Lethal Heating

Subscribe to Lethal Heating feed
Lethal Heatinghttp://www.blogger.com/profile/03364181994426186281noreply@blogger.comBlogger4749125
Updated: 2 hours 50 min ago

(AU) Behind The Smokescreen, The Coalition's Stance On Climate Change Hasn't Changed At All

4 hours 6 min ago
The Guardian

If Scotty from Marketing and his coal-fired peers really believed in the climate crisis, they’d be doing something about it. Behind the smokescreen, the Coalition's stance on climate change hasn't changed at all.
The government’s actions over the past decade mean they have not earned the benefit of doubt, rather they have earned our total scepticism. Photograph: Robert Cianflone/Getty ImagesThe speed with which the conservative side of politics and the media has gone from assuring us climate change was not a problem, so we don’t need to worry about reducing emissions, to asserting that climate change is a problem, but we still don’t need to worry about reducing emissions, is breathtaking. Literally, given the levels of smoke still around.
You don’t get a cookie for saying you think climate change is real.
I’m sorry, you don’t. All you get is the capacity to say you have reached 1990 levels of comprehension – as that was when the first IPCC report was issued. You don’t get a prize for spending 30 years doing all you can to halt, undermine and dismantle action to reduce emissions, only to now say: “Hey, climate change is real.”
Consider that the Sydney Morning Herald this week ran a front page story headlined “Minister slams climate debate”, with the lead that “Australia’s bushfire crisis has prompted a blunt warning from Science Minister Karen Andrews to those she says are wasting time arguing about whether climate change is real”.
Oh good, that’s all sorted then.But when you read on, you see nothing in her statement suggest one iota of a shift in the government’s position on emissions. She told the Herald: “My starting position in the discussion tomorrow will be that the climate has changed and it continues to change. We need to focus on the steps to adapt and mitigate the impact of those changes.”
The important point is she desires to mitigate the impact of the change, not to mitigate the actual change.
Right now the government is indulging in the equivalent of responding to polio by promising to invest in more iron lungs. And bizarrely, it is getting credit for it.
Adaptation is not mitigation.
The need for action on climate change is the need to reduce emissionsWhat is being said now is no different to what was said by Tony Abbott back when he was prime minister. In 2015, Abbott told parliament: “As far as the government is concerned, climate change is real. Mankind makes a contribution, and it is important to have strong and effective action to deal with it.
“We have met and beaten our Kyoto targets ... We are on track to meet and beat our current commitments to reduce emissions by 2020 by 13 per cent on 2005 levels.”
He then concluded: “I’m not going to put someone’s job at risk, a region’s, town’s future at risk, I’m not going to put up electricity prices to do it, I’m not going to put a tax on them to do it. I’m going to achieve it in the way we’ve met our Kyoto 2020 targets, meet and beat, and we’ve done that through better technology, through the policies we’ve put through the emissions reduction fund, and we’re going to continue to do that because it is really important.”
Oh sorry, that wasn’t Abbott, that was Scott Morrison in his interview with David Speers last Sunday.
If you can discern any difference in language between what Morrison is now saying and what Abbott said in 2015, then your level of reading between the lines has become so great you are seeing things that are not there.
Just because we all desire the Coalition to do something on climate change doesn’t actually mean they will.
Climate change protesters take to the streets in Sydney. Photograph: Steven Saphore/AAPAnd their actions over the past decade mean they have not earned the benefit of doubt, rather they have earned our total scepticism.
The same goes for the conservative media. This week the NT News was getting praise for its front page, in which it stated: “What Australian needs now is real, affordable solutions – not armies of keyboard warriors.”
But aside from the pretty random sideswipe at keyboard warriors, the statement is the perfect representation of meaningless dribble designed to sound like a bold stance.
You know what is a real and affordable solution? Putting a price on carbon. And yet in the NT News editorial, the word emissions was not even mentioned, and I am prepared to bet my superannuation fund they would not suggest a price on carbon was an affordable solution.
Similarly the Daily Telegraph’s editorial on Thursday on “Moving climate debate forward” praised the government’s policy and demanded the ALP come clean with how much theirs would cost.
Give me strength.
It seems that moving forward is reenacting the exact same coverage that occurred during the last election.
You can’t say you agree with the science on climate change and then completely disregard the science that calls for the need to reduce emission by 45% from 2010 levels as soon as possible and to get to zero net emissions by at least 2050.
Saying you agree with the science of climate change but that you believe the government’s current plan is adequate is like saying you agree with vaccination, but you chose to only get one of your three kids immunised because, heck, that is more affordable.
The cheapest way to deal with the cost of climate change is to reduce our emissions and prevent, as much as is possible, further increases in global temperatures.
Dealing with climate change will be tough – people will lose jobs, the prices of some things will rise, but the cost of inaction is going to be much greater and more damaging – both to our economy and to our society.
Fortunately, the path to a vibrant emissions-free economy remains, and as Ross Garnaut has pointed out, such a shift will be extremely beneficial for our economy if we act now.
Indeed perhaps the most frustrating thing about the past decade is that not only have we have wasted a chance to reduce emissions, we have forgone the opportunity to set up our economy for the next 100 years.
Do not fall for the government’s spin. The need for action on climate change is the need to reduce emissions and to also take a leading role in that fight on the international stage.Climate Change
So when you hear someone in government say they believe in climate change, ask what they are doing about reducing emissions; everything else is spin.

Categories: External websites

Long Shaped By Fire, Australia Enters A Perilous New Era

4 hours 8 min ago
Yale Environment 360

Australia has always been a dry continent where fire has played an important ecological role. But the latest massive conflagrations there are evidence that a hotter climate has thrust Australia into a new normal where fires will keep burning on an unprecedented scale. 
A firefighting crew works to control a blaze in Sydney, Australia in November. Brett Hemmings/Getty ImagesAustralia is sometimes called “the fire continent” because the ecology of the world’s driest inhabited land has been shaped by repeated burning. But even the fire continent has never seen anything like the recent conflagrations.
Bush fires have been raging in the southeastern states of New South Wales and Victoria for four months now. More than 38,000 square miles, an area the size of South Carolina, have burned. At least 28 people have died and some 2,000 houses in rural towns have been destroyed.
In Mallacoota, a coastal town in Victoria, 1,000 residents and tourists were rescued from the beach by the Australian navy as the flames closed in. Even the vineyards of the Adelaide hills, home of some of the country’s most prized and widely exported chardonnays and sauvignon blancs, have burned. Adding to the mayhem, state authorities in South Australia have been shooting thousands of camels to protect aboriginal communities besieged by herds of the feral animals searching for water.
But seemingly only the country’s climate-denial politicians are surprised. Australia’s meteorologists and fire chiefs had been predicting a record fire season for months. The weather watchers saw early in the year that Australia faced a fire-raising combination of natural rainfall cycles — notably fluctuations in sea temperatures in the Indian Ocean that brought high temperatures and drought to southeast Australia this year — and a very unnatural trend toward a hotter and drier climate. The ensuing blazes have attracted worldwide attention, in large measure because they are part of a pattern of intensifying fires from the Arctic to the Amazon.
Last year, Australia saw the six hottest days it ever recorded, maxing out at 122 degrees Fahrenheit.Australia is among the countries most exposed to the gathering pace of planet-wide warming. Last year, Australia experienced its highest recorded temperatures, 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above the late 20th century average, and 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above the early 20th century average — twice the global increase. The year also saw the six hottest days ever recorded in Australia, maxing out at 49.9 degrees C, or 122 degrees F.
Higher temperatures are ensuring that vegetation dries out faster and further in droughts, creating extreme fire risk. And the droughts have come. Australia’s average rainfall in 2019, at 10.9 inches, was 40 percent below the late 20th century average and 12 percent below the previous lowest. The resulting fires far exceeded in extent Australia’s most deadly bushfire disaster in February 2009, when 173 people died but only 1,700 square miles burned.
As the country has reacted in horror, meteorologists have said, in effect, “We told you so.” The rising fire risk was predicted by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s senior research scientist Chris Lucas, who warned 13 years ago that in southeast Australia “fire seasons will start earlier and end slightly later, while being generally more intense. This effect… should be apparent by 2020.”And so it has proved.
In a paper published last September with Sarah Harris of the Country Fire Authority in Victoria, Lucas reiterated that “anthropogenic climate change is the primary driver” of increased fire vulnerability. The analysis did not make a good fit with the posturing of the nation’s politicians, who in recent weeks have had to defend their notorious skepticism about climate change, continued support of fossil fuels, and failure to increase funding for fire services. In a radio interview in November, as the fires gathered pace, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack dismissed any link to climate change as “the ravings of some pure, enlightened, and woke capital-city greenies.”
Residents of Mallacoota in Victoria are evacuated by army personnel on January 3. Justin McManus/The Age/Fairfax Media via Getty ImagesNow, with Australians demonstrating in the streets against his policies, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been forced to concede the “greenies” were right all along. “We’re living in longer, hotter, drier summers,” he said in a recent TV interview. “This is obviously affected by the broader changes in climate.”
Australia is used to bushfires. Its history is littered with the havoc they can bring: Black Friday in 1939, when 7,700 square miles burned and 71 people died; Black Tuesday in 1967, when 1,020 square miles burned and 62 died; and Black Saturday in 2009. Much of its ecology, including its iconic eucalyptus forests, depends on regular fires,
Australia has more than 800 endemic eucalyptus species, comprising around three-quarters of its forests. Most species thrive in fire-prone areas with nutrient-poor soils. Their foliage is rich in oils that readily burn, releasing their seeds from woody capsules and creating areas of nutrient-rich ash where the seeds will germinate.
But, much as they need fire, too much fire can wipe them out. And this year it has been so hot and dry that the fires have spread into forests with eucalyptus species adapted to wetter conditions, according to David Bowman, a fire ecologist at the University of Tasmania. Whether they can recover will be a critical question for forest ecologists.
Equally uncertain is how wildlife is coping. Chris Dickman of the University of Sydney hazarded a guess — based on his previous assessment of animal densities done for the environmental group WWF Australia — that more than a billion mammals, reptiles, and birds could have perished already, either burned, starved, or eaten by predators such as raptors and feral cats that stalk fire zones.
“The fires… will certainly cause the extinction of some of Australia’s most iconic, fragile and beautiful inhabitants,” says an expert.But Kate Parr of the University of Liverpool, an expert on assessing the impact of wildfires on wildlife, said the estimate was based on sparse field data. Moreover, it assumes no survivors, which may be unduly pessimistic. “Australia’s animals have a long and impressive history of co-existing with fire,” says Dale Nimmo of Charles Sturt University in New South Wales. Some have well-developed escape routines. Others hunker down in deep burrows and may go into temporary hibernation until the fires are gone and food sources start to return.
Singed koalas have featured strongly in TV reports of the fires. They may be individually vulnerable, but most koalas live outside the fire zones, says Ayesha Tulloch of the University of Sydney.
Nonetheless, the exceptional nature of the fires could overwhelm the best coping strategies. “The full effect of the fires… will certainly cause the extinction of some of Australia’s most iconic, fragile, and beautiful inhabitants,” says Ben Garrod, an evolutionary biologist at the University of East Anglia in the UK. Among those at highest risk are endangered species that live mostly in the fire zones, including the eastern bristlebird; the long-footed potoroo, a rabbit-sized marsupial; and the silver-headed antechinus, a mouse-sized carnivorous marsupial only discovered in 2013.
Some foresters have argued that the ferocity of the recent fires is due, in part, to there being too much wood to burn. Rod Keenan of the University of Melbourne, who gets funding from the forestry industry, blames the megafires on the reluctance of the authorities to carry out preemptive controlled burning of dead wood early in the dry season. Forester Vic Jurskis, in a well-publicized open letter to the prime minister, blamed the reluctance on a “green influence on politics.”
A wallaby licks its burnt paws after escaping a bushfire near the township of Nana Glen in New South Wales in November 2019. Wolter Peeters/The Sydney Morning Herald via Getty ImagesBut that charge is misplaced. Ecologists have long since realized that it can be necessary to set fires to prevent fires. The United States learned the hard way in 1988, when Yellowstone burned, that preventing all fires is a recipe for storing up fuel for future megafires. And Australian environmental campaigners know it, too. In a policy paper drawn up in 2017, long before the present fires, Australia’s Green Party called for a “scientifically based, ecologically appropriate use of fire” as “an effective and sustainable strategy for fuel-reduction management that will protect biodiversity and moderate the effects of wildfire.”
The story of the Australian bushfires has gained international attention in part because it reflects a global pattern. Fires in the Amazon in August gained as many headlines as the Australian blazes. Similarly, extreme fires in the boreal forests of Siberia burned some 16,000 square miles, according to Greenpeace, with matching conflagrations in Alaska and western Canada. In 2018, California was struck by its deadliest and most extensive wildfires, covering 3,000 square miles and causing more than 100 fatalities. And in 2015, 10,000 square miles of Indonesian forests burned.
Researchers have affirmed that climate change is increasing the risks. A review published this week by British and Australian researchers concluded that “human-induced warming has already led to a global increase in the frequency and severity of fire-weather, increasing the risk of wildfire.” A 2015 global study by Bowman and colleagues looked at trends in the length of droughts. They found that the average “fire-weather season length” had increased by an alarming 19 percent between 1979 and 2013.
Yet despite the rising incidence of drought, the actual extent of fires around the world, though still around 1.3 million square miles every year, has been falling. One study found a 24 percent decline in the past two decades. This was in part due to a decline in deforestation in the Amazon after 2004 (a trend now reversed), and in part because many fewer fires are being set by farmers and pastoralists to clear bush in the increasingly densely populated savanna grasslands of Africa. “When land use intensifies on savannas, fire is used less and less,” says Niels Andela of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, who led the research.
One solution is to learn from indigenous methods of using fire to manage the land.More and more of the forest and bush fires that occur globally are due either to the deliberate clearing of forests for permanent agriculture — as in the Amazon and Indonesia — or because a changing climate is dramatically increasing the risk of wildfires. And there is growing evidence that these climate-induced fires are more intense and less amenable to control.
In short, there are fewer fires, but more wildfires.
So is there a way of mitigating the risks? One approach, say many ecologists, is to accept that all fires are not bad and to learn from indigenous methods of using fire to manage the land. In North America, “native people burned extensively,” says Lee Klinger, formerly at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and now an independent scientist who has studied fire regimes in California.
Before Europeans arrived, traditional burning ensured that there were many more fires in forests on the West Coast than today, he says. “But they burned more frequently, and so less destructively,” said Klinger. “There were ground fires, but not the canopy fires we see today.”
Australian researchers and aboriginal communities say much the same. Traditional aboriginal “fire-stick” farming certainly changed the ecology by setting small fires to clear land for cultivation. But many researchers say the effects could be beneficial. This “cool burning” maintained open grasslands, extended the range of fire-adapted species, and often increased local biodiversity by creating mosaics of different habitats. “Aboriginal burning was critical for the maintenance of habitats for small mammals,” according to Bowman, who has coined the term “pyrodiversity” to describe its biodiversity benefits.
Wildfires in Bairnsdale, Australia on December 30. Glen Morey / APThe question now is whether even such intelligent means of fire management can hold back the flames. With climate change leaving the bush bone dry, and with temperatures soaring to levels much higher than local ecosystems are adapted to, the old ways may no longer work.
The question is especially pertinent for Australia. Most climate models predict that “Australia will warm faster than the rest of the world,” says Kevin Hennessy, climate researcher at the CSIRO, Australia’s national research agency. Global heating will also likely cause a continued decline in rainfall in southern Australia, resulting in longer droughts and many more days with severe fire danger.
But Australia’s current fires increasingly look like a harbinger of new conflagrations elsewhere. During a period of strong warming in the American West over the past half century, the number of wildfires covering more than 1.5 square miles has increased fivefold — a trend that the researchers link to higher temperatures and longer droughts, and expect to continue.
In Mediterranean Europe, where wildfires are an increasing summer threat from Portugal to Greece, researchers predict a 40 to 100 percent increase, depending largely on temperature increases. Few doubt that fires will also become more frequent in the boreal forests of the far north as the Arctic warms. Most recently, a paper published last week in Science argued that a lethal combination of deforestation and climate change will double the area burned annually by wildfires in the southern Amazon by 2050. Paulo Brando of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts titled his paper: “The Gathering Firestorm.”

Categories: External websites

(AU) Can Scott Morrison Seize This Watershed Moment For Climate Policy?

4 hours 11 min ago
Sydney Morning HeraldRob Harris

Andrew Hirst, the no-nonsense Liberal Party federal director, had a blunt warning for cabinet ministers who were still swept up in shock of Morrison's May Miracle.
In the weeks following the Coalition's election victory, Hirst was invited to present his findings about why and how the government had won re-election, face-to-face with 23 men and women in the cabinet room.
Images of thick smoke blanketing Parliament House have put Australia at the centre of a new global debate on climate change. Credit: Alex EllinghausenThe result was largely driven by economic reasons, those seated around the table recall him saying, and the victory should not be misrepresented by any other issue. It had not been a referendum on climate change, as some had billed it.
Hirst - who had a front-row seat during the past decade of the Coalition climate wars as a senior aide to both Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull - told the room global warming remained a significant issue to many voters, especially in inner-city electorates, and the party remained vulnerable on the topic.
A discussion followed that if the government was not going to dramatically change its policies, it needed to better communicate what it was doing to lower emissions and that it was taking the issue seriously.
Almost eight months on from Hirst's warning to ministers, the government is again confronting its climate divisions following devastating bushfires across Victoria and NSW.
Andrew Hirst, who served as deputy chief of staff to then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott, warned the election win was based on economics and wasn't a referendum on climate change. Credit: Andrew MearesImages of the nation's capital, its Parliament obscured by smoke, has put Australia at the centre of a new global debate on the issue.
Pictures of Scott Morrison, then treasurer, holding a lump of coal in February 2017 have often accompanied footage of razed towns and charred rain forests.
And like leaders before him, Morrison is attempting to deal with the fallout, while trying to balance the party's "broad church" of moderates and conservatives, believers and deniers, and the voters from inner-city Higgins to regional Herbert.
But Liberal MPs in the cities and the bush are now reporting their offices have been bombarded with correspondence with complaints of government inaction during the past month. Many believe the expectation of climate action is now a concern of Morrison's own "quiet Australians".
Then-treasurer Scott Morrison with a lump of coal in Parliament in February 2017. Credit: Alex Ellinghausen"These are not the usual mass produced template emails from activists," one MP remarked.
"These are from mainstream mums who are anxious about the smoke and fearful about their kids' futures."
So like commentators and lobby groups, MPs are watching their Prime Minister's reaction as he deals with the biggest crisis since coming to power.
They, like the commentariat, are second-guessing every public comment and attempting to read between the lines. Will this be a watershed moment for climate policy? Or just a PR exercise?
In a series of interviews since the devastation, Morrison has stressed there is "no dispute" climate change was causing "longer, hotter, drier, summer seasons".
And at every opportunity he has been at pains to stress the government would "meet and beat" its Paris target of reducing emissions by 26-28 per cent compared with 2005 levels by 2030.
"We want to reduce emissions and do the best job we possibly can and get better and better and better at it. I want to do that with a balanced policy which recognises Australia's broader national economic interests and social interest," he told the ABC's David Speers on Sunday.
"In the years ahead we are going to continue to evolve our policy in this area to reduce emissions even further and we're going to do it without a carbon tax, without putting up electricity prices, and without shutting down traditional industries upon which regional Australians depend for their very livelihood."

Scott Morrison sat down with David Speers for an interview on his response to the Australian bushfire crisis.

But while Morrison talks up his intention to act on climate change and support new renewable technologies, colleagues wonder whether his rhetoric is being seen as empty while a handful of backbenchers continue to mouth their objections or publicly question the science of climate change.
The conundrum facing Morrison and his cabinet was on show through the pages of the national papers this week.
On Wednesday, Science Minister Karen Andrews - amid weeks of freelancing from Coalition climate contrarians - felt the need to declare the science on climate change was settled.
"Let's not keep having debates about climate change," the former engineer said.
"Let's accept that the climate has changed, the climate is changing and we need to look at what we're going to do about that."
The comment was aimed, in part, at NSW Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who in the days following the New Year's bushfire devastation thought it was be a good idea to appear on a high-rating British television show arguing climate change wasn't real.
In a show of support for Andrews, the following day six Liberals - Trent Zimmerman, Tim Wilson, Dave Sharma, Hollie Hughes, Andrew Bragg and Fiona Martin backed her up in the pages of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
Bragg, who at 35 represents the Gen Y voter group, took to his Instagram with a simple message:
"Climate change is not a belief. It is based on a science. We have no time for conspiracy theories when there is so much to be done."
Hughes backed her colleague having lived much of her life near Moree, a drought-ridden town in western NSW.
"Karen is correct when she says every second spent discussing whether the climate is changing is wasted time – it's time that would be much better spent on mitigation and adaption strategy development," she said.
But on the same day an unnamed cabinet minister fired a warning shot on the front page of The Australian urging Morrison to maintain Coalition unity on climate and emissions targets.
"If we go back to talking about climate or targets or anything, the only climate that will change will be the climate in the party room. It'll blow the place up," the senior MP said.
The comments were backed up by Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce, who had already nailed his colours to the mast on Christmas Eve when he said Australians would be "fools" who'd "get nailed" unless they acknowledge there's a "higher authority" that needs to be respected.
"Single crusades in Australia will have absolutely zero effect on the climate or future bushfires. It'll only have an effect on the economy of Australia," Joyce said in the same front-page article.
This is the political reality Morrison, like Malcolm Turnbull before him, faces. One unnamed quote or rogue interview from a backbencher is enough to distract, discredit and derail any climate policy advancement.As one cabinet minister told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald: "What can he possibly do? Increase the emissions targets? The Right won't let him do that and neither will the Nats. No way. And despite the election win, I don't think he has the authority to do that."
Last month the Australian Election Study, produced by the Australian National University, found the proportion of voters nominating global warming and the environment as their top issue was at an all-time high.
While 93 per cent of Labor voters thought the issue to be important, two-thirds of Coalition voters considered the issue to be either quite important or very important.
Inner-city MPs in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane have been awake to this for some time. They observed the swings against them in May and worry what another year of bushfires will do to their election hopes.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg makes it known he drives an electric car in his seat of Kooyong, in Melbourne's eastern suburbs, for a reason.
South Australian senator Simon Birmingham was also keen to point out it was in important issue to him in his Alfred Deakin Institute Oration last September.
"It would be a mistake for anyone to try to claim an ideological mandate from this year's federal election beyond the majority-building commitments our parties made in areas of economic and national security," he said.
"In areas like protection from religious discrimination or much-needed commitments to emissions reduction, we must govern from the sensible centre, taking actions that are responsible and meaningful but in ways that are respectful to the diverse constituencies we represent."
It is why in the past two weeks Morrison and his cabinet ministers have rushed to spruik investment in renewables, emerging technologies such as hydrogen, carbon capture use and storage, biofuels, lithium production and waste-to-energy.
Some have taken heart from Morrison's indication the government could stop claiming Kyoto carry-over credits to meet its 26-28 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030, "if we are in a position where we don't need them".
But others believe the time for talk is now over.
"We say emissions are going down and they are going up. We say investment in renewables is higher than ever but it's falling because of the policy mess we have created," one Liberal MP said.
"At the moment they are running around like headless chooks, throwing money here, there and everywhere without any thought.
"It is little wonder we have no credibility on this issue."

Categories: External websites

Youth Activists Lose Appeal In Landmark Lawsuit Against US Over Climate Crisis

19 January, 2020 - 04:05
The GuardianLee Van der Voo

Court confirms government’s contribution to the issue, but judges find they lack power to enforce climate policy decisions
Youth protesters rally in support of a lawsuit brought on behalf of 21 youth plaintiffs against the US government over climate crisis. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty ImagesThe ninth circuit court of appeals ordered dismissal of a lawsuit brought by 21 youth plaintiffs against the federal government over climate crisis, citing concerns about separation of powers.
The case was brought against the government in 2015, charging that it sanctioned, permitted and authorized a fossil fuel system that compromised the youth plaintiffs’ civil right to property. It implied a constitutional right to a stable climate, and alleged that the government violated the public trust by failing to protect assets held in trust, notably the atmosphere.
The plaintiffs, now all between the ages of 12 and 23, also asked the US district court of Oregon to order the government to craft a climate remediation plan, one targeting scientifically acceptable standards to stabilize the climate.
On Friday, the ninth circuit court found, however, that the court lacked the power to enforce such a plan or climate policy decisions by the government and Congress, concluding “in the end, any plan is only as good as the court’s power to enforce it”.
Nevertheless, the court found that the record “conclusively establishes that the federal government has long understood the risks of fossil fuel use and increasing carbon dioxide emissions” and “that the government’s contribution to climate change is not simply a result of inaction”.
The court also found that the youth met the requirements for standing in the case and that some of the plaintiffs met the requirements for actual injury.
Levi Draheim, a 12-year-old plaintiff from Satellite Beach, Florida, the court found was injured by repeat evacuations from his home during worsening storms. Jaime Butler, 19, was injured by displacement from her home because of water security issues, separating her from relatives in the Navajo Nation, the court also found. The court also found that the plaintiffs proved their injuries were caused by the climate crisis.
Two of the three judges balked at the scope of change required to reverse climate breakdown, finding that halting certain programs would not halt the growth of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere or injuries to the plaintiffs.
“Indeed, the plaintiffs’ experts make plain that reducing the global consequences of climate change demands much more than cessation of the government’s promotion of fossil fuels. Rather, these experts opine that such a result calls for no less than a fundamental transformation of this country’s energy system, if not that of the industrialized world … given the complexity and long-lasting nature of global climate change, the court would be required to supervise the government’s compliance with any suggested plan for many decades.”
Kelsey Juliana, the lead plaintiff in Juliana v United States speaks at the supreme court in Washington DC. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/ReutersKelsey Juliana, the 23-year-old named plaintiff in Juliana v United States and a resident of Eugene, Oregon, said she was “disappointed that these judges would find that federal courts can’t protect America’s youth, even when a constitutional right has been violated”.
“Such a holding is contrary to American principles of justice that I have been taught since elementary school,” Juliana added. “This decision gives full, unfettered authority to the legislative and executive branches of government to destroy our country, because we are dealing with a crisis that puts the very existence of our nation in peril.”
“We will continue this case because only the courts can help us,” Draheim told the Guardian following the ruling. “We brought this lawsuit to secure our liberties and protect our lives and our homes. Much like the civil rights cases, we firmly believe the courts can vindicate our constitutional rights and we will not stop until we get a decision that says so.”
District Judge Josephine L Staton, in a lengthy dissenting opinion, argued that courts do have the authority to protect the young in the face of climate breakdown, and should, given the government’s inaction: “In these proceedings, the government accepts as fact that the United States has reached a tipping point crying out for a concerted response – yet presses ahead toward calamity. It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses. Seeking to quash this suit, the government bluntly insists that it has the absolute and unreviewable power to destroy the nation.”
The court ordered the case be remanded to the district court and dismissed.

Categories: External websites

The Sad Truth About Our Boldest Climate Target

19 January, 2020 - 04:04
Vox David Roberts

Limiting global warming to 1.5˚C is almost certainly not going to happen. Admitting that, need not end hope.
Activists in Berlin stood with signs calling for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius at a rally that criticized Germany’s insufficient climate policy on May 29, 2019. Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty ImageIn the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the countries participating in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed to a common target: to hold the rise in global average temperature “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” The lower end of that range, 1.5˚C, has become a cause célèbre among climate activists.
Can that target still be met? Take a look at this animation from Carbon Brief:
UNEP: 1.5C climate target ‘slipping out of reach’ | @hausfath @robbie_andrew https://t.co/dGUfgnegzf pic.twitter.com/feXQTVyuNM— Carbon Brief (@CarbonBrief) December 30, 2019No graphic I’ve ever seen better captures humanity’s climate situation. If we had peaked and begun steadily reducing emissions 20 years ago, the necessary pace of reductions would have been around 3 percent a year, which is ... well, “realistic” is too strong — it still would have required rapid, coordinated action of a kind never seen before in human history — but it was at least possible to envision.
We didn’t, though. We knew about climate change, there were scientists yelling themselves blue in the face, but we didn’t turn the wheel. Global emissions have only risen since then. Humanity has put more CO2 in the atmosphere since 1988, when climate scientist James Hansen first testified to Congress about the danger of climate change, than it did in all of history prior.
Now, to hit 1.5˚C, emissions would need to fall off a cliff, falling by 15 percent a year every year, starting in 2020, until they hit net zero.
That’s probably not going to happen. Temperature is almost certainly going to rise more than 1.5˚C.
A lot of climate activists are extremely averse to saying so. In fact, many of them will be angry with me for saying so, because they believe that admitting to this looming probability carries with it all sorts of dire consequences and implications. Lots of people in the climate world — not just activists and politicians, but scientists, journalists, and everyday concerned citizens — have talked themselves into a kind of forced public-facing optimism, despite the fears that dog their private thoughts. They believe that without that public optimism, the fragile effort to battle climate change will collapse completely.
I don’t think that’s true, but I can’t claim to know it’s not true. Nobody really knows what might work to get the public worked up about climate change the way the problem deserves. Maybe advocates really do need to maintain a happy-warrior spirit; maybe a bunch of dour doomsaying really will turn off the public.
But it is not the job of those of us in the business of observation and analysis to make the public feel or do things. That’s what activists do. We owe the public our best judgment of the situation, even if it might make them sad, and from where I’m sitting, it looks like the 1.5˚C goal is utterly forlorn. It looks like we have already locked in levels of climate change that scientists predict will be devastating. I don’t like it, I don’t “accept” it, but I see it, and I reject the notion that I should be silent about it for PR purposes.
In this post, I’ll quickly review how 1.5˚C came to be the new activist target and some reasons to believe it might already be out of reach. Then I’ll ponder what it means to admit that, what follows from it, and what it means for the fight ahead.

How 1.5˚C became the “last chance”
The new target adopted in Paris reflected a growing conviction among scientists and activists that 2˚C, the target that had served as a kind of default for years, was in no way “safe.” Climate change at that level would in fact be extremely dangerous. Thus the addition of “efforts” to hit 1.5˚C.
But it wasn’t until last year that the world really got a clear sense of how much worse 2˚C (3.6˚F) would be than 1.5˚C (2.7˚F), after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a special report on the subject. Its findings were grim. Even 1.5˚C is likely to entail “high multiple interrelated climate risks” for “some vulnerable regions, including small islands and Least Developed Countries.”
All of those impacts become much worse at 2˚C. (The World Resources Institute has a handy chart; see also this graphic from Carbon Brief.) Severe heat events will become 2.6 times worse, plant and vertebrate species loss 2 times worse, insect species loss 3 times worse, and decline in marine fisheries 2 times worse. Rather than 70 to 90 percent of coral reefs dying, 99 percent will die. Many vulnerable and low-lying areas will become uninhabitable and refugee flows will radically increase. And so on. At 2˚C, climate change will be devastating for large swathes of the globe.
In short, there is no “safe” level of global warming. Climate change is not something bad that might happen, it’s something bad that’s happening. Global average temperatures have risen about 1.3˚C from pre-industrial levels and California and Australia are already burning.
Still, each additional increment of heat, each fraction of a degree, will make things worse. Specifically, 2˚C will be much worse than 1.5˚C. And 2.5˚C will be much worse than 2˚C. And so on as it gets hotter.
The aforementioned IPCC report is the source of the much quoted notion that “we only have 11 years” to avoid catastrophic climate change (which I suppose now is “only 10 years”). That slogan is derived from the report’s conclusion that, to have any chance of limiting temperature rise to 1.5˚C, global emissions must fall at least 50 percent by 2030.
That goal, a 10-year mobilization to cut global emissions in half, has become the rallying cry of the global climate movement and the organizing principle of the Green New Deal.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and others at a rally. Sarah Silbiger/Getty ImagesBeing honest about 1.5˚C
Climate hawks, along with numerous recent scientific and economic reports (including the IPCC’s), emphasize that limiting global warming to 1.5˚C is still possible — physically and economically possible, with technology and resources we now possess.
And it’s true. As the IPCC showed, with sufficient torturing of climate-economic models, it is still possible to construct a pathway whereby emissions decline at the needed rate. Such scenarios generally involve everything going just right: every policy is passed in every sector, every technology pans out, we take no wrong turns and encounter no culs de sac, and climate sensitivity (the amount temperature changes in response to greenhouse gases) turns out to be on the lower end of scientific estimates. If we roll straight sixes for long enough, we can still win this.
he slogan meant to summarize this state of affairs has been around, with variations, for decades: “We have all the tools we need, all we lack is the political will.”
But political will (whatever that is) is not some final item on the grocery list to be checked off once everything else is in the cart. It is everything. None of the rest of it, none of the available policies and technologies, mean anything without it. It can’t be avoided, short-circuited, or wished away.
After all, it is possible to end global poverty in a decade, or even less. We have the technology to do so; it’s called money. The people who have more could give enough to those with less so that everyone had a decent life. Similarly, it’s possible to end global homelessness, habitat destruction, hunger, and war. The resources exist. All we lack is the political will.
But we haven’t ended those things. There are lots and lots of ways to reduce suffering that are possible, and have been possible for a long time, and we still don’t do them. We don’t even do a fraction of what we could to reduce immediate, visible suffering, much less the suffering of future generations and far-off populations. It turns out to be extraordinarily difficult to generate and effectively deploy the political power needed to secure beneficial policies (and hold them in place over time).
It’s not that progress hasn’t been made against a lot of large-scale problems. Global poverty and hunger have been declining. In the US, politics have radically shifted on issues like LGBTQ marriage and drug policy in recent years. Things can change quickly.
But global hunger is starting to edge up again, in no small part thanks to climate change. And climate change is different from those other large scale problems, for two reasons.
The trajectory to 1.5˚C, in red. Oil Change InternationalFirst, it’s not that progress is swinging around too slow, it’s that there’s very little progress at all. For all the frenzy around renewable energy in recent years, the best we’ve been able to do is slightly slow the rise in global emissions. We’re still traveling headlong in the wrong direction, with centuries of momentum at our backs.
Secondly and consequently, the level of action and coordination necessary to limit global warming to 1.5˚C utterly dwarfs anything that has ever happened on any other large-scale problem that humanity has ever faced. The only analogy that has ever come close to capturing what’s necessary is “wartime mobilization,” but it requires imagining the kind of mobilization that the US achieved for less than a decade during WWII happening in every large economy at once, and sustaining itself for the remainder of the century.
Emissions have never fallen at 15 percent annually anywhere, much less everywhere. And what earthly reason do we have to believe that emissions will start plunging this year? Look around! The democratic world is in the grips of a populist authoritarian backlash that shows no sign of resolving itself any time soon. Oil and gas infrastructure is being built at a furious pace; hundreds of new coal power plants are in the works. No country has implemented anything close to the policies necessary to establish an emissions trajectory toward 1.5˚C; many, including the US and Brazil, are hurtling in the other direction.
Just focusing on the US, there’s a more than 50/50 chance that President Donald Trump will be reelected in 2020, in which case we are all, and I can’t stress this enough, doomed. Even if Dems take the presidency and both houses of Congress, serious federal action will have to contend with the filibuster, then the midterm backlash, then the next election, and more broadly, the increasingly conservative federal courts and Supreme Court, the electoral college, the flood of money in politics, and the overrepresentation of rural states in the Senate.
The US, like many other countries, is balanced on a knife’s edge of partisanship, its growing demographics frustrated by structural barriers, its direction uncertain, and its policies and institutions increasingly unstable. Does a sudden and thorough about-face in social, economic, and political practice feel like something that’s in the offing this year? It doesn’t feel like that to me.
The difficulty of envisioning such a thing has led climate hawks like Al Gore to place their hopes on unpredictable social “tipping points,” invisible thresholds that, once breached, will allegedly yield radical change. (Back in 2012, Gore told me, “we’re not at the tipping point, but we’re much closer than we have been.”)
For as long as I can remember, people have been pointing out signs that such a tipping point is in the offing — counting the number of street protests, or the number of times TV news anchors saying the word “climate,” or the number of city officials endorsing 2030 goals — but global emissions just continue rising.
As I’ve written before, such tipping points are certainly possible. By their nature, they cannot be ruled out. Insofar as we have any hopes for rapid action, they rest there.
But hoping for a radical, unprecedented break in human history is very different from having a reasonable expectation that such a thing will take place. Lightning striking the same spot 100 times is possible. A roomful of monkeys with typewriters producing a Shakespeare play is possible. Human beings shifting the course of their global civilization on a dime is possible. But it probably won’t happen.
We’ve waited too long. Practically speaking, we are heading past 1.5˚C as we speak and probably past 2˚C as well. This is not a “fact” in the same way climate science deals in facts — collective human behavior is not nearly so easy to predict as biophysical cycles — but nothing we know about human history, sociology, or politics suggests that vast, screeching changes in collective direction are likely.

Coping with the tragic story of climate change
What bothers me about the forced optimism that has become de rigueur in climate circles is that it excludes the tragic dimension of climate change and thus robs it of some of the gravity it deserves.
That’s the thing: The story of climate change is already a tragedy. It’s sad. Really sad. People are suffering, species are dying off, entire ecosystems are being lost, and it’s inevitably going to get worse. We are in the midst of making the earth a simpler, cruder, less hospitable place, not only for ourselves but for all the kaleidoscopic varieties of life that evolved here in a relatively stable climate. The most complex and most idiosyncratic forms of life are most at risk; the mosquitoes and jellyfish will prosper.
That is simply the background condition of our existence as a species now, even if we rally to avoid the worst outcomes.
Yeah, it’s a bummer.Tragedy isn’t the only story, of course, and it’s not necessarily the one that needs to be foregrounded. There’s can-do innovation and technology, there’s equity and green jobs, there’s national security, there’s reduced air and water pollution — there are lots of positive stories to tell about the fight against climate change.
But it would be shallow, and less than fully human, to deny the unfolding tragedy that provides the context for all our decisions now.
I know from conversations over the years that many people see that tragedy, and feel it, but given the perpetually heightened partisan tensions around climate change, they are leery to give it voice. They worry that it will lend fuel to the forces of denial and delay, that they are morally obliged to provide cheer.
I just don’t think that’s healthy. To really grapple with climate change, we have to understand it, and more than that, take it on board emotionally. That can be an uncomfortable, even brutal process, because the truth is that we have screwed around, and are screwing around, and with each passing day we lock in more irreversible changes and more suffering. The consequences are difficult to reckon with and the moral responsibility is terrible to bear, but we will never work through all those emotions and reactions if we can’t talk about it, if we’re only allowed chipper talk about what’s still possible in climate models.

Hope in the face of tragedy
Saying that we are likely to miss the 1.5˚C target is an unpopular move in the climate community. It solicits accus
ations of “defeatism” and being — a term I have heard too many times to count — “unhelpful.
Such accusations are premised on the notion that a cold assessment of our chances will destroy motivation, that it will leave audiences overwhelmed, hopeless, and disengaged.
But the idea that hope lives or dies on the chances of hitting 1.5˚C is poisonous in the long-term. Framing the choice as “a miracle or extinction” just sets everyone up for massive disappointment, since neither is likely to unfold any time soon.
As climate scientist Kate Marvel put it, “Climate change isn’t a cliff we fall off, but a slope we slide down.” Every bit makes it worse. No matter how far down the slope we go, there’s never reason to give up fighting. We can always hope to arrest our slide.
Exceeding 1.5˚C, which is likely to happen in our lifetimes, doesn’t mean anyone should feel apathetic or paralyzed. What sense would that make? There’s no magic switch that flips at 1.5˚C, or 1.7, or 2.3, or 2.8, or 3.4. These are all, in the end, arbitrary thresholds. Exceeding one does not in any way reduce the moral and political imperative to stay beneath the next. If anything, the need to mobilize against climate change only becomes greater with every new increment of heat, because the potential stakes grow larger.
Given the scale of the challenge and the compressed time to act, there is effectively no practical danger of anyone, at any level, doing too much or acting too quickly. The moral imperative for the remainder of the lives of everyone now living is to decarbonize as fast as possible; that is true no matter the temperature.
No one ever gets to stop or give up, no matter how bad it gets. (If you need a kick in the pants on this subject, read this essay by Mary Heglar.)
This can no longer be news among other news, an "important topic" among other topics, a "political issue" among other political issues or a crisis among other crises.
This is not party politics or opinions. This is an existential emergency. And we must start treating it as such. https://t.co/beRUwiJM1Y— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) December 29, 2019Preparing for the world to come
As a final, practical point, speaking frankly about the extreme unlikelihood of stopping at 1.5˚C (and the increasing unlikelihood of stopping at 2˚C) could affect how we approach climate policy.
To be clear, it shouldn’t have any effect at all on our mitigation policies. In that domain, “as fast as possible” is the only rule that matters.
But it should mean getting serious about adaptation, i.e., preparing communities for, and helping them through, the changes that are now inevitable. As the old cliché in climate policy goes, we should be planning for 4˚C and aiming for 2˚C instead of what we’re doing, which is basically the reverse, drifting toward 4˚C while telling ourselves stories about a 2˚C (and now, 1.5˚C) world.
Here in the US, we need to think about how to help Californians dealing with wildfires, Midwestern farmers dealing with floods, and coastal homeowners dealing with a looming insurance crisis.
All those problems are going to get worse. We need to grapple with that squarely, because the real threat is that these escalating impacts overwhelm our ability, not just to mitigate GHGs, but to even care or react to disasters when they happen elsewhere. Right now, much of Australia is on fire — half a billion animals have likely died since September — and it is barely breaking the news cycle in the US. As author David Wallace-Wells wrote in a recent piece, the world already seems to be heading toward a “system of disinterest defined instead by ever smaller circles of empathy.”
That shrinking of empathy is arguably the greatest danger facing the human species, the biggest barrier to the collective action necessary to save ourselves. I can’t help but think that the first step in defending and expanding that empathy is reckoning squarely with how much damage we’ve already done and are likely to do, working through the guilt and grief, and resolving to minimize the suffering to come.

Categories: External websites

Water Wars: Early Warning Tool Uses Climate Data To Predict Conflict Hotspots

19 January, 2020 - 04:03
The Guardian

Tension over water scarcity is increasing across the globe. A new system flags up where this threatens to erupt into violence
Mali is one of the places the tool has predicted will face conflict over water scarcity in 2020. Photograph: Michele Cattani/AFPResearchers from six organisations have developed an early warning system to help predict potential water conflicts as violence associated with water surges globally.
The Dutch government-funded Water, Peace and Security (WPS) global early warning tool, which was presented to the UN security council before it was launched formally last month, combines environmental variables such as rainfall and crop failures with political, economic and social factors to predict the risk of violent water-related conflicts up to a year in advance.
It is the first tool of its kind to consider environmental data, such as precipitation and drought, alongside socio-economical variables, a combination lacking in previous tools designed to predict water conflicts. It is available online for the public to use, but is aimed more specifically at raising awareness among policymakers, and people and parties in water-stressed regions.
The tool has already predicted conflicts that are likely to happen in 2020 in Iraq, Iran, Mali, Nigeria, India and Pakistan. Developers claim an 86% success rate in identifying conflict zones where at least 10 fatalities could occur. The tool currently focuses on hotspots across Africa, the Middle East and southeast Asia.
Growing global demand for water is already creating tensions – among communities, between farmers and city dwellers, between people and governments. Tensions are expected to increase as water scarcity becomes a reality for more people. According to the UN, as many as 5 billion people could experience water shortages by 2050.
Recent statistics from the Pacific Institute thinktank in California show that water-linked violence has surged significantly in the past decade: recorded incidents have more than doubled in the past 10 years, compared with previous decades.
“The machine learning model is ‘trained’ to identify patterns using historical data on violent conflict and political, social, economic, demographic, and water risk,” said Charles Iceland, senior water expert at the World Resources Institute, part of the WPS partnership.
He said: “It looks at over 80 indicators in all, going back up to 20 years. It is then able to use what it has ‘learned’ about the correlations among these variables to predict conflict or no conflict over the next 12 months, given current conditions.”
Jessica Hartog, a climate change expert with International Alert, a WPS partner, highlighted Iraq and Mali as two countries at risk.
Eastern Ghouta, Syria was formerly known as the breadbasket of Damascus. Photograph: Louai Beshara/AFP via Getty ImagesMalian farmers, cow herders and fishermen have been caught up in a spat over the reduction of the Niger River’s water levels. Meanwhile, Iraqi protesters – already infuriated over lack of basic needs – took to the streets last year after more than 120,000 people were hospitalised after drinking polluted water.
“Water scarcity has affected both Iraq and Mali, largely due to economic development projects that reduce the water levels and flow in rivers – a situation made worse by climate change and increased demand due to population growth,” she said.
“In Mali we are concerned about the plans of the government and neighbouring countries to build dams, further expand Office du Niger [overseeing water management projects] and related irrigation channels, which will further affect the water availability in the inner Niger Delta. This will affect more than 1 million farmers, herders and fish[ers] who are fully dependent on the inner Niger Delta.”
In Iraq, Hartog said, a failure to address water concerns and improve water services “directly threatens Iraq’s fragile peace”.
In Syria, meanwhile, water scarcity and crop failure have prompted an exodus from rural areas to the cities, exacerbating the civil war. In Iran, residents in Khorramshahr and Abadan protested over polluted drinking water.
Susanne Schmeier, senior lecturer in water law and diplomacy at IHE Delft, which was also involved in the WPS project, said water problems alone do not create conflict or war, “but they can become ‘threat multipliers’ when combined with other grievances, such as poverty and inequality”.
“Once conflicts escalate, they are hard to resolve and can have a negative impact on water security, creating vicious cycles of conflict. This is why timely action is critical,” she said.
Iraq’s fragile peace is ‘directly threatened’ by water concerns, according to a climate change expert. Photograph: Haidar Mohammed Ali/AFP/Getty ImagesSchmeier said violent clashes over water resources had occurred between local communities and between provinces within the same countries. “Violence is then exerted by non-state actors, potentially even illicit groups, or representatives of certain sectors.
“Such local conflicts are much more difficult to control and tend to escalate rapidly – a main difference from the transboundary level, where relations between states often limit the escalation of water-related conflicts.”
The WPS tool was developed in a collaboration between the Dutch foreign ministry and Deltares, IHE Delft, International Alert, The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, Wetlands International and World Resources Institute.

Categories: External websites

Sir David Attenborough warns of climate 'crisis moment'

18 January, 2020 - 04:08
BBC - David Shukman

China needs to tackle climate change - Attenborough

"The moment of crisis has come" in efforts to tackle climate change, Sir David Attenborough has warned.According to the renowned naturalist and broadcaster, "we have been putting things off for year after year".
"As I speak, south east Australia is on fire. Why? Because the temperatures of the Earth are increasing," he said.
Sir David's comments came in a BBC News interview to launch a year of special coverage on the subject of climate change.
Scientists say climate change is one of several factors behind the Australian fires; others include how forests are managed and natural patterns in the weather.
Sir David told me it was "palpable nonsense" for some politicians and commentators to suggest that the Australian fires were nothing to do with the world becoming warmer.
"We know perfectly well," he said, that human activity is behind the heating of the planet.

What does Sir David mean by 'the moment of crisis'?
He's highlighting the fact that while climate scientists are becoming clearer about the need for a rapid response, the pace of international negotiations is grindingly slow.
The most recent talks - in Madrid last month - were branded a disappointment by the UN Secretary-General, the British government and others.
Decisions on key issues were put off and several countries including Australia and Brazil were accused of trying to dodge their commitments.

"We have to realise that this is not playing games," Sir David said.
"This is not just having a nice little debate, arguments and then coming away with a compromise.
"This is an urgent problem that has to be solved and, what's more, we know how to do it - that's the paradoxical thing, that we're refusing to take steps that we know have to be taken."

What are those steps?
Back in 2018, the UN climate science panel spelled out how the world could have a reasonable chance of avoiding the most dangerous temperature rises in future.
It said that emissions of the gases heating the planet - from power stations and factories, vehicles and agriculture - should be almost halved by 2030.
Australia has been badly hit by bushfires. Getty ImagesInstead the opposite is happening.
The release of those gases is still increasing rather than falling and the key gas, carbon dioxide, is now in the atmosphere at a level far above anything experienced in human history.
As Sir David put it: "Every year that passes makes those steps more and more difficult to achieve."

Why does this matter right now?
This year is seen as a vital opportunity to turn the tide on climate change.
The UK is hosting what's billed as a crucial UN summit, known as COP26, in Glasgow in November.
Ahead of that gathering, governments worldwide are coming under pressure to toughen their targets for cutting emissions.
That's because their current pledges do not go nearly far enough.

Assuming they are delivered as promised (and there's no guarantee of that), there could still be a rise in the global average temperature of more than 3C by the end of the century, compared to pre-industrial levels.
The latest assessment by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) lays bare the dangers of that.
It suggests that a rise of anything above 1.5C would mean that coastal flooding, heatwaves and damage to coral reefs would become more severe.
And the latest figures show that the world has already warmed by just over 1C.

What happens next?
As things stand, further heating looks inevitable.
"We're already living in a changed world," according to Professor Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading, a scientist whose depictions of global warming have often gone viral on social media.
He uses bold coloured stripes to show how much each year's temperature is above or below average - different shades of red for warmer and blue for colder.

Our Planet Matters: Climate change explained

The designs now adorn T-shirts, scarves and even a tram in Germany.
At the moment, Prof Hawkins uses dark red to denote the highest level of warming, but regions such as the Arctic Ocean have seen that maximum level year after year.
Such is the scale of change that he's having to search for new colours.
"I'm thinking about adding dark purple or even black", he told me, to convey future increases in temperature.
"People might think climate change is a distant prospect but we're seeing so many examples around the world, like in Australia, of new records and new extremes."

Our Planet Matters: Climate change explained
What else is on the environmental agenda this year?
The natural world, and whether we can stop harming it.
While most political attention will be on climate change, 2020 is also seen as potentially important for halting the damage human activity is having on ecosystems.
Sir David has a blunt explanation for why this matters: "We actually depend upon the natural world for every breath of air we take and every mouthful of food that we eat."
World leaders are being invited to the Chinese city of Kunming for a major conference on how to safeguard Nature.
The northern white rhino (seen here) is down to just two animals, making it "functionally" extinct. Getty ImagesA landmark report last year warned that as many as one million species of animals, insects and plants are threatened with extinction in the coming decades.
A more recent study found that the growth of cities, the clearing of forests for farming and the soaring demand for fish had significantly altered nearly three-quarters of the land and more than two-thirds of the oceans.
One of the scientists involved, Prof Andy Purvis of the Natural History Museum in London, says that by undermining important habitats, "we're hacking away at our safety net, we're trashing environments we depend on".
He points to the impact of everything from the use of palm oil in processed food and shampoo to the pressures created by fast fashion.
And while the need for conservation is understood in many developed countries, Prof Purvis says "we've exported the damage to countries too poor to handle the environmental cost of what they're selling to us".
The gathering in Kunming takes place in October, a month before the UN climate summit in Glasgow, confirming this year as crucial for our relations with the planet.

Categories: External websites

David Attenborough Says Australia's Bushfires A 'Major International Catastrophe' And Calls For Climate Action

18 January, 2020 - 04:07
ABC NewsReuters/ABC

David Attenborough says the moment of crisis has come. (ABC News)

Key points
  • Attenborough says rising temperatures are behind Australia's bushfires
  • He has also called on China in particular to reduce its carbon emissions
  • Malcolm Turnbull called for the "self-destructive idiocy of climate denialism" to stop
British naturalist Sir David Attenborough says the "moment of crisis" has come in the fight against climate change, warning that governments' targets for decades in the future were not enough to save the planet.
Noting the destruction being caused by Australia's current wave of bushfires, he criticised the Federal Government's approach to climate change during an interview with the BBC, saying the support for coal mines showed the world it did not care about the environment.
"As I speak, south-east Australia is on fire. Why? Because the temperatures of the Earth are increasing," he said.
How climate change has impacted
the world since your childhood
Global warming is already changing the world before our eyes — let's see what has happened in your lifetime, and what's in store for your future.
"That is a major international catastrophe. And to say, 'Oh it's nothing to do with the climate', is palpably nonsense."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said earlier this week that Australia was improving its resilience and responding "to the reality of the environment in which we live".
"I think that's what Australians would want to know coming out of this bushfire season, ultimately, that the resilience efforts that are being made at all levels are meeting the need," Mr Morrison said.
"Our policy is to reduce emissions, to build resilience and to focus on adaptation.
"All of these are the necessary responses to what's happening with our climate."
Sir David Attenborough has called for urgent action on climate change. (Climate Change: The Facts)Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said climate change denial had "infected our politics" in Australia, in an essay he wrote for US-based news magazine Time.
"These fires show that the wicked, self-destructive idiocy of climate denialism must stop," Mr Turnbull said.
On his time in power, he said the National Energy Guarantee policy was "sabotaged" and "brought down my government".
"Both times, my efforts to take concerted action on climate change were followed by my losing my job."
Last year, Prince William launched a prize to find answers to Earth's biggest environmental problems. (AP: Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone)How spending $200 a year
could help prevent climate change
On average, Australians are willing to chip in an extra $200 a year to prevent climate change. It turns out that money could go a long way.Sir David also called on China in particular to reduce
its carbon emissions, saying he thought other countries would follow if China set a lead.
"The moment of crisis has come — we can no longer prevaricate," he said.
"We have been putting things off year after year, raising targets and saying: 'Oh well if we do it within the next 20 years…'
"This is an urgent problem that has to be solved. And what is more is that we know how to do it — that's the paradoxical thing — that we are refusing to take steps that we know have to be taken."
Sir David's interview was part of the BBC's drive to increase coverage of climate change ahead of a UN conference, COP 26, in Glasgow in November 2020.
The 93-year-old raised public awareness around the world of the danger of plastic pollution in oceans with his television series Blue Planet II.
Last year, Britain's Prince William launched a multi-million-pound prize to find answers to Earth's biggest environmental problems, saying the planet was now at a tipping point.

Categories: External websites

Denmark Floats A Possible Model For Climate Policy

18 January, 2020 - 04:06
U.S. News & World ReportColleen de Bellefonds

The country's new climate law shows that governments don’t have to choose between the environment and the economy.
"Climate Safari," a giant globe that can accommodate up to 300 children to teach them about green energy and help raise awareness of the consequences of climate change on the natural environment is seen in front of the Danish parliament on Sept. 13, 2018 in Copenhagen. (Ole Jensen/Getty Images)PARIS — After millions of people worldwide took to the streets last September to demand politicians take action against climate change, climate scientists were disappointed by the outcome of December's U.N. climate summit.
Developed countries made no commitments to cut emissions in the near-term or to finance developing countries' emissions goals. Although the European Commission (aside from Poland) separately pledged a "Green Deal" to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, experts say it isn't enough.
"Everyone needs to get to net zero by 2050, but we won't stay on track if we don't see significant reductions by 2030," says Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist in the Climate and Energy Program at the Union for Concerned Scientists, an independent advocacy nonprofit that represents a network of 25,000 scientists, economists and other experts around the world.
The European Union needs to come up with a timetable before the U.N. Climate Change Conference this year in Glasgow, Cleetus says. "It's the key to unlocking other places, like China and India."
One country, however, has committed to making climate neutrality happen — and soon: Denmark's parliament overwhelmingly passed an aggressive new climate law on Dec. 6. The legislation aims to reduce the country's carbon emissions to 70% below its 1990 levels by 2030, with carbon neutrality targeted for 2050.
The 25 Best Countries in the World
Overall Best Countries Ranking
More importantly, the law has teeth. Every five years, the government must set a legally binding emissions target across sectors of the economy including energy, housing, industry, transportation, agriculture and forestry. Parliament holds the minister for climate and energy accountable and can force that person out of office if insufficient progress is made.
"It's a very significant goal that we haven't seen from any other developed country," Cleetus says. "This isn't just a commitment, it's a promise that's enshrined in law. It's the kind of robustness that we need to see."
Politicians in many developed countries remain hesitant to act due to the complexity of climate change and the potential political and economic fallout of making carbon neutrality commitments. Political analysts and climate change experts say Denmark's unique political system played a role in the country pursuing the policy.
Still, the country promises to prove that climate laws and the economy can work hand in hand, setting the path for other countries to pursue tangible policies.

Political Parties Make Climate Change a Priority
The Danish people have been concerned about climate change for years, but the issue didn't become a political priority until parliamentary elections this past June. Polls suggested that 46% of voters ranked climate change as their top concern, compared to 27% in 2017.
"Usually elections are about social, economic, health care, immigration or education issues," says Paul Parker, a professor and associate dean for strategic initiatives at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
Flemming Juul Christiansen, a political science professor at Roskilde University in Denmark, credits a left-wing coalition — which chose to focus on climate issues because it was the only issue it could unite behind — for the change in the public's priorities.
The coalition's promotion of a climate agenda during the electoral campaigns put climate change in voters' minds at the polls, he says.
In the end, more than 90% of lawmakers in the Folketing, Denmark's parliament, voted for the new law. Even if the measures turn out to be unpopular with the public, politicians "can't just point fingers, because the agreement was so broad," Christiansen says.
The Danish government's unique setup also makes the law virtually impossible for future governments to overturn before 2050.
Denmark has a minority government, which means that the ruling Social Democratic party had to rely on support from its three leftist competing political parties in 2019 to take office. Together, these four parties drafted a binding agreement that required the climate law to be passed as a condition for agreeing to the government to take office.
A broad group of parties agreed on the climate law — in essence holding all of the country's major political parties accountable for the climate law in perpetuity.
"It's as if it's been embedded in our policies," Christiansen says.

A History of Investment in Clean Energy
Denmark has been on the forefront of the move to carbon neutrality for the past three decades. The country began reorienting its energy policies to replace coal with wind and biofuels following the 1970s oil crisis.
In the 1990s, the then-minister for environment and energy, Svend Auken, was a committed environmentalist who supported Denmark's growing wind turbine industry, says Helene Dyrhauge, a political science professor at Roskilde University, whose research focuses on transportation and sustainability.
Denmark, home to Vestas, the world's largest developer of wind turbines, supplied almost half of its electricity needs from wind power last year, according to the country's grid operator.
 That is the highest level in Europe, as Denmark has taken advantage of expertise in the field and the new demand for clean energy in other EU countries by exporting its wind technology and excess power. In 2017, wind accounted for 63% of Europe's investments in renewable energy in 2018, up from 52% in 2017.
"Their economy has grown while emissions have declined," Parker says of Denmark.
In 1970, Denmark's carbon dioxide emissions were 12.6 metric tons per capita, according to the World Bank. By 2014, emissions dropped to 5.9 metric tons.
By comparison, the U.S. emitted 21.1 metric tons per person in 1970 and has declined to 16.5 metric tons today. Meanwhile, Denmark's projected gross domestic product growth rate is 1.4%, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Making the Law a Reality
In order to reach the new law's targets, Denmark needs to focus on reforming the transportation sector, a main source of emissions in Denmark, says Dyrhauge. The government will need to create financial incentives for people to switch to cheaper electrical vehicles and phase out fossil fuel vehicles.
It will also need to further invest in renewable energies, energy infrastructure, and research into energy storage to stockpile its surplus wind energy. "The goal is ambitious, but it is possible," Parker says.
The Danish energy ministry announced in December plans to build an artificial island tying in power from offshore wind farms of up to 10 gigawatts (GW) of capacity, which Christiansen says should be more than enough to supply Denmark's population of 6 million.
 The excess energy would be sold to neighboring countries. The plan could cost in the neighborhood of 200 billion to 300 billion Danish crowns ($29.5 billion-44.2 billion), much of which will be financed by private investors, including Danish pension funds.
This project will be expensive to build, but it should cover Denmark's need for energy, Christiansen says. That means new taxes – although the law stipulates that climate goals can't compromise the economy or jobs.
"It will be a little painful in the short run and take means away from other public investments," Christiansen says. "But in the long run, it could bring Denmark into the lead and it could be the future."
Parker adds, "By being an early adopter, Denmark knows that it gives them a financial advantage."

An Example for Other Developed Countries
The United States, meanwhile, is producing record amounts of oil and gas, says Cleetus. It's formally begun pulling out of the Paris Climate agreement and is dragging its heels on attending the 2020 Glasgow Climate Summit.
But the U.S. has the resources and capacity to make change, given the political will, she adds. "We are a clean energy leader," says the Union of Concerned Scientists' Cleetus of the U.S. "We could be part of this expanding global market, but we need policies to accelerate the momentum." Most climate policies have been on the state level, and federal funding for clean energy was just cut. "We need policies and investments or it won't happen fast enough," Cleetus says.
Denmark could set an example for how to build a successful carbon-neutral economy. "It's a false narrative that you have to choose between a good economy and climate," Cleetus says.
"Denmark is fairly small, but they show it can be done without compromising on quality of life. It's a thriving economy with a good standard of living and low carbon emissions."
The stakes are high, experts warn. "There's already a significant impact all over the world, from wildfires to tropical storms to rising seas to record ice loss in the arctic. People are losing their lives," Cleetus says.
"That's what in store for us as the temperature continues to go up. We need to act with urgency."

Categories: External websites

2019 Capped Off The World’s Hottest Decade In Recorded History

17 January, 2020 - 04:05
Washington Post - Brady Dennis | Andrew Freedman | John Muyskens

It also marked the second-warmest year ever. “What happens in the future is really up to us," said one scientist.
Source: NASA’s Goddard's Global Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP)The past decade was the hottest ever recorded on the planet, driven by an acceleration of temperature increases in the past five years, according to new data released Wednesday by the U.S. government.
The findings, released jointly by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), detail a troubling trajectory: 2019 was the second-hottest year on record, trailing only 2016. The past five years each rank among the five hottest since record-keeping began. And 19 of the hottest 20 years have occurred during the past two decades.
The warming trend also bears the unmistakable fingerprint of humans, who continue to emit tens of billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, scientists say.
“No individual hot year — or hot day or hot season, for that matter — is by itself evidence for climate change. But this hot year is just one of many hot years in this decade,” said Kate Marvel, a research scientist at NASA and Columbia University. “The planet is statistically, detectably warmer than before the Industrial Revolution. We know why. We know what it means. And we can do something about it.”
According to NOAA, the globe is warming at a faster rate than it had been just a few decades ago. The annual global average surface temperature has increased at an average rate of 0.07 degrees Celsius (0.13 Fahrenheit) per decade since 1880, NOAA found. However, since 1981, that rate has more than doubled.
That trend has shown few signs of changing. “Every decade since the 1960s has been warmer than the decade previously — and not by a small amount,” Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which keeps the temperature data, told reporters Wednesday.
Leaders from nations around the world have vowed to try to limit the Earth’s warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, in an effort to head off catastrophic sea level rise, ever-deadlier extreme weather events and other climate-related catastrophes. But hitting that ambitious target would require a rapid, transformational shift away from fossil fuels that has yet to materialize.
Instead, global greenhouse gas emissions hit a record high in 2019, even as they fell slightly in the United States, and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now sits at the highest level in human history — a level probably not seen on the planet for 3 million years.
The 2019 figures from NASA and NOAA match similar data released by Berkeley Earth, an independent group that analyzes temperature data. The U.K. Met Office also rated 2019 among the top 3 warmest years. The findings also are in line with data released last week by the Copernicus Climate Change Service, a science initiative of the European Union. The World Meteorological Organization confirmed the analyses.
In fact, Berkeley Earth researchers said, no place on Earth experienced a record cold annual average during 2019. But 36 countries — from Belize to Botswana, from Slovakia to South Africa — experienced their hottest year since instrumental records began. Those same researchers estimated that more warming lies ahead, and that a 95 percent chance exists that 2020 will become one of the five hottest years.
For 10% of the planet, 2019 was the hottest year on record
Source: Berkeley EarthWednesday’s figures offer the latest evidence of the globe’s inexorable temperature rise, particularly in recent decades. But the warming over the past century — and the impacts of climate change — have affected different parts of the world in vastly different ways.
A recent Washington Post analysis found numerous locations around the globe that already have warmed by at least 2 degrees Celsius over the past century. That’s a number that scientists and policymakers have identified as a red line if the planet is to avoid catastrophic and irreversible consequences.
Some entire countries, including Switzerland and Kazakhstan, have already warmed by 2 degrees Celsius, and other hot spots exist around the world, particularly in the fast-warming Arctic. Scientists say extreme warming is helping to fuel wildfires from Australia to California, melt permafrost from Alaska to Siberia and fuel more intense storms and floods. It is also altering marine ecosystems from Canada to South America to the African coast, threatening wildlife and the livelihoods of those who depend on the sea.
Temperature change, 2019 compared with 1880-1899
Source: Berkeley Earth
“The evidence isn’t just in surface temperature,” Benjamin Santer, a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said of the human-fueled warming trend. “It’s Arctic sea ice. It’s atmospheric water vapor increases. It’s changes in glaciers in Alaska. It’s changes in the Greenland Ice Sheet. It’s all of the above."
The past year alone featured a litany of disasters that scientists say were worsened by climate change — disasters they argue are only more likely in the future unless global emissions begin to fall sharply.
During a tragic and terrifying December in Australia, with bush fires proliferating amid heat and drought, the country shattered its record for the hottest-ever day. On Dec. 18, the national average high temperature was a blistering 107.4 degrees (41.9 Celsius). Europe recorded its hottest year ever, and a sizzling heat wave in July saw temperature records crumble. Paris, for example, registered a sweltering 108.7 degrees July 25, shattering a record set in 1947.
Alaska also had its hottest year on record in 2019. It included an alarming lack of ice cover during the winter in the Bering and Chukchi Seas, and in the summer the temperature at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport hit 90 degrees for the first time.
Hurricanes such as Dorian devastated the Bahamas and other areas after rapidly intensifying, which some studies show is linked to warming seas and air  temperatures. A pair of powerful cyclones hit Mozambique in rapid succession, killing hundreds of people, destroying homes and causing devastating floods.
The year also brought signs that the natural systems that serve to store huge quantities of carbon dioxide and methane, another powerful greenhouse gas, may be faltering as temperatures increase.
In December, a federal report indicated that melting permafrost throughout Arctic may already be a net source of atmospheric carbon, a shift that could accelerate global warming. Raging fires in the Amazon now threaten to turn the world’s most productive rainforest into a drier, less carbon-rich savanna.
Reports from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last year detailed how climate change is already threatening food and water supplies, increasing the threat of droughts and floods, killing coral reefs, supercharging monster storms, fueling deadly marine heat waves and contributing to record losses of sea ice.
new study this week also found that 2019 was the warmest on record for the world’s oceans, with all of the top five hottest years coming since 2015. The oceans have long absorbed the vast majority — about 93 percent — of the extra heat humans are adding to the climate through greenhouse gas emissions.
Still, even as millions of protesters have taken to the streets to demand action, world leaders have so far shown little ability to move as fast as scientists say is necessary to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
In a bleak report last fall, the United Nations warned that the world had squandered so much time mustering the willpower to combat climate change that drastic, unprecedented cuts in emissions are now the only way to avoid an ever-intensifying cascade of consequences. The U.N. report said global temperatures are on pace to rise as much as 3.2 degrees Celsius (5.8 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, and that emissions must begin falling by 7.6 percent each year beginning 2020 to meet the most ambitious goals of the Paris climate accord.
So far, many countries have failed to live up to the promises they made as part of the 2015 global agreement, including some of the world’s largest emitters. More than 100 countries have vowed to submit more ambitious plans to fight climate change the end of 2020, but they collectively represent only about 15 percent of global emissions. The Trump administration plans to exit the international accord later this year.
Zeke Hausfather, a climate researcher for Berkeley Earth, said that despite the clear warming trend, humans still have an opportunity to shape what lies ahead.
“We don’t have any sign yet of global warming slowing down, but we also don’t have any sign of global emissions slowing down,” he said. “What happens in the future depends a lot on our emissions of greenhouse gases as a society. If we continue emitting at current levels, we will continue warming at about the same rate.
“What happens in the future is really up to us."

Categories: External websites

2019 Was A Record Year For Ocean Temperatures, Data Show

17 January, 2020 - 04:03
New York TimesKendra Pierre-Louis

Bleached coral in the south Pacific in May. Rising temperatures contribute to the bleaching. Credit...Alexis Rosenfeld/Getty ImagesLast year was the warmest year on record for the world’s oceans, part of a long-term warming trend, according to a study released Monday.
“If you look at the ocean heat content, 2019 is by far the hottest, 2018 is second, 2017 is third, 2015 is fourth, and then 2016 is fifth,” said Kevin E. Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and an author on the study
The study, published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, follows an announcement last week by European scientists that Earth’s surface temperatures in 2019 were the second-hottest on record.
Since the middle of last century, the oceans have absorbed roughly 93 percent of the excess heat caused by greenhouse gases from human activities such as burning coal for electricity. That has shielded the land from some of the worst effects of rising emissions.
“Ocean heat content is, in many ways, our best measure of the effect of climate change on the earth,” said Zeke Hausfather, the director of climate and energy at the Breakthrough Institute in California, who was not involved in this study. Surface temperature measurements are more variable from year to year because they are affected by things like volcanic eruptions and El Niño events, cyclical weather patterns that pump energy and moisture into the atmosphere.
While 2016 was the fifth-hottest year on record for the oceans, it was the hottest year on record in terms of surface temperatures. There was a significant El Niño that year, Dr. Trenberth said, which moved the heat from the ocean into the atmosphere.
“And so, the global mean surface temperature is actually higher in 2016, but the ocean temperature is a little bit lower,” Dr. Trenberth said.
Measuring the ocean’s temperature has long been a challenge for scientists. Thermometers on land around the world have tracked temperatures for more than a century, but the ocean temperature record is spottier.
Argo, a global network of 3,000 drifting floats equipped with sensors that measure temperature and depth, was implemented in 2007 and created a comprehensive temperature data record. Before that, researchers had to rely on an ad hoc system of ocean temperature measurements. Many of these were taken from the sides of ships and excluded Antarctic waters until the late 1950s.
For the new study, Dr. Trenberth and his colleagues overcame some of the gaps in the historical ocean temperature record by exploiting an understanding of how a temperature reading in one area relates to ocean temperatures across the ocean overall gleaned from data from the Argo system. The new method allowed them to take the limited temperature observations from the pre-Argo era and extrapolate them into a broader understanding of past ocean temperature.
“What we find is that we can do a global reconstruction back to 1958,” Dr. Trenberth said. That year was when systematic temperature observations began in Antarctica, creating enough temperature points for the extrapolation to be feasible.
The past 10 years have been the warmest 10 on record for global ocean temperatures. The increase between 2018 and 2019 was the largest single-year increase since the early 2000s, according to Dr. Hausfather.
Increasing ocean temperatures have harmed marine life and contributed to mass coral reef bleaching, the loss of critical ecosystems, and threatened livelihoods like fishing as species have moved in search of cooler waters.
But the impacts of warming oceans don’t remain at sea.
“The heavy rains in Jakarta just recently resulted, in part, from very warm sea temperatures in that region,” said Dr. Trenberth, who also drew connections between warming ocean temperatures to weather over Australia. The recent drought there has helped to propel what many are calling the worst wildfire season in the nation’s history.
“These sea temperatures influence regional weather patterns and sometimes even global weather patterns,” Dr. Trenberth said.

Categories: External websites

Climate Change Protest At Bank 'Necessary And Proportional': Swiss Judge

17 January, 2020 - 04:02
ReutersEmma Farge

Supporters of twelve activists celebrate after the non guilty verdict of the District Court of Lausanne for their tennis sit-in protest inside a branch of Credit Suisse bank in 2018 in Renens, Switzerland January 13, 2020. REUTERS/Emma FargeLAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - The imminent danger posed by climate change means activists were not guilty of trespassing when they occupied a Swiss bank and played tennis to demand an end to funding of fossil fuel projects, a judge ruled on Monday.
Wearing whites and wigs, a group of young people staged the tennis sit-in at the Lausanne branch of Credit Suisse in November 2018 to highlight their campaign and urge Swiss maestro Roger Federer to end his sponsorship deal with the bank.
The activists were charged with trespassing and fined 21,600 Swiss francs ($22,200), but in their appeal hearing on Monday Judge Philippe Colelough said they had acted proportionately and waived the fine.
The activists had argued they were in the bank in the face of an “imminent danger” - and the judge agreed.
“Because of the insufficient measures taken to date in Switzerland, whether they be economic or political, the average warming will not diminish nor even stabilize, it will increase,” he said, pointing to the country’s melting glaciers.
“In view of this, the tribunal considers that the imminence of danger is established,” the judge said. “The act for which they were incriminated was a necessary and proportional means to achieve the goal they sought.”
The packed court room in Renens, Lausanne, reacted with whoops of excitement and a standing ovation.
“I didn’t think it was possible,” said one of the accused, Beate Thalmann, in tears of joy. “If Switzerland did this, then maybe we have a chance.”
Pressure is rising on Switzerland’s financial sector to divest from fossil fuels and thousands of students have marched through Swiss cities in recent months demanding action on climate change.
The country, which is warming at twice the global average due to the heat-trapping effect of its mountains, has an target to cut net carbon emissions to zero by 2050 but activists say that the country’s biggest impact is via the financial center.
Credit Suisse, which had filed charges against the activists, said last week, when they launched the appeal after refusing to pay the fine, it respected their cause but deemed their actions unacceptable. The state will pay the fine instead.
The bank said in December said it would stop financing the development of new coal-fired power plants.
Federer, who was also criticized by teen climate activist Greta Thunberg over the sponsorship, said at the weekend: “I appreciate reminders of my responsibility as a private individual, as an athlete and as an entrepreneur, and I’m committed to using this privileged position to dialogue on important issues with my sponsors.”
“I take the impacts and threat of climate change very seriously, particularly as my family and I arrive in Australia amidst devastation from the bushfires,” the 38-year-old, preparing for the Australian Open, said in a statement.
A spokeswoman added on Monday that his dialogue with Credit Suisse on its climate change impact had already begun, without giving details.

Categories: External websites

James Murdoch Criticises Father's News Outlets For Climate Crisis Denial

16 January, 2020 - 04:05
The Guardian

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Fox cited for ‘frustrating’ coverage of Australian bushfires
James and Kathryn Murdoch have issued a statement criticising Rupert Murdoch’s firms for ‘ongoing denial’ on the climate crisis. Photograph: Joel Ryan/Invision/APRupert Murdoch’s son has strongly criticised his family’s news outlets for downplaying the impact of the climate crisis, as bushfires continue to burn in Australia.
James Murdoch and his wife, Kathryn, issued a rare joint statement directly criticising his father’s businesses for their “ongoing denial” on the issue, which has been reflected in the family’s newspapers repeatedly casting doubt on the link between the climate emergency and the bushfires.
“Kathryn and James’s views on climate are well-established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well-known,” a spokesperson for the couple said, confirming a report in the Daily Beast. “They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary.”
James Murdoch was most recently the chief executive of the family’s 21st Century Fox entertainment business, leaving when it merged with Disney. He is making media investments through his own Lupa Systems company but continues to sit on the board of the family’s newspaper business, News Corp, which also owns the Times and the Sun.
The bushfires have focused attention on the likes of Andrew Bolt, a political commentator for News Corp’s Australian newspapers who is known for promoting the views of climate science deniers, and for his own attacks on “alarmists” and his derision of climate change science.
He also has a programme on the Murdoch-owned Sky News Australia, where he has criticised the “constant stream of propaganda” on the public broadcaster ABC about the role of the climate crisis in the bushfires.
“Politicians who should do better are out there feeding the fear and misinformation,” he said in a recent broadcast criticising politicians who said carbon emissions needed to be cut to avoid future fires. “As if that would stop a fire. You’d have to be a child like Greta Thunberg to believe that fairytale.”US viewers have also heard commentary from Fox News presenters such as Laura Ingraham, who has said that “celebrities in the media have been pressing the narrative that the wildfires in Australia are caused by climate change”, before introducing guests who cast doubt on this interpretation.
James Murdoch’s criticism sheds light on the family’s internal rifts, amid speculation over his 88-year-old father’s succession plans. James’s older brother Lachlan is still actively involved in the family businesses as the US-based chairman and chief executive of the slimmed-down Fox Corporation, which owns Fox News.
Last year, Rupert Murdoch told shareholders “there are no climate change deniers” around his company and said his business was early to commit to “science-based targets to limit climate change” and was working to reduce its climate emissions.
However, he has been publicly critical about the “alarmist” approach to the issue. In 2015, he used his Twitter account to describe himself as a “climate change sceptic not a denier”.
A climate change skeptic not a denier. Sept UN meets in NY with endless alarmist nonsense from u know whom! Pessimists always seen as sages— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) August 27, 2015Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch and News Corp have all separately donated millions of dollars to bushfire recovery efforts in recent days, although the Daily Beast claimed the donations were made after it requested comment about James Murdoch’s statement.
James Murdoch has a long history of advocacy on environmental issues, inviting the former US vice-president Al Gore to present a version of his An Inconvenient Truth slideshow to Fox executives in 2006. At the time he was the heir apparent to the media empire and had been trusted with running BSkyB in London, where he would push environmental issues to the fore, working on ways to reduce the power used by Sky’s set-top boxes and insisting on using hybrid taxis long before such things were standard corporate behaviour.
Since stepping back from day-to-day roles with the family business at the end of 2018, the multibillionaire has made clear he feels uncomfortable about much of Fox News’ output and was unsuccessful in an attempt to cash-in his stock completely and make a clean break with the company – an effort that failed after Lachlan declined to buy him out.
Kathryn Murdoch has already set out the couple’s vision, telling the New York Times last year that she was increasingly focused on the issue of global heating: “There hasn’t been a Republican answer on climate change. There’s just been denial and walking away from the problem. There needs to be one.”
She said she was particularly moved to act after seeing Al Gore’s speech at the Fox event in 2006: “I decided to switch everything I was doing. I wanted to be able to look my children in the eye and say ‘I did everything I could.’”

Categories: External websites

Opinion: The Climate Crisis – Sport Is Both Victim And Sinner

16 January, 2020 - 04:04
Deutsche Welle (DW) - Joscha Weber, DW Sports editor

At the Australian Open, a player struggles to breathe because of air pollution while Greta Thunberg challenges Roger Federer. Sport must face up to its responsibilities with regards to the climate, writes Joscha Weber.

Dalila Jakupovic is gasping for breath. After a rally, the Slovenian bends over in pain during a qualifying match for the Australian Open against the Swiss Stefanie Vögele. Jakupovic's struggles can be clearly heard through the microphones on the edge of the court.
Then it gets worse. She has to kneel down, hold her hand in front of her pained face and crouch, curled up on the blue floor of Court 3. Coaches and organizers rush to help, but there is little they can do except talk and calm her down. Finally the umpire announces that Jakupovic cannot continue. "Game, set and match Stefanie Vögele." It is the first retirement at the Australian Open due to the poor air quality caused by the country's devastating bush fires.
The climate crisis has reached international sport. Beyond a few appeals for donations, PR campaigns and the interjections of a few climate activists, the sporting world has done little more than take note of the issue.
But it is logical that the consequences of climate change and the discussion about the sustainable use of resources are now also affecting sports - after all, top athletes are not only victims of the climate crisis, as they are now in Melbourne, but are also partly responsible for it.
Athletes jet to competitions, PR appointments or training camps around the world. Big cars are part of the lifestyle of many sports icons. And now some are having to justify their sponsors. Climate activist Greta Thunberg has told tennis star Roger Federer to "wake up" via a retweet, because his sponsor Credit Suisse is financing industrial firms that rely on fossil fuels.
Awful scenes in Melbourne.

Dalila Jakupovic has abandoned her #AusOpen qualifying match after suffering a coughing fit while playing in thick smoke caused by the #AustralianFires. pic.twitter.com/WAJv6TzTjW— ESPN Australia & NZ (@ESPNAusNZ) January 14, 2020Athletes are heroes - but with special responsibilities
Federer has probably never thought much about this connection before, and many professional athletes will feel the same way. But that is exactly what is about to change. All over the world, young people in particular are demanding a more thoughtful approach to the environment, from everyone.
The world of top-class sport is now particularly exposed, even if its stars are otherwise celebrated as heroes. A high degree of integrity is expected of those heroes and if one of them errs through doping or cheating, the outcry is great. The same may now be the case for the environment. The public sometimes expects more from great sports stars than politicians.
The great popularity of sportsmen and women brings astronomically high salaries and advertising revenues. The price for this is the burden of always having to behave in a correct, socially desirable manner.
Sport can, sport must do more for the climate. If athletes travel to their competitions as often as possible in a climate-friendly way, many of their fans will imitate this. When sporting events with their huge numbers of visitors do without plastic cups, use energy from renewable sources or support climate-friendly local transport, this has a noticeable effect.

Protecting athletes better
And the organizers of sporting events must do more to protect athletes. Many sports take place in the open air and some athletes are already criticizing the Australian Open for the fact the Grand Slam is even going ahead despite the considerable air pollution caused by the fires.
Shocked to see that qualifying matches have started @AustralianOpen
What about the health of all the people that have to work out there, especially the ballkids? #wherearethelimits? pic.twitter.com/2oldEptT2g— mandy minella (@mandyminella) January 14, 2020So far there is no sign that major sporting events will be canceled due to the bushfires in Australia, neither the Australian Open in Melbourne nor the Tour Down Under cycling race around Adelaide. The financial pressure is apparently so great that the events are being held despite the worrying circumstances. As almost always in sports, the show must go on.

Categories: External websites

(AU) 'Dystopian Future': Climate Change To Force Review Of Military's Role

16 January, 2020 - 04:03
Sydney Morning HeraldPeter Hannam

Climate change poses "a major security challenge for Australia" that experts warn has the potential to rapidly stretch the capability of the military, as demonstrated by the current bushfire emergency.
Michael Thomas, a retired army major, said "rising emissions will result in a more unstable and insecure world that will have far-reaching human, national and international security consequences", in an article published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on Tuesday.
No longer over the horizon: climate change is already creating challenges for Australia's military, including the current bushfire season. Credit: ADF/AP
"The bushfire crisis that’s unfolding across Australia provides some insight into what that dystopian world will look like," he said.
Major Thomas, who published a 2017 book on the security risks of climate change, said the fires that caused at least 27 deaths and burnt millions of hectares revealed the limits of Australia's forces to cope with traditional threats abroad and concurrent new ones at home.
"Climate change is talked about as a 'threat multiplier' but it's actually a 'burden multiplier'", he told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
The Morrison government copped criticism for waiting until earlier this month to deploy 3000 dedicated reserve troops to assist with the bushfire relief despite major fires burning in some states since September.
It also dispatched the navy to assist in the evacuation of people stranded in Victoria's East Gippsland.
Major Thomas said "the bushfire crisis may be the moment that opens genuine but critically honest policy debate on climate change in Australia".
ADF Reservists preparing at Holsworthy Army Barracks in south-west Sydney earlier this month for deployment to respond to the unprecedented bushfires across the country. Credit: James AlcockRising sea levels and more intense storms not only threaten the stability of domestic and foreign communities, they also undermine the capability of Australia's own military to respond.
The type, location and frequencies of challenges for armed forces everywhere were already changing, with flow-on consequences for the equipment, training and structures they need, Major Thomas said.
"What was meant to be tomorrow’s security problem has been catapulted into the here and now," he said.
Major Thomas pointed to Australia's participation with South Pacific partners in 2018 in the Boe Declaration on Regional Security as a recognition by the government that defence forces have "a unique and important role" to play in a warming world.
However, while countries such as New Zealand had followed up with a defense assessment later that year and an implementation plan last month, the Australian government had made little public about the military's readiness to respond to climate change.
Major Thomas, who served in the military for 20 years, said the lack of a bipartisan political consensus in Australia - unlike in its partner across the Tasman - meant Australia's defense forces were largely absent from the public debate.
"The [ADF's] voice has been lost in the Australian debate," he said.
The government has committed some $70 billion for new submarines and joint strike fighters. In light of the emerging threats, Major Thomas said it should reconsider buying more landing craft - such as those used at Mallacoota in Victoria - or building a reserve fire-fighting or other disaster-relief capacity.
A spokesperson for Defence said the 2016 Defence White Paper identified climate change "as one of the causes of state fragility, a key driver of our security environment to 2035".
"Defence factors climate change considerations into our strategic planning for defence capabilities, estate, personnel and equipment, as well as related operational responses and preparedness," the spokesperson said.

Categories: External websites

(AU) Fire Inquiry Must Look At Climate Change

15 January, 2020 - 04:00
AFRMichael Pelly

It's essential that climate change be part of an inquiry into the bushfires raging across the country, says former Supreme Court judge Bernard Teague.
Black Saturday royal commissioner Bernard Teague says the impact of climate change "needs to be looked at it in greater depth".  Eamon GallagherThe former supreme court judge who ran the Black Saturday royal commission says it is essential that climate change impact be part of an inquiry into the 2019-20 bushfires and has warned against any move to restrict its terms of reference.
Bernard Teague told The Australian Financial Review he also supported an examination of state and federal protocols for disaster relief
Other lawyers said current roadblocks on federal assistance – a likely focus of the royal commission flagged by Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the weekend – could be overcome by relying on the implied nationhood power in the constitution, which gives the Commonwealth broad authority.
Mr Teague was a judge on the Supreme Court of Victoria from 1987 to 2008 before being tapped to run the inquiry into the Black Saturday fires of February 7, 2009, in Victoria that claimed 173 lives.
He said climate change had been "small beer" for his inquiry because of apparent consensus about its continuing impact.
"We had two hours on climate change – this is 10 years ago – because we could get a stack of scientists who would take one side and not one scientist was prepared to come before our commission and be cross-examined about climate change."
He said that in 2010 "everyone was saying there's only the prospect of worse fires in the future because of climate change".
"It needs to be looked at it greater depth in light of the experience of the past 10 years, which has only shown what everyone now accepts – well almost everyone – that it has an enormous impact that we need to better understand.
"It impacts on a lot of things, like controlled burning for example."
He said the inquiry needed to have the widest possible terms of reference and suggested there were a number of recently retired judges who would be candidates.
Mr Teague said it was better to have multiple commissioners, citing his own experience: "There were so many other perspectives they would bring to bear."
He said the Morrison government should brave the potential criticism that might arise with any examination of the roles of state and federal governments.
"If a government says 'these are the problems that are arising in the present situation and these are potential ways of dealing with them',  I think the community is going to be so much better off."
One issue for any inquiry will be the activation of defence forces. Mr Morrison said on Sunday that the compulsory calling up of 3000 Army Reservists to help in the fire recovery effort had pushed the Commonwealth to the "very edge" of  "extreme constitutional territory".
Mr Morrison said he would take a proposal for a royal commission to cabinet and that it also would include building better resilience and adaption to climate events such as fire, drought, floods and cyclones.

'States need to be consulted'
Fiona McLeod, SC, senior counsel for the Commonwealth at the Black Saturday royal commission, said there was a fundamental problem.
"If you look at the way Commonwealth aid has traditionally been provided, the States have to exhaust their resources – government, commercial and community – before they can ask for help," Ms McLeod said.
Ms McLeod agreed with University of Sydney Professor Anne Twomey that there were doubts about whether such action was supported by the defence power or the external affairs power, which were used to justify using the defence forces in humanitarian and disaster aid overseas.
Both said they felt the implied nationhood power under section 61 of the Constitution would support any deployment for disaster relief, but Professor Twomey added that proper protocols for co-operation with the states were needed.
"The states have the expertise in dealing with bushfires, while the Australian Defence Forces have the expertise in the logistics and management of disaster relief, so it is imperative that systems be developed for them both to work together effectively in a crisis,'' Professor Twomey said.
"It would be counter-productive for the Commonwealth to act unilaterally in calling out the troops, if they were getting in the way of firefighters. States need to be consulted before the troops are called out, so they can fill the greatest needs when they arise."
She added the move to call out the reserves was covered by the provision in section 28 of the Defence Act which covers "civil aid, humanitarian assistance, medical or civil emergency or disaster relief".
Professor Twomey said Section 119, which says the the Commonwealth "shall protect every state against invasion", could also be given a wide application.
Mr Teague said the Black Saturday inquiry had no limitations, in contrast to the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry of 2015-16, over which he also presided.
When the final report offered "matter for further consideration" the state government ordered another inquiry, which led to a recommendations on the long-term rehabilitation of power plants and the impact on human health.
He said if there had been any progress, it would be that there had not been anything like the number of lives lost in recent weeks compered to the devastation of Black Saturday.

Categories: External websites

(AU) Opinion: In Australia’s Raging Bushfires, A Climate-Change Warning To Its Leaders — And Ours

15 January, 2020 - 04:00
Los Angeles Times - Evan Karlik

Residents watch flames in Lake Tabourie, Australia. Brett Hemmings / Getty Images Evan KarlikEvan Karlik is a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy and an affiliate at Georgetown University’s Center for Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Studies. In 2018 he served as a defense fellow in the House of Representatives. With more than 14 million acres in Australia blackened by bushfires, climate change is a glaring threat to Australians — and to the standing of their prime minister, Scott Morrison.
Distressed residents in fire-ravaged towns have rebuffed his handshakes and heckled his entourage. The nation’s capital, Canberra, rang in 2020 with the world’s worst air quality, causing airline cancellations and government office closures. Beach evacuations of stranded residents cornered between flames and sea now rank as Australia’s largest-ever peacetime maritime rescue operation.
U.S. firefighters feel kinship with their Australian brothers and sisters, and more than 100 have been dispatched to battle the blazes Down Under. While Americans are no strangers to wildfires, Washington would do well to note how Australia’s climate policies are entwined with this current crisis.
In 2000, an Australian parliamentary committee report acknowledged the country’s per capita carbon emissions were the highest in the world and highlighted the country’s acute climatic vulnerability. A 2013 report by the Climate Council, an independent Australian nonprofit, pointed to the increasing likelihood of high fire danger weather due to spiking temperatures, drought conditions and longer and more frequent heatwaves.
And in a November poll, 60% of Australians said they believed the country should be doing more to combat climate change.
But Australia’s reigning politicians have been deaf to these signals.
Greg Mullins, a former fire commissioner in the Australian state of New South Wales, recently told National Public Radio that the national government has been “missing in action in terms of leadership” and that Morrison “does not have his finger on the pulse of the nation.”
Morrison gleefully wielded a fist-sized chunk of coal on the floor of Parliament in 2017. A year and a half later, his right-wing party — incensed over proposed legislation that would have instituted energy sector emissions targets — ousted his predecessor and made fossil-fuel-friendly Morrison head of state.
Australian journalist Hugh Riminton has lamented the coal lobby’s grip on Canberra, calling his country “a burning nation led by cowards.” Tasmanian novelist Richard Flanagan compared the rabid bushfires to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster — another environmental catastrophe that foretold the demise of the existing, untenable political order — and likened Morrison and his “criminal course of inaction” to the decadent and disconnected Roman emperor Nero, who is famously said to have played a fiddle while flames leveled most of ancient Rome.
These domestic denunciations square with the persistent criticism of Australia from its regional neighbors. Pacific island countries are markedly vulnerable to climate change on account of sea level rise, ecosystem collapse due to ocean acidification and coral bleaching, and saltwater contamination of freshwater wells.
Enele Sopoaga, former prime minister of Tuvalu in Polynesia, scoffed at Canberra’s highly publicized Pacific Step-Up diplomatic initiative, which offers generous infrastructure financing, a work-visa program and new undersea communications cables “while you keep pouring your coal emissions into the atmosphere … and drowning my people into the water.” An official in Palau, 600 miles east of the Philippines, called Australia an “abusive spouse” that provides aid for climate mitigation projects while refusing to adopt meaningful emissions reductions.
Prior to the annual conclave of leaders at last year’s Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu, Rev. James Bhagwan pointedly reminded Australia’s prime minister that “he is setting foot in a country that could soon be under water.” The headline on his Sydney Morning Herald commentary said it all: “A climate plea to Scott Morrison from a churchman of the Pacific’s sinking nations.”
“No leader who claims Christian morality can allow this conduct on their watch,” Bhagwan wrote.
Present U.S. policy could benefit from such soul-searching. The White House’s abandonment of emissions targets — and combative legal action against states such as California that pursue their own fuel efficiency requirements or carbon cap-and-trade programs — demonstrate either complete obliviousness or categorical insensitivity to those affected by climate change.
For Morrison, the wrath of a traumatized Australian electorate may become evident at the ballot box. In the United States, legislators who acquiesce to how the Trump administration is undermining the 2015 Paris climate agreement and discouraging state-level climate initiatives could find themselves indicted during campaign season and punished at the polls for their dereliction and inaction.
Climate policy negligence will also undermine U.S. relations with Pacific island states.
Morrison’s “utterly tone deaf” defense of robust coal exports during the most recent Pacific Islands Forum meant Australia “upset its friends, opened the door further to China, and trashed its global reputation,” former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd wrote last fall.
American climate policy requires a course correction, or it’s only a matter of time until the U.S. is pilloried in the strategically essential Pacific, leaving an influence vacuum for opportunistic Beijing. China is all too happy to tout itself as one of the first countries to sign the Paris agreement and to reiterate its pledge of stabilizing its carbon emissions over the next decade.
A heart-wrenching image of a charred juvenile kangaroo trapped against barbed wire captured the devastation of Australia’s bushfires and the bitterness of climate inaction. Distraught onlookers around the world took note. We can only hope that U.S. leaders did too.

Categories: External websites

(AU) Australia's Wildfires Provide A Scorching Warning On Climate Change To The Rest Of Earth

15 January, 2020 - 04:00
USA TODAY - Editorial

Kangaroo, koala, livestock carcasses strewn along highways like it really is the end of the world. Yet Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is heading the wrong way: Our view
A mural depicting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Melbourne on Jan. 7, 2020. James Ross/epa-EFEAmong global-warming skeptics, it used to be popular to mock environmentalists and climate scientists as Chicken Littles, forever frantic that the sky was falling.
That kind of lampooning has worn thin, given the relentless rise in global temperatures coupled, most recently, with hellish images of a fire-ravaged Australian continent: Skies cast in orange. The spectral image of the famed Sydney Opera House, lost behind smoke so thick that breathing is like inhaling a pack of cigarettes a day. A scorched region across Australia nearly the size of South Carolina.
Mountainous clouds of smoke extending 10 miles high that generate their own weather, triggering lightning without rain and on a course to circle the earth. Nearly 30 people dead since fires started in September; 2,000 homes destroyed.

Up to a billion animals dying
And the animals. A staggering estimate of up to a billion lost. Kangaroos, koalas, livestock. Carcasses strewn along highways like it really is the end of the world. The most searing and heart-wrenching disaster photograph shows the blackened, upright remains of a juvenile kangaroo, a joey, halted in flight by a fence, its arms still wrapped around the wire.
There's a warning in all of this about the direction of the planet.
No, climate change doesn't start wildfires. But its twin symptoms of persistent drought and hot weather create tinder-like conditions — particularly in southeast Australia with a climate not unlike that of California — and allow wildfires to rage out of control. Australia is in the third year of a punishing drought, and high temperature records were recently shattered with triple-digit heat.
Despite international commitments under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to curb the emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, created in large part by the burning of fossil fuels, CO2 levels in earth's atmosphere are greater than at any time in human history and are continuing to rise.
The results have been made plain not just with more destructive wildfires but also stronger hurricanes, record floods and rising seas from melting ice caps. Last year was the world's second hottest on record.

Australia and USA ranked last
Greenhouse gas emission must be curbed in the next decade if there is any chance of preventing average global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) beyond preindustrial levels, the Paris accord goal.
The independent Climate Change Performance Index ranks Australia and the United States dead last among nations on climate policy. The parallels are beyond troubling. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has scoffed at climate concerns by brandishing a lump of coal before Parliament and exhorting, "Don't be scared. Won't hurt you."
Australia is one of the world's leading exporters of coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels contributing to greenhouse gases, and Morrison seeks to increase exports. While he hasn't gone so far as characterizing climate change as a hoax, as President Donald Trump has done, both administrations were blamed for stalling international negotiations last month in Madrid aimed at advancing worldwide emission-reduction goals.
Morrison's approval ratings are tanking as Australia burns. He was ridiculed for flashing a thumbs up from a beach in Hawaii as the fires grew in December. Demonstrations in Australia for climate justice are on the rise.
Earth is growing warmer, and there's no stopping that reality. But Americans, like their counterparts Down Under, can demand that their leaders heed the lessons of a burning continent and take the hard steps necessary to prevent even worse from happening.

The Australian Embassy in Washington declined to provide an opposing view to this editorial.

Categories: External websites

(AU) Explainer: What Are The Underlying Causes Of Australia's Shocking Bushfire Season?

14 January, 2020 - 04:00
The Guardian

Despite the political smokescreen, scientists are in no doubt that global heating has contributed to Australia’s fire emergency
Smoke from Australia’s unprecedented bushfires as seen from the International Space Station on January 4. Photograph: NASA Earth Observatory Handout/EPAAs Australia’s unprecedented bushfire season continues to unfold, competing arguments have been made about the principal causes of the human and environmental tragedy – particularly around the role of climate change.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has acknowledged that climate change has had an influence on the fires and has defended his government’s climate record.
But Morrison has also said that “job-destroying, economy-destroying, economy-wrecking targets and goals” on climate change “won’t change the fact that there have been bushfires or anything like that in Australia”.
Backbench MP Craig Kelly denied any link between climate change and bushfires in a combative interview on British TV.
Conservative media have concentrated on other factors, such as the amount of hazard reduction burning carried out, or the activities of arsonists – a claim shown to have been inflated and misrepresented.
Bushfire experts say that in normal years hazard reduction is a way to control the behaviour of fires, but the changing climate is making it harder to carry out prescribed burns and, according to fire chiefs, it is not a “panacea” for extreme bushfires.
Here is what we know about the long-term influences on the bushfire catastrophe.

Why has this bushfire season been so devastating?
Extreme heat and dryness are two important influencers of fire and, on both measures, 2019 was remarkable for Australia.
Australia experienced its hottest year on record in 2019, with average temperatures 1.52C above the 1961-1990 average. Our second hottest year was 2013, followed by 2005, 2018 and 2017.
New South Wales – one state hard hit by the bushfires – broke its record by a greater margin, with temperatures 1.95C above average, beating the previous record year, 2018, by 0.27C.
At a very basic level, rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere change the earth’s radiation balance, allowing less heat to escape.
Australia also had its driest ever year in 2019, with rainfall 40% lower than average, based on records going back to 1900. NSW also had its driest year.
A visualisation from Prof Nerilie Abram, a climate scientist at the Australian National University, examines hot and dry years in Australia since 1910 and how they correlate with major bushfires.

An animated history of average maximum temperatures and rainfall in Australia since 1910.

Fire authorities and the Bureau of Meteorology look at the risk of bushfires using the forest fire danger index, a combined measure of temperature, humidity, wind speed and the dryness, but not the amount, of fuel on the ground.
Australia’s 2019 spring months of September, October and November were the worst on a record going back to 1950 for bushfire risk.

What about ‘natural’ weather patterns?
There have been two other meteorological patterns that helped generate the extreme conditions Australia has been experiencing, and both these “modes of variability” were in “phases” that made conditions worse.
The Indian Ocean dipole was in a “positive phase”, meaning the Indian Ocean off Australia’s north west was cooler than normal and the west of the ocean was warmer.
Positive dipole events draw moisture away from Australia and tend to deliver less rainfall.
But there is evidence that the extra greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are also impacting the dipole and another phenomenon, known as the southern annular mode (SAM).
A 2009 study found that positive dipole events “precondition” the south of the country for dangerous bushfire seasons and that these events were becoming more common.
A 2018 study in the journal Nature Communications found the number of extreme positive dipole events goes up as climate heating continues.
At 1.5C of global warming, the frequency of extreme positive dipole events doubles compared with the pre-industrial period.
The southern annular mode was in a “negative phase” as the bushfires took hold in November and December. This phase was generated by a sudden warming event in the stratosphere above Antarctica.
This caused westerly winds to track further north, blowing hot air across the continent into fire-prone areas, further fanning flames.
Abram’s own research has found that the SAM is being pushed towards more positive phases which, when they occur in Australia’s winter, tend to dry the continent.
Prof Matt England, of the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre, said: “These modes of variability are not changing in a way that’s good for south-east Australia.
“We know with certainty that we are stacking the dice for the chances of these extreme drought years because of the changes in the modes.”

What has happened to Australia’s fire weather?
Scientists have already detected a trend towards more dangerous fire weather in Australia.
A 2017 study of 67 years of FFDI data found a “clear trend toward more dangerous conditions during spring and summer in southern Australia, including increased frequency and magnitude of extremes, as well as indicating an earlier start to the fire season”.
That trend continued in 2019, which was the riskiest year for bushfires on a record going back to 1950.

What role is climate change playing in the risk of fire?
A study of Queensland’s historic 2018 bushfire season found the extreme temperatures that coincided with the fires were four times more likely because of human-caused climate change.
In advice issued in November 2019, Australia’s National Environmental Science Program was unambiguous.
“Human-caused climate change has resulted in more dangerous weather conditions for bushfires in recent decades for many regions of Australia.
“Observations show a trend towards more dangerous conditions during summer and an earlier start to the fire season, particularly in parts of southern and eastern Australia.
“These trends are very likely to increase into the future, with climate models showing more dangerous weather conditions for bushfires throughout Australia due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions.”
Despite such unequivocal statements, Scott Morrison has been irritated that interviewers have asked about his government’s record on climate change, saying it was “just ridiculous” to link “any one emissions reduction policy to any of these fires”.
Morrison’s argument that no emissions reduction policy can be tied to individual events is spurious, as the same argument could be put for any and all efforts to reduce emissions anywhere in the world, at any time.
Scientists also believe that 2019 was a “stand out” year in Australia for the formation of extreme bushfires that became “coupled” with the atmosphere, generating their own lightning and gusty, violent and unpredictable winds. Rainfall is replaced with blackened hail and embers that can be shot out over distances of 30km.
Another study has found that global heating will create more favourable conditions for these “pyroCB” storms to form in Australia.

What about the future?
Climate studies show that conditions in Australia for extreme bushfires will only get worse as more greenhouse gases are added to the atmosphere.
On Friday afternoon the president of the Australian Academy of Sciences, Prof John Shine, said Australia would need to further improve its climate modelling ability and understanding of fire behaviour to mitigate against the extreme events that would become more frequent and intense because of climate change.
“Australia must take stronger action as part of the worldwide commitment to limit global warming to 1.5° C above the long-term average to reduce the worst impacts of climate change,” he said.
England said: “We are loading the dice for more and more of these summers. But we have had knowledge of this for some time.
“What we have seen in Australia this year will just be a normal summer if we warmed the planet by 3C. And an extreme summer would be even worse than we’ve seen now.”
Abram said: “Even from my perspective, I am surprised by just how bad 1C of warming is looking.
“It’s worrying that we are talking about this as a new normal, because we are actually on an upward trajectory. Currently the pledges in the Paris agreement are not enough to limit us to 1.5C – we are looking more like 3C.”

Categories: External websites

(AU) PM’s Popularity Takes A Dive, As Leading Scientists Fire Back Over Climate Pitch

14 January, 2020 - 04:00
New DailyCait Kelly

Scott Morrison in a sit down interview with the ABC on Sunday. Photo: YouTubeLeading scientists have demanded urgent action on the climate crisis as Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended his government’s policies during the worst bushfire season on record. 
Appearing on Insiders on Sunday morning, Mr Morrison said it was his “intention to meet and beat” Australia’s 2030 commitment to cut emissions 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels. And he left the door slightly ajar to cut more emissions if needed. 
It’s a small but significant step considering just weeks ago Mr Morrison said he saw no need to change his climate policies.
In another move to show it is helping the environment, the Morrison government will on Monday announce it is pledging $50 million to help protect wildlife and fauna impacted by bushfires.
Could it signal that the bushfire disaster has finally woken the government up to do more to acknowledge and fight manmade climate change?
Experts aren’t holding their breath. And now the polls indicate the PM has some work to do to persuade voters amid fury over Mr Morrison’s bushfire response.
The latest Newspoll figures show Mr Morrison’s approval rating has plunged and Labor leader Anthony Albanese is now the preferred leader.
Mr Albanese leads the Liberal leader 43 to 39 per cent, according to the survey results released on Sunday night.
Labor is in front 51-49 on a two-party-preferred basis in the poll conducted for The Australian, a significant turnaround from early December when results showed the coalition led 52-48.
Support for the Greens rose one point to 12 per cent, while One Nation lost ground, falling one point to four per cent.
Meanwhile, scientists say Mr Morrison’s mea culpa on his holiday and hint on climate policy shift are nowhere near the strong response needed to show the government is going to commit to any meaningful change in their climate response.
Lesley Hughes, a professor of biology at Macquarie University and a climate councillor at the Climate Council of Australia, said the government’s targets are so “weak” that it means little when the PM promises to meet or beat them.
“It’s like saying I want a 20 per cent pass rate on my exam. So we met those targets because they were so low,” Professor Hughes told The New Daily.
Meeting the 2030 Paris targets would rely heavily on including emissions reductions from the previous international agreement, the Kyoto protocol.
“The best analogy I’ve heard – and it’s not mine – but it’s like saying I got a really good mark on my kindergarten colouring test and I want to use those to pass my university test now,” Professor Hughes said.

On top of the targets being criticised as too low, the UN reported last year that Australia was not even on track to meet them. 
“There has been no improvement in Australia’s climate policy since 2017 and emission levels for 2030 are projected to be well above the target,” the report found.
Central to the government’s climate plan is the Emissions Reduction Fund, which was allocated an additional $2 billion to purchase about 100 million tonnes of emissions from businesses between 2021 and 2030.
Protesters at the “Sydney is Choking” rally in December demand more action. Photo:  AAPWhile the framework of the ERF has been praised, the OECD said in a 2019 report it would need to be scaled up to meet the Paris targets. 
Australia is part of a growing cohort of G20 countries that are falling short. This will have dire consequences for our environment and economy, Professor Hughes said. 
“If we do meet our 26 per cent reduction, it is not enough if you multiply that on a global scale to stop us from getting to three per cent warming,” she said.
“This fire season has been with just one degree of warming.  Just imagine three times – what that means. That’s what we’re talking about.”

Coal: Australia’s king
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has said the government is “refusing to act” on climate change, but he has also backed coal exports.
Jobs, especially the 37,800 that the coal industry creates, have now been pinned against real action on climate change. 
On Insiders, Mr Morrison said he would not put jobs at risk or apply a tax to meet our emissions goals. 
“What I’m saying is we want to reduce emissions and do the best job we possibly can and get better and better and better at it,” he said.
“I want to do that within a balanced policy which recognises Australia’s broader national economic interest and social interest.”
But Professor Mark Howden, director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University, said ending coal was inevitable – and it would lead to job creation. They just won’t be the same type of jobs.
“At a global level, achievement of the Paris targets is not compatible with large scale coal-fired power,” Professor Howden said.
Coal is the king of Australia’s economy; the industry is valued at $46 billion. Most of it is burnt overseas but including the emissions of exported fossil fuels pushes Australia’s share of global emissions up to 3.3 per cent, making our country one of the highest per-capita carbon emitters. 
We’re selling it off to China and India in rapid rates. But long-term our big-buyers are looking to rely on their own mines.
Australia’s coal exports are adding to our international carbon emissions. Photo: Getty“I think the writing is on the wall for the coal industry,” Professor Howden said.
“Globally the demand for coal will drop, it’ll be harder for coal activities to continue, to insure new coal companies – that’s not an ideology.”
But most importantly, transitioning to a clean future can mean more, not fewer jobs, he said. 
“Whether it’s renewables or gearing up our systems to be more energy-efficient, there are lots of high-quality jobs if we do it sensibly,” Professor Howden said.
“There’s huge amounts of money to be made in new energy sectors. Locking ourselves into the way things have been done in the past does not look like a good proposition.”
Making sure communities don’t suffer in the transition is paramount, he said. 
“We do need to look after those workers and their families. Unless we’re careful those people could suffer,” Professor Howden said.
But if we don’t make the change, he said, other people will suffer. For proof just look at the people left homeless by the bushfires tearing through communities across NSW and Victoria.
“The people on the South Coast, businesses who won’t get customers, lives that will be lost, homes destroyed,” Professor Howden said.
“They’re also costs. We need a much more transparent debate.”

Categories: External websites


Australia21This website was commenced by a group of Members of The Emeritus Faculty at The Australian National University and is administered by a steering group of the not-for profit think tank, Australia21. The views expressed on this website are those of the initial author and are not necessarily shared or endorsed by the University, the Emeritus Faculty or Australia21.

Please select the link to see further details about the steering group.