threat, it potentially … really broadens the constituency for climate action.”

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    An Audacious Plan To Stop Climate Change: Remake The Entire Economy

    Lethal Heating - 21 October, 2019 - 04:00
    Washington Post - David Grinspoon

    Naomi Klein makes a passionate case that market capitalism can’t avert disaster.
    Luke Sharrett/BloombergClimate disruption looms, and we are dithering. We are in need of a vision. You can be forgiven the occasional moment of paralyzing despair. But then snap out of it, because we’ve got work to do. But what exactly? We’d all love to see the plan.
    Some say technical wizardry and unleashed market forces can come to our rescue, as green entrepreneurs chase the gold of alternative energy.
    But in “On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal,” Naomi Klein makes a keenly argued, well-researched and impassioned case for why market capitalism cannot get us out of this mess and the only way to avert a climate breakdown is to undertake a radical reset of our entire economy.
    This will require a vast expansion of public investment, including sectors far beyond those directly associated with energy and climate resilience, such as health care, education and labor rights. Given that Klein was promoting a similar program before she explicitly tied it to climate action, one has to ask whether this truth is a little too convenient. In “The Shock Doctrine” (2007), she described “disaster capitalism,” in which corporations and the politicians they control never let a good crisis go to waste, using the pretext of emergencies to achieve neoliberal goals of privatization and erosion of the public sphere.
    Here it’s fair to ask if Klein and her colleagues in the Green New Deal movement are practicing “disaster socialism,” seeking to use the climate threat to vastly expand the role of government and quash corporate influence. Klein enthuses that “battling climate change is a once-in-a-century chance to build a fairer and more democratic economy,” and she doesn’t mince words about her belief that “climate change supercharges the preexisting case for virtually every progressive demand on the books, binding them into a coherent agenda based on a clear scientific imperative.”
    The (Burning) Case for a Green New DealNaomi KleinSimon & Schuster308 ppIs the Green New Deal a plot to use the climate emergency as a pretense for socialism? Klein is well aware of this accusation.
    She makes her best case for why an effective societal response to the climate crisis must include a rejuvenation of genuine democracy that wrests power from the petrochemical and extractive industries; forces a more equitable distribution of resources; subsidizes massive new investments in energy, transit and housing infrastructure; and protects those whose lives are upended by the rapid economic transition.
    Parts of the argument are somewhat strained. Yes, we need comprehensive health-care reform, but does it absolutely have to be part of a climate package? Klein insists it does because an improved and fairer health system will help Americans weather the necessary economic dislocations and the expected increase in natural disasters.
    Is the only plausible way to avert a climate breakdown a full transformation of our society from corporate to social democracy? Can’t we put out the climate fire first and then get the rest of our house in order? I don’t think this book will convince anyone who is not already fairly open to these ideas. Klein is not subtle about applying her ideological lens to the problem.
    However, if you are sympathetic to the goals of the Green New Deal but are as yet unconvinced, as I was before reading “On Fire,” you need to read this book. Klein marshals the most powerful arguments for why climate change cannot be effectively addressed without a simultaneous deep reckoning with our society’s other ills of wealth and income inequality, racial discrimination, and crumbling infrastructure.
    As a scientist I was on the lookout for misrepresentations. It is, of course, not strictly true that “science says that political revolution is our only hope.” (Wouldn’t it be great if science could give us a blueprint for how to organize ourselves as a society?)
    But science does tell us that our current course, absent a radical and rapid change in our energy supplies, will lead to disaster. I am bothered by the fetishization of somewhat arbitrary deadlines, as in: “We are fighting for our lives. And we don’t have twelve years anymore; now we have only eleven. And soon it will be just ten.” But we are facing an existential threat, and perhaps the repetition of these numbers will help people appreciate the urgency, which is real.
    Basic quantitative reasoning confirms one of Klein’s central arguments — that the survival of a healthy biosphere on this finite planet is inconsistent with an economic system dependent on continuous growth. Whether or not one accepts every detail of the Green New Deal as currently conceived, it is hard to deny that a successful fix to the climate crisis will involve a radical reduction in corporations’ influence over our political process.
    Klein’s tone is urgent but hopeful. She reminds us that looming disaster can sometimes bring out the best in people, awakening transformative impulses in the nick of time. She highlights the work of inspiring young activists to show us that no future is written in stone and that we have the choice, and the obligation, to change course.
    She sketches an alternative future, possibly within our grasp, which is imaginative and inspiring, a world where “day-to-day life for working people has been improved in countless ways, with more time for leisure and art, truly accessible and affordable public transit and housing, yawning racial and gender wealth gaps closed at last, and city life that is not an unending battle against traffic, noise and pollution.” The Green New Deal draws upon Roosevelt’s New Deal as historical analogy and proof-of-concept that we are capable of responding to crisis with creative transformation.
    Klein proposes that once again, government-supported artists should play a vital role, helping us imagine and realize our societal renovation as Works Progress Administration artists did in the 1930s.
    Although Klein and the Green New Deal will be accused of building a Trojan horse for socialism, in the vision laid out in “On Fire,” capitalism is not discarded, just somewhat tamed. Klein talks about “democratic eco-socialism,” but the examples she holds up are Sweden and Denmark, places where capitalism is alive and well.
    The future United States she describes is not Venezuela. The pursuit of wealth is not eliminated, but obscene excess is constrained, with resources channeled back into supporting infrastructure for a cleaner, fairer economy and safety nets for those displaced in the transition.
    The market is alive but defanged. There’s still room in this picture for entrepreneurship and competition, with riches coming to those who can invent an efficient carbon-sucking widget. They would just have to pay their workers a decent wage and give back a fair share. Maybe it will really be all of the above: green capitalism chasing a new alternative gold rush within the sturdy guardrails provided by a strengthened public sector.
    It’s not enough to lament the world we would have had if we had acted sooner or to picture the future we want to avoid. We need something to aspire to, to work toward. Dwight Eisenhower famously said that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.
    But here the plan is essential. It is lacking in detail, grandiose and surely flawed in some respects. But the people need a vision, and “On Fire” challenges us to choose the Green New Deal or try to find a better one — in a hurry.
    At present it is still a vague outline, not a detailed policy proposal. But this plan, or some version of it, is going to be part of our urgent national and international conversation on this most pressing of issues.
    Reading this book will equip you to enter into that dialogue with a rich understanding of the rationale.
    Klein lays it out vehemently and clearly for us to debate, adapt and improve upon if necessary. Time is of the essence, and we’d better choose right.

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    John Hewson Slams Coalition On Climate Change While Business Takes Lead Reducing Emissions

    Lethal Heating - 21 October, 2019 - 04:00
    ABC Country HourJoshua Becker

    John Hewson addresses the Australian Farm Institute Round Table in Canberra. (Supplied: Edgars Greste) Key points
    • John Hewson takes aim at the Government's policies and its "entrenched anti-climate sentiment'
    • The former Liberal leaders argues that regenerative agriculture can offset a large amount of future emissions
    • Academics say government policy might be less influential than market forces as companies move faster to reduce emissions
    Former Liberal leader and treasury economist John Hewson has delivered a scathing rebuke of the Federal Government's climate change policy during an address to farmers and industry leaders.
    "We don't have a sense of urgency to achieve these emission [reduction] targets," he told the Australian Farm Institute Roundtable in Canberra."There's an entrenched anti-climate sentiment in the Government at the moment, and indeed government ministers are not turning up at events if they have the word 'climate' in the title."The comments made by the Prime Minister at the UN, that we are going to meet our emissions targets, was a gross misrepresentation and was staggering for someone in his position."
    Dr Hewson, who is now the chair of the Business Council for Sustainable Development, said he would like to see regenerative agriculture form part of the solution.
    "Regenerative agriculture can offset a very significant portion of our future emissions, and I'm staggered that is not being recognised by the National Party," he said.
    "It would have a lot of benefits for regional Australia; a farmer could earn carbon credits or a stream of income for sequestering carbon on their farm."

    Is agriculture prepared to be part of the solution?
    Large multinational food companies are moving to adopt new targets to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change.
    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.
    The Sustainable Food Policy Alliance, which represents companies like Nestle, Unilever, Mars and Danone, has backed calls for companies to use their political influence to push governments to implement a science-based policy agenda.
    Some academics believe this marks a shift in the global effort to combat climate change, when companies are moving faster than governments to reduce emissions.
    Richard Eckard, a professor of agricultural sciences at the University of Melbourne, said government policy might be less influential than market forces.
    "In the past six months, I've been back and relooked at all these companies' sustainability statements and noticed that they've all switched to absolute emission reduction targets in line with the Paris Agreement," he said.
    "Some of them have interim steps to get there, but all of them are aiming for carbon-neutral food production by 2050."
    Paris 2030: Will we make it?
    Are Australia's efforts to curb global warming enough to meet our Paris targets? Four Corners investigates.
    To achieve this goal, some companies agreed to use 100 per cent renewable energy, while others committed to reducing their emissions.
    Industries that cannot reduce their emissions will have to explore using carbon offsets to meet these targets, which is creating a lot of demand.
    "I think it's quite notable that of the 100 largest economies in the world, 69 are companies, not countries," he said."And we've been looking to government for leadership — in actual fact, maybe it's these companies that are sending us the signals that need to be responded."
    While there are possibilities for agriculture to form part of the solution, with its ability to sequester carbon, the current carbon market in Australia is fragmented and immature.
    Dr Hewson supported plans for a HECS-style scheme that would see farmers receive a baseline carbon reading to help remove barriers for those looking to explore carbon farming initiatives as the market developed.
    James Madden has created what is believed to be the first carbon-neutral meat brand in the world. (Supplied: Flinders and Co)Can meat industry reach carbon-neutral goal?
    Meat and Livestock Australia is moving towards a goal that would see the industry become carbon neutral by 2030.
    However, experts believe it will fall short due to a lack of research and funding.
    "Achieving that target will be a very tall order," Professor Eckard said.
    "As an industry, they don't have the funding to allocate to create a low-methane cow — that's a long way off."Professor Eckard said the industry had only 10 to 20 per cent of the funding needed to develop low-emissions solutions for livestock.
    It will require partnerships with multinational companies to fund that gap in research and require academics to collaborate across countries with long-term projects.
    "One problem is the short-termism that we have towards research with one-, two- and and three-year contracts — these are 10 to 20-year problems," he said.
    "And we're not alone, we're not the only country with this problem, Brazil and New Zealand have a bigger problem than us.
    "There is no one organisation that can fund this solution, we need a coordinated long-term effort."

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    Climate Emergency Declarations In 1,123 Jurisdictions And Local Governments Cover 285 Million Citizens

    Lethal Heating - 20 October, 2019 - 04:00
    Climate Emergency Declaration and Mobilisation


    1,123 jurisdictions in 20 countries have declared a climate emergency.
    Populations covered by jurisdictions that have declared a climate emergency amount to 285 million citizens, with 47 million of these living in the United Kingdom.
    This means in Britain now roughly 70 per cent of the population lives in areas that have declared a climate emergency.
    In New Zealand, the percentage is even higher: 74 per cent of the population.
    It’s around 25 per cent in countries like Switzerland and Italy.

    National Declarations
    On 29 April 2019, the first parliament in the world to declare a climate emergency at the national level was the Welsh Parliament. Some say it was Scotland, though, because on 28 April 2019, the First Minister of Scotland declared a climate emergency on behalf of her government at an annual Scottish National Party conference.
    On 1 May 2019, the United Kingdom Labour Party got unanimous support for a non-binding motion in favour of a climate emergency declaration in the House of Commons, claiming Britain thereby was the first country in the world where a bipartisan parliament had declared a climate emergency.
    On 3 May 2019, the Gibraltar Parliament followed, and the government of the Republic of Ireland announced their declaration on 9 May. The next day, the Isle of Man parliament declared a climate emergency as well.
    The Parliament of Portugal declared a climate emergency on 7 June 2019, the Canadian House of Commons followed on 17 June 2019, and the French parliament a climate emergency on 27 June 2019. Argentina followed on 17 July 2019.

    Local Governments
    On the list below are only included jurisdictions that have passed a binding motion declaring a climate emergency. As such, the non-binding motion instigated by UK Labour, for example, is not included in this data. Typical resolutions include setting up a process to develop an action plan and report back to council within three to six months.

    Australia
    In Australia, where the climate emergency declaration mobilisation and petition was launched in May 2016, over 60 jurisdictions representing roughly 6 million people – a quarter of the population – have declared a climate emergency, including the government of the Australian Capital Territory, based in the capital Canberra.
    More than 100 of the candidates in the 18 May 2019 federal election had signed the Climate Emergency Declaration petition.

    The list is maintained by CedamiaSimilar lists
    www.cedamia.org/global
    www.caceonline.org/councils-that-have-declared.html
    www.climateemergency.uk/blog/category/climate-emergency
    www.theclimatemobilization.org/city-by-city

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    The Methane Gun

    Lethal Heating - 20 October, 2019 - 04:00
    Surviving C21 - Julian Cribb

    Julian Cribb
    Julian Cribb is a distinguished science writer with more than thirty awards for journalism.
    He was a newspaper editor, founder of the influential ScienceAlert website and is the author of 10 books:
      In all the sound and fury over climate change, too little public and media attention has been devoted to the ‘methane gun’ – and yet this terrifying phenomenon could usher humans unceremoniously off Earth’s stage for good.Like CO2, methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas that helps trap the sun’s heat within the Earth’s atmosphere. The big difference is that it is 25-84 times more potent at doing so.
      The planet has massive stores of methane, locked as frozen ice in the seabed (the world’s largest natural gas reserve), in the frozen soils of the Canadian, US and Russian Arctic, and buried in the sediments of tropical swamps and peatlands. Like the bubbles in a stagnant pond, the gas is mostly the work of bacteria digesting organic matter over millions of years.
      How large these reserves of methane are is still a matter for scientific debate – but estimates fall between 1.5 and 5 trillion tonnes. Very, very large indeed. If released suddenly, these are thought more than capable of driving the Earth’s temperature up by another 7-10 degrees, on top of the 2-5 degrees likely to result from human emissions from burning fossil fuels and clearing land (currently rising at record rates).
      The worst-case scenario – a large-scale, rapid release of trapped gas known as the ‘methane gun’ – could potentially render the Earth uninhabitable by humans and other large animals. This is why we need to pay attention. Now.
      What has some scientists concerned – and others frightened – is that atmospheric levels of methane which have doubled since the Industrial Revolution and have been rising for steadily for the past 30 years, began to rise more steeply in the past five years, as the following graph shows:
      Atmospheric methane concentrations up to October 2019: Mauna Loa Observatory, USA.The source of the new methane is debated. Is it mainly caused by the mining of natural gas, petroleum and coal – as several lines of evidence suggest? Is it released by expanding world cattle and rice production, the draining of tropical swamps and burning of tropical forests? Is it the frozen gas seeping out of the oceans and tundra as the planet warms and its ice vanishes? Or is it all of the above? The evidence is starting to favour the latter view – but the scientific jury remains undecided.
      We know that a mass-release of methane can be catastrophic for life on Earth, because that’s exactly what took place 55 million years ago in an event known as PETM - the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum - when global temperatures shot up by 5-10 degrees, wiping out a number of species. There were no humans round then to release carbon, so it was probably due to one or more of the natural sources rapidly giving up its gas. Recently opinion has narrowed in favour of tropical swamps and peatlands drying out and catching fire during a warming cycle, as the main source. The frozen methane, apparently, remained largely undisturbed in the ocean and tundra.
      But that is not the case today. Not only are tropical forests burning and swamps being drained, but scientists have observed major escapes of methane from the Arctic tundra in the form of exploding pingos – mounts of frozen methane, mud and water – and the eruption of melted methane ice from the seabed. In October 2019 veteran Russian researcher Igor Semiletor, from Tomsk Polytechnic University, reported “the most powerful seep I have ever been able to observe” venting in a potent eruption of gas bubbles in the East Siberian Sea.
      Two years earlier, in June 2017, Russian reindeer herders reported a violent explosion that left a 50- metre deep crater in the tundra of the Yamal Peninsula, Siberia, which scientists attributed to a methane blast. In recent years researchers have reported numerous craters left by explosions across Siberia, the Canadian and Alaskan tundra – and even craters in the seabed. Many are recent – but some are up to 12,000 years old, and still leaking gas. Therein lies the uncertainty: are the methane explosions observed today part of a process that occurs more or less constantly through Earth history – or do they represent the start of a sudden release, ramping up to runaway global warming? The scientific jury is at odds.
      Methane hydrate, a frozen form of methane gas, at one of the many cold seeps off the U.S. Atlantic coast. Hydrate is widespread in the deep ocean and sequesters as much as 20% of all carbon on Earth. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and ResearchPennsylvania State climate scientist Prof Michael Mann, for instance, characterises the methane bomb idea as “catastrophism” and claims it is being exploited by the climate denial lobby to discredit climate theory generally. He says the amount of methane released will be “small compared to human emissions” of carbon. Other scientists, like Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute, argue that it is highly unlikely that a large volume of seabed methane would be released suddenly, i.e. over a period less than thousands of years, because it did not do so in past warming events. Instead it will continue to trickle out.
      Oceanography and ice expert Prof Peter Wadhams disagrees. He says loss of Arctic sea ice from the shallow continental margins could trigger such a release which “could happen very suddenly and … is the greatest single threat that we face”. He says that mainstream science, represented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), does not generally recognise the threat.
      Australian National University earth scientist Prof. Andrew Glikson cites the Global Carbon project finding that there are 1.4 trillion tonnes of accumulated methane stored on land and 16 trillion tonnes in the ocean, available for release if the planet grew warm enough, and this ‘could have catastrophic effects on the biosphere’. He points out there is already clear evidence for the explosive release of methane, on land and at sea. With Arctic temperatures already 3-8 degrees warmer due to global warming, the risks of a sudden methane release “have not yet been fully accounted for in climate projections.”
      At temperatures above +4 degrees, many scientists now consider the risk is increasing of the planet becoming partly or wholly uninhabitable to humans and large animals. Certainly, such heat and climate instability would destroy most of our current food production systems, spilling billions of climate refugees across the planet and causing wars to break out between and within nation states.
      How many would die in such an event is not knowable, because we cannot predict how humans will respond, how many wars we will start, or how many nukes we will unleash in the ensuing chaos. Potsdam Institute climatologist John Schellnhuber has said: “At 4 C Earth’s... carrying capacity estimates are below 1 billion people.” Prof Kevin Anderson of the U.K.’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change concurs: “Only about 10 per cent of the planet’s population would survive at 4 C.” Several scientists have voiced the view that the human population will be reduced from 9-10 billion to around 1-3 billion in the long run.
      We already know that our physical survival is in jeopardy in extended periods above 35 degrees Celsius – that is, where daytime temperatures constantly reach 40-50 degrees C or more. Such temperatures will occur frequently with +7 degrees of global warming and will render large parts of the earth uninhabitable – including the most heavily populated. Above +12 degrees of global warming, human survival becomes physically impossible. However long before our heat tolerance limits are reached, local and global food and water supplies will collapse, prompting mass migration and war. Without urgent worldwide action, the global economy – and with it civilized society – are predicted to go down as we approach +4 degrees. Such warnings come, not from ‘radical greens’, but from authorities no less conservative than Bank of England governor Marc Carney, who states that the global financial system is currently investing in catastrophe by backing new fossil fuel projects. These numbers represent the current most-informed estimates of the impact of the unfolding climate crisis, should world efforts to halt it fail and should the climate deniers triumph.
      Methane bubbles out of the seafloor off the coast of Virginia, north of Washington Canyon. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and ResearchThe risk for humanity posed by the ‘methane gun’ is that rapid global mass-release may be ‘locked and loaded’ and firing before we have sufficient scientific data to confirm it. It is, as they say, an event of low probability – but very high impact. Is it a risk that a rational person would take?
      Once the gun has begun to fire, there is practically nothing humans can do to stop it. It will unleash other dangerous feedbacks, potentially leading to runaway warming. It will shift the planet from its present warming state to a ‘hothouse Earth’ state where human survival comes into question.
      The only viable strategy – possibly – is preventative: to move civilization far faster towards total elimination of all fossil fuels and land clearing worldwide – and plant billions of trees as quickly as possible, to slow the global warming trend before it triggers the methane gun.
      This means that countries like America, Australia, Brazil and Russia must cease their dangerous do-nothing policies, and stop mining coal, oil and gas, and clearing land. Countries like India and China need to cease building coal-fired power stations immediately. And every country needs to scale back carbon emissions on an accelerated time-scale from transport, agriculture, concrete and industry.
      While some scientists urge geoengineering solutions, such as the artificial release of sulphate aerosol particles to erect a giant sunshade over the Earth, this represents a counsel of despair. It means allowing the atmosphere to attain virtual temperatures that would cook humans, then trying to chill them down with a planet-sized ‘air-conditioner’. The consequences, should our air conditioner fail, would be terminal. That really only leaves us with the option of trying to contain global warming by eliminating human carbon emissions – before the methane gun fires.
      In the end, the worst that can happen by banning fossil fuels and regreening the planet is that we get a new clean energy system, cheaper energy, renewed economic growth and a more sustainable Earth.
      If the climate deniers – fifty huge energy corporates and their political and media cheer squad – get their way, the worst that can happen is human extinction.
      Which risk do you prefer?

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      Drop The Doom And Gloom: Climate Journalism Is About Empowerment

      Lethal Heating - 19 October, 2019 - 04:00
      The Conversation

      A farmer who installed solar panels to power his irrigation systems on the family farm walks by the panels near Claresholm, Alta., in June 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntoshThere is a simple irony in dealing with climate change. To get a handle on the problem means that, at a certain level, the conversation has to move away from climate change. What does that mean?
      The secretary general of Amnesty International shed some light on this apparent contradiction ahead of September’s United Nations climate change conference in New York.
      “I think one of the catastrophic mistakes we made in 1992, when the Rio Earth Summit happened, was framing our response to the threat of climate change solely or primarily as an environmental issue,” Kumi Naidoo said on the news program Democracy Now!
      “I think we needed to have done then what we are trying to do now … which is to ensure that we bring a cross-cutting understanding of climate change and bring a more human-centric approach to addressing (it).”
      This means, Naidoo said, dealing with climate change by focusing on human rights and on reducing inequality.

      Broadening the climate conversation
      When it comes to climate-related economic issues, news narratives typically focus on the trade-off between jobs and protecting the environment.
      That was one of the findings of a December 2018 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “Although they tend to choose different sides, mainstream and alternative media both frequently reinforce the assumption that there is an inevitable trade-off between environmental protection and job creation,” the study concluded.
      What if the discussion in the news media, and in politics, instead focused on what a post-carbon economy would actually look like, and, crucially, how such an economy would actually thrive? It’s the vision of a society and of a prosperous, modern economy that has climate change baked into it.
      But how does the world actually get there, especially when mitigating climate change is still largely seen as an impediment to economic growth?
      Better climate change communication is a good place to start.

      Making the uncomfortable comfortable
      Mitigating climate change is often seen in the context of making choices that can be undesirable: flying less, buying less, ditching the car.
      Instead, the choices people must make to fight climate change can be framed as enjoyable, desirable or even moral, instead of avoidable. In other words, things that people actually want to do.
      To make that shift, University of Michigan sustainability professor Andy Hoffman argues for a “consensus-based” approach to climate change. Such an approach treats climate change as a cultural issue instead of simply as a scientific and environmental problem. It “frames climate change mitigation as a gain rather than a loss to specific cultural groups,” Hoffman writes. He adds:
      “To be effective, climate communicators must use the language of the cultural community they are engaging.”It’s important to speak to people about climate change through values that make sense to them.
      Stories of people taking action that others around them can relate to also have a huge impact. A neighbour enjoying their electric vehicle (and saving on gas) has a far more persuasive influence over other residents on the block than an expert on the news telling people they need to drive less.
      A neighbour’s love of her electric car is likely a lot more compelling than experts urging people to drive electric vehicles. ShutterstockA different narrative
      When it comes to climate change coverage, doom and gloom is usually the lead. There is also a heavy emphasis in conventional climate journalism on individual lifestyle changes.
      Instead, climate journalism can play a much more important role in painting the picture of how a post-carbon economy might actually work. That process can begin with a conversation around solutions that are already being implemented, especially those that are happening through collective action and a sense of empowerment.
      A great example is a recent Global News report on the T’Sou-ke Nation on Vancouver Island, a community that is taking renewable energy production into its own hands. Or a story in Maclean’s magazine about an Ontario town that is working toward a greener future.
      These forms of storytelling are crucial for the conversation to shift toward a new default position: climate change as the current upon which the economy rides. Ultimately, it will require political will for the world to get there. But support is building, and it’s the masses who are leading the way.
      “If you actually look at the most beautiful parts of our histories, it’s mass movements, it’s collectives, it’s groundswells,” author and activist Rebecca Solnit recently said on CBC Radio’s The Current.
      “We need a framework in which maybe everybody is potentially a hero, and it’s not the exceptional but the ordinary people who change the world.”
      As stories about collective action become a more prominent feature of climate journalism, so too will climate change start to feel more accessible and less scary. In the near future, climate change will not be something big, distant and seemingly impossible to overcome.
      Instead, it will just be a fact of life around which everything else revolves, including human rights, jobs and the economy. The best climate change story, in other words, may very well not be a climate change story at all.

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      What Is Climate Change And What Can We Do About It?

      Lethal Heating - 19 October, 2019 - 04:00
      Climate Council - Explainer




      Climate science can be complex, and misinformation in politics and the media can make it difficult to sort fact from fiction. Here, we’ve answered eight common climate change questions, including what’s causing climate change, what scientists are saying and what we can do about it. Read on to get up to speed.

      1. What is climate change?
      2. What is causing climate change?
      3. How is climate change affecting Australia?
      4. Why do only a few degrees of warming matter?
      5. How do scientists know the climate is changing?
      6. What are the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia?
      7. What can Australia do to combat climate change?

      8. Where can I find out more?

      1. What is climate change?
      Climate is different from weather. When we talk about the Earth’s climate, we are referring to the average weather conditions over a period of 30 years or longer. Weather, on the other hand, refers to what you see and feel outside from day to day (e.g. sunny, rainy).
      So climate change is any change in the climate, lasting for several decades or longer, including changes in temperature, rainfall or wind patterns.
      And according to science, our climate is changing quite dramatically – it’s getting hotter.Long-term air and ocean temperature records clearly show the Earth is warming. The global average temperature has already risen by 1.1°C since the pre-industrial period. This might not sound like a lot, but 1.1°C represents a massive amount of extra heat and energy – the equivalent of four Hiroshima bomb detonations per second.While the earth’s climate has changed throughout history, scientists agree that the significant changes we’ve seen over the past hundred years or so have been due to human activities. Recent warming is also happening at a rate that is much faster than previous climatic changes.


      Temperature Anomalies by Country 1880-2017 based on NASA GISTEMP data. By Antti Lipponen.

      2. What is causing climate change?
      The short answer is, the excessive amount of greenhouse gases entering the Earth’s atmosphere due to human activity is causing our climate to change dramatically. But there’s more to it than that.Let’s break it down. A certain amount of greenhouse gases (like water vapour, ozone, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous dioxide) occur naturally. For example, carbon dioxide is produced by plants, or decaying organic matter (biomass). These greenhouse gases act like a blanket in our atmosphere, trapping some of the sun’s heat close to the Earth’s surface. This is known as the ‘greenhouse effect’ – and it makes the planet warm enough for us to live.
      But since the Industrial Revolution (which began in the mid to late 1700s), greenhouse gases have built up in the atmosphere, which is trapping more heat close to the earth’s surface. This is because humans began digging up and burning coal, oil and gas, as well as scaling up agriculture and tree-clearing (deforestation), and increasing waste (landfill), which are all processes that produce greenhouse gases.
      As more greenhouse gases are added to the Earth’s atmosphere, more of the sun’s heat is trapped and this causes the Earth’s average temperature to rise.Carbon dioxide is the most significant of all the greenhouse gases, followed by methane. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased by more than 45% since the Industrial Revolution and are now the highest they have been for at least 800,000 years.



      3. How is climate change affecting Australia?
      Australia is one of the most vulnerable developed countries in the world to the impacts of climate change, which include:
      • Increased frequency and/or severity of extreme weather events including floods and droughts
      • More frequent, more intense and longer-lasting heatwaves. Heatwaves are deadly, having killed more people than all other extreme weather events in Australia combined.
      • Greater risk and severity of bushfires and earlier, longer bushfire seasons
      • Sea level rise, leading to more coastal flooding, erosion and saltwater intrusion into freshwater wetlands, such as in the World-Heritage listed Kakadu National Park
      • Impacts on wildlife due to heat stress, drought and habitat changes, which have flow-on effects down the food chain. Australia holds the first record of a mammalian extinction due to climate change.
      • More frequent marine heatwaves, which impact marine ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef. After the back-to-back marine heatwaves in 2016 and 2017, 50% of the coral on the Great Barrier Reef died.
      • Impacts on health due to changes in air pollution and aeroallergens (such as pollen), vector-borne diseases, extreme weather events and other factors
      • Increased pressure on emergency services and health systems, as the fire seasons of states and territories increasingly overlap which stretches resources, and the health impacts of climate change worsen
      • Agricultural impacts from more frequent droughts, floods and heatwaves
      We are already experiencing these impacts today, at a rise in temperature of just 1.1 ̊C since the pre-industrial period. In 2019, Australia has seen devastating floods in Townsville, an early start to the bushfire season damaging properties and burning through untouched rainforests in NSW and QLD, and an ongoing drought which has threatened the food and water security of Australians for many years.
      The risks to our wellbeing and livelihoods, and to other species and ecosystems, become much more profound as temperatures continue to rise.
      Read more about droughtsbushfires and other extreme weather events in Australia here.

      4. Why do only a few degrees of warming matter?
      A few degrees of warming is incredibly significant.
      The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) strongly recommends limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5°C, to avoid the impacts of climate change steeply escalating. Even at 1.5°C of global warming, times will be tough. But the impacts amplify rapidly between just 1.5°C and 2°C of temperature increase, as visible in the following infographic.
      Adapted from WRI (07/10/18) based on data from IPCC (10/2018).To avoid the impacts we’d experience at 2 degrees warming, we have no other choice but to limit our warming to 1.5 ̊C. It is still possible, but only if we act now.
      If nothing changes, we are on track for a rise in temperatures of between 4-6 ̊C. To put this in context, the difference in temperatures between now and the last ice age was around 4 ̊C.
      The Paris Agreement (a universal agreement involving over 190 countries committing to limit global warming to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5 ̊C) is an important step towards addressing the global challenge of climate change. But with the current pledges that countries have put forward, the world is on track for at least 3.2 ̊C of warming by the end of the century.
      Read more about limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees here.

      5. How do scientists know the climate is changing?
      Scientists collect data about the climate by testing a number of things: air and ocean temperature, precipitation (rain, snow), sea level, ocean salinity and acidity, tree rings, marine sediments, and pollen, to name a few.
      Ice cores from Antarctica are incredibly helpful in showing how the climate has changed over time, because they can provide a record of what the level of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane were in our atmosphere in the past, as well as providing clues about past temperatures. Ice core data stretches back 800,000 years and shows that the concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere over this period never increased so quickly, or by so much, as during this era of human influence.
      Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere over the past 800,000 years, based off data from ice cores. C02 levels have never been as high as they are now. Source: NOAAPulling all of this data together, scientists have concluded that humans have been driving the significant changes in climate that we are currently experiencing. The evidence that supports anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change is vast and includes many lines of evidence published in tens of thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles.

      6. What are the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia?
      There are eight major areas (sectors) in Australia responsible for our greenhouse gas emissions:
      1. Electricity (emissions from burning coal and gas to power our lights, appliances and more)
      2. Transport (emissions from petrol and diesel used to power cars, trucks and buses, and emissions from aviation fuel used to power planes)
      3. Stationary energy (fuels like gas consumed directly, rather than used for electricity, in industry and in households)
      4. Agriculture (greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide produced by animals, manure management, fertilisers and field burning)
      5. Fugitive emissions (gases leaked or vented from fossil fuel extraction and transportation)
      6. Industrial processes (emissions produced by converting raw materials into metal, mineral and chemical products)
      7. Waste (methane from decaying organic matter)
      8. Land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) (emissions and removals mainly from forests, but also from croplands, grasslands, wetlands and other lands).
      Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by sector, 2019. Electricity is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia, responsible for 32% of emissions. This is mainly because 84% of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, the large majority of which (62.3%) comes from coal. Fortunately, Australia is the sunniest and one of the windiest countries in the world, which means we are perfectly placed to generate our electricity from renewable energy sources, like solar and wind. Updating Australia’s energy system with renewables and storage is crucial for cutting our greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change. Source: March 2019 quarterly updates.



      7. What can Australia do to combat climate change?
      Although we are already experiencing the consequences of climate change today, we also have the solutions to address it.
      Australia urgently needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions as part of a strong global effort. But currently, emissions in Australia and globally are still rising.
      The IPCC has suggested that the world must cut carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by no later than 2050 to have a chance of limiting warming to 1.5 ̊C. This means that global carbon dioxide emissions have to start dropping now, and be on a path to fall by at least 45% below 2010 levels by 2030. Methane and other greenhouse gas emissions must drop steeply as well.
      For this goal to be achievable, we have to start driving down all emissions across all sectors now.
      Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions (excluding land use) have been rising consistently for five years since 2014, and are at the highest levels on record.Here are the easiest, most efficient and cost-effective ways for Australia to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions:
      • Electricity
        Rapidly transitioning away from fossil fuel generated electricity to renewable energy and storage technologies is the quickest and cheapest way to reduce emissions. In Australia and many other countries, new renewable energy is now cheaper than new coal (over its lifetime), and global investment in coal has plummeted by 75% in three years.
      • Transport
        Avoiding dangerous climate change doesn’t start and end with changing electricity. We also need to electrify our transport systems – like buses, cars, trains and trams – and power them with 100% renewable electricity too. Transport makes up around 19% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, but these emissions can be reduced by: improving public transport’s quality, efficiency and accessibility, encouraging active transport (such as cycling and walking), and building infrastructure (like vehicle charging stations), to encourage people to use electric vehicles.
      • Agriculture
        Agriculture contributes roughly 13% of Australia’s emissions, and deforestation accounts for around 9% of Australia’s emissions. But climate solutions like reforestation and regenerative agriculture can increase how much carbon is stored in soils and vegetation, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
      • Fossil fuels
        Australia needs to actively transition away from fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, including those we export. As the second largest exporter of both thermal coal (which is burned to generate electricity) and gas, Australia has a huge influence on global emissions and the fossil fuel market. If we include all the fossil fuels that Australia exports, Australia is the fifth biggest polluter in the world – so we’re a big deal when it comes to climate change. Australia should not approve any new fossil fuel projects, and must actively phase out existing projects to reduce emissions. This process has to support fossil fuel-dependent communities and workers – and make sure that they have opportunities to move into other industries.
      8. Where can I find out more?
      The Climate Council has created a range of science-backed materials to further explain the causes, impacts and solutions to climate change. Take a look at our Reports, Videos and Infographics.

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